Planning the next journey is better if you know that it’s going to be easy to bring all your camping equipment. Do you want to bring your bike, kayak, or maybe a rooftop tent?

They are not all going to fit so what do you do? Sacrifice one for the other? Rent a larger vehicle? Or can you buy a rack on Amazon and have it delivered tomorrow? Load everything up and not worry about it all until you brave the rapids?

Read on how to choose the right roof rack. Here are ten items you should pay attention to when buying your first roof rack:

Build & Durability

Make sure the manufacturer has designed the rack for extreme conditions. You don’t want a camping trip ruined because the rack you bought at a discount has crappy welds. A go anywhere, do anything rack is ideal and its construction will enable you to do that even if you don’t need it 100% of the time.

Roof Rack Weight

Strong is good but heavy is not. A lot of racks are large and use heavy steel. Steel is good for a cage but as a lightweight option, it is less than ideal.

Aluminum is a better option. It is 30% lighter than steel which means you will get better mileage without sacrificing security. Aluminum will hold your possessions to your vehicle and can provide you more strapping options.

All-Metal Construction

The Right Roof Rack

Opt for aluminum instead of a plastic-based roof rack. Plastics will be cheaper, lighter, and more abundant. But with time they will get sun damaged, become brittle in temperature fluctuations, and weaken with time. Pressure points become obvious and are exaggerated with the vibration of the car.

Not to mention they are not lockable as they can be cut much easier than metal. They will not offer the same weight load either as even hard plastic does not match up against aluminum or steel.


Buying a cheaper plastic rack will save you money today but you will have to replace it sooner and it may make you buy replacement gear if it gets stolen or falls off when you are driving on the road. The ramifications of hitting another vehicle on the highway could open a can of worms that could cost you millions as well.

Should You Go Modular?

The Right Roof Rack, How To Choose The Right Roof Rack For You

Modular racks offer a lot of benefits. They limit the increase in gas spend and they look cool. They are easy to install and offer locking options to offer additional security.

Negatives include less storage space and fewer options for above roof storing options of large items.

Does It Have A Universal Application?

Companies that make roof racks for a wide range of cars are ideal. If it fits and works great and can be interchanged between cars then you will be able to use this same rack as you change your car to a truck, a newer model, or to the wife’s minivan.

Your vehicle rook rack will most likely hang around much longer than your current car so it is best to plan for the next few vehicle purchases instead of solely for the car you currently have.

What Accessories Are Offered?

Usually, if you are buying a roof rack you want it to be flexible in what it can carry. IF you are only interested in hauling skis then a ski rack is what you need. Bike racks carry only bikes.

But a great roof rack or basket is designed to haul a lot of different things. And you may need this as your tastes change or you have more hobbies.

Look for a rack that can carry a canoe, bikes, rooftop tents, gas cans, and many other goodies you may need over the years.

Wind Resistance?

The Right Roof Rack

Some racks offer a windbreak that can offer better savings, less noise, and better control during high-speed high wind driving conditions. Modular designs are ideal for controlling wind resistance.


This is not as important as you will be stacking your goodies above the rack that can sometimes extend 2-3 feet above your car’s roof. But starting with a roof rack that is under 5 inches can sometimes spell the difference between parking in a parking garage and parking on the street.

Customer Support

Newer companies may offer a better deal, but you may be penny smart pound foolish. Name brand companies will have better warranties, better support for any problems you may face, and accessories that will fit.

What Do The Pros Use Outdoors?

The Right Roof Rack, How To Choose The Right Roof Rack For You

Photographers or scientist that spend months outdoors will use the equipment that serves their needs the best and lasts the longest. So check out what they are using and you will be in good hands.

They will test new accessories that can sometimes save you a lot of time and effort when you are in less than optimum weather conditions.

I have spent many hours fumbling with janky rack latches that love to stick or just not function in the snow after spending hours snowboarding and hiking in the backcountry.

It is in these times where you are not thinking about how much money you saved by going with the cheaper option. Rather, you are thinking about how much fun you had earlier in the day loading up your gear with no trouble at all.

Thanks for reading and stay dirty