Rooftop Tent Cost / Benefit: When It Makes Sense to Buy One

Rooftop tents are becoming more and more popular in the camping industry. Not only do they look cool, but many argue that they are more convenient and easy to use than other tent options. With that in mind, you might be thinking if a rooftop tent is worth the cost.

Rooftop tents cost anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000, but most cost around $3,000. This makes them quite a bit more expensive than ground tents. They have few benefits that ground tents don’t offer, but are a great option for campers that set up at different locations frequently.

Going forward, we will talk more about the cost of rooftop tents and their pros and cons This will help you not only decide if a rooftop tent is worth it, but if it is, when it would make sense for you to buy one.

Cost of Rooftop Tents

A good, comparably sized (3 person) ground tent costs around $100-$400, making rooftop tents a lot more expensive. If you get a rooftop tent, you will also have to invest in a roof rack and cross bars that fit your tent. These expenses, along with the tent, add up to be quite a bit of money. We’ll talk about three different rooftop tents and their prices so that you can get an idea of what you will get for your money if you end up investing in a rooftop tent.


The Thule Tepui Low-Pro is on the less expensive end, retailing for $1,749.95. This rooftop tent sleeps two people and weighs 105 pounds. The tent is made of 100% recyclable materials and is waterproof.

This tent in particular fits on most roof racks, but you should double-check that it is compatible with yours before buying one. You also need to make sure it is will fit on your vehicle’s crossbars. The Tepui Low-Pro is a three-season tent, so you would be able to use it most of the year.


Thule is one of the leading rooftop tent brands, so it is no surprise that two Thule rooftop tents made our shortlist. The Thule Tepui Explorer Autana 3 costs $2,499.95. Although it is more expensive than the Thule Tepui Low-Pro, it does sleep one more person and includes a mattress.

It is also more versatile than the Low-Pro because it can be used in all four seasons, not just three. This tent weighs 152 pounds and is made out of a polyester and cotton blend that holds up well in all climates and weather conditions.


The last rooftop tent option that we’ll discuss in this article is the iKamper Skycamp 3.0. This tent can fit up to four people and has fold-out extensions to give occupants even more space. It also comes with a 2.5-inch thick king-size mattress.

The iKamper Skycamp 3.0 retails for $4,199.00. One pro to this specific setup is that it comes with mounting brackets so that you can easily attach the tent to your existing crossbar. It also has big mesh windows that you can open for ventilation or to just enjoy the view around you.

Pros of Rooftop Tents

Ease of Use

Once you have a rooftop tent mounted, it is very easy to set up and take down. With most rooftop tents, it takes less than ten minutes to complete the process. You can also fold your mattress and bedding into the tent which will save you space in the rest of your car.

Perceived Safety

Although rooftop tents aren’t that much safer than ground tents, they do make certain people who may not be super familiar with the outdoors feel more comfortable, safe, and at ease. The reality is that these tents do not add any real protection beyond a standard ground tent. In fact, any food stored or cooked in your overland vehicle may actually attract bears closer to your sleep location.


From personal experience, I can tell you that rooftop tents are very comfortable to sleep in. Not only do you have a mattress to sleep on, but you don’t have the painful problem of sleeping on uneven ground covered in rocks and roots. Roof top tents also can often be extended to give you more leg room.


A rooftop tent is easy to transport and doesn’t take up room in your car’s cargo area, although you do lose roof rack space if you were planning on using that to store some of your gear. The main mobility pro is that you can camp anywhere you can drive to – even in a big puddle if you feel like it! You just have to make sure that your car is more or less level, but it’s easier to level out your car than the ground.


Sometimes, the added elevation of the roof top tent can give you a better view of all of the natural beauty around you. The novelty of a higher perspective can also add to the sense of adventure, just like a tree house.

Cons of Rooftop Tents


As mentioned above, a roof top tent is substantially more expensive than a traditional ground tent. Per person, it is about 10x more expensive!


Roof top tents are quite heavy, usually weighing anywhere from 100 to 200 pounds. If you are thinking about getting a rooftop tent, you will need to make sure that your car can handle that kind of weight. You will also need to be more careful when driving with your rooftop tent mounted because it makes your vehicle top heavy and more inclined to roll.

This extra weight also reduces your gas mileage, sometimes as many as 15 miles less per gallon. Another result of the tent being so heavy is that it is difficult to mount onto your car in the first place. You can’t do it alone; it takes at least two people to initially set up.


Although I already put mobility as a pro, it really is a double-edged sword. Because the tent is attached to your car, you will not have the typical established car campsite from which you can explore by car. You’ll need to pack up if you decide to go on an excursion that that is beyond walking distance. Someone might even mistake your longer term campsite as unoccupied during your day trip.

Since the tent is located on your roof and you have to climb a ladder to get in and out of it, midnight bathroom breaks are even more of an inconvenience. If you are traveling with pets or small children, it could be difficult to get them up and down the ladder as well.

Limited Size

Roof top tents may be a good option for highly mobile solo adventurers, couples and small or young families, but not larger families or those who prefer glamping space. The largest (and most expensive) roof top tents are 4 person. I try to avoid putting more than 3 family members in a 4 person tent. These tents also lack the generous height of typical family tents.

Is a Roof-Top Tent Right for You?

Taking all of these factors into account, you can see that a rooftop tent is a good option, but definitely not for everyone. One of our community members put it perfectly when he said,

“Rooftop tents make sense when you’re in a different location every day for months at a time. They are a waste of money for the weekend recreationalist who is only going out one to two nights at a time and never venturing far from home.”

– avid camper

It is a good idea to invest in a rooftop tent if you are traveling frequently, but may not be worth the investment if you won’t be using it too much. That being said, everyone has different preferences and may choose to spend more to get the elevated comfort that you experience sleeping in a rooftop tent.

John Olsen

John Olsen is a seasoned adventurer with 20 years of writing, public speaking, team leadership, analytics and project management experience.

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