Is It Ok to Transport a Water Heater Laying Down?

So it’s finally time for a new water heater, there have been many myths about transporting water heaters. Let’s get them all cleared up.

Water heaters can be transported horizontally or laying down on their side. Care must be taken to place it on a flat surface and nothing can be stacked on top of it. Straps must be placed in the right place.

While it is safe to transport a water heater lying down, there are some guidelines that will guarantee your new water heater will arrive at the destination in perfect condition.

Why Some People Say Water Heaters Must Be Transported Upright?

There is so much false information about bending anode rods/ dip tubes, shattering glass lining, or some other mythical problem that could occur when transporting water heaters laying down.

If you drive reasonably there is absolutely no risk that your water heater will be damaged if you place it on its side.

I have spoken to many plumbers and they all transport them horizontally.

In fact, they think it is safer since there is no risk of tipping over. A 60″ water heater tipping over will definitely damage something.

Most of the false info comes from salespeople trying to force delivery on people.

They say it must be transported upright since they know a large water heater will not fit standing up in typical cars. People who believed the salespeople tell the same story to their friends, this is how those things spread.

Most people will fall for this and pay for the transport, don’t be one of them.

Keep reading to find out how to transport water heaters safely, the same way 90% of the plumbers do it every single day across the country.

Transporting A New Water Heater Laying Down

Unless you bought a floor model, the new water heater most likely comes in a cardboard box.

There are some things to keep in mind to help you transport the water heater safely.

Load The Water Heater On a Flat Spot

Most likely you are trying to transport the water heater in a trunk of an SUV/car. For larger water heaters it might be necessary to fold down the seats to make it fit.

The seats on most SUVs don’t fold completely flat. By placing the water heater on an uneven surface you risk damaging the controls, outer shell, or insulation.

The solution is to fold down the seats and place two pieces of straight lumber across.

Then add pieces of scrap wood underneath to support the boards.

Then load the water heater on top of the boards. This will give you a nice flat base for the water heater.

Below is a table for common water heater sizes including the packaging. This can give you an idea if it will fit in your car.

Tank SizeTank HeightTank Width
20 Gal.33-1/2″19″
30 gal. Short30 “21-3/4″
30 Gal. Tall49-1/2″21″
50 Gal. Short34″28-1/4″
50 Gal. Tall60-7/8″22-1/4″
Water heater dimensions with packaging

So go ahead grab a measuring tape and see if the water heater will fit in your car.

Fasten The Water Heater With Ratchet Straps

Whenever transporting something in a vehicle, it is essential to securely fasten it to the car.

Most modern cars have hooks on the bottom of the trunk for just that reason.

The hooks on passenger cars are quite small so make sure you get ratchet straps with small hooks (amazon link).

This kind of ratchet strap is ideal for fastening loads in a trunk.

They are less suitable for fastening heavy loads on trailers.

Where To Place The Straps?

Most water heaters have polystyrene packaging on the bottom and top of the box.

One strap should be placed 2 inches from the bottom of the box and the other 2 inches from the top.

This ensures that both straps are compressing the polystyrene, not the empty cardboard box.

Which Side Up?

If it makes a difference which side should be up it will be marked on the box.

However in most cases it does not matter, since the polystyrene packaging is larger than the controls. This means that they will be protected in all cases.

Transporting A Used Water Heater Laying Down

Sometimes it might be necessary to move a used water heater to a new location. If it is still working care should be taken to transport it carefully.

Since there is no packaging to protect the water heater the approach will be different.

However, it is still perfectly safe to transport it horizontally/laying down.

Position The Controls Up

Since water heaters are round, it is impossible to lay them on the side and keep them in the correct position without any side support.

If the sides are not supported then the water heater could roll onto the controls. This could mean your trip will end in a dump since it is rarely worth it to replace the controls on an old water heater.

Be careful not to dent the heater as this will significantly increase the energy consumption of the unit.

There is an easy solution. All you need is a couple of pieces of scrap wood.

its a good idea to use moving blankets to protect the water heater from scratches.

WEN 272406 72-Inch by 40-Inch Heavy Duty Padded Moving Blankets, 6-Pack

Here’s what you do/

  • Place two 20″ 1 x 4’s on the floor
  • Screw a 4″ piece of 2 x 4 to one end
  • Lay the water heater on top
  • Screw another 4″ piece of 2 x 4 to the other end.

Here’s a picture of what I mean.

If you place a water heater on top of this frame and strap it, there is no way it can roll, and damage the controls or connections.

Related Article: Can You Transport a Front Load Washer Lying Down

Related Article: Is It Ok to Transport a Dryer While Laying Down


I like it when I'm able to fix everything that needs fixing around the house. In order to do that, I have to do a lot of research. This site will cover everything I learn and maybe help others do the same.

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