drivers license for rooftop tents

Do You Need A Special License To Drive With A Rooftop Tent?

We all desire to enjoy the great outdoors. If you love adventure, rooftop tents offer more luxury than ground tents and are less costly than RVs. Their quick set-up, durable construction, and ability to set camp anywhere make the choice ideal among most explorers. They are becoming more popular. Rooftop tents offer a great way to experience nature; however, you may wonder whether a special license is required to drive with it.

Here is the quick answer

No, you do not need a special driver’s license if you mount a rooftop tent on your vehicle. Rooftop tents are not so heavy that they would significantly change the weight of your vehicle!

Do you need a special license to drive with a rooftop tent?

You don’t require any special license, considering the rooftop tent is mounted on your car. These tents don’t drastically change the driving dynamics; consequently, you only need the license for the car.

However, you need to be aware of the weight limits and the license requirements of the state you are in. For instance, different vehicle weight and length criteria determine if you need a special license or not. As such, if the weight of the roof tent makes your car exceed a certain weight threshold, you need a special driver’s license. Still, the possibility of this is minimal, considering most roof tents weigh between 100-200 pounds, and the weight requirement for special licenses in most states is for vehicles beyond 26,000 pounds.

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Most popular mid-sized cars, including SUVs, weigh between 2,000 to 6,000, and you only need a standard driver’s license. As such, even with a heavy rooftop tent, you wouldn’t need a special license to drive the vehicle. A mid-size SUV with a mounted roof tent offers the best offroad capability, practicability, and comfort for camping and daily use. However, 4X4 trailers or off-road rigs are the best rooftop tent vehicle if you spend most of your time camping. They weigh, on average, 5,000 pounds, so you don’t need any special license, even with the roof tent.

However, you should always bear in mind that a rooftop tent mounted on the roof of your vehicle can have a negative impact on driving dynamics. If you are driving a rooftop tent for the first time, you should drive very carefully and slowly get used to the additional weight on the roof of the vehicle!

Considerations when driving

  • The first consideration is the maximum stipulated load of the car’s roof. Each car has a specific weight it can comfortably carry on its roofs without jeopardizing integrity. Always ensure that the roof tent, roof rack, and weight of any luggage on the car’s roof don’t exceed the permissible weight. Overloading the roof is dangerous and can lead to legal penalties. You can find these limits on the car’s operating manual.
  • Ensure the total weight of the car, including luggage, passengers, and roof tent doesn’t exceed the total permissible weight of the car. Be sure your vehicle can handle the static weight (when stationery) and dynamic (when moving).
  • Be aware that a mounted roof tent affects road performance. It leads to a decrease in road dynamics, where you may experience more difficulty accelerating and braking due to increased load and drag. The dynamic weight leads to a considerable change in performance, and you should be aware of it. Also, the center of gravity of the vehicle changes, especially when overloaded; therefore, you can overturn when taking corners at high speeds. Avoid overloading and be extra careful driving with a rooftop tent. It is recommended not to exceed 75 mph (120 kph). These handling effects depend on the weight and size of the roof tent.
  • In the event of an accident, an overloaded roof can cause exclusion of liability. Insurance companies can claim dangerous driving and be excluded from liability if the drivers exceed the roof load limit. Therefore, purchasing the lightest roof tents that meet your expectations and paying close attention to your car’s loading limits is advisable.
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Pro Tips

  • You don’t need a special license to drive with a roof tent.
  • Always check the state requirement for vehicle weight thresholds.
  • Ensure not to exceed the loading limits of your vehicle.
  • Be aware of changing driving dynamics.
  • Drive below 75 mph (120 kph).

Final thoughts

Typically, you don’t need to be worried about a special license when driving with a roof tent. States have different weight thresholds for a normal driver’s license, with the limit usually 26,000 pounds. Considering the limited weight of a rooftop tent and that most cars don’t exceed 6,000 pounds, a standard license is sufficient to drive with a roof rent. You only need to be worried about the driving dynamics that change with a mounted rooftop. They include a difference in acceleration and braking and an increased center of gravity that require a more cautious drive.