If you spend your weekends biking, kayaking or snowboarding far from home, then chances are you need to look into car roof racks. Not only will a good rack carry your equipment securely wherever you go, but it also opens up lots of storage options for when you are going on a road trip and can’t fit your luggage in your trunk. Here are some tips for picking out the right rack for you, your car and your lifestyle:
What do you need it for?
Before you start checking out prices and models, consider what kind of roof cargo you’ll most likely be using the rack for. Are you simply an avid biker and want the flexibility to try out different trails in your area? Or are you more of a jack-of-all-trades and will be using it for packing everything from your snow skis to a kayak? While you certainly don’t want to limit what you’re going to be able to use your rack for, you probably don’t want to invest in a ton of extra accessories that can fit a paddleboard if you’ve never even used one before.
What kind of car do you have?
Make sure you drive a car that lends itself to a roof rack. Though given the correct equipment, the majority of cars can hold some type of rack, be realistic. If you drive a two-seater soft-top convertible, you’ll have to figure out a different way to store your bikes. Be sure your car has a secure and rust-free area the rack can attach to. Also, consider the height of your car. If it is relatively tall with a narrow wheel base, you may not only have trouble loading up a roof rack, but the extra weight may make it too top-heavy to be safe on the road, especially in crosswinds.
Factory or aftermarket?
Depending on the car you drive, there is a chance that the auto manufacturer makes a rack specifically designed to fit the make and model of your car. If this is the case, your job will be relatively easy. However, if you drive one of the many cars without this option – or if you just don’t care for the options the manufacturer offers you – there are plenty of aftermarket brands available for sale. The benefit of these brands is that you often have more ways to customize the product, as many are sold as individual parts as well as completed kits. So, if you drive a sedan and are a mountain biker in the summer and a snowboarder in the winter, you can put together a rack that suits your exact needs.
Can you install it yourself?
Depending on the type of rack you pick, you can probably assemble it yourself. Often, it’s no more difficult than putting together a bookshelf. However, there are many racks that require a little more work. If the rack you choose requires any kind of drilling into your car, it’s a task best left up to a professional.
What other options are out there?
A roof-top rack has plenty of advantages – they can transport a whole host of equipment, it keeps you from having to load dirty gear into your trunk and it never blocks your view. However, they aren’t right for everyone. If you keep your car in a garage and don’t have access to a driveway where you can safely load up the roof, you may run into height restrictions. If you are loading up a bike on a tall SUV by yourself, you may run into some problems. However, there are plenty of other products on the market that can attach to your trunk, spare tire or hitch as well.