On a good day packing a car can feel like a perfect game of tetris. On a bad day, it’s like trying to fit a mattress into a backpack!

Whether you’re off to your new home or your next holiday, packing the car can be a challenge. Although it’s tempting to bring everything, it’s not always possible (or wise).

Whatever your needs, here are our 5 steps that will show you how to pack a car like a pro. If your car is full, we’ll help you manage the overflow. If your packing needs are light, these tips will help you keep the boot tidy!

The back of a tightly packed Prius hybrid car - a good example of how to pack a car

Image: Lisa Dusseault

Step 1: Plan ahead

Packing a car starts well before you put anything into bags! Take some time to get ready before you pack and you’ll thank yourself later.

Get the right car. Your packing needs may require a larger vehicle – a Nissan Micra can’t move a fridge! Depending on the trip, you might need more boot space or a set of roof racks.

If you don’t have access to a large enough vehicle, GoGet gives you great access to a range of different sized vehicles. See the fleet here.

Take less stuff. Packing a car is easier with less. Whether you’re moving home or road tripping, be honest about what you need to take. Start with the most important things and work your way down.

Food is often easy to cut down. If you’re moving, use up as much as you can beforehand. If you’re going on a trip, see if there’s a supermarket at your destination, and shop there.

Do a practice pack. A test run through will save a tonne of stress. You’ll learn how to fit awkward items, and will help you decide if you need a bigger vehicle while there’s time to get one.

A man packing a GoGet van with cardboard boxes

Step 2: Clean your car

Give your car a clean before you pack, ideally a day ahead. Take out rubbish, unnecessary accessories, and be sure to check the glovebox and centre console.

Give the car a vacuum while you’re at it – it’ll keep your belongings clean. If you’re using GoGet you can skip this step, as we do the cleaning for you!

Step 3: Prioritise by size and access

You’re almost ready to start packing! Whatever the reason for your trip, there are some items that will need more space, and some that you’ll need to access quickly. 

Big items like bicycles or furniture may need to go into the car a particular way, so make sure you save space for them ahead of time.

Similarly, some items will need to stay at the top for easy access. For a holiday, think eskies and snacks. For moving house, you’ll want a day bag within reach with a change of clothes, chargers, and toiletries.

A car that has been pack for a holiday to go camping

Image: Andrew Annemarie

Step 4: Pack smart and tight

It’s time to pack! For small items, here’s how to make the most of the space you have.

Use bags or soft packing cubes. Non-rigid containers are easier to fit into your car’s nooks and crannies, while rigid boxes leave wasted space in the corners. Good bags are duffles, backpacks, or shopping bags. Throw out any original packaging for the same reason.

Roll your clothes. There are many ways to pack clothes, but rolling is the most space efficient. Roll your clothes tight, then put them into a bag. It can leave wrinkle in some fabrics though.

Wrap breakables. Towels and clothes can keep your valuables safe just as well as bubble wrap, but they’re cheaper and waste less space.

Step 5: Car full? No it’s not!

If you’re on the edge of capacity, check again to see if every available space is filled. Here are some spots you might miss:

  • Passenger footwells (but don’t pack anything in the driver’s footwell)
  • The glovebox, door and centre console compartments
  • Under the front seats, for flat and non-breakable items
  • The space around the spare tyre

If we can emphasise one thing, it’s to plan ahead. The earlier you start thinking about logistics, the better. Moving is already stressful, and anger is a bad emotion to kick off a holiday.

A bigger car can make all the difference, so take the time to see if there’s a GoGet near you, to take even more stress out of the day. Good luck!

About Tim Beau Bennett

Tim is an ex-journalist and radio presenter, and has been a professional writer for over a decade. He regularly writes about technology, lifestyle, and smart cities, and has written for news site including the ABC, SBS, and Australian Financial Review.