How Much Does It Cost to Add Roof Rails to a Car?

How much does it cost to add roof rails to a car? It’s a common question for people who need a roof rack for their car.

You need a roof rack system to carry oversized items like kayaks, paddle boards, a luggage carrier, or other gear on top of your car. But what happens if you don’t have a rack on your car, or even worse, have a “naked” roof with no roof rails? In this blog post, we will look at the cost of adding roof rails to a car and some of the benefits that come with them. 

How Much Are Roof Rails for a Car?

Generally speaking, adding aftermarket roof rails to a car can range from around $100 for a basic model to more than $500 for top-end models. The cost of adding roof rails to a car will depend on the make and model of your vehicle. For example, some cars have roof moldings with bolts underneath to add rails, while others have a “naked” roof.

What Are Roof Rails?

Roof rails run along the outer edge of a vehicle’s roof (from front to back), providing an attachment point for a roof rack (or crossbars) that runs side to side. Roof rails are usually made of lightweight metal like aluminum. The rails provide a solid attachment point for the rack so that you can strap down your gear.

What Happens if Your Car Doesn’t Have Roof Rails?

If your car doesn’t have roof rails installed, no worries. You can add them with aftermarket roof rail accessory kits. Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, there might be several different options.  

Types of Roof Rails

Depending on your vehicle’s make, you may have several choices regarding roof rails. Some cars are deceiving and come with roof molding along the top outside edge of the roof. Underneath the molding, you will likely find “studs” or bolts sticking up where you can add rails. In this case, you can order factory rails from the dealer or find aftermarket rails that will fit your car.  

Other vehicles have a “naked” roof and do not have the previously mentioned molding with studs hiding underneath. If your car has a naked roof, you must buy “feet” or towers, which can be expensive. The feet are attached to the strongest part of your roof, typically right above the doors.

How Do You Install Roof Rails?

It is important to note that the installation process for roof rails will vary depending on the make and model of your car. However, installing roof rails on your car is pretty easy if you are a do-it-yourselfer.

For cars with roof molding and studs underneath, you can remove the molding and follow the instructions to install the roof rails. If DIY is not your thing, you can take your car to a qualified professional who will know what to do. This might mean taking your car to a dealership, a mechanic, or a body shop.

If your car has a naked roof (i.e., no existing rails or molding), a roof rack system like Yakima or Thule is a great option. Of course, you can find other aftermarket brands, but Thule and Yakima are some of the top brands in this space. And the towers that come with these racks are easy to install.

What Do You Want to Carry?

When deciding whether to add roof rails to your car, it’s important to determine what you want to carry on your roof. Roof racks have a weight limit, and the roof of your car also has a weight limit. So determine what you want to transport, check with your vehicle manufacturer, and ensure the roof and the rack can support your gear. 

Make Sure the Roof Rails Fit Your Car

This may seem obvious, but you must ensure the roof rails fit your vehicle. Often when you buy roof rails online, there will be a size or fit guide to ensure the rails fit your car. But that’s not always the case.

So, if you purchase aftermarket rails, it’s critical to ensure they work. You can check with your vehicle manufacturer or call the dealership for guidance if you are in doubt. The last thing you want is to buy rails that won’t fit your car. 

Cost Factors to Consider When Adding Roof Rails

The cost of adding roof rails to your car will depend on the make and model of your vehicle as well as the type of roof rail system you choose. Factory-installed roof rails might be more expensive than aftermarket models, but they often have a warranty.

Additionally, the installation cost will vary depending on the job’s complexity and whether you choose to do it yourself or hire a professional. 

But some aftermarket roof racks and rails from companies like Thule and Yakima are costly but well-designed, well-built, and have a great warranty. Plus, you can get towers and racks that fit a specific function, like transporting kayaks, paddle boards, skis, bikes, camping gear, etc. 


Adding roof rails to your car is a great way to increase functionality so you can haul your gear. While installation can be tricky, it is relatively easy to do with the right tools and instructions. Various roof rail systems are available to fit your budget and car.

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About the author
Steve Morrow
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.