How to Haul Wood without a Truck

I have been to Lowes over and over again to just pick up small items for my home projects and kept finding myself in the lumber section needing to take home some wood. I would start stacking it on the rack and realize I forgot I didn’t have a truck, only an SUV. So after a few small trips back and forth, I found the best way to maximize my hauling experience in my Cadillac XT5 SUV. I have now became an expert on hauling wood without a truck.

Everyone can haul wood in a vehicle other than a truck effectively. This is critical when trying to plan out most home projects. So how do you haul wood from the store if you do not have a truck? The steps to hauling wood without a truck are:

  1. Prep your vehicle
  2. Know the dimensions of your vehicle
  3. Plan out your visit to the store
  4. Determine the type of wood you will load in the vehicle
  5. Use enough tie downs

If you want to find the best Tie Downs, click here.

Following these steps will result in a successful trip to the store and getting the necessary materials for your home improvement projects.

Prep the Vehicle to Transport the Lumber

Most SUV’s will allow you to haul several types of boards that are 8 foot in length by using the inside of your vehicle. To do this, you simply drop the back seats and place the wood up the middle where they will rest on the center console of the vehicle.

However, to maximize your trips to the lumber yard and not mess up the inside of your vehicle, I have found a few techniques and tips to make you successful. 

There are a few keys to ensuring you do not mess up your vehicle:

  1. Ensure your center console is covered with a towel or towels. No sheets or thin covering. Typically, the wood will snag the fabric and then snag your nice leather console. Towels on the other hand will work great, especially when you use several of them for added thickness.
  2. NOTHING in the back of the vehicle! Its hard enough to put the wood in the back of your vehicle while dodging your kids sports equipment, coolers, shopping bags, etc. This part is simple. Take the stuff out of your vehicle so you have ample room to move around and will keep yourself from ruining the car or the objects in the back.
  3. Cover the floor of your folded back seats with more towels, sheets, etc. It will usually be “car carpet” but its  nice to cover it to allow you to quickly clean up.

Maximize Your Trip to the Store

If you’re like me, you want to haul as much as you can for your project to minimize the trips to the store. It is absolutely no fun to make trip after trip to the store.

When planning your trip to the store you say to yourself “I don’t have a truck, ugh. How am I going to get everything I need?” So you must get creative and factor in a few key dimensions.

  1. The width between the 2 front seats with a center console is approx 7 feet – 10 inches, depending on your SUV. My XT5 is 7 inches. Why do i care about this? To determine the width of my boards I can haul lying flat OR lying on their side.
  2. Length from the back of your lift gate to the front of your SUV. My XT5 is 96 inches from the back to the gear shift. Once you get above the top of the gear shift, there is another 10 inches to your dashboard.
  3. Height from the top of your center console to your shoulder as you’re sitting in the front seat. For me, my shoulder aligns with the top of the seat, not counting the head rest. So that is approx 12 inches. This number is important so it will help you determine how high to stack your wood. Everybody is different, but you should not over stack where it obstructs your visibility to the road or your blind spots, and you should not over stack your wood where it could slide right into the windshield if you have to make a sudden and abrupt stop. Which brings us to securing your load in the car, which will be discussed further down.

Maximize Your Wood Purchase

The most popular piece of wood, the 2×4, is a good example to discuss. They are actually 1.5 inches thick, 3.5 inches wide, and 96 inches long. NOTE: I have seen the lengths be up to 97 inches and change. Aggravating, but it does happen.  Based on the dimensions in my car I am able to place two 2×4’s next to each other lying flat. At 1.5 inches thick, I want to stack my boards 10 inches high, which will not exceed the height of the dashboard and keep the height lower than my shoulders to allow proper road visibility when driving. Therefore, I can stack 2 rows of 7 boards each row, yielding 14 boards.

TIP: Keep one of the back seats from folding down so you can use it as a brace so the stack of wood doesn’t tip over when turning corners. 

Must Secure the Wood Load

It is important to always secure your load inside and outside your vehicle. Securing your load will prevent your haul from moving or sliding while in transit to your house. Below are some guidelines specified on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website. 

  • General Rule: Cargo must be firmly immobilized or secured on or within a vehicle by structures of adequate strength, dunnage (loose materials used to support and protect cargo) or dunnage bags (inflatable bags intended to fill space between articles of cargo or between cargo and the wall of the vehicle), shoring bars, tiedowns or a combination of these.
  • Cargo Placement and Restraint: Articles of cargo that are likely to roll must be restrained by chocks, wedges, a cradle or other equivalent means to prevent rolling. The means of preventing rolling must not be capable of becoming unintentionally unfastened or loose while the vehicle is in transit. Articles of cargo placed beside each other and secured by transverse tie-downs must be placed in direct contact with each other, or prevented from shifting towards each other while in transit.
  • Minimum Number of Tie Downs is 2, for a 8 foot long 2×4.

Types of Tie Downs to Use

There are many types of tie downs that can accomplish the job here. You want a set that will tighten effectively and not slip off the wood when secured. You want to secure the front and back of the stack of wood so it doesn’t separate during transit. Some examples:

After securing your bundle, its good to secure it to your car. Since you’re on the inside of the car, securing it to the back seat that you left upright makes a good anchor. 

In Summary

There are several factors to think about in order to make a successful trip to the lumber yard. Whether you’re building a deck, built ins, or furniture, if you plan wisely, you can haul lumber effectively in another vehicle besides a truck.

If you follow these steps you will have a successful trip to the store even without owning a truck.

  1. Prep your vehicle
  2. Know the dimensions of your vehicle
  3. Plan out your visit to the store
  4. Determine the type of wood you will load in the vehicle
  5. Use enough tie downs

Tips and Tricks

If you have a small car, take a look at this video for additional ideas on how to transport wood without a truck.

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