Roof cargo box on car

How to Choose the Best Car Top Carrier or Roof Rack

When you need to transport cargo that won’t fit inside your vehicle, say a kayak, canoe, bicycle, or just more luggage for a road trip, utilizing the space on your vehicle’s roof is often the best solution. Luckily, there’s a wide array of roof racks and other car top carriers available which allow you to do just that.

We at Discount Ramps want to ensure that you not only get the best price on your rack, but that you get the best rack for your application. We’ve put together this guide to help you answer the important questions and understand the types of roof racks and their uses.

Questions to Consider

What type of cargo will you be transporting? Knowing exactly what type of cargo you are transporting will help to narrow down which type of rooftop cargo carrier you will require. Consider the length, width and weight of your cargo before making a purchase.

How often will you be transporting your cargo? It is important to consider how often you will be transporting your cargo and how frequently you may need to remove and reinstall your rooftop carrier. For example, roof boxes may seem superior to roof bags at a glance, but if you expect to be frequently removing your cargo carrier, a roof bag is a better choice because it is much easier to remove, fold, and store than a roof box.

Does your vehicle have a roof rack or bars already on it? If your vehicle has factory-installed side rails and roof bars, ensure that the car-top carrier you wish to purchase is compatible. If your vehicle has a “naked roof,” or in other words, a roof without any sort of factory side rails or cross bars, you’ll need to purchase either a strap-on roof rack or find a rack system designed specifically for your vehicle’s make and model.

Do you have the proper equipment to secure your cargo to your roof? Remember that most bungee cords are not designed to be used to secure cargo to the roof of your vehicle and are absolutely not safe for doing so. Ratchet straps, however, are designed specifically to handle heavy loads many times over.

Are you able to hoist your cargo to the vehicle’s roof?Lifting your cargo onto a roof rack can sometimes be a challenge, especially if the rack is mounted to a taller vehicle like an SUV or minivan. To make this task easier, we offer a handy portable wheel step to give you a boost up. However, when lifting bigger cargo it’s often still a good idea to seek the assistance of a friend or two.

Types of Roof Racks

Roof Side Rails

Roof side rails run front to back along the sides of a vehicle’s roof. They provide both a mounting point for roof cross bars and a convenient tie down point to secure cargo to. Side rails are almost always a factory-installed option.

Roof Bars

cross bars

Although they can be used alone to carry long cargo such as lumber, roof bars (also called roof cross bars) are primarily used as the attachment point for all other roof racks. Roof bars themselves typically mount to side rails.

Van Racks

van rack

Designed specifically to create cargo space on the roof of vans, van racks are constructed of either aluminum or steel and are available in two-bar or three-bar systems. They are commonly used by tradesmen to transport ladders, piping, or other materials too long for the van itself. Van racks usually install by clamping on to drip rails, although some bolt onto the roof.

Trailer Ladder Racks

trailer ladder rack

Add extra cargo space to your trailer with a trailer ladder rack. Trailer ladder racks are available in multiple lengths to fit trailers of all sizes from small enclosed pull-behinds to large gooseneck trailers. Trailer ladder racks usually bolt to the roof of the trailer.

Pickup Truck Racks

truck rack

Get the most out of your truck’s hauling capabilities with a pickup truck rack. Pickup truck racks hold anything from ladders and conduit, to lumber and more above the bed and cab. Some truck racks will also protect the cab window from damage by incorporating a headache rack. Truck racks usually either clamp to or bolt to the truck’s bed.

Types of Car Top Carriers

Roof Bags

roof bag

Waterproof roof bags offer increased protection for your luggage and are available in many different shapes and sizes to meet your cargo transport needs. As opposed to roof boxes, they are more flexible and easier to transport. Should you need to remove the roof bag from your vehicle, it can be folded up easily and stored compactly.

Roof Boxes

roof box

For an added level of protection, a Roof Box attaches to your vehicle’s roof bars to hold cargo in an easy-to-open hard container. The hardened plastic roof boxes secure your items during transportation better than a roof bag, but are more difficult to install, remove, and store elsewhere.

Roof Bike Racks

roof bike rack

Roof bike racks are a great option for carrying your bicycle(s) if the rear of your vehicle isn’t compatible with a mounted rack, or if you just don’t want your bike rack to get in the way. Each rooftop bike rack can hold a single bike, but multiple racks can be used if necessary.

Canoe & Kayak Racks

kayak rack

Designed to transport your canoe or kayak on the roof of your vehicle using existing roof bars, canoe and kayak racks make transporting your boat simple. When using a rooftop canoe or kayak rack to transport your boat, make sure to properly secure your boat and stop occasionally during your trip to ensure it hasn’t come loose.

Ski & Snowboard Racks

ski and snowboard rack

Ski and snowboard racks easily mount to your vehicle's roof rack to allow you to safely and easily transport your skis or snowboards. When selecting a ski or snowboard rack, bear in mind how many pairs of skis or snowboards need to be transported, whether anything else needs to be stored on the roof, and how often you will use the rack.

If you have any more questions about car top carriers or roof racks that haven’t been answered here, please feel free to contact us and we’ll be glad to assist you!

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