Can You Put A Roof Top Tent On Any Car? | Step-by-Step Guide


Are you driving a regular car and wondering if you can put a roof top tent on top? The short answer is, yes, you can! However, there are a few technical specifications you need to consider.

When you put a Roof Top Tent on your car, the two most important factors to consider are measurements and weight of the tent. When the roof top tent is much bigger than the roof of your car, it is probably not a good idea to put the tent on top. Always make sure that you don’t go over the maximum dynamic weight limit, which is different for every car. 

When you’re driving a smaller car, don’t worry! You can still put a roof top tent on top. We’re driving around with a small Toyota Yaris, and have a roof top tent on top of our car. It feels like our second home! 

In this step-by-step guide, I’ll help you how you can find out which roof top tent is suitable for your car. Ready to start preparing for your next camping adventure? Let’s find out!

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Choosing The Right Roof Top Tent – Technical Measurements

Let me start by saying that we’re giving some technical tips and tricks in this article. However, this is all from our own experience. It is information that we needed to find out before we put a roof top tent on the roof of our car. 

We felt this information could also be helpful for you. Always make sure to find out the exact information for yourself. The limits for each car are different, so picking the right roof top tent that fits on a car is different for everyone. This article helps you how and where to find this important information. You always need to check this information yourself. If you have any doubts, we advise you to ask an expert. 

Know your measurements; length and wide of your car

Before you start looking for a new roof top tent, it is important to know what you can put on top of your car. The two factors that you need to find out are the car measurements and the maximum weight limit. 

You don’t want to buy a roof top tent that is much larger than your car because it will affect the driving performance, and it is not always the safest option. When a roof top tent is much larger than the car, you probably also getting issues mounting the tent correctly.

So make sure that you know the measurement of your car, of course, we’re talking about the roof of your car. Most of the time, a roof top tent is a bit larger than the roof of a regular car, which doesn’t matter that much. 

For example, we’re driving a Toyota Yaris, and our roof top tent is a bit longer than the roof. However, it isn’t longer than the total length of our car. The roof top tent we use is almost the same wide as our car’s roof. So with those measurements, it doesn’t influence our driving that much. It just feels like we have a roof box on top of our car. 

Maximum weight limit

What’s even more important is the maximum weight limit of the roof of your car. This weight limit is different for each car. You can find the maximum weight limit in the driver’s manual of your car. However, most manuals only show a dynamic weight limit. Which is the maximum weight limit while driving. This amount is lower than when standing in park mode, for example, while camping. Which is also known as the static weight limit. 

It can be a bit confusing, dynamic, and static weight limit. But to keep it simple. The dynamic weight limit is while in motion/ driving. The static weight limit is while standing still/ not driving. 

The dynamic weight limit is always lower for safety reasons, and to make sure it doesn’t affect the car’s performance. When not driving, and measuring the static weight limit, most companies say that the static weight limit is 4 to 5 times the dynamic weight limit. 

This significant difference is mainly because when the car is standing still, the weight you put on top of the car is evenly distributed over the entire frame. This way, the car can hold more weight. 

Most standard cars have a dynamic weight limit between 100lbs – 165lbs (50 and 75 kilograms.) 

Calculate the maximum weight limit

When you know the maximum dynamic weight limit of your car, it’s easier to choose the right roof top tent to put on your car. 

However, you also need crossbars or a roof rack to mount the roof top tent correctly. So, the weight of the roof top tent must be lower than the dynamic weight limit of your car. Simply because the crossbars or roof rack also weigh something. So, to calculate if you’re not exceeding the maximum dynamic weight limit is quite simple. You just need to calculate the weight of everything you put on top of your car. Let’s call that the total weight. 

Always make sure that the total weight is not higher than the dynamic weight limit. 

To measure the total weight, you can use this ‘formula’; 

Weight of Roof Top Tent + Weight Of Crossbars or Roof Rack + Extra luggage in Roof Top Tent = The total weight.

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How To Mount A Roof Top Tent – Crossbars or Roofrack?

If you need a roof rack or crossbars to mount a roof top tent depends on both your car and the roof top tent. Most roof top tents are easy to mount using crossbars. 

The most important to know is that the roof rack or crossbars can hold the maximum weight of the roof top tent. Which is also referred to as dynamic weight. 

For example, we’re using crossbars from Thule, which are especially for our Toyota Yaris. These crossbars have a maximum dynamic weight of 165lbs (75 kilograms). Our roof top tent weighs 143lbs (65 kilograms), so we have a 22lbs (10 kilograms) margin. 

This margin is great for us, because this way we’re able to leave our bedding, and some other stuff inside the tent while driving. It creates a lot of free space inside the car, which is a great advantage of using a roof top tent. Find out more about the advantages of a roof top tent in our article The Top 10 Advantages of A Rooftop Tent.

Choosing the right crossbars or roof rack depends on what car you’re having. For us, Thule is the most trusted brand when it comes to crossbars. They are known as the most solid and safe. You can use this guide on Thule’s website, to find out which roof rack or crossbars fit best on top of your car. 

Rooftop Tent More Comfortable

Choosing The Right Roof Top Tent 

Picking the right roof top tent for your travel adventures can be overwhelming. After you finally know more about all the technical requirements, it’s time to make a selection of all those roof top tents that are available on the market. And that’s a long list! So there’s a lot to choose from! 

To help you niche down on the roof top tent that fits you the most, we made this list of things you need to consider when buying a roof top tent. 

Know your weight limits

Like we mentioned earlier in this article. Always first find out how much weight you can put on the roof of your car.   

Always measure with the dynamic weight limit, so you know for sure you can drive around with the roof top tent on top. 

Hard Top or Soft Shell

The roof top tents are available in many variations. Deciding on a hard top or soft shell is also an important choice before buying a new roof top tent. 

Hard top roof top tents are often easier with set up, many tents are set up in seconds, which can be very convenient. They can weigh a bit more, so when you driving a small car, it might not be the best option. 

Soft shell tents are often much lighter, but setting up the tent can take longer. 

There are both many hard top and soft shell tents available in different sizes.

How Many People Need To Fit? 

Are you a solo traveler or a couple? Or maybe a family? Depending on how many people need to sleep in the tent, you can niche down even more. 

Many tents on the market sleep 3 or 4 people. I think that 4 people is the maximum because you also need to consider the static weight limit of your car. 

Kind Of Mattress

Here comes the good part, you don’t want to save on this item. Especially when you’re traveling for a bit longer like we are doing. A good mattress in your roof top tent is so important. Many tents come with very thin matrasses, or even without a mattress! 

I would recommend choosing a roof top tent with a thicker mattress, which is much more comfortable. Maybe a bit more expensive, but a good night’s sleep is worth the extra money! 

The Ikamper Rooftop Tents are known for having thicker and comfortable mattresses. Definitely, an interesting tent to check out. 

Ways of Setup and Folding

Most roof top tents having an easy setup and folding mechanism. We really found that important when choosing a roof top tent. If we arrive at our camping spot, our tent is set up in seconds. It is so convenient! 

If this is also important for you, make sure to learn more about how it works in your roof top tents of choice. 

Recommended Rooftop Tents

There are many brands and variations in rooftop tents available on the market. So it can be overwhelming choosing that one rooftop tent that fits your wishes the most. 

We made a selection of different rooftop tents, which makes it easier for you to choose the right one. 

Yakima SkyRise 

This Soft Top Rooftop Tent is lightweight, around 115 pounds (51 kilograms), and fits up to 3 persons! 

Smittybilt Rooftop Tent

An all-weather tent, often used for offroading camper experiences. Not very lightweight, 143 pounds (65 kilograms), so it won’t fit on top of every car. Ideal tent when you’re driving an SUV or larger car. 

Tepui LoPro Rooftop Tent

When it comes to lightweight, soft top rooftop tents, the Tepui Rooftop Tents are one of the best in the market. The tent only weighs 120 pounds (55 kilograms), and therefore ideal to fit on top of almost every car. 

Rooftop Tent Accessories

Annex Tent

An extra tent that connects to your rooftop tent is ideal when traveling for a longer time. The annex can function as a small living room where you can relax, enjoy your diner, and you can use it as a changing room. 

Tent Lamps

Rooftop Tents doesn’t have standard lighting inside, so you need to make sure to arrange that for yourself. However, when camping, you don’t want to bring that much stuff, so I would recommend using these batteries powered LED lights. Ideal when you want to read a book in your tent. 

Travel Hammock

This lightweight travel hammock from La Siesta is the best hammock you can bring on your travels. It’s very small, made of parachute fiber, and easy to mount. The perfect lounge accessory every traveler needs!

There are a lot of things you can do to make your rooftop tent more comfortable during traveling. Find out more in our article How Can I Make My Rooftop Tent More Comfortable.

Can You Use It As An Extra Storage? 

Not every roof top tent has the possibility to put in extra luggage or leave your bedding when its folded. For example, many soft shell tents are opening sideways, which also means its not always possible to leave extra stuff in the tent. It simply won’t close when you do so. 

In the tent we’re using, we can easily leave our bedding, and also put some extra stuff like our camping table and chairs. This saves up a lot of extra space in our car while traveling. 

The list above has a few important things to consider when choosing a new roof top tent. When you finally made a selection, I recommend to go testing different tents in a shop or maybe by renting them first. Often it is possible to rent a roof top tent for a weekend, so you can try it out while camping. This way, you get even a better idea about the tent. 

Of course, it is also possible to buy your tent online and try it out a few times before deciding if you’re keeping it. It depends on the manufacturer if this is possible, though. 

Are you still doubting if you want to travel around with a roof top tent? I feel it is one of the best ways of going on a road trip adventure! Read more about the advantages of a roof top tent in this article

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Léon Kopijn

Léon Kopijn works and lives as a Digital Nomad. He travels the world with the love of his life and writes about inspiring cultures and practical travel tips. Find out more about Léon on his about page!

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