Skip to main content

If a trip to pick out your Christmas tree goes well, it can create cherished memories that will last a lifetime. But if things go sideways, you risk damaging your expensive Christmas tree, your car, or even injuring passersby. So before you load up the family and set out to pick up your Christmas tree, you’ll want some basic supplies:

  • Tape measure
  • Roof racks or blankets
  • Bungees, rope, or ratchet straps

Protect your vehicle with a roof rack or padding

Man fastens a christmas tree on the roof of his red car.
Netted Christmas tree ratchet strapped to roof rack | Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Being truly prepared to bring your Christmas tree home requires having a plan. You must first decide whether you will be strapping your tree to your vehicle’s roof or transporting it inside. Measure your home, talk to your family, and decide what’s the tallest tree you might buy before you leave.

If you’re going short, your tree may fit inside a station wagon or SUV–especially if you leave the back hatch open. In this case, you’ll most certainly want to cover your vehicle to protect it and catch any needles your new house guest decides to shed. Options include old blankets, furniture blankets (often used as padding for moving), tarps, and flattened cardboard boxes.

If you tie your Christmas tree to your roof, you don’t want to lay it directly on the paint. This will scratch the paint and can cause the metal beneath to rust rapidly. The correct tool to suspend it above your roof is a roof rack. Most modern vehicles have roof rack rails, but you probably need to purchase roof rack “crossbars” separately.

In a pinch, you can lay some soft padding on your roof, fasten your Christmas tree down, and then hope the entire load stays put. Before you leave, make certain you have enough padding. Note that using tarps with grommets or cardboard with staples as padding can still scratch your roof.

Tie your Christmas tree in place with bungees, rope, or ratchet straps

Car parked in the city with a Christmas tree fastened to its roof.
Christmas tree tied through car doors with rope | John Lamparski via Getty Images

Have you ever watched a 15 MPH wind hit a forest of trees, rattle their branches, and maybe even bend their trunks? Trees have a lot of surface area, so imagine what a 50 MPH wind will do when they aren’t even attached to their roots. You don’t have to drive fast for your Christmas tree to go airborne–and cause costly damage. It’s worth being prepared and taking your time to tie your Christmas tree in place.

If you have a roof rack, study where its tie points are so you’re ready to fasten your tree in place. If you decide to tie it to your roof, your best option may be opening all of your doors, running lines through your car, then closing the doors to hold it down. If you put your tree in your vehicle and leave the back hatch ajar, you may want to tie the hatch down.

So what is the best way to tie your tree down? There are pros and cons to each option. Ratchet straps are heavy-duty, and you can adjust them without knowing any knots. But they may be too thick to close in your doors; you’ll certainly want to test this option before game time.

Bungee straps are also easy to use and elastic enough to pull the tree into place. But they are not as strong as other options, so you’ll want to use a few. And you may still opt for something stronger with a bigger tree.

Rope is the most versatile option, but you’ll need to adjust it to the exact right length. The trucker’s hitch has been a favorite way to secure loads for generations, and it should do the trick for your Christmas tree. You can see how to tie it in the video below:

Don’t leave home without a plan

As I said, you’ll want to know the tallest tree height your family might buy and plan accordingly. But it’s also a good idea to research the tree farm where you are going. Some places have every tree labeled with its height. Others recommend you bring a tape measure.

In addition, there are even tree farms that will offer you a discount if you go cut your own. But you’ll need a saw to do that. Finally, the tree farm may offer netting so you can wrap it up for your trip home.

Next, find out whether you can legally hang Christmas lights on your car, or you can see how to fasten a Christmas tree in place yourself in the video below:

Related 3 Tricks To Save Money On Winter Tires

3 Tricks To Save Money On Winter Tires