Can You Transport A Water Heater On Its Side?

So you have taken the plunge and invested in a new water heater. How do you transport it back to your home?

There are so many myths surrounding the transportation of water heaters that it can be difficult to know who or what to believe. We have put together this quick guide so that you can be sure that you are always moving your water heater around safely.

Can You Transport a Water Heater on its Side

Can you Move a Water Heater on its Side?

The short answer is yes. Water heaters can be transported on their side or horizontally. The only thing that you must make sure of is that your heater is placed on a flat surface with nothing on top of it.

Transporting Water Heaters Upright

We have all heard disaster stories about glass linings shattering, anode rods snapping, or dip tubes bending. These tales, and other mysterious problems that develop during transport, all seem to happen when the water heater is lying down. But are they true?

From our experience, most of these stories come from salespeople who want to encourage you to purchase one of their delivery packages.

The easiest way to encourage customers to purchase a delivery package is to tell them that the heater must be transported upright.

Now, we are not saying that all water heaters can be transported on their sides or that salespeople lie but sometimes the truth is stretched.

An upright water heater will not fit in most people’s cars. Water heater salespeople know this, and then use this as an excuse to encourage customers to purchase delivery packages.

It is also a very compelling argument – why wouldn’t you want to pay extra to make sure that your expensive water heater is transported safely?

You don’t want it to be damaged before you use it, but will you? And who can you ask if the manufacturer probably has a vested interest in getting you to pay their delivery fee?

Plumbers’ Verdict

As long as you are driving reasonably, your water heater is on a flat surface in your car with nothing on top of it, there is very little risk that you will damage your heater. Even if you drive with it on its side.

We tend to recommend that water heaters are transported on their sides anyway. If you think about it, a water heater that is transported upright has a fairly small contact area with the surface you put it on.

This makes it unsteady and likely to tip over whenever you go around a bend and could easily be damaged.

If, however, you keep your heater on its side, it has a much larger surface area to keep itself steady and the weight of the heater is much lower down. It is far less likely to tip.

Water Heater Transportation Tips

If you want to transport your heater, follow these quick tips to make sure that you do it as safely as possible. You don’t want to break anything before you can use it properly!


Keep in mind that any aspect of moving your new water heater may cause damage and the trip from the store to your car may be the most treacherous of all.

We recommend that you get a dolly to move your heater so you don’t do it or yourself any harm. Just be sure that you get one that can support the weight of your heater!

We recommend that you know the dimensions of your car’s trunk before you walk out with your heater. This will save you some embarrassment if you can’t get the heater to fit!

Most heaters should fit in the trunk of a decent-sized car or SUV but keep in mind that you can always fold down your rear seats for a bit more room.

That said, you need to move your heater on a flat surface. If your rear seats do not fold completely flat and you move your heater anyway, you could potentially damage the outer shell, insulation, or the controls.

Make a Flat Surface

But what can you do if your seats don’t fold down flat? Don’t panic and try this instead.

  • Fold down the rear seats of your car
  • Get two straight pieces of lumber and put them over the step of the folded seats so that they finish in the trunk. The longer the wood, the more gentle the incline, and the safer your heater will be.
  • Use some scrap wood or other material to plug up the gap under the lumber and to support the wood when you load in your new heater.
  • Carefully load in the heater. Try to place it so that it will be as close to the middle of the lumber as possible for the most support. Secure it in place with ratchet straps or something similar.
  • The weight of the heater and straps should provide enough downward force to keep everything secure but do drive carefully!

Ratchet Straps

You must secure a water heater if you move it in your car. This will prevent it from getting damaged and prevent it from causing serious injury to you if you are involved in a collision. We recommend that you use ratchet straps.

The majority of modern cars have hooks in the trunk that you can easily attach straps to so that your heater will be secure. Keep in mind that they may be small, so it is a good idea to get straps with small hooks.

You need to attach one strap 2 or 3 inches from the top of the heater’s box, and the other 2 or 3 inches from the bottom.

This ensures an equal distribution of compression to the protective polystyrene in the box so you know that you won’t be causing damage to your expensive new heater.

Which Way Up?

Many people are worried that they will move their heater the wrong way up and damage the unit. Worry no more!

If it does matter which way round the heater is moved, it will be marked obviously on the heater’s box. But most of the time it will not matter as the unit will be well protected by polystyrene so it cannot be damaged.

Can You Transport A Water Heater On Its Side?

How Much Does a Water Heater Weigh?

If you are going to move your heater yourself, you need to be aware of the maximum weight that your car can tow. Keep in mind that a heavier heater will be larger so you also need to know the size of your car’s trunk.

A packaged 20-gallon water heater will be around 33” tall and 19” wide. Larger tanks tend to come in short or tall versions so that they can fit in most people’s homes.

A short 30-gallon tank will be around 30” tall and 22” wide when packaged, but a tall version will be around 50” tall and 21” across. 50-gallon tanks are either 34” tall and 28” wide or 60” tall and 22” wide when packaged.

Use these measurements as a guide to see if your heater will fit in your car. Remember – as long as it is securely in place in your car, you can transport a water heater however you want.

Transporting a Used Water Heater

There may be a time when you need to move a used heater from one place to another.

Many people think that they need to procure the services of a professional delivery company but, as long as you are happy to do so, you can easily move the heater yourself.

Here are some things to bear in mind:

  • Drain the heater completely – any water left in the heater can cause serious damage to the unit.
  • Lay the heater on its side as this is the most stable position.
  • Make sure that the controls are pointing up – this will prevent damage and keep the unit working when you install it.
  • Make or invest in a frame to move your heater if it is round – a secured heater can’t move so is less likely to damage itself.

Final Thoughts

Moving a water heater on its side is perfectly safe. It is the method that is most recommended as it is less likely to tip and cause damage to the unit.

If you move your heater yourself, be sure to properly secure it in your car. This will prevent damage to the unit and keep you safe while you are driving.

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