Why Do Some SUVs Have a Big Metal Basket on Their Roof?

Have you noticed big, metal baskets on the roof of certain SUVs and wondered what they are for? These basket-style roof racks are engineered to carry a range of items securely, even while bouncing around off-road. They are far from the only type of aftermarket roofrack available for an SUV. But they are a favorite style of 4×4 owners who frequent the trail or are just seeking an off-road look.

What is a basket-style roofrack?

Just like it sounds, a basket-style roofrack is shaped like a basket and designed to secure your gear. With a protective rail enclosing the roof rack, it is ideal for securing large loose items such as coolers or spare gas cans.

White SUV with a black, basket-style roof rack.
Basket-style SUV roof rack | Bangsmart

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You can buy a range of sizes and shapes of basket-style roofracks. Some have wide, open slatted floors and are only good for holding very large items–such as Rubbermaid totes of gear. Other basket-style roof racks have a fine mesh or expanded steel base. These roof racks would be suitable for securing very large items or very small items.

Some basket-style roofracks have additional features. Premium options might include clips to hold a shovel or jack on your roof. Some roofracks even have off-roading trail lights attached to their leading edge.

Do you need to secure your gear in a basket-style roofrack?

Obviously you do not want your gear sliding back and fourth inside of your basket-style roofrack. You might damage whatever you are carrying, or even launch it onto the hood of your car if you slam on the brakes. It is always a good idea to secure your gear in a basket-style roof rack.

Black and white photo of the Camel Trophy team navigating an off-road trail with a basket roof rack.
Land Rover series with a roof rack | RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images

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There are a few ways to fasten down your gear in your basket-style roofrack. You can weave ratchet straps through your load, hook them to the frame of your basket, then tighten them up. You can also buy an elastic cargo net to stretch over your basket-style roofrack. When you slide your gear under this net, it stretches and the elastic holds the load firmly in place.

What types of roofracks can you install on your SUV?

If you need a roofrack for your SUV you have several options: Simple crossbars are lightweight, aerodynamic, and excel at holding large pieces of furniture or other large items if you’re not afraid to strap your cargo down yourself. Basket-style roofracks offer slightly more security and fully enclosed rooftop cargo containers offer the most security.

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Many automakers even offer simple, crossbar-style roof racks from the factory. These crossbars slot into the rails running up both sides of car and SUV roofs. They can support large objects and sealed containers, if you tie everything down properly.

Basket-style and closed container roofracks may be more expensive, and create more wind resistance, but they are more secure. They offer more support for small pieces of cargo. In addition, some closed rooftop containers are lockable. You may have seen these closed containers on the top of cars and SUVs: they are pod-shaped rooftop trunks by companies such as Thule and Yakima.

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