Best Roof Racks
When packing your vehicle for a long road trip or a journey into the great outdoors, sometimes it is hard to pack everything we want. Maybe you have those skis you want to bring to hit the slopes, or that surfboard to catch some waves, or maybe a canoe to bring camping but there is just no room left in the car. You don't want to leave these important pieces of gear behind, right? Well if you have a roof rack then your smooth sailing, and can pretty much bring anything your heart desires, as it provides you with the extra space and support to bring your larger gear.
A roof rack is a perfect way to transport you large equipment to your destination without worrying about how you're going to squeeze it into your vehicle after you have packed everything else. Now you are thinking, "Yes! A roof rack would make my life so much easier", but don't know which one would be best for your vehicle or for the equipment you are transporting. Well, worry no longer, as we have done the research for you and listed the top ten roof racks of 2018, and why they made our list. Below we have listed the not only the top ten roof racks but also some criteria about what to look for in a roof rack when deciding which one works best for your needs and gear.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 16 hrs of research
Easy to use
- Sportrack Complete
- Malone Auto Universal
- Yakima Whispbar
- Brightlines Luggage
- Perrycraft Dyna
- Warrior 3860
- Rhino Pioneer
- Block Surf
- FCS Surf Premium
- Yakima Sprocket
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top Ten Roof Racks
1. Sportrack Complete
Easy to use
Installation instructions somewhat confusing
Sometimes you want a roof rack that offers great adaptability or one that is a simple joy to use. Most of the time, however, you’ll want both. This example from SportRack does just that.Read more
While it doesn’t offer complete universal fit when it comes to the vehicles on the road today, this roof rack does come remarkable close. It’s simple, yet strong design can be easily adjusted and mounted to most full size or large vehicles on the road today.
This roof rack weighs just about 9.5 pounds total, so it’s fairly easy for one person to use. While it’s not the lightest we’ve seen, it’s certainly the most manageable.
Because the footpads on this roof rack can be adjusted and tilted to truly fit the roof of most cars, it’s versatility and ability to carry a wide range of items is very good. While we wouldn’t suggest adjusting it on the fly, the racks rails and footpads can be slightly adjusted after install as needed.
This roof rack from Sportrack can handle about 130 lbs of material, so it’s not exactly a heavyweight in the capacity department. However, for most weekend warriors or a family that likes cycling together, it is more than enough.
Ease of Use
Once installed, this roof rack is simple and easy to use. However, the installation instructions do leave a bit to be desired, and if care isn’t taken, then the system will be installed incorrectly.
If you’re looking for a versatile, lightweight roof rack system for your vehicle, this one from SportRack is certainly worth a closer look. While care should be taken during installation, it’s overall ease of use can’t be beaten.
2. Malone Auto Universal
Relatively easy to install
Not meant for larger vehicles
The Malone Auto Racks Universal Roof Racks may be in the last position on our list, but they are by no means a poor choice. If you’re looking for something that is simple to install and extremely durable, this is a great choice.Read more
Although these roof racks are advertised as having a universal crossbar that offers a universal fit, it doesn’t quite measure up to the hype. However, it does fit a wide range of vehicles, especially smaller or mid-size cars. For the most part, though, larger vehicles should probably consider other options.
The overall weight for this roof rack system is about 15 pounds, so it does have some heft to it.
Because of it’s relatively simple and straightforward design, this roof rack system has a fairly high degree of versatility. It can easily handle quite a few different items, including bicycles, boats, skis, cargo carriers, or nets.
This roof rack system can hold up to 132 pounds of material, although most customers found that a maximum of 125 pounds was a safer bet, especially when traveling at higher speeds. Truthfully, for most active outdoor enthusiasts, this system well work well.
Ease of Use
Installation and removal when needed is fairly straightforward. Also, securing your equipment is easy for most people.
If you have a small or mid-sized car that needs a roof rack that can be easily adjusted, you might want to consider this example. It’s relatively durable and offers pretty good versatility. While the fact that it isn’t suitable for larger vehicles can be a problem, overall it’s a solid choice.
3. Yakima Whispbar
Extremely easy to use
Installation can be somewhat confusing
If you’re overall load is fairly light, say a bicycle or two, the minimalist approach of the Yakima Whispbar may be a great choice. Designed for easy install and use, this lightweight roof rack is a great choice for the solo adventurer who doesn’t like to bring a lot of trappings.Read more
For the most part, this system can fit any full size vehicle and some compact vehicles depending on the size you choose. While technically it can’t be considered a universal fit when it comes to compatibility, it does come pretty close.
This system weighs just slightly over 12 pounds, so it is fairly lightweight.
Because of it’s overall simple design, and efficient use of space, this roof rack system can easily be used in a number of different ways. Whether you’re trying to fit a few small body boards, a bike or two, a cargo bin, or some combination thereof, chances are you’ll be able to do it with this one.
While the versatility of the design is great, this particular roof rack system can’t handle heavier or larger loads. It’s clearly designed for more lightweight use.
Ease of Use
While the installation instructions are somewhat confusing, once it is installed this roof rack is extremely easy to use. Simply place what you need up on the roof, and use the included mounting and anchor system to secure the load. That’s it. It’s designed to be used quickly and easily.
While it’s not really suited for heavy or large loads, this example from Yakima is a fantastic overall choice for times when you don’t need very much, but still want an efficient use of space. It’s designed to work with most vehicles and provide full, lightweight support for smaller loads.
4. Brightlines Luggage
Easy to use
Limited to specific vehicles
If you use a Jeep Grand Cherokee for your outdoor adventures, this roof rack from Brightlines may be the best one to fit your needs.Read more
As you can expect, this particular roof rack is specially designed to fit the Jeep Grand Cherokee make and model for the years between 2011 and 2018. While it is not suitable for other vehicles on the road today, it is perfectly suited for one of the more popular one for outdoor enthusiasts.
The roof rack itself weighs a little over nine pounds in total, so it falls somewhere in the middle of the road.
This particular roof rack has the ability to fit quite a few different types of equipment, from bicycles, to cargo bins for smaller items. The mounting areas can be easily adjusted to accommodate a wide range of needs.
This particular roof rack system has the ability to handle about 150 pounds of equipment with not too much trouble. And since the mounting system is adjustable, the overall sizes that it can handle are quite varied.
Ease of Use
For the most part, installation on the vehicle is relatively straightforward, but expert installation is recommended to make sure that warranties are not affected. Once installed, most people find it relatively easy to use and the tie-down system is simple.
While we were disappointed at the specialized nature of the vehicle compatibility, this particular roof rack made out list based on it’s great capacity and ease of use.
5. Perrycraft Dyna
Easy to use
Meant for larger vehicles only
If you want a relatively lightweight roof rack that can handle a wide range of equipment, you’ll definitely want to check out this example from Perrycraft.Read more
While it is fairly easy to install, this roof rack is definitely not meant for every vehicle on the road today. It has a fixed length for the rails of 65 inches, which makes it more suitable for larger SUVs or trucks.
This roof rack is fairly lightweight, weighing only 5 pounds overall.
Overall the versatility of this particular example is quite good. While the minimal crossbar support system doesn’t lend itself to larger items such as two-person kayaks, for the most part it can handle most outdoor equipment with no problem.
Perhaps the strongest drawback of this particular roof rack is the weight that it can handle. Because of the lightweight material used, it can really only handle up to 75lbs of extra weight.
Ease of Use
For the most part, this roof rack is simple to use and easy to install.
While we’re not exactly fond of the lighter load capacity, this roof rack from Perrycraft is easy to use and provides a easy to use and relatively versatile system for your larger SUV or truck
6. Warrior 3860
Tough, durable construction
Can handle over 1,000 lbs
If you’re looking for a true work horse when it comes to roof racks, you’ll definitely want to consider the Warrior Products 3860 Roof Rack. It’s designed to carry just about anything, and is tough enough to withstand even the harshest conditions.Read more
This roof rack won’t fit every single vehicle, just as most won’t, but it does offer a wide variety of choices when it comes to what vehicles it will fit. In most cases, however, this rack will fit large to full size vehicles such as SUVs or larger trucks.
This roof rack weighs approximately 90 pounds, so it’s definitely on the heavier side
This particular roof rack is well suited to carry quite a few different pieces of outdoor equipment as well as cargo nets and bins. The multiple cross bars allow for quite a few different configurations while in use.
This roof rack can hold approximately 1,000 pounds of material, and depending on the accessories, it can easily accommodate a wide range of sizes and shapes overall.
Ease of Use
One significant draw back of this particular roof rack, besides it’s weight is the overall ease of use and install. Simply put, because it is so heavy, you’ll need at least two people to install it. In addition, securing objects onto the rack can be problematic since the anchor points are somewhat higher than the roof of the car. Depending on the car’s height, this might pose a problem.
While the weight and vertical height of this roof rack may pose a problem for some, overall it is a versatile workhorse that can handle about 1,000 pounds of weight over a large array of shapes and sizes.
7. Rhino Pioneer
Relatively easy to install and use
May require additional purchases for full functionality
If you want a roof rack that provides dependability, versatility, and allows for fantastic carrying capacity, you’ll definitely want to consider the Rhino Rack Pioneer Platform. Designed to spread the weight of your equipment over the largest area of your roof, this is one roof racking system that is a great overall choice.Read more
While this roof rack can’t be considered universal when it comes to vehicle compatibility, it does fit a very wide range of vehicles, both trucks and cars. It’s best to check the manufacturer’s website for complete details.
This items weighs about 50 lbs in total, so its definitely not for the faint of heart. However, once installed it can easily become one of your most used vehicle items.
One of the nice things about this particular roof rack is that it can be easily accessorized with a number of different additional features. Depending on the cross bars you purchase, and the backbone support system, you’ll be able to handle just about any type of cargo you can imagine.
Depending on the additional materials or equipment you choose to purchase, this roof rack has the capacity to carry a few bikes, two surf boards, or a sizable cargo carrier or net. It has one of the most versatile capacities on the market today.
Ease of Use
Once this roof rack is installed, it’s extremely easy to use. Equipment can be easily tied down to various anchor points on the rack itself, or cross bars and rails can be easily added for more versatility.
The Rhino-Rack Pioneer Platform Rooftop rack provides a great deal of versatility and usefulness when it comes to roof racks. While it’s not a universal choice, it’s adaptive nature makes it our go-to choice in most cases.
8. Block Surf
Easy to use
Easy to install
Specialized for surfboard use only
If you’re looking for a relatively quick and easy way to make sure your surfboards stay with you during the drive to the shore, this is one roof rack system to consider. Designed to be used both with cars with gutters and those without, the quick install and easy adjustment make this a great choice.Read more
Unlike quite a few roof racks on the market today, which require that your car has gutters for full usefulness, this design allows you to secure your surfboard on the roof without that need. It’s relatively unique design allows for you to securely lash the roof rack on your car,
The total weight of this roof rack system is 2.5 pounds. It’s one of the lightest we’ve seen on the market,
While we absolutely love this system for use with surfboards, it really isn’t suited for carrying much else. It advertises to be large enough for paddle boards as well, but quite a few customers found it to be ineffective at securing them. If you want a roof rack that offers the ability to carry a wide range of equipment, your needs would be better served somewhere else.
This roof rack can securely carry two long boards or six short boards, and not much else.
Ease of Use
Strictly speaking, this is one of the easiest roof racks to install and adjust as needed. Unlike the more rigid example on this list, adjustment consists of adjusting a few straps and buckles.
If surfing is your thing, and you’re not too worried about straps marring your board, this easy to use roof rack may be an option for you. While the lack of versatility is a disappointment, the ease of use and affordable price do make up for it.
9. FCS Surf Premium
Lightweight and easy to use
Nearly a universal fit
Meant only for surfboards or paddle boards
If your rooftop cargo includes surfboards or short boards, and you don’t want to worry about a permanent installation, the FCS Surf SUP Premium Soft Rack is a great alternative.Read more
Because of its removable nature, this particular roof rack system can fit nearly any vehicle roof, and can be adjusted easily to fit your needs.
Each one of this pair weigh just under three pounds. The system is extremely lightweight, but still strong enough to hold many of the surf boards and paddle boards on the market today.
Depending on your needs, this particular roof rack system won’t offer the same degree of versatility as other systems on this list. However, if hitting the waves is your passion, this may be the best roof rack for your needs.
Since this system has parts that can be moved independently of each other, the overall capacity and size can be customized easily. You can fit anywhere from one to three surfboards on your car or truck with relative ease.
Ease of Use
Truth be told, this is one of the easiest roof rack systems that we’ve seen in a long time when it comes to installation and use. It can be easily attached and adjusted on the fly without too much trouble.
If the waves call to you, chances are there is a surfboard or two in your collection. If this is the case, having a specialized roof rack like this one from FCS would be a great investment.
10. Yakima Sprocket
Very easy to use
Easy to install
Meant for mountain or racing bikes only
If you enjoy the sport of mountain biking, and you want a quick and easy way to carry your bike frame on top of your vehicle, the Yakima Sprocket Rocket should definitely be on your list.Read more
Since this particular roof rack is designed to be used with bicycles, it is small and lightweight enough to fit on most vehicles on the market today. It features a universal skewer that can be adjusted to fit most car lengths.
This particular roof rack system weighs about 4 ounces in total, but does require additional equipment such as crossbars for attachment purposes. So the actual final weight may be a bit more.
This example of a roof rack system is designed only for bikes, so it’s not what we would call the most versatile one on the market today. However, if cycling is your chosen sport, it’s a great choice.
Each one is designed to hold a single bike frame, and can handle both thin and fat tire bicycles with relative ease.
Ease of Use
Truth be told, this is one of the easiest roof racks we’ve seen when it comes to installation.
If you want a secure way to carry your mountain bike to your next biking destination, this roof rack from Yakima may be a great choice. While it does need additional equipment for true usefulness, it does work well for carrying a mountain bike.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
One of the problematic aspects of vehicle roof racks, even the best ones on the market is that they are not always designed to fit all vehicles. In fact, in order to get the best fit and compatibility with your vehicle, it may be necessary to have a roof rack that is specifically designed to fit your chosen mode of transportation. While having a universal vehicle compatibility would be a nice feature, sadly most of the time it simply isn’t practical. However, the best roof racks that we’ve found will often have a wider range of vehicle compatibility than others.
Surprisingly, the weight of the roof rack also plays a significant part in its quality and usefulness as a piece of equipment. While a lightweight roof rack is often much easier to install, and doesn’t add a significant amount of weight to your vehicle, it also can sacrifice the ability to handle larger objects such as kayaks or cargo carriers for the long haul. And while heavier racks do have the ability to usually handle larger loads, they can be a bit cumbersome to use. In most cases, users will want to search for a “happy medium” when it comes to the weight of the roof rack. Something that can provide the support you need without being too heavy to be of use.
When it comes to roof racks, being able to carry multiple different items of varying sizes and weights is essential. While there are certainly some exceptions to this rule, in most cases the roof racks you buy on the market today can be used to carry just about any type of outdoor equipment, provided the correct accessories are used. A quality roof rack should be able to handle such things as cargo bags, cargo carriers, roof rack baskets, as well as sporting equipment such as bikes or kayaks with relative ease.
Of course, when it comes to the best roof racks, knowing how much equipment that they can bear during the long haul is important. In this guide, in addition to dealing with the overall volume that the roof rack can handle, we are also referring to the overall weight that it can safely carry as well. While most roof racks can easily handle common equipment and carrier accessories such as cargo baskets or bins, some do have a more limited available space.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
When loading your roof rack, always check the manual and check what the weight restrictions are and stay within them. If you overload the roof rack you could be putting your life and others at risk. Roof racks will help to transport items but do it safely.
Other Factors to Consider
How easy is the roof rack to install on your vehicle? Can the parts be easily replaced when needed? Does it take a rocket scientist to make sure that your sporting equipment is attached securely? These are all questions we asked when it came to determining how easy the roof racks were to use on a regular basis. Sadly, we found many of the roof racks on the market today to be somewhat lacking in this department. However, the examples that we present here provide a relatively easy way to use and secure your belongings.
Truth be told, not all roof racks are created to carry the same type of equipment. While there are many that are universal in nature, there are ones that are specifically designed to carry certain things. For example, there are roof racks that are designed specifically to carry mountain bikes and others that are designed to carry items such as larger kayaks or surfboards. They often have secure tie-down locations at specific points to make sure that your piece of equipment is more secure.
Is it better to go with a more specialized type of roof rack? Well, that depends greatly on how you will be using it. If you’re only buying a roof rack for a specific piece of equipment, such as a mountain bike or a paddle board, then finding one that is specifically designed for that item is probably a good idea. However, if you want a bit more versatility with your roof rack, getting a more generalized example is probably the best way to go.
Frequently Asked Questions
While you don’t necessarily need a specific type of vehicle when it comes to a roof rack, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, the width of your vehicle will dictate how long your roof rack crossbar will be. This, in turn, will help to determine the size of the roof rack that your car can handle, and ultimately the amount of equipment that you can haul. For example, a vehicle that can fit a 50-inch crossbar safely can often be used to handle a single bike or one smaller kayak. This is one of the reasons why sedans and smaller vehicles often carry fewer items. But if your vehicle is a bit larger, and can handle a crossbar that is about sixty inches long, you’ll probably be able to carry more items, such as five bikes, or cargo carrier and a surfboard.
There are two basic ways to determine if a particular roof rack will fit your vehicle. The first is to see if the roof rack has a vehicle compatibility chart or calculator. If it does, simply find the make, model and year of your vehicle in the information and see if there is a match. Another variant on this option is to talk to the repair department of your car dealership. They will often have the necessary information to make an informed decision.
The second option, of course, is to take the measurements needed to make the determination yourself. While not entirely recommended, for those who like to get their hands dirty it is an option. The first measurement you need is the width of your roof from edge to edge. This will help to determine the length of the crossbar. The next thing to measure is the position of the fix points, or where the roof rails will be attached to your vehicle. Depending on the type of roof rack, this may be the actual edge of the vehicle, or it could be located a few inches in. These attachment points are often at locations where the roof has been reinforced somewhat, so you might have to refer to your owners manual for guidance as to their location.
Once you have that information, you can determine what type and brand of roof rack will be more likely a good match for your vehicle.
It really is a matter of preference, since there are advantages to both. A removable roof rack offers the ability to remove it, obviously, which is a great choice if you know that you’re only going to use it every once in a while. It’s a good choice for families that enjoy the summer vacation getaway, or the retired couple that is planning a second honeymoon adventure.
If however, you know that you’ll be using your roof rack for a wide range of activities and adventures, a more permanent one may be a better choice for you. They are often more secure, offer more versatility, and a greater capacity than temporary choices. If you enjoy weekly jaunts up into the mountains or spend a good amount of time outdoors searching for the next campsite, a roof rack that is a permanent fixture on your car may be a great choice.
The answer to that question depends greatly on the type of roof rack as well as your vehicle. However, in most cases, if you can securely attach the piece of equipment to your roof, chances are you can use a roof rack to carry it. Things to keep in mind is whether or not the item will cause your vehicle to have too much height, whether it will make your vehicle too top heavy, and whether or not it is too awkward in sizing to securely fasten. For example, a small all-terrain vehicle or ATV would not be a good choice to attach to the top of your vehicle due to its overall weight and higher stance overall. It would provide too much of a chance of roll over for your vehicle. However, a surfboard, although much longer and wider than an ATV would be a good contender since it provides a relatively low profile.
The best course of action is to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when it comes to maintenance of your roof rack. As a general rule, however, it’s a good idea to regularly inspect the roof rack for signs of wear and tear, discoloration, cracking or points of weakness. In fact, it’s best to do this inspection before and after each use. As for cleaning, often a simple wipe down with a damp rag, or travel through a car wash is more than enough to get the job done.
- TOP 10 DOS AND DON’TS WHEN TRAVELLING WITH A ROOF RACK, Jul 01, 2018 ,