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HomeBlogHow to Choose the Right Roof Rack for Your SUV

How to Choose the Right Roof Rack for Your SUV

A roof rack makes it incredibly easy to plan a successful road trip by allowing you to bring more items than your car’s trunk or cabin can accommodate. 

Getting your SUV outfitted with a roof rack also improves your safety while traveling by letting you store your valuables out of plain sight. Besides, a roof rack can optimize your vehicle’s elegance by giving it an athletic appearance. 

However, these benefits only make sense when you install a roof rack that suits your vehicle’s aesthetic and functional needs. 

Below is a beginner’s guide to choosing the right roof rack for your SUV.

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1. Determine What You Intend To Transport

A roof rack can transport a range of travel items. However, it’s important to prioritize the gear that you’ll require for the planned trip. 

For instance, if you’re going on a camping vacation, you could use a Jeep Gladiator roof rack to transport tents and sleeping bags. The same rack may also help you carry hunting gear, fishing equipment, kayaks, skis, etc. 

Roof racks vary significantly in shape and design. Pick a style that suits the items you intend to transport. 

You could also ask the manufacturer what gear a roof rack is designed to carry before purchasing it. If in doubt, consider modular roof racks, which you can customize to hold a variety of items.

2. Understand the Different Rack Mounting Systems

There are different ways to mount a roof rack. The mounting system you pick determines the ease with which you can install and uninstall the platform. 

Deep roof gutters were once synonymous with touring vehicles. However, modern SUVs now come with integrated roof rails or mounting points that eliminate the hassle of roof rack installation. 

While searching for a suitable roof rack mounting system, it’s also prudent to consider the accessories that go with it. 

Prioritize designs that require fewer components. It’s even better if the accessories are sold alongside the rack rather than independently. 

grey SUV beside sea of cloud

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3. Size Matters

A roof rack’s size generally relates to its height. 

An enormous roof rack can accommodate more travel items. Higher-clearance racks also provide a protective layer that prevents falling debris or low-hanging tree branches from smashing into and potentially damaging your car’s roof. 

Meanwhile, a low-profile rack lets you access garages or car parks with a low roof height. 

Note that many multi-story car parking lots have a maximum roof height of 2.0 meters. Consider that before mounting a huge rack on top of your SUV. 

Needless to say, a roof rack’s length and breadth must also correspond with your vehicle’s roof measurements. The rack shouldn’t protrude from either side, as that could pose serious safety hazards.

4. Know Your Car’s Roof Load Limit

Each vehicle has a maximum roof load capacity, which determines how heavy its roof rack should be. 

The easiest way to identify your SUV’s roof load limit is to check the car’s brochure or owner’s manual. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer. 

The key thing to note here is that a vehicle’s roof load limit takes into account the rack’s weight. 

Assume that a rack has a load limit of 300 pounds while the platform itself weighs 100 pounds. In that case, the total capacity of the items you can transport on the roof rack in one go would be 200 pounds. 

It’s also prudent to err on the side of caution and avoid your SUV’s maximum roof load capacity. Pack at least 50 pounds less to minimize any damage to the roof. 

Lastly, clearly distinguish between static and dynamic load limits. The former refers to stationary vehicles, while the latter denotes vehicles in motion. 

Static load limit is typically higher and can be safely breached. However, never exceed the dynamic limit, as that could reduce your SUV’s structure and integrity. 

yellow suv on black asphalt road during daytime

Photo Credit: Unsplash.com

5. Prioritize Strength and Durability

You don’t want to repair a roof rack, let alone replace it, every other month. Therefore, picking the strongest and most durable option you can find is prudent. 

The rack’s durability depends on its construction materials, which include commonly used steel and aluminum, as well as composites like fiberglass. 

Steel is the most durable of the three options. However, steel roof racks are considerably bulky. Such racks can significantly reduce your SUV’s roof load capacity. 

Aluminum is a lighter alternative to steel. The metal is also fairly durable due to its rust resistance. 

When it comes to composites, the choice depends primarily on your budget. Fiberglass is cheap but quite brittle, making it unideal for transporting bulky travel gear.

6. Mind Aerodynamics

Many roof rack manufacturers do not take aerodynamics into consideration when designing these platforms. Falling for such racks can turn out to be a grievous mistake as far as fuel economy goes. 

Experts recommend aerodynamically engineered roof racks to better manage wind resistance and noise. These racks are particularly effective during high-speed drives, where wind drag may lower your UV’s fuel efficiency. 

How you place items on a roof rack also impacts its aerodynamics. 

Strive to achieve a cascading layout, where the smallest gear is strapped in the front and taller ones behind it.

man standing beside of black SUV

Photo Credit: Unsplash.com

The Bottom Line

Choosing the right roof rack isn’t enough. It’s also imperative to install the rack properly, following the manufacturer’s guidelines. 

Besides, remember to use your roof rack mindfully to extend its durability. That includes staying within the rack’s recommended load capacity, repairing broken or worn-out parts, and detaching the platform when not in use. 

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