Steel vs aluminum roof racks

So you have decided to get a roof rack, but wait, there are two types, Aluminium and steel, what to choose? And what are the differences?

What is the difference between Aluminium and Steel roof bars?

The main difference between Aluminium and Steel roof bars is that steel is heavier, cheaper, and more prone to corrosion, while aluminium is lighter and can carry more weight, aluminium roof racks are often more aerodynamic and will result in less fuel consumption.

Aluminium roof racks

Pros of Aluminium roof racks

  • Aluminum cross bars are light: Aluminium is lighter than steel, the weight difference (can be between 10 to 20%) is really useful when you try to move the roof rack by yourself for installation or for storage, the lightweight can be economically beneficial for transport companies by allowing their trucks to have more cargo carrying capacity.
  • Aluminum roof racks are strong: being lighter doesn’t mean less strong, and this is absolutely true when comparing steel and aluminium racks, aluminium racks are stronger than the steel ones, you can carry more weight and heavy items with them.  
  • Corrosion: Aluminium cross bars are more resistant to corrosion that steel racks, this allows aluminium racks to work for many years, especially for SUVs in harsh weather areas.
  • Can have more accessories: Aluminium racks are easier to work with and can be modified to carry more accessories, many of them have a slot that allows accessories to be inserted there.
  • Less fuel consumption: the aerodynamic design of aluminium bars allows air to pass without too much resistance, this will reduce noise level and fuel consumption, if you like to leave your roof racks on the car for a long time, aluminium is economically more beneficial.
  • Better design: steel racks have a coat of material to protect them from corrosion, this coat in combination with the square design looks less attractive than aluminium racks.

Cons of Aluminium roof racks

 

  • Expensive: Aluminium roof racks are more expensive than the ones made of steel,  higher price of the raw material, and the cost of the labour results is more manufacturing fees and a higher price for the end user.
  • Less shock resistance: Aluminum can bend but not as much as steel, you need to take care of your cross bars and pay more attention when you install a roof box or a roof tent on them.

Steel roof racks

Pros of Steel roof racks

  • High shock resistance: steel racks are known to be resilient and flexible, they don’t bend so easily and the metal itself is less prone to fatigue in comparison to aluminium, if you need to load and unload heavy gear and material many times then you must choose a steel rack.
  •  More cost effective: Aluminium is more expensive than steel and as a result, racks made from steel are generally cheaper (some steel racks are more expensive but not for raw material reasons), people with a tight budget might be happy to know that the majority of steel racks are cheap and durable, a great deal.

Cons of steel roof racks

  • Prone to Rust: Corrosion can literally ruin your car roof rack, most steel racks are protected with a layer of zinc or plastic or rubber, but if this layer is scratched, water will leak inside and the steel will start to oxidize.
  • Less cargo capacity: if compared to aluminium racks with the same size, steel cross bars withstand less weight .
  • Heavy: These racks will take a large part of your vehicle weight capacity, if you are planning to go camping using a rooftop tent, it is better to go with an aluminium roof rack.

Ok, I know the difference, but what are the best aluminium and steel roof racks right now?

What are the best Aluminium roof racks (cross bars) on the market?

What are the best Steel roof racks (cross bars) on the market?

The same for steel cross bars, these are the best on the market right now

Conclusion

Now you know the difference between aluminium and steel cross bar, if you like to know more about the worlds of roof racks and roof boxes, check our blog.