Certain upgrades to adventure vehicles, like car and truck awnings, can make your life on the road more secure, stylish, and shaded. Awnings mount to a variety of roof basket racks or flat platform racks. Many awnings boast useful features and are made from heavy-duty, mold-resistant materials. Others showcase integrated LED lighting and other amenities.
The best car and truck awnings are sold in different sizes to fit different vehicles. A variety of narrower models will fit atop a car or small SUV. Wider vehicle awnings, on the other hand, can span the entire length of a van or wagon. Additionally, batwing-style awnings can give you up to 270 degrees of shelter.
Most vehicle awning includes adjustable poles. Taller setups allow for more air circulation, while angled panels allow for protection against rain, with gravity preventing puddles from forming on the top of the awning.
As with any other on-car accessory, your vehicle type and use case will help you determine the best awning for you. Below, we take a look at the best car and truck awnings to help you narrow down your options.
The Best Vehicle Awnings of 2023
- Best Overall: Front Runner Easy-Out Awning
- Best 270 Awning Value: Rhino-Rack Compact Batwing
- Best 270 Awning for Full-Size Vehicles: iKamper ExoShell 270 Awning
- Equipped for Day and Night Use: ARB Touring Awning With LED Light
- Easiest Setup: Thule Outland Awning
- Best Portable Awning: Moon Fabrications MoonShade
- Lightweight, durable, and easy-to-use telescoping poles
- Securable in windy conditions
- Heavy-duty storage bag for added protection
- Setup requires two people
- Best mounted to Front Runner roof rack
- Water- and mold-resistant material
- Poles, ropes, and pegs all store inside the main compartment
- Legs fold out and can be preset to the desired length
- Best for small to medium vehicles or short-wheelbase 4WDs
- Bulky and heavy compared to other options
- Weight: 66 lbs. (75 lbs. with mounts)
- Dimensions: 8 x 7 ft.
- Max height: 90.5 in.
- Not light
- Not inexpensive
- Requires a substantial roof rack for mounting
- Lightweight and durable aluminum case
- 1,200-lumen LED light strip included
- Compatible with ARB accessories for additional functionality
- Requires two people to set up
- Too large for most small cars
- Aluminum poles require care when staking
- Push-button operation allows for a single-person setup
- Locking legs make pole adjustments easy
- Durable and lightweight aluminum case
- No additional tie-downs or attachment points for guy ropes
- Dimensions 9 ft. x 7 ft.
- Size stowed 28 in. × 6 in. (diameter)
- Weight 8 lbs.
- Shade top materials 420D ripstop polyester with UV protective treatment
- Shade bottom materials Reflective coating; heavy-duty polyester webbing trim
- Quick setup time
- A clever pull cord system enables single-person setup
- Adaptable to multiple vehicles and for use as a standalone canopy
- Overall weight and stowed dimensions make it tremendously portable
- Optional magnetic anchors intended for use in light winds five mph or less
- Seams are not taped or sealed
Why You Can Trust GearJunkie
We get that people want the best value on gear before spending their hard-earned money. Our expert team carefully selects the products we cover and vigorously researches (and tests) our top choices. Bottom line: The GearJunkie staff is dedicated to exhaustive analysis and helping our readers make informed choices.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Car or Truck Awning
Vehicle awnings are a great way to quickly set up shade and shelter. From budget-conscious, entry-level awnings to premium ones that include lighting and other features, vehicle awnings are an easy way to make your basecamp or summer picnic more enjoyable.
They set up in minutes, keep you dry during inclement weather, and can provide years of service if kept clean and stowed dry.
When choosing the best car and truck awnings, first make sure the awning will be compatible both with your vehicle and your mounting system. Some awnings will fit small cars and CUVs. Others are larger and will fit the length of SUVs, trucks, and vans. Take note of the product dimensions.
Also, consider how you plan to mount the awning. Most awnings will be compatible with a wide range of factory crossbars or aftermarket roof racks or baskets.
Some awnings may require additional hardware for the install or are best used with a certain type of roof rack. Again, make sure the awning will work with your existing setup or whatever roof mounting system you plan to purchase.
Size and Height
Car and truck awnings come in a wide variety of sizes. Most awnings will be square or rectangular, though some have a batwing design that provides coverage on both the side and rear of your vehicle for 270 degrees of shade.
When looking at awning size, consider how much shade and shelter you would like with your setup. A simple square awning might do the trick if you just need a spot for two folding chairs in the shade. If you’re trying to fit the whole family or sleep system under the awning, you might prefer a 270 awning.
In terms of height, most awnings have telescoping or adjustable legs that will allow you to raise or lower the outer edge of the awning. Take into account the height of your vehicle and how much headspace you want under the awning. Then look for an awning with the clearance to match.
Weight and Storage
Most awnings will weigh in the range of 20 to 40 pounds. Assuming you’re keeping your awning permanently mounted, the weight shouldn’t be too much of an issue. However, you may need a second set of hands to help with the install.
A more important factor to consider is the type of storage the awning comes equipped with. The two main types are hard-sided and soft-sided cases.
Hard-sided cases tend to be made of aluminum. They offer added protection and weatherproofing for your awning when stored. Soft-sided cases may not be as weatherproof and may be noisier on the road than hard-sided cases.
Additionally, take note of where you’ll store the awning’s accessories (poles, guy ropes, and stakes). Some awnings will store these items in the main case, while others might require you to store a separate bag in your vehicle. This is fine in most cases, but it takes up valuable in vehicle storage space and could be left at home easily.
Weather-Resistant Materials and Design
The best car and truck awnings are made with durable materials like heavy-duty ripstop polyester fabric or canvas. Also, look for awnings that have additional waterproofing or water-repellent finishes, as well as some sort of UV protection.
Additionally, if you want to use your awning in breezy conditions, look for an awning that has additional guy ropes and stakes so you can secure the awning in the wind. If you know the weather is going to turn foul, take your awning down ahead of the storm.
Ease of Setup
Depending on the size and style of your awning, it may require two people to set it up. If you plan on traveling solo, look for a car or truck awning that can be installed by a single person. Features like preset legs and push-button adjustments will help with easier setup and breakdown.
Some brands offer add-ons to further customize your car or truck awning. If you want options like LED lights, windbreaks, bug screens, quick-release brackets, or even an awning room with a floor — which essentially turns your awning into a tent — check out what kind of accessories the brand offers before making your purchase.
The best type of car or truck awning for you will depend on how you plan to use it, as well as what type of vehicle and roof rack you have. If you have a large family or tend to travel with a group of friends, a larger awning like the Rhino-Rack batwing awning will provide enough space and shade for everyone.
For couples or those who like to travel solo, a simple side awning might do the trick. No matter what style of awning you decide on, make sure the dimensions are compatible with your vehicle. Also, ensure that the awning can be installed with either your aftermarket roof rack or factory crossbars.
If you frequently car camp, road trip, tailgate, or otherwise spend a lot of time hanging out around your car or truck, a roof rack awning is a great way to add shelter and shade to your setup. Most awnings are quick and easy to set up and break down, making them easier to use than a canopy or other shade shelters.
Because they mount to the roof of your vehicle, they take up less valuable interior cargo space. With a wide range of prices on the market, you should be able to find one that fits your budget.
The longevity of your awning will depend on usage and care. Quality fabric awnings are made of durable materials such as heavy-duty ripstop polyester or fade-resistant canvas. Regular inspections and cleanings of fabric awnings will extend the lifespan well beyond the warranty period and ensure that it keeps you shaded for many years.
The best car and truck awnings will range in price from around $200 to upward of $1,800. The cost will depend on the size and design of the awning, with larger awnings with more features costing more.