Loading Stuff Into Trunk

I need to load objects up to 50 pounds in and out of my car. They’re amplifiers, and I’m a musician. I need to take them to and from gigs. Trouble is, I’m 60 years old. Sooner or later I’m going to slip a disc or bust a gut. I’m looking for a car (new or used) that gets good mileage (not a truck – a mini-SUV would be okay) and has a semi-large freight area whose rear loading height is 24 inches (or less). It should have a flat bed, not the kind of hump that you get when you fold down the rear seat. Ideally, I’d like a tuck-away freight ramp so I can roll things up into the bed, but I suppose that’s too much to hope for.

The Honda Element measures 27 inches at the rear, and I’m sure there’s no loading ramp. (Hey, maybe a pulley system to lift things? Nah, that’s a fantasy.)

Has anyone wrestled with this dilemma? Suggestions? Thanks!

--Jim Aikin

You say you don’t want trucks. Why not? A 4 cylinder Ford Ranger gets decent mileage, has a large cargo area, flat, low loading deck, room for a ramp and hand truck (if so desired) and can be had fairly cheap. I think that would be your best bet.

A truck bed wouldn’t protect sensitive electronic gear (to say nothing of my cello) against rain. But I’m willing to consider ways of dealing with that, if anyone can suggest a truck that has a loading height of 24 inches or less (tailgate to ground). I’m betting there isn’t one, but I wouldn’t bet money, because I could easily be wrong.

Oh, and I forgot to mention thieves. No, a pickup simply wouldn’t do the job. If I have to park it somewhere on a street for ten minutes, someone could walk off with my stuff. Sure, I could add a shell, but that’s an added cost…

I wouldn’t put expensive sensitve electronics in the back of a pickup.

I think the best bet is a SUV like the Highlander or Honda Element. Small, yet should be more then big enough for your equipment. And it will be in a temp controled environment as opposed to the back of a pickup. Plus it’ll be a LOT easier to secure.

Also consider a station wagon like the Subaru Legacy. (The Impreza wagon may be too small.)

The Scion B is Toyota’s version of the Honda Element.

I’ve looked at the Element, and may buy one. Its tailgate is 27 inches above the pavement – the same as the trunk lip in my Civic. Getting down from 27 inches to 24 or 22 may not seem like much, but in lifting 50 pounds I’m pushing my body as hard as it wants to be pushed!

What I really want is a built-in ramp, so that wheeled cases can be rolled up into the interior.

I’ve wrestled with the same problem. I manage and play in a chamber orchestra. I’m always loading tympani, bass and other instruments into a minivan. I’m also in my mid 60’s, so I appreciate your concern. Big amplifiers are about the worst thing to load. The idea of a lift is not unreasonable. My brother is in the plumbing business and he has a rig to lift the heavy drain cleaning equipment in and out of his plumbing van. Since my musical activies is not a full-time occupation, I just live with it and try to get helpers to load and unload the instruments.

Have you considered a van setup for the handicapped in a wheel chair? It would have a lift on it. Then the height wouldn’t matter. Just a thought.

My friend has a 1989 Volvo 240DL station wagon that I love using to haul heavy things. Very low deck height.

Also has what some have called an aircraft-quality motor! My mother has a '89 as well – with 245k miles on it!

They sell loading ramps for ATVs, snowmobiles, etc. for trailers and pickups. Maybe one of those could be adapted for your purposes. Note that they’re not smooth sliding – indeed, they’re set up for traction, and you’d need to find something to slide your gear on.

A roll-your-own solution would be a 2x4 or 2x6 with a hook over the upper end. You could cut it in the middle and hinge it (on the bottom of the cut) so it could be folded up. A waxed slider plate might do.

Have you looked at the Scion xB?

I second this suggestion.

The owner’s manual is full of pictures of people loading musical equipment!

Yeah, you could add a cap to the truck bed, but a used 4-cylinder pickup with a cap is still a lot cheaper than a Honda Element.

Also, you could consider an ex-handicapped bus. Someone already mentioned a conversion van, but a bus might be cheaper, and it would likely be better maintained. And it certainly would have a lift and ample room for cargo.

Hmm… my post seems to have disappeared.

But I still second the Scion xB. It has a very low loading surface that’s great for loading heavy, bulky things into. It does have the drawback that it can only really haul lots of stuff with the backseats folded down, so when you’re hauling stuff around it’s a two seater. But in terms of volumetric hauling capacity for a car that gets into the mid 30 mpg’s it can’t be beat.

We use a ramp designed for getting dogs in and out of the car. It’s comparatively light, very sturdy, and it folds in 1/2 so it fits into just about anything!

Those minivans are just about perfect. The E-150 van is great for loading and unloading and you can get them with 15 inch tires too. Instead of the 16s.

The Subaru Forester has a flat cargo floor to the outside. Have you looked at any of the Scion cars? I know a few have flat cargo floors to the outside.

Lugging 50lbs at 60 is not an issue if you always use proper lifting technique. Ask a physical therapist on proper technique and critique of what you do. My wife is a PT and states technique(if proper) matters more than strength and age.

At 5’3 and 106 lbs she can lift up to 300lb patients out of bed.

The Scion xB seems like the ideal sort of solution. I don’t know the deck height, but they seem really low. They are also supposed to be pretty fuel efficient.

Of course, there are reasons lots of bands use old full-size vans. They are cheap and can carry lots of stuff. My neighbor has a Ford E150 with some aluminum load ramps. He buys and sells antique furniture, and is in his 70s or 80s. A hand truck and load ramp solves lots of your issues. You can get the load ramp even for a smaller van, but it might be hard to move around inside compared to a full-size van.

My wife just bought a used conversion van that she’s going to use for her chocolate shop business. I’m currently looking at loading and storage options. I don’t know if it would help you, but there is a slide-out platform available for vans that can be installed in either rear or side doors. Here is an example http://www.bedslide.com/products/st_carpeted.html

I have seen others with different options. Perhaps something like this would help?