Last Updated: 15/07/2019
It is already March and more often than not, the sun is out in Great Britain between two hailstorms and cyclones. And if the sun is out than it is obviously summer on this little rain-washed island, and everyone spreads out to the countryside to soak up the warmth of the weak early-summer light of the sun. Campers, overlanders, caravans of all sizes are not a scarcity on the packed roads anymore. It is time to get a cheap roof top tent and fix it on top of the car!
If you are just flirting with overlanding (read this article on pros and cons) and looking around to see if there is anything that is worth investing into, you are at the right place. I have researched and collected the top 5 cheap roof top tent for you (as long as you are in the UK – US edition is coming soon).(Subscribe to the newsletter to get notified instantly!). I discounted the shady far-eastern models with dubious quality (plus they are often more expensive than quality roof top tents).
There are two more parts of this article – the 2nd part can be found here
A Cheap Roof Top Tent Isn’t a Bad Roof Top Tent
If you are out for a cheap roof top tent, it is probably going to be a soft shell version. They look like a normal tent, but on the top of your car. There are subtle differences though, price for one. Even a cheap roof top tent can cost more than a mid-range normal tent. On the other hand, they have more durable fabric and most roof top tents have an opening mechanism for a speedy set up. This can be manual (by a turning crank handle) or assisted by gas-struts. The point is, setting up is way easier than you have ever experienced it with a normal tent. Speaking about ease of use, even a cheap roof top tent is far superior to a normal tent. So in terms of value for money, it is not money thrown out the window.
Soft Shell Roof Tents Are Cheaper…or Are They?
As a rule of thumb soft shell roof tents are cheaper than the hard shell models. This is definitely true for the low end of the market. But as you gradually go upwards the ladder to the more established, better-known brands, then you will find that some hard-shell tents are actually cheaper than a soft-shell model. Here comes size into the picture: soft shell tents are usually bigger. Depending on your budget and the space you need you are probably better off with a quality soft-shell roof tent than a cheap hard shell variant. On the other hand, if you look for sturdiness, weather- and soundproofing you might be happier with a hard-shell model. It is better to spend £2500+ on something that makes you happy than £1500 on something that you won’t use…
To Cut The Long Story Short
Let’s see how the cheap soft shell roof tents compare to each other, beginning from the cheapest. I have tried to find the lowest price available, so the links may point you to ebay or amazon. Same, genuine seller but for whatever reason they sell their tents cheaper on the big sites.
Ventura Deluxe 1.4
Price: £799 + 52.99 delivery (RRP £1600) (Amazon)
Max. Person: 3 adults
Unfolded 310 x 143 x 126 cm
Packed 150 x 125 x 30 cm
Ventura are a small company based in Harlow, Essex. They claim that they produce the best roof top tent on the market, which is capable to withstand extreme weather conditions from -27 degree to the hottest weather in Morocco. Well, even if it might not be the best, it is definitely the cheapest roof top tent. It sleeps 3 comfortably on a 5 cm thick king size mattress (240 x 140 cm) which rests on an aluminium base. The frame is lightweight – the whole tent weighs only 50 kgs – yet durable (made of aluminium) and unfolds using gas assisted struts. Unfolding is a one-man job.
The tent fabric is made of UV resistant 420D oxford polycotton canvas. It is durable to withstand 1.8 metres of water (PU1800) and all kinds of weather: the Ventura Deluxe was tested up to 74kmh windspeed… It has a 2 m telescopic aluminium ladder. You can buy the Ventura 1.4 with an annex that can sleep 2 more people. It comes with a 3-year guarantee.
Front Runner 1.3M FeatherLite
Price: £819 + 62.30 delivery (Amazon)
Max. Person: 2 adults
Unfolded 240 x 130 x 126 cm
Packed 136x 124 x 20 cm
What makes the Front Runner interesting (apart from that it is a really cheap roof top tent) is that it claims to be the lowest profile roof top tent on the market: only 200 mm aka 20 cms. Although it is considerable smaller than the Ventura 1.4 it is much lighter too, weighing only 40 kgs. The fabrics used are slightly thinner too, the tent wall is 400D Oxford poly-cotton canvas, the fly-sheet is made of 200D canvas. Thanks to its low weight and compact size, it can be mounted on most vehicles.
The FrontRunner is really worth checking out. If you would like to know more about it you should either check out my detailed review by clicking here, or head straight to Amazon or Ebay for product details
Before we jump onto slightly more expensive roof tents, there is one honourable mention. If you happen to have a Jeep Wrangler 4K and look for a cheap roof top tent, the Techo Tienda Smittybilt may be just the thing for you.
It is only £819 plus delivery on Amazon, it is worth checking out. Whoopsy-daisy, in the meantime the Techo Tiendo has become slightly more expensive, now it costs over £1900… it is a great roofbox tent, for sure, but unfortunately is not one of the cheapest anymore.
Deluxe Overland 1.8 Expedition Roof Tent by Direct 4×4
Price: £1119+ £15 delivery (Ebay)
Max. Person: 4 adults
Unfolded 240 x 180 x 130 cm
Packed 180 x 125 x 32 cm
Where to buy: Ebay
Shipped from Derby by Direct 4×4 the Deluxe Overland Expedition roof top tent is not just cheap, but it is HUGE. It comes with an annex and of course a telescopic ladder. It sleeps four people on a 7 cm thick mattress and there 130cms headroom inside the tent. The tent compartment is waterproof (the annex is only ‘showerproof’) and it comes with a waterproof travel cover too. The tent sits on a 2.5 cm thick corrosion resistant aluminium/polyurethane base.
Due to its size it is not compatible with all vehicles: the gross weight of the Expedition roof tent is 74 kgs. With all fittings and the weight of the roofbars and crossbars you will likely exceed the 75kg dynamic load limit of most vehicles. You are also advised to fit the tent on three cross bars for better weight distribution. So check your car’s load limit before you buy! If you are looking for a smaller tent, the 1.4 metres wide smaller sibling is also available on Ebay UK for £999.
Price: £1249 Free Delivery (Ebay)
Max. Person: 3 adults (maybe 2 adults and 2 children)
Unfolded 310 x 140 x 120 cm
Packed 140 x 120 x 28 cm
Where to buy: Ebay
The Raptor 4×4 has really promising specs. It is not just huge, leaving plenty of space for bags and clothing inside the tent, but the materials used look really durable and sturdy as well. Setting up is easy, only takes a minute. You can access the tent on a 2.3m long telescopic alu ladder. Inside there is a 6cm thick mattress resting on an insulated aluminium base. The fabric is made of 420D Oxford PU coating (PU3000 waterproof). You can also buy an annex for a little bit of extra. It is not the cheapest, but there is value for money.
Downside: it only fits onto a roof rack. If you have a Land Rover, a Toyota Land Cruiser or similar anyways, then it should not be an issue
TentBox Soft Shell
Price: £1250 Free Delivery
Max. Person: 2 adults
Unfolded 200 x 120 x 91 cm
Packed 225 x 142 x 30 cm
Where to buy: TentBox UK
The soft-shell TentBox is an interesting animal…it is not a cheap roof top tent. It is not the biggest. It is not the lightest. Yet, this Romsey-based little company have managed to make a roof top tent that is value for money. Apart from the handsome design that I like very much (but it is entirely subject to your taste), there are a lot of tiny details. For example: not just the outer shell but the inner pod is made of waterproof poly-cotton fabric (PU3000 and PU2000 respectively). Air assisted struts help open and fold the tent, making it a one-man job that won’t take long. (Check out my review on the hard shell model!)
The mattress inside is 2 inches thick, it can provide a comfortable night’s sleep for two adults. The whole unit weighs only 50 kg and is easy to install on two crossbars onto almost any cars.
So it is like a tiny treasure chest with 1-year warranty.
In terms of upfront costs, you can have it for £208.33, and then pay 5 more instalments on 0% credit. How is that for a cheap roof top tent?
Buy it from TentBox UK
I really do hope I could help you find your first / next roof top tent. When one is looking for a cheap roof top tent, quality and reliability is often a worry. I have tried to review the ones with a UK warehouse in case there is an issue, and I strongly advise you to pick one with a warranty. What surprised me too, is that the Ventura Deluxe 1.4 seems unbeatable at this price. It sleeps three adults and there’s 3-year warranty. No question, my #1 recommendation is the Ventura Deluxe 1.4.
Keep updated, sign up to my newsletter!
If you have a question or comment, please feel free to share!
Check out my other reviews as well!