Consumer Reports on Safely Getting a Christmas Tree Home Safely

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, Christmas tree time! Consumer Reports has tips on safely getting your Christmas tree home on your cars, trucks, and sport utility vehicles. You’ll want to prepare ahead of time to transport your fresh new Christmas tree home without issue.

AAA says 44% of people won’t get a Christmas tree home safely

Consumer Reports says that in a 2019 survey about Christmas trees, 44% of people in the U.S. who buy one won’t transport it safely. 16% of respondents even said a Christmas tree has fallen off or out of the vehicle on the way home. Greg Brannon is AAA’s director of engineering and industry relations, and while he can’t attribute any accidents to a Christmas tree specifically, “improperly secured cargo is a serious issue.”

AAA says that between 2013 and 2017, more than 200,000 crashes and 500 fatalities were caused by road debris. Some states even fine drivers for having hazardous cargo on the road. From Consumer Reports Auto Test Center, Jen Stockburger says, “make sure you have the right supplies and the right vehicle before you get your tree.”

Here are some of AAA’s tips for getting a Christmas tree home.

  • Plan ahead! Bring some rope, straps, blankets, or whatever else you might need. An SUV, van, or truck with enough space in the back is the easiest.
  • Wrap and cover the tree. This will keep your tree in better shape and protect your paint.
  • Put the trunk first! Secure the tree with the trunk facing forward.
  • Secure it with straps or ropes and give it a tug before driving off.
  • Slow and steady wins the race. Stay in the right lane if you can, and keep an eye on your new tree in the mirror.

Getting a Christmas tree home safely on the roof of a car

If your tree is too big to fit inside the vehicle, it probably has to go on the roof. Nylon ratchet straps are a good option if you have more than a few miles to travel. While most places offer free string to help tie the tree down, that really isn’t safe enough. On top of that, a tarp or a blanket can help protect the top of your vehicle. Leave your limited edition Porsche 911 at home for this adventure.

If it is an option, have the tree bagged or netted. It can help reduce wind resistance on the way home and keeps your tree in better shape on the journey. Having another person there to help is always a good idea, too. Getting your Christmas tree home safely is a group sport.

If all else fails, there are a few more ways to get your Christmas tree home safely. Many stores like Costco or Lowes can deliver a live tree to your house. Some local stores or farms offer delivery for an extra fee. You might even have a tree delivery service nearby.

You might not have the best vehicle for tree retrieval

Consumer Reports on getting a Christmas tree home safely
A Christmas tree in 1979 | John Sunderland/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Consumer Reports says that even if the tree isn’t too heavy, it might be too long for your vehicle. A typical six-foot-tall tree would fit fine in an SUV, but an average sedan might be too small. You don’t want to obscure your view too much so you can safely navigate the roads.

Even if you have a pickup truck, some states say you need a red flag attached to the tree if it sticks out too far. 24% of tree buyers who responded to AAA’s survey said placing a tree in the bed of a truck without other security was the plan.

If it ends up on the roof, face the tree trunk forward before securing it. It offers a better anchor point and can keep the tree in better shape. Anchor it just above the bottom branches, and drive slowly. Check your tree along the route if you have to go a long way. You don’t want your brand-new tree falling off the roof, and you certainly don’t want it damaging anyone else’s vehicle.