Do you put up an artificial tree, or a real tree for Christmas? The last time I had a real tree in my home for Christmas, I was probably in kindergarten or first grade. Every holiday season though, I see people zipping across town with trees either tide to a roof rack or sticking out of a side or rear window. I’m fine with taking mine out of a box. However, if you have to have a real tree, you will be interested in what AAA Northeast has to say in regard to transporting your tree safely this holiday season.

According to a media release from AAA, this year, millions of Americans will flock to tree lots across the country in search of the perfect Christmas tree. While finding just the right one may seem like the hard part – getting it home safely is where the real challenge begins.

Just like moving furniture, appliances, or other large objects, transporting a tree is no different. If not properly secured, a tree can cause vehicle damage such as scratched paint, torn door seals or distorted window frames. Even worse, it could fly off or out of your vehicle and become a danger to other drivers.

A 2019 survey from AAA found that 44% of Americans who planned to purchase a real Christmas tree that year would use unsafe methods when transporting it home – such as not using the roof rack or placing it in the bed of a pickup truck unsecured.

Losing a Christmas tree on the drive home would no doubt put a damper on the holiday season. But, more importantly, a tree that comes loose from a vehicle could also cause an accident. Previous research from AAA found that road debris caused more than 200,000 crashes during a four-year period, resulting in approximately 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths.

AAA says that with a little preparation, the right tools and the right vehicle – transporting a Christmas tree is easy with these tips:

  • Do not visit a tree lot if you or anyone from your family has tested positive for COVID-19 or are experiencing COVID-related symptoms.
  • Call the lot ahead of time and ask about their policies for visiting. It is possible they may have reduced operating hours or are limiting the amount of people who can visit the lot at one time. It is also a good idea to ask when they are slow and plan to visit then, when crowds may be smaller.
  • Although most lots are located outside, it is recommended to wear a face covering and practice social distancing. Bring hand sanitizer and keep it nearby while shopping.
  • Make sure to bring strong rope or nylon ratchet straps, an old blanket, gloves and of course – the right vehicle. One with a roof rack is ideal but a pickup truck, SUV, van or minivan can work just as well.
  • Once you’ve found the perfect tree, have the lot wrap it in netting before loading it. Loose branches can also be secured with rope or twine to help protect the tree from damage.
  • Prior to loading the tree, cover the roof with an old blanket to prevent scratches to the paint and protect the car from any damage.
  • Place the tree on the roof rack or in the bed of the truck with the trunk facing the front of the car. If the vehicle does not have a roof rack and is a SUV, CUV, van or minivan – place the tree inside. If not, rent or borrow a pickup truck, a vehicle with a roof rack or one that is large enough to accommodate the tree inside.
  • Secure the tree at its bottom, center and top using strong rope or nylon ratchet straps. Avoid using the twine offered by many tree-lots. Use fixed vehicle tie-down points and loop the rope or strap around the tree trunk above a branch to prevent any side-to-side or front-to-rear movement.
  • Once tied down, give the tree several strong tugs from various angles to make sure it is secured in place and will not come loose.
  • Drive slowly and take back roads if possible. Higher speeds can create significant airflow that can damage your tree or challenge even the best tie-down methods.
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