Running out of space? Frightened of exceeding your caravan’s MTPLM…?
A roof box could be the answer
Roof boxes are a great way of increasing your towcar’s luggage capacity at a fraction of the cost of a new car. Prices range from about £120 for a small box from a budget range, to £600 for a very large box from a quality manufacturer. You’ll also need to factor in a further £150 – £200 for the roof bars and fixings.
Carrying weight on your car roof rather than in the caravan makes an awful lot of sense. The heavier the car is compared to the caravan, the more stable the outfit will be, and it could reduce the chances of an accident and an insurance claim. But the advantages don’t end there. When you get to site your caravan will be less cluttered and easier to set up.
A roof box is the perfect way of carrying a caravan awning. If it’s pouring down with rain when you get to the campsite, you can simply leave it where it is until the rain stops.
The only downside of a roof box is that the extra height may mean you can’t get into some car parks, especially if you have a tall 4×4 – and of course you’ll need somewhere to store it when not in use.
Roof boxes are rated by their volume in litres but that’s little guide as to how useful the interior space will be. Much depends on the proportions and how much intrusion there is from any fixings.
It’s a good idea to pop along to a retailer such as Halfords and compare one with another. It will also let you assess the quality of each brand as some seem quite flimsy.
Capacities typically range from 250 litres for a small half width box, to 600 litres or more for a large, full width box. By comparison a new VW Golf has a boot capacity of 380 litres and the Volvo V70, a popular caravan towcar, has a boot capacity of 575 litres.
There are several things to bear in mind here. The first is how much weight the roof of the car can take. This is generally between 50 and 100kg. Details should be found in the car’s handbook.
Next is the weight of the roof box and its mounting bars and how much load the box itself is designed to take. Roof boxes with their roof bars weigh in at anything from about 12 to 25kg and have load capacities in the range 50 to 75kg.
But think of the weight advantages when loading up for a caravanning holiday. Considering that the typical payload of a new UK caravan is between 120kg and 200kg, that extra 75kg of luggage made possible by a large roof box could be significant for longer caravanning trips.
Roof boxes are designed to attach to bars extending across the roof from one side to the other. If your car already has roof rails running from front to back it should be easy to buy bars that will clamp to these. If not, mounting kits are available for most models. Where no suitable mounting points are built into the roof it should be possible to obtain a body clamping kit as shown here. The aerofoil shaped roof bar cuts down dramatically on wind noise.
Getting a roof box lid to shut properly can be tricky if it’s bursting with items. Central locking systems can make this worse as you may need to push down on the front, middle and rear, all at the same time, before you can turn the key. Kamei has a neat solution whereby you push down on each fastener until it clicks shut (see below).
- If you want to carry bicycles or canoes on the roof at the same time, get a box that is narrow enough to allow you to do so.
- Make sure the box is large enough to accommodate the longest objects you might want to put in it, not forgetting awning poles and wind breaks.
- Remember to allow enough room for any tailgate to open.
- Choosing a roof box that allows access from either side will make life a lot easier, not just for loading, but also when fitting to the car.
- Never exceed the maximum loading of the car’s roof or the roof box itself.
- Canvas roof boxes are easier to store than rigid ones.
Roof box brands
Atera is a German brand that supplies rack systems to BMW and others. Atera branded roof boxes are made by Hapro (see below). www.atera.co.uk
Auto-Plas is based in Essex and supplies a range of roof box models and mounting kits.
Exodus is a budget range, exclusive to Halfords.
Hapro is a large Dutch manufacturer offering five ranges of roof boxes.
Halfords – Sell own brand roof boxes along with those from Thule roof boxes.
Inno is a Japanese manufacturer with selected products available in the UK via the Roof Box Company. www.roofbox.co.uk
Kamei is a German brand with a reputation for quality. It supplies several car manufacturers with own branded roof boxes including Mercedes and Volkswagen. Their UK importer is The Roof Box Company. www.roofbox.co.uk
Karrite is Thule’s budget brand. There are currently six roof boxes from 325 to 580 litres, all at very competitive prices. www.thule.com
Thule (pronounced ‘too-lee’) is the world’s largest producer of roof boxes and other carrying systems for cars. It is based in Malmö, Sweden but has more than 50 production and sales locations all over the world.
Yakima is the USA’s largest supplier of car rack systems and roof boxes. The UK distributor is the Roof Box Company.
Over to you….Feel free to share any of your experiences of using a roof box to spread the load and the weight, by using the comments box below.