With a love of water, whether it be the ocean, rives or dams, Warrick and I could not tear ourselves away from having a boat that could transport us to sandy islands or that secret fishing spot. We are already towing a caravan behind us so the tinnie will have to live on the roof of the Landcruiser
Oldmac Toyota in Clevelend have generously supplied us with a tripple set of genuine Toyota roof racks for our adventure, so we now have a platform for a new addition to the family. The racks are rated to 150kg total downwards load so this gives us a reasonable amount of weight to play with. With this weight restriction in mind, our search for the perfect tinnie began.
Edit: we have since then bought an Almac tinnie loader to use as it has an extra basket.
We headed to the Brisbane Tinnie & Tackle/4×4 show yesterday on a mission to assess, compare and select the perfect lightweight tinnie that would become our trusted water companion for the next 2 years.
Let me tell you, getting your head around boats when you come from a mountain-covered land-locked country does require a double-shot espresso and very good note-taking skills. Thank goodness Warrick and boats were primary school sweethearts and the love affair has continued to this day.
For those of you with little or no experience in boating here is a summary of what I have learnt so far when it comes to selecting a roof top tinnie for your trip around Australia.
Watch the video first
Warrick asks Tim from Mako Craft a few questions about their 376 Topper Trekker rooftop tinnie.
What are those boats called?
First we need to get the lingo right. Tinnies that fit on the top of the roof are called ‘cartoppers, (car toppers) or ‘rooftop’ (roof top) tinnies and are specifically designed to be light and to fit ontop of your car. Have a google with the different spelling options to find the best results.
What size tinnie can fit on the roof of a 4×4?
There are many different lengths, starting from small punts around 2.0m up to decent size tinnies of 4.0 meters.
When selecting a car topper to fit on the roof of your 4×4, you will firstly you have to pay attention to the maximum weight that your car roof can carry (refer to manufacturer’s handbook) . Secondly is either the maximum weight of the roof racks can carry or the maximun weight your boat loader can carry. Third and last is adding the weight of everything that is sitting on your roof and making sure that it remains under the product’s limits. Do not overload your roof or roof rack limits as insurance companies could wipe their hand of your policy in the event of an accident. Our Toyota Landcruiser for instance can take a weight of 200kg on the roof, but our roof racks can only take 150kg.
Here are some specs from Mako Craft we were admiring, comparing the 3.45m with the 3.76m models.
What size cartopper will fit my family safely?
Different boats are rated to carry different number of adults. The Mako Craft boat we looked at (3.76m long) was rated to fit 4 adults. That means that it would be perfect for a family of 2 adults + 2 kids with some extra gear.
Do kids have to wear lifejackets in such a small boat?
Yes! In Queensland, all kids under 12 in an open boat that is less than 4.8m need to wear a life jacket when the boat is underway (drifting is classified as underway). Also note that all passengers (incl. adults) need to wear life jackets when crossing a designated bar in a boat that is less than 4.8m as well.
Charlotte and Celeste wear their lifejackets at all times when on the water (let it be on our stand up paddle boards or in the boat). The life vests don’t have to be those awkward and uncomfortable yellow ones. Ours have well-designed lifejackets called PFDs type 2 (personal floatation devices). Those life jackets cannot be taken beyond partially smooth water (e.g. offshore fishing). In that case we would need PFD1’s.
Below is a picture of Celeste at 18 months wearing a small child PFD2.
What motors fit rooftop tinnies?
The power (HP or horsepower) of the motor will be dictated by boat manufacturer. For instance, we had an Inflatable Rigid Boat that was 3.3m long and its maximun rated power was 15 horsepower.
The boat we looked at at the Brisbane Tinnie and Tackle show was a Mako Craft 3.76m and it can take an engine up to 25 horsepower.
How do I get the boat on the roof?
To lift and secure the tinnie on the roof of your vehicle you’ll need to use what is known as a ‘boat loader’. There are a few options available – manual or electric, loading from the side or from the back, loading the boat with the trailer or without. We are looking for an electric boat loader which loads from the back of the car. This way, we can reverse the boat into the water straight from the boat ramp. It’s a shame that we didn’t find any boat loaders at the show! A quick google takes us to
Here is a sequence that explains how to unload the boat on the top of the car using the Lazy Loader boat loader.
Where do I store the motor when the boat in on the roof?
Obviously the motor cannot stay on the boat when it is on the top of the car! We have seen different options:
- custom built motor rack on the back of the car
- custom built motor rack on the caravan A-frame or rear bumper
- box on the roof of the car
- purpose-built motor storage crate that bolts to the boats floor cross members
We would prefer the last option and Warrick is currently looking at a way to make this happen with a few car topper manufacturers.
Does the boat need to be registered?
Yes! Travelling with a boat on the roof instead of on a trailer doesn’t allow us to get away from paying a registration fee unfortunately.
Why don’t you buy an inflatable boat instead?
First and most obvious reason: it wouldn’t be too safe in case we run into a big lizard up north. Obviously crocodiles might have a little bit more trouble biting into aluminium than rubber filled with air.
There were other options available such as the Ezy Topper made with foam and fibreglass. Whilst this looks like a fabulous boat, we prefer aluminium as it’d probably withstand more of a beating.
How much do they cost?
We have seen the larger (3.7 meter) boats for approximately $2,200. That is the standard, unpainted aluminium hull only.
I have to say that they look much nicer painted in 2-pack but that is an extra $700 dollars or more depending on manufacturer.
How much does a motor for my cartopper cost?
We own a Yamaha 15 HP 2 stroke motor and we paid approximately $2,250 for it. So yes the motor is more expensive than the boat! The 2 stroke motors are normally lighter than their 4 stroke cousins and therefore often preferred for cartoppers.
Will I need a boat license?
In order to legally drive your boat in Queensland you will require a boat license if the engine is over 6HP. If under you don’t need a license. If your engine is under 4HP you don’t need to register the boat (thank you Brett for that info via the comments!)
In Australia, each state and territory has different rules. Make sure you check with your state’s boating authority to get the correct information before getting wet!
Let’s hear about you!
- Do you already have a rooftop tinnie?
- Are you also looking for the best boat?
- Where should we take our tinnie? Do you recommend a secret spot?
- Do you have any other tips that could help us select the best cartopper tinnie?
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View our review and photos of our Makocraft rooftop boat