Roof Rack Vs Roof Rails: 5 Clear Differences Between Them

Even though there are clear differences between roof racks and roof rails, people often get confused between them. It’s because the terms are close to each other, and the functions are correlated. However, you can stop worrying because I’ve created a guide to let you know all the similarities and differences between these two.

In this thorough guideline of roof rack vs roof rails, you’ll find how one can be isolated from the other based on direction, functionality, and other aspects. So, let’s not keep you waiting anymore.  


Roof Rack Vs Roof Rails: The Basic Differences At A Glance 

Subject Of ComparisonRoof RacksRoof Rails
DirectionFrom left to rightFrom front to rear
FunctionalityCarry thingsProvide basic support
InstallationIt’s an add-onComes pre-installed
Advantages Can help carry bulky thingsSupport roof racks
DisadvantagesIncrease fuel consumptionIt can be expensive to install


Roof Rack Vs Roof Rails In Detail

I’ve already demonstrated the key point in the above section. Now, let us take a deeper look at these differences. 


The functionality between these two is pretty close to each other. That’s one of the reasons why users get confused. The basic difference lies between the directions of these. 

Roof rails are installed in your vehicle using a front to rear direction. In comparison, roof racks are installed using a left-to-right direction. The name also clarifies a lot about their direction. 


Roof rails and roof racks don’t vary in functionality that much. Both are used for carrying extra belongings that don’t fit or are suitable for the inside of your jeep or car. However, the uses are not exactly the same. 

You can carry things like kayaks, bicycles, bikes, roof tents, extra baggage, etc., on roof racks. On the other hand, roof rails are for supporting other accessories like roof racks. Even though both contribute to the same cause, one works directly where’s other works as a support system. 


Vehicles that feature roof rails come pre-installed by the seller. For example, vehicles like SUVs and minivans can feature roof rails, whereas Sedans don’t. 

Roof racks are installed as an add-on by the seller. When it comes to installation, you can almost install a roof rack on all types of vehicles. However, installing roof rails may not be possible in all vehicles that don’t come with pre-installed ones. 


The perks of having a roof rail are that it can provide your roof rack with superior support. The rack will last longer and will carry heavier things without blocking all the space inside your ride. 

As for the roof rack, I’ve already told you what you can do with it. It’s always better to have some extra space on the roof when you’re out for an adventure. Besides, it’s not safe to carry your belongings on the roof if you don’t have a roof rack. 

As long as you use the roof rails and racks according to instructions, they can be excellently beneficial to you. 


Even the disadvantages are different in roof rails and roof racks. Let’s talk about roof rails first. If your car doesn’t have built-in roof rails, installing one can be difficult and costly. In fact, you can’t install them on all cars. 

Roof racks, on the other hand, can have some downsides too. For instance, having belongings on the roof will reduce your vehicle’s performance. Besides, the fuel efficiency gets compromised too. And you have to be very careful not to overload your roof racks. 

Overloading roof racks can cause accidents, especially when you are on the move. If you cross the dynamic weight limit of the roof rack, your car or jeep can roll over on the road. Besides, there’s always a chance of breaking the rack.

Frequently Asked Question

Why You Should Have A Roof Rack On Your Jeep?

If you’re a proud jeep owner, a roof rack is a must-have for you. It can spice up all the adventures you expect to have with your jeep. The ample space you get on the roof can take your outdoor activities to another level. 

Having an extra space means you get to utilize and enjoy your Jeep to the fullest. You can carry kayaks, roof tents, bikes, bicycles, or anything else that your jeep can’t carry inside it. 

Another thing you can carry on the roof is firewood when doing outdoor activities. A roof rack on your jeep can carry the dirty firewood and keep the vehicle clean from any unwanted dirt. 

What can I carry on a roof rack? 

When carrying things on the roof rack, you need to make sure that you’re not overloading the roof. The weight should not be more than the roof rack’s weight capacity. Check with your buyer to determine the roof rack capacity as it can vary depending on different attributes of the rack. 

You should also ensure that everything is secured on the roof. Use the right accessories to keep the belongings safe. In addition, avoid loading anything that doesn’t fit or can’t be secured with straps. 

What are the disadvantages of having a roof rack on my jeep?

When you carry bulky things on the roof of your jeep, it can make the vehicle slow and decrease its fuel efficiency. However, it’s a great way to carry extra things when you’re going on an adventure. 

Final Words

Hopefully, you don’t have any queries regarding roof rack vs roof rails anymore. Even though the terms sound similar to one another, the attributes aren’t. The differences can help you understand the better option for your vehicle, and you can make a decision about which one to get. 

Note that one is not better than the other. The differences are merely fundamental, and you should consider the one you think will be beneficial to you. Also, remember to ensure safety whenever you’re carrying anything on your vehicle’s roof to avoid unwanted accidents. 

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