How to Buy an Overhead Rack and Carrier for Your Car When Moving

How to Purchase the Right Carrier for Your Car

Car with carrier on top
[Stephen Morris]/[E+]/Getty Images.

Whether you're moving across town or if you're moving across the country, most of us use our car to move. While a car can hold a lot of stuff, there are ways to pack more efficiently by first clearing out the clutter, and there are tools that will help you squeeze what you need to fit into such a small space.

How to determine the right fit

If you're moving a long distance, it's a good idea to invest in an overhead carrier.

Carriers, such as the hard-case type that Thule makes, are a great option for packing items that are valuable, awkward to pack and fragile. Smaller screen televisions, computers, stereos, etc... can be packed overhead, locked and are secure no matter where you stop.

Hard-case carriers can be expensive and you'll need a good mechanic or your car's manufacturer to install the carrier's braces. If you're handy and your car is a standard shape and size, you might be able to do it yourself with the right tools. Car manufacturers will sell you a custom rack for your vehicle and install it for you all for a fixed price. The other option is to purchase a brand-name rack and have it custom-fitted to your car's roof. Again, Thule makes racks that will hold sports equipment or overhead carriers.

Talk to your car dealership before you purchase an off-the-shelf rack

Some vehicles have odd-shaped roofs that make it difficult to fix racks to.

Once you've determined what kind of rack that will work with your car, then start shopping for a rack system that will give you what you need. Look for brands with a good reputation for durability and flexibility in terms of what kind of items they can hold.

Check the manufacturer's warranty before you purchase.

Some companies guarantee a lifetime warranty and will replace parts should breaks occur. Take this into consideration when comparing costs. Remember, this purchase should last for the rest of your life or at the very least, the lifetime of your vehicle.

Make sure the rack is installed correctly

The foot beds should be firmly in place and fully supporting whatever items you're putting on top. Before you start to load items on top, make sure you check the weight limit to prevent cracks and breaks from occurring. Make sure you keep to the weight restrictions outlined by the manufacturer.

If you installed the rack yourself and aren't sure if you did it correctly, have your mechanic or car dealership inspect it to make sure it's secure. Racks that are improperly installed can lead to motor vehicle accidents and cause damage to the car and to other vehicles on the road. It can also mean that your packed things aren't safe. Have it inspected and reinstalled if necessary.

Purchase the right carrier

Depending on how far you're traveling, how much stuff you need to hold and whether or not you need a secure carrier, you'll be choosing between hard-case carriers and soft-case. Soft-case carriers are great for items that aren't too heavy and things you can easily transfer into a hotel room should you need to stay overnight.

Soft-cases are usually made from waterproof material and should have reinforced zippers to make sure water doesn't leak through. But the one thing soft-cases can't be protected against are thieves. So if you prefer a soft-case, then make sure you protect the case overnight or if you're stopping for any length of time. Soft cases are also less expensive and some companies do provide a lifetime guarantee.

Hard-shell cases, like soft-shell, come in a variety of sizes and shapes and are made from waterproof materials. Hard-shells are also resistant to heat and other types of damage that can occur. The added bonus to purchasing a hard-shell is that they are lockable. Being able to lock your things means you can leave your stuff unattended,including our packed electronics, in our overhead, locked carrier in even the most dangerous areas of the continent.

We never had any problems and his things arrived safely. Hard-shells can cost a little more, but the price tag is worth the peace of mind.