A Guide to Base Rack Systems (2020)

The popularity of outdoor activities has got everyone, young and old engaged. Whether it is kayaking, skiing, or biking up that trail, this interest brings excitement to folks who love the outdoors. Along came SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicle) that promised to provide your sport transporting needs. While SUVs (or other vehicles) can aid in hauling your gears, it is still wiser to get a roof rack system that can provide more space not just for your gears but for the company you will enjoy your outdoor trip with.

Your vehicle’s rooftop is the best place for that extra space you need to carry what you need for your trip. They are as spacious as the interior of your car, allowing extra passengers and smaller bags. Most car owners prefer roof racks over trailers for their convenience in maneuvering. Trailers can be hard to maneuver and take up too much space on parking lots.

Today, there are a variety of roof rack systems you can use to carry specific gears. There are roof-mounted carriers for bikes, canoes, cargo boxes, kayaks, skis, snowboards, and other things you need to bring to enjoy your trip.

But, before getting the rack system for the kayak you are bringing this weekend, inspect what you have on your roof. Chances are, your vehicle is ready with what it needs to start setting up your roof rack. If not, read on to get an idea of each component for Base Rack Systems.

What Are Base Roof Rack Systems?

Roof rack systems are helpful to carry bulky items like bikes, canoes, kayak, luggage, and cargo boxes. They let car owners transport gears on the vehicle of the roof giving enough interior space for other occupants. These systems include sets of bars secured to the car’s roof.

Every roof rack needs a dependable foundation. And, these are base roof rack systems. They offer your roof a tough pedestal to mount your gears. These base roof rack system mounts directly to your existing roof rails and puts sturdy crossbars overhead.

Do I Need Base Roof Rack?

Base roof racks are reliable multi-purpose load carriers that let you mount bikes, skis, snowboards, kayaks. Having a proper roof rack allows safe transportation of all the gears you sure value a lot.

Look at the video below where an untoward incident happened just because a kayak fell off from a (maybe) poorly set-up roof rack and decide for yourself.

Basic Roof Rack System Explained

Every vehicle is different and roof rack manufacturers have designed their products to be as universal as possible. Obviously, selling a unique product for each car make and model is not practical.

To find out where to start with the base roof rack system, identify your car’s roof type. The components you need as well as the installation will be based on it. Your vehicle may be one of the following roof types;

  1. Normal/bare roof. The bare roof is the most common roof type in the late-model vehicles. They are smooth and do not have gutters and rails. For such, roof racks can be installed by clipping or fixing hooks to the top of the door frames.
  2. Roof raised rails. Raised Rail is common in SUVs, wagons, and mini-vans. They are the stylish factory-installed roof attachment. It runs from front to back on the vehicle’s outer edges. They are the easiest to fit a roof rack to and does not require a vehicle-specific fit kit. Raised rails have a ready sturdy base to attach the roof rack foot to.
  3. Flush / low profile roof rails. Flush rails are new and have been introduced in most European makes and models. They are flush to the roof devoid of any space between the rail and the roof. These factory-fitted rails are considered the easiest to use.
  4. Fixed points. Fixed points are factory looped fasten down points that are typically positioned on the outer edge of the roof at two points on each side. These are added when the vehicle does not have a roof rail.
  5. Rain Gutters. Rain gutters are those bent edges that channel water away from the car doors and other openings. They have been existent since the 1960s and although they are still present, they can only be seen on full-sized cargo or passenger vans.

Next, to go through are the components that complete the base roof rack systems. While they are different gears to be equipped together, manufacturers have also come up with complete systems that combine all of them. The pieces we are talking about are;

  1. Towers. Or the feet. They are the main (and usually the most expensive) part of the roof base rack set. Towers bear the weight of everything you load on your roof. Installed at the strongest points of your roof, they usually are integrated with locking ability, so that no one can detach your roof rack easily.
  2. Load Bars. Or crossbars are the two (or more) bars that go across the width of your vehicle rooftop, attached from the driver-side window to passenger side window. They are where you mount your activity-specific racks to. Crossbars support the weight of the things you are hauling to the roof while transferring the weight to the towers.
  3. Fit Kits. Or landing pads. Fit kits are used to mount the towers to your car. Towers are usually generic, they will need a vehicle-specific fitting kit. Manufacturers designed them to fit a specific car make or model or a range of vehicles. Fit kits consist of;
    1. Clip or clamps that fastens the tower to your roof-line or rail.
    2. Bottom pads or those rubber bases that sit between your roof and tower. These pads provide stability and keep your roof from damage.

Base Roof Rack System Buying Guide

Before you buy, consider these questions. These should help you to decide whether they are the right component you need or just another you will return to the seller.

Will/Does It Fit My Vehicle?

Different cars need specific tower sets, thus picking one comes with such complexity. Most roof rack systems usually have modular components, but the year, make, and model of your car will tell the specific choice to be. Most online retail stores have a roof rack fit guide that will help you if you feel confused. They are as simple as choosing your car’s make and model and they’ll find which is the best for you.

How Much Am I Paying?

The price range for base roof rack systems run between $150 to $500. As with any goods we buy, the price is an essential factor. We always want to get something whose value is worth your every cent. Look for products that are tested durable, functional, and long-lasting. Doing so will make you confident that they will meet and exceed what is expected of them.

You may also go for stores that offer for you to bring your old gears in exchange for a great deal. This is not just helpful for your wallet but for the environment as well. A considerable portion of a rack’s carbon lifecycle is in the initial production.

What Will I Carry with It?

Will your next trip be a kayak adventure? Or are you racing up the trail with your mountain bike? Consider the gears you need to carry with the base roof rack you are thinking of getting. Most components that help transport kayaks, canoes, or bikes are compatible with a range of crossbar types, others require adapters too.

Knowing what you need to bring saves you from the complexity of components you need for the most convenient base roof rack.

Will It Look Good?

Admit it, you also want it to match that sporty look of your SUV. You may think round crossbars look better or an extra height may make it look like a turtle. Or the silver finish may not go well with the red finish of your car. Different rack manufacturers have different designs and styles. Be sure to check out not just one, but a few before deciding to get one.

To give you an idea which components are ideal for a specific car roof type, we scoured the web to find and review them for you. It could be compatible with your car, but to make sure, check out the manufacturer’s base rack fit guide or seek assistance from your friendly salesman.

Rack for Fixed Points Car

Fixed Points are attachment spots on the roof for attaching roof racks. Mazda, BMWs, Tesla, some Mercedes, and some Subaru come with fixed points. They are great to attach an aftermarket roof rack. These usually have flush fitting plastic covers and are positioned on spots that are not obvious.

Towers for Fixed Points Car

Yakima Skyline Towers

Yakima Skyline Towers for Roof Rack Systems

These heavy-duty towers allow you to safely mount 2 crossbars to your fixed mounting point car. This has a tower pitch that lets you adjust to create that level roof rack on curved roofs. Thanks to the torque tool it comes with, installation is worry-free.


  • 4 Heavy-duty towers to mount crossbars
  • Tower pitch that adjusts 6° forward and 6° backward to level your crossbars.
  • Worry and tool-free installation – simply drop tower on the landing pad and close the cover


  • Holds a maximum tower load capacity of 220 pounds
  • Comes with limited lifetime warranty

Thule Podium Foot Pack for Aero Bars

Thule Podium Foot Pack for Aero Bars

Thule provides a load carrier system that comes with a sleek modern design, perfect fit, and flexibility. This is for cars fitted with pre-installed attachments for fixpoints.


  • Vehicle-specific roof-rack system attaches to roof with pre-installed fixpoints
  • Securable outer cover with low profile styling
  • Galvanized and stamped steel gears in legs are tough and corrosion-resistant


  • Requires Thule Rapid Aero or AeroBlade load bars and Thule vehicle-specific Podium fit kit
  • Comes with a limited lifetime warranty

Rack for Bare Roof Car

This method of attachment of racks for cars with no other attachment points typically has the rack resting on the roof and clamps to the door openings. The bare roof rack usually comprises of 3 components: cross-bars, rack feet (or stays, tower, and corners), and some rubber pads and hooks that could be car-specific.

Towers for Bare Roof Car

BaseLine Towers for Yakima Crossbars – Naked Roofs

Baseline Towers for Yakima Crossbars

Yakima BaseLine are heavy-duty towers that let you mount 2 Yakima crossbars safely and securely to your car with a bare roof.


  • 4 Heavy-duty towers that are ideal to mount with Yakima crossbars
  • Integrated with Tower Pitch that adjusts 6° forward and 6° backward to level your crossbars
  • Pivoting bases adjusts through installation to guarantee towers are seated correctly


  • Holds a maximum tower load capacity of 220 pounds
  • Comes with limited lifetime warranty

Thule Rapid Traverse Roof-Rack Foot Pack

Thule Rapid Traverse Roof-Rack Foot Pack

The ultimate detachable clip-on rack for your vehicles with naked roofs. This revolutionary system boasts the strongest hold, best fitting, and easiest installation.


  • Patented MaxClamp technology that grips the rack to the car more securely than most systems on the market
  • AcuTight tensioning tool that tells when the rack is safely and properly fastened to the vehicle
  • EZAssemble design that allows installation in half the time required for most towers in the market


  • Requires Thule Rapid Aero or AeroBlade load bars and Thule vehicle-specific Traverse fit kit
  • Comes with limited lifetime warranty

Rack for Raised Rail Car

Raised roof rails are usually on SUVs of all sizes and on some of the station wagons. A raised-rail roof rack comprises of two main components: the rack cross-bars and the rack feet.

Towers for Raised Rail Car

Yakima TimberLine Towers

Yakima TimberLine Towers

Timberline towers boast advanced tower architecture that is sleek, strong and quiet. They attach with attach with rubber-coated stainless-steel straps and tightens up with with the torque tool it comes with.


  • Multi-purpose BarBeds that are curved accommodates the elliptical shape of Yakima CoreBar and JetStream crossbars
  • Easy installation with rubber-coated stainless-steel straps
  • Stainless-steel, glass-reinforced plastic, and elastomer construction aids in resisting weather caused damages


  • Holds a maximum tower load capacity of 220 pounds
  • Comes with limited lifetime warranty

Thule Crossroad Roof Mounted Roof Railing Foot

Thule Crossroad Roof mounted Roof Railing Foot

Thule Crossroad converts your car’s factory-installed rails into a flexible and multi-purpose rack system. They are rubber coated and their steel clamping straps give maximum security with unmatched toughness.


  • Extreme rack strength
  • Custom-fit provided by rubber-coated steel strap of foot
  • Fits more vehicles than any other railing carrier


  • Ideal to use with Thule square load bars

Rack for Flush Rail Car

Flush – means not raised and that is there is not an upright space between the bottom of the rail and the roof of the car. They are usually on SUVs and on station wagons and its roof rack comprises of the rack cross-bars, the rack feet (sometimes called stays or towers), and a vehicle-specific pad and hardware kit.

Towers for Flush Rail Car

Yakima RidgeLine Towers

Yakima Ridgeline Towers
Yakima Ridgeline Tower (4 Pack)

RidgeLine Towers incorporate with flush-mount factory side rails to let you put up a real rack that transports more.


  • Fixes a base rack system to your car with flush-mount factory side rails.
  • Twisting bases adjusts while installation to guarantee towers are seated correctly
  • Easy installation with DropHook system and included torque tool
    • Torque tool clicks thrice when clips are secure – eliminating worries of under- or over-tightening


  • Holds a maximum tower load capacity of 220 pounds
  • Comes with limited lifetime warranty

Rack for Rain Gutter Car

Cars, for the longest time, have “drip rails” on the roof that are used to protect the interiors from rain and snow. Over time, they served as a point where to attach a roof rack tower for that much-needed space on top of the car. Such design can still be found on larger cargo vans, and certain Jeeps and SUVs.

Towers for Rain Gutter Car

Yakima 1A Raingutter Towers

Yakima 1A Raingutter Towers

Utilize your rain gutters by equipping them with Yakima 1A Raingutter Towers. They offer the base for your roof rack system, connecting to the traditional rain gutters in place.


  • Easily clamps onto vehicle rain gutters
  • Adjusts to non-parallel rain gutters
  • Constructed from tough Zytel nylon


  • Other components are required for the total roof-rack system
  • Comes with a lifetime warranty

Custom Permanently Installed Roof Racks

Permanent Custom Mount roof racks could be just what you need to put a rack on any vehicle with no standard fit. Check these custom install products and decide for yourself what you need.

Yakima Landing Pad 1

Yakima Landing Pad 1

Landing Pad 1 for Yakima Control Towers is the best foundation to start with when you have no standard fitting for your vehicle. They also let you fit Control Towers to your car with standard, C-shaped rack tracks.


  • Offers mounting point for Yakima Control Towers
  • Mounts to factory tracks that have anchor plates and screws
  • Comes with snap-on shells for protection when Towers are not in use
  • Comes with lifetime warranty


The products we went over were carefully reviewed and each one proved to be secure and can serve as a strong base for any gear you may need to carry. The last thing you want on an outdoor trip is your cargo management falls apart. These systems, with the right installation, can assure you that the bars will stay in place at any given driving speed.

You may check out additional features like security to deter theft, aerodynamics to reduce wind noise and drag, and materials used to protect not just your base roof rack system but your vehicle as well.

Once your base roof rack system is up, all there is left to do is to choose the rooftop carrying accessories you may need, depending on which gear you plan to transport. When they are complete, then you are just a drive away for your next adventure. An adventure with your gears on your own roof rack system will leave you amazed at how convenient hauling things can be.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

✅ Will the racks damage my car?

Not at all. Most aftermarket base roof racks are designed to not cause any damage. Some racks that clamp to roof rails may leave small marks in the roof rails, but that’s what rubber paddings are for.

✅ I also use my car for work, can these roof racks be removed when not in use?

Of course. After the initial install is complete, the one which involves positioning the rack feet on the crossbars and setting up the fit hooks, removal, and installation of the roof rack is quick and easy. Make sure you do not forget the location measurements for where you place the crossbars.

✅ What is a complete base roof rack system?

A full base roof rack system is a set of rack components that provide a place for roof rack crossbars to rest on, on a vehicle roof. The components it is comprised of may vary depending on the roof of the vehicle. For instance, if a car has a bare roof, then the base rack system should consist of rack crossbars, rack feet and a fitting kit for that specific car. On the other hand, if the car has raised roof rails, the ideal base rack system should be rack crossbars and rack feet.

✅ Can I use my rack on another car?

While most components are designed to be universal and interchangeable, some car-specific fit hooks just might not work. Make sure the crossbars are not too long or too short for your vehicle.

Check out our other articles on Wind Fairings and Thule Force vs Yakima Skybox!

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