Is It Legal To Put a Mattress on Top of Your Car?


You’ve seen people driving down the road with a mattress and perhaps even a box spring tied to the roof of their car. It looked kind of ridiculous and risky, and you may have even wondered if what they were doing was legal.

It is legal to put a mattress on top of your car in all 50 states IF properly secured. Failure to secure a vehicle load on a public highway can result in jail time and a fine in 15 states. 28 states have fines up to $5,000. Mattresses causing damage to other motorists may also result in a lawsuit.

Maria Federici was not expected to live after plywood from an unsecured load crashed through her windshield and ripped her face off. Her mother, Robin Abel, fought to get a national Bill passed, which she did and it is known as Maria’s Law.

“Maria’s Law” increases penalties for failure to secure a vehicle load on a public highway. It is a misdemeanor and considered criminal negligence if all or part of the load shifts or falls and causes substantial bodily harm to another. Conviction could mean one year in jail and $5,000 in fines.

The Seattle Times

The pentializes vary depending on the state in which you commit the offence. The most agressive punitive measures means that you could go to jail if your mattress is not properly secured to the top of your car and it flys of and injures someone.

Twenty-eight states reported more severe maximum fines of $500 to $5,000 for violating unsecured-load laws and thirteen of those
states—Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, West
Virginia, and Wyoming—include possible jail time in addition to a fine.

US Government Accountability Office

Tennesse and Colorado also have possible jail time in addition to fines. So there are 15 states where it is legal to put a mattress on your car, but do it wrong and you could end up in the jailhouse.

Tips to Stay Legal When Moving Mattress with a Car

There are several simple things that can greatly improve the security and safety of moving a mattress on top of a car.

  1. If moving a box spring foundation too make sure to put the mattress on the car roof first. Then the box spring foundation on top of the. The box spring has a solid wood or metal frame so it will hold the mattress in place and prevent the front from flipping up or catching air and trying to fly away.
  2. Use cargo straps that are in good condition without any frays or cuts. Cinch the straps very tight and make sure the straps are not rotated and are in a straight line to reduce the chance of loosening while driving.
  3. Keep the mattress back as far as possible to avoid it from overhanging the windshield. The wind rushes over the windshield and will try to lift it off of the car. So the more it overhangs the windshield the more challenging the drive.
  4. Stay on back roads where driving speeds are slower. The faster the speed of the car the more the wind resistance attempts to remove the rooftop cargo.
  5. Have a strap going from the front to the back of the car to secure the front of the mattress down so it does not catch air and turn into a kite, or flip up and wave to the traffic behind you.
  6. Use ropes only when they are in good condition and make sure you can tie a knot that will hold. Check out the videos below as these guys are very experienced with this task and know how to do it safely to avoid fines and a trip to the courthouse.
  7. It is illegal to transport a mattress on the roof of your car if it impedes your view. This means that if it is hanging over the windshield or the back window, you can get pulled over and ticketed.
  8. Before driving to the destination try driving slowly around a parking lot or quiet street. Test the brakes a few times and turn a few corners to see if the straps become loose.

You’ve seen people driving down the road with a mattress and perhaps even a box spring tied to the roof of their car. It looked kind of ridiculous and risky, and you may have even wondered if what they were doing was legal.

Is it OK for you to do the same?

Technically, strapping your mattress down to the roof of your car and taking off is legal.

Accidents Involving Mattresses on Car Roofs

Consider a case in Orange County, California in 2015. A woman was killed after she ran into a mattress that had fallen from another car in the busy carpool lane. An additional three cars then struck her car.

Then, there was the 2019 case in Trenton, Nova Scotia, Canada. In this incident, a 19-year-old was charged with criminal negligence after the mattress on his car’s roof flew off. It landed in the roadway where it was responsible for causing a transport truck to lose control.

The truck collided with an oncoming car, instantly killing two women in the car.

This is what can happen.

 A similar accident occurred in 2014 in Massachusetts. In this incident, a mattress fell from a dump truck, blocking the lane. Although the victim, Frida Litvak, stopped her car in time, the driver behind her did not. He crashed into her car, killing her.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, in 2010, there were about 51,000 crashes—including almost 10,000 injured persons and 440 known fatalities—involving a vehicle striking an object that came off of another vehicle or a non-fixed object lying in the roadway

US Government Accountability Office

You definitely do not want to be one of these statistics. This means that it is critical for you to move your mattress, box spring, and bed frames with extreme care.

If you fail to properly secure your load, you’ll be extremely lucky if no one gets hurt. However, you still may be subject to traffic tickets, fines, jail time and lawsuits.

Who knew that moving a mattress with a car could be such a big deal?

Stay Legal When Moving a Mattress

OK, you don’t want to go to jail, pay fines, get sued, or hurt anyone just because you were in a hurry to move from point A to point B.

Believe me, I have been in this situation several times and sometimes it was sketchy. But I know better now.

I understand the temptation to do things as cheaply and quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, cheap and quick frequently equals unsafe. I understand this now as a 50+ year old “adult”.

Just because you saw someone else driving down the road with a mattress strapped to their car’s roof doesn’t necessarily mean that you should do the same.

It Pays to Take Precautions and Plan Carefully.

TIP: Depending upon where you live, there may be local laws and ordinances that would prevent you from ever tying down a mattress to your car’s roof. It might be wise to call the non-emergency number for the local police to check on the laws in your specific area.

How Can You Move a Mattress Safely?

The reality is that you have lots of options. You could ask a friend or relative if you could borrow their truck, SUV, or minivan.

TIP: For a list of SUVs that a queen mattress will fit into please see my article here.

Alternatively, you could rent a truck or a trailer to haul your mattress wherever it needs to go.

If you are buying a new mattress, then consider getting one of the new bed-in-a-box options. These typically come rolled up in a box, which means you don’t have to worry about tying anything to the roof of your car to get it home.

If you are buying a mattress from a brick and mortar store, then take advantage of their delivery service. These frequently are more affordable and convenient than you might expect.

TIP: Some drivers spend up to $1,500 to fix the damage that is caused by transporting a mattress in this manner.

The much better option is to secure it to your car’s roof rack.

Why is this so much better?

Because the roof rack is designed to haul things without damaging your car. That is its only purpose for being.

Fastening a Mattress to Your Roof Rack to Stay Legal

Mattresses are big and bulky. The wind that is generated by driving will put considerable strain on the knots in rope and twine.

Because ratcheting straps use better, stronger methods for securing the load to roof racks when possible as they are more likely to hold your mattress in place.

Before setting off, drive slowly around a parking lot or quiet street. Test the brakes a few times and turn a few corners.

It’s a good idea to find out how secure the load is now before you hit the road.

TIP: Avoid driving on freeways and highways as much as possible. Stick to surface streets and back roads. You’ll travel slower, but encounter less traffic.

Check out my two mattress company recommendations here and our list of reviews here to see which ones we think are crap and which are good.

Scott Boyd

A semi-retired workaholic in Thailand is a challenge. It is too hot to keep building adobe and earthbag buildings so a new project was needed. I became interested in bed frames after purchasing a bamboo bed frame from a local supplier here and I learned there is little information about them on the Internet. So now I spend my days researching, testing, and reporting my findings to help others while having an occasional beer and istening to 60s and 70s B side rock, blues, and much more.

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