Are Rooftop Tents Bad for Your Car?

If you’re an adventurous outdoor enthusiast, you may have thought about getting a rooftop tent.

They’re versatile, easy to set up, and get you off the ground.

But is a rooftop tent really a good idea? Can your car even handle a rooftop tent? Will it damage anything in the long-run?

A rooftop tent is a big investment. So let’s make sure you know everything you need to know before you buy one.

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    Are Rooftop Tents Bad for Your Car?

    A rooftop tent can damage your vehicle if you don’t install and use it properly. Additionally, many vehicles are not built to handle the weight of a tent with people inside.

    When installing a rooftop tent, always use appropriate roof racks and mounting systems that follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid damaging your car in the process.

    A recent New York Times article claimed it could even make your car permanently unsafe. But that’s only if your car can’t support the weight of the tent.

    Related: What is a Rooftop Tent?

    How do you know if your car can handle a Rooftop Tent?

    Always check your car’s manual for details on its maximum load capacity. If you don’t have the manual, you can often get a copy by doing a Google search for “[your vehicle] owner’s manual [model year]”.

    Google search results for 2018 Toyota Tacoma owner's manual

    Keep in mind that most vehicle cabs are only rated for weights of less than 150 lbs. The average rooftop tent weighs at least 100 lbs, plus having one person inside with sleeping bags and pillows already puts you over that weight limit. That means it’s likely your car’s roof isn’t rated to handle a rooftop tent.

    There are exceptions to this though. For instance, the roof of a 4Runner is rated to hold 300 pounds of static weight and 760 pounds of dynamic weight—more than enough for a tent. You’ll just want to make sure you’re getting a 4Runner roof rack that can also handle the weight.

    In general, it’s best to only put a rooftop tent on a vehicle made for off-roading, with reinforced framing and suspension, such as a Toyota Tacoma or Jeep Gladiator. Even then, you will need a roof rack that can handle the weight of your rooftop tent.

    Lastly, know that if your car’s suspension isn’t rated to handle that much dynamic weight, you could damage it as well. Dynamic weight capacity is different from static weight—static weight is only when the weight isn’t moving and you’re not driving.

    Is a Rooftop Tent a good idea?

    iKamper rooftop tent overlooking ocean in Mexico

    Yes, as long as you take the necessary steps to make sure it’s installed safely and securely and that your car can handle the weight, a rooftop tent is an awesome addition to your camp setup!

    Rooftop tents offer a great way to enjoy camping and the outdoors without having to stay in a ground tent. Just make sure you understand all of the safety considerations before installing your new rooftop tent.

    You need to make the decision of whether you want a hard shell tent or a soft shell tent. A hard shell tent is heavier and more expensive, but offers easier set up and take down and better protection from the elements.

    Finally, consider the space inside and outside. Do you need to fit in parking garages or a home garage? Make sure the roof tent doesn’t make your vehicle too tall for your needs.

    How the weight of a Rooftop Tent affects your driving

    It’s important to keep in mind that having a rooftop tent will affect your vehicle’s performance while driving. The extra weight may cause your car to feel sluggish, and cornering and braking will be affected as well.

    Additionally, some states have specific laws about objects being mounted on the roof of your vehicle, so make sure to check your local laws before you hit the road.

    Lastly, the added wind resistance will affect your vehicle’s overall gas mileage. Because of the added drag, you will likely get 1-3 less MPGs.

    How fast can you drive your car with a Rooftop Tent?

    Most rooftop tents are designed to handle winds up to 80mph, so you can usually drive your car at the posted speed limit with a rooftop tent attached. However, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and drive under 70 mph as much as possible when carrying a rooftop tent.

    Ultimately, if you do your research and make sure your vehicle is rated to handle the weight of a rooftop tent, have it installed properly, and drive responsibly, then you can enjoy all the benefits of a rooftop tent worry-free!

    Still unsure whether or not you should install a rooftop tent?

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