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The Best Roof Racks 2021

best roof rack

Installing roof racks to your car makes it even more versatile and capable of holding an array of different cargo. They are available in a range of lengths, which are suitable for the majority of vehicles with raised side roof rails.

The best roof rack is the Thule Aeroblade, which is designed to distribute the air flow better to reduce wind noise and drag whilst driving at high speeds.

Depending upon how frequently you use a roof rack should determine the size of your budget. Many of the premium options use cutting edge technology to ensure that the cross bars produce minimal wind drag and noise.

Table of Contents

Roof Rack Comparison

Roof RackLoad CapacityLength
Thule Aeroblade165 LBS43, 47, 53 & 60 Inches
Apex Universal150 LBSUniversal to 50 Inches
CargoLoc 2-Piece150 LBS52 & 60 Inches
SportRack Complete130 LBSCustom Fit
Malone Auto Racks132 LBS50, 58 and 65 Inches
Vault Cargo Management150 LBS47 Inches
Yakima Whispbar165 LBSCustom Fit

Roof racks can be used in a variety of applications from securing a rooftop cargo box to transporting your bikes with a roof mounted bike rack.

They allow you to carry multiple cargo sizes or shapes that otherwise won’t fit inside of the car. However, you will want to ensure that you don’t exceed the manufacturers load capacity.

Below is a list of the best roof racks that are suitable for a range of vehicles and are capable of carrying up to 165 LBS of cargo.

The Best Roof Rack

1. Thule Aeroblade Roof Rack Bar

Thule are a premium manufacturer of everything they produce and their roof rack cross bars follow that great reputation. The Aeroblade is their most rated model that is available in four different lengths that range from 43, 45, 53 and 60 inches.

These roof racks are designed to fit the majority of vehicles and the brand provides a limited lifetime warranty for peace of mind.

Other features of the Thule Aeroblade Roof Rack Bar include:

  • Sizes range from 43, 47, 53 and 60 inch
  • WindDiffuser that distributes the airflow for reduced wind noise
  • Heavy duty BoxBeam that can withstand 800 LBS of force
  • Hassle-free installation using the SmartSlide system
  • Easy access to the T-slots
  • Available in black or silver finish
  • All mounting hardware and instructions included
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Thule state that these are one of the quietest roof rack cross bars on the market, which is due the patented WindDiffuser technology.

The Aeroblade roof racks by Thule are the best roof racks on the market that combines performance and usability. They do come with a premium price tag but for those that have them installed all-year round, it’s a worthwhile investment.

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2. CargoLoc Aluminum Roof Rack Cross Bars

By far the most popular roof racks on the market are by the CargoLoc brand. They are a 2 piece aluminum cross bar system that are designed for those on a low budget.

In terms of the compatibility, the brand state that these cross bars will fit the majority of vehicles with raised side roof rails with a maximum gap of 46 inches.

Other features of the CargoLoc Aluminum Cross Bars include:

  • 2 piece rack system
  • Rigid aluminum construction
  • Loading capacity of 150 LBS
  • Fully adjustable that clamps to the side rails
  • 52 inches long from end to end
  • Keyed locking mechanism
  • Easy to install
  • Limited lifetime warranty

The CargoLoc aluminum roof racks offer the best value for the money and are fully adjustable to suit most vehicles with raised side roof rails. Although it’s a cheap option, the brand provide a limited lifetime warranty for peace of mind.

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3. Rage Powersports Apex Roof Cargo Bars

The Rage Powersports Apex roof racks are a universal design that fits side rails up to 50 inches from end to end. The brand state that there is no tools required for the installation and they can be easily adjusted using the knobs on each rack.

In order to maximize the durability of these roof racks, they are constructed of high strength aluminum with a load capacity of 150 LBS.

Other features of the Rage Powersports Apex include:

  • Suitable for side rails that are up to 50 inches apart
  • Easy to turn adjustment knobs
  • Rubber coated clamps to prevent damage
  • Key locking mechanism with two sets of keys
  • Zero tools required for the installation
  • Aerodynamic design to reduce wind noise
  • Resistant to corrosion

Overall, the Rage Powersports Apex are excellent all-round roof racks that won’t disappoint. They have an aerodynamic and universal design, which is fully adjustable and are built to last with an aluminum construction.

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4. SportRack Complete Roof Rack System

The SportRack roof rack system is another premium option that is available in multiple models to suit most vehicles. It’s a complete package that includes load bars, hook, locks and all the mounting hardware for an easy installation.

Other features of the SportRack System include:

  • Constructed of durable steel
  • Weight capacity of 130 LBS
  • No drilling required during installation
  • Suitable for carrying most loads
  • Comes as a complete kit

The only drawback compared to the alternatives is that the load capacity is only 130 LBS. However, it’s more than capable of carrying cargo boxes, kayaks and much more.

Although the SportRack roof rack are one of the most expensive within this article, it does have the backing of a reputable brand. They are also available in a range of different sized cross bars to best suit your requirements.

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5. Malone Universal Car Roof Racks

Malone are a brand that are highly reputable within the kayaking industry and they produce their very own roof racks. They are a universal fit for all vehicles and area available in sizes that range from 50, 58 and 65 inches in length.

They are square profile cross bars that are designed to provide a tight and secure fit for any rack accessories that you use.

Other features of the Malone Rack System include:

  • Universal cross bars that fit all factory side rails
  • Choice of 50, 58 and 65 inches in length
  • Suitable for carrying loads of up to 132 LBS
  • Square profile that provide a tight fit for accessories
  • Rust resistant rubberized coating bars
  • Tool-free installation
  • Adjustable mounting towers
  • Key locking mechanism
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Although expensive, Malone are known for their high quality products and these roof racks follow that great reputation. They are built to the highest of standards, available in multiple sizes and come with a lifetime warranty for peace of mind.

The main drawback is the limited weight capacity, which may be an issue for those with large cargo boxes or other heavy loads.

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6. Vault Cargo Roof Rack Cross Bars

The Vault Cargo Roof Racks are another popular option that’s compatible with side rails up to 47 inches apart. They also have a relatively heavy load capacity of 150 LBS, which makes it ideal for the majority of cargo suitable for the roof.

In order to avoid damage to the side rails, these roof racks feature padded clamps that ensure a secure yet safe fit upon your vehicle.

Other features of the Vault Cargo Cross Bars include:

  • Fits side roof rails up to 47 inches
  • Outer dimensions of 54 inches
  • 150 LBS loading capacity
  • Padded clamps that prevent damage
  • Key locking mechanism
  • Easy to adjust
  • Aerodynamic low profile design

Unlike many of the alternatives, it has a single integrated design, which is stronger and easier to install. The Vault Cargo Roof Racks are excellent all-round roof cross bars and very similar to the Rage Powersports roof racks.

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7. Yakima Whispbar Flush Bar Roof-Rack System

The direct competitor to the Thule roof racks is the Yakima Whispbar, which also comes with a lifetime warranty. The brand offer a choice of 25 different configurations of the Whispbar, which allows you to find a model best suited to your requirements.

These roof racks have been designed to reduce noise and air drag, which the brand claim provides up to 70% reduction compared to the competition.

Other features of the Yakima Whispbar include:

  • Suitable for carrying loads up to 165 LBS
  • Easy to install with all the mounting hardware included
  • Integrated SKS locking system
  • Optimized aerodynamic design
  • Each cross bar is sold separately

The yakima Whispbar are the best roof racks that reduce air drag and wind noise, which are far too common when using cross bars. It’s important to note that they are sold separately, which does mean that they are fairly expensive as a pair.

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Roof Rack Buying Guide

Installing roof racks will instantly make your car more practical, free up cargo space and allow you to transport a range of cargo. You may even use tie down straps to secure furniture or other cargo without using any dedicated rack accessories. To help you make an informed buying decision, we have produced the below guide regarding roof racks.

Weight Capacity

All roof racks will have a weight capacity rating that ranges between 130 and 170 LBS. The higher the load quality usually reflects on the quality of the roof rack system.

The Thule Aeroblade is the most durable out of all the roof racks reviewed within this article as its been tested to withstand 800 LBS of force, which is very impressive.

Overloading your roof racks with more weight than the stated load capacity could result in the bars actually bending and becoming unsafe for use.

roof rack crossbars

Aerodynamic Design

A low profile roof rack that is designed to cut through the air with minimal drag is highly advised. They reduce wind noise that can become very frustrating on long road trips as well as reducing drag for improved fuel economy.

However, depending upon the usage of the racks will determine the type of design. For example, a roof rack for a Prius used for daily driving will require an aerodynamic design. However, for Jeep owners or heavy duty vehicles, the noise or drag may not be an issue.

Keyed Locks

To avoid thieves unclamping your roof racks, you will want to ensure that they are lockable. The cargo upon the cross bars could be anything from a kayak to bikes, which can be an expensive loss if stolen from the racks. It’s important to note that not all roof racks will come with locks and may need to be purchased separately.

keyed roof racks

Universal Roof Rack

The main benefit of choosing a universal roof rack is that it can be taken off and used on other cars. Although many say that they are universal, there is still a limit to the width that the adjustable clamp will be able to reach.

For example, many will only span 50 inches and for this reason, if you have an abnormally wide vehicle, you may run into some issues.

Side Roof Rails and Fixing Points

The installation of roof racks is fairly straightforward but they can be installed to different location of the car. These include raised side rails, solid roof rails or fixing points.

Attaching the roof racks to raised side roof rails is the most common form of securing them. Many vehicles have them as standard and they are raised by as little as 1 inch to 3 inches. Solid roof rails are just as common and both are installed in a similar fashion.

It’s important that the clamps you use are either coated or have rubber attached. This will help reduce the chances of any damage, which will be visible once removing the roof racks.

OEM fixing points on a vehicle that allow you to simply screw in the roof rack on either side of the car. Many modern small cars will not have side roof rails or fixing points but you are still able to install roof racks. You will need a roof rack that secures to the vehicle via a cut-out that slip between the roof and door jamb.

All of the different types of roof rack installation have their own benefits but choosing between them is dependent upon your vehicle.

Roof Rack Cross Bar


If you want to make your vehicle more practical and increase storage space, simply install roof racks. From hauling your goods on a road trip to moving furniture, they are the answer to a range of applications that require moving things with your vehicle.

For those that spend a lot of time driving at speeds greater than 40 MPH, we strongly recommend going for an aerodynamic roof rack that cuts out noise. The whistling noise can become seriously irritating on long journeys.

The Thule Aeroblade is the best roof rack within this article but not everyone will be able to invest that amount of money to a pair of roof racks. Therefore, the Apex alternative would be the better option for those on a budget.

procarreviews author

Written By Dan

About the Author

Dan is an automotive journalist and owner of over 10 cars ranging from supercars, tuned cars, classics and your good old beater cars. He always likes to get his hands dirty with nut and bolt restorations or detailing sessions using the best products on the market.

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