Buying a roof rack requires research and planning. Nowadays, you can’t just get any roof racks without assessing their fit and compatibility with your vehicle - which brings the question of whether or not you can put any roof rack on any car.
You can use universal roof racks with crossbars generally intended for vehicles like passenger cars, crossovers, and SUVs. However, buying roof rack systems designed for your car would be a better option. This way, you can be assured that all the parts fit and are fastened correctly.
In this article, I'm going to dive into the compatibility of roof racks with different car types, brands, models, and makes. So, let’s get to it!
Do All Roof Racks Fit All Cars?
No, most roof racks are specific to certain vehicles, which means you can’t simply transfer a roof rack system from a jeep to an SUV. Instead, you have to consider factors such as the type of car roof, clearance, and dimensions.
On the other hand, there are still versatile roof racks that might fit multiple types of vehicles. But these are coming rare nowadays as most manufacturers are leaning more on vehicle-specific roof rack systems instead of the previous one-rack-fits-all.
That way, it’s safer, considering the rack is fitted perfectly for the said car. In addition, you can avoid unnecessary damage caused by incompatibility or poor installation.
For instance, if you install a roof rack with unmatched clearance, the crossbars may touch the roof surface directly and cause scratches when driving through bumpy roads.
What Do You Need To Put a Roof Rack on a Car?
Installing a roof rack on a car is a task anyone can do in less than an hour. Factory roof racks are designed for quick mounting with materials you can assemble quickly. You don’t even need sophisticated tools. Instead, you can rely on essential tools to fasten the rack on the car roof.
There are many ways to put up a roof rack on a car. But the materials are often the same, almost all the time. A typical roof rack system has crossbars, fit kits, and footings or towers.
The crossbars go across the roof and are positioned horizontally against the car’s body. There are typically one pair of crossbars. You place one near the front and the other on the rear part of the upper roof. Next, the footings hold the crossbars ensuring they don’t stick to the roof. Then, the fit kit, which might include clamps, screws, and bolts, secures the footings and crossbars on top of the railing or gutter.
For cars with a bare roof, the rack is often attached to the overhang of the car doors since it doesn’t have any rails for anchorage. In this case, the fit kits usually have clamps or stickers to ensure that the footings are not moved during travel.
Door jam racks have become more popular for those who only use roof racks for specific events.
For example, if you only need the rack during winter when you can go skiing, you can opt to have it removed and stored on other days. On the other hand, if you’re regularly using the roof rack, it’s best to go for factory racks that can stay permanently on your car.
How Should You Choose a Roof Rack for Your Car?
Roof racks provide added value to your car. So, it only makes sense to ensure that whichever roof rack system you buy suits your vehicle best. Here are the things you can consider to land the best roof rack system for your cargo needs.
1. Find a Roof Rack Designed for Your Vehicle’s Make and Model
Although you can go for universal roof racks like the Amazon Basics universal cross rail roof rack compatible with cars, SUVs, and crossovers, it’s still ideal to choose roof racks designed for your vehicle.
Suppose you have a Jeep Patriot (2007-2017). You can go for the YITAMOTOR roof rack cross bars as it is specifically made for the said model and makes. One clear advantage of getting roof racks made for your vehicle is that you can be assured that the materials fit the roof's dimensions perfectly.
Here are some other examples of roof racks you can buy online with their compatible vehicles:
- OCPTY Cross Bars Roof Rack - Best for: Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Suburban/Tahoe, GMC Yukon (2015-2020)
- MOSTPLUS Roof Rack Cross Bar Rail - Best for: Nissan Rogue (2014-2018)
- HEKA Cross Bars - Best for: Hyundai Palisade (2019-2022)
- JDMON Roof Rack Cross Bars - Best for: KIA Sorento (2015-2018)
- HEKA Cross Bars Roof Racks - Best for: Ford Escape (2012-2019)
2. Consider the Type of Car Roofs You Have
Most roof racks come with crossbars suited for car roofs containing rails. So, if you buy this kind of roof rack but your roof is not exactly compatible, you might end up wasting money.
That said, it’s wise to check your roof rack type first. Use the following reference.
- Bare roof - This has no pre-installed factory rack or rail. So look for roof racks that can be clipped under the roof without the need for drilling, like the SportRack Complete Roof Rack System.
- Raised rail - A roof with raised rail is common with SUVs and crossovers. You can easily find plenty of options with this type as most systems are designed with crossbars for rails.
- Rain gutter - Older vehicular models usually have rain gutter on the roof instead of rails. But you can still find roof racks with higher clearance that fit the gutter grove well.
- Fixed points - Some vehicles have connection points parallel to one another when you can fasten the roof rack fit kit.
3. Go for Durable Roof Rack Systems
Once you confirm the compatibility of your target roof rack, it’s time to assess its quality. Choose the roof rack system made of fade-resistant, anti-corrosive, and waterproof materials.
Likewise, make sure the clamps or fasteners have protective rubbers or an equivalent covering. Otherwise, water can just get through these points and destroy the crossbars from the inside.
Aside from checking the features of the rack system, you can also look into reviews to confirm the condition and quality of the crossbars and fit kits.
4. Make Sure the Roof Rack Is Compatible With Your Intended Load
Roof racks carry different oversized loads. However, it’s ideal to figure out what type of cargo you plan to haul on the crossbar so you can also consider other accessories you want to have.
For example, skis and snowboards can be more stable during transport if you have a cargo box designed precisely for these items. Likewise, if you’re thinking of hauling a kayak or a canoe, you can also have the option of installing soft roof rack pads or putting an additional carrier like a roof box or basket.
Roof racks are incredibly useful when transporting large items. However, you can’t simply buy roof racks the same way you pick canned goods from the market aisle.
It is imperative to ensure that your roof rack suits your car in terms of form, dimension, capacity, and other factors. With that, always go for roof racks and cargo carriers designed for your vehicle.