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Bootiful: How to pack your car safely for a holiday

At Christmas it pays to know how to pack your car safely. Whether it’s for trips to visit friends and family, packed to the rafters with presents and obligatory Christmas jumpers, taking a winter sport break abroad, or even seizing the opportunity a holiday provides to do a much-needed clear out at home and visit the tip, you need to know how to fit in the most stuff to the car’s boot – without it being a hazard.

Written by James Foxall
Written by James Foxall
Main image

Before beginning, consider whether anything already in the car’s boot could be stored elsewhere. For example, the gym bag that’s been in there since the New Year’s resolution wore off at the end of January isn’t necessary. And do you have to take a pushchair for the children, or could you manage without?


Use bags not suitcases when packing for a road trip

Car boots can be quite awkward shapes. They’re rarely perfectly square and components such as wheels and suspension have an irritating habit of intruding on luggage space. No matter. If you do need to take a suitcase, put it in the middle. That way you can pack squashy and more spatially efficient bags of clothes around the edges. Equally, that bulky box containing the childrens’ new games console may want to be packed in between the softer bags, if you can squeeze it in.


image of dogs in a car boot


Keep the heaviest bags as low as possible

The key to efficient packing is to know what you’re going to take before you try squeezing it into the boot. Pack all your bags before you start fitting them into the car. By doing this you can ensure that something you might need mid-journey isn’t right at the bottom of the boot.

The second reason is you can gauge which are the heaviest bags. These go at the bottom. It’s important to load them first because you want to keep the car’s centre of gravity as low as possible, as it helps keep the car stable when changing direction.


What might you need during your journey?

Set aside a bag for all the things you might need during your road trip, and pack it in last. That way, when you need to stop you can reach it without having to unload all the luggage.


image of a car boot full with household fittings


Use a luggage guard

Safety experts talk about two phases during a road crash. There’s the initial impact with the other vehicle or roadside furniture. The second part is where the vehicle occupants slam into parts of the car, each other or are hit by unrestrained luggage. This is when the physical damage is done.

Remember that an object will hit you or a fellow passenger with a force equal to its weight multiplied by the speed it’s travelling at. All of a sudden that ice box full of soft drinks takes on a whole new danger when it’s left resting on top of other luggage.

If you have to fill the boot higher than the level of the rear seats, get a luggage guard. Manufacturer’s dealerships will sell a suitable part for your car. You could also look on eBay, or go to a motor retailer such as Halfords. They cost from around £30. And remember: when you sell the car, you can sell the guard via eBay to recoup some of the cost.


Check the tyres’ air pressure

Tyres use air pressure to keep the wheels from dragging as the pass over the road surface. The more weight you have inside the car, the more air pressure the tyres will need to run efficiently. Look inside the fuel flap, door pillar or car handbook for details of the appropriate air pressure for a driving with multiple passengers and bags.


Can’t fit everything in the boot? Check out our review of luxury estate cars here

Written by James Foxall
James Foxall

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