Roof Top Tent Reviews

The best roof top tent is out there, waiting for you to grab it and take it on an adventure of a lifetime. Now more than ever, buyers have an opportunity to choose between a plethora of high-quality roof top tents that fit most budgets and uses. The most expensive roof top tent, isn’t always the right tent, and the cheapest roof top tent doesn’t mean it’s of poor quality.

I’ve got a 1989 FJ62 Land Cruiser and a 2008 F-150. Both are setup with racks to accommodate a roof top tent, so I’ve had an opportunity to personally test all of these here. There are a few listed that I’ve only seen at trade shows such as Overland Expo and Outdoor Retailer, but most of these I’ve spent multiple nights in, so I can attest to their quality and comfort.

Before choosing a roof top tent, you need to first answer these questions, which will help narrow down your choices.

What is your budget?
How do you plan on using your roof top tent?
How often will you use your roof top tent?
How many people will be sleeping in the tent?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll have a better idea of what type of roof top tent you need as well as the size. Here’s a list of the best roof top tents we’ve personally used or checked out.

The Best Roof Top Tent System

Most roof top tents are completely separate units from the racks they attach to. They can include mounting brackets to fit round, aero, and square bars, but there are hardly any native solutions. Front Runner Outfitters is one of the most comprehensive roof top tent systems you can find. The strength of their roof racks is validated by years of use in the jungles of South Africa, and their roof top tent lives up to their reputation.

The Front Runner roof top tent can be used with any type of rack system, but their innovative quick-release roof top tent system is a real winner. Just slide your tent into the four locking mounts and off you go.

The Best Roof Top Tent for Car Camping


The Yakima hits the sweet spot in terms of price and accessibility for most people who are considering buying a roof top tent. Many people already have Yakima roof racks or bike racks and most of these people are weekend warriors or action sports enthusiasts. They year for a quick and easy way to setup a campsite and are enamored by the advantages of roof top tents. 

Casual users may also be more likely to remove the tent between trips as it’s likely they will only use the tent 2-5 times per year. The hardcore overland crowd might scoff at the Yakima, but we can attest to it’s durability and ease of use. We did have a bolt loosen on us after a few hundred miles, so make certain everything is tight as you assemble it. 

The Best Hard Shell Roof Top Tent

Hard shell roof top tents are the most durable of the bunch and can remain on your vehicle for months at a time. With some models you can also attach gear to the top of the tent which is a huge advantage over other tents, as roof top storage is often lost when using a roof top tent.

Most hard shell roof top tents are opened with hydraulic arms that lift the top instantly. No more fiddling with extra zippers or covers. Closing a hard shell tent is just as easy.

The main disadvantage to hard shell roof top tents is that they are heavier, which makes them more difficult to attach and remove as well as store. A heavier tent can also impact your mileage as it adds more to the overall weight of the vehicle. It also moves the center of gravity higher, so if you are already carrying a tire or other heavy gear up top, a hard shell tent adds even more weight. 

Among hard shell roof top tents, the best we’ve seen are from James Baroud. These tents are around the most expensive you’ll find, but the features are quality are tough to match. 

The Best All-Season Roof Top Tent

tepui roof top tent

Tepui has been one of the top names in roof top tents for years, and they recently introduced an all-season solution that allows you to replace the canopy on your tent based on the conditions you will encountering. The Baja Series features a mesh shade canopy for hot humid weather or a lightweight nylon rip-stop canopy for spring time, or an aluminized canopy for inclement weather. A detachable rainfly is also included. 

This solves an issue for campers who use their tents year round and travel to areas with a variety of weather conditions.

Best Roof Top Tents

There are plenty more roof top tent companies that we want to mention, that have been building quality tents for years and have legions of fans behind them.

Cascadia Vehicle Tents (CVT) is seen on more rigs than almost any other tent, and the reason is simple. They have one of the deepest selections of roof top tents available, so it’s likely you’ll find the size you need at the price you want. From two-person roof top tents to four-person and larger tents, CVT can setup your car or truck with a durable and long-lasting tent to fit your needs.

Smittybilt has been making off-road gear for ages, and their roof top tent is one of the top rated tents on Amazon. For $870 you’ll get a roof top tent that includes many of the same features you’d find on higher priced tents. 

The number one goal of a roof top tent is to make your car camping experience more enjoyable. Nothing beats waking up to a gorgeous sunrise when you’re seven feet off the ground.


Welcome Julie from Love My Simple Home

Welcome Julie from Love My Simple Home

Welcome Julie from Love My Simple Home I’m super excited to introduce another talented DIY educator who will be bringing us some fantastic upcycling projects, beautiful home decor ideas, and all around amazing ideas for making your home gorgeous on the cheap. Please join me in welcoming Julie from Love My Simple Home. She is an […]

The post Welcome Julie from Love My Simple Home appeared first on Pretty Handy Girl.

What Does a Builder’s Warranty Cover?

Even with new homes, things can go wrong. That is why many buyers of newly built homes are interested in warranties, which promise to repair or replace certain elements of the home.

Many home warranties are backed by the builder, while others are purchased by builders from independent companies that assume responsibility for specific claims. In other cases, homeowners purchase coverage from a third-party warranty company to supplement coverage provided by their builder. In fact, the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) require builders to purchase a third-party warranty as a way to protect buyers of newly built homes with FHA or VA loans.

The key to any of these warranties is to understand what’s covered, what’s not covered, how to make a claim and the process for resolving disputes that might arise between you and the builder or warranty provider.

Most warranties for newly constructed homes offer limited coverage on workmanship and materials as they relate to components of the home, such as windows, siding, doors, roofs or plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems. Warranties typically provide coverage for one to two years, although the specific time period may vary by from component to component; coverage may last up to a decade on major structural elements. Warranties also routinely define how repairs will be made and by whom.

Warranties generally do not cover household appliances, tile or drywall cracks, irrigation systems or components covered under a manufacturer’s warranty. Most warranties also exclude expenses incurred as a result of a warranty repair construction, such as the need to store household belongings while a repair is being made.

Before you close on your new home purchase, you should ask your builder – or your third-party warranty provider – these questions:

  • What does this warranty cover?
  • What is not covered by this warranty?
  • What’s the process or timeliness if I have a claim?
  • Is it possible for me to dispute your decision to deny a claim?
  • What is the extent of your liability?
  • Can you refer me to other new home owners with whom you’ve worked so I can speak to them about warranty coverages?
  • Where are some of you previous projects so I can speak with owners there?

The information you gain may not be enough to send you running from your new home deal, but it should help you understand where you’ll stand if you ever need to file a claim. You should also check with your state’s Attorney General Office or contractor licensing board to make certain your builder is offering all warranties he’s required to provide.

To learn more about builders’ warranties, contact your state or local builders’ board. If you’re making your home purchase with an FHA or VA loan, those organizations can also provide you with additional information.


Originally published June 11, 2014.

How to Landscape Your New Construction Home Like a Pro

You’re excited about closing on your new home and can’t wait to dig into the blank canvas of a newly sodded lawn.

Well, here’s the bad news: That emerald green grass is also hiding terrible soil, unmarked wires and pipes, weed seeds, and years of hard work.

The good news is that it’s easy to dig new beds, weeds aren’t yet established, and your landscape is on equal footing with the Joneses.

Now, follow these five guidelines to make it even better and create a landscape you’ll love for years to come.

Start off beds right

The dirt beneath your feet is just that: dirt. Whether it’s newly added topsoil or nothing more than fill dirt, it will need your help to become fertile, rich and loamy soil.

In a perfect world, we’d all have heaps of compost lying around, but it takes time to let all of your grass clippings, wood chips, expired produce, and weeds rot into the perfect blend of life-sustaining goodness. For now, you have fewer options, with bagged composted cow manure being the most common.

Mushroom compost is also available, but be advised that it can be harmful to seedlings and salt-sensitive plants like azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias. If you happen to live near a zoo, ask if they offer their own composted manure; it’s good s- stuff.

Get the lay of the land

It may be tempting to plant that veggie garden of your dreams right after closing on the house, but be sure you have a reason to plant there. Does the spot receive lots of direct sunlight? Is it well-drained and puddle-free?

Ignore the inner voice that says “I can only draw stick figures” and draw a terrible diagram of your backyard to help you visualize areas with problems and promise. Draw one amoeba to remind you of an area that gets shade, and another one to represent a planned garden bed.

Even if your amoebas look like protozoa, no worries! As long as you understand the scribbles, they’ll help you plan with a purpose.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Remove unwanted builder plantings

Those builder plantings crammed against your house look innocuous enough now, but they could come back to bite you later.

Properly identify your existing plants, and make sure they’re good choices for you. A tree with messy leaves, flowers or fruits will leave you with lots of work, clogged gutters and stained driveways.

A tree with weak wood might later snap and be found crashing on your couch. A weedy or invasive plant will take over your lawn today – and tomorrow, the neighborhood.

Some plants are fine in the right setting, but will really cramp your style if they’re too large for their space or were planted too close to the house. When in doubt, rip it out.

Think ahead

Write down your biggest priority in the garden right now. Entertaining friends? Great!

Now imagine yourself 10 years into the future, and accompanied by a spouse and kids, or a flock of cats, or cooler, older friends. What will be your priority then? Now write down your priorities in 20 years, 30 years, and so on, until you get depressed and start to feel old.

Here’s why this silly little exercise matters: Don’t turn your whole yard into a decked out party zone with a pool (or a Zen garden complete with koi pond and jagged rocks) without at least considering what you’ll do with that space down the road.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Plant the garden of your dreams, but be sure that it will be the garden of your family’s (or cats’) dreams as well.

Start with mulch and groundcovers

Weeds are inevitable, but a struggling lawn or half-hearted attempt at a garden bed provide weeds with a veritable breeding ground.

Mulch is your first line of defense, and it also keeps soil from drying out. Begin mulching with a two-inch layer now, but plan on phasing it out in a few years if possible, since repeated mulching can rob the soil of nutrients and rob your wallet of money.

Instead, find a good, weed-suppressing groundcover like mondo grass, creeping phlox or Japanese forest grass, and plant as much as possible now so that you’ll be able to divide, replant and save heaps of money down the road. Grow them along the edge of your borders and borrow every time you plant a new bed.

Wondering if new construction is right for you? Search new construction listings, and get more home-buying tips and resources to help you decide.


Originally published June 29, 2016.

5 Things Every Home Buyer Needs to Know About New Construction

Any buyer shopping for a home today, in any market and at any price point, is likely to come across new construction homes for sale. The sellers are both large national builders and smaller local developers. Some homes are for sale as a part of a subdivision, while others are one-off homes.

But is a new-construction home the right path for you? Here are five factors you should keep in mind.

New homes may not be listed in your local MLS

Unlike a regular seller who lists their home with a local real estate agent, homebuilders often have their own sales employees working for them on site. They do this to have more control and to cut costs.

What does this mean for buyers? Mostly, it may mean the homebuilder isn’t a member of the local MLS. As a result, the homes may not show up in your agent’s MLS search.

The builder may be more apt to advertise online, in the paper or with billboards. So if you’re interested in newly built homes, work with your agent to make sure you’ve identified all the possibilities.

New homes are often sold before they’re built

A builder will generally get financing lined up, and map out both a construction and a sales process. This means they’ll try to sell as many homes as possible, before they’re even built.

To accomplish this, they’ll build out model homes and allow buyers to go in and review floor plans, fixtures and finishes while the homes are under construction. Depending on the state, builders need to get through some of the approvals process before they can actually start signing contracts.

For the most part, you can get a sense of what your new home would look and feel like, and where it will be located in the community. Ready to move forward? You’ll likely have to put down a deposit, from a few thousand dollars to 10 percent of the purchase price.

Be aware that even if there are 100 homes in the community, they won’t all be available at once. Home builders tend to release the homes in phases. If the first five homes sell quickly at the asking price, and the market continues to do well, the builder can raise the prices on the second or third phase.

Also, the sales cycle for a new community can take years. The last phase could end up being priced 10 percent or more than the first, simply because the real estate market has appreciated.

The first buyers may get the best discounts

A home builder, especially early in the sales process, wants to get a few homes under contract quickly. If the builder can announce they have 10 homes under contract in a few months, the project can seem more desirable to future buyers.

Also, builders like to go back to their lenders with positive news about the project and their investment. To do this, they need early buyers to sign contracts.

For buyers, this means that early in the sales process there could be room to negotiate the price down. But with the reward, there is potential risk. By being an early buyer, you’re committed to the project. If for some reason sales don’t manifest, or you don’t want to move ahead before the home is built, you risk losing your down payment. For example, right after the previous housing downturn, some buyers were stuck under contract on new homes where sales had stalled.

Builders don’t have a personal attachment to the home

A typical seller has lived in their home for many years, and raised their family or built memories there. So when it’s time to sell, the seller may experience all kinds of issues, questions and uncertainties, which can come out in the negotiation and purchase process.

The seller may unconsciously price the home too high because they’re not ready to emotionally detach from it. They may want to know more about you, or what your plans are for the property. If given a choice between two buyers, the seller may pick one over the other for non-financial reasons.

With a home builder, it’s just a numbers game. They’re focused more on spreadsheets than sentiment. They want to make sure you’re qualified and can get a loan. They set the prices based on their inventory, though there may be a little room for negotiations.

Discounts may be available in the form of upgrades

Is the project you’re interested in nearing the end of its sales cycle, with many homes already sold? If so, the builder may be a little more willing to negotiate with you – not so much on price, but on upgrades. If they reduce the price on your home and the sale closes, then that sale price becomes public record. But if they offered you an upgrade package (hardwood floors instead of carpet, or higher-end appliances), there isn’t any way to track that.

What could amount to thousands of dollars in upgrades could end up being a better deal than simply getting a price reduction.

For many first-time buyers, new construction could be a great idea.


Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published March 18, 2016.

Asking These 6 Questions Can Save You Money When Buying New Construction

If you’re in the market for a brand-new home, you’ve got a ton of options. Sales of new homes surged to an eight-year high in 2015, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau, and single-family production is estimated to reach 840,000 units in 2016, an 18 percent increase over 2015, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

Unfortunately for home buyers, new residential construction is coming at a steeper price: Last year the average price of a new home jumped to $351,000, up $100,000 from 2009, reports the NAHB.

Nonetheless, there are still ways you can save when buying a new home. It’s like shopping for a new car: You need the right strategy to nab the best deal.

Ask prospective builders these six questions in order to find the right home at the right price.

“What financial incentives do you offer for using your preferred lender and title company?”

The bad news: Production builders are often reluctant to set a precedent for negotiating sales prices. (Custom builders tend to be more flexible.)

“If a new home is listed for $370,000 and it sells for $360,000, the next buyer in the development is going to want to pay that lower amount,” says Craig Reger, a real estate broker at Keller Williams Realty in Portland, OR. However, many offer handsome incentives to buyers who use their preferred lender and title company.

Some may even knock off up to $10,000 in closing costs, says Peggy Yee, a supervising broker at Frankly Real Estate in Vienna, VA. Others will sweeten the deal by negotiating prices on finishes, such as upgrading carpet to hardwood floors.

You should still shop around and get quotes from at least two other lenders before making your decision. But don’t just pay attention to the interest rates. “You need to compare each loan estimate’s terms to make sure you’re getting an apples-to-apples comparison,” says Chris Dossman, a real estate agent with Century 21 Scheetz in Indianapolis.

“Which are the standard finishes?”

When you tour a development’s model home, keep in mind that you’re previewing a high-end version of the standard home. “The model has all the bells and whistles,” says Dossman. Therefore, you need to find out from the builder which options are standard, which options are upgrades, and what each upgrade costs.

One way to cut costs: Move into the home without an upgrade, then hire a contractor to do the work. “Builders charge a huge markup on certain finishes and products,” says Reger. “The builder might charge $4,000 to $6,000 for a high-performance air conditioner, but you may be able to get another company to install that same unit for as low as $2,500.”

Granted, opting for the latter means you’ll probably need to pay the contractor in cash. “For some people, the benefit of paying the builder to do upgrades is that they can roll the costs into their loan amount,” Reger points out.

“What are your long-term plans for the community?”

Depending on the size of the land, the builder might be planning several subdivisions. This could impact your decision to buy.

For example, let’s assume that only a few homes have been built and sold. If the developer plans to construct an additional 50 homes and you’re one of the first people to move into the neighborhood, you may have to deal with loud construction crews for several months.

There’s also the risk that the builder loses funding and another company takes over the development. Dossman advises proceeding with caution: “If the builder changes and a lower-quality builder takes over, that could affect the value of your home.”

“What are the homeowners association rules and regulations?”

Each homeowners association (HOA) has its own Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) and bylaws. Get these from the builder and review them carefully.

“I’ve seen HOAs that don’t allow storage sheds in the backyard, solar panels, or private fences,” says Reger.

In most cases, the HOA can assess a homeowner penalties for infractions, and some associations are more restrictive than others.

Also, look into when you’re required to start paying HOA dues. Many builders cover the costs until at least 50 percent of the homes in the development are sold, says Yee.

“What warranties do you provide?”

Most builders offer a one-year workmanship warranty and a 10-year structural warranty, says Reger. Make sure the warranties you receive explicitly state what is and isn’t covered, and what the limitations are for damages.

You should also receive manufacturer’s warranties on the washer and dryer, hot water heater, air conditioner, kitchen appliances, and roof.

“Can you connect me with some of your past clients?”

Always check references when vetting home builders, says Dossman. Ask past clients questions such as, “How responsive was the developer when you expressed concerns?” and “Would you use the builder again?”

Caveat: Most builders will only provide glowing references, so you should still scout out some past customers on your own. You can find these people through reviews on Angie’s List, or knock on doors of homes in the neighborhood that have already been built.

Wondering if new construction is right for you? Search new construction listings, and get more home-buying tips and resources to help you decide.


Originally published May 9, 2016.

5 Ways a Buyer’s Agent Can Make Shopping New Construction Easier

Buying new construction seems simple, right? Just pick out the floor plan you want, choose the perfect lot, and watch it go up. No sellers to deal with, no unexpected repairs that come up during inspection, no drawn-out negotiations. Right?

Not so fast. In any real estate transaction, it’s important to have a professional on your side, even if the process seems straightforward.

“Having your own agent provides a sense of security,” says Seattle-area homeowner Kristy Weaver, who has bought two new construction homes from two different builders. “It gives you some peace of mind, knowing that someone is looking out for your best interest.”

Peace of mind is just one benefit of having an experienced agent along for the ride. Read on for five more reasons you’ll want a local real estate agent by your side when buying a new construction home.

1. Help you find a reputable builder

“Your agent can rely on their own experience and that of their colleagues to help you find a builder you can trust,” says Portland, OR-based real estate agent Kim Ainge Payne of the Realty Trust Group. “What’s the quality of the workmanship? What kind of warranty do they offer? What’s their track record of resolving issues? Getting a clear understanding in the beginning can alleviate serious headaches down the road.”

2. Go to bat for you

The timeline for purchasing new construction is typically quite a bit longer than buying an existing home. From the first time you visit the sales center, to choosing your layout, construction, inspections, and finally closing, there are ample opportunities for things to go sideways – think construction delays, permit issues, and financing concerns. An experienced buyer’s agent can help you navigate all of these sticky situations.

3. Help you review your contract

Even if you’ve purchased a home before, the contract for new construction is a whole different animal, and an experienced agent can help you make sure you understand everything, from floor plans to earnest money requirements, deadlines for requesting changes, and timelines for completion.

“It’s crucial to have a third party who represents your interests in the transaction,” says Dmitry Yusim, a Seattle-area agent who has represented new construction buyers. “A good agent can add the proper addendums to protect you if something falls through.”

4. Assist with negotiations

Buyers’ agents know the areas where you’ll find the most wiggle room when it comes to negotiations.

“Builders are trying to keep their sales price up so that the next buyers through the door see the higher closing price,” explains agent Britt Wibmer of Windermere Real Estate in Seattle. “They’d much rather throw in closing costs or additional upgrade credits.”

5. Point you toward smart upgrade choices

Builders will offer you endless options for finishes and upgrades, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. A seasoned real estate agent can recommend the upgrades that will get you the most bang for your buck in resale value, suggest finishes that might be cheaper to do on your own, and help you avoid over-improving, which can jeopardize your appraisal before closing.

Even though a friendly sales representative will greet you with a smile the moment you walk through the door of the sales center, don’t forget that they work for the builder. Bring your own agent with you starting with your first visit – in fact, many builders require your agent to register with them from the very beginning in order for them to be involved in the process and receive their commission.

With a professional you trust by your side, you’ll rest easy knowing someone is there to protect your money, your time, and your new home.

Wondering if new construction is right for you? Search new construction listings, and get more home-buying tips and resources to help you decide.


Originally published January 18, 2017.