Flat-pack furniture trip could see you fined £2,500 if you ignore rules

A flat-pack furniture shopping trip could see motorists fined £2,500 and given points on their licence, experts have warned. With the Spring bank holiday weekend approaching, you might be planning a visit to your local furniture, DIY or electrical store.

But there are strict rules when it comes to transporting longer items - like rugs and wardrobes - that might end up sticking out of the back of your boot. Just this week a man was stopped by motorway police near Manchester with a 60-inch TV sticking precariously out of the back of his convertible.

And getting it wrong by just a centimetre could have serious repercussions. You could end up being prosecuted for “using a vehicle in a dangerous condition” where the “weight, position or distribution of its load, or the manner in which it is secured” causes a danger to other road users.

That’s according to motoring expert Graham Conway, from Select Car Leasing, who says drivers will automatically face three points on their licence as well as a fine of up to £2,500. All loads need to be secured safely if they’re protruding from a car’s boot and they shouldn’t obscure the lights or number plate.

You also need to tie down your boot lid as far as you can to stop it flying up when you’re on the road. The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 act says motorists don’t need to do anything more than that if the thing they’re carrying is protruding from the rear of a vehicle by up to one metre. But with anything that sticks out by more than 100cm there are different rules.

Mr Conway said: “We’ve all done it. You go to your nearest DIY shop or Swedish furniture store, you buy something you think will fit in your car boot with ease, and then the realisation dawns on you that it’s going to be much harder to transport home than you realised. If something is hanging out of the back of your boot by no more than one metre, and it’s safely secured with the boot lid also secured, you should be good to go.

“But if it protrudes by more than one metre, you need to mark the end of the load with some sort of brightly coloured flag to warn people that it’s there and to make it really visible. If something is even longer than that - between two metres and 3.05 metres - the load also needs to be marked with special red and white chevron ‘oversized load’ marker boards.

“And if it’s even longer than that, you actually need to inform the police of your intentions at least two working days before you plan to travel. If you’re in doubt about a bulky purchase, get it delivered instead.”

Select Car Leasing also says it’s crucial your car doesn’t end up overloaded when it comes to weight, too. Mr Conway said: “A car carrying too much weight is an extremely dangerous one, where its entire driving dynamics are compromised, including the handling and braking capabilities.

“And an enthusiastic furniture shopping spree could potentially see you maxing-out your car’s load-lugging limits.”

Working out what ‘payload’ your car can carry is tricky, so you always need to err on the side of caution. Mr Conway added: “There are two measurements you need to find - the car’s Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) and the curb weight. You’ll find these in your car’s owner manual or on a sticker on the vehicle itself.

“The GVW refers to how much weight your car can carry legally, and the figure includes all passengers and cargo. The car’s curb weight is slightly different, and refers to your car’s weight before you’ve added anything to it - including passengers and cargo.

“So, how do you work out how much load your car can carry? Simply subtract the curb weight from the Gross Vehicle Weight and you’re left with a maximum cargo weight. That payload must also account for the driver and any passengers, so you need to be careful.

“Again, if you’re unsure, seek specialist advice or enlist the help of someone with an appropriate van instead.”