Are Rooftop Tents Worth the Money?

If you’re planning on going camping, but don’t want to have to sleep in a tent on the ground, then you have a few options. You can sleep in your car or you can rent an RV. But what if you want more room than your car’s backseat can afford and you don’t want to rent an RV? In that case, you can invest in a rooftop tent, but is doing so actually worth the money?

What is a rooftop tent?

An off-road vehicle with an open roof tent stands on the banks of the Elbe river at sunrise.
An off-road vehicle with an open roof tent stands on the banks of the Elbe river at sunrise. | (Philipp Schulze/picture alliance via Getty Images)

A rooftop tent is, quite simply, a tent that you can attach to the roof of your car or SUV. The main point of it is that you’ll have the convenience of sleeping right where you parked along with the added convenience of being elevated off the ground. That way, you won’t be bothered by any creepy crawlies that might cross your path during the night along with any other unwanted intruders.

Additionally, depending on the type of rooftop tent that you have, you’ll have more room than you would in a cramped back seat.  

The cons of having a rooftop tent

While we can understand the conveniences of having a rooftop tent, we have to explore the disadvantages as well. According to The Manual, there are two drawbacks to using a rooftop tent: Cost and weight.

If you take a gander at the different types of rooftop tents online, you’ll notice that many of them are price in the thousands. For example, this hard-shell rooftop tent from Roofnest retails for $3,500 and weighs 100 pounds. That’s a lot of money and weight to carry around on your car, but it can be worth it if you use it more than a couple times a year.

Another disadvantage is having to figure out which rooftop tent is right for you. There are plenty of options currently on the market, but aside from the style of the tent, you’ll need to figure out which one works best for your car. If your car doesn’t have a roof rack, then you’ll likely need to get an aftermarket one installed, which will cost you more money as well.

There are two types of rooftop tents

Off-road four-wheel-drive vehicle with rooftop tent camping along the Baltic Sea.
Off-road four-wheel-drive vehicle with rooftop tent camping along the Baltic Sea. | (Photo by: Sven-Erik Arndt/Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

You can fit a rooftop tent on almost any car and any SUV. In fact, there’s even a couple that travels around and sleeps on top of their Toyota Yaris, so almost any car is possible. The couple’s blog, Made for Travelers, notes that there are two different types of rooftop tents available: hard-shell and soft-shell.

The hard-shell rooftop tents open via a pop-up system that utilizes gas springs. The beauty of this type of rooftop tent is that it can be set up in seconds and it can be used as an extra storage bin when you’re on the road. The downside is that hard-shell rooftop tents can typically only accommodate up to two people.

Soft-shell tents, on the other hand, open up sideways, like a canopy. Setting up a soft-shell tent will take more effort than popping up a hard-shell one, but it still should only take minutes to do. Many soft-shell tents, like the Yakima Sky Rise HD 3 tent, can fit more than two people and cost around $2,500 or less. However, they can’t be used for extra storage like the hard-shell ones when you’re driving.

Are rooftop tents worth it?

Ultimately, a rooftop tent is worth the money if you know you can get some good use out of it. There are plenty of regular tents that can be purchased for a much lower price, but the added safety and convenience of a rooftop tent can be worth the extra cost.

Also, you’ll be saving a lot of money over renting an RV, which will allow you to go camping more than once or twice a year. Plus, a rooftop tent can give you some of the most amazing views from the top of your car in almost any setting you park it in.

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