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Rollcage Fabrication Tips, Tricks & Cost

Built to Roll

Verne SimonsPhotographer, Writer

If you spend enough time out on the trail you are going to encounter a vehicle that has rolled over. It’s inevitable. If you are unlucky, that rollover was caused by you and/or has occurred in your vehicle. To that end, having a well-built rollcage is an absolute must for any vehicle that sees the trail regularly, especially those with factory soft tops like a Jeep, an FJ-40, a Samurai, a Bronco, a K5 Blazer, and others. Sure, some 4x4s have enough aftermarket support that more than one rollcage kit is available, but often that is not the case. We like bending tubing and welding together our own cages, so even though we know of at least one aftermarket cage kit for our vehicle, we planned all along to build our own.

Like anything intricate, building a rollcage involves specialized tools, knowing which materials to use (we use DOM steel tubing), and more. Some tools are a must-have, while others you can make or do without. But once you’ve made the initial investment those tools are yours forever, and you save money with every project you’re doing at home with them instead of paying a fabricator. Here’s a rundown of each tool we have, how we use it, and how you can make it if it’s something you can make.

Tools of the Trade

Tools you must have to build a cage.
• Tubing bender
• Carpenter’s square
• 4 1/2-inch angle grinder
• Welder
• Hammer
• Permanent marker
• Level (chances are you can use your phone)
• Handtools
Tools you can make.
• Example bend
• Angle finder tool
Tools that make life easier.
• Chop saw or band saw that you can cut angles with
• Tube notcher
• Air-over-hydraulic setup or hydraulic ram
• Experience can help save you hundreds in wasted materials

Cost of a DIY Rollcage

Materials
4 sticks of 1.75x0.120 wall DOM (a larger 4x4 could need 5 or 6 sticks) at $5 per foot, 20 foot sticks$400
10 foot plates ($3 each)$30
Misc other tabs$20
Total$450-$700

Tools
Bender$310-$4,250
Bender dies, each$150-$400
Grinder$50-$80
Welder$969
Notcher ($225 new, but we think we paid $75 used)$225
Chop saw/band saw, new (we paid $100 used)$165
Total assuming a $305 1 3/4-inch die for the bender and used tools. (With a fancy bender, one 1 3/4-inch die, and all other tools purchased new at max price, the total would be $6,094.)$1,649
 
Total at-home built rollcage cost. (Would be higher with a fancy bender and new tools.)$2,099

Cost of a Custom-Built Rollcage

We asked Rob Bonney from Rob Bonney Fabrication what it would cost to have a custom rollcage built. The cost really boils down to how much time the cage will take to build correctly. Bonney reports that you can expect to leave your 4x4 with him for about a week’s worth of work at $65 an hour plus materials. That’s about $2,000-$2,500 for a frame-mounted basic cage with seat mounts.

Parts (from above): $450-$700
Labor (for a cage similar to ours with seat mounts): $2,000-$2,500
Total fabricated cage estimate: $2,450-$3,200

Compound Bends