Will A Roof Top Tent Work With My Car?

Is my car suited for a rooftop tent?

This is the first question you should ask yourself before you go ahead and purchase one. It is important for you to know that roof top tents can and will work on any car, however that doesn’t mean your car is ideal for one, or that you will need to buy other accessories such as a rack in order to be able to safely carry one.

Driving across Australia we have seen hundreds of vans (Jucy we’re looking at you), with heavy hard top tents on top of them. 

There are many stories like that, but the truth is that despite the tents working fine on any vehicle, you need to be smart on how you use them or carry them. If you own a sedan, or a very compact vehicle such as a hatchback, keep in mind these tents will have a different impact on your vehicle.

Any rooftop tent will mean an additional weight on top of your roof, and they create a lot of wind resistance.

RTTs tend to be 120 lbs the lightest, and they need to be set up on a set of roof racks (more weight), so if your car is smaller and with less power, then it will be affected more by the additional weight, meaning you'll feel a big change in power, speed and acceleration.

Of course, there are tents such as Featherlite by Front Runner Outfitters, that are less than 100 lbs of weight and are better suited for sedans or smaller cars.

It’s not recommended to keep all that weight on smaller vehicles all the time. Have them on only when you’re going to use them, take them off when you won’t.

On larger, stronger and better equipped vehicles, utes, 4x4s, you can leave them on all the time.

Lastly, before we go onto the next section, the key and most important thing is to understand that in order to carry a roof top tent on your vehicle, any vehicle, you need the appropriate set of either a roof rack or crossbars.

guana equipment wanaka rooftop tent

 Wanaka Roof Top Tent by Guana Equipment


Will My Racks Work With The Roof Top Tents?

Getting the right rack is very important. There are a few recommended brands for roof racks: Front Runner Outfitters, Yakima, Thule and Rhino Rack, but others will work just fine as long as they have the numbers right.  

Roof Top Tents can be installed on flat racks, cross bars or a canopy, what matter is the load rating or weight capacity of the type of system you choose.

You will want to take a look at what is called the Dynamic Weight Capacity (DWC), and that must be at least the weight of the tent. Normally, most car manufacturers and rack brands will call the DWC the “Load Rating” or “Load Capacity”. When we say that the DWC must be at least the weight of the tent, that means that if the tent weighs 130 lbs, the racks MUST have at least that same DWC.

The DWC is the weight that the rack can physically carry while the vehicle is in motion. When the tent is in use, the weight of the tent plus the weight of the occupants is effectively dispersed over the entire frame of the vehicle, so it doesn't matter that you're adding some extra pounds as long as the vehicle is NOT in motion.

Generally, when the car or vehicle is parked, then the load rating of the racks is three or four times as much as when in motion.

When the vehicle is parked, the load rating becomes the Static Weight Capacity (SWC). This is a much, much greater capacity, as the frame of the vehicle will be strong enough to hold the weight of the occupants.

That is why you will see that Front Runner Slimline II racks tend to have a load rating of 600 lbs, that’s when the vehicle is static. That is enough to hold any rooftop tent, with 4 people in it.

With all that said, you do not want to just put your RTT on top of any rack. Let us explain, take as an example Rhino-Racks, their Fixed Mounting Point, Backbones, Gutter Mount and Trackmount (see image below) systems will all work with RTTs, but the 2500 systems might not be recommended since extreme weight increases can alter the engineering of the product. Meaning that before you purchase an RTT, make sure you have a good rack system in place that can hold them.

Rhino Rack RLT600 trackmount cross bars


We highly recommend that you buy aftermarket racks and not use the factory installed racks from the car manufacturer.

One of our preferred rack systems is the Rhino-Rack Backbone system, because it’s one of the safest and strongest. They are specifically designed for an increased Static Weight Capacity, ideal for RTTs.

Another good thing to know is that stock-mounting hardware will on average fit rack bars with a cross-section of 3.25" width x 2" height. Be sure to mount your racks 32"-48" apart on your vehicle!


How About The Weight Capacity Of The Tents?

Front Runner Roof Top Tent

Roof Top Tent by Front Runner
Most of the tents that we offer at Off Road Tents AU have a weight that goes between 100 lbs and 220 lbs, so what tent you choose will depend on how much weight your roof rack can carry. The positive thing is that because we have many different brands and styles of tents, your rack will probably be able to hold at least one of the models in our collection.

You can also choose from our racks. We have cross bars, as well as platform racks such as the Rhino Rack Pioneer or the Front Runner Slimline II. We even sell racks for the bed of the Ute, or load bed bars if you prefer something more affordable and less complex.

In regards to tent weight capacity, RTTs average 200 lbs per occupant. In the case of the two-person, the total weight capacity would be approximately 400 lbs. A three-person tent, has a capacity of around 600 lbs, etc It is also worth noting that the ladders have an average weight capacity of 320 lbs.

***If you're not sure whether your vehicle has the right roof rack, please take a look at our roof rack collection, most of which will be able to support any roof top tent.***

FINALLY, if you would like to share info, pictures or anything roof top tent or overland related, please feel free to do so Joining Our Facebook Group HERE.

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