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 $:

  1. Make sure you do a quick test setup with the tent.
  2. Inspect for any signs of mold / mildew – if you can smell it, don’t buy it!
  3. Inspect poles, struts, buckles, clasps for obvious wear-and-tear signs and/or metal fatigue.
  4. Inspect the walls and fabric for any tears and/or holes that can’t be easily patched up.
  5. Inspect frequently used components such as zippers, which may be hard to replace.
  6. Inspect the mattress for anything that can’t be easily fixed (stains are easy to get out).
  7. Check the state of the roof rack and if you’re buying it as well. Most times it won’t match your vehicle though.
  8. 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).
  9. Check on the manufacturer’s website (if available) what the full roof top tent kit contained – might be useful when negotiating.
  10. Check if the particular model is still being sold by the manufacturer and if there are ways to get parts / fabric / replacements.

One Big Issue – Is It Compatible?

It’s easy to get excited when you find a used roof top tent at a good price, but you should always check the specs and make sure it’s compatible with your vehicle in terms of sizes and weight. Also keep in mind that your roof rack (if you have one), might not be strong enough to support the roof top tent you’re buying. In that sense, we have you covered with a few useful posts to ensure you won’t regret your RTT purchase.

Do I need a roof rack for a roof top tent?

Yes, for any roof top that that you plan on mounting to your vehicle, a roof rack (or cross bars) is required to be able to do so. Furthermore, you need to ensure that the roof rack you’re mounting your tent on is designed to support the static and dynamic load of the roof top tent in order to drive safely and use the tent without potentially damaging your car.

» Read More: Do I need a roof rack for a roof top tent?

Can my roof rack support a roof top tent?

While your roof rack MIGHT support a roof top tent, it’s never a safe option to use factory installed racks for roof top tents without double checking weight limits and confirming with the roof top tent manufacturer. If you own a heavy-duty aftermarket roof rack with a maximum load equal or higher than the tent’s load, it is very likely that it will support your roof top tent, but it’s still a better idea to a) confirm with the manufacturer or b) buy a manufacturer recommended roof rack system.

» Read more: Can my roof rack support a roof top tent?

How do you know if your car can handle a roof top tent?

You’re a couple of searches and a simple calculation away from figuring out if your car can handle a roof top tent safely and without risking any damage during actual usage. In most cases, if you own an SUV, Jeep, van or truck, you’re good to go, whilst sedans, hatchbacks, coupes are almost never a safe fit for a roof top tent. On top of that, you can pretty much rule out putting a roof top tent on any vehicle with a rooftop load limit under 165 lbs.

But let’s jump to the steps you should take to be absolutely sure you can buy, install and safely drive with a roof top tent.

» Read More: How do you know if your car can handle a roof top tent?

Other Considerations & Concerns on Used Roof Top Tents

If your dream is to get a complete roof top tent plus matching awning plus matching annex room, you should take the time to check if the roof top tent manufacturer still sells these accessories. Most customers only buy a roof top tent and, realistically, many models get discontinued over the years. Also, if you’re on a strict budget, you should plan out all the accessories you consider to be vital / required, those that are just useful and those that are nice to have and you can do without.

What roof top tent accessories do I need?

While a roof rack is the only mandatory accessory you need for a roof top tent, you might want to consider a matching awning and a compatible annex room to make the most out of your camping / overlanding trip. Most if not all roof top tents come with the necessary retractable ladder and a high quality mattress. Additionally, there are some extremely useful accessories such as a condensation mat (if not included in your RTT of your) and more that you may want to consider for a great camping experience.

» Read More: What roof top tent accessories do I need?

Even with accessories covered, the prices of roof top tents can vary wildly, so it pays off to know as much as possible about roof top tent price ranges so that you don’t pay more than would be reasonable for a used roof top tent.

How much do roof top tents cost?

New roof top tents from reputable brands cost as little as $1,099 on the budget / entry-level side, while premium options that are more feature-packed and built with the highest quality materials can cost as much as $7,500. Keep in mind that there are customizable roof top tents with various options that can add hundreds of dollars to the final cost and there are tens of accessories you can buy for them, ranging from organizers to lighting systems. That means you can easily spend over $10,000 if you can afford it and want the absolute top-of-the-line overlanding camping solution.

» Read More: How much do roof top tents cost?

With price ranges covered, most likely you’ll have to decide between a soft shell tent or a hard shell tent and that’s…well…a long discussion and the decision will be ultimately up to you. We can only present the pros and cons to help you decide.

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

Since roof top tents are still expensive even in a used condition, it’s worth considering the brand you’re purchasing. The more popular it is, the easier it will be for you to resell the tent if it’s not a good fit for your needs. As much as you’ll spend researching brands, specs, features etc., there’s still a chance that you won’t be happy with it – so why not minimize or eliminate your potential losses?

What are the most popular roof top tent brands?

We’ve ranked over 50 of the most popular roof top tent brands and we’re pretty sure you’ll be surprised by how many brands have been built in the last few years, riding the overlanding industry’s explosive growth curve. Feel free to use this post to help your own research into what roof top tent to buy – we’ve put a lot of time so we can surface many niche and new RTT brands that most overlanders & adventurers won’t encounter in a casual search. Keep in mind that brands are ranked using a multitude of data points across the web (Amazon, Google, Facebook data combined with various signals on a brand and product level) and you might be surprised by the results. For example, the extreme popularity of some brands on social media is attenuated by weaker signals taken from other sources (ex.: number of public reviews).

» Read more: Most popular roof top tent brands

Hopefully you’re now better equipped to buy a used roof top tent, but if you feel there are some other doubts, make sure to check out our guide on how to pick a roof top tent. While it was written with new roof top tents in mind, you can still make use of the information to buy a used one as well.

How do you pick a roof top tent?

Choosing the right roof top tent can be broken down into the following steps to ensure you get the most out of your budget:

  1. Decide on a budget for your roof top tent & accessories
  2. Pick a specific style & type of roof top tent
  3. Compare roof top tent features & specifications
  4. Find the right roof rack for your roof top tent
  5. Check the rack, tent, vehicle compatibility and weight limits
  6. Choose the right roof top tent accessories
  7. Order, install & go on an adventure!

As we love over-analyzing any purchase decision, we recommend reading further so you can make your own check list of priorities in terms of features and accessories for your ideal roof top tent.

» Read More: How to choose a roof top tent