Why Are Roof Racks So Expensive? Price Tag Breakdown

durable roof rack on top of vehicle

When looking for a great roof rack, you may be shocked by the seemingly high prices.. This comes as a surprise to many people, since they don’t expect bars of metal to cost much.

After all, how can a simple metal bar cost so much?

There are many factors that make roof racks expensive, such as high-quality materials, capabilities, features, and top-notch engineering to ensure vehicle compatibility and aerodynamic design.

You see, the specifications of a roof rack play a crucial role in determining its price. Some racks are designed with advanced features and cutting-edge technology, making them more expensive.

These racks are built to withstand the harshest conditions and provide maximum durability and security for your gear.

On the other hand, there are more affordable options available that may not offer the same level of quality or features.

Now, you might be wondering why you should invest in a high-quality roof rack when there are cheaper alternatives out there.

Well, my friend, let me tell you why. A top-notch roof rack not only ensures the safety of your belongings but also enhances your overall driving experience.

It provides a secure and stable platform for transporting your gear, whether it's bikes, kayaks, or luggage. Plus, with advanced engineering and design, these racks are built to minimize wind resistance and noise, making your journey smoother and more enjoyable.

Stay tuned as I dive deeper into the world of roof racks and provide you with expert advice and recommendations to help you make the best choice for your situation.

What Makes Roof Racks Expensive?

Roof racks aren’t as simple as you might think.

They are more than metal bars that sit on the roof of your car.

Roof racks are engineered using high-quality materials and special designs to support a large amount of weight on top of a car using minimal contact points.

The biggest reason why roof racks are expensive is because of the high-quality designs. Roof racks must be able to withstand high speeds and wind resistance. This requires a lot of special design features and high-quality parts in all sections of the roof rack.

Let’s break down these components.

1. Aerodynamics

Roof racks must be very aerodynamic to prevent adding unnecessary stress to the vehicle’s roof.

Without an aerodynamic design, wind at high driving speeds will push down on the rack and magnify its weight. It could also do the opposite and cause the roof rack (specifically its cargo) to lift off the car. Roof racks are designed for air to pass over and under the rack evenly.

Roof racks must also be aerodynamically designed to achieve the best gas mileage. Having a roof rack can increase drag, therefore burning more gas, especially at high speeds. Good roof racks are designed to reduce the amount of drag to increase gas mileage.

2. High-Quality Materials

Even with a great design, a roof rack will not be strong without high-quality construction. This contributes to the high cost of many roof racks.

Many expensive roof racks are made of lightweight aluminum to reduce the weight of the rack. Other high-quality parts and pieces of the roof rack will also contribute to an increased price.

High-quality parts are important when designing a sturdy and long-lasting roof rack.

3. Weight Distribution

Roof racks also have a very small number of contact points with the roof, therefore it is essential to evenly distribute weight. Contact points are the parts of the rack that actually touch the car.

When a roof rack is loaded, the stress from the load must be evenly distributed throughout the rack’s contact points. If weight isn’t well-distributed, excessive force could be exerted upon certain contact points, which could damage the rack or the vehicle’s roof.

This is also important at high driving speeds.

When wind hits the roof rack at high speeds, it can put a lot of pressure on the contact points. If wind causes the weight to shift to the rear of the rack, it could put excessive force on the rear contact points, damaging the rack or the car’s roof.

Roof racks must be specially designed to avoid these problems, which increases their price.

How Much Do Roof Racks Cost?

There are a wide range of roof racks available on the market. The prices for roof racks vary depending on style, build quality, and intended use.

Here are the main roof rack categories with a price range.

Roof rack type | Price range

Crossbars $50 – $500

Roof cargo boxes $100 – $1,500

Roof baskets $100 – $750

Kayak/Canoe racks $100 – $600

Surfboard racks $100 – $400

Ski/snowboard racks $100 – $600

Bike racks $50 – $800

Roof rack crossbars are the base for all roof cargo add-ons, such as cargo carriers. They allow you to transport items on top of your car without them touching the roof. Transporting is made even easier with cargo carriers, baskets, or other types of racks.

Also check out: Compare Thule roof storage

How Much Should I Spend on a Roof Rack?

Since the price range for roof racks is so wide, you’ll want to know how much you should spend for your situation. There are many factors that affect how much you should spend on a roof rack, so you’ll need to analyze your specific needs.

Although expensive roof racks are generally much better than cheap racks, they might not be the best option for everyone.

Are Roof Racks Worth It?

If you’re considering buying a roof rack, you may wonder if it’s even worth it to buy. Perhaps you can make your own rack? Shove your stuff into your car? Although you could do that… Roof racks are generally worth the price tag! Roof racks come in a wide array of prices and features, which allows you to choose the perfect rack for you.

Read below about when to buy an expensive vs. cheap roof rack.

Are Expensive Roof Racks Worth the Price?

Before spending hundreds on a roof rack, you’ll probably wonder if it’s actually worth the money.

Expensive roof racks are worth the price if you’re using your roof rack frequently, driving at high speeds, or taking a long trip. For these situations, you’ll want a roof rack that is reliable and stable.

With frequent use, you wouldn’t want your roof rack to break quickly. It also must be able to withstand high driving speeds and endure a long trip without losing your cargo.

If at least one of these scenarios applies to you, you should consider purchasing a more expensive roof rack since you’ll need something that is stable and won’t break.

Are Cheap Roof Racks Worth the Savings?

In some cases, expensive roof racks are simply not worth it.

If you’re only going to be using your roof rack a couple of times, especially with light loads, it may be worth it to choose to cheaper roof rack over an expensive one.

Although cheaper racks don’t offer the best quality and stability, they may work well enough to fit your needs. If these scenarios don’t apply to you, you should spend more to get a high-quality roof rack. Don’t take the chance on a cheap rack when hauling cargo!

How Can I Save Money on a Roof Rack?

If you’re in need of a high-quality roof rack but simply cannot afford what you need, there are still options available to you! You could be better off purchasing a used roof rack.

Used roof racks are significantly cheaper, even for high-quality racks and popular brands.

People get rid of their roof racks for several reasons, such as getting a new car. This means there is a wide selection of used roof racks available for sale.

The risk is low when buying a used roof rack since it’s easy to spot damage to the rack. More expensive racks tend to hold up well over time, so this also decreases the risk of a roof rack breaking after you purchase it.

As of writing this article, there are thousands of used roof racks available on eBay.com! You’ll be sure to find a roof rack that fits your needs (and your vehicle).

DIY Roof Rack

If you’re crafty and want to save even more money, you can build your own roof rack! This requires some skills and special tools, so this may not be the best option for everyone.

Click this link for the full DYI roof rack tutorial.

To make your own roof rack, you’ll need the following materials:

  • Table Saw
  • Miter saw
  • Router with various bits
  • Metal cutting saw
  • Sander
  • Drill and various-sized drill bits
  • Salvaged material – oak pallet wood, aluminum channel and square tubing, broken deck swing, armrests from broken office chairs, plywood scraps
  • Linseed oil
  • Various-sized bolts and U-bolts
  • Aircraft cable

The items you will need will vary depending on your vehicle and your available resources. Follow the DIY roof rack tutorial and improvise depending on your situation. There is no single solution to make your own roof rack.

Summary of Roof Rack Costs

Roof racks, contrary to common perception, are complex designs made from high-quality materials to support significant weight with minimal contact points.

Their cost is justified by top-notch engineering that ensures aerodynamics, reducing drag and improving gas mileage, and the use of premium materials like lightweight aluminum.

While there's a broad price range for roof racks, the decision to invest in an expensive one should be based on frequency of use, driving speeds, and trip lengths.

To save money, consider buying a used roof rack or even crafting a DIY version if you have the necessary skills and tools.

Michael Rollins
Cars are my life - 20 years in the fast lane and I'm still hooked. When I'm not under a hood, you'll catch me on a hiking trail, in a coffee shop, or cheering at a baseball game. I'm not just about horsepower and torque, I'm all about life's simple joys. Here to share my car wisdom, making your ride choices a breeze.