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Is it Safe to Use Your Old Car as a Moving Container?

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Is it Safe to Use Your Old Car as a Moving Container?

The answer to that question depends upon how old your car is. The older your car, the less safe it is to use it as a container. In fact, some cars are unsafe to use as containers, even if they are new.

For example, a car built before 1996 is considered “old” by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and therefore must be inspected and certified by the manufacturer before being used as a container. On the other hand, a car built after 1996 is considered “new” and does not require certification.

However, if your car is newer than 1996, you may be able to use it without having it inspected or certified. For example, if your car is built after 2000, you may be able to use it as a container without having it inspected or certified.

If you plan on using your car as a moving container, we recommend that you contact an expert who can inspect and certify your vehicle for safety before its use. You should also ensure that all of your car’s systems are working correctly, including brakes, lights, steering, suspension, etc. If any of these components fail during transit, this could result in injury to yourself or others.

What Kinds of Cars Can Be Used As Containers?

There are two types of vehicles: those manufactured with side-impact airbags (SIABs) and those that do not. 

SIAB-equipped vehicles include:

  • Most passenger cars made since 2001.
  • Light trucks made since 2004.
  • Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) made since 2006.
  • Minivans made since 2008.
  • Vans made since 2010.
  • Pickup trucks made since 2011.
  • Heavy-duty pickups made since 2013.

All other vehicles, such as motorcycles, boats, RVs, ATVs, UTV’s, and snowmobiles, are not equipped with SIABs. Therefore, these vehicles will need to be checked by an inspector before being used as containers.

How Do I Know Whether My Vehicle Has Side Impact Air Bags?

All new vehicles sold in the United States from January 1, 2001, through December 31, 2014, were required to come standard with side-impact airbags. This means that all new vehicles sold between 2001 and 2014 had SIABs installed when they left the factory. However, there are still many vehicles out there that don’t have them. To determine whether your vehicle has SIABs, look at the following information:

Your vehicle owner’s manual

A sticker inside your glove box

An inspection sticker

Where you purchased your vehicle

To find out more about your vehicle’s history, check out our article titled “How Does my New Car Look?”

My Car Is Older Than 1999. Is It Still Required to Have Side Impact Air Bags Installed?

Yes, all vehicles manufactured before 1999 are required to have SIABs installed. However, there are exceptions. For example, some manufacturers decided to delay installing SIABs until later model years because they felt that drivers would not want to pay extra money for the added cost of the airbag system. Therefore, some vehicles manufactured before 1999 did not have SIABs installed when they first hit the market.

These pre-1999 vehicles are now considered “older” vehicles and are subject to NHTSA regulations regarding their use as moving containers. Specifically, they cannot be used as containers unless inspected and certified by a qualified professional.

Do I Need to Check My Car Before Using It as a Moving Container?

You absolutely must check your car before using it as a moving container. Even though your car might seem like it is up to date, there are always things that go wrong. Here are some examples of problems that could occur while transporting items in your car:

  • Inflatable tires can rupture and cause damage to your cargo
  • Leaking fluids can spill onto your cargo
  • Air conditioning units can leak fluid into the cabin causing damage to your belongings
  • Exhaust pipes can burst or crack due to excessive heat
  • Brakes can malfunction
  • Steering wheels can break off
  • Floor mats can become loose and fall off
  • Paint chips can get under carpeting and scratch walls
  • Wiring can short circuit
  • Cabin insulation can melt and fuse together
  • Electrical wires can short circuit
  • Undercarriage parts can rust
  • Oil leaks can drip onto your cargo
  • Windows can shatter
  • Tires can blow out
  • Fuses can burn out
  • Battery terminals can corrode
  • Transmission gears can wear down
  • Radiator hoses can freeze
  • Engine cooling fans can stop working
  • Checklist for Checking Your Car Before Transport

Before attempting to transport anything in your car, follow these steps:

First, ensure that your car is free of hazards such as broken glass, sharp objects, leaking gas, electrical cords, etc.

Remove all personal items from the trunk area.

Turn on the ignition key so that the engine turns over. Make sure that the headlights work.

Look underneath the hood for any signs of trouble.

Open the driver’s door and listen carefully for sounds coming from the interior.

Listen for any unusual noises coming from the exterior of your car.

Locate the spare tire and ensure that it is inflated.

If your car has a trailer hitch, locate the ball mount and make sure that it is securely attached to the frame of your car.

Locate the jack and make sure that it works properly.

If you plan to transport something heavier than 50 pounds, call your local police department to ask about licensing requirements.

Remember, no matter what kind of vehicle you drive, there are certain precautions that you should take when transporting items in your car. Always keep your eyes open and be aware of your surroundings. Also, never leave valuables unattended in your car.

How Much Weight Should I Allow My Car to Hold?

When determining how much weight your car can safely hold, consider the following factors:

  • Vehicle type
  • Year of manufacture
  • Condition of the vehicle
  • Size and shape of the load

The older your car, the less safe it is to use as a container. If your car is newer than 1999, you may be able to use it as a moving container.22-year-old cars are now considered ‘old’ by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some manufacturers delayed installing SIABs until later model years. The older car is considered “old” by the NHTSA. There are exceptions for cars that have side-impact airbags. 


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