Informational Guide

Can You Transport A Water Heater On Its Side?

When transporting a water heater, you need to take care not to damage it. We discuss how to transport a water heater in detail here.

by Holly Curell

When transporting a water heater, you need to take care not to damage it. You'll want to read through this guide before you move your appliance so you know exactly what steps to take.  

You should always handle the best water heaters with care. So need to know how to transport a water heater? You can transport it on its side. 

Can a hot water heater be transported on its side? Yes, as long as you make sure to place it on a flat surface and don’t place anything on top of the heater. It should also be secure and have all the straps positioned correctly over it.

Most plumbers transport heaters on their sides- it's a myth that you need to do it upright. However, you need to drive carefully since water heaters are fairly easy to damage. So, how exactly did this rumor start? 

Salespeople often tell buyers that the water heater needs to be transported while sitting up. They say this because there’s no way it would fit in your car- you’d also have to pay for the delivery of the appliance. 

Since water heaters come in a box, they’re also pretty easy for you to transport on their side. This is true for hybrid and other types of water heaters. 

While many deliveries have the appliance arrive standing up, many plumbers feel it’s actually much safer for the package to arrive on its side. This is because there’s less damage if the box falls over. When it sits up, there’s a lot more space for it to fall. 

Water Heater Standing Upright

Will A Water Heater Fit In A Typical Car?  

A standard-sized water heater can actually fit into your average car pretty well. For instance, a midsize car should be able to easily hold a smaller, 30 gallon water heater or a tankless model. However, you’ll want to use a truck or larger car for 40 and 50 gallon water heaters. 

You’ll also need to transport the water heater on its side- it’s not likely that you can get the water heater into most cars sitting up! You’ll likely want help lifting and moving the package to your vehicle as well since it’s going to be very heavy. 

Equipment You’ll Need To Transport A Water Heater Safely  

Dolly Or Handtruck

There are some differences between an electric and tankless water heater, so make sure you know how much your model weighs. It’s best that you use a tool to move it from one place to another, so you don’t have to lift it directly. Most tanks weigh at least 150 pounds when they’re empty. 

Bungee Cords, Straps Rated For Heavy Loads, e.g., Ratchet straps   

Ratchet straps are very helpful to have on hand. You can secure them to the box, making sure it doesn’t slide during transportation. Place one strap two inches from the bottom and the other two inches from the top of the box. 

Padding, Covers, Old Blankets  

Padding works great to stop the appliance from bumping into the sides of your car. You’ll want to use blankets, pillows, and other soft items to prevent it from moving around too much. 

A Lifting Partner 

Finally, you’ll need to have someone help you lift the box- never try to lift a hot water heater on your own! They're heavy, and you could hurt yourself if you try this. 

How To Transport A Water Heater Without Damage  

The best way would be to transport the heater on its side. Here are the steps that you need to follow! 

1. Use A Flat Area In The Car

Start by folding your seats, if you can. Then, carefully lay the water heater down with the buttons facing up. If it’s in the box, it should be more secure. 

2. Connect Ratchet Straps

Use the straps to secure the box in place- you don’t want it moving around while you drive.

3. Add Padding

You also should cradle the box in padding, like old blankets or comforters. Doing so lessens the likeness that the heater hits the sides of your car when you turn.

4. Drive Safely

If you’re speeding, your heater could slide around and receive damage. Instead, make sure to drive slowly with it in the car.

5. Get Help

When putting the package in the car or taking it out, having a helper ensures you don’t drop the box or strain yourself.

Any time you move the water heater, make sure it's facing up. You should be able to tell which end is which by looking at the markings on the side of the box. It costs more to have the package brought to your home by a delivery company, so you’ll want to take your time bringing it home yourself. You could save about $500! 

Overall, you want to take your time, have someone help you, and use a lot of safety tools. You want to make sure the appliance is as secure as possible before your foot touches the gas pedal! 

Water Heater Set Up After Transport


Is it expensive to relocate a water heater?  

It can be expensive to relocate a water heater if you have a company do it. Many places will charge about $500 to bring the appliance to your home. 

Are all water heaters still glass lined?  

Yes, the glass liner prevents the inner steel tank from rusting. This offers better protection and has been practiced for about 60 years. 

How heavy is a 40 gallon water heater?  

Many hot water heaters will weigh between 110 and 160 pounds. On average, a 40 gallon tank will weigh around 120 pounds. 

Is it hard to move a water heater outside?  

Removing the tank from the car can be a challenge. You don’t want the other end to drop and hit the ground, so have someone help you get it out of the car. From there, you can use a cart to bring it home. 

How do I lift my water heater into my attic?  

This is not something you should do alone. You’ll want to have a helper lift from the other side. You can then work together to navigate into the attic. 


In short, you can (and should) transport water heaters on their sides. This is what professional plumbers do! 

Holly Curell is the editor extraordinaire for Plumbing Lab. Having grown up in Michigan, Holly has spent time living in New York, Virginia, & currently North Carolina, where she lives with her husband & family. Holly loves DIY & has years of experience with at-home plumbing problems that arise from having 3 kids & living in colder climates. When she's not writing about her plumbing knowledge, Holly enjoys reading, hiking & relaxing with family.