We’ve all been there; you think you can fit something into the trunk of your car that just isn’t going to go — no matter how many ways you pivot it. But there’s no need to limit the cargo potential of your car to just the cabin and trunk. As a very handsome man once said, “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.” In this case, dreaming bigger comes in the form of a high quality automobile roof rack. Roof racks, specifically those with crossbars, provide the base with which you can mount any number of things to the top of your vehicle. With car roof racks, there’s (almost) no limit to what you can carry.
If you’re driving cross country or traveling in inclement weather, for example, you can mount a waterproof cargo box to safely protect and transport your belongings. And if you’re heading to the mountains, crossbars can be used to haul your kayaks or mountain bikes. Some people even set up sleeping campers on the roof of their SUV when they go out camping. As long as you’re safe, mindful of weight limitations, and make sure to properly tie your equipment down, the opportunities are endless.
There are some important things to bear in mind, however. For one thing, you have to make sure your car is properly equipped to carry these crossbars. All of the options on this list are required to be attached to existing side rails. Plus, most of these options mount to raised side rails — namely, rails that have a gap between them and the roof. If your car meets those requirements, then these are the best roof rack carriers to get.
1. CargoLoc 2-Piece 52″ Aluminum Roof Top Cross Bar Set
An affordable and easy-to-install option is this pick from CargoLoc. This crossbar set is widely adjustable, and it’s designed to fit side rails that are a maximum of 46 inches apart and a minimum 27 inches apart. It features clamps that are tightened into place using an Allen wrench, which makes attaching and removing these bars very easy. It’s not too easy, however. That’s because a key lock prevents the rails from coming unscrewed, either by loosening or would-be thieves. The clasp design means they only work with cars with raised side-rails, rather than flush ones. The total capacity of these roof bars is 150 pounds.
Pros: Adjustable length to suit various cars. Easy installation and removal using a clamp system, but a key lock ensures that the rails are secure.
Cons: Only works with raised side rails. Whistling noise from wind at higher speeds. Rails are aluminum and therefore won’t rust, but the keyhole can potentially rust.
2. YAKIMA – Jetstream Bar
When it comes to roof rack bars, Yakima is one of the most trusted names in the game. But rather than rest on their laurels, they continue to innovate, like with this set of “Jetstream” crossbars. Rather than the traditional round shape, they have a curved angle that’s designed to make them more aerodynamic. By improving aerodynamic performance, they also reduce noise that can come from driving at high speeds. The Jetstreams come in three sizes to suit your car.
Pros: Aerodynamic shape, trusted brand. Lightweight but sturdy aluminum.
Cons: You’ll need to buy the mounts separately, making this an expensive option.
3. StayThere Roof Rack Crossbars
If you have a car with raised side rails, then these affordable and convenient crossbars from StayThere are worth considering. They have a rubberized grip that prevents damage to the side rails, and they’re adjustable for a near-universal fit. The crossbars are made from lightweight aluminum and they have an aerodynamic shape. An anti-theft key is included, allowing you to lock the crossbars in place to prevent them from being removed.
Pros: Lightweight and aerodynamic. Rubber grips for a secure fit without damaging the side rails.
Cons: Only works with raised side rails.
4. BRIGHTLINES Cross Bars Roof Racks Replacement
While there are many universal options on the market, you might get better results with roof racks that are designed for the car you have. Brightlines produces a wide variety of roof racks that are custom-designed for many different cars. If you have a Toyota Highlander XLE or Limited (2014-2019), then this set of racks can be a good option. It includes the mounting towers and is designed to easily attach to the Highlander’s existing rails.
Pros: Affordable custom option for Highlander. The brand also makes custom options for plenty of other cars. Easy install.
Cons: Included bolts are prone to stripping.
5. Summates Universal Roof Top Cargo Rack Cross Bars
These crossbars from Summates are an affordable option that is designed to offer a universal fit. They’re available 47″ and 55″ lengths to suit a variety of vehicle types. They include convenient clamps to attach to your side rails, and the included key helps reduce the risk of theft. Not only are they very affordable, but they’re also easy to install, so you can set them up and hit the road right away.
Pros: Affordable, easy to install. Lockable design minimizes risk of theft.
Cons: End caps can come off, which doesn’t affect the load-bearing but may result in a whistling noise.