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The Hidden Costs of Having a Roof Rack on Your Car

Researchers say roof racks are “responsible for almost 1 percent of national fuel consumption.”
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David Moir/Reuters

Having a car rack for bikes or kayaks is a good way to show the world that you’re an outdoorsy, planet-loving person. But those contraptions might be taking their own toll on the environment by devastating your vehicle’s fuel consumption.

Last year alone, roof racks ate up some 100 million gallons of gasoline throughout the U.S. due to their aerodynamic drag, according to a new study in Energy Policy. That represents about 0.8 percent of national fuel consumption by light-duty vehicles, say co-authors Yuche Chen of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Alan Meier of Berkeley Lab.