Some vehicles roll off the assembly line with roof rails, making it much easier to install a roof rack. But if your vehicle isn’t equipped with roof rails, there are a number of aftermarket options to choose from that work just as well as factory-installed units.
In this article, we’ll take a look at 15 of the bestroofrails and roof racks you can purchase online and go into detail about what the product does and how it could benefit you. Some affordable options can still compete in practicality with more expensive solutions which can say a lot about their build quality.
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.
One of Thule’s most aerodynamic products is the Aerospace Roof Rack, designed to resist higher speeds with lower noise. This product is also one of the most straightforward to install and includes the Airtight Tensioning Tool, so you can see whether the rack is completely secured.
Pros / Supports up to 165 lbs of weight, designed with WindDiffuser technology for reduced drag, Trailed design reduces aerodynamic drag, Beam internal structure for better weight resistance, includes Attention tensioning tool, lifetime warranty Cons / Installation instructions need to be improved From Vault Cargo Management are these 54 universal locking crossbars, which feature padded clamps to protect your vehicle and its roof rails from scratches.
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.
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.
This stylish roof rack offers great aerodynamic performance and includes 4 towers, so you don’t have to mount it on standard roof rails. Also included are 4 Barefoot mounts that are cushioned, helping prevent any scratches from appearing on your vehicle.
Pros / Good aerodynamic performance, includes 4 Barefoot mounts, maximum load capacity of 220 lbs, extra safety with built-in ASKS locks Cons / An average top speed of 70 mph for low noise These roof rails are able to accommodate different types of roof racks and feature a 220-lb maximum load capacity with a raised design.
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. Designed to fit a wide range of vehicles, from sedans to SUVs, this roof rack also includes a key lockable mechanism to help prevent theft.
Pros / Made for cars of all sizes, comes in different 4 different lengths, requires no roof rails for handles 165-lb maximum load capacity, good choice for large objects such as sporting equipment, lockable Cons / Needs better installation instructions Bottom Line / This rack is great for cars that don't have stock rails installed It’s called the Yakima Sunday and can accommodate two boards with the ability to mount on different rails or crossbars.
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.
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. Featuring a waterproof design, this rooftop carrier is easy to install, with straps that attach to the roof rails.
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.
Pros / Leading aerodynamic performance with Performing, 220-lb maximum load capacity, patented Smartest design for Whisper accessories, install with no tools, works on most roof rails Cons / Edge plastic covers are hard to place in position If you’re an outdoor enthusiast or often travel with sports gear, roof rails and roof racks are almost an essential accessory for your vehicle.
You’ll likely need expanded cargo capacity for all your gear, but there are a lot of things to take into consideration when shopping for roof rails and roof racks. 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. Roof rails serve as a base for your roof rack installation and can assist in carrying various cargo or sporting equipment.
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.
Certain products will require the tightening or securing of straps for the roof rack to be properly installed onto roof rails or crossbars. 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. 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.
But if you’re looking for an idea of how roof rails are installed, here is a general overview of the steps involved if your vehicle came with rubber roof strips. This step is fairly straightforward, as removing the rubber strips on your roof shouldn’t be very complicated.
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. Since you’ll likely be driving at high speeds, wind resistance could possibly move the rack, which is something you will want to avoid.