There are four main questions to consider before buying a car roof rack. Let’s take a quick look at each before discussing the main parts of roof racks.
Before you Buy:
Does It Fit My Car?
While most roof rack systems have some modular components, the year, make and model of your vehicle will determine what your specific options will be. Brands like Yakima and Thule have a current solution or two for most vehicles, but at ReRack we are able to offer a wide variety of choices, from now-discontinued styles to the latest and greatest racks. If you’re not sure what parts you need for your car, reach out to us! We’re happy to help. For an introduction to main types of roof racks, see our guide here.
How Much Is It Going To Cost?
Price is usually the most important factor for our customers. We try to stock return and used items as much as possible, both because you’ll get a great deal, and it is more environmentally friendly (the vast portion of a rack’s carbon lifecycle is in the initial production). Of course we also have a complete range of new roof racks to shop from!
At ReRack we only sell racks and parts from top-quality manufacturers like Yakima, Thule and Rhino-Rack. These roof racks are typically able to support more weight and gear than standard factory racks. The price of a base roof rack will depend on if you want new items or not, aerodynamic profile or not, and your vehicle year/make/model. There are complete roof rack setups starting under $150 for a used rack on older vehicles, all the way through $500+ for a new, aerodynamic top-of-the-line setup.
What Do I Want To Carry?
People usually buy a roof rack because they want to put some specific mounts on them (bike racks, kayak carriers, cargo boxes, etc.) or already have some roof mounts. It is simplest and least expensive to stay within the same brand when buying a roof rack and roof rack mounts.
While some products are compatible with a range of crossbar types, others require adapters that must be purchased separately, or won’t work at all with some crossbars.
Think about what you want to do with your roof rack, and if a specific brand is best-suited for the type of gear you want to mount on your roof rack.
What’s Going To Look Good?
Everyone’s got personal preferences right? You may love round crossbars, or square ones; want as low-profile a rack as possible, or need extra height; think that silver is a perfect complement, or go all black. The various rack manufacturers all have slightly different styles, and you should check out a few before making a final decision.
Main Parts of a Roof Rack:
Towers / Feet
The primary (and usually most expensive) part of a roof rack is the tower/foot set. These bear the weight of everything on your roof, and are installed at the strongest points on a vehicle’s roof. Towers usually come with a locking ability, so no one can remove your roof rack (note that many towers have lock cores and keys sold separately).
Towers themselves are usually somewhat generic. To actually mount the towers to your car, you will usually need a vehicle-specific fitting kit. These are designed by the manufacturers to fit a specific vehicle or range of vehicles.
Fitting Kits typically consist of:
- Clips/Clamps - attaches the tower to your specific roof-line, rail, etc.
- Bottom Pads - rubber bases that sit between your roof and the tower. Provides stability and prevents damage to vehicle roof.
Fit Components from left to right: Thule 400 fit kit; Prorack fit kit; Yakima RidgeClips and Base Pads
Usually two bars that run across the width of the vehicle roof, which you then mount your activity-specific racks to; whether it’s ski racks, bike racks, cargo boxes, kayak racks, etc. Crossbars support the weight of all the gear you’re adding to the roof and transfer the weight to the towers/feet. The major crossbar types include: round (Yakima), square (Thule, Inno), aerodynamic (Thule, Yakima, Whispbar, others), and factory.
Crossbar examples left to right: Yakima roundbars, Thule Aerobars, Whispbar Through bars
Some manufacturers - notable Rhino-Rack and Whispbar - produce integrated crossbar+tower roof racks. All these require is the specific fitting kit. These are usually simple to install and are very durable, but may sometimes have a more limited range of vehicles on which they can be used.
Vehicles with flush or raised factory siderails often have the simplest roof rack requirements. Many options will not require fit components, and some (mentioned above) have integrated tower-crossbar options.
A lot of times you can purchase adapters, that will let you put your bike/kayak/ski mounts onto a crossbar it wasn’t initially designed for. There are a lot of different crossbars and gear mounts out there, so if you're not sure what can fit onto what, just get in touch with us.