The Pros and Cons of Roof Racks vs. Hitch Racks

The Pros and Cons of Roof Racks vs. Hitch Racks

Whether you want to head out on a cross-country road trip or want to enjoy the thrills of offroading, you’ll want to have some type of rack on your vehicle. Racks are great for storage and clear up a lot of cabin space, but both roof racks and hitch racks have their pros and cons. Understanding the benefits and downsides of each will help you decide which is better for your plans.

Roof Rack

A roof rack is a large tool purposed to fit on the top of a car's roof; a good example is a Toyota 4Runner rack, which lays on top of the truck. These racks come in various metals, densities, and styles to accommodate the different luggage you may have on your trip.


A roof rack sits out of sight on top of your vehicle, allowing you to retain visibility around the car. A roof rack keeps items away from the ground and gives large objects—such as canoes or bikes—an area to sit that won't become cumbersome to the car or the driver.


Roof racks are beneficial, but you need multiple accessories to have the most effective security. Using the top of the vehicle to store your gear comes a risk: if you’re not paying attention or don’t have everything properly secured, the items may get knocked down by a low-clearance tunnel or bridge.

Hitch Rack

A hitch rack is a type of rack that attaches to the back of a vehicle. It has different benefits and drawbacks when compared to a roof rack.


When compared to roof racks, hitch racks tend to have sturdier frames and can hold items that may have wheels or are too heavy for the roof. Hitch racks are ideal for bags, coolers, tool boxes, tents, and more. Some hitch racks also work great for bicycles.


A hitch rack requires a layer of precision to ensure the amount of weight on the back doesn't interfere with the rest of the vehicle. If you make any sharp turns, the momentum may cause the cargo to fall due to the back's weight.

Can you use a roof rack and a hitch rack at the same time?

It is possible to use both racks on your vehicle at the same time, but you should proceed with caution. This can be dangerous, as your vehicle may not be properly balanced. It’s a best practice to choose one over the other, as this will help keep the driver, all passengers, and the cargo safe.

Roof racks and hitch racks have pros and cons, but both are great storage options. When traveling, make sure you know how to utilize each and choose the one that best fits your scenario.

Reading next

Roof Rack vs. Crossbars: Which Is Right for You?
The Different Types of Roof Rack Accessory Mounts

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