Best Jeep Roof Racks: Boost Your Jeep’s Carrying Capacity
Going on road trips doesn’t have to be complicated—simply get a Jeep roof rack.
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BY William Byrd / LAST UPDATED ON October 15, 2021
Jeep builds some of the best road trip vehicles on the market, and our staff has gone on many Wrangler adventures, both on and off-road. There’s typically just one problem to overcome: where do you put all your stuff? A roof rack is one of the simplest solutions, and there are tons of options available. Some are all-in-one rack solutions, and some are just crossbars that allow you to mount a variety of other products to haul bikes, skis, kayaks, and more. Let’s get started with our guide to the best Jeep roof racks, and you’ll be out on your next trek in no time.
Your adventure begins with this Arksen rack that measures an impressive 64 inches long by 39 inches wide. It has a max load capacity of 150 pounds which means it will hold quite a bit of your gear! This Arksen rack has a universal mounting system that fits a variety of vehicles.
- Made of powder-coated steel for better protection from rust
- Includes four thick U-bolts to secure it to your vehicle's crossbar system.
- Steel wind deflector helps eliminate resistance, improving your car’s fuel consumption and overall performance
- Thin gauge steel means a lighter load rating than some pricier racks
- Uneven weight distribution could cause the rack to lose some of its structural integrity
Our value rack pick holds up to 120 pounds and features a compact basket design measuring 45 inches long by 35 inches wide that attaches to a variety of crossbar solutions. The Reese Explore cargo basket is easy to install with just a screwdriver so you’ll quickly be off on your next adventure.
- Covered in a black powder coat for added protection and durability
- Slim, light design, means that it does not add a lot to the total vehicle height
- Easy installation with basic tools
- Load capacity is a less because of low gauge steel used
- Smaller size means it may not align to all crossbar gaps
Last but not least, the Smittybilt Defender holds up to 150 pounds and features a nearly square compact basket design (60 inches long by 56 inches wide). That means you can remove your Wrangler’s Freedom Panels with the rack-mounted and enjoy some of that open-air motoring Jeeps are famous for.
- Multiple mounting options offer a secure attachment to any vehicle
- Welded light tabs (four front and two rear) for added accessories
- Compact design does not take up the entire roof which frees up space to remove roof panels
- Smaller footprint compared to some racks
- Load capacity is a bit less than others as well
- A bit heavy for its size
Why Trust Us
Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Best Jeep Roof Racks Reviews & Recommendations 2021
How We Selected the Products
We researched dozens of Jeep roof racks jacks currently available for sale, and carefully weighed dozens of owner comments on each product. We weighed the owner assessments against our own expertise, which includes nearly 20 years of experience conducting amateur repairs on old and new cars. We also prioritized well-known, high-quality Jeep roof rack brands and owner reports that spoke to construction quality, ease of use, and durability.
Our product selections, rankings, and awards for this story are based on research. While we haven’t conducted real-world testing yet on all of these products yet, we’ve looked at consumer testimonials and data, tutorials, and general discussions on social media and in forums. We also consider price and specification in the context of the segment. And, of course, we rely on our institutional knowledge of the automotive landscape to weed out weak products.
Best Floor Jacks Buying Guide & FAQs
Benefits of a Jeep Roof Rack
- More room inside the vehicle. Have you experienced an uncomfortable journey because of bags and boxes piled around you or your passengers inside your vehicle? A roof rack frees up room in the cabin to make for a smooth and relaxing ride.
- Carry large items. No matter how much room you have inside your vehicle, you might struggle to fit large or oddly-shaped equipment inside. Fortunately, a roof rack provides a solution to the problem.
- Safe transportation. Putting equipment on the top roof of your vehicle rather than beside the passengers keeps everyone safe inside the vehicle. During an emergency stop, items are less likely to fall or crash onto people inside.
Understanding Roof Rack Attachment Options
There are a variety of attachment options to consider before purchasing a new roof rack. Many vehicles, likely your Jeep, came from the factory with some sort of roof rail, but if they did not, there are still quite a few options out there to get you out on your next adventure.
Side Rail — Flush
This type of roof mount is functional and looks stylish on top of a vehicle. This rail sits directly on the roof and provides a streamlined appearance. Plus, these racks sit lower, making them suitable for taller vehicles to travel through garages and height-restricted areas with no hassle.
Side Rail — Raised
A raised rail roof rack is popular standard equipment on station wagons, SUVs, and minivans. You can easily add adjustable crossbars or a roof basket, which means you have the flexibility to place your load where you want it on the roof.
These factory-added tracks run from the front to the back along the outer edges of your Jeep’s roof. The tracks run parallel to one another and allow you to add a crossbar system. This type of roof rack is versatile due to its flexible positioning which means you can adjust your roof rack to exactly where you need it.
This type of attachment allows you to secure a crossbar along the outer edge of the roof at two points on each side. Generally, the connection points are located under a removable panel or a flip-up panel, making them a subtle design.
It’s a common misconception that you can’t mount anything to your vehicle without some type of rail. There are products that attach securely to the top of the window frame to allow you to mount a crossbar and give you some of the same capability of more permanent rail-mounted solutions.
Arksen prides itself in developing products and transportation for explorers. This company launched in 2017 and is based in London. Roof racks are just some of the products it carries. We recommend the Arksen Universal Roof Rack, which features 64 inches in length for increased space.
Reese was started back in 1952 and has been producing towing and storage-focused products for a variety of vehicles ever since. The Reese Explore Rooftop Cargo Basket from Amazon is a great choice if you want a smaller footprint roof basket. It’s intended to fit a variety of vehicles and crossbar solutions.
Smittybilt was started back in 1956 and has been producing off-road and automotive parts for a variety of vehicles ever since. The Smittybilt Defender Light Cage for Jeep JK is a great choice if you want a square roof basket. It’s intended for the JK Wrangler, but Smittybilt has products for the JL as well as older Jeeps and non-Wranglers.
Jeep Roof Rack Pricing
- $70 to $200: A variety of roof basket-style racks are available in this range. Made of fairly durable powder-coated material, they will tackle a variety of hauling duties. Do not expect crossbars to be included, that’ll cost you extra. Expect load capacities under 200 pounds.
- $200 to $600: If you can spend a bit more money, you will find roof racks with more aerodynamic designs that can reduce noise and movement while traveling. Most racks in this price range are easy to install and will have higher load capacities in the 300 pounds range (while on the move).
- $600 to $1000: These products don’t necessarily increase the load capacity, but typically have premium materials and add upgrades like mounting points for aftermarket lights, and more.
- $1000 and up: The top-spec roof racks deliver full exoskeleton construction with ultra-slim designs. Made from the highest grade material, this is the route you’ll want to go if you plan to camp on top of your Jeep.
This is possibly the most important feature of a roof rack, as you’ll have to calculate how much equipment you’ll be carrying and its weight before making a purchase. The average rack can hold at least 80 pounds, but note whether it mentions static or dynamic weight. Static refers to the amount of weight the rack will hold while stationary (i.e. camping) and dynamic is the amount of weight it will hold while out on the road or trails. Also, carefully consider the shape and weight distribution of the items you plan to transport and make sure they will work with your new rack.
Weight and Construction
The rack should be made from durable, sturdy materials while remaining a light bar. The heavier the roof rack, the more weight it’ll add to your vehicle, which can increase fuel consumption. Look for materials such as aluminum, which is 30 percent lighter than steel but still provides exceptional strength and load-carrying capacity.
Once you’ve placed your equipment on the roof rack, you want it to remain still throughout the journey. Look into the different straps included (or not included) to prevent any accidents during your journey. The roof rack should be capable of securely holding items you plan to transport, such as a kayak, and be a suitable size and shape for your items.
- Profile. A low-profile roof rack makes loading and unloading your equipment easier. It also allows you to access low parking garages and other height-restricted areas. A low-profile rack can also eliminate rattling and wind noise since it’s fixed lower on your roof and can even offer better fuel mileage.
- Installation. It doesn’t matter if this is your first or fifth roof rack; you want the installation to be simple. Read customer testimonials to see how the crossbars, basket, etc. attach to your mounting points to find out what you’re getting into.
- Load Rating. Be aware of your vehicle’s roof load rating before placing belongings on top of the roof. The dynamic roof weight limits for your vehicle can be found in your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Roof racks have a maximum load, but if your vehicle’s roof doesn’t support an equivalent figure, you may cause damage to your vehicle. Take the vehicle load rating and deduct the roof rack’s weight plus any accessories and gear.
- Low-profile racks are a great choice, even for rugged vehicles like Jeeps. This is because they make loading and unloading luggage easier and have better wind dynamics.
- If you have to choose between a modular roof rack and a non-modular one, go with the modular one. You can test out different setups, each of which uniquely meets your loading needs.
- Jeep roof racks made of steel can be susceptible to rust. While most are powder-coated for added protection, watch for nicks and dings that can expose the bare steer. Be sure to occasionally check for signs of rust.
Q: Which is the best material for a Jeep roof rack?
Most roof racks are made of powder-coated steel. While steel may make them durable, they may not be high-quality. Aluminum can perform better than steel in regards to carrying capacity and rust resistance.
Q: Will a roof rack damage my Jeep?
Not if it’s correctly installed. Roof rack manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure that their racks do not damage any vehicle parts.
Q: Is a roof rack a permanent fixture?
Most people who install roof racks on their Jeeps leave them there to avoid the hassle of having to reinstall them. However, if you prefer to remove your roof rack every now and then, it’s possible, depending on the rack.
The 64-inch Arksen Universal Roof Rack is very popular, and it’s a great starting point for a long off-road trip.
But if you want an affordable alternative, you should choose the Reese Explore Rooftop Cargo Basket.