When I was about 20, it fell upon me to buy the tree for the family holiday celebrations, and to cut a long story short, I nearly ruined Christmas. With little more than a roof rack, some rope, and a jingle in my heart, I decided to put the tree on top of my Beetle to get it home and, as it turned out, I was too confident in my knot tying abilities. By the time I got home, the tree had turned 90 degrees and the ropes were doing nothing to prevent the tree from flying away.

There but for the grace of Santa went I, but you don’t have to, thanks to Volkswagen, which has published a short video with best practices for hauling a tree home. To start, they recommend using an SUV like the Atlas, instead of a Beetle (though I do wonder if the arching of the roof is what caught my tree, and saved my bacon).

Measure Twice, Deliver Once

The Atlas’s generous interior dimensions should help those looking for a smaller tree to avoid having to climb up and reach on top of their vehicle entirely. One way or another, the automaker recommends measuring thoroughly before you pick a tree. Whether you’re measuring the distance from your trunk to the front seat, the length of your vehicle’s roof, or simply the height of your living room ceiling, you want to be sure you know how much room you have to work with.

Read: How Fast Can An 800 HP, Hennessey-Tuned RS6 Avant Go With A Christmas Tree On Its Roof?

Photo VW

Loading, Protecting And Transporting Your Tree

Again, whether you’re carting your tree inside or on top of your vehicle, it’s critical to have a tarp to wrap it in. This can either protect your interior from the branches, needles, and sap, or your paint from the same.

Rather than ropes, VW recommends using a ratchet strap, which, from personal experience, I can tell you is a pretty good idea. Be sure to ratchet your tree down tight, because you don’t want it rolling around the interior of your vehicle, and you really don’t want it sliding around on top and potentially helicoptering off your car.

Clean Up Your Car After

Finally, VW suggests that after you get your tree home, it’s a pretty good time to clean your vehicle. Pine trees can be pretty sappy, which is bad for all kinds of materials, and pine needles get everywhere. If some sap lands on the outside of your vehicle, it recommends using bug and tar remover to help clean it without hurting your paint.

I, for one, wish I’d watched something like this before driving home with my tree, instead of trying to feed loops through my windows and chaining bad knots. I’m not saying that was my brightest moment, but hopefully we can all avoid making that same dim mistake.

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