How to drive safely with a Christmas tree

Going out for the single biggest Christmas decoration of them all? Don’t go too crazy and follow our tips on tree-transporting safety.

If you’ve seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989), you’ll know that Clark W. Griswold Jr. makes a hash of getting one massive Christmas tree home on top of his car. And you might do the same thing too, unless you follow our useful tips on how to get the tree home safely for Christmas.


This one might look like it’s got nothing to do with road safety, but there’s a sort of secondary message about needless journeys here. Before you go out to find the perfect Christmas tree, you want to first measure the height of the room where you intend to install the thing, and then you most definitely want to measure either the roof length of the vehicle you’re intending to attach it to, or the back of the van you’re going to stuff it into. The reason for this is you don’t want to get a tree that is just too vast to go onto the roof of your car, or overly massive to the point that even a long-wheelbase Mercedes Sprinter would struggle to accommodate it, because that will undoubtedly make it an unsafe load if you try and drive with it on/in your vehicle. But even if you do get a big tree strapped to your car or loaded into your commercial vehicle, if when you get it home it won’t fit in the house then you’ve made a totally unnecessary journey for no good reason. Get a tape measure out first to avoid all of this.


We don’t mean in glittery paper and all tied up with a bow. If you’ve gone to a legitimate Christmas tree seller, there should be plenty of people working there who can wrap the tree for you. This involves shoving the tree through a large metal cylinder with some netting draped over one end, and this will tightly bundle all the tree’s branches together into a conical, netted shape. This makes it less likely to be damaged or, worse, blown off the top of the vehicle during the drive home, as the tree will form quite a lot of wind resistance on the roof of a car.


Surely the key issue here. A Christmas tree is a big, heavy thing. You therefore want to make sure you’ve got all the necessary ropes and ties to fit it to the top of your car, and you should also have roof rails on the vehicle and – preferably – a roof rack too. The tree needs strapping in place, not just lightly tying with some feeble bits of string. Make sure the wrapped tree (see point above) is mounted with the trunk, base and the bulkier foliage towards the front of the vehicle, with the tapering top of the tree to the rear, as this is the more aerodynamic shape for transportation. Ensure it doesn’t drape down over or obscure any windows in the vehicle, and also make sure it is not sticking out many feet behind the car if you’ve got it on the roof. Oh, and did we mention make sure it is secured tightly to the car? We did? Never mind – we’ll say it again: check that the tree is not going to budge an inch once you’re on the move. And that leads us onto…


This may seem as obvious as stating that the sun comes up in the east every morning, but seriously, you don’t need to set any personal-best records for your drive home. Take it slowly, drive smoothly and don’t worry about other drivers; they will be able to see the massive amount of foliage on top of your vehicle. We don’t mean crawl home at 20km/h, of course, but by the same token you don’t want to drive around corners and junctions as if you’re the last of the late brakers. Also, remember to factor in that the tree will increase your vehicle’s weight, so you may need to start slowing down earlier for junctions than you normally would, while you may not be able to ‘nip out’ into borderline gaps in traffic flow.


It might be worth taking a tarpaulin or old heavy blanket of some sort along with you, in order to stop the tree from scratching your paintwork. Drape it over the car and/or over the tree itself, if it will stretch to that, but the same overriding rule applies here: make sure any such blankets, tarps or covers that you are affixing to the tree on top of the car will stay there when you’re travelling at 50-80km/h – you don’t want the cover to whip off in the wind and then flap itself over the windscreen of the vehicle behind you, because that will lead to a BIG problem that you will be entirely responsible for.