Best Roof Rack Buyers GuideAugust 14, 2022
Long road trips and overlanding adventures are only successful when you pack your vehicle to the brim. You need the best roof rack on your classic car. However, if you’re playing Tetris with bags and your truck is bursting at the seams, you won’t be able to see anything out the back window — which is dangerous. Roof racks are great for spreading gear to the often unused and underutilized space on the roof, but they are also great for storing equipment that won’t fit in your car in the first place. Topside riding is recommended for paddleboards, mountain bikes, and kayaks, especially after a long weekend of hard use.
Whether you drive a sedan, a truck, or an SUV, the interior cargo space can quickly fill up. While the average person does not require a roof rack on a continuous basis, they can be a valuable asset to have on hand — whether you’re overlanding, going on a long road trip, moving to a new house, or simply going up to the lake for the day.
1. Best Roof Rack in 2022-2023- Yakima HighRoad Upright Bike Carrier
The Yakima HighRoad upright bike carrier is an excellent choice. It is easy to set up and use. While it only transports one bicycle, multiple HighRoads can be attached to a single roof. However, keep in mind your vehicle’s load capacity, as transporting several bikes will add a significant amount of weight to your vehicle.
- Important Characteristics
- The approximate cost is $280.
- One bicycle is available.
- Weight: 19.0 lbs.
- Fits bikes with wheels ranging from 26 to 29 inches in diameter.
- 2 SKS (same key system) locks are compatible (sold separately)
- Warranty for life
The HighRoad is especially simple to set up. The instructions are simple, and the necessary tools are included with the rack. The tightening mechanisms are simple to use and ensure a snug fit. The Yakima bike rack is also simple to remove.
The mounting system for attaching a bicycle is particularly appealing. It is simple, safe, and easy to use. The bike is very stable once installed. The tightening mechanism allows you to easily secure your cargo.
This rack can only hold one bicycle, but several can be installed on the same roof if you need to transport multiple bicycles.
What Customers Have to Say
After more than 350 ratings, the average Amazon rating is 4.6 out of 5 stars.
Most customers agree that this rack is one of the best on the market, and several customers appreciate that it can accommodate a wide tire. Many people have successfully used this rack to transport their bikes over long distances. The Yakima HighRoad is dependable and stable.
Some reviewers claim that their HighRoad arrived incomplete. Another complaint about this rack is that it does not accommodate bikes with tires smaller than 26.0 inches in diameter. Others are displeased that the locking system must be purchased separately. Given the high cost of this roof rack system, reviewers believe it should be included.
2. Best Roof Rack -Kayak Rack that Folds- Leader Accessories
Leader Accessories provides an easy-to-install J-hook design system. This kit includes four pieces that can transport two kayaks. It is available in a variety of sizes, allowing you to select the best option for your kayak.
- The approximate cost is $130.
- Two kayaks are available.
- 4 pound weight
- Universal mounting bracket
- Handle with quick release
- Four ratchet tie down straps are included.
This folding kayak rack comes mostly assembled, and rooftop installation requires no tools. The instructions are simple, and we were able to set up this rack in minutes.
You’ll need to use the included ratchet straps to secure a kayak. These are simple to use, but they do require some strength and you must tuck the excess strap lengths away. These straps provide excellent security and a snug fit for any size kayak.
What Customers Have to Say
After over 1,000 ratings, the average Amazon rating is 4.4 out of 5 stars.
Those who have used this rack for a long trip report that it held their kayak(s) securely in place. Many people laud the roof rack’s high quality materials and ease of installation.
Many reviewers claim that their rack arrived improperly assembled. A rubber metal protector is provided to protect your hood from the metal mounting bracket. In some cases, the protector is installed on the incorrect side of the bracket. Although switching this yourself is simple, customers should be aware of it. Another complaint is that when it rains, water can get into the tubes and rust the rack from the inside.
3. Best ski rack Yakima FreshTrack Ski & Snowboard Mount
This simple-to-install mount is ideal for transporting your skis or snowboard. It is located low on the roof and can hold 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 has an integrated SKS lock design to keep thieves out of your cargo.
- Important Characteristics
- The approximate cost is $250.
- Four sets of skis or two snowboards can be accommodated.
- Weight: 7.0 lbs.
- Design of a tool-free clamp
- The ski-lift attachment allows for taller bindings to be used.
- SKS lock integrated
- Warranty for life
Among the roof racks we tested, this was the simplest to install. It does not require any tools and is simple to install. The mechanism for opening the rack to load ski equipment is simple, and the rack can be locked for added stability and security.
While there is some wind noise and drag with this rack, that is unavoidable with any roof rack.
What Customers Have to Say
After more than 130 ratings, the average Amazon rating is 4.5 out of 5 stars.
According to most users, this rack is sturdy, secure, and simple to install. Most people can attach the FreshTrack in a matter of minutes even without reading the instructions.
Some people complain that the Yakima FreshTrack does not accommodate two snowboards (and included pictures). This rack may not fit the advertised two boards depending on the width of your board. However, at least one reviewer was able to transport two snowboards with ease. Other complaints about this roof rack include its high cost and road noise.
4. Rhino Rack Pioneer Platform
The Pioneer Platform range is difficult to beat in terms of versatility, strength, and durability. “The Rhino Rack has stood the test of time,” Henwood says. “We use Pioneer Platforms on our Defender 110 and third-generation Tacoma builds and have found their system to be durable, affordable, simple to assemble, and highly adaptable to a variety of uses.”
“We loaded them up with fat bikes, road bikes, camping gear, and the Rhino Rack Batwing Awning setup.” They carry out our requests with minimal effort.”
5. Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack for Wide-Tire Bikes
The Thule UpRide is a bike rack designed for carbon body bikes and bicycles with wide tires. It’s an excellent choice for mountain bikes and even fat bikes. To mount bikes with 5.0-inch tires, an adapter (sold separately) is required.
The approximate cost is $330.
- One bike is available.
- 18.5 pound weight
- There is no frame contact.
- Fits wheels ranging from 20 to 29 inches in diameter.
- With an adapter, it is possible to fit 5.0-inch tires (sold separately)
- Warranty for life
- Our Knowledge
The instructions that come with the Thule UpRide are inadequate. While we were eventually able to install this bike rack properly, it took us the longest of any of the best roof racks we tested. It is unquestionably more difficult to install than the Yakima HighRoad.
We felt the Thule was a little more secure than the Yakima once it was installed. We like the tightening system because it is simple to use and secures your bike. Overall, the Thule proved to be extremely stable.
What Customers Have to Say
After more than 260 reviews, the average Amazon rating is 4.4 out of 5 stars.
Many reviewers praise the performance of this bike rack. It is long-lasting and stable, and it works with carbon-framed bikes. Users appreciate how quickly they can mount their bikes on this rack.
Some people are unhappy with the installation instructions (which are admittedly poor). Some customers have complained that their bikes fell off the rack while they were using it. This is obviously a risk and a major concern. The problem appears to be with road bikes with thinner tires. This roof rack is not recommended for bikes with small tires; it is better suited for bikes with thicker tires.
Roof Racks versus Roof Rails
The distinction between roof racks and roof rails is important for customers to understand. Roof rails, also known as cross bars, are located on the sides of the car’s bare roof. Cargo racks are then secured to these rails.
Roof rails are typically preinstalled by the vehicle manufacturer, though there are some aftermarket options. Look for sturdy yet lightweight options, such as aluminum cross bars that can accommodate a variety of mounting hardware.
What Effect Will a Roof Rack Have on Your Vehicle?
Choosing a rack installation has advantages and disadvantages. Cargo bags or raised roof rails can have an impact on your vehicle’s aerodynamics, resulting in a decrease in fuel economy.
If you want to add hardware to your car roof, consider the following options:
- Tents on the roof
- Rooftop boxes
- Racks for bicycles
- Kayak storage racks
- Racks for skis
- Best Roof Racks Buyers Guide
Roof racks are a must-have accessory for anyone who needs to transport bikes, kayaks, skis, or any other outdoor equipment that won’t fit in a trunk. Roof racks can also be used as extra storage space if you pack a lot. Consider what you want to transport first when choosing the best roof rack for your needs.
Racks for Bikes
Because a full-sized bicycle will not fit inside most vehicles, bike racks are a common sight on the road. You can transport bikes on your roof with a heavy-duty roof rack or behind your vehicle with a bike hitch, each with its own set of benefits.
A bike roof rack is attached to the roof of your vehicle. It won’t obstruct access to your trunk and is ideal for short-distance bike transport. If you park in a garage, keep in mind that most don’t have enough clearance to accommodate a roof bike. When you park your car outside, you can leave a bike roof rack attached to your vehicle.
A bike hitch is a device that attaches to the back of your vehicle. A roof rack is not required to install a bike hitch, and these are more aerodynamic. Long-distance drives are better served by bike hitches. However, hitches obstruct access to your trunk and are inconvenient to leave attached to your vehicle.
Some bike racks require you to remove your front wheel. This makes installing and removing your bike more difficult, but it is more stable and secure.
Kayak racks, like bike racks, come in a variety of styles. Some designs use a J shape to hold your kayak flat against the roof. These are safe and simple to use. J racks are typically less expensive than other types of kayak racks.
Other kayak carriers support the kayak by laying it on its side. These are also known as stackers because they allow you to stack multiple kayaks. This is a less secure kayak carrier.
Racks for Skis
Ski racks, like bike racks, can be attached to the roof of your car or the back of your vehicle.
Top-mounted ski racks attach to your roof rack and clamp down over your skis or snowboard. These racks are versatile and can accommodate all sizes of skis and snowboards. Some top-mounted racks use magnets and suction to keep your skis in place, but this is less secure.
Rear-mounted ski racks attach to the back of your vehicle and hold your ski equipment upright. To use this type of rack, you may need a car with a trailer hitch installed, as it is more accessible than having your skis attached to your roof.
The best roof racks for your car are determined by the type of vehicle you drive. You will need a car with cross bars to use any roof rack. Otherwise, search for carriers that can be attached to the trunk.
Consider roof rack options that are compatible with your vehicle as well as those that are compatible with your equipment. If you frequently transport two bicycles, you’ll need a carrier that can hold two bikes. Certain carriers are also only compatible with equipment of a specific size, so make sure your gear fits properly.
How We Experimented
The roof racks in this article were subjected to two rounds of testing. We began by searching Amazon for the best products, taking into account factors such as Prime shipping eligibility, customer ratings, Amazon superlatives, and prices.
Our team ordered the products that best met these criteria for testing. A member of the team attached each rack to a Subaru, noting the ease of use, carrying capacity, and stability. Based on these criteria, each roof rack was given a rating of 1 to 5 stars.
We tested several racks for various types of equipment, with a focus on the most common cargo: bikes, skis, and kayaks.
Attaching any roof rack will necessitate getting above your car, either by ladder, stool, or standing on your car’s wheel. Lifting the equipment into the rack necessitates lifting the equipment over your vehicle. For those who have difficulty lifting 25.0 to 30.0 pounds overhead, this can be extremely difficult. Our reader-friendliness score assumes this is possible. If not, any roof rack will be difficult to use, and a hitch rack that attaches behind the trunk should be considered.
Roof racks with simple instructions and a quick installation process received the highest marks from us. We also considered how difficult it was to attach and remove equipment from each rack.
This score is determined by the number of items that a rack can hold. Roof racks that can accommodate multiple snowboards, kayaks, or bicycles performed better in this category. A higher weight capacity was also taken into account.
It is critical that your equipment remains attached to a roof rack once attached. Roof racks that kept cargo firmly in place with little shake were the clear winners in this category. Compatibility with aerodynamic crossbars is one of them.
Roof Rack Testing Methodology
We installed each roof rack on top of a Subaru to test them. The cargo was then loaded onto each carrier and secured. We took note of how simple it was to set up and load. We also checked cargo for stability after it was secured to the vehicle.
Why You Should Believe Us
We test over 350 auto products on vehicles and in our testing lab each year. Before making recommendations to readers, our team of product testers thoroughly researches top products, unboxes and inspects each component, and tests the items on real vehicles.
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