Don’t cop a fine for carrying your Christmas tree like this

People loading a Christmas tree onto the roof of their car

Sue Hewitt

Posted December 09, 2019

How to legally carry a Christmas tree on, or in, your car. 

Don’t make carrying your Christmas tree home in the car turn into a “ho, ho, oh-no” moment by failing to legally secure your load. (More: The only Christmas gift guide you need this festive season)

RACV’s transport manager Peter Kartsidimas says police can fine motorists between $248 and $16,500 for carrying unsecured loads such as Christmas trees or wooden planks for holiday DIY projects.

“If you’re buying a real Christmas tree this year, consider how you’re going to get it home,” says Peter. “An incorrectly secured tree can damage a vehicle and can also endanger other road users if it falls off on the way home.” 

Peter says homeowners embarking on DIY projects over the holidays also have to follow the rules when carrying long loads.

He says that under Victorian road rules, long loads are not allowed to protrude more than 1.2 metres from the front or rear of a vehicle. It’s also illegal to have any object protruding more than 15 centimetres from the side of your vehicle. 

“Drivers need to make sure that when transporting Christmas trees, they aren’t too big for their vehicles,” he says.

“It’s not illegal to drive with the boot or hatch of the vehicle open but it’s important that visibility is not obstructed and the load is secured. 

If your vehicle is not suitable for the job of carrying a Christmas tree or you don’t have the proper equipment, the cost of home delivery might be the cheapest and safest solution.

“If you do plan to carry a tree on the roof of your car, make sure you use properly fitted roof racks, and securely tie the tree down with ropes or straps,” he says.  

“The best advice is to use common sense. If your vehicle is not suitable for the job of carrying a Christmas tree or you don’t have the proper equipment, the cost of home delivery might be the cheapest and safest solution,” Peter says.

Fines can be steep. The operator of a vehicle in breach of width, length or height limit or load-restraint requirements faces a maximum penalty of $3224, and if your tree falls from your car and causes a serious crash you could even end up in jail. 

A Victoria Police spokeswoman says police expect motorists to use common sense when transporting large or heavy loads that require a boot or hatch to be open.

Christmas tree sitting in the boot of a car.

It's important to use common sense when considering carrying loads that could be too heavy.


“While it is not illegal for the boot to be open while a vehicle is moving, it can inhibit visibility while driving [and] motorists should ensure their load complies with restraint requirements and that side mirrors are in place to allow for visibility of traffic travelling behind,” she says.

She says the roadside fine for an insecure load that hasn’t fallen off is $248 but it can escalate to $16,522 if the matter goes to court.

If a load falls onto the road a motorist can face a $661 fine, but if the fallen load leads to a collision causing injury penalties may include imprisonment, she says.

In the lead-up to Christmas, the Melton Highway Patrol pulled over a male driver in Melton carrying plastic plumbing pipes that protruded almost 1.7 metres outside the passenger side window, well above the 15-centimetre limit.

“We urge the public to consider the capability of their vehicle and what restraints they have available before carrying any loads, even if it’s just for a short distance,” senior constable Chris Ford says.

“Driving like this poses a serious hazard to other road users.”


RACV’s top tips to get your tree home:

  • Secure the load and check its measurements are legal. 
  • If carrying it on the roof, place a blanket between the tree and the car’s paintwork.
  • Wrap straps just above the tree’s lower branches, or (if the tree is wrapped) towards the end of the stump. 
  • Ensure the base of the tree is facing towards the front of the vehicle, this will stop all the pine needles flying off on the way home.  
  • Avoid high-speed roads to reduce the risk of damage to the tree and the risk of it being blown off the roof.