Best for affordability : The Vault Roof Rack 54” is the solution you need when you want practicality which will not require a considerable budget. Best for versatility : With an enclosed shape, the Thule Sidekick Cargo Box is the solution you can use for various types of transportation needs you might have regardless of the season.
If your vehicle already has roof rails installed, the Thule Complete Crossroad System securely straps into position. It features Thule’s own rubber-coated steel straps, which are extremely durable, so you can mount and unmount the accessory often without worrying about excessive wear and tear.
This product also includes locks for extra security and a lifetime warranty from Thule. One of Thule’s most aerodynamic products is the Aerospace Roof Rack, designed to resist higher speeds with lower noise.
From Vault Cargo Management are these 54 universal locking crossbars, which feature padded clamps to protect your vehicle and its roof rails from scratches. These crossbars have a raised profile and its design can easily be used for outdoor sports equipment.
Pros / Rubberized strip for increased protection, recommended for 47” roof rails distances, padded clamps to protect against roof rails scratches, 150-lb maximum load capacity, includes 4 end caps Cons / Noisy at higher speeds Our pick for the most versatile solution is the Thule Sidekick Cargo Box, which provides plenty of extra storage for your vehicle.
It’s compatible with numerous types of mounts or roof rails and has a side opening lid that will allow you to stuff all sorts of extra cargo into it. It’s a practical option for vehicle owners who want to expand cargo capacity by using a roof rack, rather than a hitch mounted to the rear of the car.
The Thule Sidekick Cargo Box has a versatile lockdown system and the rack can work well with all types of bars, such as round or square crossbars. Once it is properly installed, you can use the included locking mechanism to secure your items to prevent possible theft.
Pros / Compact design ideal for hatchbacks, fits raised roof rails, comes with side opening lid, 75-lb load capacity, weighs just 16 lbs, maximum height of 15.5” Cons / Small for some sporting equipment Water sport enthusiasts can save money by purchasing this product from Into Racks, which can accommodate multiple types of gear including kayaks, canoes, wind boards, paddle boards, or long boards.
Featuring the largest lever and ratcheting mechanism in its class, this rack not only saves time but is very practical. There is also a floating strap system to keep all your cargo nice and safe, while making it easy to unload when needed.
If your car lacks roof rails straight from the factory, there are plenty of aftermarket offerings to consider. Ideal for SUVs and minivans, these rails are available in 48, 58, or 68 options and are manufactured with T-6 aluminum with UV protection and a powder coat finish.
Pros / Designed for larger vehicles such as SUVs, 220-lb load capacity, made from structural T-6 aluminum with powder coating, available in different sizes, tested for UV protection Cons / Only works with pre-installed fitment points While it is ideal for transporting heavy outdoor equipment such as kayaks, one of its main advantages is that it can fit on vehicles that don’t have roof rails already installed.
It’s called the Yakima Sunday and can accommodate two boards with the ability to mount on different rails or crossbars. Weighing 14 lbs, this roof rack comes fully assembled and features a premium glossy finish.
Pros / Fits most round and square crossbars, specialized design for SUP boards, fully assembled and needs no tools for installation, premium glossy finish, weighs 14 lbs Cons / Strap sewing can be improved The 52 variant of this product can cover a maximum distance of 46 between the cross rails, although there are shorter alternatives available.
If you’re looking for a product that balances aerodynamics with durability, take a look at the Yakima Stream Crossbar. This design offers great performance and quality and is compatible with many tower supports, such as Baseline, Ridge line, Skyline, or Timberline.
Thoroughly wind tunnel tested, the Stream Crossbar boasts a T-slot design, making for quick rack mounting. Equally important, it’s also one of the quietest options in its class, even when mounted on roof rails.
Pros / Lightweight extruded aluminum construction, recommended for cars with no roof rails or raised roof rails, wind tunnel tested Outflow design, available in black and silver, quiet performance at higher speeds, supports a large range of roof racks Cons / Not quick to assemble with Timberland mounts If you’re in need of a compact solution to expand cargo space, take a look at the Sailors 20 Cubic Feet Car Roof Top Carrier.
They have reduced aerodynamics, which means they’re not highly desired among vehicle owners who look to maximize their fuel economy. Taking advantage of the flat design of the square bar, this system is fully adaptable.
Weighing 25 lbs, it’s not exactly the lightest roof rack that’s available, but it can take advantage of different extensions and locking mechanisms. There’s a LoadWarrior extension that can be purchased, adding 18 to the rack or an extra 40% loading capacity.
A good general rule is to look at the roof of your vehicle and check to see if there are two rubber or plastic strips. If you’re not familiar with using power tools, it’s highly recommended seeking professional help with installing aftermarket roof rails.
Serves as a base for various roof racks or roof cargo boxes Can be used on multiple types of vehicles including sedans, hatchbacks, SUVs, and even some vans Can assist in carrying sporting equipment such as skis, snowboards, bikes, kayaks, and more Sturdy since they are screwed to the top of the car Difficult to steal Can also serve as a base for aluminum or steel crossbars You’ll often find them on utility vehicles and wagons, but some sedans will come equipped with roof rails, such as the Subaru Impress seen above.
But as for functionality, they are not really that different from any type of rail, but they do have a sleek design which means you’ll often find them on today’s modern cars. Typically, covered by plastic, rubber, or a metal strip, fixed point roof rails are often found on many cars, regardless of their size.
There is a large variety of options available in the market, so here are a few of the features and characteristics you should pay attention to when narrowing down your choice: This may sound like common sense, but you’ll want to start by seeing which roof racks fit your vehicle.
There are also factory standard and aerodynamic racks you can purchase, just make sure they actually fit your vehicle. Although it’s not an accessory you’ll often need to uninstall, ease of installation is an important factor to consider when choosing a roof rack.
But some products, like those offered by Thule or Yakima, use a universal mounting system that tightens with a turn of a knob. Naturally adding a roof rack to your vehicle means you’ll have to consider overhead clearance.
You’ll want to make sure you’re still able to fit in garages or underground spaces with the addition of a roof rack. If you’ve done any sort of shopping for roof racks, you may already be aware that they come in a wide assortment of shapes and styles.
The bottom line is that not all roof racks are the same, and you’ll want one that works as a solution for what you plan on transporting. Typically, people are familiar with roof racks for sporting equipment, such as bikes, but there are also solutions designed for cargo boxes that can help maximize your vehicle’s capacity.
Deciding what kind of roof rack you need comes down to the type of cargo or equipment you’re planning to transport. In addition, driving at high speeds in windy conditions with a roof rack may make your vehicle less stable.
Pay careful attention to the tips from the manufacturer of the roof rack to help reduce those risks. Conditions will vary depending on where you live, so consider your driving speed when traveling with a roof rack and cargo.
Typically, they use rubber straps for installation, although some older designs do require fitting bolts and screws. Most importantly however, you’ll want to keep in mind that traveling with a roof rack and cargo may mean driving at slower speeds to be safe.
This step is fairly straightforward, as removing the rubber strips on your roof shouldn’t be very complicated. A rubber mallet is recommended for this step, since you don’t want to accidentally break the bracket.
If there are any remaining plastic clips that are exposed on the roof, you’ll want to remove these with a Flathead screwdriver or similar tool. Pay close attention as you’ll have to position the cover so that it attaches to some plastic clips.
Depending on the roof rail, your next step will be to line up the bolts and install the mounting bracket into place. In fact, most products won’t require any special tools since modern roof racks come pre-assembled.
In order to secure the rack onto the crossbars, you’ll need to tighten the straps that are included. Most racks come with adjustable straps that can be tightened into by position by simply turning a knob.
Since you’ll likely be driving at high speeds, wind resistance could possibly move the rack, which is something you will want to avoid. We earn commissions from purchases you make using the retail links in our product reviews.