How Can I Put Luggage on My Car Without a Roof Rack?

Do you have load or luggage to convey along with you to your destination? Perhaps, you are just about to look for how to rent a U-Haul truck because your car does not have a roof rack.

Well, the good news is that I will show you how you can secure the load to the roof of your car without having the roof rack.

Step-By-Step instructions for putting luggage in car roof without roof rack

Before I get into the details explaining how you can put your luggage on you car without a roof rack, see the highlights here:

  • Confirm that weight of luggage does not exceed allowable weight
  • Create balance by allowing lighter loads go first
  • Ensure that all luggage is at the center of the roof of the vehicle
  • Ensure tie-downs are tied properly

If you think there is nothing to do with that extra cargo other than to rent a truck, then you should continue reading this post.

It is needless to emphasize the essence of properly securing your cargo as a driver, it is a sole responsibility to avoid injuries on the road.

We have seen an alarming increase in the number of crashes in roadways which is due to improper securing of load on the car top and has led to the rising number of death and injuries.

In the line of educating you on proper maintenance and secured loads, this post contains the steps on how to put luggage on top of your car without a roof rack.

As an outsider or one who travels a lot or move things, you should know how to properly secure cargo on your cars and truck beds.

Before we move into the steps as there are several options, here are some safe and reliable materials you can use to tie to the top of your car roof, these items will assure that your loads are firmly in place without flying off – and, of course, causing an accident.

When it comes to securing luggage on your car roof, especially in a situation where there is no roof rack, it is appropriate to follow the directions that come with the products/material you are using to tie down to luggage or load as listed above. For example, ratchet straps and cam straps will have different instructions for use.

Whenever I recommend the best tie down straps for you to use in tieing down your roof bag, I always outline the products and their respective instructions.

You must read all the instructions before use. So the first instruction is to follow the instructions of the product. And the goal is to use straps that have twice the holding strength of the cargo weight.

Let’s get into the step by step details of placing your luggage on your car without a roof rack.

Confirm that weight of luggage does not exceed allowable weight

The general instruction and applications for putting luggage on top of your car when you don’t have a roof rack are to follow your owner’s manual and all manufacturer instructions for the proper use and maximum allowable weights.

Note: The allowable weight is usually around 165 lbs.

Once you can get a very durable tie-down strap ( we have reviewed the best for tie down straps down luggage and roof bags HERE) simply run the tie-down straps through the doors, not the windows.

When using tie down straps, make sure you first lay down a blanket or towel, so that your roof does not end up being damaged.

Lastly, on tieing down luggage on the roof without roof racks, you want to be conscious of where you place items on your roof for better balancing and ease of tieing them.

Create balance by allowing lighter loads go first

There is no way we can talk about packing luggage and loads on our car without talking about roof rack, even if the subject requires that absence of roof rack.

On a second thought on cars with roof racks, it becomes quiet east to loop the straps/ropes around the side and cross rails.

When people use the roof rack of their car to secure luggage on the car roof, items are to be evenly stacked across the roof. So does it apply when without a roof rack?

A general rule for packing things on the top of your car is that lighter loads go lower, while the heavier items are placed on top of the less heavy ones to create balance.

On second thought that you have a roof rack but removed it for a reason, then this general rule should still not be ignored.

A roof rack or no roof rack, you will want to strap your items down to the car (as well as the roof rack) especially if their heavier items or luggage because they tend to catch a lot of wind.

In my opinion, you are to the best advantage of you are securing your luggage on the top of your car without a roof rack because we have heard countless cases where roof racks failed at high speeds

Someone can easily come up and say “the simple way to put your luggage on top of your car without a roof rack is to buy a car rack”, well, it depends on what is cost-effective or how you want to just tie them to your vehicle.

But still on a second thought on cars with roof rack, a type of roof rack that is very good for conveying luggage and everyday items is the Roof baskets, while cargo boxes are best for keeping equipment protected.

Ensure that all luggage is at the center of the roof of the vehicle

I hope you get the message here. I’m sure you must have seen some little cars with overwhelming cargo on the top to the extent that it even hangs over the windshield. So must it all be at the top?

Well, these eventualities can be almost unavoidable especially when you have items like Christmas trees and canoes to put on top of your car.

The very basic tip to go about this is to make sure lighter items are placed lower and are properly centralized, so they do not affect the balance of the vehicle.

So, when lining up your items before strapping them, you want to make sure that you are starting at the beginning of the roof so that they don’t end up hanging over the windshield.

Ensure tie-downs are tied properly

It is your responsibility as a driver to make sure that your tie-down is attached and secured properly such that they do not become loose, unfastened, opened, or released when you are driving.

When tieing down your luggage, make use of cam straps or ratchet straps and make sure that you do not over-tighten so that you do not damage your luggage or cargo, or even worse, your vehicle.

You also want to arrange your luggage in a way that they are either in direct contact or… just to prevent them from shifting towards each other.

While most people will advise that you use a roof rack for putting luggage on the top of your car. But I am sure this post has been able to show you how you can go about it using tie-downs.

Do not forget that it is n your best interest that you first lay down a blanket/towel before packing your cargo and also make sure that the straps and ropes are looped through the vehicle’s doors.

It is also advisable to cover your luggage with cargo netting as I have mentioned earlier, you can also use a sturdy tarp.

Above all, you want to make sure that you are not overloading your vehicle. So if your loading your car rooftop without a roof rack, reading your owner’s manual is an invaluable tip for knowing your car’s maximum load weights.

You don’t need to win an award in tieing things before you can perfectly tie things on the top of your car. so when arranging, always try to push and pull each of the time.

What I do when arranging stuff on my car without a roof rack is to double-check the load after about 5-10 minutes even when my straps are durable.

The ideal materials that you can use to secure luggage on top of your car in a situation where your car has no roof rack are as follows:

Ratchet Straps

We know ideal Ratchets straps (and cam straps too) to be rock solid and have to risk of slipping or loosening when there is vibration. That is why they are ideal for tieing down luggage on top of your car even when there is no rood rack.

Ratchet straps are affordable but you have to be very careful when buying so that you do not choose one that lacks the required holding strength.

I would have mentioned the use of rope material first, but, understandably, not everyone or car owner has basic tieing techniques.

If you are scared that ratchet straps may end up damaging your cargo or your roof (they can if you crank the straps so much), I recommend you opt for cam straps instead.

Cargo (Spider) Netting

Cargo (Spider) Netting is a material used to cover your load to avoid contact with any form of airborne debris. I will also explain this when we move into the steps on how to secure the load on the car top without the roof rack as we progress on this post.

After you finish strapping your load down, it is ideal to cover your load with either a sturdy net or water-proof tarp.

Bungee Cords

First off, let me spell it out here that Bungee cords are hard to handle or maneuver. But I see a lot of people use it and I am like “How??”. This is not a reliable primary tie-down, but they are useful when you don’t have a roof rack to secure your load.

In cases of securing items together or maybe preventing bicycle wheels from spinning, they can be very useful. This does not still make it a material you can solely rely on to hold down a load.


I want to believe this is the easiest and, perhaps, a common way to securing the load on a car-top, it brings versatility to the picture but it is not as recommended as ratchet straps.

Like I have mentioned earlier, if you do not have basic knowledge of tieing techniques, you may find it difficult to properly secure your load on top of your car with a rope.


The purpose of writing this post is to show you how you can arrange luggage on your car rooftop even when your car does not have a roof rack. And I am sure you no longer have any reason to waste money on renting a truck.

However, I must mention that it is important to check each item individually after arranging all your luggage on the top of the vehicle. You can do this by pulling and pushing the items. You should make necessary adjustments if there need be.

Experts advise that you should stop the car after around 5-10 minutes of driving to double-check your luggage, especially on a long trip to check if something has gone wrong. (it is not like anything will fall if you are using a very durable strap).

A sign that your strap has loosened and your luggage are not properly secure when you start hearing whipping or rattling noises while driving.

Above all, do not drive at high speeds when carrying cargo at the top of your car, even when your car has roof racks. If you drive at high speeds, it expands the tendency of loosening straps or making cargo detached.

If you have any other questions that revolve around putting luggage on the top of your car without the use of a car roof rack, feel free to place them in the comment section.

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