26 February 2024

Driven by Passion...
How to load your car safely

It doesn’t matter whether you’re going on holiday, visiting a DIY shop or taking a student to university, getting everything packed into your car can be difficult. Especially if you have a small hatchback. If you’ve every tried to take a mattress to the tip then you will understand just how difficult it can be to transport some larger loads. Fortunately, most mattresses come in a ‘bed in a box’ format, so can be folded, squashed or rolled up to fit in even the smallest of cars.

If a car is not loaded properly, it could be dangerous and could lead to catastrophic consequences. If items are sliding around or tipping within the car whenever you brake or turn then this can cause an extremely dangerous distraction. Therefore, it is important to remember the following:

  • Always keep the front foot wells clear
  • Keep the parcel shelf clear of items. People have been seriously injured by loose items flying forwards from the parcel shelf during a collision.
  • For smaller items, use plastic crates, empty boxes or shopping bags and place them in the boot.
  • A single bag wedged into the rear foot well will be a lot more secure than being left loose in the boot.


Keep Heavy Items Low Down

As with packing most things, loading a car is much easier if you put the larger, heavier items in first. You can then pack smaller items around the larger ones.

  • By keeping heavy items as low as possible, it keeps the centre of gravity of the car low.
  • Heavy items such as DIY materials and wine bottles are best in the boot and pushed against the back of the rear seats. In the event of a crash they have less room to gain momentum and burst through.

Keep a Clear Line of Vision

It goes without saying that you need a clear line of vision in front of you so that you can see ahead when you drive the car. However, it’s equally as important to keep a clear view to the rear of the car. Try not to pack items any higher than the back of the rear seats.


Roof Racks and Boxes

If your car is looking full and you have more to carry, consider using a roof rack and roof box. Roof boxes are particularly useful for those light, bulky items. Remember that you will need to stay within the maximum permitted roof load for your car. This should be written somewhere in your vehicle’s handbook.

  • Always check the handbook as the limit will likely be lower than you think
  • Weigh everything before placing it in the roof box so you know you are not exceeding your car’s roof weight limit
  • Always factor in the weight of the roof rack itself, as well as the empty roof box.
  • If you have both heavy and light bulky items, it’s always better to put the lighter items on the roof and heavy items in the car.
  • Consider the extra height of your car. Many car parks have height limits especially covered car parks.

Attach Items Securely

Anything attached to the roof of your car must be carried securely. The Highway Code stipulates that “you must secure your load and it must not stick out dangerously”.

  • If you have a long load that overhangs the front of the car, remember that the flow of air when driving will lift the load. So always use a secure fixing to hold the front of the load down
  • Fixing the roof load at the rear will stop it sliding forwards under braking
  • Even the best ropes and straps can work loose overtime, so stop and check on them regularly.




Always make sure that all passengers in your car are restrained. If you need to fold seats in order to carry a bulky or awkward load, then despite being inconvenient it is always safer to leave passengers and collect them later.

  • Fit child restraints and car seats before loading the car, as this may be more difficult due to access constraints when the car is full
  • Leave plenty of space around children if possible. If items are too tightly packed around them then they could be uncomfortable and provide an unwanted distraction during the journey.
  • Remember to keep items that you may need for the journey easily accessible.


Spare Wheel

If you have a spare wheel underneath the boot floor, then consider how you will get to it should you need to in case of a puncture or similar emergency. Try to use bags and boxes to store items in the boot, rather than keeping them loose. This will make it much quicker and easier to remove everything should you need to get to the spare wheel.


Other Considerations

  • You may need to adjust the pressure of your tyres to suit a heavier load
  • Heavy loads will affect the handling of most cars
  • Heavier loads will also increase the stopping distance of your car
  • Cars have a Maximum Permitted Weight (MPW), which includes all items in the car as well as any passengers. The MPW can usually be found on the VIN plate under the bonnet, or in your car’s handbook.



How to

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