All the info you want (or didn’t know you need) about car tents (SUV tents, tailgate tents, rooftop tents or hatchback tents and awnings). This will help you decide whether you need one, what to look out for and what type is best for your needs. Plus some of my top picks to save you time searching and comparing.
Types of car / SUV tents that attach to cars
You might come across several variations of an SUV tent/hatchback tent – some attach to the car at the back, some at the side, others cover only the boot opening and don’t touch the floor and some are just awnings to give you rain and sun cover. The most frequently used types of car/suv tents are:
Tailgate tents (hatchback/boot tents)
Here you can find either big tents that cover the boot opening + create additional space behind the car (freestanding) – or – smaller boot tents that don’t touch the ground, just extend the boot opening area a big + protect it against rain or mosquitoes.
Typical price range: 50 – 800 EUR
Protecting you from the sun or easy rain, these don’t do much for sleeping or additional floor space, just add more shaded area. They come usually in three versions: rear (boot), side door and 270 degrees (rear & side door)
Typical price range: 30 – 150 EUR (cheaper Amazon ones) or 150 – 2000 EUR bigger and higher quality ones
Side door tents
These tend to be bigger and made for Multivan and bigger type vans. But sometimes they fit cars with sliding doors – like the VW Caddy, VW Sharan, Citroen Berlingo and similar.
Typical price range: 150 – 2500 EUR + depending on type and features
Move your bedroom to the roof… Handy if you don’t have any sleeping room in the back of your car or you need it for storage, or you want to sleep more than two people in a small car. On the other hand – you need to climb the ladder each time you want something from there. Great for sleeping (higher up, safer, more room, additional features like a solar-powered fan), but quite expensive.
Typical price range: 500 – 4000 EUR
Each one of these SUV / car tent type has its benefits and disadvantages – it all depends on what type of car you have, whether you have a roof rack, whether you want to have easy access from the ground or don’t mind climbing up and what is your budget.
How do you pick a good car tent?
- does it fit your car well? Make sure it will fit your car’s boot opening (or side door) and also its height. For example, there are awnings made for VW T5 / T6 (Multivan etc), that have adjustable height – 180cm – 210cm or similar. A VW Caddy is just above 180cm, and Sharan is 172cm high (more with a rack) – you probably can fit it there too, but any lower than that might be a problem (i.e. water accumulating when it rains or not fitting properly and water leaking into the tent/car).
- does it need a rail to be attached or is it the “over van” type (you pull a sheet over your entire car and fix it into the ground on the other side of the car). The ones with a rail are more difficult to fit on a car without a rail.
- build strength – will a gust of wind send it across the field or break its supports? Low price is always welcome, but at a certain level, corners have to be cut somewhere – usually the quality of materials and build strength.
- fabric quality and attributes – is it waterproof? tearproof? Is it a material you don’t like/prefer? (Polyester, nylon, cotton – each has its own benefits and disadvantages.
- ventilation – enough windows to let light and air in, preferably with nets to stop mosquitoes from getting in.
- make sure there’s a groundsheet included in the package (or that you are aware that you’re buying it without and need to get one)
- weight and size when packed – this also depends on your car size, but usually, the lighter and smaller, the better.
Are car/tailgate tents any good? What are their benefits?
You don’t need a car tent to do car camping or sleep in your car – but they are a nice addition. I see their main benefits as follows:
- extend your floor space – add shaded + closed space to leave stuff in or to sleep in, have a picnic, rest – it can get hot in a car during a summer day, so a tent/awning will get more air, more headroom and you’ll be closer to the ground (cooler). Or at least you’ll get a space you can walk around barefoot, leave your shoes in – before you enter your car. You’ll have a bedroom (the car) + a lounge (the tent).
- headroom – you will be able to stand up yet still be “inside” – great for changing or rainy days
- storage – you’ll appreciate this, especially during longer stays – leaving things you use daily in the tent without having to pack them into boxes in the car or roof storage. Especially when you fit them out with some foldable storage shelves.
- shade/rain cover – even if you can’t store stuff in there safely (in case you get an awning), it’s still good to have a shaded area everywhere you go, no matter the time of day.
- ventilation – you can leave the boot or car windows open letting more cold air in during hot summer nights or during rain (not something easily done without a tent)
- mosquito protection – ventilation without mosquitoes getting in, as the tent works as a mosquito net
Where to buy an SUV / car/tailgate tent
Most websites only recommend tents available at Amazon. It’s mainly because it’s the easiest affiliate program you can use (i.e. the websites get rewarded if you buy from Amazon). Nothing wrong with that except it creates a bottleneck – the top 5 “suv tent” websites all recommend the same 5 tents on Amazon – but there are many more available, even at better prices.
MY TOP MPV/MINIVAN TAILGATE TENT: Dometic HUB Inflatable Modular Shelter 2021
SEE IT IN ACTION:
Other good SUV – tailgate tents, awnings and places to shop
Open each item to see how it fits onto a car.
Car tents at AliExpress
A wide selection of rear/side tents and awnings, all sizes and a good price – starting at 100 GBP/EUR, worldwide shipping