4WD utes are the most practical and versatile vehicles available. They’re used by millions of tradespeople and off-road enthusiasts across Australia, and they’re capable of doing just about anything you need them to, whether it’s using them as a workhorse and transporting tonnes of tools and equipment or venturing off the beaten trail for a once in a lifetime adventure to the remotest, most pristine pieces of land Australia has to offer. But as great as 4WD utes are straight out the factory, there’s always room for improvement.
Even though these vehicles are capable of transporting far more than your conventional car, there are ways to improve their storage capacity even more with the help of the many practical off road vehicle accessories like canopies and canopy roof racks.
Although they serve the same purpose of increasing your vehicle’s storage and transport capacity, they are quite different, and the most suitable one for you will depend on a few factors and personal preference. That being said, here’s what you need to know before you decide whether canopies or roof racks are the ideal option for you.
4×4 Roof Racks
Let’s start with roof racks because they are much easier to install and often the more affordable pick.
If you decide to install a roof rack, you’ll need to consider your ute’s roof arrangement before making a choice. If your ute already has a crossbar and rails, then you’ll only need a setup that can strap onto them. If you have a ute with rails, on the other hand, you’ll need crossbars and everything that connects to them. If your ute isn’t fitted with rails, then you’ll need crossbars, towers and everything else to connect them onto your vehicle. Check this review of the best roof racks, by Rack Hungry.
When deciding on the ideal roof rack for your ute, prioritise how easy it is to install and remove it. You don’t want to use them when you don’t have to, as they can alter your ute’s aerodynamics, leading to increased fuel costs. Also, make sure the roof rack you choose is designed to fit your vehicle’s make and model.
If you’re an off-road enthusiast and you frequently take camping trips, a permanent roof rack may be the best solution. They provide the most versatility, load capacity and space. Plus, you can mount other off-road vehicle accessories like off-road driving lights, awnings, and so on. To prevent the roof rack from affecting your vehicle’s fuel efficiency, consider a low-profile, aluminium model.
The great thing about roof racks is that they can also be fitted on top of canopies. There are special canopy roof racks on the market that instead of mounting to your ute’s roof, mount on the canopy itself.
Before you decide to install a canopy, you have to determine what type of base the canopy will have to fit on. There are three main options – tub, tray and chassis-mounted canopies.
Most utes come with a tub arrangement that you can attach a variety of canopies on to protect and store your tools, gear or off-road equipment in. If yours doesn’t, you can get one for pretty cheap, as many people sell theirs for aluminium or steel trays.
Flat trays are another popular factory arrangement that utes come in, and they often feature fold-down sides. Tray canopies are attached by removing the fold-down sides and bolting them through the tray. An added benefit of these canopies is the fact that you can easily remove them. Removable canopies come with legs and after removing them from your ute, you can just store them in your garage.
But keep in mind that even trays come in a range of strengths and designs, and they can be meant for light-duty or heavy-duty use. A light-duty tray with a heavy steel canopy in it and a few heavy off road vehicle accessories or equipment can be very dangerous.
These canopies are directly bolted onto your ute’s chassis rather than having a tub or tray. As a result, they’re built stronger underneath, and they’re a permanent installation. While you can obviously remove them, it takes a lot of time and effort.
What to Consider When Buying Canopies and Roof Racks?
Keeping your ute legal and underweight can be quite the challenge, and many people fail at it. If your vehicle is balanced incorrectly or surpasses the gross vehicle weight rating, the odds of an accident increase. Utes are especially prone to improper balancing, as the majority of their storage capacity is behind the axles, so you apply more leverage. A lot of dual-cab utes have a damaged, bent chassis as a result.
This is especially important to consider if you’re adding a canopy, as they’re heavier than roof racks. For this reason, aluminium roof racks and canopies are some of the most popular on the market. While they may not be as strong as their steel counterparts, they’re considerably lighter.
The security of your equipment and gear is another important factor to consider. After all, your camping equipment and tools aren’t cheap, and they can attract thieves. Canopies are obviously the more secure option, but even they aren’t impenetrable. Some canopies can easily be broken into, while others will require some sweat, so most thieves won’t even try.
Roof racks aren’t as secure, as all your possessions are in clear sight, and all it takes is a knife and a little bit of determination to steal your equipment. But a canopy roof rack combo will give you the option to keep your most important belongings in a secure place while offering you some added space to bring along extra things.
Canopies are more expensive than roof racks. Regardless of which one you go for, it’s important to do your own research into what would fit your needs and ute best. The cheapest roof racks can be just a few hundred dollars, whereas the cheapest canopies start at about $2000. However, you don’t want to put your trust in the “cheapest”, no matter whether it’s a roof rack or canopy.
That being said, set a realistic budget before you start looking so you can quickly narrow down your options. If you’re on a tight budget, a well-designed roof rack can provide the best value. But if budget isn’t a concern, then you should make a choice based on the aforementioned factors.
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