Going on Holiday? Here’s How to Load Your Car

Full car boot

When you’re planning for a trip, the list of what to take can seem endless. Tent? Check! Sunscreen? A must. That extra outfit (even when you already have fourteen… for a weekend trip)? PACK. IT. The point is, it’s easy to end up bringing a lot with you when you go away. That’s why knowing how to load your car is crucial.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to load your car the right way, including techniques to help you stay safe, save space and maintain fuel efficiency. So, whether you’re planning a short break or a long getaway, make sure you take PassMeFast’s car loading tips with you.

Why knowing how to load your car is so important

Overloaded car
We don’t advise loading your car like this! Photo © FotoSleuth (cc-by/2.0)

Packing your car correctly is more than playing a real-life game of Tetris. When you’re carrying extra baggage, you need to know how to store it safely, as well as being conscious of the impact a heavy load can have on your driving.

In this instance, it might be worth thinking back to your theory test. Thought you’d never need to remember any of those stopping and braking distances again, for example? Not so. When a car is carrying a heavier load, its forward momentum is greater. In turn, this means that it takes longer to slow down and stop. If you’re not prepared for this, it can cause real danger—especially in inclement weather.

Extra weight can also affect how it feels to drive your car. If you’ve got plenty of luggage on board, you’re likely to experience a change in the handling of the car. A simple left or right turn might normally only require a little nudge of the steering wheel if your car is unladen. With a large load on board, however, your steering can easily start to feel heavy.

As well as focusing on how much you’re taking with you, it’s also important to focus on where you put it. An uneven distribution of weight around your vehicle can affect its stability, as the centre of gravity changes. If you’ve got a heavy load on your roof rack, for example, you’ll need to show extra care at bends and corners.

Of course, it’s not always possible to avert all of these risks. If you’re moving house, for example, you can’t simply leave things behind! However, there are useful tips to help you transport your load in safer and more efficient fashion.

Safety first

The safest place for some items may be in the rear footwell. The safest place for some items may be in the rear footwell. Photo © Michael Sheehan (cc-by/2.0)

When you travel by car, you want to be sure that both you and your stuff get from A to B in one piece. This means ensuring that everything you take with you is in a safe place during the journey. Interestingly, though, the best place to store your luggage might not be where you expect.

You see, while it can be tempting to chuck everything in your roomy boot, there are occasions when putting things here could prove problematic. Imagine you’re carrying a glass vase, for example. Shoving it in the boot on its own is a recipe for disaster. One sharp bend, and it’ll slip, slide and smash. Not ideal.

This is an example on the extreme end of the scale, but it serves to illustrate that you should always secure items where possible. Pack heavy items low down, and pad them where possible to prevent them causing too much damage. Meanwhile, if the height of your luggage is taller than the back seat, you should also consider using a net divider. You don’t want things sliding forward and whacking someone in the head!

If you’re not carrying quite as much, and have more space, think carefully about how to load your car. Anti-slip mats and straps can help avoid any calamities in the boot. Alternatively, you may wish to place things in the rear footwell. Here, your items should be safe from too much extra movement. Do think about passengers in the rear when doing so, though—they may not be too happy about having less legroom!

Saving space

Vacuum bag and suitcase
A few handy techniques can help you to make the most of your space. Photo © Christine Warner (cc-by/2.0)

Anyone who’s ever moved house, or taken a long road trip, will know that getting all your stuff into a vehicle can be an intricate dance. Working out how to load your car in a way that most efficiently uses your available space can be tricky. Fortunately, there are a few pointers that can help you to fit more into your car.

Firstly, if you’re not yet a convert to the miracle that is vacuum packing, you should be. These handy little bags can be a godsend when you’re carrying light yet bulky items—think clothing and bed linen. Using them can reduce the space used by up to 75%. Result!

You can also complement these with regular shopping bags or bin liners. The advantage of using these is that they can squish down easily into virtually any available space. Obviously, though, this means they’re only suitable for non-fragile items.

For things that do require extra protection, boxes are often the natural place to go. But here, small may be mighty. Think about it: a large box can be very limiting in terms of where you can put it, while small boxes can be shoved anywhere where they’ll fit.

It’s also worth noting that, while we’ve focused primarily on the boot in this section, there are so many spaces in the car you may be forgetting. From the glove box to cup holders, your car has nooks and crannies galore. Nonetheless, sometimes, you may need to think outside of the box—or, in this case, the car.

The great outdoors

Not enough space inside your vehicle? Just look up! Photo © Craig Murphy (cc-by/2.0)

When there’s simply not enough space inside your car, a good option is to make more on top. Typically, this means adding a roof rack. Once you’ve installed this, you have a couple of options. One is to simply pile more luggage on top of the car, then strap it to the rack. Naturally, however, this will make your car less aerodynamic, increasing fuel usage.

An alternative to this is to purchase a roofbox, whose design helps to keep the car more streamlined. Though you won’t have quite as much freedom to put things where you please, you can rest easy knowing that your belongings are safe from the elements.

If you do decide to go down the roof route, you need to be smart about what you carry up there. In general, bulky yet lighter items are the best things to put on your roof, while heavier things stay securely inside the boot. Awkward items that don’t easily fit inside a car are good candidates for your roof too.

If you’re planning on carrying a bike, a roof-mounted rack isn’t your only choice. You may also wish to consider rear-mounted or tow bar-mounted racks instead.

Safety tips for roof racks

While a roof rack can be a great storage solution, it also requires extra consideration when it comes to safety. Some of these things are fairly self-evident—you should always, for example, have someone to help you load heavy items on top. However, there are some specific rules you may not be aware of.

Firstly, never exceed the weight limit of your roof. (And don’t make the rookie mistake of forgetting to count the weight of your rack in this limit!) You’ll also need to make sure (as always!) that you follow the guidance of the Highway Code. In this instance, we’re focusing on rule 98 of the Code, which states that:

You must secure your load and it must not stick out dangerously

Be careful not to place any items on your roof which make poke forward and impede your view of the road. Meanwhile, using fixings and straps can help to keep anything you carry on your roof safely in place. Do be aware, however, that these may become looser over the course of your drive. Stop on regular intervals to check that everything is in good order.

It’s also worth remembering that, when stowing luggage on the roof, an even distribution of weight is crucial. Failing to do so can have a negative impact on the handling of your car. If storing in a roofbox, it’s usually best to keep heavier items in the middle.

Finally, it’s important to note that your vehicle will, naturally, be taller with a roof rack fitted. In some cases, this may result in your car being unable to park in a certain location. So, be mindful, and mind your head!

Preparation is key

Car parked in front of apartment buildings
Sometimes, one of the best tips for loading your car is leaving more at home.

While we’ve provided plenty of pointers on how to load your car, one of the most crucial pieces of advice comes before you’ve even set off: think carefully about what to take!

Of course, if you’re planning a move, a heavily laden car is practically a necessity. However, there are certain occasions where it’s perfectly possible to travel a little lighter. A smaller load means less fuel consumption, better handling, and a more eco-friendly journey!

If you can’t avoid packing the car to the rafters, though, there are some key tips you should follow before setting off.

  • Perform vehicle checks and essential maintenance before setting off, including oil and cleaning fluid levels
  • Secure any items which may slide around during your journey—both inside and on the roof
  • If necessary, adjust the tyre pressure of your car to cope with the heavy load
  • Make sure that the spare wheel is easy to access in case of an emergency
  • Never exceed the Maximum Authorised Mass of your car, which is found in your vehicle handbook

That’s all the tips we have for now. Be sure to follow the PassMeFast blog for plenty more useful driving advice. From ways to keep your car cool to knowing when to change gear, we’ve got you covered!

By Andy Boardman

Andy has been part of the PassMeFast Blog team from the very beginning. He'll provide you with plenty of useful motoring advice, helping you to get the most out of every trip. When he's not writing here, you're most likely to find Andy on the way to his next destination.

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