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Square Bar vs. Round Bar vs. Aero Bar: What’s the Best Roof Rack Style?

RAM 1500 Traveler Cross Bar Roof Rack

Picking out the best roof rack system for your vehicle might seem overwhelming, especially if you wait ‘til the last minute before your road trip to the beach or the mountains. The decision isn’t made any easier by the fact that there aren’t only different brands, but different shapes of roof rack bars. We’re here to break down the pros and cons between square, round and aero shaped bars to assist your decision-making process.

INNO Base Rack System

Square Bars


  • Original style – you’re staying true to the roots of rooftop travel
  • Most inexpensive – you don’t have to break the bank to install a luggage rack
  • Plenty of available accessories – because accessories are a roof rack’s best friend


  • Least aerodynamic – resulting in the biggest drop in fuel efficiency (as compared to round and aero)
  • Very prone to whistling – nothing some music and conversation can’t cure

Yakima Q Tower Base Rack


  • More aerodynamic than square bars – you guessed it, this means better fuel efficiency
  • Less whistling noise than square bars – you won’t need to play your music quite so loud
  • Loads of compatible accessories – skis, snowboards, bikes, roof cargo carriers… You get it


  • Less aerodynamic than aero bars – not quite as advanced as the top of the line, but pretty darn close
  • More whistling noise than aero bars – ditto

Thule Base Rack System

Aero Bars


  • Best looking/sleekest – complements luxury cars and SUVs nicely
  • Most fuel efficient – over time can make up for the premium price point
  • Quietest – as compared to square and round


  • Most expensive – but, you get what you pay for
  • Fewer accessories available – such as a roof cargo box

What’s the Right Style of Roof Rack Bars for Your Vehicle

As you see, the biggest differences are aerodynamics and wind noise. Since they all fulfill ultimately the same purpose (hauling cargo on your roof), the “right” rack for you depends solely on your needs and wants. You will find that the mounting process and ease of use is generally the same no matter what shape you get.

On the other hand, the available accessories will vary depending on style. To learn more about the roof rack systems you’re interested in, be sure to read our hundreds of roof rack reviews.