How to Pack Your Car for Moving

By Amanda Lutz | July 31, 2023

Moving boxes and suitcases in trunk of car on moving day.

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Although it’s a fun adventure, moving a far distance is no easy task. Even if you’ve hired the best moving company, you’ll still need to bring some items in your vehicle, and you may be wondering how to pack your car for moving. In this article, we’ll cover the best ways to maximize your car’s space, tips for packing your own vehicle, and the information you’ll need to decide whether to rent a moving truck or hire professional movers.



Maximize Your Vehicle’s Space

You may think you have a lot of room in your car, but when you start packing for a long-distance move, you’ll likely find it fills up quickly. Bulky items, such as your couch or bed, can go with a long-distance moving company, but smaller and more valuable items should travel with you. We’ve compiled tips for maximizing your vehicle’s space so that you can use every inch efficiently.

Back Seats

If you don’t have any passengers in the back, you can use that space to store a lot of items. Fold down your back seats to maximize space. If you can’t fold down your seats, secure your heavier items in the back seat’s footwells or toward the back of the rear seats to maintain balance.

Cargo Trailers

If you find that you have just too much to pack, you can rent a trailer to attach to your car. Cargo trailers come in various sizes and can haul larger items with ease. A trailer is a great option for individuals who don’t need to rent a moving truck but still require extra storage space to move some furniture or larger items.

Hidden Spaces

Many people don’t realize just how much space their car really has. When you’re packing your vehicle, utilize those hidden spots you may not consider, including the following:

Overhead Carriers

When you’ve packed your trunk and car interior to the brim, you may find you still have several items you need to fit. Using a hard-shell overhead carrier is a practical and affordable option. A few examples of items you can pack in it include the following:

Place overhead carriers on the vehicle’s roof, and secure them by following the safety regulations published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the overheard carrier company.



Tips for Packing Your Car

Before packing anything, clear your vehicle of unnecessary items, including anything in the nooks, door pockets, and glove compartment. You should also bring your car to a mechanic and ask for a long-distance drive tune-up to ensure your vehicle is in its best shape and ready for the trip. As you start packing, make a list of where you’ve stored your items to stay organized.

Here are some more tips for packing your car for a long-distance move:

Pack Essentials First

During your drive, keep your valuable items close by in a small essentials box. You don’t want to be stuck unpacking your entire car to get to them before you’ve arrived at your destination. Consider what you’ll need for the drive, which may include the following:

Protect Fragile Items

If you’re bringing your fragile items with you in the car, you can protect them in bubble wrap. To save some extra space, you can wrap them in your blankets, towels, and clothing. That way, you’ll keep your breakable items safe while also repurposing things you would need to pack anyway. Stabilize these items by storing them in tight spaces so that they don’t shift during the drive.

Use Bags

Instead of using cardboard boxes, which tend to be bulky and take up too much space, consider using bags. They’re soft and flexible, making it easier to pack them. The following are a few examples of bags you can use:

Keep a Spare Tire

Having a spare tire is essential, especially when you’re driving long distances. You don’t want to be stuck on the side of the road with a blown tire and no way to replace it. In some vehicles, you can find the spare tire underneath the trunk’s floorboard. It also might be under your vehicle. If your car doesn’t have a designated space for a spare tire, you’ll have to keep one in your trunk. Be sure not to remove this to make more space for stuff.



Professional vs. DIY Moves

You have a lot to consider when you’re moving to a new home. Hiring a professional moving service can save you a lot of angst and time, but taking the DIY approach can also be effective. Below we’ll walk you through the benefits and drawbacks of hiring a professional moving company versus renting a moving truck.

Hiring Movers

Hiring a mover may be the right choice if you’re moving a long distance or are short on time. While packing is stressful, moving is physically and mentally exhausting. Renting and driving a moving truck is an additional hassle, especially if you’re a little skittish on the road. If you’re moving out of state, you may not be familiar with different states’ driving laws, so consider hiring an interstate moving company that has experience with those types of moves. 

 If you decide to hire a professional mover, research companies and collect some free quotes before signing an agreement. Reputable movers are licensed and insured and usually have good reviews. Once you’ve narrowed down your search, you can check a mover’s certifications and safety ratings using its U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) number. Once you’ve found the USDOT number, you can visit the FMCSA website to learn more about the company.

Renting a Moving Truck

Renting a moving truck is a cost-effective option. It also provides you with more control and flexibility. If you aren’t sure what to do with your car, you can consider auto transport, but rental trucks usually allow you to tow your personal vehicle behind them. However, when you rent a truck, you have to move everything, including larger pieces of furniture, by yourself. You’ll also have to drive the truck, which may seem daunting. The best moving truck rental companies will work with you to determine your needs.



Our Recommendation

Moving a long distance can be exciting but a lot of work. Safety is the top priority, so we recommend bringing in your car for a tune-up to ensure it’s safe to drive long distances. You’ll also want to keep the driver’s footwell clear and have a full range of view out of every window and the rearview mirror.

We also recommend staying organized as you pack and move to avoid breaking items, losing your property, and overlooking important steps. Remember to take advantage of moving truck rentals, rooftop carriers, and trailers when working with limited space.



Packing Your Car for Moving FAQ

What is the most efficient way to pack a car for moving?

Packing a car is a lot like putting together a puzzle. It can be tricky if you don’t stay organized, so make a list of items you have to pack and where you want to place them. Once you’ve evaluated your load, begin packing your items using every inch of available space, including seat pockets and the glove compartment.

How do you pack everything into your car to move?

Pack your items in bags to conserve space since moving boxes, plastic containers, and hard-shell luggage tend to be too large and inflexible. If you have a small car and can’t fit everything, buying a roof carrier is an affordable option. They can maximize the available space and are easy to install.

How do you pack a car for a long road trip?

Consider what you’ll need during your trip, and keep these items easily accessible. After packing the essentials, you can then move on to other items that you don’t want to ship or send in a moving truck, such as your jewelry, medications, and perishable items. Pack your heavy and large items in your trunk or an overhead carrier. Be sure to maintain balance throughout the car.

What should you pack in the car when moving cross-country?

When you make a cross-country move, remember to pack your essential items, such as a change of clothes, medications, pet food, and toiletries, for any overnight hotel stays as you make the trek across the country. Renting a trailer to hitch to your vehicle will extend the space available to you.