-- Last Updated: May-08-13 1:11 PM EST --
There are lots of negative comments here, but it appears that it would be quite easy to modify the rack feet and the attachment method to be more secure. The feet, if the device fits right, are on the strongest part of the roof, that channel section that runs along the edge and makes up the "framework" of the door openings. If you can modify the feet so that they attach directly, in addition to using the tension band, it should be pretty secure. The main question before making modifications would be whether those feet "fit" the shape of the edge of your car's roof.
Without modification the rack doesn't look "bad" to me. If it's that cheap, maybe go ahead and buy one, put it on, and then really yank on it in various directions. If it's solid, you're probably good to go.
You say money is tight and you are not worried about how the racks affect the cars. So, perhaps you can drill through those foot pads and install some heavy sheet-metal screws into that roof-edge area. That would greatly increase front-to-back stabilization so that the tension bands wouldn't do all the anchoring by themselves. These screws would act in shear and would be very strong. Any "lifting" action would mostly be resisted by the tension bands, but screws would help a lot in that case too. This sounds crude, but factory racks often aren't anchored by a method that's any more fancy than this, and aftermarket roof racks which were really common on station wagons years ago used sheet-metal screws (dealers liked to install these racks as soon as they got the car on the lot, so then they could charge the customer extra for it. This sneaky scam worked every time because removal of the rack wasn't a viable option on account of the holes in the roof. The point is, there were a lot of racks like installed by that method and I never heard of problems with them).
URCHIN Portable Anchor
Heel and Pegpads™
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