How Much Is a Roof Rack? (The Inside Scoop)

Whether you’re looking for a way to carry kayaks on vacation, take extra gear for a camping trip, or need extra space for road trips, a roof rack can be your best friend. But how much does a roof rack cost?

A few factors determine the cost of a roof rack, including the type of vehicle you have, the type of rack you need, and the configuration of your vehicle’s roof. This blog post will share all you need to know if you are in the market for a roof rack.

How Much Is a Roof Rack?

The cost of adding a roof rack to your vehicle varies depending on the vehicle type and what type of roof rack you need. Generally speaking, you can buy a roof rack on the low end for around $100, but you can also spend well over $1,000, depending on your needs.

Types of Roof Racks

You can buy various roof racks depending on your budget, vehicle, and needs. Believe it or not, an inflatable roof rack can get the job done if you need to carry a kayak or paddle board. Yes, they make inflatable roof racks.

If your vehicle has roof rails, a simple solution is to find crossbars that fit your existing setup. However, some cars have a “naked” roof with no rails. In this case, you can add rails (if there is a track on the sides of the roof) or purchase towers (also called feet) that clamp onto the area above the door frame. 

Once you have a foundation with crossbars, you can add all sorts of accessories racks depending on your needs, including:

  • Bike rack
  • Luggage rack
  • Ski rack
  • Kayak rack
  • Cargo carrier

Or you can strap gear directly to the crossbars.

Benefits of Using a Roof Rack

A roof rack is an excellent addition to maximizing storage space on your vehicle. Use the valuable cargo space on top of your car to transport items like kayaks, skis, and camping gear that you otherwise couldn’t. For example, try fitting a kayak in your Honda Civic unless you have an inflatable kayak, which is an entirely different article.

Roof racks are excellent for long road trips using a cargo carrier, luggage rack, etc. We use our roof rack for all sorts of things. We often use the hitch receiver on our SUV to carry bikes, pack the trunk full of gear, and still have extra space for kayaks, paddle boards, or whatever else we can fit up there.

How to Choose the Right Type of Roof Rack

Choosing a roof rack can be daunting and boils down to what you what to transport. However, when you buy a roof rack, you should also plan ahead. You never know what you might need to haul in the future. So buy a versatile roof rack to add accessories without investing in a new system later.

Choosing the right rack for your vehicle also comes down to the type of roof or rails you have. If your car has roof rails but no crossbars, that’s an easy fix. 

You must buy towers and crossbars if your vehicle has a naked roof. Depending on your chosen brand, a high-quality Yakima rack, for example, can run you close to $1,000.

What Are Your Needs

Adding a roof rack to your vehicle is a great place to start. It’s a good foundation. However, you also need to consider what kind of gear you need to transport. There are all kinds of accessories to add to a base roof rack, like ski racks, kayak carriers, bike racks, and luggage carriers.

The list goes on and on. So it’s important to know what you want to put on your rack and buy a roof rack that can accommodate your gear. 

Roof Rack Installation

Installing a roof rack can be very easy. In addition, many of the aftermarket racks are designed for easy installation. However, your car may not have roof rails, or you might think it doesn’t have them. 

Many cars have studs (bolts) built into the gutter track, and you can add roof rails there. The studs are usually covered with a strip that can be removed to expose the bolts. 

The strips run along the roof’s edges from the windshield to the back window. Once the strip is removed and the bolts are exposed, adding roof rails is pretty simple. Then you can add crossbars, and you are all set.

If you are not mechanically inclined, check with an auto shop or a car dealership to see how much they will charge to install the rails and rack for you. They can also help you get the right fit. 

Next point, if you buy roof rails, make sure they fit your vehicle. Sites like etrailer or Amazon often ask for your car’s year, make, and model to verify if the rack will fit.

If your car doesn’t have rails, or the ability to add them, you can buy a roof rack system with towers (also called feet) that are more universal. Yakima and other brands sell these. Of course, you still need to ensure it will fit your car. But there are various parts available to fit different vehicles.

Weight Limit

Before you strap 800 pounds of equipment to your new roof rack, you must make sure the roof and the rack can handle what you put up there. Check the limit of your rack and your roof to ensure you are safely hauling your gear. For instance, the Yakima JayLow kayak cradles have a maximum carrying capacity of 80 pounds.  

Should You Buy a Used Roof Rack?

This is a tough question to answer for a couple of reasons. You can save a lot of money buying used, but you must ensure the rack is in good shape and fits your car.

Depending on the brand, rack manufacturers have a fit guide on their website. You have no idea how the rack has been used or misused. So unless you know the person selling it and trust the rack has been used appropriately, you might be better off buying new.


So, how much does a roof rack cost? There is a wide price range depending on what you need or want. I recommend buying a quality rack with a good warranty from a reliable company. A good roof rack will also allow you to add accessories later.

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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.