How to Bring a Christmas Tree Home Tied to Your Car, SUV or Truck

One of my favorite memories of being a kid was going to the Christmas tree lot every year and picking out a tree. We’d wrap it up and toss it in the back of a versatile minivan and talk about how we were going to decorate it when we got home. But not everyone has an easy way to get a tree home, like in a spacious minivan. For the rest of us, here are some tips to make sure you can get your Christmas tree home in one piece.

How do you bring a Christmas tree home?

two christmas trees tied to the roof of an SUV
Two Christmas trees tied to an SUV | Sebastian Gollnow, Getty Images

Plan ahead. After you’ve measured your house for your tree’s spot, do yourself a favor and measure your car, truck, or SUV and estimate how much room you’ll need for a tree. You don’t want to try and tie a 20-foot tree to a 5-foot car.

Some trees, like those sold at big-box stores, come in a giant net. Great! That will keep the branches bundled and make it easier to get home. If not, grab an old blanket, a cheap tarp, or anything you can. It will help you to keep it all together, and it will keep the sticky sap off your shiny paint.

Do yourself a favor and get either a good rope or, even better, tie-down straps. Some lots will give you some cheap nylon rope but do yourself a favor and bring your own tougher stuff. Bungee cords also work well.

Can I put a Christmas tree on top of my car?

A Christmas tree tied ot a small SUV
A Christmas tree tied to a small car | Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

You can put a Christmas tree on the top of your car or SUV. If you have a car or an SUV without a roof rack, open all four doors, throw the rope over the tied-up tree, wrap it around the tree and then thread the rope through the open doors. When you close the doors, the rope will stay. Don’t just open the windows and throw a rope through because you can’t open the doors or close the windows with a rope in the way.

If you have a roof rack or roof rails, you’re in luck. Roof racks and rails are ideal for tying up a tree because they’re sturdy and the rails make excellent tie-down points, especially for bungee cords with hooks. SUV’s like the Kia Telluride can be ordered with sturdy rails.

Regardless of how it’s tied, point the tree so that the trunk is facing the front of your car. Also, if your tree is longer than your car or truck, make sure you have a red flag to tie to it so drivers behind you can see it. Don’t forget the tug test. Your car or SUV creates a lot of wind resistance, so always give the tree a good tug to make sure it’ll withstand the rigors of getting home in the wind.

What about putting a tree in the back of an SUV?

SUVs are great for hauling a Christmas tree. Simply drop the rear seats and slide it in the big cargo hold. However, we still recommend you use a tarp or a blanket to tie up the tree because the sap will ruin your carpet and needles will fall off and get everywhere. It’s still a good idea to tie a tree down in the back because if you need to make a quick stop you don’t want the tree suddenly appearing in the front seat. If it’s too long, and you need to leave it hanging out of the back, don’t forget to grab a red flag or handkerchief to tie to the end of it.   

What about a Christmas tree in a truck?

Christmas tree tied to a car
Tying a tree to a car’s roof | Steve Russell Toronto Star via Getty Images

Got a truck? A lot of us with trucks assume the tree will be fine just tossed in the long bed. I’ve learned from experience that needles don’t last long when your tree is bouncing around in the bed at 55 mph (and drivers behind you don’t like to get a windshield full of tree stuff). So, keep it wrapped up, and of course, use the tie-down hooks in your bed to tie it down so it doesn’t inadvertently bounce out.  

Some extra pro tips for tying a Christmas tree to your car:

These extra tips for This Old House can help, too. Pros take garden gloves to the tree lot because nobody likes sticky sap on their hands. Also, grab a step stool. You’d be surprised how tall your car or SUV is when you have to toss a tree on top. Also, if you happen to drive a Tesla, don’t forget to turn on Christmas Mode on your drive home.

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