Toyota Highlander Roof Rack Cross Bars | The Best Crossbars For Highlanders


Toyota Highlander roof rack cross bars are the perfect accessory! You’re already driving one of the most popular, well designed, adaptable SUVs on the market – the Toyota Highlander. It only makes sense to add the one accessory that will let you really take your car on the adventures you dreamed about when you bought it – the Toyota Highlander roof rack cross bars. Your car came equipped with either roof rails or fix points for a roof rack.

Why not add the cross bars and start your adventure now?

1.Genuine Toyota (PT278-48170) Roof Rail Cross BarCheck Price
2.BRIGHTLINES 2014-2018 Toyota Highlander XLE Limited & SE Cross Bars Roof RacksCheck Price
3.AUXMART Roof Rack Cross Bars for Toyota Highlander XLE 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018-165LBS/75KG Capacity (Pack of 2)Check Price
4.VANGUARD VGRCB-1064BK 2014-2017 Toyota Highlander(XLE,LIMITED) Cargo Carrier Roof Top Two Cross Bar(OE STYLE)Check Price

Toyota Highlander roof rack cross bars come in a wide variety of styles, finishes, and sizes. But they’re not all created equal. While you can buy generic roof rack cross bars that will work on your Toyota Highlander, cross bars actually designed for your make of vehicle is a more effective, safer, and efficient way to go.

When it comes to Toyota Highlander cross bars for your roof rack you have a lot of choices, but there are five that stand out for their strength, quality, durability, and anti-theft features. The cross bars we’ve reviewed fit the unique roof configurations of different year versions of the Toyota Highlander. Unlike a generic crossbar which can rattle or come loose, these are designed to work with the existing roof racks.

There are three options for securing your load (kayak, canoe, skis, surfboard, etc.) to your car if you don’t have a rail system:

  • Install a rack or hire a professional to install it for you. If you have no rail system and no rain gutters or fix point system, this may involve drilling into your roof to ensure the roof doesn’t leak later. Thus, the keyword “professional.” You can find DIY engineered systems on Youtube for creating your own systems, but most solutions require basic welding skills, a shop, and having a lot of time on your hands.
  • Make your own. Do a little research on Youtube or talk to company who sells roof rack systems to come up with a solution for your make and model vehicle. Be aware that if you make your own roof rack for your Toyota Highlander it probably won’t be covered by insurance.
  • Purchase a rackless kayak and boat transportation system. These systems can range anywhere from devices that look like pool noodles, to rigid foam blocks and a system of straps, ropes, and ways to secure your boat(s). The strap systems either run through open windows so they don’t go flying through the windshield of the car behind you or attach to a rain gutter if you have one.

Top Related Article: Best Cross Bars for Jeep Cherokee

What is a Roof Rack?

The term “roof rack” generally refers to a framework of metal, plastic, or wood used for carrying luggage or equipment on the roof of a vehicle. Roof racks come in different configurations, sizes, and materials and are designed to hold a designated weight – when that weight is evenly distributed. Most roof racks will hold from 80 to 160 pounds of gear safely. Every roof rack should have the maximum weight listed in its description, so check before you buy.

While “roof rack” refers to an entire structure – including the towers, rails, and cross bars of a structure – some people refer to a rack’s cross bars, or the rails, as a “roof-rack” as well. This isn’t a problem unless you’re ordering or dealing with someone who is selling the rack or parts of it. Learning the basic parts of a roof rack can save you disappointment when you go to order, so you get the cross bars, not the rails, if that’s what you want.

What is a Cross Bar?

Cross Bars, often referred to as “load bars” as well, attach to your rack’s rails and run from driver-side window to passenger-side window to create a mounting point for your accessories.

What are Roof Rails?

Roof rails run along the length of the vehicle’s roof, from front-to-back rather than side-to-side. Roof rails are a common sight on modern vehicles such as SUVs and minivans. If you look at any SUV on the road today, you can see them. Their purpose is to provide an attachment point for cross bars and other devices designed to secure loads carried on the roof of the vehicle. Roof rails are attached to the vehicle’s roof by feet or other mounts. This is one attribute that distinguishes roof rails from other attachment devices, such as tracks, which are typically built directly into the roof of the vehicle.

Aftermarket roof rails are available if your Toyota Highlander did not come with rails. Just make sure the rails you order were made for your year and model. Some manufacturers offer a sizing guide to ensure a good fit. Some aftermarket manufacturers also offer roof rails designed to mimic the roof rails produced by the original equipment manufacturer.

What is a Fix Point?

Fix points: Fix points can be found on any almost any car body style. Often called “concealed racks,” a fix point is a designed point on a car roof or inside the door jamb, specifically for mounting a roof rack to. There will be from four to six of these points, usually four. They’re hidden under a plastic cap or cover that you pry up with a screwdriver.  Once you pry the cap off you’ll see a small, one to three-inch-long point for attaching a separate railing system.

[1] Illustration showing just a few of the different types of ‘fix point’ mounting system on the market

These are great systems and very secure, despite their small footprint. But they’re not really fast or easy if you want to install or remove a roof rack each time you go out, unless you enjoy spending 30 minutes or more every time you want to attach or detach your rack.

As we said earlier, some cars have rain gutters, but no rails. There are roof rack systems that have clamps or “feet” that fit into these gutters, which allow you to attach different kinds of roof rack. Then there are cars that have no rain gutters, no concealed system, and no way to attach anything to the roof without drilling into the roof or running ropes through open windows — not the most practical option, especially if you need to enter and exit your vehicle along the way. Plus, even if you are okay about running ropes through your car windows, some cars have side windows which don’t open. This can be a safety hazard as well, tying doors closed that might need to be opened quickly in an accident or emergency. 

What are Towers or Feet?

Towers, which are also referred to as feet, sit on each of the four corners of your roof directly across from each other. They attach to either your bare roof (with the addition of a specific kit/clip) or to your existing factory roof rails or factory mount track/fixed points. Some racks, like inflatable racks, do not have towers or rails but simply stretch across your vehicle roof.

Fit Kits or Landing Pads
Fit Kits or landing pads are vehicle specific parts which mount the tower/feet to your vehicle. Some vehicles, such as a vehicle with factory installed raised rails, do not need these.


A track system attaches permanently to your roof in existing groves. Bars then slide along the tracks with different heights and spacers allowing you to match the bars already on your vehicle. Tracks for your vehicle are sold as a pair, come in different lengths, and include rivets and end caps.

OEM and Aftermarket

OEM means Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). These types of rails come from your car’s dealership and are designed specifically for your make and model. Aftermarket rails can come from a variety of manufacturers and will fit your car, but not as well as the rails designed for it. The difference for most people however, is so small as to be undetectable. Aftermarket parts are generally less expensive than OEM parts and the quality is generally the same. 

Lock Cylinder

A lock cylinder is a locking device almost always ordered separately that is used to lock your roof rack to your rails and roof, so your rack system isn’t stolen. Locking devices can still be disabled or removed, but usually only with greater effort than most thieves like to expend.

As they say, “Locks keep honest people honest.”

Destroying the roof rack’s locking system usually destroys the rack as well, so you generally won’t have to worry about your rack “walking away” if it’s locked. Not all roof racks have lock cylinders. Ask before you buy. 

Related: Honda Pilot Cross Bars

Accessories for your Toyota Highlander Cross Bars

Many of the cross bars for Toyota Highlander will also accept a variety of accessory carriers especially designed to carry things like multiple sets of snow skis, kayaks, cartop carriers, cargo carriers, and bicycles. Before buying cross bars for your particular rails, check to see what other carriers also fit onto the cross bars. You may want to carry a bicycle and a kayak, or several kayaks. Remember to check the weight of the loads you anticipate against the load capacity of the cross bars and the carrier. 

Cargo Box, Bag, or Carrier?

Sometimes there’s just not enough room inside your Toyota Highlander for everything you’re taking with you. With the right cross bar system, you can add enough storage to take all those extra clothes or the added gear.

But which is best, a cargo box, cargo bag, or cargo basket? Each has their own advantages and disadvantages, but here are the basics:

  • Cargo boxes are best for anything you need to keep dry. They are made in either a PVC or fiberglass hardshell and come in various sizes and finishes. The hard shell is lockable, so you can feel secure leaving them unattended while inside a hotel, restaurant or store. They are ideal for skis, snowboards, backpacks, suitcases, bags, camping supplies, strollers, and other necessities that need to be protected from the elements. Roof mount cargo boxes don’t interfere with trunk or hatch access either. Most cargo boxes feature unique locking mechanisms that prevent you from locking your keys inside by accident. Most have organizers are available to help keep your gear in check. Carrying capacity varies, usually from 14 to 18 cubic feet – more than enough for most family vacations.
  • Cargo baskets are ideal for off road vehicles and for carrying odd-sized or shaped equipment, coolers, and other items and gear that doesn’t need to be protected from the elements. A cargo basket is just what it sounds like: a metal basket, usually made of a few bars of metal, that holds your gear on top of your rack. All gear should be secured in your basket with a stretchy cargo net that comes with easily attached, impact-resistant hooks. If you don’t have a cargo net, you can also strap or tie down your items using the cars on the basket.
  • Cargo bags give you the capacity you need to haul your stuff without the cost of a hardshell box. Cargo bags are soft-sided, zippered bags in square, rectangular, or other configurations. They generally come with Velcro straps to cinch the bag tightly so it doesn’t bellow in the wind. They’re generally made with thick, durable PVC coated nylon, are waterproof or highly water resistant, have soft sides, sturdy zippers, and expandable tops.

Popular Toyota Highlander J Hook or J Cradle Accessory

The J hook or cradle gets its name because it looks like the letter “J.” It’s a very popular roof rack accessory for carrying kayaks, canoes, and SUP boards or surfboards. The inside portion of the J is a sort of scoop designed to hold a kayak on its side. This allows you to load up to four-to-six kayaks (depending on the width of your vehicle) on your roof. They’re very popular devices as they keep your boat(s) from moving around on top of the vehicle and give you more security. They have other advantages as well, including making it easier for women, children, and those without upper body strength strong enough to manhandle a 50-pound kayak. It’s simple enough to attach a bully system that allows the user to easily and safely pull their boat into the J rack quickly. Other advantages of a J hook:

  • If positioned on the outside of the rack, there is room in between the J hooks to have a storage unit, or more boats in between the two J hooks.
  • Kayaks and canoes are easier to secure using locks and cables threaded through the J.
  • Boats are more secure and less likely to move around or become loose in a J hook.
  • You can load more boats more securely with J hooks.
  • J hooks allow you to attach your straps before you load your kayak.

Things to Consider when Selecting Toyota Highlander Roof Rack Cross Bars

You’re not just selecting cross bars for your Toyota Highlander. You’re selecting a vehicle accessory that will carry your expensive skis, kayak, surfboard, Thule or other cartop carrier. You want cross bars that will not fail under pressure, wind, or weight or send your load flying off your car.

When buying a roof rack, cross bars, or a carrier, be sure to check the weight limits and follow installation instructions regarding the amount of torque needed to secure the screws. Most of these cross bars come with Torx screws – making your rack more secure. By design, Torx screws are less likely to strip out and are easier to remove, but even better, you’re less likely to slip and mar your car’s roof when installing the racks.

Before buying any roof rack or cross bars check with your owner’s manual or Toyota dealer to ensure the racks you’re buying are compatible with your model and year vehicle. Some racks and cross bars were only made for a particular year.

What kind of roof does your Toyota Highlander have? Does it lack any existing rails or cross bars? Does it have flush mount rails that run front to back? Or does it have raised rails that run front to back?

Related: Rav4 Cross Bars

Determine what you will use the racks for: kayaks? Luggage? A cargo carrier? Determine the use, then check the maximum load limit of the racks to ensure they will hold the items you plan to load. Most kayaks weigh between 40 and 60 pounds, more for a fishing kayak or a tandem boat. Two kayaks and gear could easily weigh 120 pounds or more, while many of these racks have a weight capacity of 100-130 pounds.

Don’t overload your rack. A cartop carrier may only weigh 40-50 pounds, but it’s easy to load that carrier with more than 100 pounds – again, exceeding the weight capacity of your carrier.

While you may buy your roof rack or cross bars with one purpose in mind – maybe transporting a kayak, or for a cargo carrier – some racks and designs will accommodate other accessories like a bike rack. If there’s ever a chance that you’d want to use the cross bars or racks for something else, it’s good to know what accessories are available for each model before you buy.

Insurance and your Roof Rack

No one likes to think about whether insurance will cover your roof rack or not, but it’s important to find out before you decide to install it yourself or hire a professional to do it. A quick call to your auto insurance agent should clear things up for you, but in general some of the things they’ll want to know in case of an accident or damage to your car, or in case the rack fails and things go flying off and hit or damage someone else’s vehicle are:

  • Did the rack fail?
  • OEM or aftermarket?
  • Was it installed or mounted properly?
  • Who installed it?
  • Was it overloaded? Too top heavy?
  • Were you doing the speed limit?

Some insurance agencies consider a roof rack a modification and may or may not cover you under your current insurance policy. 

Tips for Assembling and Installing your Roof Rack and Cross bars

Once you unpack your racks and/or cross bars, check the items included against your instruction list, if one is included. Many roof racks and crossbar kits do not come with any instructions, although instructions can be downloaded from the Internet. It’s a good idea to find and review the instructions online before ordering your cross bars to ensure you have the tools and skills needed to install it yourself (usually just a Torx 30 screwdriver bit available for a few dollars on Amazon or your local hardware store).

1. Genuine Toyota (PT278-48170) Roof Rail Cross Bar

Brand: Toyota

Model Number: PT278-48170

Item Weight: 12.8 pounds

Product Dimensions: 52.1 x 15 x 6.7 inches

Load Capacity: 150

Add utility and versatility to your Toyota Highlander with genuine Toyota roof rails made for all 2014 Highlander XLE 5 Door Wagon, V6 vehicles. This system is a Genuine Toyota Accessory. It includes mounting screws that easily attach to fittings located inside the roof. For XLE or Limited models: Footings are contoured to fit to the roof rail moldings. This rack is compatible with Toyota’s optional panoramic roof. Aerodynamic styling helps minimize wind noise. If your car came with covers that you have to remove to install the cross rails, save them and just put them back on if you take the rails back off.

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2. BRIGHTLINES 2014-2018 Toyota Highlander XLE Limited & SE Cross Bars Roof Racks

Brand: Brightlines

Model Number: BL402140

Item Weight: 10.65 pounds

Product Dimensions: 49 x 8.2 x 5.2 inches

Load Capacity: 150 pounds

These cross bars fit the 2014 – 2018 Toyota Highlander XLE, Limited, SE and Hybrid models. They’re constructed from high grade aluminum with a load capacity 150 pounds if evenly distributed. Their aero-dynamic shape helps minimize wind noise. They’re pre-set to bolt directly to your roof with easy installation. It takes about 20 minutes or less to install. The package comes with a pair of cross bars, four mounting towers, and instructions. These cross bars provide you with the ability to carry your cargo bags, snowboards, kayaks, canoes, and luggage safely.

  • The front crossbar is longer than the rear to accommodate vehicle size.
  • The width of the bar is 2 ½ in.
  • The bar is 4/5 in thick.
  • No drilling is required,
  • These cross bars are designed and built to OEM specs.

Please check accessories attachment requirements to ensure they fall within these crossbar dimensions. These cross bars ensure that whether you’re traveling cross country or going on an outdoor adventure, you’re not limited on what you can bring along. Having cross bars provides the freedom to carry additional items along for the journey:

  • Camping Gear
  • Kayaks and Canoes
  • Luggage
  • Surfboards
  • SUP boards
  • Snowboards and Skis
  • Bikes
  • Fishing Poles

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3. AUXMART Roof Rack Cross Bars for Toyota Highlander XLE 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018-165LBS/75KG Capacity (Pack of 2)

Brand: Auxmart

Model Number: 97124146

Item weight: 9.2 pounds

Product Dimensions: 52.4 x 11.8 x 8.3 inches

Load Capacity: 1565

Auxmart roof rack cross bars are among the most durable of the roof racks and cross bars made for the Toyota Highlander. With their sport styling, water-proof, and anti-corrosion construction, they’re workhorses too. Their streamline water drop design effectively reduces wind resistance and noise, a common complaint by many roof rack owners.

Soft rubber gaskets on both ends of the roof rack cross bar help avoid damaging your vehicle, or scratches, and other painting damage. These cross bars are easy to assemble, install and even remove in minutes, with no drilling or cutting required. Both cross bars can have a little extension on one side: (about 10mm) Front Size: 1225mm (48.2″) ~ 1235mm (48.6″) Rear Size: 1185mm (46.7″) ~ 1195mm (47″). The bars are a black color. They’re made of an aluminum alloy + ABS Material for long lasting use.

This is a perfect solution to hold luggage/cargo/snowboard on your Highlander’s roof when you are on the go. These cross bars work with a variety of roof accessories like cargo basket carrier, snowboard/bike rack, luggage box, ski rack, roof bag, kayak mount, etc. Please verify that these roof rack cross bars fit your vehicle before you purchase Fit for Toyota Highlander XLE 2014-2017 (with actual side rails).

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4. VANGUARD VGRCB-1064BK 2014-2017 Toyota Highlander(XLE,LIMITED) Cargo Carrier Roof Top Two Cross Bar(OE STYLE)

Brand: Vanguard

Model Number: VGRCB-1063BK

Item Weight: 5 pounds

Product Dimensions: 45 x 10 x 5 inches

Weight Capacity: 100 pounds, but manufacturer recommends no more than 75 pounds

This high-quality aluminum cross bar roof rack has everything you need to install it immediately.
All mounting brackets, nuts, and bolts are included, and installation instructions are available upon request. This rack fits all 2014-2019 Toyota Highlander XLE, LIMITED vehicles. No drilling or other modifications to your vehicle are needed, nor are they recommended. With easy installation and textured paint, these racks look and perform like more expensive models.

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