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It’s easy to get carried away when packing the car for a road trip, whether it just be for a quick weekend, or for a more extended period of time. Between bags, maybe bikes, possible camping gear, coolers, and those last minute pieces “just in case”, it soon becomes a complex game of tetris to squeeze everything in.

But have you ever considered that you could have exceeded your car’s carrying capacity?

Before we left for South America we sold our home and loaded all of our possessions into a storage facility which was shipped to Arizona.  We packed our car with everything we thought we needed for our upcoming US road trip and left it in the care of neighbours in Florida. Upon our return to Florida from the international leg of our journey, with two more suitcases and 4 backpacks in tow, we realized we had WAY too much stuff to cram into our little Chevy Malibu.

Don’t get me wrong – we made everything fit, but at close to 900 pounds (inclusive of our weight), we began to seriously worry about our safety driving 2,500 miles from Florida to Idaho.

Every car has a recommended combined weight for both passengers and cargo, but most people have no idea what the safe capacity of a car is. In fact, I hadn’t even considered that overloading your vehicle was a possible danger until now.

Generally, a vehicle’s maximum capacity will be around 800 pounds.  If you look on the panel of the drivers side door, there should be a sticker which gives the maximum capacity for your vehicle specifically.

Why You Should Never Overload Your Car

 

Overloading your car while driving is dangerous for the following reasons:

  • Excess weight can cause your wheels to bulge out and heat up increasing the risk of a blowout.
  • Your suspension/traction control will not be able to handle highway speeds appropriately. The suspension system comes under stress, and, over time, the weakest point can give way.
  • Reduced effectiveness of your breaks.
  • Overloading could seriously compromise your ability to steer the car in a straight line and round bends safely. You could do serious damage and lose control if you hit a pot-hole or other obstruction at any speed.
  • Any sudden steering/maneuvering is almost certain to end in a spinout.
  • If you pack the back seat too high, your rear vision may become impaired. Also, on this point, if you break too hard, remember that the gear in the car is still traveling at 70 miles per hour. In our case this would mean a microwave coming at our head at 70 miles per hour. Goodbye face.
  • Gas costs rise significantly due to excess weight.
  • Insurance will not cover any damages caused due to an accident caused by overloading.

So the last two are not so much physically dangerous as it is dangerous to your budget, but it’s still something you need to seriously consider.

 

We started this road trip in Pensacola,Florida.

We started this road trip in Florida and made it 2,500 miles to Idaho.

Our main concern this road trip has been our tires. With a combined weight for passengers and cargo of roughly 900 pounds, we have been sitting right on our vehicle’s maximum weight load capacity. For the duration of the trip the car has been sitting ridiculously low, our tires are noticeably worn, and the steering of the car is more difficult.

We’ve been driving slowly and keeping a very close watch on the tires. Thankfully we haven’t yet blown one.

Note: If you DO blow a tire, do NOT hit the breaks as you will likely spin out. Steer the car as straight as possible and slowly pull over into an emergency lane.

 About Megan Claire

Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging around the world for the last 7 years to inspire others to embark on their own worldwide adventure!  Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Follow their journey on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

    42 Comments

    • Yep – not the greatest brainwave we’ve ever had!

  1. No worries! My old car is never coming with me on a long road trip hehe. But yours are great tips!

    • Thanks Claudia!! Long trips do get a bit tiresome when driving – though we do love taking in the scenery!

  2. Wow guys, you had a lot of stuff indeed! That is a bit crazy, I have done few road trips in my life but I travelled for 2 months doing West Coast Tip with Mustang convertible and we managed to have enough space to even take a hitch hiker :)

    • In our defence we’re moving cross state at the same time, though we should have just thrown all of the excess stuff into our shipping container at the beginning.

      Lol we’ve been passing hitchhikers on the road and laugh cos there’s no way they would even fit!

  3. If there is a next time, rent a latch on caravan instead, I think the bigger boys allow interstate returns.

    • That’s a great idea – would really help on weight distribution! Thanks!!

  4. I’m not much of a road tripper either (I have never owned a car) but the few times I’ve been on one I’ve definitely appreciated the problems related to overpacking, especially when it comes to fuel costs. Great tips!

    • Fuel costs have been killing us this trip! So crazy to think!

  5. Great Advice Meg. Glad you made it safely to Idaho and may the rest of your journey be safe as well. :-)

    • Thanks Pam! And thanks for a wonderful stay in Idaho!!

  6. Great post Meg! We are major road trippers especially for our ‘Weekend Getaways’ but we are fortunate in respect to not usually taking much with us when we travel. We tend to pack really light, though that’s probably because our trips tend to only be for a couple of days so I can imagine on long-haul trips it would be even tougher.

    Never knew you were such a mechanic though Meg with all those stats and where to find the max load information :) Definitely worth keeping an eye out for though because you don’t want to end up getting stuck in the middle of Death Valley with a puncture or a part of your car falling off!

    • Lol this trip has turned me into a little mechanic – no idea about any of that stuff before now :D And that’s exactly what we’ve been worried about – just drove into Nevada and it’s so super hot here atm! No way we’re getting stuck in the middle of the infinite desert without any help!!

  7. I did a road trip with some friends from Ottawa to Orlando a few years ago and our car was WAY too packed… definitely spent more on gas coming back than going down

    • It happens! Crazy but true!! We’re looking forward to getting to our final destination so we can shed some pounds from the car!

  8. Huh, I had never thought of this! Good point! We have made quite a few road trips and with moving across country I would guess we’ve been close to the limit a few times as well. I will have to think about this next time–thanks!

    • It’s not something you generally think about! I was surprised when I heard, but then realized “of course there would be”!

    • It is!! Not to mention having to haul most stuff out each night when we get to hotels!

  9. You seem like a road trip extraordinaire, Megan,that’s for sure. Thanks for the amazing tips :)

    • We’ve learnt from many mistakes :D!

  10. Great tips Meg! I alway try to keep any vehicles I pack as light as my backpack. Less to worry about, everything seems more organized and, of course, it saves you a ton of money once all your road trip expenses are added up. Thanks for including that last tip in there; I’ve seen WAY too many people jerk the car off the road instead of pulling off slowly! :-)

    • Us too – it’s an instinctive reaction to slam on the breaks but half the time it ends up causing you more damage than good! Slow and steady wins the race!!

  11. I was following this trip and this gave me a reason to go to the US! I’ve never been (ever) and didn’t have plans not until I saw your photos! I was told that it could be a little expensive (gas, toll, etc)? Hope you can write about this!

    • Thanks Trisha! Will make a note to write up a post about the logistics of a US road trip; it’s not actually overly expensive. More expensive than South America, but a lot cheaper than destinations like Europe and AUstralia.

      We are probably spending about $25 per day in gas for 5 hours of driving. And then hotels along the routes are fairly cheap – you can pick one up for $50-$100 per night.

      The scenery and nature the US has on offer is just downright amazing. So much diversity; it’s a great country for a roadtrip!

  12. Megan, This hits way too close to home. We just road-tripped most of the summer, without a house, moving to a new place, blah, blah, blah. The resulting car load was huge, heavy, and annoying. Great post!

    • Thanks Corinne! So glad your road trip worked out well for you though! It’s definitely something you don’t think about until you’re right in the moment or looking back on it afterwards!

      We can only learn!

  13. You guys are awesome! I really admire your adventurous spirits! Thanks for the post! I am also going on a road trip this summer! We will start from Holland (Breda) and we will drive to Greece (Halkidiki)! Thanks for the tips! Have a great summer!

    • Thanks Tia! So glad to hear you’re enjoying the blog – and super psyched to hear about your upcoming roadtrip! You’ll have such a fab time!! Stay in touch and let us know how you go!

  14. Thank you for your instructions!

    I found quite often, my vehicle will not overload, without myself on board! What a tragedy! Haha!

    • Haha that’s what we were worried about too – we filled it to the brim and then forgot to factor in our own weight lol. Luckily all was well and we didn’t have any accidents, but you could tell the car was sitting low! That poor vehicle!

      Travel safe :)

  15. Hi, Megan Claire! In terms of this case, I have experience. In my last road trip, my car was overloaded. Therefore, I understand the importance of not overloading your vehicle

    • Hi Autozik – glad to hear you too understand how important this is. Hope your last roadtrip went smoothly without any issues :)

      Travel safe :)

  16. I had no idea that over-packing my car was even possible. I love to travel, and I normally have my car packed pretty full, but if it could possibly cause my car to break down or have issues, I’ll avoid it in the future. Thanks for the tips, I’ll keep this in mind for our next road trip!

    • I didn’t either until we we packed right to the brim and decided to check if it was a thing!!!

      Do check on the inside of your car door what it’s weight limit is – each car will obviously be different to the next. But definitely something to keep in mind re safety for your next trip :)

      Happy travels!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post – travel safe!

  17. It is absolutely true that overloading a car is very dangerous.Because it leads to an accident.The excess weight can cause your wheels to bulge out and heat up increasing the risk of a blowout.An important thing is that insurance will not cover any damages caused due to an accident caused by overloading of a car.

    • Absolutely Christopher … we were stressed for the whole roadtrip that our tyres were going to blow out, I was pulling up articles online while we were driving to figure out how best to react if they did :S! It was a very stressful situation, so I hope by posting this others can learn from our mistakes! Luckily we were ok :)

  18. indeed every thinh what you have said it true so we have to be very careful may continue to guide and protect us Ameen

    • Glad you enjoyed the post

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