Moving Home with Car
Find out everything you need to know for a safe home move by car here.

Whether you are moving out of home for the first time, you do not have enough things to justify paying for a professional removal service, or you have some fragile and valuable items that must go in your car with you to your new home, you need to know how to load a car safely.

This guide will offer you some invaluable advice:

Some of the great tips in this guide will also help you if you are thinking of moving home by taxi, which is more common than you might imagine.

How to Get Rid of Stuff when Moving Home by Car

First off, you will unlikely be able to fit everything you want in your car. As with a conventional home move, you should first get rid of any possessions that you no longer need, want, or it would be impractical to transport them anyway, like pieces of furniture.

Not only will this reduce the number of items you need to pack, but a fully loaded car is also less fuel efficient. You may even make enough money when selling your surplus items to pay for the fuel for your home move.

Must read: How to move cheaply and make a profit

If your car based home move is because you are moving into a flat share or college digs, check to see what items are already there, or what your flat mate is taking. There is little point in having two coffee machines for example.

Even if you have a super comfy mattress on your bed, it may not be possible to take it with you. Some items you will need to decide whether the impracticality, or cost, of moving them, outweighs the replacement cost.

Consider getting rid of heavy items like books too. Not only will weight affect fuel economy, but the handling of your car, and will increase wear and tear of tyres for example.

Use up any foodstuffs that you have in your cupboards. It will take up valuable space in your car and can easily be replaced as most towns have 24-hour supermarkets these days.

The same applies to toiletries and other consumables. Every square centimeter will count in your car, so if an item is relatively cheap, or easily replaced, why bother taking it with you?

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How to Pack for a Move Using a Car

Contrary to normal home moving advice, don’t use boxes. They are inflexible so cannot squash or wrap around the irregular shapes of your car’s interior. If you must use boxes, for fragile items for example, use small ones.

Vacuum packs are great for transporting clothes and blankets as they reduce the area that the item takes up considerably, they are relatively cheap too.

Backpacks and suitcases can be used too. Don’t be tempted to fill large suitcases with books though as they can be too heavy to lift, use small boxes instead.

Filling bin liners with clothes is great as they can then be pushed into tight spaces. It may be inconvenient to have to iron the items when you get to your new home, but if you roll the clothes when putting them into the sacks, they will take up less room and will crease less.

Use clothing to protect fragile items, it will save packing material costs and save space, as you are taking the clothes anyway.

Don’t take anything with you empty, things like waste bins, laundry baskets, handbags, carrier bags, rubbish sacks, they can all be used to transport items to your new home.

Remember to keep a bag of essentials with you on moving day. This should be kept in an easily accessible place in your car and will contain food and drink, medicines, money and anything else you must have with you.

How to Prepare Your Car for a Home Move

  • Loaded Car
    Soft bags, rather than boxes, will fit better when packing a car.

    Check the car fluids: oil, water, and fuel.

  • If embarking on a long distance move, having your car serviced a few weeks before moving day is a good idea. This will give you time to have any repairs made if they are needed.
  • Adjust headlamps as any weight in the car will affect the beam
  • Check tyre pressures, which can usually be found inside the filler cap, on door edges, or in the vehicle handbook.
  • Tyre treads and signs of bulges, cuts or cracks should also be checked and the tyres replaced if required.
  • Take out the spare wheel if it is in the boot of the car. You can fill that space with other things. You will need easy access to your spare wheel if you get a puncture, you do not want to have to unpack all your worldly possessions onto the side of the road whilst you change the tyre. Put your tyre where it is easily accessible.
  • Don’t forget to keep the tyre changing tools accessible too.
  • Keep your roadside emergency kit in an easily accessible place. There is no point having high visibility tabards or warning triangles in the car if you have to spend twenty minutes on the roadside unpacking things to find them.

Important: The braking distance of a fully loaded car can increase considerably due to the momentum of the load. Not only that, but the load may shift forward causing the driver injury. Slow down, take corners slower, and leave greater stopping distances when your car is fully loaded.

An overloaded car will be unstable to drive. The load capacity of your car includes any passengers and fluids. Here is an example:

If your car has a load capacity of 454 kg, carrying 2 x 86kg adults, and a full tank of fuel (an average 56 ltr tank weighs 42kg), you can safely carry a load of 240kg.

Be aware also of the load-bearing capacity of your tyres. This link to the Goodyear tyre website will show you where to find the load rating of your tyres. 

Lifting Objects in and Out of Cars Safely

As always when moving home, safety comes first. There are specific techniques for putting things into a car, and then taking them out again.

Although you should not put any heavy items into your car, injuries can occur just from the action of lifting or twisting. Injuries are most likely to occur when removing stuff from your car.

How to safely load things into a car:

  • Test the weight of the item before lifting
  • Lift with your knees, not your back, and keep your knees bent whilst lifting
  • Keep the object as close to your body as possible
  • Use the bumper or side of the car to brace yourself

How to safely unload a car:

  • Stand as close as you can to the car
  • Lower yourself to lift an item with your legs and hips
  • Keep your head straight and look forward not down
  • Use both hands to move the items towards you before lifting
  • Keep the item close to your body
  • Extend your legs and keep your back straight when lifting
  • Use the bumper or any ledges to take the weight of the item to allow you to adopt the correct Stand as close as you can to the bumper with your knees slightly bent.
  • Avoid over stretching to reach items.

Best Way to Pack a Car for Moving Home

Russian Dolls
To efficiently make use of all the available space, pack Russian Doll style.

A badly loaded car will affect steering and braking and may result in an accident. Heavy items packed high may result in the vehicle turning over if a corner is taken too fast. Follow these tips to ensure you take as many safety precautions as possible whilst maximizing loading space.

  • Clear all non-essential stuff out of your car to make more space.
  • Keep front windows clear of items so that you can see out of them
  • Do not obscure the view from your side mirrors
  • Consider a sheet of plywood or a large item placed behind the front seats to act as a bulk head. This will prevent any items shifting forward and striking the driver if you have to brake heavily or are hit from behind.
  • If you have a cargo net or cargo strap points, use them.
  • Load the car evenly.
  • Put the heaviest items low and towards the centre of the vehicle
  • Pack your essential stuff into the car first, if you run out of space it means the less important things will be left behind.
  • If the rear seat folds flat then that may help to get larger items into the car.
  • Load large items first so that the smaller items will fit around it and hold them in place so it cannot move about when travelling.
  • If your TV will not fit in the boot of the car, put it on the floor behind the passenger or driver’s seat. Ensure your TV is packaged properly so that the screen does not get damaged.
  • Pack the car as tightly as possible so that there are no loose items.
  • Wedge bags of clothing into any gaps to stop any load movement.
  • In case you have to leave the car unattended at any time whilst it is still loaded, put high-value items in bin liners and bury low amongst your things.
  • Label expensive items such as laptops as books so that they are less appealing to would-be thieves.

If you have loaded the car so that you have no view out of the rear view mirror, always ask someone to guide you back when reversing to prevent any accidents.

Useful to read: There are more safety and legal tips in this article about self-drive hire vans that you may find useful.

Advice for Students Moving Out for the First Time

If you are moving to college or university you could save space in the car by only taking seasonal clothing with you. Then just swap over your clothing for the next season’s wardrobe the next time you come home.

Speak to the college about the available space you will have in your dorm, there is no point in taking book shelves only to have to reload them into the car because the dorm has no room for them.

Find out whether the university or local library has the books you need, it will easier than boxing and moving your own collection of books.

Don’t take things ‘just in case’. They can always be posted to you later if you really need them.

You are unlikely to need the entire collection of Star Wars films, you can surely live without them for a few months.

Talk to the university or college to see if there are any restrictions on what you can take, and additionally what they recommend you do take.

Moving Home with a Trailer or Roof Box

To increase your carrying capacity or to take a larger item, you might need a trailer or roof box.

If you have never towed a trailer there is some invaluable advice regarding speed limits and licence requirements at the website.

For safety tips on driving with a trailer visit the National Trailer and Towing Association website.

Good advice: It would be prudent to check that your items are covered by insurance should your car be stolen or the items damaged in an accident.

Moving home with a car can be a cheap way to move home but will only be suitable for certain types of home move.

Pack only what you have to take, use every piece of available space in the car, but ensure your home move is carried out safely, and that you are insured to cover all eventualities.

Drive safely and good luck in your new home.

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