However, choosing the right roof rack and cargo container for your car can be a challenge. With so many available options, it’s hard to decide on the best fit for your needs. By researching your options and understanding the available choices, you can make the best decision on a rack for your car.
What is a Roof Rack?
Before you start shopping, it’s best to learn some proper terminology. A roof rack is a frame that attaches to the roof of a vehicle. It is generally bolted to the roof, making it a permanent fixture of the car, and will consist of two or more bars, often with cross-bar supports.
These frames can be used to secure cargo carriers. They can also be used as bicycle racks or to anchor camping equipment, canoes, Christmas trees and other large or unwieldy items you need to haul. Without a rack to anchor it to, a cargo carrier is useless.
The function of a rack is two-fold. First, it protects the roof of the car by providing a raised surface to set things on. This saves the paint on your car’s roof from being scratched and can help protect the car from dents and dings while loading or unloading gear stored on the roof. Second, the rack provides a way to anchor large or bulky items securely.
If you are considering buying a roof-top carrier for your vehicle, you’ll need a rack in place first. Without the rack, there is nothing to attach a carrier to. However, even if you don’t buy a carrier, you can still use the rack to secure and haul certain items.
Roof vs Rear Mount
If you’re looking to carry items and increase your vehicle’s cargo space, a roof-mounted option is just one choice. Before committing, you might want to consider other types of racks, such as rear hitch-mounted racks. There are benefits and drawbacks to both types of racks, so the choice will depend on your needs.
A few things to consider before buying a roof model include:
- Will fuel economy be affected by roof-top storage options?
- Are you able to comfortably reach the vehicle’s roof to load/unload items from roof-top storage?
- What type of items will you be hauling? Some items, like kayaks and skis, require the extra space of roof-top storage. Others, like luggage, could be stored anywhere.
- Do you have an existing frame to work with? If your car comes with factory-installed roof rails, it may be easier to install a rack.
If you’ve decided that a roof-top storage option is right for your needs, it’s next time to learn about the available features and things to look for when shopping for a frame.
Rack Features and Installation
Some cars come with factory-installed roof rails. If there is no cross-beam support, this frame cannot be considered a rack, but it can make installing one easier.
A rack is made up of several difference pieces:
- The mount, which connects to the vehicle’s roof.
- The cross bars, which attach perpendicular to the mount and hold the weight of the load.
- The tower, which connects the cross bars to the mount.
If your car has these parallel-running rails along either side, adding a rack may be as simple as attaching a tower and cross bars to the existing mount.
Special Roof Rack Considerations
When shopping for a car-top rack, there are a few factors you should consider: