Tips to get your Christmas tree home safely without damaging your vehicle
Strapping a Christmas tree to your vehicle can be tricky, and many of us have witnessed some downright dangerous attempts during the holiday season. Not only is safety important, but an auto insurance claim because of scratched paint or a traffic accident may put a damper on your holiday spirit.
Each year, 30 million to 35 million American families celebrate the holiday season with a fresh, farm-grown Christmas tree, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. One of the main challenges many of these households face is getting their perfect tree home without extra expense, damage to their automobile, physical injury, or leaving unsafe debris on the roadway.
Avoid auto insurance claims and ensure the safety of your passengers, other motorists and pedestrians by following these 9 tips.
1. Take measurements
Make sure you know the size of the tree you can accommodate. Before you leave the house, measure the height of the room where you plan to display the tree; it should be at least a foot taller than the tree you buy. Know the width of the space to help you gauge how much tree you can handle.
Also, make sure to measure your vehicle’s interior storage area and roof. It doesn’t do much good to know you can fit an 8-foot tree in the living room but can only handle a six footer on your Toyota.
2. Dress properly
Wear jeans, a long-sleeve shirt, jacket or sweatshirt, and don’t forget work gloves. The branches, needles and other sharp tree parts can poke you in all the wrong places. And wear comfortable shoes with nonslip soles.
3. Items to take with you
You’ll need a tarp, old blanket or heavy plastic sheets to protect your vehicle. Also, be sure to grab the right materials to secure the tree: good rope, twine, ratchet-style tie downs or bungee cords.
Many lots won’t tie the tree on the car for you to avoid an insurance nightmare for the lot if an employee damages your vehicle, so bring a friend to help carry and secure your tree.
4. Wrap the tree
Most trees are sold in netting, which you should leave on so that the branches stay tightly bundled and so that carrying the tree is more manageable.
No net? Shake the tree to rid it of loose needles, then wrap it in a blanket or tarp.
5. Cover your vehicle
To avoid paint scratches, lay your tarp or blanket out on the roof of your vehicle before placing the tree up there. Spread it out to cover the entire top to also protect from pieces that fly off while driving down the road.
If you’re hauling the tree in the back of your SUV or minivan, lay down a blanket or tarp to protect your interior from sap stains.
6. Pick the perfect tree (for hauling)
Yes, that 10-foot Evergreen looks amazing on the lot, and it may even fit inside your living room with a bit of trimming, but will it fit on the roof of your SUV? Can you lift it once you get it home?
Be sure that you’re picking out a tree that is not only free of bare spots, but will also realistically fit on top or inside of your vehicle without extending too far past the bumper.
7. Position the tree in the right direction
To keep your tree stable and avoid wind damage when driving, center the tree and arrange it so that the stump end faces the front of your vehicle. The best way to transport a tree is to cover it completely to keep the wind from drying it out, so if you have a second tarp handy, roll the tree up in it before hauling it onto the roof.
8. Secure the tree to your vehicle
If you have a roof rack, secure the tree from where the branches start to its tip, with bungee cords or rope.
It’s not recommended that you put your tree on your car’s roof unless it has a roof rack. However, if you do so, first open all their car doors—not the windows—then tie the tree snugly to the roof with rope.
For trees that extend more beyond your car’s bumpers, tie a reflective flag to the end to alert other drivers.
If you’re hauling your tree in a pickup truck, there could be hot spots in the truck bed—from the exhaust pipe, for example. This can damage the tree’s needles, so put something under it, such as an old blanket.
Before you leave the lot, make sure to give the tree a firm tug to ensure that it’s not going anywhere. If it budges, you probably need to pull the ropes tighter.
9. Take it slow and easy
Once you get on road, take it slow and put on your hazard lights. Avoid the highway, especially if you’re not used to hauling heavy objects on your car’s roof. Highways are not your friend when you have a potential six foot flying, green missile on top of your vehicle.
Remember, roof cargo affects your vehicle’s center of gravity and emergency handling.
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