Modern cars can carry heavy loads. But stuffing your vehicle too full of gear can affect the car’s performance and cause dangerous distractions. 

Here’s what to consider when you’re loading up your car for your next family holiday, house move or trip to the skip. 

Check your manual 

First things first, check your car’s manual as this should tell you its maximum load weight; make sure that what you’re loading into the car, including the weight of passengers, doesn’t exceed this limit.

Distractions and vision 

Don’t load up your car to the point where you can’t clearly see out of your mirrors. The Highway Code states that windscreens and windows must be “free from obstructions to vision”.

According to news reports, one man completely loaded his car full of branches, to take to the tip. Intent on making just one trip, the car was so stuffed that he couldn’t see his mirrors or reach the gearstick. The police stopped him, made him empty the car and instructed him to make several trips to the tip.

Pack well

It’s been called “luggage Tetris” – the loading of the boot before a holiday or house move, carefully choreographed to fit as much into the space as possible. Any seasoned luggage Tetris player will tell you that it’s best to put bigger things in first and then pack smaller items around them. You can then top off your pile with a blanket and secure it all with a strap.

Don’t forget that some things might need to be accessible for the journey – or in an emergency, such as the spare tyre. Also, think about the safety of your passengers in the back seat in case you need to brake suddenly.

BMW recommends using vacuum bags to store small and light objects. These bags reduce their volume by up to 75% and help you make the most of any nooks and crannies.

Driving and fuel efficiency

The heavier your car, the more strain it’s under and the harder it has to work to speed up or slow down; handling may be affected too.

You may need to adjust the tyre pressures for them to work effectively with the heavier load; again, check your handbook, which should tell you the correct pressures depending on the combined weight of your car and its contents.

Consider a roof box 

If you’re tight on space – and have lighter but bulky items like bedding to stow – think about using a roof-rack or roof-box.

Shop around and consider how much space you’ll really need and how much you’re willing to spend. Roof boxes don’t come cheap and tend to range from around £250 up to £1,000. Bear in mind you’ll need roof bars, too, and remember these will also add to the weight of the load.

Attach your roof box securely and take it down when you’ve finished using it, as it can reduce your fuel efficiency. According to research made public by the Energy Saving Trust, at 75mph roof bars will add around 7.5% to a car’s fuel consumption, while a large rack will add around 16% and a roof box around 39%.

As some cars have better reinforced frames than others, this is another occasion when your car manual is your friend; it will tell you the maximum roof load it can safely carry. 

Go to Solved to read more about driving, the rules of the road and road safety.