Car roof racks
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Your Brief Guide to Car Roof Racks

If you are on the road often and have a fairly active lifestyle, you understand the importance of being able to bring your equipment wherever you go, be it skis, kayaks, bicycles, or even camping gear. This is where a quality and reliable roof rack can come in handy. Having that extra storage space up top can do wonders for your peace of mind. But there are a number of different roof racks and other roof storage accessories for cars out there, and you have to take several things into account before ultimately making the roof rack purchase that is right for you.

Here, we will look at the various types of roof racks you can get and also touch on some of the best roof racks for cars on the market.

What Is a Roof Rack?

Before we get into the various types of roof racks, we need to look at the different parts of the roof rack itself. Generally, a roof rack is composed of three basic parts: the mount, the tower, and the crossbars.

First off, the mount is the part of the rack that attaches to the vehicle itself.

What sort of mount you get is based on the make and model of your vehicle. The crossbars are simply that: the bars that go across your rack. Finally, the tower connects the mount to the crossbars.

5 Best Roof Racks

Bestseller No. 1
SEAH HARDWARE Universal Roof Rack Cross-Bars 2 PC.
  • The straps go through the door frames, and attach the rack on top of the roof, it fits almost all four door car without side rails, it fit four door car with side rails which height is less than 6.4 cm from roof, because the distance from car roof to bottom of bar is 6.5 cm. It can not be installed on two door car, because there is too small room between the two bars in two door cars.
  • Comes with a pair of crossbars 48". Heavy duty steel tube make it strong and safe. 4 PC 1/4" x 2" screw and 4 PC 1/4" lock nut.
  • Crossbars are adjustable in position. Install in minutes and disassemble in seconds.
  • With water proof ratchet tie down.
  • DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN!* 1800 lbs ratchet tie down ensures the roof bar will remain firmly on your car top. Whether it’s a kayak, mountain bike, or ladder, these cross bars will get your favorite things to anywhere.
Bestseller No. 2
Amazon Basics Universal Cross Rail Roof Rack, 52 inches,Pack of 2
  • 52-inch long universal cross rail roof rack mounts to most cars, SUVs, or crossovers with raised longitudinal rails, gap between rail and car roof must be 1/2 inch (1.3cm) and above, distance between two rails must be bigger than 38.6 inch (98cm) and smaller than 46 inch (117cm), diameter of rail must be within 1.4-2.1 inch (36-55mm)
  • Installing rubber sealing trips into roof racks as per paper UM or DP video can reduce wind noise, the rubber sealing strips is included in product packaging
  • Heavy-duty aluminum crossbars offer a strong, lightweight construction that’s resistant to corrosion; 165 pound capacity
  • Easy installation with rubber-coated steel clamps that provide superior grip and damage protection
  • Built-in locking system on roof crossbars to prevent it being stolen
Bestseller No. 3
CargoLoc 2-Piece 52" Aluminum Roof Top Cross Bar Set – Fits Maximum 46” Span Across Existing Raised Side Rails with Gap – Features Keyed Locking Mechanism, Silver
  • HIGH QUALITY ALUMINUM CONSTRUCTION – Our design features a rigid aluminum body that cuts down on weight without sacrificing strength
  • 150 LBS LOAD CAPACITY – Whether it’s a kayak, mountain bike, or skis, these cross bars will get your favorite toys to where the fun happens
  • SAFE AND SECURE – A heavy duty clamping mechanism ensures the cross bars will remain firmly fastened to the existing side rails, and the keyed locking mechanism will make sure they stay put
  • MEASURES 52” END TO END – Fits a maximum of a 46” span between side rails, providing ample room for your gear!. Tie-Down Features: Adjustable, Lockable : Yes.
Bestseller No. 4
BrightLines Crossbars Roof Racks Replacement for Toyota Highlander XLE XSE Limited Platinum Hybrid 2020 2021 2022 for Kayak Luggage ski Bike Carrier
  • High grade aluminum constructed. Light weight and durable. Fit XLE XSE Limited Platinum and their Hybrid models.
  • Aero-dynamic design to minimize wind noise.
  • Load capacity 154 lbs when evenly distributed
  • Easy installation, mount to roof side rail preset mounting holes. No drilling.
  • One year manufacturer warranty. Ship from U.S. warehouse plus tech support and customer service.
Bestseller No. 5
MaxxHaul 70115 46" x 36" x 4-1/2" Roof Rack Rooftop Cargo Carrier Steel Basket, Car Top Luggage Holder for SUV and Pick Up Trucks - 150 lb. Capacity
  • Instant cargo space for vehicle with cross bars; Basket size - 46" x 36" x 4-1/2"
  • Easy to assemble and install (assembly and mounting hardware are included)
  • Attaches to most cross bars with easy to use u-bolts for simple installation
  • Includes rubber caps to cover the U-bolts and protect the cargo
  • Powder coat finish

This is just the base setup of a roof rack, but you can also get other accessories and mount them to your crossbars for added storage capacity.

What Your Car’s Roof Can Tell You About Your Roof Rack Options

Did you know that there are several different roof types that can determine what sort of roof rack you should purchase? Let’s take a look at a few of these roof types and some of the best roof racks for each corresponding type (Yakima and Thule are two of the best roof rack manufacturers on the market, so we’ll solely be focusing on their products).

1. Bare Roof

Description: If your car just has a bare roof, then the best solution is to get a clip fit roof rack, which requires specific measures and allows you to mount the rack to your door frame using clips. You could also get a permanent rack installation, and while this offers great positioning flexibility, it also is a lot more expensive than the clip fit option.

Yakima - Q Tower for Roof Rack Systems, 4 Pack
  • Secure starter tower: An easy-to-use tower designed specifically for cars without roof rails or gutters; Works with the classic Yakima RoundBar
  • Kind to your car: 4-way movement adjusts to any roof shape and delivers a more solid fit; The padded base helps to grip the roof securely, while helping preserve your paint job
  • Easy install: Fast and easy tool-free installation and removal; Sets up easily in 60 minutes or less; Requires Q-Clips and the crossbars of your choice to complete
  • Same Key System: Easily locks to you vehicle with our SKS system (sold separately)
  • We've got your back guarantee: Covered by our Limited Lifetime Warranty

Roof rack options: Yakima Q Towers are specifically designed to accommodate fast and easy installation and provide four-way movement to ensure a solid fit. The Thule Traverse boasts an integrated tensioning tool to guarantee the rack stays completely secure at all times.

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2. Rain Gutters

Description: If you have an older car, you probably noticed that it has rain gutters running along the sides of the roof. With this type of roof, you could get a rain gutter tower that simply clamps down onto the gutters.

YAKIMA - 1A Raingutter Roof Rack Towers for Retro Cars With Rain Gutters, Set of 4
  • Roof racks for retro rides: Secure, easy-to-use tower specifically designed to clamp to old-school rain gutters
  • Simple integration: Works with the classic Yakima RoundBar, opening up multiple storage options
  • Hardy construction: Die-cast interior creates a durable and sturdy anchor that provides solid support season after season
  • Same Key System: Easily locks to you vehicle with our SKS system (sold separately)
  • We've got your back guarantee: Covered by our Limited Lifetime Warranty

Roof rack options: The Yakima 1A has a die-cast interior, making it a particularly sturdy option. It can also be permanently installed. The Thule 953 and 300 models are also perfect for rain gutter setups.

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3. Raised Side Rails

Description: Factory mounting points such as those provided by raised side rails make it easy to attach a roof rack.

Thule Rapid Crossroad Railing Foot Pack
  • Designed exclusively for use with the new Rapid Aero Aluminum Load Bars
  • Maximum Rack Strength and Custom Fit provided by Rubber-Coated Steel Strap
  • Easy to install with the turn of a handle; no tools required

Roof rack options: The Thule 450R Rapid Crossroad has a sleek look, easy fit, and is accessory compatible. The Yakima Timberline is made of durable stainless steel, works with a number of different crossbars, and has a maximum load rating of close to 200 pounds.

Shop now at Amazon.com

4. Factory Track

Description: Instead of raised rails, this roof has two slots running from front to back.

Thule 460 Podium Foot Pack (Set of 4), One Color, Square Bar
  • Seamless factory-rack appearance
  • Durable resin exterior, steel internal components
  • Works with flush-mounted side rail vehicles
  • Requires vehicle specific Fit Kit and square load bars, please check fit guide (sold separately)
  • Locks not included. This allows you to purchase a larger pack to include locks for all of your Thule.Not for use on trailers or towed vehicles

Roof rack options: The Yakima Control Tower is particularly known for its quick installation and removal. The Thule Podium 460, on the other hand, has a durable exterior ideal for most conditions.

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5. Truck Canopy/Camper Tops

Description: With vehicles that have these sorts of roof setups, you can either attach a rain gutter bracket, which the appropriate rain gutter tower can then attach to, or you can install a permanent custom track (this will likely require the help of a professional).

Thule 542 Artificial Rain Gutter
  • Adapts gutterless vehicles
  • Thule Gutter Foot Pack 300
  • Gutter High Foot Pack 387

Roof rack options: Yakima WideBody Brackets are quality rain gutter brackets, but they only work with the Yakima 1A. The Thule 542 rain gutters will also get the job done.

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Choosing the Right Car Roof Rack for You

Car roof racks

It is important to keep your lifestyle in mind before choosing the right car roof rack for you. Are you looking for something that has a kayak roof rack for cars or a car roof bike rack, or are you an avid camper who needs plenty of room for accessories?

Ultimately, the type of car you drive plays a big role in what sort of roof rack you can get, but there are always opportunities for custom rack or mount installations, if you are willing to spend some extra money.

Last update on 2022-06-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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