Why Are Rooftop Tents So Expensive + How To Save Money When Buying One

Rooftop tents are more and more popular and are osmething that are perfect for young families, couples and solo travellers looking to have the experience of camping but with a quick and simple tent solution. But the downside to this is that they can be quite expensive to buy.

Rooftop tents are made from extremely durable and strong materials that create a stable base that supports body weight and structure to the tent when erected. They are also made to be easy to set up and an all in one solution perfect for a quick set up and quick takedown.

In this article we will look into the reasons why rooftop tents are so expensive, which are the best brands to buy and how to save money on buying your own rooftop tent.

What Are The Best Brands of Rooftop Tents?

With so many rooftop tents on the market it can be difficult to filter out the good from the bad, especially if you are on a tight budget. Most rooftop tents use similar designs but can vary greatly in quality and extra features.

In this section, we have selected three solid roof tent brands that provide quality products for a reasonable price. Although these aren’t budget rooftop tent brands, they offer the best in terms of value for money. 

1. Tepui (Thule) Roof Tents

Tepui is a rooftop tent brand that was taken over by Thule — the american auto brand that has specialized in roof racks, cargo carriers, and other car travel solutions for over 70 years. Originally founded in 2010, Tepui was taken over by Thule in december of 2018.

Since their ownership, Thule has increased the range of rooftop tents that Tepui offer and improved their existing range dramatically. 

This roof tent brand offers a wide range of roof top tents to accommodate all manner of camping situations. With capacities from 2-person to 4-person, their range is diverse, so you are bound to find something to suit you. They also offer tents for all budgets without sacrificing quality and functionality.

You will find their bottom of the range tent for less than $1000 and their top of the range tent just touching $3000. 

Tepui is a great brand to look into if you are looking for quality, functionality, and durability. With multiple capacity options and designs from fold-outs, tent boxes, and tenets with annexes, you are sure to find a rooftop tent that fits your needs.

2. Raptor 4×4 Roof Tents

Raptor 4×4 is a UK-based offroading brand that offers everything from truck parts to overlanding accessories. They are a great brand to look at if you are looking to kit out your landrover, land cruiser, or wrangler for overlanding exhibitions.

They offer every expedition accessory imaginable from lightbars, awnings, food storage, power solutions, and, of course, roof tents.

They don’t have the same expansive range of products that Tepui have, but they have some quality products that are worth mentioning. They offer two main rooftop tents — the soft top roof tent and the hard-shell roof tent.

Both types are constructed from high-quality materials with high HH (waterproof) ratings and are built to last through the wear and tear that overlanding brings. 

They also offer expansion annexes for their soft top tents which is great if you want to increase the living space around your vehicle. Their cheapest tent is a little over £1000 and their annex expansions start at £300. This is great if you want to add to your setup over time as your budget allows. 

3. TMB Roof Tents

TMB (The Motoring Business) is a California-based company that specializes in all things car-related. They offer a variety of interior and exterior auto accessories from bodywork pieces to custom-fit floor mats. In recent years, they have expanded to offer their customers cargo solutions and rooftop tents.

TMB offers a variety of easy-up roof box tents. When packed down, these tents are extremely streamlined providing an easy drive and increased fuel consumption. Unlike some other hard-shell box-style roof tents on the market, TMB’s entire range sits below the $2000 mark.

Still on the pricey side, but far better than some other options on the market that stretch over the $3000 mark. 

TMB’s roof tents are budget-friendly without sacrificing quality. They are built to the highest standards from high-quality materials and they set up and pack down in no time at all. If you are looking for a hard-shell box tent, then this brand is the first place to look.

What Makes A Rooftop Tent So Expensive?

Even more budget-friendly rooftop tents can seem to cost a fortune, so what is it that makes them so expensive?

There are many reasons why the price of a rooftop tent seems worlds apart from a traditional tent you would pitch on the ground. A rooftop tent has to cope with the wears and tears of not only camping but the open road as well. They are different to traditional tents in many ways, with the most obvious being their pitch location. 

Creating an instant tent that mounts to the roof of a car is expensive, no matter how you look at it. Rooftop tents take a considerable amount of engineering and corners can’t be cut if the quality is to be gained.

To help you understand where your money goes when you purchase one of these innovative tents, we have devised a quick rundown on why rooftop tents are so expensive.

1. Build-Quality

Build-quality is a defining factor of any tent. Whether it’s a rooftop tent, backpacking tent, or family tent, high-quality materials and proper construction methods cost money. Rooftop tents require a different level of manufacturing compared to traditional ground-pitched tents as they need to be road-worthy as well as camp-worthy.

Roof top tents use a variety of materials that need to support your weight when inside, keep the weather out, and provide sufficient breathability all while staying light and streamlined enough to mount on your roof.

Unlike traditional tents, it is not just fabric and poles supporting a rooftop tent. They feature a strong but lightweight baseplate, a sturdy weather-proof fabric, a hinged foldable frame, and hydraulics (depending on design) just to stay upright. This is before we get into any extra features!

As you now know, engineering a quality roof tent is a far bigger feat than engineering a ground-pitched tent. For this reason alone, roof tents tend to be much higher in price than their ground-dwelling cousins. The price is well justified when you look at the materials and work that goes into constructing these shelters. 

2. Durability and Versatility

Another factor that explains the high price point of rooftop tents is their durability and versatility. We covered this slightly in the last point with the fact that they not only need to put up with camping wear but also road wear.

There are some other factors that make the rooftop tent extremely durable and versatile but also extremely expensive.

The nature of a roof tent requires it to be extremely durable and versatile. It is not only the camping and the road use that it has to put up with, it is the bits in between — setup and pack-down.

Unlike a ground-pitched tent, if you want to leave your campsite in your car, you will have to collapse your tent and bring it with you. This can put incredible wear on a tent, so it has to be built to withstand the constant strain of nomadic life. 

3. Ease of Setup

The setup of a roof tent is extremely simple. To set up a rooftop tent only takes unclipping a few clamps and popping the tent up, or folding it out and erecting a ladder. It takes a lot to get this kind of versatility and ease of setup.

This simplistic pitching is what attracts people to the roof tent. Anywhere you can park your car you can also pitch your tent. No need for timely setup with frustrating poles and stakes. 

In the tent’s design, this ease of setup must be considered. Rooftop tents use hinged frames, intricate heavy-duty collapsing metalwork, and/or hydraulic jack-style lifts to erect the tent. These mechanisms do not come cheap and they require superior manufacturing techniques to work effectively without failing time after time. 

4. All-In-One Solution

Rooftop tents are an all-in-one camping solution. When you look at the price of a ground-pitched tent you are looking at the price for the shelter only. When you are looking at a rooftop tent you are looking at the tent shelter, a camping bed, and a mattress.

This puts up the costs because you are provided with a fixed foundation, a soft mattress to sleep on, and a roof over your head.

Some rooftop tents also double up as a storage solution when you are on the road. It is not uncommon to find hard-shell roof tents that when collapsed, act as a rooftop storage box.

Considering these features, when you add up the cost of a high-quality ground-pitched tent, a quality padded camp bed, and a rooftop storage box, the rooftop tent doesn’t seem so expensive. Overall, you get a lot for your money when you purchase a rooftop tent and you can save on extra gear because all you will need for your sleep setup is a sleeping bag.

How To Save Money On Rooftop Tents

So, how can you save money on a rooftop tent while ensuring you do not sacrifice quality? 

It is important that you don’t buy too cheap when you purchase a rooftop tent because as you now know, they require an immense amount of engineering to function properly.

Cheap chinese roof tent copies are bound to fail, so if you are looking at something like that, stop and reconsider. Sure, a cheap import may save you a few hundred now, but for the long run you will undoubtedly lose.

There are a few ways that you can save when you buy your first rooftop tent without sacrificing quality, functionality, and durability though. The key is to save your money in a smart way by putting your money in the places it counts. Below, we have four ways that you can gain on quality and save on cost.

1. Buy Quality And Save In The Long Run

If you do a lot of camping and plan on using your rooftop tent regularly, then we definitely recommend spending a bit more on your purchase. Like most things, if you buy a quality product in the first place you will save money in the long run. Buy for the future and not just for today, cheap isn’t always better. 

Finding a balance of value and quality isn’t impossible. It is far better spending a few hundred more and having your tent last over 10 years, than saving a few hundred and having it break a year or two down the line.

We mentioned this briefly earlier, instead of buying that tempting chinese copy, go for a reputable brand. You will save on repairs and disappointment!

2. Purchase Second-Hand

Another option, if you are looking to save some cash is to buy second hand. It is rare, but sometimes you will find some steals on Ebay, Craigslist, Gumtree, or Facebook Marketplace.

If you are patient, you may be able to find a gem in the rough that has had minimal use with minimal wear. If you find one, you will often find a near-perfect rooftop tent for almost half the price! Patients definitely pay off in this respect and unless you need a tent asap, this is often the best way to go when looking for your first rooftop tent on a budget.

3. Look Out For Deals

Look out for deals and coupons. Sometimes buying directly from the supplier is a good thing. You will often get free shipping, discount, and free additional products when you go directly to a supplier.

This is a great way to get the exact tent you desire without buying second hand. You won’t save a fortune but you will certainly save a few dollars to spend on your first camping trip. 

Good times to look for deals are in the off-season, around christmas time, black friday, and the January sales. 

You may also be able to find previous stock by going directly to the supplier. When a company brings out a new model, they will usually sell out previous models and clearance stock with big discounts. Older models are not always worse and although they may lack some features that the new model has, they will still serve you well for many (many) years!

Go to showrooms too! Have a walk around local camping stores and auto centers. You may find ex-display models up for grabs with a huge discount. Display items may have a few cosmetic issues where people have looked around inside but they are usually in great condition.

Unlike second-hand tents, ex-display pieces haven’t been exposed to the weather, slept in, or used over many weekends for camping. If you see an ex-display model that’s in good condition, snatch it up fast before someone else does!

4. Save On Design

Another way you can save on your first rooftop tent purchase is to go with a less attractive design. Hardshell popup-style roof tents tend to fetch more money than the older fold-out style tents. If you are willing to spend more time folding out and packing away your tent then you will save money on the design. 

This ultimately comes down to whether you are willing to sacrifice a bit of practicality to save some cash. If you are aiming for a hardshell popup roof tent but only have the budget for a fold-out rooftop tent, then go for the fold-out. You will get more for your money this way. Of course, if an expensive hardshell is what your heart truly desires, then save up the money and go for it. You won’t be disappointed!

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