It’s the most wonderful time of the year! For many, getting into the holiday spirit includes a tree trimmed with lights and decorations. Whether you pick a tree from a lot or cut it down at a local farm, transporting the tree back home presents challenges. Preparation will limit most of those challenges AND help protect your car from damage.

We’ve put together some tips for making your tree-shopping experience painless. Follow these tips to avoid a Clark Griswold worthy memory.

Before You Go

Before you head to the tree lot or farm, collect a few different tools. Grab a tarp, old sheet or blanket to place the tree on. If you transport your tree on the roof, placing protective material underneath will prevent scratches and any sap damage to your car. If your tree will ride in the vehicle with you, this will protect your interior from the same.

If you transport the tree on the roof, be sure to also pack rope, bailing twine, nylon straps or a bungee cord. You will need to securely strap the tree to the vehicle. Many tree lots and farms provide twine or rope, but you shouldn’t rely on it. On busy days, they often run out and you don’t want to get caught empty handed. Remember to bring a pair of heavy-duty gloves too. These gloves will help you grip the tree while hoisting it on top of or into the car.

winter drive

While You’re There

You’ve picked out the perfect tree and now it’s time to take that baby home!

Before you take the tree to your car, give it a good shake to get rid of insects and any loose needles or branches. Once you’re ready to secure the tree, put down your protective material and get some help securing the tree. If you try and handle this alone, you might bump into the vehicle and leave a dent.

Before you rush back to decorate, take the time to position the tree on or in your car correctly. If the tree rides on the roof, be sure that the base of the tree faces the front of the car. Since the branches have a natural upward angle, this will prevent the wind from blowing the tree off your car.

Lastly, if the tree is strapped to your roof, give the twine, rope or cord a tug to ensure that the tree is secure before you leave the tree

Transporting the Tree

While you might be tempted to zoom home and pour a glass of eggnog, be sure to drive with extra caution. A heavy tree in/on the car alters the vehicle’s center of gravity. This will affect your ability to maneuver the car in an emergency.

If – worst-case scenario – your tree falls off the car, stay calm and try and avoid pulling onto the shoulder. If you are on the highway, get off at the nearest exit and contact highway patrol or the local police. They will be able to advise you on the best next steps. And if the tree hits another car, be sure to give your insurance information to the other driver. Your property damage liability insurance will likely cover their repair costs.

Follow these tips to make this year’s tree shopping experience the best yet. Happy Holidays!