Buying a roof top tent is a significant investment, considering most soft shell tents cost around $1,000 to $2,000 and most hard shell tents cost up to $5,000 (even more for some top of the line solutions) and knowing what to look for can definitely help you avoid a serious case of buyer’s remorse. We’re going to be talking about all the factors, features and specifications you should keep in mind before making a purchase and go into further detail on topics such as roof top tent materials, insulation, ventilation and more to ensure that you’re as informed as possible before clicking “Buy Now”.
What matters most when buying a roof top tent?
From brand reputation to the availability of various complementary accessories such as annex rooms and awnings, there are quite a few things that matter when purchasing a roof top tent. We go through at least 21 factors when ranking a specific RTT and, while priority may vary based on your needs, this would be our list:
- The brand’s popularity, reputation and “staying power”
- Choosing the right type of roof top tent for your adventure
- Choosing the right size based on sleeping capacity
- Compatible roof racks and vehicles
- Total weight and supported weight
- Sizes & actual usable height
- Ease of installation and setup
- Sleeping comfort levels
- Wind noise levels
- Insulation levels
- Ventilation capabilities
- Material quality & ratings
- Moisture / humidity control
- Quality of life features
- Compatible accessories
- Storage & organization solutions
- Ease of dismounting and storage
- In-depth warranty conditions and breakdown
- Compatible annex room availability
- Matching awnings availability
Ok, we admit this might feel a bit overwhelming, but we can further break down each one of these so that you know exactly what to look for and what to avoid in your decision making process. Some are easier to figure out such as the availability of annex rooms (a simple Yes / No / Not Required if you were to make a features checklist for yourself), while some might require a bit of digging through YouTube reviews – for example if a soft shell RTT is very noisy during a windy night.
Factor #1: The roof top tent brand’s popularity, reputation and “staying power”
From warranty reliability and availability of replacement parts to an extended range of compatible accessories, there are a few perks that come with buying one of the more popular roof top tent brands, even if you shell out a bit more for the tent itself. It’s no secret that a popular brand comes at a premium, but that’s just something you have to balance based on your budget. As for the most popular roof top tent brands, we have you covered through extensive research.
What are the most popular roof top tent brands?
After countless hours of research and analysis, we put together a ranking of the 50 most popular roof top tent brands and we were surprised by the results, to say the least. Please keep in mind that “popular” does not necessarily mean “best” in terms of quality.
» Read more: The 50 Most Popular Roof Top Tent Brands
Factor #2: Choosing the right type of roof top tent for your adventure
What are the types of roof top tents?
Roof top tents come in 4 distinct types, mainly soft-shell, hard-shell, inflatable and integrated pop-top tents. but for 95% of overlanders and campers, the choice comes down to soft shell vs. hard shell roof top tents. Soft shell and hard shell tents are by far the most popular because they offer the best features for the price, with the fewest possible downsides and they are compatible with most vehicles on the market, requiring minimal customization.
» Read more: What are the types of roof top tents?
Should I buy a soft or hard shell roof top tent?
Besides the obvious price difference, from aerodynamic profile to weight considerations, there are a lot of subtle differences between soft shell and hard shell roof top tents and there isn’t a clear cut answer on what the best choice is, but we can help you decide what the best choice is for your particular needs.
» Read more: Soft Shell vs. Hard Shell Roof Top Tents
Factor #3: Choosing the right size based on sleeping capacity
Factor #4: Compatible roof racks and vehicles
Factor #5: Total weight and supported weight
Factor #6: Sizes & actual usable height
Factor #7: Ease of installation and setup
Factor #8: Sleeping comfort levels
Factor #9: Wind noise levels
Factor #10: Insulation levels
Factor #11: Aerodynamics
Factor #12: Ventilation capabilities
Factor #13: Material quality & ratings
Factor #14: Moisture / humidity control
Factor #15: Quality of life features
Factor #16: Compatible accessories
Factor #17: Storage & organization solutions
Factor #18: Ease of dismounting and storage
Factor #19: In-depth warranty conditions and breakdown
Factor #20: Compatible annex room availability
Factor #21: In-depth warranty conditions and breakdown
Of course, on top of these factors we’d advise you to keep in mind a few more things if you plan on buying a used roof top tent. While roof top tents are a good investment overall, you might not be able to justify the cost of a new one if you use it occasionally.
Tips for Buying Used Roof Top Tents
If you’re looking to buy one of the many used roof top tents up for sale on various marketplaces, we have some handy tips so you don’t end up purchasing a tent that’s faulty, too difficult to fix or just not worth the $:
- Make sure you do a quick test setup with the tent.
- Inspect for any signs of mold / mildew – if you can smell it, don’t buy it!
- Inspect poles, struts, buckles, clasps for obvious wear-and-tear signs and/or metal fatigue.
- Inspect the walls and fabric for any tears and/or holes that can’t be easily patched up.
- Inspect frequently used components such as zippers, which may be hard to replace.
- Inspect the mattress for anything that can’t be easily fixed (stains are easy to get out).
- Check the state of the roof rack and if you’re buying it as well. Most times it won’t match your vehicle though.
- Check the shell for damage (if it’s a hard shell tent) and make sure you get the cover as well (if it’s a soft shell tent).
- Check on the manufacturer’s website (if available) what the full roof top tent kit contained – might be useful when negotiating.
- Check if the particular model is still being sold by the manufacturer and if there are ways to get parts / fabric / replacements.
For more useful tips and potential fixes to what might be deal breakers when buying a used roof top tent, we recommend reading our full post on the topic.
» Read more: Tips for Buying Used Roof Top Tents