Camping with a rooftop tent is just great! With a rooftop tent, you have much more freedom than when you are traveling with an RV and offers more comfort and safety than a ground tent.
But what do you have to invest to get a good new rooftop tent? In the course of time, I have already bought a few new rooftop tents to be able to live out my hobby. So I think I now know what is important with a rooftop tent and how much money you should invest in your new hobby.
The market for rooftop tents is huge… there are very cheap roof tents, but there are also very, very expensive roof tents… and everything in between! So it’s important that you read this article and learn from an experienced rooftop camper how much to spend on your new rooftop tent.
Camping with the rooftop tent is pure fun
It’s great that you want to learn more about rooftop tents and are considering buying your own rooftop tent! I can tell you from my own experience that having your own rooftop tent is pure fun. It’s just a lot of fun to just drive off and set up your tent wherever the vehicle goes (as long as it’s allowed).
With a rooftop tent, you can reach completely different places than with an RV or mobile home. It also depends on your vehicle, but based on my vehicle, Jeep Cherokee 4×4, you can go literally anywhere. You can drive deep into the national park and camp there, or you can drive into the desert and camp there… of course, it all depends on where you live and your preferences.
Another advantage of a rooftop tent is that the roof tent is folded up while driving and does not particularly restrict your vehicle (height, off-road capability, fuel consumption, etc.). With the sleeping quarters on the roof of your vehicle, you also have plenty of space inside or in the trunk of your vehicle. You can take a lot of equipment with you. You are also safe from large and small animals due to the elevated position on the roof of your vehicle… no wolves, no bugs, no ants, etc.
You are also extremely mobile. If you wake up in the morning and want to change the location for the next night, all you have to do is throw the mattress and sleeping bag in the trunk of the vehicle, fold up the rooftop tent, and you’re ready to go!
Of course, a rooftop tent also has a few disadvantages compared to a full-size RV… for example, you don’t have a built-in toilet, kitchen, or shower… but do you really need it? I don’t… and there are solutions for these “disadvantages” as well. For example, you can buy a gas-powered camping kitchen for $100, or a camping shower for $50… I don’t think the “alleged disadvantages” are really that bad. Of course, it always depends on your personal needs. But I’m more of the type who doesn’t need a lot of luxury when camping and prefers to sit by the campfire in the evening and grill sausages over the open fire….
Now I would like to give you tips from my personal experience on how much money you should spend on a rooftop tent. I try to look at this topic from different perspectives to find the ideal solution for every budget or need.
Is there a “best overall rooftop tent”?
No, there is no “best rooftop tent”. Every rooftop tent is different, every rooftop tent has different advantages and disadvantages. Of course, there are rooftop tents that cost well over $4000, but that still doesn’t make it good. It always depends on what you intend to do and how often you want to use it.
For example, there are differences in size, functions, hard shell or soft shell, etc.
It also depends on what vehicle you own. For example, do you own a larger 4×4 jeep, do you own an SUV, or do you own a small car? In principle, you can mount any rooftop tent on any vehicle. However, it makes no sense to mount a six-person rooftop tent on a small car.
I would like to describe all these aspects in detail here, based on my experiences.
No time to read the entire article? Here you will find a list of the best rooftop tents for different situations.
|Best Budget Rooftop Tent||Smittybilt Overlander Tent||about $1300||Link to Amazon|
|Best Family Rooftop Tent||Thule Tepui Explorer Autana 4||about $3000||Link to Amazon|
|Most Comfortable Rooftop Tent||ARB 803804 Simpson Tent||about $1900||Link to Amazon|
|Best Hard-Shell Rooftop Tent||Trustmade Hard Shell Rooftop Tent||about $2200||Link to Amazon|
|Best Soft-Shell Rooftop Tent||Thule Tepui Foothill Low-Profile Rooftop Tent||about $2000||Link to Amazon|
|Best Rooftop Tent With Annex||Thule Tepui Ruggedized Autana 3||about $2700||Link to Amazon|
|Best Rooftop Tent For Small Cars||Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2||about $1500||Link to Amazon|
The detailed descriptions of the individual rooftop tents can be found below!
What makes a good rooftop tent?
What is particularly important to YOU in a rooftop tent? What are your requirements? Are you a new camper or do you go camping regularly and want to switch to a rooftop tent now? How many people should sleep in the tent? Hard shell or soft shell? Do you need an awning (annex)?
The most important quality factors in a rooftop tent:
- Good workmanship
- Used material
- Quality of mechanics
- General stability
- Spare parts supply
- Interior equipment
You should answer all of these questions yourself. It is best to make a list of the most important properties that your new rooftop tent should have.
In my opinion, you will find the right roof tent for every requirement. But what I found is that you should pay attention to quality. Nowadays, of course, many rooftop tents (if not most) are produced in China. The quality can vary greatly.
It is therefore important that the workmanship is good and that the tent does not break after the first year.
Your first step is likely to open the Amazon or eBay App on your phone and look for the reviews. But there is also a problem, nowadays you can unfortunately no longer trust the reviews on Amazon… many reviews are unfortunately bought or fake… Therefore you should definitely trust your “common sense”. If the roof tent is too cheap, you should be very careful! But that doesn’t mean you should only buy expensive rooftop tents… You should also consider that the “better known” brands also have a higher resale value. Therefore, it can make sense to invest a few hundred dollars more and buy a better or more well-known brand that you can resell later. So I’ve put together a list below of what I believe to be the best rooftop tents for every situation.
How much should you spend on a rooftop tent when you’re on a budget?
If you’re on a budget, you should still not buy the cheapest rooftop tent. There are also cheap rooftop tents that offer good quality and have a long service life. Of course, you have to make a few compromises when it comes to equipment and comfort, but you probably already know that.
But you shouldn’t make a mistake and buy the cheapest rooftop tent on Amazon or eBay. If you’re really on a budget, you might also want to consider buying a used Thule rooftop tent. These rooftop tents sell for around $1100 to $1700 if you buy a roof tent oon the used market.
But if you absolutely want to have a new rooftop tent, I would like to give you a recommendation here. Of course, a new rooftop tent always has many advantages; no one has slept in the tent yet, there are no signs of use or damage, etc.
In the “budget” class, I would like to recommend the “Smittybilt Overlander Tent” rooftop tent, if you prefer a brand new one. This rooftop tent is priced at around $1100 to $1400 and has enough space for two to three people and has good features and appears to be well-made.
You can mount this rooftop tent on any vehicle. Whether you own a smaller car (VW Golf, Hond Civic, etc.) or a large SUV. Like any other rooftop tent, this rooftop tent is mounted in four places on the roof cross bars of your vehicle. This rooftop tent, like any other rooftop tent, is universal.
The most important thing is that your vehicle has roof bars or roof crossbars. When choosing roof bars or roof cross bars, you should of course make sure that they can carry the weight. But generally speaking, there is a suitable roofcross bar for almost every vehicle to mount a rooftop tent.
How much should you spend on a rooftop tent when you have a big family?
If you have a large family and often want to go rooftop camping with your family, you should of course buy a rooftop tent that offers enough space for everyone.
Here I would like to show you two very good roof tents that offer enough space for four or six people.
It is very important for a rooftop tent for a large family that the tent is of very high quality. If many people use the tent, the load is of course much higher than if you use a tent alone.
The zippers are used more often, the ladder is used very often and must also be very safe, and the interior space is probably also more heavily used. Especially if you have children, you should pay attention to high-quality materials. Children also like to bring dirt into the roof tent or pull on the loops, so high quality is very important.
If you are looking for a good rooftop tent for four people, I would recommend the “Thule Tepui Explorer Autana 4” rooftop tent from my own experience. Thule has a very good reputation in rooftop tents and outdoor equipment. The quality is perfect.
I own this rooftop tent myself and am very impressed with the quality. I go camping regularly with the “Thule Tepui Explorer Autana 4” and have never had any problems. Even in rain or strong winds, the tent is very stable and does not let water into the interior.
How much should you spend on a rooftop tent when you want maximum comfort?
Of course, if you want to buy a rooftop tent that offers maximum comfort, you have to invest a little more money. But it is not even the most expensive rooftop tent which offers the most comfort, in my opinion.
For example, the “ARB 803804 Simpson Tent” rooftop tent offers almost everything you could wish for, but it’s not too expensive. The roof tent offers many practical functions, such as an integrated awning or many practical pockets where you can safely stow your things.
Of course, there is also the option of making the roof tent itself even more comfortable by installing a solar panel on the roof so that you can produce and store your own electricity. There are of course many other ways to optimize a rooftop tent, it always depends on your personal needs or wishes.
How much should you spend on a good hard-shell rooftop tent?
A hard-shell rooftop tent has many advantages. With a hard-shell rooftop tent, you have the advantage that you can fold up the tent even faster. Likewise, a hard-shell rooftop tent behaves a little better in the headwind because it is usually not that high and is built more aerodynamically.
One of the best hard-shell rooftop tents that I personally know well is the “Trustmade Hard Shell Rooftop Tent“. Of course, this roof tent is also universally built for all vehicles. The assembly and the unfolding is very easy and only take a maximum of 60 seconds.
The price of this hard-shell rooftop tent ranges from $2100 to $2400 depending on the season and depending on the supplier.
The flat top is also ideal for mounting a solar panel. So you can produce your own electricity and are independent of your car battery or a power connection on the campsite.
How much should you spend on a soft-shell rooftop tent?
Are you looking for a good soft-shell rooftop tent? What do you expect from a roof tent? There are many different models with different equipment and in different price ranges.
You should think for yourself about what exactly you need, what equipment your new rooftop tent should have, and how expensive/affordable it should be.
For example, if you are looking for a good two-person soft-shell rooftop tent that is of very good quality and also has a lot of accessories, I can recommend the “Thule Tepui Foothill Low-Profile Rooftop Tent” to you.
If you need a little more space and still value an annex (which is very practical and I personally wouldn’t want to be without it) then take a look at the “Thule Tepui Ruggedized Autana 3 with Annex“.
How much should you spend on a rooftop tent when you want a tent annex?
Tent annexes are just great and add a whole room to your rooftop tent. For example, you can have a leisurely breakfast in the morning without sand blowing in your face, or even when it’s cold you can use a camping heater to keep the awning warm.
There are many different ways to use a tent annex. I personally don’t want to do without an annex anymore.
In my opinion, the best rooftop tent with an annex is the “Thule Tepui Ruggedized Autana 3“. It offers enough space for four people, has many practical functions, and is not too expensive at around $2700.
How much should you spend on a rooftop tent if you have a smaller car?
Of course, if you own a smaller car, such as a VW Golf or a Mini Cooper, there is no point in installing a large six-person rooftop tent. This would be way too wide for the car.
If you have a smaller vehicle, you should buy a two-person rooftop tent. But don’t worry, two-person rooftop tents are also of good quality and offer lots of accessories.
A very good two-person rooftop tent is, in my opinion, the “Thule Tepui Explorer Ayer 2“. This rooftop tent costs between $1400 and $1600 depending on where you buy it.
This rooftop tent is not too heavy for your vehicle and offers a lot of comforts and is made by Thule.
In general, if a rooftop tent is very expensive, it does not mean that it is better than other rooftop tents. There are also cheaper rooftop tents that have very good workmanship and quality. Of course, you also buy the name from premium rooftop tent manufacturers. Sure, it’s very cool to have the logo of the premium manufacturer on the roof tent, but do you really need it? Even cheaper rooftop tents offer very good quality!
You should make sure that the materials are of high quality. If you can, it is best to rent a rooftop tent and test it out for a weekend.
But you can also ask people who already own a rooftop tent whether they would buy this rooftop tent again, or what problems there are with the tent.
You can also read my article carefully, where I report from my personal experience with the various rooftop tents. Of course, I have not owned every rooftop tent listed here myself, but I know many different people who report about the different rooftop tents.
Download Our Roof Top Tent Overview (PDF)
In this pdf file, we give you an overview of the most popular rooftop tents. You can download this PDF file for free and use it freely!