Whether you’re embarking on a road trip, planning a family camping adventure, or want to create extra room so you can safely transport medical equipment, installing a roof box or bike rack can provide that extra storage you need for a comfortable journey. To ensure a secure and hassle-free experience, before buying anything it's important to understand the different types of storage available and the law, so that you avoid potential fines and steer clear of any issues with your vehicle insurance.
Regardless of your car's boot size, there comes a point when it may not be big enough to transport everything you need it to. Items like bikes, suitcases, pushchairs, golf clubs, wheelchairs and medical equipment can very quickly fill up your boot to capacity.
At such times, it might be wise to consider utilising a roof box or bike rack to maximise the available space for additional cargo. However, it's important to understand that because this extra load will be outside the vehicle, any badly secured items could be a potential hazard to you and your fellow road users. Know the rules and always conduct a thorough inspection before you set off on your journey.
Before purchasing or starting to load a new roof box or bike rack, you will need to find out the permissible weight allowed for your vehicle. The permissible roof load of a vehicle can be found in the operating manual and will confirm the maximum weight you can safely load your vehicle up to. It’s important to note that the overall weight allowance includes the weight of the rack itself, not just the objects placed on it.
These weights tend to range from around 50kg to 75kg. A Ford Puma, for example, can take 50kg, while a Range Rover Sport can carry 75kg.
There are a few things to be sure of when fitting a roof rack. The Highway Code states: “You must secure your load and it must not stick out dangerously”, so ensure that your roof box not only fits the weight limits of the vehicle, but also the measurements. It is important that your rack does not hang over the edges of your vehicle, and that it is not too far up from the roof.
Airflow will lift the front of the rack, especially at higher speeds, so make sure to securely fix the rack to your roof to avoid any movement once your journey is underway. While this might seem obvious, it’s vital to ensure a clear line of sight for the driver.
Sticking to these guidelines will help you ensure your rack is safe.
For drivers looking to transport their bike, there are a few different types of bike racks to consider. One is a tailgate rack, which is a popular choice, but is generally not recommended by car manufacturers due to vehicles often not being designed to bear this type of weight.
Another option is a roof-fitted bike rack, which allows for a number of bikes to be fixed onto the top of a vehicle. If using one of these, make sure to follow the permissible roof weight guidelines as previously mentioned.
It’s important to note the height this adds to your vehicle, as it may mean certain underpasses are not accessible. This method also impacts fuel consumption, as the bikes up top will create drag. The most effective method of transporting bikes is through a tow-bar and bike carrier system. This set up securely attaches to the back of your vehicle, giving you the most efficient method of carrying bikes.
When fitting a bike rack to the back of your vehicle, it is important to make sure your number plate and brake lights are still fully visible to drivers behind you.
Drivers could be fined £1,000 and your vehicle could fail its MOT test if you drive with an incorrectly displayed number plate. You can purchase number plates that can be fitted to the back of racks if covering your plate with your bikes is unavoidable.
Covering your brake lights is also considered to be a major safety risk, which could see you charged for dangerous driving. Fines can rise to a massive £5,000, plus up to nine penalty points. In some extreme cases, motorists could also find they face a temporary driving ban.
Bike racks may also get in the way of a driver’s vision when mounted on the back of the vehicle. It is important that you fit the rack and bikes in a way that doesn’t stop you seeing the road. Be sure to check how your vision is with the rack fitted while you are stationary. If there is an obstruction blocking your view, you will need to readjust the rack.
The International Drivers Association advises:
“Using roof boxes and bike racks are a great way of transporting heavy loads, we just need to make sure drivers are aware of the laws and safety concerns around using them.
It is your responsibility to ensure the weight of your rack is suitable for your vehicle, and that what you are transporting is securely fastened in. The rack should not hinder you while driving, so make sure your vision is not obstructed in any way and everything is secured. It is also important not to impact other drivers around you, so make sure nothing is sticking out in a dangerous manner.
We recommend you take out supplementary insurance, if you are not already covered by your existing policy.”
If you're a driver with a disability, stowage adaptations can help drivers and passengers to lift a wheelchair, mobility scooter and other types of mobility equipment into a vehicle.
Let's look at two options below:
If you rely on a wheelchair or mobility scooter, a boot hoist provides an excellent means of easily loading it into your vehicle. Consult with a certified adaptation partner to ensure you select a vehicle that is compatible with a hoist tailored to your specific equipment.
For those requiring transportation of a standard manual wheelchair while utilising the vehicle's boot for additional items, an excellent solution is a roof-mounted wheelchair stowage box. This system can efficiently fold, lift, and securely store a wheelchair in less than 2 minutes.
Whether you are part of the Motability Scheme or not, the most reliable source for information on the cost of various adaptations is your nearby installation firm specialising in modifications. They can provide details on the pricing for each type of adaptation, guide you on which adaptations are compatible with your specific make and model, inform you about the installation timeframe, and, crucially, recommend adaptations tailored to your individual requirements.
If you are personally covering the expenses for adaptations to your vehicle, it's important to note that the cost of these adaptations could be zero-rated for VAT.
Ensuring the proper installation and safe use of a roof box or bike rack on your vehicle is essential for a seamless and secure journey. By understanding permissible roof weights, adhering to installation guidelines and following safety tips, you can enhance your travel experience while avoiding potential fines and insurance complications.
Stay informed, travel safely, and make the most of your adventures with the right equipment for your needs.
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