How to Pack Your Car for a Move

Woman standing beside car, putting suitcase in open boot
Kathleen Finlay / Getty Images

Whether you're moving across town or across the country, properly packing the car is something you'll need to do—especially if you can't make multiple trips. Make sure your car is packed right, so you can squeeze in everything you need with room to spare for yourself and any passengers.

Figure Out What You Need to Move

The first step to packing is to sort your things and get rid of stuff. Paring things down to only what you definitely want to keep even before you think about packing will help tremendously.

Once you've done that, determine the best packing and transport methods for the items. For instance, it might be best to carefully pack and transport small breakables in your car to prevent damage in a moving truck. Likewise, you also might want to transport valuables in your car, though you'll need to consider how safe they'll be during any rest stops and overnight stays. Plus, you'll have to leave room for road trip necessities—snacks, potentially a change of clothes, your toothbrush, etc.


In addition to sorting through your items and getting rid of things, it's also a good idea to clean out your car prior to moving. Like homes, cars tend to accumulate stuff we don't need. Instead of moving these items, free up the car space for what you need to pack and transport.


Click Play to Learn How to Pack Your Car for a Move

Use Bags as Much as Possible

Boxes, baskets, storage bins, and hard-sided luggage won't conform to all the nooks and odd angles of your car where you could potentially pack something. So instead, pack as much as possible in bags—tote bags, duffle bags, backpacks, and even garbage bags. Not only can bags often fit into oddly shaped spaces, but they also won't add as much weight as more solid containers. Just make sure the items in them won't break because they don't have the protection of a hard container.

Invest in Vacuum Storage Bags

Vacuum storage bags can be the perfect packing solution for bulky bedding, pillows, towels, and clothing. They'll shrink your items to a fraction of the size, allowing you to pack more in your car. Many vacuum storage bags also become relatively narrow once the air is removed and can fit into tight spaces between other packed items.

Avoid Large Boxes

When packing items that need the security of a solid container, try to avoid large boxes. Select a box that just fits the size of the item, and split multiple items into separate smaller boxes when possible. Small boxes can more easily fit into awkward spaces within your car whereas it can be difficult to find a spot for a big box and then pack around it. Large boxes also can impede visibility for the driver.

Make Use of Every Space

Step back and look at your car with fresh eyes to find all the potential storage spaces. Don't forget about storage compartments such as those between seats, the seat-back pockets, and the space under seats, for example. In some cars, the area around the spare tire also can be used, though you should make sure the tire is still easily accessible in case you need it. You can even purchase supplemental car storage caddies that attach to the seats to maximize packing space.

Use an Overhead Carrier

When packing your car, don't forget about the roof. You can attach an overhead carrier to many cars to store cargo and free up the vehicle's interior space. Use the carrier for items you definitely won't need as you travel, as you probably don't want to have to stop and dig around in it. You also can use a rooftop rack to transport bikes and other equipment, so you don't have to pay for it to travel in a moving truck.

  • What is the most efficient way to pack a car?

    Try to visualize where all of your items can go prior to getting started. Pack the bulky items, as well as the ones you won't need to access on your trip, first. Then, fill in the spaces with the rest of your items. If it's questionable that everything will fit, pack the essential items first.

  • How do I tell if my car is overloaded?

    It's important to know the weight limit for your car, as overloading can lead to excess tire wear, overheating, difficulty braking and maneuvering, and more. Regardless of weight, a clear sign that your car is overloaded is if visibility for the driver is impeded.

  • How do I fit large things in my car?

    Pack the large item as minimally as possible. If it's not breakable, it might not even need a container. It also can be helpful to fold down or even remove the car seats. Some large items, such as a kayak, can be safely attached to a roof rack as well.