How to Choose a Car Rack

You are active. You don’t stay home and watch TV on weekends. You get out and do sports with friends or family or alone. You ride a bike, ski, snowboard, surf, whatever.

So how do I carry all my gear, you ask? A car rack is the solution. And how can I choose the proper rack? Read the instructions below on how to make the best choices.

Consider Your Sport or Sports

Do you ride mountain bikes? Do you ski? Do you do both? How you answer these and similar questions will help you determine which is the best roof rack for you. If you participate in a number of sports which require a roof rack, your best bet is to choose a basic rack to which you can add different carriers for your different equipment. For instance, you may buy a basic rack and add a carrier for your snowboards and one for your mountain bike. Or you can add a carrier for your surfboard and a hard shell rooftop box. If, on the other hand, you and your family participate in only one sport, then you can choose a rack dedicated to that sport.

Choose Your Rack Type

You have four common types of car racks to choose from: rooftop racks, trunk or deck racks, hitch racks, and spare tire racks. Making the best choice among these four types depends largely on the vehicle type that you own.

Rooftop Racks

If you have an SUV or other vehicle with a factory-installed rack, there are rooftop racks designed to fit these racks. Otherwise a device called a “foot” or a “tower” is available to hold the bars which make up your rack. These clamp to your roof gutter or to the seam between the door and the vehicle frame.

Trunk or Deck Racks

For a sedan or hatchback, a trunk or deck rack may be the best choice. These devices attach with hooks and straps to your trunk or hatchback. Since these are not racks in the strictest sense, they are also referred to as “mounts”.

Hitch Racks

If your vehicle has a receiver hitch, racks are available to fit the particular size that your vehicle sports. If you do not already have a receiver hitch on your vehicle, you might want to look into having one installed.

Spare Tire Racks

If your vehicle sports a spare tire on the back, there may be a rack that fits onto the spare tire.

There are other considerations to take into account when choosing a rack. For instance, a rooftop rack loaded with bicycles may not fit in your garage. You wouldn’t want to forget what you have on top of your car and ruin your bikes, your rooftop rack and the top of your car by driving into a garage with inadequate clearance. Choosing a rack that mounts on the rear of your vehicle may be a better choice.

Another consideration is the weight limits of your vehicle’s roof. Check your vehicle’s owner’s Manual to see if the roof of your vehicle will support the rack and the equipment that you wish to carry.

The only place to carry a kayak or canoe is on a rooftop rack.


Consider carefully your sports habits and save some money. If you participate in only one sport that requires a car rack, then purchase one dedicated to that sport. If you participate in two or more sports requiring a car rack, choose the minimum number of attachable carriers according to your needs.


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