Tips You Should Know About Strapping a Christmas Tree to Your Car

Blue van with christmas tree tied to hood
Ole Betsy, the family van doin’ what she does best

Growing up, once a year we’d collectively jump in the van to go pick out the family tree. This was an important decision. You had to pick one that wasn’t too plump and wasn’t too bare, and also one that was tall enough to fit the tree-topper on without scraping our 9 foot ceiling. It couldn’t be too short either, because we had lots of garland and ornaments to put on, and if it was too small our dog would steal the softer, lower hanging fruit and bury them off somewhere.

Usually we’d just drive down to the local flower shop and peruse the trees, debating over minor issues like our perceived height of it and its plumpness. We kept doing this until we grew tired and finally agreed on one that was “good enough”.

Thankfully, we’ve never had a mishap. Our van, Betsy, is at almost 200,000 miles and she’s still going strong. She’s never left a tree stranded on the road, and honestly, that’s how it should be.

Tie It with Sturdy Material

For everyone’s safety on the road, you can face serious fines for having an unsecured tree or one that obstructs your vision.

If you buy a tree at gardening store or tree lot, sometimes they’ll tie it on for you. And they might do a great job, but to be extra cautious, especially if you’re driving a long distance, you’ll want something sturdier than twine to keep it secured. Strong rope or tie down straps are great for this.

Use a Roof Rack or Truck Bed

The Director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations at AAA, Greg Bannon says, “Twine that is wrapped around trees and looped through door jambs or open windows can cause serious damage to door seals and window frames. Drivers should never secure a Christmas tree to the top of a vehicle without a roof rack.”

If you don’t have a roof rack, you can always place the tree in the bed of a truck or inside a van or SUV. If Betsy didn’t have a roof rack, we’d probably just stuff the tree in there and vacuum out any loose particles after we’ve put the tree inside the house.

Secure It with Real Knots

Now for some general tips. There are some places that will tie the tree for you, but you can always check for your own safety.

  • You can use a blanket or tarp to prevent scratches, but make sure it is secure.
  • So that air can flow over the tree smoothly, the stump should always face the front
  • Center the tree on the roof
  • Use rope or tie down straps
  • Tie a knot on the front end of the roof rack
  • Bring the rope around the tree trunk a few times
  • Tie a knot on the other end of the roof rack
  • Tie a knot on the back end of the roof rack
  • Bring the rope around the tree tip a few times
  • Tie a knot on the other end of the roof rack
  • Tie the rope diagonally over the tree or over the middle of the tree

To do this, you’ll want to know how to tie a knot correctly. Half hitch, bowline, or slip knots are good knots for securing the tree. Learn how to tie them here.

Test How Snug It Is

Once the rope is tightened, tug the tree a few times to make sure it’s secure. Tug at the tree from different angles and areas and make sure it’s not moving freely underneath the rope. If it is, tie the rope tighter.

Drive Slow

Driving too fast can leave you with a different tree from the one you initially picked out. It can bend branches or leave it barer than it was. Driving slowly and cautiously will get your tree home in one piece every year, every time.


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