Exploring the 7 Different Types of Car Roof Racks – Discussion

There are several types of car roof racks commonly used, including crossbars for versatile attachments, roof baskets for bulkier items, and ski/snowboard racks designed for winter sports equipment.

Are you making a plan to go on vacation for a few days? A roof rack can be a great companion on your journey with your friends and family. It makes carrying travel equipment a breeze and provides more space inside the car, resulting in a more comfortable journey for you and your companions.

Different types of roof racks are available on the market, and if you’re a first-timer, you should know about them; otherwise, your money could be wasted. I’ll discuss the various types of roof racks to make things easier for you. Let’s dive into the discussion!

Types of Roof Racks

Roof racks come in different shapes and sizes, and various types can carry different things, such as sports gear, camping equipment, luggage, and tools. Additionally, if you purchase a durable and highly sophisticated roof rack, you can use it for many years.

Most of the time, roof racks vary based on the type of equipment they can carry. Generally, the primary purpose of roof racks is to carry sports gear, including skis, kayaks, snowboarding, and more.

On the other hand, roof racks also have the capability to carry various household or business tools, such as lumber, tents, ladders, and more.

Now, let’s check the most familiar types of roof racks.

Bike Roof Rack

Bike Roof Rack

This type of roof rack is designed specifically for transporting bikes on the vehicle’s roof. Bike roof racks typically feature adjustable clamps or fork mounts to hold the bike in place securely. Moreover, they are perfect for those who want to transport their bikes to a trailhead or a bike race.

Canoe/Kayak Roof Rack

Kayak Roof Rack

This type of roof rack is designed specifically for transporting canoes or kayaks on the vehicle’s roof. They typically feature padded supports and secure tie-down straps, which can efficiently keep the watercraft in place during transport.

Additionally, canoe/kayak roof racks are ideal for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy kayaking or canoeing.

Surfboard and Paddleboard Rack

Surfboard and paddleboard racks are mainly designed to keep the board flat around both crossbars. The crossbars of many racks come with padding to safeguard the boards against any harm.

Additionally, certain racks permit you to stack several boards on each other, facilitating systematic transportation.

Ski and Snowboard Rack

Ski and Snowboard Rack

Ski and snowboard roof racks are mainly hinged because you must put the skis and snowboards inside the roof. However, check the space carefully if you want to put more than one ski or snowboard. You must keep a minimum amount of space in the rack to prevent damage to the sporting gear.

Cargo Box

Cargo boxes assist in conveying additional gear that doesn’t fit inside your car. They’re usually made of hardened plastic material, and you’ll find different sizes of boxes in the market.

Cargo Basket

Cargo Basket

This type of roof rack consists of a basket on the vehicle’s rooftop. Cargo basket roof racks are ideal for carrying large or bulky items that may not fit in a traditional roof box. Moreover, they are more versatile than roof boxes. The reason is they can carry oddly shaped cargo such as camping gear or sports equipment.

Types of Car Roofs

Different vehicles have different types of roofs. For instance, most SUVs have factory-installed side rails on the roof. On the other hand, other types of cars, such as minivans, convertible cars, etc., possess tracks on top, while some vehicles don’t have anything on top.

Now, I’ll discuss the six most common types of car roofs. Here we go:

Bare Roof

These types of car roofs are also known as naked roofs. They are designed to fit onto vehicles without existing roof rails or tracks. Besides, they don’t have any particular attachment points. For this reason, many people wonder what the solution is for the bare roof.

Well, the perfect solution for these types of roofs is clip fit. Clip Fit racks tension around the car’s door frame that doesn’t contain factory-installed fastening points. Clip fits need two ingredients.

The first one is a universal tower where the clip can conveniently adjust the tower to fit in a car. Here, you have to be careful. These fits should have exact measurements. This is how you can ensure the perfect installation.

You can go for Yakima Baseline or Thule 400xt Aero Foot PackClip Towers. Both are the leading clip towers on the market and get ravishing reviews everywhere.

Elsewhere, the second choice is affecting a customer’s permanent installation. You can use fixed-point mounts for that. It is a permanent installation procedure and provides superior adjustability to place the roof rack in a perfect position in the vehicle.

Fixed Points

This type of roof rack is designed for vehicles with fixed mounting points on the roof. The racks attach to the fixed points, making them more stable and safe on the car’s top. Hence, they are ideal for carrying heavy or bulky cargo, such as a rooftop tent or a large kayak.

Mazda models, BMW sedans, and other cars have fixed mounting points. Four points are built into each side of the car, but they are not visible and usually covered.

Currently, there are various top-notch fixed-point towers available on the market. However, I think Thule Rapid Podium Foot Pack 460R is the best in the business due to its remarkable flexibility and work method.

Side Rails (Raised & Flush)

Side rails are used mainly by SUVs and wagons. These vehicles have pre-installed side rails that run from front to back on the roof. These side rails have strong fastening points that support the car’s roof rack system.

Raised Roof Rails

Raised side rails are structures on the vehicle’s side designed to provide additional support and safety. The main reason to use raised roof rails is to prevent people from falling off the car. This is essential for large-sized vehicles that carry or transport people or cargo.

Inno IN-FR Raised Side Rail Tower Set, Thule Evo Raised Rail Foot Pack 710405 are the two top-notch raised roof rails to use.

Flush Side Roof Rails

Flush side roof rails usually possess pin holes to fit into the towers and sit straight against the roof. They also provide support and security, similar to raised roof rails.

Nevertheless, flush side rails are more streamlined and hidden than raised roof rails.

A unique mounting system is used to install this roof rack. This mounting system attaches the rails directly to the vehicle’s roof, offering a stylish solution for transporting items on the vehicle’s roof.

You can go for Yakima RidgeLine Towers or Thule Podium Foot Pack 460 flush side roof rails.

Rain Gutter Racks

Rain gutter racks are storage systems designed to hold and organize items in the rain gutters of a vehicle. These are the oldest rack models and are primarily accommodated in older vehicles. Hence, you’ll find them on commercial vans and specific SUVs and Jeeps.

On the other hand, these racks are heavily used by business people who need to transport various tools and equipment for business perspectives.

Yakima 1A High Rise and Thule 953 are two highly sophisticated rain gutter racks.

Track System Roof Rack

This roof rack type uses tracks permanently mounted onto the vehicle’s roof. The racks can be easily adjusted along the tracks to accommodate different cargo sizes and shapes.

Track system roof racks are more versatile than other types of roof racks. Moreover, they can be moved to the roof’s separate positions. In addition, they are perfect for carrying various types of cargo, including bikes, skis, and kayaks.

Thule Top Tracks Roof Rack is an excellent example of such a type of rack.

Custom Track Installations

You’ll see many vehicles come with a custom track installation system. A custom track installation provides greater flexibility while placing the roof rack. Besides, you can do permanent custom track installations in your vehicle by visiting a professional.

Yakima Skyline is the best custom track rack due to its sturdiness and easy installation procedure.

Things to Consider Before Choosing a Roof Rack for a Car

Choosing the right roof rack for your car is vital to ensure safe and secure transportation of your gear or equipment. Here are some things to consider before selecting a roof rack for your car:

Check the Roof Type

Closely check the manufacturer’s manual to determine what type of roof your car has. Is it a bare roof or a fixed point? After ensuring, purchase the same roof rack.

Weight Limit

Each car has a specific weight limit on what its roof can bear. Closely check the user manual to learn the car’s weight limit. After that, estimate the equipment’s weight you would like to transport with the rack.

You need to ensure that the weight of the equipment does not exceed the weight limit of the car’s roof.


Find a roof rack that won’t be affected by rust so you can use it for a long time. This is crucial if you live in salty places.

Check Specifications

Roof racks usually come with many specifications. You should thoroughly consider which type of specs are essential to your car. After that, you can begin the purchasing procedure.

Get Consultation

You can consult with other car and roof rack owners or professionals. They can give you the best advice regarding the roof rack.


What’s the Difference Between Crossbars and Roof Racks?

Crossbars are the bars that run across the roof of a vehicle from one side to the other. They provide a secure and stable base for attaching various types of roof rack systems. Crossbars can be factory-installed or aftermarket and come in different shapes, sizes, and materials.
Conversely, a roof rack is a complete system that includes crossbars, mounting feet, and various attachments. It has a modular design.

Why should I purchase a roof rack?

Roof racks are great for carrying more oversized items, such as luggage, kayaks, bikes, etc.

Wrapping Up

Rooftop racks are a superb companion if you’re a frequent traveler who loves skiing, surfing, camping, etc. Therefore, it’s a wise decision to purchase a high-quality roof rack. I’ve given you almost all types of roof racks for cars. I am hoping it will help you to choose the right one.

So, which one are you purchasing for your vehicle? Let us know by leaving a comment below. Good luck!

Automotive products are like an addiction to me. Years ago, I started my job at a Roof Box installation co. Then I realized that I have a passion for cars. It is a perfect scope to share my different experiences about automotive products.