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Best Roof Racks

Carry cargo confidently with one of the best roof racks.
Written and Tested By:
Will Moore
Written and Tested By: Will Moore Senior Writer – Motor1 Review Team

Will has written for several major auto sites including Motor1 since 2020, logging hundreds of hours researching and testing products ranging from child car seats to torque wrenches. Will is also Certified by Safe Kids Worldwide as a Child Passenger Safety Technician (#T836339).

Last Updated 01/03/2024

Motor1 Reviews Team Take:

  • The Yakima High Road, Leader Accessories Kayak Rack, Yakima Fresh Tracks, Arksen Universal Roof Rack, and Thule UpRide are the best roof racks in 2024.
  • Expect to pay between $100 and $300 for a quality roof rack. Larger racks that are purpose-built to carry bikes or skis tend to be more expensive than roof baskets.
  • The best roof racks complement the activity you’re doing, whether that means space for an extra bike or kayak, or another compartment for luggage.
Best Bike Rack
Yakima HighRoad Upright Bike Carrier

A simple-to-install bike rack that’s easy to use.

Check Price
Best Kayak Rack
Leader Accessories Folding Kayak Rack

A foldable kayak roof rack that’s lightweight.

Check Price
Best Ski Rack
Yakima FreshTrack Ski & Snowboard Mount

A low-profile roof rack that can hold four sets of skis.

Check Price
Best Cargo Basket
Arksen Universal Roof Rack

A secure cargo bin you can use with other rooftop gear.

Check Price
Best for Wide-Tire Bikes
Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack

A bike rack that is good for bikes with wide tires.

Check Price

Few of us live within a short distance of a bike trail, river, or mountain, and large recreational outdoor equipment like bikes and kayaks can be difficult to fit in a trunk or back seat. The best roof racks all offer a convenient means of carrying and securing this equipment on your vehicle’s roof for your next off-road adventure.

This article and our recommendations focus on roof racks for carrying equipment such as bikes, skis, and kayaks. If you are looking for something to add cargo space to your vehicle, check out our review of the best rooftop cargo carriers.


Roof Rack Reviews

Roof Rack installation by a writer.

For this review we tested the best roof racks for skis, kayaks, and bicycles, looking at ease of use, capacity, and stability. Be aware, however, that you’ll need a vehicle with roof side rails to install most roof racks, including those we recommend.

What Is The Best Roof Rack?

We named the Yakima High Road, Leader Accessories Kayak Rack, Yakima Fresh Tracks, Arksen Universal Roof Rack, and Thule UpRide as the best-rated roof racks on the market in 2024.

Brand/ModelCostOverall RatingAward
Yakima HighRoad Bike Carrier$298.954.0Best Bike Rack
Leader Accessories Kayak Rack$129.994.3Best Kayak Rack
Yakima FreshTrack Ski & Snowboard Mount$248.954.7Best Ski Rack
Arsen Universal Roof Rack$119.963.8Best Cargo Basket
Thule UpRide Bike Rack$299.954.0Best for Wide-Tire Bikes

*Because cost data fluctuates, the prices in the table above are approximate values that our team regularly updates.

Roof Rack Ratings: Our Testing Process

Our reviews team researched roof racks designed to carry bikes, skis, kayaks, and any other type of luggage. Within each of these categories we looked for roof racks at different price points and combed through customer reviews.

We looked for products praised for durability, reliability, and ease of use. We next ordered the most promising products for testing. A team member tested each product, taking care to assess ease of use, stability, and overall capacity. Each roof rack was given a rating out of 5.0 stars based on these criteria.

Learn more about how we tested roof racks here.

1. Yakima HighRoad Upright Bike Carrier: Best Bike Rack

Yakima HighRoad
  • Cost: Around $300
  • Amazon rating: 4.7 out of 5.0 stars based on more than 420 ratings
  • Capacity: One bicycle
  • Weight: 19.0 pounds
  • Fits bikes with 26.0- to 29.0-inch wheels
Yakima HighRoad Upright Bike Carrier
Yakima HighRoad Upright Bike Carrier
About $300 Amazon
Pros
  • Intuitive setup
  • Good mechanism for attaching and removing bikes
  • Stable
Cons
  • Doesn’t accommodate bikes with tires under 26.0 inches
  • Locking system sold separately

For an upright bike carrier, the Yakima HighRoad is an excellent option. It is simple to install, use, and has a weight capacity of 44.1 pounds. While it only carries a single bicycle, it is possible to attach multiple HighRoads to a single roof. However, keep in mind your car’s load capacity, as carrying several bikes will add a lot of weight to your vehicle.

Yakima HighRoad Review

The Yakima HighRoad is especially easy to install. The instructions are straightforward and the tools you need are included with the rack. The tightening mechanisms are easy to use and provide a secure fit. It’s also similarly easy to uninstall when the time comes to remove it.

This roof rack is compatible with 2 SKS (same key system) lock (sold separately) and backed by a lifetime warranty.

You can see how the Yakima HighRoad Upright Bike Carrier performed in each category below:

Review CategoryScore (Out of 5.0 Stars)
Ease of Use4.0
Capacity3.5
Stability4.5
Overall Rating4.0

For an upright bike carrier, the Yakima HighRoad is an excellent option. It is simple to install, use, and has a weight capacity of 44.1 pounds. While it only carries a single bicycle, it is possible to attach multiple HighRoads to a single roof. However, keep in mind your car’s load capacity, as carrying several bikes will add a lot of weight to your vehicle.

Yakima HighRoad Upright Bike Carrier: Pros And Cons

Below are the pros and cons of the Yakima HighRoad Upright Bike Carrier:

Pros Intuitive setup No frame contact High stability
Cons Requires crossbars Doesn’t accommodate bikes
with tires under 26.0 in.
Only holds one bike

Yakima HighRoad Upright Bike Carrier: Our Experience

We especially like the mounting system for affixing a bicycle. It is simple, secure, and intuitive. Once installed, the bike is very stable. The tightening mechanism makes it easy to properly secure your cargo.

This rack can only fit one bicycle, but it would be possible to install several on the same roof if you need to transport multiple bicycles.

Yakima HighRoad

Yakima HighRoad Bike Carrier: What Customers Are Saying

Most agree this rack is one of the best roof racks on the market, and several customers appreciate that it accommodates a wide tire. Many people have used this rack to transport their bikes long distances with no issues. The Yakima HighRoad is stable and reliable.

Some reviewers say that their HighRoad arrived with parts missing. Another issue some have with this rack is that it doesn’t accommodate bikes with tires smaller than 26.0 inches. Others are upset that the locking system is sold separately. Reviewers feel it should come included considering the high cost of this roof rack system.

2. Leader Accessories Folding Kayak Rack: Best Kayak Rack

Leader Accessories Folding Kayak Rack
  • Cost: Around $130
  • Amazon rating: 4.4 out of 5.0 stars based on more than 1,500 ratings
  • Capacity: Two kayaks
  • Weight: 23.4 pounds
Leader Accessories Folding Kayak Rack
Leader Accessories Folding Kayak Rack
About $130 Amazon
Pros
  • Easy assembly
  • High-quality materials
Cons
  • Tubes can collect rain and rust
  • Some sets come with brackets mounted incorrectly

Leader Accessories offers an easy-to-install system that uses a J-hook design. This kit comes with four pieces capable of carrying two kayaks. It is sold in various sizes so you can choose the right option for your kayak.

Leader Accessories Kayak Rack Review

The Leader Accessories Kayak Rack is easy to install and exceptionally stable. The simple design and universal mounting system make it compatible with most all vehicles (as long as they have roof rails).

This folding kayak rack comes mostly assembled and no tools are required for rooftop installation. It also comes with a four-piece ratchet tie-down strap.

You can see how the Leader Accessories Folding Kayak Rack performed in each category below:

Review CategoryScore (Out of 5.0 Stars)
Ease of Use4.5
Capacity4.0
Stability4.5
Overall Rating4.3

Leader Accessories offers an easy-to-install system that uses a J-hook design. This kit comes with four pieces capable of carrying two kayaks. It is sold in various sizes so you can choose the right option for your kayak.

Leader Accessories Folding Kayak Rack: Pros And Cons

Below are the pros and cons of the Leader Accessories Folding Kayak Rack:

Leader Accessories Kayak Rack: Our Experience

To attach a kayak, you’ll need to use the included ratchet straps. These are simple to use but require some strength and you’ll need to tuck away the excess lengths of the strap. These straps offer excellent security and ensure a tight fit for any size kayak.

Leader Accessories Folding Kayak Rack installed on writers car.

Leader Accessories Kayak Rack: What Customers Are Saying

Those who’ve used this rack for a long trip report that it worked well to keep their kayak(s) in place. Many praise the quality materials and ease of installation for this roof rack.

Many reviewers say that their rack came incorrectly assembled. A rubber-metal protector is intended to guard your hood from the metal mounting bracket. In some cases, the product ships with the protector on the wrong side of this bracket. It is easy enough to switch this yourself, but it’s still something customers should know. Another complaint is that water can get in the tubes when it rains, rusting the rack from the inside.

3. Yakima FreshTrack Ski & Snowboard Mount: Best Ski Rack

Yakima FreshTrack Ski & Snowboard Mount
  • Cost: Around $250
  • Amazon rating: 4.6 out of 5.0 stars based on more than 130 ratings
  • Capacity: Four sets of skis or two snowboards
  • Weight: 7.0 lbs.
Yakima FreshTrack Ski & Snowboard Mount
Yakima FreshTrack Ski & Snowboard Mount
About $250 Amazon
Pros
  • Easy installation
  • Integrated SRS lock design
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • Generates noise
  • Doesn’t always fit two snowboards as advertised

This easy-to-install mount is an excellent means for transporting your skis or snowboards. It sits low on the roof and can accommodate up to four sets of skis (though your mileage on this may vary depending on the size of your equipment).

Unlike some of the other best roof racks we tested, the Yakima FreshTrack features an integrated SKS lock design to protect your cargo from thieves.

Yakima FreshTrack Review

The Yakima FreshTrack is our favorite ski and snowboard mount. It can hold several sets of skis (or two snowboards), has a locking mechanism, and is very easy to use (especially compared to a bike rack). The rubber grip also ensures that you don’t damage your skis in transport.

The FreshTrack includes a ski-lift attachment provides clearance for taller bindings and is backed by a lifetime warranty.

You can see how the Yakima FreshTrack Ski & Snowboard Mount performed in each category below:

Review CategoryScore (Out of 5.0 Stars)
Ease of Use5.0
Capacity4.0
Stability5.0
Overall Rating4.7

This easy-to-install mount is an excellent means for transporting your skis or snowboards. It sits low on the roof and can accommodate up to four sets of skis (though your mileage on this may vary depending on the size of your equipment).

Unlike some of the other best roof racks we tested, the Yakima FreshTrack features an integrated SKS lock design to protect your cargo from thieves.

Yakima FreshTrack Ski & Snowboard Mount: Pros And Cons

Below are the pros and cons of the Yakima FreshTrack Ski & Snowboard Mount:

Pros Easy installation Integrated SRS lock design Lightweight
Cons Generates noise Doesn’t always fit two snowboards as advertised

Yakima FreshTrack Ski & Snowboard Mount: Our Experience

This was the easiest roof rack to install among any we tested. No tools are required and it attaches easily. The mechanism to open the rack to load ski equipment is simple to use and you can lock this rack for added stability and security.

While this rack does cause some wind noise and drag, that’s inevitable for any roof rack.

Yakima FreshTrack Ski & Snowboard Mount installed on writers car.

Yakima FreshTrack Ski & Snowboard Mount: What Customers Are Saying

Most say this rack is sturdy, secure, and easily installed. Even without reading the instructions, most are able to attach the FreshTrack in a matter of minutes.

A couple of people complain that the Yakima FreshTrack doesn’t fit two snowboards (and included pictures). Depending on the width of your board, this rack may not accommodate the advertised two boards. However, there was at least one reviewer who was able to carry two snowboards with no problem. Other complaints about this roof rack are that it is expensive and noisy on the road.

4. Arksen Universal Roof Rack: Best Cargo Basket

Arksen Universal Roof Rack
  • Cost: Around $120
  • Amazon rating: 4.5 out of 5.0 stars based on more than 4,400 ratings
  • Capacity: 150.0 lbs. (area of 43.0 in.)
  • Weight: 37.0 lbs.
Arksen Universal Roof Rack
Arksen Universal Roof Rack
$199.96 Amazon
Pros
  • Easy to install
  • Secure
  • Can be used together with roof boxes
Cons
  • Requires extra straps to secure load (sold separately)
  • Not weatherproof
  • Doesn’t fit as well on some roof racks

If you want a roof rack for items other than bikes, skis, or kayaks, consider the Arksen Universal roof rack. It is simple to mount and load, though you’ll need to purchase bungee straps or cords separately to tie down your cargo.

Arksen Universal Roof Rack Review

The Arksen roof rack is a good option for transporting camping equipment or dirty tools you wouldn’t want to put inside your vehicle. This rack is also compatible with cargo boxes if you need a weatherproof storage option for your next road trip.

Review CategoryScore (Out of 5.0 Stars)
Ease of Use4.0
Capacity4.0
Stability3.5
Overall Rating3.8

If you want a roof rack for items other than bikes, skis, or kayaks, consider the Arksen Universal roof rack. It is simple to mount and load, though you’ll need to purchase bungee straps or cords separately to tie down your cargo.

Arksen Universal Roof Rack: Pros And Cons

Below are the pros and cons of the Arksen Universal Roof Rack:

Pros Easy to install Secure Can be used with other roof equipment
Cons Requires extra straps to secure load (sold separately) Not weatherproof Fit varies across vehicle models

Arksen Universal Roof Rack: Our Experience

The Arksen is not difficult to install and once attached can be left on the roof without adding too much drag to your vehicle, even at high speeds. It won’t provide any protection from the elements, but you can purchase an Arksen storage box (sold separately) if that’s a requirement.

Arksen Universal Roof Rack installed on writers car.

Arksen Universal Roof Rack: What Customers Are Saying

Most say this rack is easy to install. Reviewers appreciate the secure fit, which is aerodynamic and does not rattle or produce much noise on the roof. The lightweight frame is nonetheless durable. Many use this for gardening or camping equipment.

There are some complaints about the instructions, which can be difficult to follow. This carrier does not fit all vehicles, so make sure it is compatible with your cross bars. Some have mentioned that the Arksen is not entirely waterproof, and the frame can begin to brown and rust if left in the rain.

5. Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack: Best For Wide-Tire Bikes

Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack
  • Cost: Around $300
  • Amazon rating: 4.4 out of 5.0 stars based on more than 320 ratings
  • Capacity: One bike
  • Weight: 18.5 pounds
  • Fits 20.0- to 29.0-inch wheels
Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack
Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack
About $300 Amazon
Pros
  • Accommodates wide tire bikes
  • Excellent tightening system
  • Stable and secure
Cons
  • Locking system sold separately
  • Not suitable for road bikes
  • Confusing setup instructions

The Thule UpRide is a bike rack suitable for carbon-body bikes and wide-tire bicycles. It’s a good option for mountain bikes and even fat bikes. An adapter (sold separately) is required to mount bikes with 5.0-inch tires.

Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack Review

The Thule UpRide is a no-frame-contact bike rack designed to accommodate bikes with larger tires. It is not especially easy to use and install, but it does offer excellent stability once set up. This well-made bike rack is also backed by a lifetime warranty.

You can see how the Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack performed in each category below:

Review CategoryScore (Out of 5.0 Stars)
Ease of Use3.5
Capacity3.5
Stability5.0
Overall Rating4.0

The Thule UpRide is a bike rack suitable for carbon-body bikes and wide-tire bicycles. It’s a good option for mountain bikes and even fat bikes. An adapter (sold separately) is required to mount bikes with 5.0-inch tires.

Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack: Pros And Cons

Below are the pros and cons of the Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack:

Pros Accommodates wide tire bikes Excellent tightening system Stable and secure
Cons Locking system sold separately Not suitable for road bikes Confusing setup instructions

Thule UpRide Bike Rack: Our Experience

The included instructions with the Thule UpRide are not very good. While we were eventually able to properly install this bike rack, it took us the most time of any of the best roof racks that we tested. It is certainly more of a hassle to install than the Yakima HighRoad.

Once installed, we felt like the Thule was a little more secure than the Yakima. We like the tightening system which is easy to use and firmly grips your bike. Overall, we found the Thule to be extremely stable.

Thule UpRide: What Customers Are Saying

Many reviewers report excellent results with this bike rack. It is durable and stable and works with carbon-framed bikes. Users like how quickly they are able to mount their bikes onto this rack.

Some complain about the installation instructions (which are admittedly poor). The most glaring criticism comes from some reviews who say that their bikes fell off the rack while in use. This is obviously a danger and a significant concern. The issue appears to occur with road bikes, which have thinner tires. We don’t recommend this roof rack for small-tire bikes, it is more suitable for bikes with thicker tires.

Other Best-Selling Roof Racks

Below are a few items we did not test in person, but came up in our research. These roof racks are all top sellers on the market and are trusted by customers.

ProRac Work & Utility Roof Racks
The best roof racks as reviewed by our products team.

Check Price

Consumers with heavy-duty vehicles will appreciate a roof rack that can handle a heavy-duty load. The ProRac Work & Utility Roof Racks have a carrying capacity of 300.0 lbs., and come pre-drilled to accommodate three different track spacings.

Paramount Jeep Roof Rack
The best jeep roof rack.

Check Price

Jeeps have a reputation for off-roading, so a roof rack custom-made for a Jeep makes sense. The Paramount Jeep Roof Rack can carry up to 150.0 lbs. and is constructed from stainless steel. It also installs without any drilling.


Roof Rack Buying Guide

Roof racks are a necessary tool for those who want to transport their bikes, kayaks, skis, or any other outdoor equipment that won’t fit in a trunk. Roof racks can also be used for additional storage space if you pack heavy. When selecting the best roof rack for your needs, first consider what it is you want to transport.

Compare Roof Racks

Brand/ModelCapacityWeightWarranty
Yakima HighRoad Bike CarrierOne bicycle19.0 lbs.Lifetime
Leader Accessories Kayak RackTwo kayaks23.4 lbs.None
Yakima FreshTrack Ski & Snowboard MountFour skis/two snowboards7.0 lbs.Lifetime
Arsen Universal Roof Rack150.0 lbs. (area of 43.0 in.)37.0 lbs.None
Thule UpRide Bike RackOne bicycle18.5 lbs.Lifetime

Bike Racks

A full-sized bicycle won’t fit inside most vehicles, so bike racks are a common sight on the highway. You can carry bikes on your roof with a heavy-duty roof rack, or behind your vehicle with a bike hitch, and each has different advantages.

A bike roof rack connects to the top of your vehicle. It won’t block access to your trunk and is ideal for transporting your bike short distances. Be careful if you park in a garage, as most don’t have enough clearance to accommodate a roof bike. If you park your car outside, you can leave a bike roof rack attached to your car when not in use.

A bike hitch attaches to the back of your vehicle. You don’t need a roof rack to install a bike hitch and these tend to be more aerodynamic. Bike hitches are better for long-distance drives. However, hitches block access to your trunk and are not something you can conveniently leave attached to your car.

Some bike racks require that you remove your bicycle’s front wheel. This makes for a greater hassle installing and removing your bike but is more stable and secure.

Kayak Racks

As with bike racks, there are multiple styles of kayak racks. Some designs feature a J shape, which cradles your kayak flat against the roof. These are secure and easy to use. Typically J racks are also less expensive than other types of kayak racks.

Other kayak carriers hold the kayak on its side. These are sometimes called stackers, as they allow you to stack multiple kayaks. This type of kayak carrier is less secure.

Ski Racks

As with bike racks, there are ski racks that can attach to the roof of your car or to the back of your vehicle.

  • Top-mounted ski racks: These fit onto your roof rack and clamp down over your ski or snowboard. These types of racks are versatile and fit all sizes of skis and snowboards. Some top-mounted racks use magnets and suction to hold your skis down, but this is a little less secure.
  • Rear-mounted ski racks: This model of rack attaches to the back of your vehicle and holds your ski equipment upright. You may need a car with a trailer hitch installed to use this type of rack, which is more accessible than when your skis are affixed to your roof.

Compatibility

The best roof racks for your vehicle depend on the type of car you drive. To use any roof rack, you will need a car that has cross bars. Otherwise, look for carriers that attach to the trunk.

In addition to considering roof rack options that are compatible with your vehicle, be sure to get one that is compatible with your equipment. If you regularly transport two bicycles, you’ll need to get a carrier that accommodates two bikes. Certain carriers are also only compatible with specifically-sized equipment, so make sure your gear fits properly. Another thing to consider is wind resistance. Improperly-fitted roof racks can cause drag, reducing fuel efficiency.

Roof Racks Vs. Roof Rails

Something consumers should note is the difference between roof racks and roof rails. Roof rails, also commonly called cross bars, are on the sides of the bare roof of the car. Cargo racks then attach to these rails.

Most roof rails come preinstalled from the vehicle manufacturer, although there are some aftermarket options. Look for sturdy, yet lightweight options like aluminum cross bars that can support several types of mounting hardware.

What Will A Roof Rack Do To Your Car? 

Deciding on a rack installation has its pros and cons. While expanding the carrying capacity for your vehicle, cargo bags or raised roof rails can impact your vehicle’s aerodynamics and add weight.

Here are a few options to explore if you add hardware to your car roof:

  • Rooftop tents
  • Roof boxes
  • Bike racks
  • Kayak racks
  • Ski racks

Do Roof Racks Affect Gas Mileage? 

Yes, roof racks affect gas mileage. Anything you attach to your roof will reduce the aerodynamics of your vehicle, effectively hampering gas mileage. Additionally, anytime you add weight to a vehicle there is a risk of lowered fuel economy.

If you’re worried about gas mileage, consider a hitch rack that attaches to the back of your car instead of a roof rack.

What Is Better: A Roof Rack Or A Hitch Rack?

While both expand the functionality of your vehicle, hitch racks offer more accessibility options than roof racks. Being lower to the ground means they are more easily loaded and unloaded. However, hitch racks can also impact rear visibility and they require a trailer hitch for installation.

Storage accessories designed for the roof of your vehicle usually offer more carrying capacity and versatility. Easy installation may not be possible when loading a bike or kayak, but most don’t restrict access to your car or camper van.

What If My Car Doesn’t Have Roof Rails?

If your car doesn’t have roof rails, you’ll need to install a set to use most roof racks. A good aftermarket option is the Rhino-Rack Heavy Duty Crossbars.

Check Price

These crossbars are fairly easy to install and can bear a lot of weight. They are very sturdy but may generate a bit of extra road noise.

How Do I Install A Roof Rack?

Every roof rack will have a specific set of hardware and manufacturer-specific instructions for operation, but there are a few general guidelines to follow when installing aftermarket equipment.

  1. Position the rack on top of your vehicle: This is when you make sure the rack properly fits your vehicle and is properly centered on the vehicle’s roof.
  2. Use provided equipment to secure the rack: Fastening equipment will vary by manufacturer, but usually includes bolts that can be hand-tightened or wrenched into place.
  3. Check for stability: Once installed, make sure all points are securely fashioned and that any cross rails that were adjusted are locked in place.

Roof Racks: Bottom Line

It is clear that when done correctly, the top of your vehicle can add valuable cargo space. The best roof racks complement the activity you’re doing, whether it is space for an extra bike or kayak or just another compartment for luggage.

We recommend choosing a roof rack that is both durable and complements your most frequent activity. If you’re an avid biker, it makes sense to have something like that installed on your car versus a cargo box. Additionally, seek out options that can save space when installed on your vehicle. The smaller the format, the less impact it will have on fuel economy.

  1. Yakima HighRoad Upright Bike Carrier: Best Bike Rack
  2. Leader Accessories Folding Kayak Rack: Best Kayak Rack
  3. Yakima FreshTrack Ski & Snowboard Mount: Best Ski Rack
  4. Arksen Universal Roof Rack: Best Cargo Basket
  5. Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack: Best for Wide-Tire Bikes

Best Roof Rack: FAQ

Below are some common frequently asked questions about roof racks:

Is Yakima or Thule better?

Both Yakima and Thule are top-of-the-line roof rack brands. We recommend products from each in our review of the best roof racks. Which is better may come down to personal preference, though we found the Yakima bike rack easier to install and use than the Thule bike rack.

Do you need crossbars to install a roof rack?

For the most part, yes. All roof racks attach via roof rack crossbars. Anything affixed to the roof must be attached to something. However, there are some rooftop cargo carriers that can be attached via straps that run under your hood and through the car’s cabin.

Are roof racks a good idea?

Roof racks are a good idea for transporting outdoor equipment that won’t fit in your trunk. The best roof racks are secure, stable, and easy to use.

How do I know which roof rack to buy?

Before purchasing any aftermarket roof rack or top cross bar, you should make sure it fits with your make and model of vehicle. Customers should also make sure they can transport their belongings. For example, some racks that work for surfboards may not be compatible with paddleboards.

Why do roof racks cost so much?

The price of a high-quality roof rack can be high due to the actual design. Powder coat finishes, being off-road capable, and utilizing stainless steel construction increase the cost of production, which raises the price tag for the consumer.

Can you put a roof rack on any car?

Whether it be an SUV or a sedan, most aftermarket manufacturers make roof racks for vehicles that fit most cars, but there are exceptions. Most racks usually require rails or a crossbar to be installed.

Can roof racks be uninstalled?

Yes. The best roof racks are able to be installed and uninstalled simply, without damage to the vehicle or cargo carrier.

What is the quietest roof rack?

The quietest roof rack we tested is the Arksen cargo basket. This was due to the overall low profile and secure grip.

Can you put a roof rack on a car without rails?

If your vehicle didn’t come equipped with cross bars or rails from the automaker, there are options for rooftop cargo carriers that don’t require hardware.

Do roof racks damage your car?

As long as you don’t exceed weight capacity and properly install the rack, an aftermarket roof rack shouldn’t pose any threat to your car. Just make sure you follow all instructions from the manufacturer before use.


Full Roof Rack Testing Methodology

To test roof racks, we installed each rack on top of a 2013 Subaru Forester. We loaded each carrier and secured the cargo, noting the complexity of each system. We also checked cargo for stability once affixed to the vehicle.

During this process, we take note of the ease of use, carrying capacity, and stability. Each roof rack is then given a rating out of 5.0 stars based on these criteria.

Ease of Use

Affixing any roof rack will require that you get above your car, either using a ladder, stool, or standing on your car’s wheel. Securing equipment into the rack also requires lifting said equipment over your vehicle. This can be extremely difficult for those who have trouble lifting 25.0 to 30.0 pounds overhead. Our ease of use score assumes this is possible for the reader. If not, any roof rack will be difficult to use and you should consider a hitch rack that attaches behind the trunk.

We gave the best scores to roof racks with simple instructions and a fast installation process. We also considered the difficulty of attaching and removing equipment from each rack.

Capacity

This score is based on the number of items a rack can carry. Roof racks able to carry multiple snowboards, kayaks, or bicycles scored better in this category. A heavier weight capacity was also considered.

Stability

Once attached to a roof rack, it’s important that your equipment stay attached. Roof racks that held cargo firmly in place with little shake scored best in this category. This includes compatibility with aerodynamic crossbars.

How We Score Products

Every roof rack we test is given a score between 1.0 and 5.0 stars in each category. Here’s what those star ratings mean in concrete terms:

  • 5.0 Stars: A 5.0-star rating means a roof rack is among the best in a category. It can be installed and used near-effortlessly, carries three to four times as much as similar racks, or does not vibrate or move during use.
  • 4.0 Stars: A 4.0-star rating means a roof rack performs better than average in a category. It can be installed in under 20 minutes, is operated without difficulty, holds more than the average number of items, or may only shift slightly during use.
  • 3.0 Stars: A 3.0-star rating indicates what is average or typical for a roof rack, based on our testing experience. It can be installed with some difficulty, holds the average number of items, or will not fall off though it may wobble.
  • 2.0 Stars: A 2.0-star rating indicates the roof rack performs below expectations in a category. It is extremely difficult to install, holds less than typical, or wobbles significantly.
  • 1.0 Star: A 1.0-star rating indicates that the roof rack performs well below expectations in a category. It cannot be installed without expert assistance, does not hold a single bike, or will fall off at speeds over 5.0 miles per hour.

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Each year, we test over 350 auto products on vehicles and in our testing lab. Our team of product testers thoroughly researches top products, unboxes and puts our hands on each component, and tests the items on real vehicles before making recommendations to readers.

We publish hundreds of product and service reviews to bring car enthusiasts detailed guides on automotive tools, detailing kits, car seats, pet products, and much more. For more information on our testing methodology and how we evaluate every product, check out our methodology page here.

*Data accurate at time of publication. Products subject to availability.