Rooftop tents are growing in popularity as an easy and lightweight camping setup. When compared to other equipment such as travel trailers, RVs, and pop-up tents, rooftop tents are on the more affordable end of the price scale but they can still set you back a few thousand dollars, especially if you’re looking for a quality model with luxury features.
So, can you actually find a roof top tent under $500? While you’d be hard-pressed to find a great quality roof top tent under $500, there are several affordable roof top tent options on the market. Our favorites include budget friendly models by Front Runner, 23Zero, Tuff Stuff, TJM and Smittybilt roof top tent manufacturers.
Read on to find out what to look out for, some affordable tents on the market and how to score yourself the best deal on a rooftop tent.
Avoiding Roof Top Tent Scams
If you find a rooftop tent for sale under $500 or at an extremely steep discount it can be tempting to order it right away, however, it is important to be aware of scams targeting consumers looking for a high-quality tent in an affordable price range.
It’s worth knowing that most rooftop tents from reputable brands generally sell for around $1000 and $3000, which gives you a bit of context when looking at a product that is advertised well below this price range. Well-known brands such as iKamper, Cascadia Tents, Front Runner, 23Zero, and Tuff Stuff sell products within this approximate price range.
As with virtually any product, quality materials used to make a rooftop tent can be expensive for a manufacturer to purchase and produce.
If you find a Rooftop Tent at a price that seems just too good to be true, it’s worth looking into how the tent was manufactured and whether the quality will stand up to the type of camping that you are looking to do.
The last thing you want is for your rooftop tent to fall to pieces as soon as you take off on your first camping trip, or to have a never-ending leak in the corner of your tent that makes it impossible to keep anything dry.
On top of looking out for quality, it’s important to be wary of additional charges that appear once you’ve added your rooftop tent to your online shopping cart. This avoids finding a tent for a low price but being swamped by excessive shipping fees, or import charges if buying from overseas.
Alibaba is one site that promises rooftop tents for as little as $270, but is known to deliver tents of questionable quality and hit buyers with surprise charges that are undisclosed until a purchase has been made.
The DIY Roof Top Tent Option
If all of the rooftop tents you’re coming across are beyond your budget and you don’t want to settle for a low-quality product, you might consider building your own rooftop tent. If you are extremely frugal and spend time sourcing affordable/free parts, it would be possible to build a roof top tent under $500.
There is plenty of information available online about building your own rooftop tent from scratch or using materials such as a pop-up camping tent, platform, and roof racks.
The basic premise requires the construction of a tent frame (or use of a pop-up tent), platform, and roof racks. The folding down and set-up of your DIY tent will require a bit more tinkering, but others have used different varieties of hinges and aluminum bars to get a workable end result.
If you are looking to go down the DIY route, don’t miss our article compiling some of the best builds we have seen. You are sure to get a ton of inspiration and ideas for your build! Read here: How do you Make a Roof Top Tent? (9 Clever DIY Builds)
Affordable + Good Quality
If you’re convinced that buying a low-cost rooftop tent is the way to go, here are some options from reputable dealers on the market:
Front Runner Feather-Lite Roof Top Tent
The Feather-Lite RTT is a lightweight option for campers who want a simple, affordable set-up. Reviews show that buyers are impressed with the functionality, easy installation, and comfort this model provides. Weighing only 93lb, this tent barely impacts your vehicle’s fuel consumption and can sleep 2 adults plus a child or pet comfortably.
The easy open-close mechanism allows you to unfold the tent in one smooth motion, and the skylight vent windows allow for easy airflow – keeping your tent at the ideal temperature.
This 2.4-meter rooftop tent can withstand an impressive range of temperatures and weather conditions, is rated for 3-seasons, and is made with a waterproof polyester fabric (400D). The base is constructed with a durable aluminum frame, and the foam mattress is insulated, washable and sturdy – ensuring a comfortable night’s sleep in all conditions.
The cost of this rooftop tent includes a stable sliding aluminium ladder that can accommodate the height of most vehicles, although if your tent is mounted above 2 metres an extension ladder will be necessary.
More info: frontrunneroutfitters.com
Another relatively lightweight option, the Weekender weighs a reasonable 116 lbs and measures 2.4 meters in width when fully open.
23Zero has a good reputation in the rooftop tent market, and uses their popular insulating base in their premium models as well as their more basic and affordable options such as the Weekender.
This model sleeps 2 comfortably on a double bed, and the sky view window is great for stargazing and keeping cool on those warm summer nights.
Waterproof Oxford Polyester (210D) is the fabric of choice for this manufacturer, keeping you dry and your tent insulated while still allowing necessary airflow. The Weekender fits any size vehicle with the appropriate roof rack, and as a bonus comes with a 2 year warranty.
More info: 23zero.com
Tuff Stuff Delta Overlander
MSRP: on sale $1,059
The Delta rooftop tent is based on Tuff Stuff’s Ranger overland tent but stripped back to exclude extra overhang and reduce the weight of the setup.
Weighing approximately 143lb and measuring 2.4 meters when extended, this model has the option of an annex attachment (sold separately) that can serve as a changing area or extra bedroom space.
The fabric used on this tent is a Poly/Cotton Rip-stop with a waterproof polyurethane coating, allowing the tent to be breathable, windproof, and resistant to mold and UV rays. The tent fly is made of a 420D Ply/Oxford canvas material with elastic and waterproof properties.
This model sleeps two people, and the front entry is a great option if you have a vehicle where the roof racks are below head height, a pickup truck, or a 4×4 travel trailer. Installing this tent onto your vehicle will take approximately 1 hour.
More info: tuffstuff4x4.com
TJM’s Yulara rooftop tent is an affordable, simple-to-set-up product. In spite of its low price, you can rest assured that this tent comes from a reputable dealer – TJM is one of Australia’s leading quality overlanding, 4 wheel drive, and outdoor equipment manufacturers.
The simple unfolding of this rooftop tent takes only 3 minutes, and the 65mm foam mattress folds inside eliminating the need for inflation when setting up this tent.
The Yalara sleeps 2 comfortably, and both the fly and inner layer are made with waterproof and breathable fabrics. 420D polyester canvas covers the tent, while a polyester and cotton blend is used for the inner lining.
This tent is another relatively lightweight option and at 123lb, it measures 3.2 meters in length when fully open. A zip-on annex and a ladder extension are available for purchase at extra cost, although the basic package does come with an aluminum retractable ladder that is suitable for the height of most vehicles.
More info: tjmusa.com
MSRP: from $1,299.99
The Overlander rooftop tent comes in two sizes – the standard, which sleeps 2-3 on a double/full bed, or the XL which sleeps 3-4 people on a king bed. The standard model is a similar size to a lot of other rooftop tent options on the market today, with a width of 2.4 meters and a weight of 132 lb.
The rooftop tent features handy extras like an interior LED strip, sunroof, shoe storage, and a heavy-duty waterproof canvas rainfly to keep you warm and dry in all conditions.
Smittybilt has manufactured an Overlander annex which can be bought separately and installed next to the rooftop tent with heavy-duty zippers (effectively making one unit) to provide enough standing room for cooking, changing, or sleeping.
Both the standard and extra-large models of the Overlander are sold with a one-year warranty.
More info: smittybilt.com
If you’re looking for a model with more features but finding the options are a little out of your budget, there are ways to pick up a rooftop camper that usually retails for a high price for a more affordable rate.
Scratch and Dent Sales
Although it us unlikely you will find a rooftop tent for under $500 through a scratch and dent sale, they are still worth looking into. Rooftop campers that have received minor damage before being sold are often included in scratch and dent sales – so if you’re not too worried about a few cosmetic imperfections it’s possible to pick up a tent for a bargain price.
A good example is an Osprey Hardshell pop-up roof tent that I found on the Outer Tents website. Usually retailing for $2,884, this particular tent is being advertised for $2,438 due to a few scratches that occurred during delivery and which do not impact the structural integrity of the unit.
Another example is the SWT90 Hard Shell tent Roof Top tent which generally goes for $1,690 on the Silverwing Trailers website, but was being sold for $1,570 due to blemishes and scratches caused by freight damage.
A simple google search of ‘scratch and dent rooftop campers’ and your location can bring up options in your local area, although it’s not unusual to have to travel a little further afield to find these one-off bargains.
Some retailers (such as 23Zero) are known to advertise online when they have slightly damaged products to sell at a lower price, and it’s often worth speaking to a retailer in person about any scratch and dent stock they have on their shop floor.
With the big outdoor camping manufacturers releasing new and updated rooftop tent models regularly, retailers want to stay on top of the latest and greatest products, meaning they often sell their existing stock for a reduced price to make way for the newer models.
If you’re happy to settle for a previous year’s model, keep an eye out for clearance sales and you’ll be more likely to snag a deal!
Purchasing a pre-loved rooftop tent is another route to finding an affordable, quality product.
Some retailers such as BigFoot Tents sell lightly used rooftop tents for a discounted price, and broader websites such as eBay and Facebook Marketplace have private sellers looking to send their rooftop tent to a new home – these are great places to score a bargain!
If I’m looking for an affordable rooftop tent (under $500 or as cheap as possible) and I want to purchase it new, I can’t go past the TJM Yulara. When buying a rooftop tent for a relatively low price it’s so important to trust that you’re buying a quality product from a reputable dealer, and TJM has been a leader in the outdoor equipment industry for decades so I would be able to rest easy knowing that the tent will last in any camping conditions.
On top of the guaranteed quality, the easy setup of this rooftop tent is a bonus, especially if I decided to camp solo and needed to be able to organize my rooftop tent alone.
It can be easy to jump at the first cheap rooftop tent you come across, but it will serve you well to do your research. Keep in mind that if the price seems too good to be true, then it probably is – but don’t lose hope because there are affordable tents available that have the quality to last you many seasons to come.
Reaching out to retailers and other rooftop tent owners is a great way to begin your search for your budget option. If you get a little bit creative and are not afraid of adding your own touch to a basic model, there are plenty of rooftop tents on the market that can have you camping in the great outdoors for a fraction of the price of an expensive setup!
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