A car roof attachment is an effective way to transport a larger item without hassle.

Approximately 3 minutes reading time

What are the laws surrounding car roof attachments?

If you're considering attaching a bicycle or other items to your car roof, it's worth knowing the law. Objects attached to the roof must be securely fastened either by straps or similar means or by a fixed rigid metal frame. In most cases, this is almost certainly going to be the best way to go. 

The only exception is if you have a luggage rack or carrier. If the item being attached is a cargo box or other type of luggage rack that already has its attachment method, then it's likely to be fine to fasten the item as per the manufacturer's specifications.

What is a car roof attachment?

The term 'roof attachment' covers a wide range of items being attached to the roof of a car. Of course, there are bicycle racks, but there are also surfboards and kayaks which may need to be attached to the roof for transport. The law has been designed with this in mind and provides a legal framework for safely attaching items like bicycles to your car's roof. A car roof attachment is usually anything that either:

  • You can attach it to the top of a car. This includes things like surfboards, bicycles, or skis.
  • You can hang from the roof or boot of your car, like a bike carrier or luggage rack.
  • Anything that doesn't sit within the width of your windscreen, including roof bars and bicycle carriers. If it does fit inside your windscreen, it's probably considered a fitting and not attached to the vehicle.

What "things" can be placed or attached to the car roof attachment?

  1. Bicycles: You can attach a bicycle to the roof of your car using a rack or similar device when going for a hike or long-distance trip. The bicycle must be securely fastened to the roof so that it does not fall off while the car is in motion.
  2. Kayaks and surfboards: If you regularly travel with recreational equipment like kayaks or surfboards for your sports club. You should not cover the rear window of the car with surfboards or other large items.
  3. Spare tires: It is a must-have accessory in case of a flat tire. 
  4. Luggage racks: If you're planning to travel with a lot of luggage that doesn't fit in your trunk, you can carry it on the roof of your car.
  5. Canoes: Canoes and other similar equipment can be placed on the car's roof.
  6. Tents: If you use your car as a camper occasionally, you can also transport your tent on top of it.

What are the laws around having car roof attachments?

 In the UK, there are a few key points that you need to be aware of:

  • The item must be securely fastened to the roof of the car, either by straps or a fixed rigid metal frame. 
  • The item must not obstruct the driver's vision in any way. This includes things like cargo boxes or large luggage racks. 
  • The item must not protrude more than 50 cm from the side or rear of the car. 
  • The item must not protrude more than 15 cm from the front of the car. 
  • The maximum weight limit for any item attached to the roof is 100kg. This includes all combined weights of luggage and other items for SUVs or similar vehicles. 
  • You must not attach anything to the roof that could cause damage to the car or injure other road users in the event of an accident. 

You must not attach anything to the roof that could come loose and fall onto the road while the car is in motion. The notice of the law states that "any person who travels in or on a motor vehicle and who attaches any object to the roof of the motor vehicle, except so far as this Act otherwise expressly provides, is guilty of an offense. The penalties for this offense are a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months. 


When attaching anything to your car's roof, it's best to use the correct attachments. By following the law, you will ensure that your belongings get where they need to be safely and securely, as well as being able to engage in other activities like cycling, kayaking - or simply driving. Anything that can be attached to the roof of your car must be securely fastened by either straps or a rigid metal frame. The item must not obscure your vision. This includes things like cargo boxes or large luggage racks.

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