different vehicle types for rooftop tents

Which Vehicle Is Best For A Rooftop Tent Camping Trip?

In the last years, rooftop camping tents have experienced significant growth, primarily due to the entry of numerous new businesses with ground-breaking designs that have essentially changed the game and made rooftop camping so much easier.

If you are new to rooftop tent camping, you probably think that rooftop tents can only be installed on large vehicles like 4x4s or SUVs, right? That’s not the case! You can also mount a rooftop tent on “small” or “normal” cars. Here I would like to show you that rooftop tents can also be installed on other vehicles.

In this article, I would like to discuss the different vehicle categories and list the various advantages and disadvantages of camping with a rooftop tent.

First of all: there is no clear answer to the question of which vehicle category is best for installing a rooftop tent or for camping with a rooftop tent. It always comes down to personal taste.

It also depends on how you otherwise want to use your vehicle on a day-to-day basis. If you live in the city, there is little point in buying a huge 4×4 for just going camping once every two or three months. That’s why you have to make a certain compromise when choosing the right vehicle.

But to put your mind at ease, you can mount a rooftop tent on (almost) any vehicle. The most important thing is that the vehicle has the possibility to mount a roof bar. Roof bars are essential for the assembly of the rooftop tent.

Now I would like to explain the individual vehicle classes with which you can set off on your next rooftop tent camping adventure.

The most important thing if you want to buy a new vehicle to set up a rooftop tent is that it has the option of mounting roof bars. The roof cross bars are then mounted on the roof bars, which then carry the rooftop tent and on top of which the rooftop tent is mounted.

a rooftop tent is attached to the roofcrossbars

Here are the different vehicle categories that are suitable for rooftop tent camping

If you’re looking for a new vehicle and you’re planning to buy a rooftop tent and then take it to the campsite, here are a few tips for choosing the perfect vehicle.

Standard Cars (SEDAN, COUPE, STATION WAGON, HATCHBACK)

If you’re unsure about whether to buy a van or a regular car for your car camping plans, you’re not alone. Many people are also assessing the advantages and disadvantages of standard cars. Go for a standard vehicle if, you require a family vehicle with five or more seats and a camper.

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Pros

  • Better trim level
  • The MPV models typically come with specific added amenities, such as a roof window or extra overhead storage space.

Cons

  • Some users find car camping less comfy.
STATION WAGON

Even if a station wagon falls into the class of “standard vehicles”, I would like to mention again that many station wagons are an optimal compromise between suitability for the city and suitability for travel.

You have a lot of space in a station wagon, a lot of comforts (especially with German models like BMW, Mercedes, or Audi), a lot of performance, and very good fuel consumption.

These vehicles are perfect for going camping several times a year and also for installing a rooftop tent.

audi STATION WAGON
Audi A6 Avant

SUVs

Many prefer camping out on road vacations rather than flying to their destination. Additionally, a lot of SUVs come with more cargo and ground clearance. Therefore, SUVs are ideal for camping because they can accommodate people, supplies, and gear you need to bring.

large suv with rooftop tent

Pros

  • Superior comfort
  • A wide range of choices to choose from.
  • A lot of the models are all-wheel-drive
  • Spacious
  • Easiest to fit a rooftop tent.

Cons

  • SUVs are costly
  • Poor fuel economy

Jeeps

Jeeps are built tough and have a long wheelbase for negotiating rugged terrain. In addition, they are constructed from sturdy materials to withstand harsh weather. They are also among the most adaptable four-wheel drives available, with a ton of “Overlanding” gear made particularly to enable you to camp in this vehicle in complete elegance and comfort. This means that the Jeep Wrangler will be the ideal vehicle for you, regardless of how and where you want to camp. This makes them great cars for camping.

jeep with rooftop tent

Pros

  • Excellent for the off-road trail.
  • Wonderful Performance

The jeep has a terrific engine, steering, and handling. The vehicle’s performance is unmatched, thanks to these parts. No matter the weather, a jeep can get you wherever you need to go.

  • Can be customized to your liking.

The market offers a wide variety of Jeep customizing possibilities. These products can help to improve the exterior appearance, comfort, and even the car.

  • Durability

Jeeps are designed to be durable and robust for heavy-duty applications. The reliability of these vehicles is due to their sturdy structure.

Cons

  • Jeeps are Expensive

Jeeps are relatively expensive cars to buy. When compared to other vehicles, the maintenance costs are also higher. On the other hand, modern jeeps are exceptionally capable and have distinctive features. Therefore, they attract hefty price tags.

  • High fuel consumption

Jeeps are infamously high gas consumers. This is because the under-the-hood parts, including the engine, transmission, and others, frequently use a lot of fuel. Because of this, the cars are poor fuel-efficient vehicles.

  • Insufficient Cargo Room

Cargo space problems affect the majority of Jeep models. The fact that there is less baggage space is due to the rather opulent seats.

What about soft-top jeeps?

>> You can find a separate post on this topic here <<

Trucks

Of course, trucks are ideal if you live in a rural area and want to transport a lot. Trucks can also be used as a base for a rooftop camper.

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Some trucks also offer the installation of a rooftop tent on the truck bed.

truck with rooftop tent on truck bed

Pros

  • Drivability

Driving a truck camper is like driving a truck, in contrast to larger Class A and Class C motorhomes. It indeed has a top-heavy design, so you need to go carefully.

  • Minimal maintenance

It is cheaper to maintain your truck camper than other RVs and trailers.

  • Durability

Truck campers typically retain their value well, unlike most RVs, which depreciate as soon as you drive them off the lot.

Cons

  • It is time-consuming to load and unload the trunk camper.

Electric Vehicles

Are electric vehicles like the Tesla Model 3 suitable for a camping trip with a rooftop tent?

Yes! Depending on the model, you can install a rooftop tent on your electric car! You must confirm that your roof and rack are appropriate for a rooftop tent. Make sure to verify the rooftop tent’s compatibility and weight restrictions.

tesla model 3 with rooftop tent
You can install roof cross bars on a Tesla, so you can install a rooftop tent!

After deciding whether a rooftop tent is a right option, you must choose between a soft shell and a hard shell rooftop tent. Although the softshell alternatives are larger and may provide a greater living area when camping, the hardshell options are more aerodynamic and may help you save battery.

Most modern cars can comfortably transport the rooftop when appropriately configured. Being a few feet higher off the ground gives you a little extra peace of mind. This can be a significant advantage in locations with many poisonous or deadly animals!

Camping in a Tesla or other electric vehicle is most frequently done inside the car. It makes sense to remain inside these vehicles because many have roomy cabins.

Most Tesla vehicles have fully retractable seats that provide a stable, level sleeping surface. If you have the correct mattress or sleeping pad, you will only be aware that you’re sleeping in your car.

Which vehicle is best for short camping trips with the rooftop tent?

Sport-utility vehicles are becoming increasingly common and may be the doorway to camping. They offer a significant improvement over tent camping without the experience of a regular RV or travel trailer.

Mini Clubvan Camper with rooftop tent

The Mini Clubvan Camper is ideal for short camping trips. The interior has a cot, an expandable galley, and a gas stove, turning it into a practical mobile camper and one of the best vehicles for sleeping on short camping excursions.

Which vehicles are best for off-road camping trips with a rooftop tent?

Let’s face it, when it comes to off-road camping, the jeeps have it! The Jeep Wrangler, in particular, is unmatched in terms of off-roading and hauling.

Jeep Wrangler with rooftop tent

The Jeep Wrangler is among the cars that perform better off-road than it does on the road because of its numerous modification options and skilled, trail-ready construction. In addition, the jeep offers a variety of camping equipment, such as air beds, hammocks, and more.

Which vehicles are best for a comfortable camping trip with a rooftop tent?

When it comes to matters of comfort, trucks have it. The Honda Ridgeline is a crossover car with the comfort of an SUV and the driving characteristics of a pickup.

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Honda Ridgeline with rooftop tent on the truck bed

This vehicle features four doors and a truckbed, making it the best choice for heavy packers who need to leave quickly without worrying about packing. The truck bed features a locking, waterproof trunk for your more expensive belongings, and it can open outward or downward.

The truck bed may also be used as a sleeping platform when down. The fact that Honda offers a specific, fitted tent that fits within the truck bed shows that the company had campers in mind when designing this vehicle, making it one of the most incredible vehicles for sleeping in when camping.

Station wagons are also highly recommended if you value comfort and suitability for everyday use. Station wagon cars from German car manufacturers are particularly popular with rooftop tent campers. Here I can recommend you, for example, to look for an Audi Avant, Mercedes C-Class, or BMW 5-series.

bmw 5 series station wagon

German cars are known to be extremely reliable and have a top finish. If you are looking for quality, comfort, and luxury, you have come to the right place with German manufacturers!

Which vehicles are absolutely not suitable for installing rooftop tens?

Convertibles are extremely unsuitable for installing a rooftop tent! Since the RTT has to be attached to the roof (rather on the roof bars) of a vehicle in order to have a stable hold, convertibles are unfortunately not suitable. Convertibles do not have the option to install roof bars.

Super sports cars are just as unsuitable for a rooftop tent assembly. Although there are now roof bars for some super sports cars that allow the installation of roof bags, the permissible roof load of a super sports car is rather low and therefore unsuitable.

super sports car
If you are an owner of a super sports car, I have to disappoint you, it is not possible to install a rooftop tent here and go to the campsite with the Ferarri LaFerrari…some people always have bad luck 😉

Unfortunately, many classic cars are also unsuitable for mounting a rooftop tent. Many classic cars simply do not have the option of attaching roof bars to the body.

Conclusion

As you can see, it is not easy or even impossible to determine a clear winner. All vehicle classes have their very specific advantages and disadvantages!

It always depends on your personal taste which vehicle you prefer. Of course, it also depends on how you otherwise use the vehicle or whether you only go camping with your rooftop tent a few times a year.

For example, if you live in a city and only go camping a few times a year, it makes more sense to buy a comfortable sedan (such as a BMW 5-series or 3-series) and then set up your rooftop tent there.

But if you live in a rural region, then of course a 4×4 is the better choice for you and you can leave the rooftop tent permanently installed.

Basically, almost all vehicles are suitable for the installation of a rooftop tent. The main point is that you can install roof bars and roof cross bars on your vehicle to mount the rooftop tent on the vehicle roof.

 

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