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Which Roof Rack Fits Your Vehicle? Depends on Your Roof

With so many vehicle types and so many roof rack options available, you may be uncertain where to start when purchasing a roof rack. Fortunately, finding the right roof rack to fit your vehicle is actually pretty simple.You can use our fitguide as a shortcut to see a list of rack systems designed for your year/make/model. Or, you can read on below for a better understanding of how a roof rack setup works and which components are necessary for your vehicle.Read on to learn:
  • Are Roof Racks Universal?
  • What Type of Roof Do I Have?
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Roof Cargo Box on Roof Rack
Kayak on Roof Rack

Are Roof Racks Universal?

It would be a lot easier if they were, but no, most roof racks are not universal.Luckily, though, most vehicles are able to support a roof rack. The roof rack that fits your vehicle depends on:
  • The contour of your roof
  • The components already on your vehicle
For instance, a small, sporty coupe with a bare roof will require different roof rack equipment than an SUV with OEM rails. The curvature of their roofs and the starting components are different.The three main components of a roof rack setup are:
Fit Kit on Roof Rack

Fit Kit

Also known as clips. Vehicles with naked roofs, flush side rails, and flat tracks require a custom fit kit. For these vehicles, which do not feature raised side bars or a pre-existing roof rack, fit kits provide a base onto which the foot pack attaches. Vehicles with naked roofs typically use fit kits that clamp around the door jamb. Vehicles with existing flush side rails or mounting points will generally use fit kits that attach to the rails or mounting points/holes themselves.
Foot Pack on Roof Rack

Foot Pack

Also known as towers. Four feet connect to the custom fit kit and provide attachment points for the roof-rack crossbar. For vehicles with raised side rails, no fit kit is necessary, so the foot pack simply attaches to the existing rails.
Crossbars on Roof Rack


Also known as load bars. The last part of the system to be installed, crossbars provide the usable portion of your roof-rack system where carriers or accessories will be mounted. The length of the crossbars will be specific for your vehicle. Crossbars come in aero (most aerodynamic), round, and square (least aerodynamic) shapes.Most roof-rack-mounted carriers and accessories will fit nearly all square, round, aero and elliptical bars on the market. However, if you have a specific idea what you want to transport, you may want to choose your carrier first to avoid compatibility issues.
Read on below for help determining what type of roof you have and which components you'll require for your roof rack setup.

What Type of Roof Do I Have?

Your roof should fall into one of the following categories:
  • Naked roof
  • Factory-installed raised side rails
  • Factory-installed flush side rails
  • Fixed mounting points
  • Factory-installed flat tracks
  • Factory-installed roof rack with crossbars
Roof Rack on Vehicle
Note: *Naked roofs, roofs with flush side rails, and roofs with flat tracks require all three components. Roofs with raised side rails and roofs with factory roof racks/crossbars typically just need a foot pack and crossbars.
You can read more about each of these roof types—and what roof rack components are required—below.
Watch Now: Roof Rack Installation on Naked Roof

Roof Racks for Vehicles with Naked Roofs

Vehicles with naked roofs have no tracks or rails and therefore require multiple components to complete a roof rack system. Our fitguide will automatically group these items together for your convenient selection.
Required Components:
  • Fit Kits (A)
  • Foot Pack (B)
  • Crossbars (C)
Roof Rack on Vehicle with Naked Roof
Some naked-roof vehicles will require a short-roof adapter. Adapters are typically used on small two-door vehicles with short or curved roof lines. A short-roof adapter increases the distance between crossbars for proper spacing, which provides better weight distribution for mounted cargo and equipment. This will also increase the carrying capacity of your rack.
Watch Now: Roof Rack Installation on Factory Raised Side Rails

Roof Racks for Vehicles with Factory Raised Side Rails

Raised side rails are most common on minivans and SUVs. They run from front to back on your vehicle and can provide attachment points for an aftermarket roof-rack system.
Required Components:
  • Foot Pack (A)
  • Crossbars (B)
Roof Rack on Vehicle with Raised Side Rails
Watch Now: Roof Rack Installation on Flush Side Rails

Roof Racks for Vehicles with Factory Flush Side Rails

Factory flush rails run from front to back on your vehicle and can provide attachment points for an aftermarket roof-rack system. The fit kit will attach to these rails rather than your door jamb.Required Components:
  • Fit Kits (A)
  • Foot Pack (B)
  • Crossbars (C)
Roof Rack on Vehicle with Factory Flush Side Rails
Roof Rack on Vehicle with Factory Flush Side Rails
Watch Now: Roof Rack Installation on Fixed Mounting Points

Roof Racks for Vehicles with Fixed Mounting Points

Fixed mounting points will generally have a cover that can be removed so that you can attach a roof rack.
Required Components:
  • Fit Kits (A)
  • Foot Pack (B)
  • Crossbars (C)
Roof Rack on Vehicle with Factory Flat Tracks
Vehicle with Factory Roof Rack

Vehicles with Factory Roof Racks/Crossbars

If your vehicle came equipped with a roof rack that has crossbars, you may not need an aftermarket roof-rack system. Most roof-rack-mounted carriers and accessories on the market will fit factory load bars. If the carrier that you would like to use does not fit your factory bars, adapters may be available.Be sure to check your owner's manual for the capacity of your factory roof-rack system. OEM racks are generally not built to support as much weight as aftermarket systems. If you intend to use your roof rack for heavy loads, you may want to add aftermarket crossbars to boost the carrying capacity of your system. To do this, follow the instructions for Factory-Installed Raised Side Rails.Required Components:
  • None
Save or Share This Idea
Written by: Amber S.Updated on: 6/28/19

Stetson G.


I’m looking for a functional, economical, flat roof basket 5’- 6’ long, preferably aluminum that can be easily mounted on the side roof racks on my ‘08 VW Touareg with a range of available accessories. What do you recommend?

David B.


For that size, I'm thinking about the Curt Roof Mounted Cargo Basket - 62-1/2" Long x 37" Wide x 4" Deep - 150 lbs # C18115-117 or the Surco Safari Rack 5.0 Rooftop Cargo Basket for Factory Rails - 60" Long x 45" Wide # SPS4560-1101. Pick your poison.

Stetson G.


@DavidB Ive looked at both these options but would prefer a flat platform solution of similar dimensions, made of aluminum- Any further ideas would be much appreciated!

David B.


I mean you did say basket and not platform lol... You'll need cross bars and feet # INXB100-2 # INXS100 if you don't already have them. These will let you use the Inno Roof Deck Platform Rack for Crossbars - Aluminum - 55" x 55" - 165 lbs # INA520. This is going to be a decent enough system to use.



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