Are All BMW Roof Racks The Same?

bmw roof rackBMW designs luxurious vehicles of different sizes, rooftops, and load limits. Consequently, it’s impractical and borderline impossible to have a standard BMW roof rack for the over 20 BMW models.

The rooftops of BMW models range from hardtops, convertible/vinyl roofs, sunroofs to modern panoramic roofs. While hardtops can take in any roof rack, the others require mounting systems that won’t clamp onto the roof or put too much weight on it.

You can’t install a rack on a bare roof, and you’ll undoubtedly need rails for mounting the rack. Except for the X-Series, most BMW models rarely come with factory-installed rail systems. However, there are plenty of high-quality and compatible after-market rails for your BMW.

What to Consider When Choosing A BMW Roof Rack


Most roof racks will be made from either aluminum or steel.

Aluminum is lighter, flexible, and creates less drag on the highway for a better fuel economy. It may not be more costly, but it does not rust and has a better strength-to-weight ratio than steel.

On the other hand, steel provides a cheaper, more durable alternative to aluminum. However, the high tensile strength makes it heavier, creating more wind resistance. This is likely to increase noise and your fuel consumption.


This involves defining the primary purpose of purchasing a roof rack. You should consider the items you seek to transport and the frequency of your trips. This will determine the size and the shape of the rack.

A rack with a low profile will make loading and unloading gear easier. It will also provide smooth access to parking garages and underground spaces. Besides, it will create less wind resistance, translating to less noise and better fuel mileage.

Load Limits

Find out the weight limit of your BMW model as well as the stipulated load rating of the rack system. This is usually stated in the car’s owner’s manual or can be found on the websites of the selected products.

Types of BMW Roof Racks

Flush Bar Roof Racks

Flush racks have a sleek, sporty, low-profile design, with the crossbars not overhanging on the ends. This significantly reduces the wind drag making them highly fuel-efficient and quieter. They are versatile and highly functional.

However, the crossbars are much shorter, limiting the gear type and size of equipment you can carry.

Through Bar Racks

If you’re planning on using the rack for a roof box with a bike or kayak, Through Bar Racks are the better options. They feature more extended crossbars that overhang the foot packs on either side, maximizing the load area when carrying multiple accessories on your roof.

These racks can come in very shapes; wing bars, square-shaped heavy-duty bars, or the aero bar. They are heavy-duty, durable, and emit low wind noise.

Platform Roof Racks

As the name states, these roof racks have a platform rather than crossbars attached to the roof rack feet. This option allows maximum carrying space and versatility in terms of load carrying.

What makes platform racks unpopular is that they weigh more due to their rigid construction, and the wind noise is typically higher than crossbar systems.

Mounting Styles

Raised Roof Rail

Your BMW should have factory-installed rails for you to use this style. Mount the roof rack onto the rails, and you can adjust the point of placement according to the size of the rack.


  • No contact with paintwork
  • High load limit
  • Flexible positioning of racks


  • Expensive

Fixed Point

This is whereby the mounting points for the racks are built directly into the roofline. Typically, they are located on the outer edge of the roof under a roof trim piece, a removable panel, or a flip-up panel with two points on each side.


  • Elegant integrated look
  • Durable
  • Reasonable load limit


  • No flexibility

Door Mount

Also referred to us clamp mount. The mount’s foot is laid directly onto the car’s roof, and the clamp is positioned on top of the doorframe.


  • Sturdy construction


  • Contacts paintwork
  • Lower load limits

Track Mount

The tracks run parallel to each other from the front to the back on the outer edges of the BMW’s roof. The rack base is either bolted or riveted to the vehicle’s tracks.


  • Allows flexible positioning of your crossbars
  • Easy to install on factory tracks


  • Quite cumbersome to install on after-market tracks

Frequently Asked Questions

Will the BMW roof rack affect my vehicle’s stability?

Any roof installation affects the car’s stability. This usually goes unnoticed unless you are carrying a heavy load. This raises the BMW’s center of gravity, affecting how you break and negotiate tight corners.

Should I remove the BMW roof rack when it’s not in use?

Roof racks may be made from lightweight materials, but they still add significant weight to your car. This, coupled with the wind drag, will increase your fuel consumption.

How do I load the BMW roof rack?

The rule of the thumb is to put the lightest gear on the rack and the heavier ones inside the car not to damage the chassis. The items on the roof should be evenly distributed and securely tied down.

Final Words

BMW models may have different roof racks, but they all serve the same purpose; additional space to safely and conveniently transport cargo. Always go for high-quality, aerodynamic BMW roof racks with a gleaming finish to complement your car.

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