When you don’t own a big truck or a donkey to help you transport your adventure equipment, then it’s time you invested in a roof rack. Over the years, roof racks have evolved into lightweight durable racks. Compared to its heavy, bulky, and steel cage predecessors, modern roof racks can easily be installed on most vehicles.
You don’t have to own a 4×4 Ranger or trailblazing SUV to own one. If you want to go on an adventure for the weekend and don’t have enough space in your car, then you can pack your bicycle, canoe, or camping gear by mounting it onto the roof using a befitting roof rack.
Depending on which model car you own and the size of your vehicle, you’ll have to purchase accordingly. For example, you’re going to need a large unit for a Land Rover or Cruiser versus a smaller and lightweight roof rack for a Jeep or Suzuki Jimny.
To help you pick the right fit, we’ve conducted this compact buyer’s guide with all the necessary information you might need. Continue reading for all the factors to consider before making a purchase.
Top 9 Roof Racks in Australia 2020
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What is the Function of a Roof Rack?
A roof rack‘s main purpose is to add extra packing space into your vehicle. But instead of dragging a trailer to put your extra goods on, you pack it on your car’s roof. It’s basically like adding a second floor to your vehicle.
Many vehicles already come with an installed roof rack. For those vehicles that don’t have one, it’s as easy as purchasing and installing your own.
Adding a roof rack is typically beneficial to off-road vehicles who will be driving on dirt roads. Having one installed will save you the effort of hooking up a trailer and maneuvering your way through hard terrains.
The different types of roof racks allow for the transportation of a variety of different items including suitcases, boxes, canoes, camping gear, and bicycles. Everything safely secured on your car’s roof.
Advantages of Installing a Roof Rack
There are loads of advantages to owning a roof rack. Here is a list of the most common benefits:
- It increases the legroom in your vehicle
- A roof rack provides a sturdy and stable platform to transport sporting and camping equipment
- It’s a safer way to transport sporting equipment, ensuring that you don’t become a traffic hazard
- It creates versatile storage outside the vehicle
- You can transport and store filthy rubbish bags, spare tires, oily fuel cans, wood, muddy bicycles, wet boats, and other greasy stuff. Avoiding a dirty interior
- It increases the storage and packing space in your vehicle
- You can even install a rooftop tent. Creating a comfortable camping experience
Even though there are loads of advantages, it’s still important to be aware of some cons that come with having and using a roof rack. Here is a shortlist of slight cons:
- Vehicles like Land Cruisers and Land Rovers have box-shaped bodies and can be quite heavy on fuel. Adding weight to the car might increase the fuel consumption even more
- The handling characteristics of your vehicle will be changed when you add loaded Jerry cans, luggage, and heavy equipment onto your roof. Raising the centre of gravity
- Roof racks add almost 30 centimeters or more to your vehicle’s top. You have to make sure that it will be able to fit in your garage or underneath height barriers in parking areas.
Roof Rack Terminology
Know your roof rack terminology before starting to shop around. If you’re unfamiliar with a few roof rack slang and terms, then we’ve got you covered with the most commonly used terms.
Crossbars/Load bars – This is the base used to mount full-framed roof racks. Without full-framed roof racks, they are primarily used to load longer items such as poles and logs or sporting equipment like bicycles and canoes.
Fit Kit/Landing Pads – The fit kit is the primary component needed in order for you to install a roof rack. Each vehicle has its own customized version, so you have to check with the manufacturer for the right fit. Double cab vehicles will require drilling through the roof to install the fit kit.
It typically consists of different awning brackets, mounts, nuts, and bolts.
Towers/Feet – The secondary component of the system is the tower. It’s typically attached to the fit kit to raise the level of the roof rack.
Different Types of Roof Racks for Different Roofs
Depending on the type of roof your car has, you’ll have to obtain a befitting rack. Here is a list of the different types and a guide to what car’s roofs they fit onto.
The original roof rack found on most types of cars in the past (when there weren’t any alternatives available). Called gutters, because just like gutters on the edges of a house’s roof, there are slight ridges on either side of the car above the doors.
Flush/Low Profile and Raised Rails
First introduced in Europe, the parallel placed flush rail becomes one with your vehicle’s roof. It looks great since the rail is so closely attached to the roof with no space in between. Compared to the raised rail system that creates a more visible space in between the car’s roof and the rails.
Mostly found on SUVs, minivans, and wagons.
For vehicles that don’t have any roof rack fit kits or towers, a simple door jam clamping kit can be purchased. This is typically clamped to the car’s door frame to create a footing for load bars.
Also known as T-tracks, these are long metal slots or tracks that run parallel to the car’s doors.
On the car’s roof, you’ll find already made attachment points for towers or feet. They are typically hidden underneath a plastic cover.
Luckily, most manufacturers have an array of shapes and sizes available. No matter your vehicle’s size, you’ll be able to find one that fits.
Key Factors to Consider when Purchasing a Roof Rack
Here is a list of factors you have to consider before purchasing your very own roof rack
Materials used to manufacture the unit will have a great effect on its durability and weight. Older designs use to feature frames made from heavy galvanized steel.
Lately, you can consider frames made from Stainless steel that has anti-rust properties. Nowadays, most roof racks are manufactured using an alloy construction. Typically a combination of Stainless steel feet and brackets and aluminum or graphite bars.
There are loads of different shapes available. Firstly, you have to consider what you want to transport. If you, primarily, want to load your off-road bicycle for weekend cycling trips. Then you won’t need a heavy-duty rack or tray, rather opt for a design specifically made for carrying bicycles.
Shapes will vary from big rectangular steel boxes to customized racks for sporting equipment.
For heavy-duty transporting like those big Jerry cans filled with water or fuel, you’re going to need a big rack with many tie-down points. No need to purchase a full-sized rack if you only want to transport a few lightweight things.
For a month-long trip in the outback, you’re going to have to consider a bigger size.
Not only should functionality be considered, but also durability of the product. High-end brands have tested their products under harsh circumstances, making sure that they can endure the most severe temperatures and off-road situations.
When looking at durability you have to consider the brand’s testing, materials used in manufacturing, customer reviews, and the loading capacity.
You’ll ultimately be carrying this extra structure on your car’s roof. The heavier the rack the more it will influence the car’s centre of gravity.
Load bars weigh on average between 4kg- 7kg a pair. Whilst a full roof rack varies in weight from 7kg-10kg.
Overloading a roof rack will cause many issues. It’s therefore important to check the loading capacity of the product, to make sure you don’t overload. Most roof racks can hold between 60kg-90 kg in weight.
Usually, crossbars are placed across the car’s roof. They transfer all the weight put onto them to the feet/towers on the sides of the car. There are differently shaped crossbars available to purchase.
Depending on what you want to load you have to buy accordingly.
Reviews of the Best Roof Racks in Australia
We’ve tried and tested a few roof racks available on Amazon.AU to help you find the best option for your car and loading needs. Here is a list of reviews of our favorite finds:
Overview: The CargoLoc 2-piece is an excellent rooftop crossbar solution. Constructed from high-quality aluminum, the design features a durable and rigid body that is lightweight. Regardless of its lightweight, the CargoLoc roof rack bars can load almost 70 kilograms in weight.
It features a heavy-duty and secure clamping system that attaches the bars to the side rails of the car. For ultimate safety, the bars feature a secure lock mechanism that ensures a firm hold.
The set includes 2 strong and durable crossbars, 2 keys, and 1 hex key. The product needs existing side rails on your vehicle that is raised with a maximum span of 116 centimeters in between.
With a measurement of 132 centimeters from end to end, these rooftop crossbars are the perfect addition and solution to carrying luggage or boxes, and even mounting a roof tray.
This product has received a customer review rating of 4.4 out of 5 on Amazon.AU, making it one of the best roof rack options on the platform.
Weight: 3.9 kg
Loading Capacity: 70kg
Key Features: Aluminum durable crossbars, lightweight, secure lock mechanism
Rhino-Rack Roof Mount
Overview: Made from durable and strong steel, the Rhino-Rack roof mount is a monster of a product. It can load 75 kilograms worth of items and can fit onto most Rhino-Rack Vortex and Euro bars.
For ultimate efficiency and durability, the rack features a black powder-coating finish and wind deflector. This ensures its longevity by avoiding quick color fading and rusting from exposure to extreme weather.
The high rails add extra protection against winds and bumpy drives through the outback. Weighing almost 20 kilograms, the product is best used on SUV or 4×4 vehicles for transporting adventure luggage and heavy camping gear.
Minimum crossbar spacing should be 54 centimeters and the maximum 76 centimeters.
Loading Capacity: 75kg
Key Features: Steel construction, wind deflector, powder-coated, secure and suitable for off-road use
Thule 450R Crossroad Foot Pack
Overview: Manufactured in Sweden, the Thule 450R Crossroad foot pack is the perfect starting point for a roof rack journey. Especially for those vehicles who don’t have any fixed towers on their car roofs, the Thule 450R is the perfect solution.
The set of four includes end caps and an adjustable footing tool, created to lock down on the factory-installed bars, without using heavy hardware. A steel strap, that’s rubber-coated, secures the product to the side rail of any car. 9.5 centimeters in height and 54 centimeters in length, the Thule 450 R towers can be easily installed on any car. They are easy to remove once your trip is over too.
Thule is so confident in their product that they provide a lifetime manufacturer’s warranty. To create a seamless look, you can additionally purchase the Thule load bars (reviewed next).
Weight: 2.3 kg
Loading Capacity: N/A
Key Features: Rubber-coated steel, slotted foot pack, easy to install
Thule WingBar Evo Load Bars
Overview: The Thule WingBar Evo goes extremely well with the Thule 450R foot racks. Don’t be deceived by the bars lightweight of only 1.5 kilograms, they still have a loading capacity of 100 kilograms.
The 2-pack is extremely easy to install, using a SmartSlide system with a slidable scale placed at the bottom. The slide is covered with an aerodynamic cover that allows for a reduced noise level.
With cutting TrailEdge technology, the Thule creates a wind diffusing system that disturbs airflow to reduce drag and as a result improved fuel efficiency.
The bar itself features pivoting end caps that functions as a swing blade to store the T-slots. This feature allows for easy removal of other accessories and smooth installation.
A boxbeam internal structure is designed to create a very strong load bar to hold 100 kilograms. The bar is available in different lengths; 108 cm, 118 cm, 127 cm, 135 cm, and 150 cm.
Weight: 1.5 kg
Loading Capacity: 100 kg
Key Features: TrailEdge design, reduced aerodynamic drag, reduced noise levels, boxbeam internal structure, lightweight
Giantz Car Cross Bars
Overview: Made from Aircraft grade aluminum, the Giantz Car Cross Bars are definitely worth its steel. The bars feature a universal fitting design that can be installed on most model vehicles.
Inspired by nature, the Giantz’ crossbars have an upgraded holder design that is adjustable in length (between 3.5-7.5cm). The overall length of the bar can be adjusted to 120 cm.
Made from anti-corrosion and anti-rust aluminum, this product is made to endure extreme weather and temperatures. The clamps are manufactured from upgraded plastic and a soft rubber liner. This strong design has a loading capacity of 90 kg.
The product comes with a 1-year warranty and is recommended to be used on longitudinal mounts and raised rails with 30 mm gaps.
To keep the thieves at bay, the product comes with an anti-theft locking system.
Loading Capacity: 90kg
Key Features: Universal fitting design, modern design, adjustable holder length, aircraft-grade aluminum, anti-rust, anti-corrosion, anti-theft locking system
Front Runner Slimline II
Overview: Front Runner has a wide product range when it comes to the Slimline II. This roof rack is available in sizes that are suitable for most vehicles. Specifically tailored to the roof of your car ranging from a Suzuki Jimny to a Volkswagen Caddy.
The product weighs 28.4 kg and is made of high-density aluminum. For its size, it’s still 30% lighter than other steel roof rack trays. Manufactured to endure vigorous terrains and extreme weather. Front Runner’s patented design, ensures that it’s a leader in strength to weight ratio compared to other roof racks.
An array of accessories are available with this product, to make loading and unloading a breeze. Included in this purchase are 6 grab-on mounting feet, wind deflector, and a Slimline II roof rail rack.
Yes, it’s a bit pricey, but this is a product you’ll purchase once and never again, as it will be able to withstand many adventures.
Cost: $1,085-$1,400 (depending on vehicle compatibility)
Loading Capacity: 100kg
Key Features: High-density aluminum, patented strength to weight ratio, customizable to different vehicle models
Giantz Universal Roof Rack
Overview: An affordable roof rack for the beginner is Giantz Universal. With a weight capacity of 80 kilograms, the product is perfect for loading luggage and other smaller items.
It features a universal shaped design which allows the tray to fit on most vehicles. To cut down wind resistance, it includes a wind deflector for ultimate fuel consumption.
Made from high-quality powder-coated steel, the roof tray is durable and even waterproof. For longevity that won’t include rusting and erosion. The tray is 100cm in width, 112cm in length, and 15cm in height.
An added benefit is that the carrier includes all the assembly hardware. Making the installation and setup easy.
Loading Capacity: 80kg
Key Features: Universal design, wind deflector, steel, weatherproof, mounting hardware included
Cycling Deal Car Roof Rack Carrier
Overview: When you are an avid cyclist and constantly traveling to new trails with your bicycle, then the CyclingDeal bicycle rack is for you. Made from quality steel with an easy and secure locking system, the bicycle rack is the perfect addition to your roof bars.
No need to take off any of your bicycle’s wheels, as you can secure it in place with the cleverly designed thick bars. The overall rack can be safely secured onto the loading bars.
Loading Capacity: N/A
Key Features: Thief-proof locking system, steel construction, easy install system
Yescom Kayak Arm Roof Rack
Overview: Yescom’s kayak arm roof rack is a universal holder that can fit onto all car models and loading bars. It’s extremely easy to attach and detach from your roof rack system.
The soft rubber pads on the arms protect your canoe from damage and scratches. This product is great for anyone who is looking for a one-stop kayak transportation product. It includes all the needed accessories to safely secure the arms to the load bars as well as secure the kayak to the arms.
Loading Capacity: N/A
Key Features: Comes with all accessories, affordable, rubber pads, easy to attach and detach
A roof rack can ultimately make your life easier by adding some extra storage space to your car. When you follow the above-mentioned key considerations, then you’ll be able to purchase the perfect roof rack, accessories, towers, and loading bars.
The most important thing to remember is that the product should be durable, be able to hold heavy things, and be wind resistant for improved fuel consumption.
Whether you want to invest in a rack, tray, or bar-system one thing is for sure, adding this feature to your car will give you the opportunity to transport luggage, sporting and camping equipment with a breeze.