The Perfect Roof Rack for Your Car

By Kimberly Graf. Published on September 16, 2023

If your car doesn't come equipped with roof racks right from the factory, all is not lost! You can still choose a set of racks from a variety of trusted companies and have them installed on the roof of your car. If you're looking for extra storage or a way to transport your canoes, kayaks, and other outdoor gear, look for one of these racks!

One of the primary things that you should look for in a perfect roof rack is that it's going to fit the car you're driving. There are certain things that need to be taken into consideration, such as whether your car has a sunroof. You'll want raised rails for vehicles with roof racks, and you'll have to be careful not to set anything directly on top of the roof rack, as it could cause various problems.

check weight cargo box in roof rack

Also, what type of rack you're going to buy also depends on what the top of your car looks like. If you have rails already running front-to-back along the roof of your car, you'll only need to buy crossbars. Many crossbar models will mount directly to existing roof racks, so this is probably the easiest scenario for your roof rack options.

Even if you don't have the actual rails, you might still have factory tracks on the top of your car. You can get the racks mounted in to these tracks with only a little more effort. But even without tracks, you aren't completely out of luck. Some vehicles come with mounting points, hidden behind small door panels on your roof.

Options for cars with bare roofs, and none of the above options, include door-jam roof racks and permanent installations. Permanent installations will obviously be more costly and you won't be able to remove them easily.

Roof rack cross bars

So now that you know the basics of what type of rack you need, we'll look at some things you should consider when buying a roof rack, or choosing the perfect one for your car.

First, weight is extremely important. Steel is the foremost choice for most permanent racks. They are sturdy, but they are also extremely heavy. So you have to try and balance durability, function, and weight. The reason is simple – more weight on your car decreases your fuel economy. Really heavy racks will negatively impact the miles per gallon to a degree that might not be favorable.

But you also have to consider what you're going to be hauling. If you're going to be putting more heavy gear on top of your car, you're going to want heavier rails. Your fuel mileage is already going to be negatively impacted by the stuff on the roof. If you're just going to be putting clothes or blankets in a roof bag, all-aluminum rails are fine.

Ski & Snowboard Car Racks

They are also lighter and will still be able to carry a lot of the stuff you need to get around.

Another thing you should consider is the accessory options available. If you're a skier, you're going to want rails that accommodate skis. You might want a way to hold your bike upright on the roof of your car. Additionally, if you're going to be camping in a roof top tent, it's super important that you get the rails with the right type of accessory accommodation.

If you're not going to be hauling lot of gear, or gear that isn't as heavy, you may consider looking at a low-profile roof rack. It rests closer to the roof of your car, which won't impact your fuel economy as much. It also makes it easier to unload light gear.

camping tent with roof rack car

When you do start shopping for a roof rack, beware of companies without warranties. You'll want to choose a company that's going to stick with you if they do something wrong, and help to correct the problem.

No matter how much the weight difference is, you also will want to avoid all plastic racks. They won't hold up to frequent use or abuse, and may warp in hot weather. Going with all-aluminum is the perfect meld of form and function, and you won't regret it!

Basically, the hard-and-fast rule to picking out a roof rack is to go with whatever option is best for what you need it for. Kayaks, bikes, and camping gear all need different types of racks and accessories. As long as you keep in mind what the racks are going to be used for and plan accordingly, you will be able to find the perfect racks for whatever car you happen to drive!


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