6 Best Rooftop Cargo Carriers of 2024, According to Testing

With one of these top-rated rooftop pods on your car, you and your passengers will be able to stretch out on your next big road trip.

best rooftop carriers

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No matter how skilled you are at packing the trunk, some road trips demand more storage space. That goes double if there are some oversized items in the mix, like skis, golf clubs or camping gear. Enter the rooftop carrier. Also known as a rooftop pod or cartop carrier, this space-saving solution comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials to serve any lifestyle.

Our Top Picks

SkyBox NX 18

Best Overall Rooftop Cargo Carrier

Yakima skybox nx 18.

Rooftop Cargo Carrier

Best Value Rooftop Cargo Carrier

Jegs rooftop cargo carrier.

Force XT XL

Best Extra-Large Rooftop Cargo Carrier

Thule force xt xl.

Wedge Cargo Box

Best Low-Profile Rooftop Cargo Carrier

Inno wedge cargo box.

Rooftop Cargo Carrier

Best Rooftop Cargo Bag

Roofbag rooftop cargo carrier.

Universal Roof Rack

Best Basket-Style Rooftop Cargo Carrier

Arksen universal roof rack.

As with other auto-related content, including Good Housekeeping's roundup of the best new family cars of 2023 , our experts first checked the specs to identify carriers for every need — the family on the go, the backwoods skier, the budget shopper and so on. Next, we went through the process of mounting the carriers on different vehicles and put them to action in real-world conditions to assess usability, ease of installation, storage capacity and convenience.

After checking out our picks, read on for more details on how our testers choose the best cargo carriers, plus everything you need to know to find the right model for your vehicle. And don't miss our roundup of the best travel gear and accessories , featuring everything from weekender bags to compression socks.

The combination of smart design and durable construction makes the Yakima Skybox NX 18 the best overall pick with our experts. Its 18 cubic feet of storage makes it roomy enough to hold skis, luggage and the like, while its aerodynamic shape cuts down on noise and minimizes the impact on fuel economy. "You're paying a premium for NX 18, but all its little details make it worth it, like the tapered back of the pod, which allows for hatch clearance while squeezing in an extra couple inches of storage for extra long items," says Rachel Rothman, Chief Technologist at the Good Housekeeping Institute.

The cargo carrier is also easy to use, due to the dual-side opening and interior tie-down points that help keep items from jostling during the journey. On top of all that smart functionality, its sleek design and high-gloss finish makes it one of the best-looking pods on the market. Our engineers say the NX 18 should install easily on most roof rack systems, thanks to the versatile, ergonomic mounting knobs. The theft-deterrent lock uses SKS (short for “same key system”), meaning the same key can unlock any Yakima devices that you equip with matching cores , available through the manufacturer. That's one more example of the small details that make for a superior all-around experience with a rooftop carrier.

Good for budget travelers, the JEGS costs hundreds less than our best-rated box carrier and, depending on what you're hauling, it might not come with too many trade-offs. Its 18 cubic feet of storage is up there with the biggest, and it has some of the same features found on top-of-the-line boxes including a watertight design and dual-side access. The boxy pod might be a benefit if you’re mainly hauling luggage , as opposed to skis and snowboards, which the JEGS can’t handle.

On the downside, our engineers note that the lightweight plastic shell likely won’t hold up as well to weather and general wear and tear over time as more substantial carriers from our tests. Also, the U-bolt mounting hardware isn’t as versatile as other systems we reviewed. Your vehicle's roof system will require crossbars that are exactly 24 inches apart, otherwise you'll need to put in crossbars or drill new holes in the ones you have. That's more time-consuming than carriers with adjustable mounting systems, and our engineers have found that such "make-it-work" modifications can affect long-term stability and performance.

Thule is a top brand in cargo carriers, and the Thule Force XT XL demonstrates why. Large families and outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate its 18-cubic-foot interior, which our engineers found to be extremely expansive and versatile, due to its cleverly designed proportions. For example, it can handle up to seven pairs of skis, unlike the squat JEGS, which also offers 18 cubic feet of storage. In terms of usability, we were impressed by the quick-mount system with its intuitive “PowerClick” design that makes an audible clicking sound when the carrier is properly secured.

“I did have to add wingbars to my roof’s flush railing system, but after that, mounting the carrier was simple and straightforward,” says Rothman, who tested the Thule, among other carriers, on her Volvo XC90. Once installed, the Force XT XL felt extremely secure, even when driving with a full load at highway speeds. Thanks to its dual-sided access and ergonomic locking mechanism, the pod is easy to load and unload. Even with its formidable size, the Thule’s smart aerodynamic design minimizes wind drag, so noise and drop in fuel efficiency were less than expected.

If you have a big SUV and a small garage, you’ll understand the value of a low-profile rooftop pod. The aptly named Wedge from INNO gets the nod from our experts for its ultra-compact design, which results in a rise of just 9.6 inches above the rack’s crossbars. Our engineers note that the aerodynamic shape should minimize wind drag for relatively quiet, fuel-efficient hauling. Of course, the Wedge’s compact design means less room for storage — 11 cubic feet, compared with the 18 cubic feet of our roomiest favorites. But if you’re into winter sports, this long, sleek carrier is tailor-made for skis and snowboards. Its unique glossy white finish will blend in nicely with the snowy landscapes too.

The RoofBag is another bargain buy that will serve certain types of travelers well. It costs hundreds less than most box carriers on the market while still providing a generous 15 cubic feet of storage. Plus it's much easier to store when not in use compared to a bulky rooftop pod (18-inch diameter storage bag sold separately).

While versatility and ease of installation are a hallmark of all rooftop cargo bags, the RoofBag is particularly user-friendly given its ability to work with all roof systems, including those with or without a roof rack. The bag is made from a rip- and fire-resistant, waterproof nylon and our engineers like that the durable straps are rated to withstand up to 3,000 pounds of force. The accessories include a non-slip mat to protect the roof of your car from scratches. Of course, bag carriers don't offer nearly the same protection as their hard-shell counterparts, plus they don't come with any locking mechanisms. So they're not ideal for storing valuables, like electronics or your kid's violin. But for stowing the tent and a few sleeping bags on your next camping trip, our experts say the RoofBag is a very fine choice.

A basket is a different breed of carrier — one that leaves the securing of luggage and gear to you. But they’re an affordable way to expand your vehicle’s storage space, especially if you opt for the Arksen Universal. Our engineers like the alloy steel construction, which should provide exceptional stability even when hauling a max 150-pound load at highway speeds. With its 6-inch-high frame, the Arksen has an extremely low-profile, which is nice if you have a small garage or frequent public parking lots with low ceilings. The carrier’s open-weave design creates plenty of tie-down points for your gear. As for aerodynamics, our engineers say the angled front panel should cut down on drag and wind noise.

How we test the best rooftop cargo carriers


Our analysts start by surveying the current marketplace to identify top-selling rooftop carriers that you’re most likely to find at stores and online. We then work with our product experts to identify brands that have performed the best and proved the most reliable through years of auto-related product testing at the Good Housekeeping Institute . We also consider newer brands with unique features or innovations.

Based on an extensive preliminary review of technical data for 15 rooftop cargo carriers , including dimensions, claimed capacity and installation method, our team selected various models for hands-on testing, which took place at Institute staffers’ homes, allowing for real-world evaluations involving actual vehicles. Testers first assessed the ease of installation , capturing how long the carriers took to mount and how intuitive the process was. We also considered storage capacity , since cubic-foot volumes claimed by manufacturers can be less usable based on the interior design of the carrier. Next, we measured overall usability , evaluating how easy the pods were to open and close, the utility of any included accessories and the ease and efficacy of locking mechanisms. Finally, our experts assessed durability , noting the quality of materials and construction, as well as how weatherproof each carrier is likely to remain over time.

a rooftop carrier from thule undergoing testing

Testers installed rooftop pods on their personal vehicles before loading them up and driving around on the open road.

What to look for when shopping for the best rooftop cargo carrier


Though the job of a rooftop carrier is basic — hauling a bunch of gear from one point to another — you’ll need to balance the following factors to find the perfect model for your needs.

✔️ Types of c arriers There are three main styles of cargo carriers to choose from.

  • Box: This hard-sided pod is the most common type of rooftop carrier, providing the most secure storage for assorted cargo, from luggage to sporting equipment. It typically comes pre-assembled, so you’ll just need to attach it to your vehicle with clamps, U-bolts or some other mounting hardware. Box carriers usually include a lock, making them good for transporting valuables. The downside to this type of pod is they tend to be expensive and their boxy shape causes wind drag that can be noisy and impact your vehicle’s fuel efficiency.
  • Bag: A soft-sided carrier attaches directly to the roof of your car with straps, eliminating the need for a roof rack. That makes it much easier to put on and take off, plus it folds up for compact storage when not in use. Bag carriers are also more affordable, often selling for $100 or less. But even when the bags are made of weather-proof material, they don’t provide the same protection as hard-sided pods. Their straps can also put more wear and tear on your car.
  • Basket: This big metal basket mounts to the roof of your car, providing a stable storage area for bulky items that you then secure with cam straps, bungee cords or rope. It's affordable, easy to use and, when empty, doesn’t create a lot of wind drag on your car. But objects stored in a basket are exposed to the weather and they're easy pickings for thieves. ✔️ Carrier specs Once you settle on the type of carrier, here are the most important specifications to consider.
  • Dimensions: Start by checking the length of the carrier relative to your vehicle to make sure it isn’t too long. If it extends out past your windshield, it could block your view and become a driving hazard. If it extends past the back of your roof, it might prevent your hatch from opening. Also consider height, especially if you plan to park in a garage with the carrier in place. A low-profile model that's 11 inches or less, might be better than the more typical 15 to 18 inches.
  • Storage capacity: This tells you how much the carrier will haul. Check the volume, expressed in cubic feet — carriers range from 8 to 22 cubic feet. For an average haul, you’ll likely want to be somewhere in the middle. Then, look at the interior length to make sure the carrier will fit any longer gear you might want to transport, like skis or golf clubs.
  • Weight: First, consider the weight of the carrier itself since this will impact the ease of installation. Lightweight models are as little as 15 pounds, while the heaviest weigh more than 60 pounds. Then check the weight capacity of the carrier and your car’s dynamic load limit, which you can find in your owner’s manual (if you're using a roof rack system, be sure to include it in the total load calculation). While some high-end carriers can handle as much as 165 pounds, your car's roof may not be able to hold that much weight.

✔️ Carrier features Based on our tests, these features matter most.

  • Mounting hardware: Confirm that the carrier is compatible with your current rooftop configuration. In some cases, additional mounting systems will be required, especially if your vehicle doesn’t come with a factory-installed roof rack.
  • Lock: This is especially important if you plan to haul expensive gear, like skis or valuable luggage. Our experts note, however, that all carrier locks are rated as theft-deterrent, not theft-proof, meaning an experienced burglar will probably be able to pick them. If there are valuables inside, don’t leave the vehicle unattended in an insecure location.
  • Open/close mechanism: The access on box carriers can be one-sided, dual-sided or rear. Dual-sided is the most versatile, allowing the box to be opened from either the driver or passenger side of the vehicle. This might be helpful for city dwellers who park on the street. One-sided and rear access is the norm on budget models.
  • Interior storage: The least expensive carriers tend be empty shells. As you go up in price point, however, you’ll start to see more useful storage features. Our experts say integrated tie-down points are helpful for securing loads, while felt liners preventing scratches and built-in LEDs are convenient if you plan to do a lot of loading and unloading at night.

Are rooftop carriers safe?

listicle linebreak

The short answer is yes, with the obvious caveat that carrier safety is contingent on proper usage. Here are three key reminders:

✔️ Size it correctly. If the pod is too long for your vehicle, it could extend out over the windshield, blocking your view or creating a distraction. Also, make sure the carrier’s load capacity doesn’t exceed that of your car.

✔️ Install it securely. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter. Loose bolts, unsecured straps and over-torqued clamps can all create hazards on the open road.

✔️ Load it evenly. The even weight distribution of gear will keep your carrier stable. Our experts also recommend tying down stowed items to keep them from sliding around, since excessive movement could make the carrier less secure.

Why trust Good Housekeeping?


The Good Housekeeping Institute Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab provides expert reviews and advice on all things home- and auto-related, including rooftop carriers. In his role as Director of the Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab, Dan DiClerico brings 25 years of experience to the Institute, having reviewed thousands of products for Good Housekeeping, as well as brands like Consumer Reports and This Old House.

For this report, Dan worked closely with Rachel Rothman , Chief Technologist & Director of Engineering at the Institute. For more than 15 years, Rachel has put her training in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics to work by researching, testing and writing about products across the home improvement and autos space.

Headshot of Dan DiClerico

Having written thousands of product reviews and how-to articles on all aspects of home ownership, from routine maintenance to major renovations, Dan (he/him) brings more than 20 years of industry experience to his role as the director of the Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute . A one-time roofer and a serial remodeler, Dan can often be found keeping house at his restored Brooklyn brownstone, where he lives with his wife and kids.

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Best Rooftop Cargo Carriers of 2024, According to Experts

The testers and scientists at the Good Housekeeping Institute picked their favorite car-top pods and cargo carriers of every kind. Here's what they found.

best rooftop cargo carriers

This article was updated with new products and information in March 2024.

The roadtrip is a classic family pastime, often filled with fond memories of being in the car with loved ones. But remove those rose-colored lenses for a moment, and let's be honest: there's never enough room for the people and the stuff. Luggage, gear, toys, gifts for the folks at your destination—all of it needs to make the trip. But does it all need to stay inside the vehicle?

Of course, we could have mounted, tested, and evaluated a bunch of cargo carriers ourselves, but that's a timely and involved process. Our colleagues at Good Housekeeping just did all this heavy lifting only recently—so why not ask them for insight? Here's what the experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute found in their latest test of rooftop cargo carriers .

The Top Picks

Yakima SkyBox NX 18

best overall rooftop cargo carrier

Yakima skybox nx 18.

Thule Force XT XL

best large-capacity rooftop cargo carrier

Thule force xt xl.

JEGS Rooftop Cargo Carrier

best value rooftop cargo carrier

Jegs rooftop cargo carrier.

Inno Wedge 660

best low-profile rooftop cargo carrier

Inno wedge 660.


best rooftop cargo bag

Arksen Universal Roof Rack

best rooftop cargo basket

Arksen universal roof rack, how ghi tested rooftop cargo carriers.

The Good Housekeeping Institute has been evaluating consumer products for over 100 years and while the methods and measurements have surely changed, GHI's dedication to getting it right is as strong as ever. For this test, scientists and testers the Institute evaluated a slew of rooftop pods, carriers, bags, and racks to find the best versions of each type. First, they checked each product's dimensions and versatility to pinpoint luggage carriers for every need—family road-trippers, skiers, car campers, pack rats, etc. Then, they mounted them on their cars and used the heck out of them. Led by Good Housekeeping 's Chief Technologist & Executive Technical Director Rachel Rothman, GHI editors and testers put a host of various cargo carriers, racks, and bags through the paces of everyday life and travel using different types of vehicles. The Institute evaluated four main benchmarks to measure each carrier's performance in real-world applications:

  • Ease of installation
  • Storage capacity
  • Convenience

After weeks of researching the field, swapping carriers among testers, and comparing data, the Institute narrowed its list of the best rooftop cargo carriers down to these top six—one for almost every driver and vehicle on the road today. Someday soon, we intend to perform a test of our own on rooftop cargo carriers. In the meantime, here's what testers, scientists, and editors at Good Housekeeping discovered when they set out to determine the Best Rooftop Cargo Carriers.

The Best Rooftop Cargo Carriers

Thanks to its clever design and durable build, the Yakima Skybox NX 18 is the Good Housekeeping Institute's top overall pick for best rooftop cargo carriers. Also available in a 16-foot cubic model, it can hold ski, snowboards, luggage, and more. "You're paying a premium for NX 18, but all its little details make it worth it, like the tapered back of the pod, which allows for hatch clearance while squeezing in an extra couple inches of storage for extra long items," says Rachel Rothman, Chief Technologist at the Good Housekeeping Institute. Even better, Yakima's "Same Key System" is designed to unlock all your Yakima products with one key.

The NX 18 is user-friendly, with dual-side opening and inner tie-down points. It's sleek design and high-gloss finish make it good looking, which can't be said for all rooftop carriers on the market. The installation is simple with a simple knob system that secures into the roof rack's tracks. All these details add up to a superior rooftop carrier experience.

One of the most trusted brands in rooftop storage, Thule's extra-large cargo carrier is also aerodynamic and easy to use. GHI testers were able to load seven pairs of skis into the Force XT XL and, even at high speeds with a full load, wind noise and drag were minimal.

GHI testers were impressed by the usability of Thule's quick-mount system with its intuitive "PowerClick" design that makes an audible clicking sound when the carrier is properly secured. One tester noted that she needed to add wingbars to her Volvo XC90 in order to mount the Thule, but said the process was easy.

If you're looking for an affordable rooftop pod without sacrificing functionality, you could do worse than JEGS. It's one of the largest-capacity cargo carriers on this list—it's also one of the deepest and, therefore, boxiest—and features much of the functionality of pricier options, such as dual-sided access and a watertight design. GHI engineers noted that the lightweight construction may not hold up as well as some other boxes, but it definitely provides more protection than a soft-sided cargo bag. The squat, boxy design isn't ideal for long items such as skis and golf clubs, but it's perfect for suitcases, camping gear, and more.

Notably, the U-bolt mounting system requires your crossbars to be exactly 24 inches apart, which may require an additional aftermarket crossbar (or some clever jury-rigging on your part). Still, if you want rooftop storage and a soft cargo bag won't cut it, this is a solid rooftop box.

Looking to transport skis, snowboards, or other long and thin items? This is the rooftop cargo carrier for you. It rises just 9.6 inches above the roof rack, limiting cargo space to 11 cubic feet (enough for six to eight skis or four snowboards) but making it ideal for parking in a short garage or carport.

The Wedge has a great design. It's one of the priciest cargo boxes on this list, although not by much.

If you're not sold on a hard-shell cargo box, the RoofBag offers an affordable, versatile—albeit temporary—solution. Available in four sizes from 13 to 34 cubic feet, this U.S.-made cargo bag is waterproof and tear-resistant, with triple heat-sealed seams (no stitching) and a 3-inch flap to protect the zipper.

It's simple to install on any large car or SUV, with or without roof racks. And it costs hundreds less than the other cargo pods on this list. That said, we're not convinced we'd trust anything valuable inside it to not get wet or accidentally damaged.

If a covered cargo pod isn't required and you just want a rooftop cargo carrier to strap your gear to, this alloy steel Arksen rack offers an affordable solution. It's just six inches high and it mounts to any vehicle with roof-rack crossbars using four U-bolts. GHI engineers say the angled front panel increases aerodynamics and cuts down on wind noise.

If you're looking for a higher-quality roof cargo basket from a renowned manufacturer, we highly recommend the Yakima LoadWarrior ( $499 at Amazon ).

How Good Housekeeping Picked the Best Rooftop Cargo Carriers

rooftop cargo carrier for car in mountains

With so many options, how did Good Housekeeping choose the six that made this list of the best rooftop cargo carriers? The answer is simple: research.

Analysts first surveyed the market, relying on user reviews, brand recognition, top sellers, and more to pare down their selection to a manageable number. The product experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute leaned into their expertise in the automotive space to identify brands, types, and styles of rooftop cargo carriers that have proved the most reliable through years of auto-related product testing. They also looked at newer brands with interesting features and innovations.

Based on a review of technical data, including dimensions, claimed capacity, and installation methods, the team selected various models for rigorous hands-on testing, allowing for real-world evaluation involving actual vehicles. Testers assessed the ease of installation , determining how long the carriers took to mount and how intuitive the process was. They also measured actual storage capacity ; product experts always know to be skeptical of manufacturer claims. Next, testers assessed overall usability : how easy the pods were to open and close, any included accessories, and the ease and efficacy of locking mechanisms. Finally, Institute experts assessed each cargo carrier's durability , noting the quality of materials and construction as well as how weatherproof each carrier is likely to remain over time.

What to Look For in a Rooftop Cargo Carrier

To find the ideal rooftop cargo carrier for your needs, consider the following:

  • Box: A box rooftop cargo carrier features hardshell walls. They typically come preassembled with a locking mechanism. If your vehicle already has racks, you just need to install the box using the provided mounting hardware. Although these are durable, they are also the most expensive options. They are raised off the roof on the racks, which can create a noisy whistling sound while also increasing drag and reducing fuel efficiency.
  • Bag: Soft-sided bags are exactly as described- soft bags for your roof. Their main advantage is they don’t require roof racks; instead, they use straps that run into the cabin for security. In addition to no roof racks, they are easy to install alone, affordable, and easy to stow away when not in use. However, we aren’t convinced these are as waterproof as many claim, so buyer beware.
  • B asket: Baskets are large metal baskets that mount to the roof of your car. Attached to your roof rack, they provide a solid platform for bulky items, which are then secured with bungees and straps. The main downside is security; if you don’t secure your items well, they could fly off, be stolen, or get soaking wet in the rain. However, they are affordable and easy to use.
  • Dimensions: Ensure your vehicle length can accommodate the carrier without obstructing your views. Also, consider how far the carrier extends beyond the rear of your car, as it could impact trunk access. Additionally, be mindful of the carrier's height, mainly if you frequently use parking ramps, to ensure you can fit into their clearance.
  • Shape and Storage Capacity: Consider what items you’ll be carrying. For example, skis require a more extended carrier, and luggage requires a carrier with increased height. Buy accordingly!
  • Weight: Heavier carriers are more challenging to install on your car roof, so consider a lighter model if you are lifting and installing on your own. Additionally, each carrier has its own weight capacity, so be mindful of the weight as you fill the carrier.
  • Mounting hardware. More than likely, your rooftop carrier will need mounting rails. To avoid frustrations or unseen costs, make sure you either have the correct rails installed or that your car is compatible with rails.
  • Lock. This is especially important if you plan to haul expensive gear. GHI experts stressed that all the carrier locks they tested were rated as theft- deterrent , not theft- proof . Buyer beware.
  • Open/close mechanism. Different carriers have different access points for the opening mechanisms. The dual side feature is most accessible, but some are three-sidedzip, rear open, or open only on one side. One-sided or rear access is the norm on budget carriers.
  • Interior storage. The least expensive carriers tend to be empty shells. As the price goes up, you'll see more helpful storage features. Integrated internal tie-down points help secure loads, while felt liners prevent scratches. Some high-end cargo boxes feature built-in LED lights.

Are Rooftop Cargo Carriers Safe?

a rooftop cargo carrier mounted on a gh staffer's car

Absolutely—provided they're installed correctly and used appropriately. Here are three keys:

  • Size it correctly. A pod should be just big enough to carry your gear, but not so massive that it adds wind or weight drag to the vehicle. Also, make sure the carrier's load capacity doesn't exceed that of your car.
  • Install it securely. Loose bolts, unsecured straps, and over-torqued clamps can all create hazards on the open road. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions to the letter, and check to see if your OEM offers cargo carrier guidance; many car models have certain limitations or installation methods they recommend.
  • Load it evenly. Even weight distribution of gear is crucial. Experts recommend tying down stowed items to keep your gear from sliding around inside the pod.

Why Trust Good Housekeeping ?

The Good Housekeeping Institute Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab provides expert reviews and advice on all things home and autos related, including rooftop carriers. In his role as Director of the Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab, Dan DiClerico brings more than 20 years of experience to the Institute, having reviewed thousands of products for Good Housekeeping , as well as brands like Consumer Reports and This Old House. For this report, Dan worked closely with Rachel Rothman , Chief Technologist & Director of Engineering at the Institute. For more than 15 years, Rachel has put her training in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics to work by researching, testing, and writing about products across the home improvement and autos space.

Why Trust Us?

a review of the best rooftop cargo carriers you can buy

Hearst Autos combines the talent, resources, and expertise of three of the largest, most influential automotive publications in the world. The Gear Team has tested a wide variety of automotive products, parts, accessories, and gear, such as garage flooring , catalytic converter anti-theft devices , and foam cannons . We get our hands on each and every product we test. Most are purchased; some are supplied by manufacturers.

Hearst Autos doesn't need to game algorithms for traffic or promote lousy products to earn a buck. Instead, we're more concerned with our legacy, our reputation, and the trust that our readers have in Autoweek , Car and Driver , and Road & Track to deliver honest opinions and expert evaluations.

Visit our Tested & Trusted page to see the very best in automotive gear. Read more about our product testing and evaluation process here .

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Jon Langston is an avid motorcyclist and gear collector whose work has appeared in Men’s Journal, Cycle World, The Drive, Rider, Iron & Air, Motorcyclist, and more.

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Katherine Keeler is an Assistant Testing Editor at Hearst Autos. By day she evaluates tools for your enjoyment; by night, she Frankenstein’s her ever changing fleet of rust-bucket-oddities back to repair. Her dream is to open a roadside attraction where the public can view, drive, and learn repairs at her emporium of curious cars.

Headshot of Dan DiClerico

Having written thousands of product reviews and how-to articles on all aspects of home ownership, from routine maintenance to major renovations, Dan (he/him) brings more than 20 years of industry experience to his role as the director of the Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute . A one-time roofer and a serial remodeler, Dan can often be found keeping house at his restored Brooklyn brownstone, where he lives with his wife and kids.

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The Best Rooftop Cargo Carriers You Can Buy in 2024

The experts at Good Housekeeping put dozens of rooftop cargo boxes, racks, and bags through rigorous hands-on and laboratory testing. These are the ones that stood above the rest.

man unloading a rooftop cargo carrier in the snow

This article was updated in March 2024 with new products and information.

One of the best ways to free up cabin space on a road trip, family vacation, or day trip to the ski slopes is a rooftop cargo carrier. Most modern cars come equipped with roof racks, making it a breeze to install and use a cargo box, bag, or rack.

SkyBox NX 18

Best Overall

Yakima skybox nx 18.

JEGS Rooftop Cargo Carrier

JEGS Rooftop Cargo Carrier

Thule Force XT XL

Best Extra-Large

Thule force xt xl.

INNO Wedge 660

Best Low-Profile

Inno wedge 660.

RoofBag Cargo Carrier

Best Rooftop Cargo Bag

Roofbag cargo carrier.

Arksen Universal Roof Rack

Best Rooftop Cargo Rack or Basket

Arksen universal roof rack.

Good Housekeeping has been testing products and services for over a century. Today, the Good Housekeeping Institute employs dozens of engineers, scientists, and testers whose job is to evaluate products and inform consumers. Its lab takes up an entire floor of the Hearst Tower in Manhattan; it's an impressive facility, with test kitchens, test bedrooms, and even a test quasi-garage. The lab evaluates everything from appliances to tools and luggage to gadgets and, yes, rooftop cargo boxes.

That's where we found Dan DiClerico , director of Good Housekeeping's Home Improvement and Outdoor Lab , and Rachel Rothman , chief technologist and executive technical director of Good Housekeeping. The testing lab had just finished putting a bunch of cargo carriers through its proverbial wringer, and DeClerico and Rothman were more than happy to share the Institute's findings with Hearst Autos.

How Good Housekeeping Tested Rooftop Cargo Carriers

First, GH experts checked sizes, types, and specs to identify cargo carriers for every need—the family on the go, the skier, the budget shopper, the road-tripper, car campers, etc. They then rounded up some of the best-selling, best-reviewed, and most popular cargo carriers of various types, styles, and brands. Next, they mounted them on different vehicles and put them into action in real-world conditions to assess usability , ease of installation , storage capacity , and convenience .

After checking out our picks, read on for more details on how our testers choose the best cargo carriers, plus everything you need to know to find the right model for your vehicle. To make your annual family outing the best it can be, check out our list of road-trip essentials and don't miss our roundup of the best luggage brands .

So what's the best rooftop cargo carrier for your vehicle?

The Best Rooftop Cargo Carriers

The GHI testing team chose a renowned brand to top its list for 2024. Yakima makes some of the best cargo solutions in the business, and its SkyBox NX 18 ticked all the boxes, from aerodynamics to interior space to convenience and ease of use

Its shape and 18 cubic feet of storage make it roomy enough to hold skis, luggage, and the like, while cutting down on noise and minimizing the impact on fuel economy. It opens from either side, making access a breeze, and details like interior tie-down points that keep valuables from jostling make it clear why Yakima is among the top brands in its field.

The NX 18 should install easily on most roof-rack systems, thanks to the versatile, ergonomic mounting knobs. The theft-deterrent lock uses SKS (or same-key system), meaning the same key can unlock any and all Yakima devices you may use.

As Rothman, the Chief Technologist at GHI, says, "You're paying a premium for the NX 18, but all its little details make it worth it, like the tapered back of the pod, which allows for hatch clearance while squeezing in an extra couple inches of storage for extra long items." It's also one of the best-looking cargo carriers you can buy.

With 18 cubic feet of storage, the JEGS is one of the largest-capacity cargo coxes on this list and features much of the same functionality as the pricier options here, making it the best value on this list. Dual-sided lockable access latches and watertight seams are just some of the perks you get for an amazing price. The boxy shape isn't suited for things like skis and golf clubs, but it is great for bulky items such as suitcases and camping gear. This box is ideal for the family road trip.

That said, the U-bolt mounting hardware isn't as versatile as other systems. It requires crossbars that are exactly 24 inches apart, otherwise you'll need to put in crossbars or drill new holes in the ones you have—and GHI engineers noted what car folks have known for years: jury-rigged mods can affect long-term stability and performance.

We're not convinced a JEGS box is a long-term cargo storage solution; we're not in love with its aesthetic appeal, and GHI engineers noted its lightweight construction may not age well. But if you need a hard-shell cargo box and don't want to spend a lot, the JEGS is a great choice for a summer road trip cargo solution.

Skiers, take note: Thule's extra-large Force XT XL cargo carrier was hands-down the best ski and snowboard hauler GHI tested. Testers were able to load and unload seven (!) pairs of skis from either side of it easily, and even at high speeds with a full load of gear, wind noise and drag were minimal. (Rothman noted that she needed a pair of wingbars in order to mount this box to her Volvo XC90, but those were easy to get from the Thule website .)

GHI testers were impressed by Thule's quick-mount system too. Its intuitive "PowerClick" design makes an audible clicking sound when the carrier is properly secured. You really can't get it wrong—and if you do, you'll know it.

With a rise that's less than 10 inches above the roof rack, the Wedge 660 is one of the sleekest, most aerodynamic rooftop cargo pods you can buy. With just a 9.6-inch rise above the roof rails, it's perfect for parking in low-ceilinged garages and carports. It'll fit four to six skis or a few snowboards; it may even accommodate a select number of golf clubs (sans bag, most likely).

We love the sleek, contemporary profile, light weight, and skimpy aerodynamic drag of the Wedge. The compact design does restrict its capacity—just 11 cubic feet of storage compared to the 18 of our favorites on this list. But if you're into winter sports, this long, sleek carrier is tailor-made for skis and snowboards. The glossy white finish will look great in ski-lift parking lots and snowy mountain-cabin driveways too.

New for 2024, the Wedge is now available in both white and black at REI.

If you just want a temporary solution for occasional road trips, a rooftop cargo bag is a solid option. But with dozens on the market, which one should you buy? GHI testers recommend the RoofBag because it nicely melds quality and affordability. Available in four sizes from 13 to 34 cubic feet, it's 100% waterproof and tear-resistant with triple heat-sealed seams (no stitching) and a 3-inch flap to protect the zipper.

It's simple to install on any large car or SUV, with or without roof racks. It costs hundreds less than the other cargo pods on this list. And it's made in the USA and backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee and a 2-year warranty replacement.

Roof racks and especially roof baskets are an affordable way to expand your storage space, especially if you opt for the Arksen Universal. GHI engineers liked the alloy-steel construction, which should provide exceptional stability even when hauling the max 150-pound load at highway speeds. The Arksen has an extremely low, 6-inch profile—nice if you have a small garage or frequent public parking lots with low ceilings. The open-weave design creates plenty of tie-down points, and engineers noted that the angled front panel should cut down on drag and wind noise.

At 43 by 39 inches, this is the smallest of six Arksen Universal roof racks; they come in sizes up to 84 by 50 inches. Pair one with a waterproof cargo bag , and you're ready for the open road in almost any weather.

How Good Housekeeping Selected the Best Rooftop Cargo Carriers

yakima skybox being loaded

With all the rooftop cargo options on the market, how did Good Housekeeping testers pare this list down to six? The Institute started by identifying the top-selling, most popular, and best-reviewed rooftop carriers of all types, sizes, and brands (hello, Yakima and Thule). They also considered newer, more innovative brands with distinctive features or functions (welcome, INNO).

Based on a review of technical specifications such as dimensions, capacity, and type, testers selected certain models to proceed through hands-on, real-world testing. After measuring and weighing each, testers mounted the carriers onto various vehicles to assess ease of installation , timing how long each took to mount, and evaluating how easy and intuitive (or not) the process was. They also verified the actual storage capacity , since cubic-foot volumes claimed by manufacturers can be misleading based on the carrier's shape or interior layout.

Next, they measured each carrier's overall usability : that is, how easy the pods were to open/close and lock/unlock (if applicable), whether or not any included accessories such as clamshell struts and LED lights were valuable or at least appreciated, and the effectiveness of weather-stripping or waterproofing. Finally, Institute testers assessed durability , noting the quality of materials and construction to assess how sturdy each carrier was likely to remain over time.

a rooftop cargo pod that good housekeeping mounted to a vehicle

Are rooftop cargo carriers safe?

Definitely, as long as they're installed correctly and loaded evenly. Three things to keep in mind:

  • Size: A pod should be just big enough to carry your gear but not so massive that it adds an unwieldy amount of drag to the vehicle. Also, make sure the carrier's load capacity doesn't push your car over its GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating).
  • Secure Installation: Loose bolts, unsecured straps, and over-torqued clamps can all create hazards on the open road. Always follow the carrier manufacturer's instructions, and also check to see if your particular OEM offers rooftop cargo carrier guidance; many vehicle models have certain limitations or installation methods they recommend.
  • Correctly Loaded: Even weight distribution of gear is crucial. Experts recommend even tying or strapping down items inside the pod to keep your gear from sliding around.

Are rooftop cargo boxes worth it?

Of course. Hard-shell boxes and pods will cost more than rooftop cargo bags or racks, but they keep your cargo far more secure, and they're usually weather-resistant if not fully waterproof. They're generally easy to install and use but harder to remove when not needed.

Can I use a car-top carrier without a roof rack?

Bags, yes. But correctly mounting hard-shell pods and rooftop boxes requires a roof rack—or crossbars attached to a rack. Do your research to determine the best solution for your cargo needs.

Why Trust Good Housekeeping ?

The Good Housekeeping Institute Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab provides expert reviews and advice on all things home and autos related, including rooftop carriers. In his role as director of the home improvement and outdoor lab, Dan DiClerico brings more than 20 years of experience to the Institute, having reviewed thousands of products for Good Housekeeping as well as brands such as Consumer Reports and This Old House .

Why Trust Us?

best rooftop cargo carriers

Road & Track and its sibling publications at Hearst Autos represent three of the most influential automotive publications in the world. The Gear Team relies on decades of experience in the automotive and gear spaces to help readers make informed purchasing choices about products such as portable tire inflators , electric bikes , wiper blades , and sim racing rigs .

With the legacies of Autoweek, Car and Driver, and Road & Track behind us, the Hearst Autos Gear Team is more concerned with our integrity and the trust our readers place in us than our bottom line. We won't tell you to buy something if we wouldn't buy it ourselves or recommend it to our friends, and we'll never claim to have used or tested something if we haven't. Our picks and recommendations of products and gear are based on testing and knowledge, not hype . Read more about our testing process here .

Headshot of Jon Langston

Jon Langston is an avid motorcyclist and gear collector whose work has appeared in Men’s Journal, Cycle World, The Drive, Rider, Iron & Air, Motorcyclist, and more.

Headshot of Dan DiClerico

Having written thousands of product reviews and how-to articles on all aspects of home ownership, from routine maintenance to major renovations, Dan (he/him) brings more than 20 years of industry experience to his role as the director of the Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute . A one-time roofer and a serial remodeler, Dan can often be found keeping house at his restored Brooklyn brownstone, where he lives with his wife and kids.

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The Best Cargo Carriers and Roof Boxes for Your Car

David Traver Adolphus

If you need more cargo carrying capacity for your car, there are a lot of practical options for you that can be installed right on your car’s roof. When looking for the best roof cargo carrier, you need to first figure out what kind of cargo you’re going to be carrying. Not all cargo carriers are the same and there are different products out there for different purposes: there are travel bags, roof baskets, and cargo boxes.

We update this list regularly, and we’ve found that cargo carriers frequently go in and out of stock so if you see a model you like, you should buy it while it’s available.

Cargo carrier bags are the lightest, least expensive, and easiest to remove, and don’t usually require any hardware other than straps. They’re good for stuffing things into, and some models are available with fitted duffel bags to make packing easier. Hard sided cargo boxes protect your items from weather and are theft resistant, and must be mounted to existing rails or crossbars. Roof baskets are heavy-duty all-purpose carriers. These sturdy metal car rooftop cargo containers are also attached to existing roof bars and are good for odd-sized, and wet and dirty items.

They all have their own strengths and weaknesses, but with are few exceptions are mounted on a roof rack or roof rails. The following options are among the best cargo carriers, roof boxes, and roof baskets you can buy. Make sure you pick the right one for your specific needs.

Table of contents

  • 1. Editor's Pick: SportRack Vista XL Cargo Box

Promoted Product: RoofPax Rooftop Cargo Carrier

2. top seller: fivklemnz rooftop cargo carrier bag, 3. best storage bag: roofbag cargo carrier bag, 4. most versatile: roof master rooftop cargo carrier, 5. best for storage: thule sidekick cargo box, 6. best on a budget: amazon basics rooftop cargo carrier bag, 7. most premium: thule force xt rooftop cargo box, 8. best for camping gear: yakima loadwarrior, 9. best for sporting equipment: thule pulse cargo box, 10. arksen universal roof rack, everything you need to know about cargo carriers, advantages of roof bags, disadvantages of roof bags, advantages of rooftop baskets, disadvantages of roof baskets, advantages of rooftop boxes, disadvantages of roof boxes, advantages of hitch-mounted cargo carriers, disadvantages of hitch-mounted cargo carriers, how cargo carriers affect gas mileage, top safety tips when traveling with cargo carriers, 1. weight ratio, 2. equally distributed weight, 3. secured load, 4. visibility, 5. tire pressure adjustments, 6. load height, 7. using extra straps, recent updates:, 1. editor's pick: sportrack vista xl cargo box.

roof rack travel pod

Our top recommendation is a heavy-duty cargo box from SportRack. The Vista XL is designed to fit on SportRack roof rack systems, as well as square, round, and most factory racks. Of course, we recommend checking the guide to make sure it’ll fit your specific vehicle prior to purchasing. If it does, you’re getting a rear-opening cargo box that offers up to 18 cubic feet of storage. It’s constructed from durable and UV-resistant ABS and has a maximum weight capacity of 100 pounds.

SportRack includes all the mounting hardware necessary for installation and removal, and no tools are needed to get this cargo box installed onto your roof for your next trip. Another nice feature is that it includes a key lock to secure the contents of the box if you’re taking a rest spot or grabbing a bite to eat. Best of all, once your trip is all done, simply clean it off with mild soap and water so it’ll last you for many more journeys ahead.

roof rack travel pod

The RoofPax Rooftop Cargo Carrier is the best-reviewed option on Amazon, with an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars.

So why is this rooftop cargo carrier rated so highly? There are a number of reasons, but at the top of the list is safety. If you don’t have a roof rack, the RoofPax roof bag locks down with four rugged door hook straps rather than straps that go inside the car like on some other brands. Straps that go inside the car can interfere with your vehicle’s airbags and are illegal to use in some states. RoofPax even gives you a pair of extra door hook straps, just in case. And to help keep noise down, there are ten elastic Velcro strap restraints to prevent the straps from flapping in the wind.

Another reason for the high marks from owners is protection from the elements. The RoofPax rooftop cargo carrier is outfitted with double waterproof closing zippers, waterproof dual seam technology, and water-repellant double coating.

One more benefit of the RoofPax rooftop cargo carrier is an amazing warranty. All zippers and buckles have a lifetime warranty, while there is a five-year warranty on tears in the fabric.

There are four different versions of the RoofPax rooftop cargo carrier ranging from 15 to 23 cubic feet, so you can easily find exactly what you are looking for.

roof rack travel pod

The Fivklemnz rooftop cargo carrier has proven to be incredibly popular with consumers looking for extra storage space. It offers up to 15 cubic feet of additional storage space, enough room to carry four to six suitcases.

Unlike hard shell carriers, when you aren’t using the Fivklemnz, it can be folded up and stored in the carry bag that comes with it. Once folded, it’s about the same size as a smaller backpack, so it’s easy to store.

The bag is made of 600D Oxford cloth and sports a waterproof zipper protected by a double flap that keeps the weather outside. The manufacturer boasts this is 100% waterproof and rainproof, so your stuff will stay dry.

When it comes time to install, the Fivklemnz cargo carrier comes with a non-slip protective mat, so you can use it even without a roof rack system and not have to worry about scratching up the roof of your vehicle. It also locks down with eight adjustable straps so everything stays safe and secure even at highway speeds.

roof rack travel pod

The RoofBag Cargo Carrier Bag has a simple yet effective design. Manufactured in the U.S., these roof cargo carriers are 100-percent waterproof and feature Triple-Seal technology for maximum protection in extreme weather. Offering 15 cubic feet of storage, this option works on any vehicle with side rails, cross bars, or even without a roof rack. It uses a secure waterproof strap system with buckles for easy access.

Constructed from heavy-duty polyester that has been liquid-coated with vinyl on both sides, this cargo carrier does a fantastic job of resisting heat and cold. Easy and quick installation with plenty of storage, this is a versatile option for those on a budget.

roof rack travel pod

We understand not everyone has a roof rack on their vehicle, and if you’re one of those people, consider this rooftop cargo carrier from ROOF MASTER. We named it our most versatile pick for its ability to be used on vehicles with or without roof racks, although you’ll have to purchase the door hooks separately if you want to use it on a vehicle without a roof rack.

It offers up to 16 cubic feet of storage and uses extra wide straps with Duraflex buckles and a high friction mat to ensure it stays on your roof once it’s secured to your vehicle. This option is a soft-shell cargo carrier that is manufactured from military-grade Nylon Cordura fabric, which the company claims has five times the strength and wear resistance of high-grade PVC, which is often used on other cargo bags. Naturally it’s waterproof and is equipped with a waterproof zipper.

roof rack travel pod

If you are looking for a compact cargo carrier, the Sidekick Rooftop Storage Box is a practical solution. Made to meet the needs of travelers who want to avoid larger designs without sacrificing practicality, the cargo carrier is a top solution with its eight cubic-foot capacity. With a length of 48 inches, it will not cover the entire surface of the roof on most mid-sized cars, and it also won’t create too much wind resistance.

The carrier comes with a self-standing top lid (so you can load it easily) and a simple locking mechanism to keep your belongings safe. It is also durable, and it represents a solution that can be used in all seasons. Lightweight at under 20 pounds, many people will easily be able to install it themselves.

roof rack travel pod

In the past few years, Amazon’s own brand, Amazon Basics, has entered several markets by offering quality products at affordable prices. Its rooftop cargo carrier bag gets our nod if you’re shopping on a budget, offering up to 15 cubic feet of space. It’s a fairly basic offering, but is constructed from 100-percent waterproof material with a design that protects the carrier against grit, sun, rain, and wind.

With this option, you’ll find a zip closure (wraps halfway around the bag) with hook-and-loop flap to keep the inside contents completely dry, and the company says the zipper is waterproof. It features one-inch wide polypropylene straps to keep the bag attached to your carrier for safe transport. And since you’re not always using a cargo carrier bag, it’s nice to know Amazon Basics’ option folds compact for easy storage.

roof rack travel pod

If you want the best of the best, Thule's Force XT Rooftop Cargo Box offers unparalleled quality and versatility. It starts with a dual opening design which lets you access the cargo carrier from either side of the car. Attachment is made easier with a torque-limiting PowerClick quick-mount system that doesn't let you over-tighten the box when attaching it to your crossbars.

As a premium car top carrier, the Thule offers not just locking security but a special LockKnob that makes it both easy to open and close and protects the key from damage. It has a massive 165-pound weight capacity, and the 22-cubic-foot XXL size is 90 inches long, 35.5 inches wide, and 18.5 inches tall—enough to fit up to seven pairs of skis or five snowboards.

The Thule Force XT Rooftop Cargo Box comes in 11-, 16-, 18-, and 22-cubic-foot sizes, and some sizes are available with a fitted four-piece Thule Gopack Duffel Set, too.

roof rack travel pod

Steel rooftop car carriers and car roof racks tend to be exposed to harsher conditions, and it makes sense to buy a high-quality one to reduce worries about rust and breakage. Yakima is a premium brand with a lifetime warranty, so you can just install and forget it. This heavy-duty cargo basket is rated for 140 pounds and measures 44 inches long x 39 inches wide x 6.50 inches high. At 25 pounds it weighs more than some other options, but it's also one of the best-built rooftop car carriers you can buy.

Carriers like this offer versatility that bags and boxes don't, as they will hold long and tall cargo. They're also a great place to strap dirty or wet things that you don't want to put in your trunk. This roof basket is a great option for carrying cargo, but it requires additional straps and cargo nets to make sure your load is secure. If you want even more space but don't want to upgrade to Yakima's huge MegaWarrior , you can even bolt in an 18-inch extension .

roof rack travel pod

With a taller profile compared to the other Thule cargo boxes, the Pulse Cargo offers one of the best solutions for extra carrying space. It is available in 11, 14, and 15 cubic feet capacities and can be purchased as a set with four fitted Thule Gopack duffel bags. It is built to handle weights of up to 110 pounds in all versions and can even hold ski equipment, between four and eight pairs of skis, depending on the size of your Cargo Box.

With a self-standing lid design and an integrated anti-theft locking mechanism with keys, it is a practical solution for adventurous drivers who need a safe place to store their ski equipment. Made from ABS plastic, the Pulse Cargo Box is also a durable solution for people who will be driving in rainy or snowy conditions.

roof rack travel pod

With a universal design and metal construction, this luggage carrier is one of the simplest and most durable designs on the market. It represents a solution that is easy to use and even looks a bit retro. Made with a metal frame with a length of 43 inches and a width of 39 inches, the carrier is easy to store when not in use due to its compact size.

This roof basket is a great option for carrying cargo, but it requires additional straps and cargo nets to make sure your cargo is secure. However, they do offer combos with nets, bags, and even a fitted semi-rigid hard-sided Pro Cargo Bag. Larger 64- and 84-inch lengths are also available. This is a great option for drivers who don’t experience too much rain or snow.

Photo Credit: Dmitry Galaganov/Shutterstock

Cargo carriers are a practical method to transport your luggage and sporting goods and increase the cargo capacity of your car. They are installed on roof racks or hitches and they come in different shapes and sizes. The main purpose of a cargo carrier is to expand the load capacity of your car for items that might not fit inside.

Depending on the type of cargo you plan to carry, you can select a carrier that is specifically made for your needs. For example, if you want to carry lightweight items that can even be larger in volume such as sleeping bags, a roof bag can be all you need.

If you want to carry larger equipment that can be secured with bungee cords, you can select a rooftop basket. If you need increased carrying capacity for various objects and sports equipment, a rooftop box will work wonders. Rooftop boxes come in various shapes and sizes and most quality options are made with a built-in lock for extra security. If you do not have a roof rack to work with, a hitch-mounted cargo carrier can be an alternative. The main types of cargo carriers include:

  • Rooftop baskets
  • Rooftop boxes
  • Hitch-mounted cargo carriers

These options are made with their own strengths and weaknesses and there is a type of cargo carrier for every need and type of vehicle. There is a voluntary international ISO/PAS 11154 standard for roof racks and cargo carriers , you can check a manufacturer's website to see if they follow it. Many larger manufacturers also perform their own rigorous testing for durability and safety.

roof rack travel pod

Roof bags are typically made from heavy-duty waterproof textiles. They can be easily mounted by a single person since they are not too heavy and they can come with a carrying capacity of around 15 cubic feet. The main advantages of roof bags include:

  • A lightweight profile recommended for easy setup using securing straps
  • Up to 16 cubic feet of extra carrying capacity
  • Compatible with a large number of hatchbacks, SUVs, sedans and other vehicles
  • Waterproof protection
  • Softer materials recommended for objects that might be oddly shaped, such as musical instruments
  • Can be folded easily or removed to take up minimal space when not in use
  • Adjustable fit on many types of roof racks or rooftop baskets
  • Aerodynamic construction to reduce air friction while driving as much as possible
  • Fully compatible with multiple lockdown systems for a secure fit
  • Not the best design for anti-theft protection
  • Increased wind noise at higher speeds
  • Reduced carrying capacity compared to a roof box
  • Not recommended for larger objects such as sports equipment
  • Limited long-term durability for some designs
  • Doesn’t provide the best protection for fragile or delicate items
  • Cover and may not be compatible with sunroofs and moonroofs

roof rack travel pod

Rooftop baskets first appeared in the 1970s and have largely remained unchanged, with their metal profile and good versatility for different objects that can be secured with different straps. The main advantages of roof baskets include:

  • Easy installation on any type of roof rack or roof rails
  • Increased load capacity since most of the designs are made from metal
  • Good aerodynamics
  • Increased carrying capacity for large and heavy objects that can be secured with straps or cords
  • Easy to load and unload the cargo
  • Reduced storage space requirements when unmounted from the car
  • Quick to mount and unmount on most cars
  • Recommended for oddly shaped objects
  • Cool, tough look

Rooftop baskets are very practical, but at the same time, they are among the most exposed when it comes to cargo safety while traveling at high speeds and you have to take extra measures to make your cargo secure. The main disadvantages of rooftop baskets include:

  • Poor lockdown can easily go wrong at high speeds
  • No anti-theft protection
  • You need a cargo net or special straps
  • Reduced top speed for most cars
  • Cargo is directly exposed to changing weather conditions
  • Not made for large sporting equipment

Photo Credit: BlackSnake/Shutterstock

If you are looking for maximum carrying capacity and security, rooftop boxes are one of the leading options. They are also very popular, so you have multiple designs from many brands to choose from. Most of the rooftop boxes also come with anti-theft protection and a good aerodynamic performance for reduced drag. Here are the main reasons to consider a rooftop box:

  • Compatible with almost all vehicles using a roof rack or roof rails
  • Comes with an increased carrying capacity of up to 160 pounds/75KG
  • Recommended for sporting equipment such as skis or snowboards
  • Can be opened in both direction in some cases, which is particularly useful in some parking spaces
  • Allows full trunk access so that you can store extra cargo
  • Included locks with anti-theft protection
  • Waterproof construction to protect your cargo
  • Better wind resistance designs when compared to other cargo carriers
  • UV-resistant designs for increased durability, even with plastic materials
  • Can be fitted with no special tools in many cases
  • Covered by a lifetime warranty with premium designs

Even rooftop boxes have a few disadvantages. The main issue for some people is that they need help to place them into position on the roof of the car. Another disadvantage to the system comes with the fact that you need considerable storage space when the rooftop box is not on the car. The main drawbacks to using a rooftop box include:

  • Large size and weight design means some models are hard to install for a single person
  • Increased storage space required when not in use
  • Limited carrying capacity for taller objects
  • Increased frontal and lateral wind resistance while driving

roof rack travel pod

Hitch-mounted cargo carriers are not as popular these days, but drivers can still find them useful in certain situations. For example, if your car can’t be fitted with a roof rack or with roof rails and it has a hitch receiver, these carriers can be a solution to consider. With a design that goes behind the car, hitch-mounted cargo carriers also typically come with reduced wind resistance compared to rooftop cargo carriers. The main advantages of the hitch-mounted systems include:

  • Easy access for shorter people
  • Good weight capacity for heavier objects, often up to 300 pounds/135KG
  • Compatibility with many modern SUVs
  • Recommended for taller and odd sized objects that won’t fit in rooftop cargo carriers
  • Doesn’t require additional overhead clearance when heading into an indoor parking

Even these solutions that are mounted next to the trunk of the car have a few disadvantages you will need to consider when making a purchase.

  • Required a trailer hitch
  • Heavy to install
  • Possible obstruction of the license plate
  • Obstructed taillights
  • Not recommended for small items
  • Some designs come with poor anti-theft protection
  • Extra clearance needed when reversing
  • Obstructed rear parking sensors
  • Considerable storage space needed when not in use
...A roof rack can increase a passenger car’s fuel consumption 0%~25% and a passenger truck’s consumption and 0%~11.7%

Smaller, more efficient cars, whether gas, hybrid or electric cars, are affected more than big trucks and SUVs. It makes sense for drivers of those vehicles to use cargo boxes, which have the best aerodynamics. The same study also concluded that less than 1% of vehicles with roof racks actually have anything in them at any given time, meaning that carrying around empty roof racks uses about 99 million gallons of gas a year in the United States. So plan ahead to take your roof rack off when you're not using it for a while.

Using a cargo carrier involves adapting your driving style. The top driving speed is reduced with each type of carrier and the car maneuverability is also impeded with some types of designs. Here is what to consider to make sure you’re traveling safely with a cargo carrier.

If you overload the cargo carrier, it will come with considerable problems in situations where you have to take sharp turns. The weight of the carrier is important from two perspectives.

First, the roof rails of your car have a weight limit that is usually found in the owner’s manual, often 100 pounds/45KG. Secondly, the weight of the load impacts car maneuverability when cornering and if the load is too heavy or unbalanced, it can lead to accidents. This is why you need to ensure that the weight of your load does not exceed the maximum allowed weight on the roof of your car.

If you are using a hitch-mounted rack, you also need to know that the extra weight can put pressure on the rear suspension and you will need to adapt the weight so that the car’s performance is not affected. Generally speaking, the weight limit is between 70 and 300 pounds, depending on the type of car you have and on the type of cargo carrier you use. There is often a chart, either with the rack, the hitch or in your owner's manual, which will tell you how much weight you can put on the hitch (the "tongue"), depending on the passenger and cargo load inside your vehicle.

Smart weight distribution is another important aspect of safe cargo carrier use. Instead of placing the entire load in a corner of the rack, you should try to evenly distribute it so that it will have less of an impact on car maneuverability. The more balanced your load, the more balanced the drive will be. Balanced vehicles are safer vehicles. To keep items in a partially-loaded carrier from sliding around, it's easy to fill in extra space with a sleeping bad, yoga mat or other soft, firm objects.

roof rack travel pod

Another important aspect to remember when using a cargo carrier is to secure the load. Regardless of the design you use, there are different straps that can be used to keep the load in place. You want to avoid situations where the load can move when cornering, as this can lead to accidents or things falling out and posing a risk to other motorists.

If you have an open cargo basket, you will need to purchase a cargo net like the one pictured or sturdy straps to keep your items secure.

Many drivers believe that only roof baskets need to have their loads secured, but this is far from the truth. Some of the leading manufacturers offer out-of-the-box straps to secure large items such as sporting equipment even inside a rooftop box.

Visibility is often obstructed by some types of cargo carriers. For example, rear window visibility can be obstructed by hitch-mounted cargo carriers. Reverse cameras can also be blocked by these types of carriers. This is why you need to do your best to load the cargo in such a way in which the obstruction is minimal.

the best cargo carriers and roof boxes for your car

If you are transporting heavier loads, tire pressure is even more important than usual. Make sure that the pressure of the tires is set to a level that is recommended by the manufacturer before you drive off with the cargo carrier mounted. At the same time, you need to ensure the load is as evenly distributed as possible as this will reduce the pressure on specific tires.

Driving around with a rooftop cargo carrier is very different. You need to anticipate different hazards that might be in your way. For example, you might not be able to safely enter a garage when the cargo carrier is mounted. You might also have difficulty entering the parking of different buildings. It is why you need to know the minimum height clearance which is needed to safely park your car. Many parking garages will have a maximum height of under nine feet. A medium-size SUV can easily be six feet with a roof rack, so check and add your cargo box height on top of that.

roof rack travel pod

It is often the case that the straps that come with the cargo carrier are not enough to secure your load. A simple way around this issue is to simply purchase more straps and ensure that your cargo will not move, even on sharp corners. Cam buckle straps only cost a few dollars each, roll up for storage, and are available with flat ends or hooks to give you many attachment options.

January 23, 2023: Updated images.

December 13, 2022: Updated product links.

June 21, 2022: Removed INNO Ridge Cargo Box due to lack of review history.

June 10, 2022: Updated links for existing recommendations.

February 18, 2022: Added a new promoted product recommendation.

February 11, 2022: Updated links for existing recommendations.

September 2, 2021: Removed EGO BIKE Universal Roof Rack, replaced with Yakima LoadWarrior. Removed sold-out Yakima Skybox Carbonite Cargo Box, replaced with Thule Force XT Rooftop Cargo Box. Removed sold-out Thule Force Cargo Box, replaced with INNO Ridge Cargo Box. Updated and expanded tips, added MPG section.

We are committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using the retail links in our product reviews. Learn more about how this works .

Photo Credit: BlackSnake / Shutterstock.com

David Traver Adolphus

After completing a degree project in automotive design, Dave wrote and photographed for almost a decade in print car magazines (remember those?), before transitioning to digital. He now subjects a series of old high-performance cars to the roads and weather in Vermont and wonders why they're always expensively broken. Please stop when you see him crawling under one on the side of the road.

More by David Traver Adolphus

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Best Rooftop Cargo Boxes of 2024

From budget carriers to sleek and high-end designs, below are the season's top roof boxes.

Rooftop cargo boxes (storing skis in Yakima SkyBox)

Switchback Travel ( Jason Hummel )

We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases. Read more about us . 

Whether you drive a small hatchback or a large SUV, adding a cargo box to your vehicle’s rooftop can go a long way toward improving organization, carrying capacity, and comfort. These boxes come in a range of sizes to accommodate your gear (including skis) and vary in terms of durability, ease of use, aesthetics, security, and more. Most of the top models are built by roof-rack giants Thule and Yakima, but brands like Inno and SportRack also have some solid contributions. Below you’ll find our breakdown of the best rooftop cargo boxes of 2024, from premium luxury models and compact carriers to popular all-rounders that get the job done for most. For more details, check out our comparison table and buying advice below the picks.  

Our Team's Rooftop Cargo Box Picks

  • Best Overall Rooftop Cargo Box: Thule Motion XT XL
  • Best Budget Rooftop Cargo Box: Jegs Rooftop Cargo Carrier
  • Best Low-Profile Roof Box: Inno Wedge 660
  • Best Narrow Box for Additional Rooftop Accessories: Yakima SkyBox 12 Carbonite

Best Overall Rooftop Cargo Box

1. thule motion xt xl ($950).

Thule Motion XT XL grey rooftop cargo box

If you’re in the market for a rooftop cargo box, there’s no shortage of high-quality options to choose from in 2024. That said, Thule’s Motion XT is a standout, featuring a refined fit and finish, user-friendly installation and operation, and four sizes ranging from 16 to 22 cubic feet (including an “Alpine” version great for low clearances and toting skis). And the price is right too: some cargo boxes can cost as much as $2,400, but the Motion XT maintains a high-end feel and slides in at $950 for the XL (18 cu. ft.) model. Whether you’re a road-tripper needing extra space for your climbing gear or a weekend warrior who still wants to blend in on the city streets, it’s hard to go wrong with Thule’s premium all-rounder.

You can save some money and opt for one of the more affordable options below, but it’s good to be aware of what you’re giving up. First off, Thule’s installation is best in class, and with PowerClick mounts that sound an audible “click” when in place, you can get a secure fitting on most roof racks in just minutes—this is a particularly nice feature if you routinely remove your box or swap it between cars. Second, the Motion XT is easy to open, close, and secure, with large handles on each side, smooth-operating locks, and a stiff lid that fits perfectly when closed (sometimes you have to jimmy floppier lids into place). Finally, the nose design is top-notch, including an extra-solid base and generous overlap that resists gaping and provides better wind resistance than most. All told, the everyday user won’t find much room for improvement with the Motion XT, making it our favorite do-all cargo box of the year... Read in-depth review See the Thule Motion XT XL

Best Budget Rooftop Cargo Box

2. jegs rooftop cargo carrier 18 ($290).

Jegs Sport rooftop cargo box

You can spend up to $1,000 on a roof box, but the budget Jegs Rooftop Cargo Carrier is a popular option that will get the job done for less than a quarter of the price. At just $290, this box costs around $150 less than the next-cheapest models here while offering options for dual-side or rear access (the budget-conscious Thule Sidekick and SportRack Vista XL below open exclusively from the side and rear, respectively) and more than twice the storage capacity of the Sidekick. Further, with extra-wide and tall dimensions, the Jegs can fit a lot of bulky cargo that more bullet-shaped haulers can’t (for an extra boost, opt for Jeg’s 90093 model , which is almost 2 in. taller). All told, for a simple box that you don’t plan to leave on your car year-round, it’s an affordable and decently road-worthy option.

Of course, there are inherent downsides to opting for such a budget design. The Jegs’ flimsy build feels cheap, lacks the structure of more premium boxes, and won’t hold up as well over time. What’s more, its tall and wide shape isn’t particularly aerodynamic, and with a short 57-inch length, it can’t accommodate skis (for a relatively affordable ski carrier, check out the Yakima RocketBox Pro 14 below). In terms of installation, simple U-bolt mounts attach via pre-drilled holes rather than adjustable tracks, meaning you’ll probably have to adjust your crossbars or drill new holes to get a good fit. Finally, the locks aren’t the most confidence-inspiring for deterring break-ins, and you’ll have to undo two each time you want to access your gear. But it's hard to be overly critical at this price point, and for budget shoppers who are willing to sacrifice a bit on quality, the Jegs is a good place to start. See the Jegs Rooftop Cargo Carrier

Best Low-Profile Roof Box

3. inno wedge 660 ($690).

Inno Wedge 660 rooftop cargo box_

If you park in a garage or frequent enclosed parking lots, you’ll want to think twice before purchasing a rooftop box. Many models here add almost two feet to the roof of your car (factoring in the height of the box and the rack), which is a no-go particularly for SUVs and vans. But the good news is that there are a variety of options for those who need to keep a low profile. The Inno Wedge 660 is one of the top designs in this category, featuring a contoured shape that offers 11 inches of depth while rising only 9.6 inches above your rack’s crossbars. And it’s got more going for it than just clearance: The Wedge has a premium fit and finish, including easy tool-free installation, a stylish and aerodynamic shape that minimizes wind noise and accommodates a rear antenna and hatch, and a dual-sided opening that increases access and organization.

The Inno might be the lowest-profile rooftop box on the market, but a few models are close on its heels. The Thule Pulse Alpine (also 11 cu. ft.) rises 11.3 inches off the crossbars (over 1.5 in. more than the Wedge 660) and only opens on the passenger side, but it’s a bit cheaper at $600. On the other hand, the Yakima GrandTour Lo ($979) is more of an investment but tacks on an additional 4 cubic feet of storage while adding less than a half-inch in height (10 in. above the crossbars). If you’re cutting it close on clearance, you really can’t go wrong with any of these options, but it’s worth doing the math before buying.  See the Inno Wedge 660

Best Narrow Box for Additional Rooftop Accessories

4. yakima skybox 12 carbonite ($669).

Yakima SkyBox 12 Carbonite rooftop cargo box

If biking, surfing, or boating is your thing, chances are there’s a lot of competition for your rooftop real estate. Add a cargo box to the mix—most of which are about 3 feet in width—and you’re looking at a fairly tricky situation for most vehicles. But if you want to have your cake and eat it too, Yakima’s SkyBox 12 Carbonite is your best bet. At just 24 inches wide, the SkyBox 12 is one of the narrowest cargo boxes on the market, leaving half (or more) of your roof rack available for a bike, surfboards, skis, kayak, or any other equipment your multi-sporting self might desire. And with a longer profile than most, it also fits skis up to 215 centimeters in length, which is great news for winter enthusiasts.

While the SkyBox Carbonite does come in a number of different capacities (up to 21 cu. ft.), it is worth noting that the “12” is the only version with the narrow width—and at $669, it’s fairly pricey given its size. But the SkyBox Carbonite 12 is far and away the highest-quality option in this category. Thule’s Force XT Sport also features a narrow (24.75-in.) profile but has a number of shortcomings compared to the SkyBox (outlined in the Force XT’s write-up below) and costs $30 more to boot. The SportRack Horizon Alpine ($450) is another suitable alternative, although its quality lags with a combined lock/latch mechanism, less intuitive attachments, and a flimsier design overall. Finally, no matter which design you choose, remember to consider your vehicle’s dynamic load limit before filling your rooftop with too much gear—most max out around 165 pounds. See the Yakima SkyBox 12 Carbonite

Best of the Rest

5. yakima skybox nx 18 ($799).

Yakima SkyBox NX 18 rooftop cargo box

Yakima offers a range of rooftop cargo boxes from budget to premium, and the SkyBox NX 18—a relatively fresh update from the SkyBox Carbonite series—slides in as their best all-rounder. For $100 less than the Thule Motion XT XL above, the SkyBox NX 18 has a number of similar features. Like the Thule, it’s easy to install and move between cars (the mounting hardware is borrowed from the high-end GBX and Grand Tour series), has plenty of front/back adjustability to avoid any hatch clearance issues, opens smoothly from both sides thanks to a durable shell reinforcement, and features a full-metal handle with included lock. And it's impressively roomy inside: With a nearly flat floor (thanks to the low-profile installation clamps), tall and wide nose, and extra-long shape, it can accommodate everything from bulky luggage to full-length downhill skis (up to 195 cm). 

But the SkyBox NX’s shape does have its downsides: We’ve found that the blunter nose has a noticeable impact on road noise (compared to both the Motion XT XL and old SkyBox Carbonite), and it lacks the high-end appearance of more aerodynamic boxes. We’ve also had some issues with the SkyBox’s locks icing over in the winter, while the Motion XT’s key entry has been nothing but smooth. In the end, the Yakima can’t quite match the premium build of our #1 pick (and only comes in two sizes at the time of publishing), but it’s nevertheless a great runner-up with a boost in usable space. And it’s worth noting that if you ski, the 18-cubic-foot version is your best bet—we tested the 16, and could only fit a couple of pairs of 178-centimeter skis at an angle (and with nothing else inside)...  Read in-depth review See the Yakima SkyBox NX 18

6. Thule Force XT L ($750)

Thule Force XT L rooftop cargo box

Sliding in just below the Motion XT in Thule’s lineup, the Force is a quality all-rounder with a versatile shape that's great for toting skis, camping gear, suitcases, and more. For $150 less than the Motion above (at the equivalent capacity), the Force retains a lot of premium features, including easy-to-install PowerClick mounts, dual-sided opening, six tie-down points, and built-in stiffeners for added load bearing (up to 165 lb.). But it does fall a bit short in the details: The Force’s aesthetic is no match for the Motion’s glossy finish, the LockKnob mechanism isn’t as durable or easy to use as the more premium SlideLock, and you don’t get a nice grip handle to help with opening and closing. Finally, it’s hard to beat the Motion’s nose design, which is specially engineered to resist gaping in strong winds.

If you’re not immediately taken by the high-end Motion, you might end up facing a decision between the Force XT and the Yakima SkyBox NX above. Both models represent the ideal middle ground for many users, but we place the Yakima above for a few reasons. First off, we heavily prefer its latching design, which features a large metal handle that’s easy to twist and can be operated with gloves on. On the other hand, the Force’s small LockKnob is difficult to toggle and puts more strain on the lock—it should come as no surprise that there have been issues over the years with broken keys. Further, the recently updated SkyBox NX has a number of key improvements, including a stiffer lid, high-end mounting hardware, and class-leading interior space. Both are solid cargo boxes, but for the same price (the SkyBox NX 16 is also $750) we give the edge to the Yakima. See the Thule Force XT L

7. Yakima RocketBox Pro 14 ($599)

Yakima RocketBox Pro 14 rooftop cargo box

Yakima is practically synonymous with roof boxes, and the RocketBox is the brand’s entry-level model. It used to come in a trio of capacities, but the 14-cubic-foot option is the last man standing in 2024 and a nice all-rounder size for individuals or small families. Value-conscious shoppers will appreciate the RocketBox’s tool-free installation, dual-sided opening, and separate latch and locking mechanism, which aren’t always included at this price point. At $599, the RocketBox Pro 14 matches Thule’s budget Pulse M below in terms of price, but far exceeds it in performance, making it our favorite entry-level option from either of the two major brands.

But for all of its strong suits, the Yakima RocketBox does come with some concessions in terms of quality and performance. Many users cite durability concerns with the flimsy build, and the nose design doesn’t resist weather as well as higher-end models. Further, the 14-cubic-foot capacity is on the small side for larger families or gear-heavy endeavors, and the max length of 170 centimeters will be limiting for many skiers. But the RocketBox is nevertheless a step up from true budget designs like the Jegs Cargo Carrier above and SportRack Vista XL below, including more user-friendly mounts and higher-quality latch and lock features. All told, for a practical middle ground at a good value, the RocketBox Pro 14 is well worth a look. See the Yakima RocketBox Pro 14

8. Yakima GrandTour 16 ($879)

Yakima GrandTour 16 rooftop cargo box

Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder, but were we to hand out an award for the best-looking cargo box, it’d probably go to the GrandTour. If you’ve got a luxury vehicle with an empty roof rack, the Yakima is a worthy fit, with a high-gloss finish, sophisticated short and wide profile, and contoured base that keeps it sitting low on the crossbars. And the inside gets style points as well: the mounting system uses a removable knob to tighten each clamp and then stores it to the side, creating a sleek, flat base and more room for your gear. Whether you’re looking to expand your carrying capacity for skis or suitcases, dirty bike equipment, or your child’s portable crib, the GrandTour is a capable and good-looking tool for the job.

The GrandTour shares a similar feature set with many of the other premium boxes here: it can be opened from either side, has tie-down points to secure your gear (including straps), and uses stiffeners to keep lid flop to a minimum. Compared to the top-ranked Motion XT, performance drops slightly with a less robust nose design, but the Yakima costs around $20 less ($879 vs. $900 for the 16-cu.-ft. versions) and has a more polished aesthetic. Finally, like the SkyBox NX above, you get large, easy-to-use handles that toggle the box open and secure it closed, along with SKS locks on both sides (cool feature: this “same key system” can be swapped for a common core, allowing you to use the same key for all of your Yakima products). And for the ultimate in premium, sophisticated designs, check out Thule's Vector below. See the Yakima GrandTour 16

9. Thule Pulse M ($600)

Thule Pulse Medium M rooftop cargo box

If you value function over form but want to stick with the Thule brand name, the Pulse is a great place to start. You won’t see many frills built into this base model, but there are still a lot of benefits to sticking with a well-known manufacturer, including helpful customer service and compatibility with other Thule products. In terms of the Pulse’s design, Thule kept things simple with a single opening (on the passenger side) and combined lock/latch mechanism, although you still get the ease of tool-free installation with FastGrip quick mounts. And in addition to the Medium here, the Pulse is also available in a Large variation (16 cu. ft.) and a long and lean Alpine model, both of which make great haulers for budget-oriented skiers.

Generally speaking, we’ve come to expect Thule products to be slightly better-quality than Yakima’s, but the Pulse is a clear exception. Comparing it to the RocketBox Pro 14 above (Yakima’s budget design), the Pulse comes up short in a few significant areas. First, you only get one-sided opening (the RocketBox opens from both sides), and the Thule’s base lacks a contour at the rear, meaning it won’t accommodate many modern, fin-like antennae. Finally, the Pulse’s rudimentary lock/latch mechanism is middling at best, and (similar to the Force above) it has a tendency to put undue strain on the key. If you don’t need the added length for fitting items like snowboards, the SportRack Vista XL below could be a better option for $150 less. See the Thule Pulse M

10. Yakima CBX 16 ($999)

Yakima CBX 16 rooftop cargo box

The GrandTour above is one of our favorite designs for luxury cars, but some might want a more rugged look to match their adventure rig. Enter the CBX, another premium offering from Yakima, but this time with an angular and full-bodied aesthetic that pairs nicely with high-end utility vehicles. Like the GrandTour, the CBX’s mounting system uses a removable knob to tighten and loosen the mounts, resulting in a flat floor and more usable space than similarly sized models. Tack on a very generous 83-inch length (91 in. with the CBX 18), and you get a highly functional hauler that can handle tricker items like skis (up to 185cm) and more.

The CBX 16 is one of the roomiest and longest cargo boxes here, with dimensions similar to many 18-cubic-foot designs (despite its 16-cu.-ft. spec). That said, it’s worth noting that it’s decently heavy at 57 pounds—unless you’re packing fairly light objects, you probably won’t be able to take full advantage of the space before maxing out your rooftop load limit. Further, compared to the 16-cubic-foot Thule Motion XT, the CBX 16 will still cost you $99 more, which may or may not be worth it for the chiseled facade. Finally, we should mention that the CBX also comes in a “Solar” model with a mounted solar panel, which we detail below. But priced $500 more than the standard 16-cubic-foot design, most off-grid dwellers will be better off purchasing a solar panel (or two) separately. See the Yakima CBX 16

11. Thule Sidekick ($500)

Thule Sidekick rooftop cargo box (black)

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: the Sidekick is barely on the same playing field as most cargo boxes here. If the Pulse is Thule’s base model, the Sidekick comes straight from their bargain basement, where it’s not even fully assembled before shipping (you’ll have to add the weather stripping and locks yourself). And once you put it together, the box is about as simple as it gets, featuring 8 cubic feet of volume (at least 3 cu. ft. less than most other designs), a one-sided opening with no integrated handle, and basic U-bolt mounts that use pre-drilled holes—fingers crossed they fit your crossbar spread—and require a number of moving parts (pro tip: don’t lose anything).

There are a few other options available at similar price points—including the Jegs above and SportRack below—but where the Sidekick stands out is in its compact design. You won’t find a better option for small cars and, like the Yakima SkyBox 12 Carbonite above, the Thule also fits the bill if you’re sharing your roof rack with bikes, surfboards, a kayak, or skis. At just 20 pounds, it won’t heavily detract from your rooftop’s dynamic load limit either (although the box will likely be the limiting factor with a weight capacity of just 75 lb.). And buyer beware: the latch mechanism is particularly flimsy, and, to make matters worse, you’ll have to undo two locks each time you open or close the box. But there’s no denying the budget price, which makes the Sidekick an intriguing option for occasional outings and point-to-point trips (the less you need to access your gear, the better).  See the Thule Sidekick

12. Thule Vector Alpine ($2,400)

Thule Vector Alpine rooftop cargo box

If you thought the Yakima CBX or GrandTour were premium roof boxes, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Allow us to introduce you to the Vector, Thule’s top-end offering that breaks all the rules defined by utilitarian rooftop boxes. Combining luxury with function, the Vector features a removable felt pad on the base to protect your gear, a white-lined lid for better visibility, and motion-activated LED lights to illuminate the interior. Top it off with an incredibly aerodynamic shape (the nose dips below your rack’s front crossbar, mitigating wind noise) and the stiffest build here (featuring steel reinforcements in the base), and it simply doesn’t get any better than the Vector.

So why, you might be wondering, do we have this top-of-the-line model at the bottom of our list? Simply put, it’s hard to justify a $2,400 price tag when you can get a fully functional, durable, and high-quality cargo box for a third of the price (or less). In fact, the Vector has a lot in common with our top-ranked Motion XT, including PowerClick mounts and dual-side access with a premium SlideLock lock and latch system. But the difference in rigidity is palpable (that’s saying something, as the Motion is one of the stiffer designs here). And in terms of interior features, the Vector has no equal. It might look out of place on most adventure mobiles—and the 13-cubic-foot capacity will be limiting for some—but if you’re hitting the slopes in a high-end vehicle (we’re looking at you, Audi, Tesla, and Volvo), the Thule Vector is well worth a look. See the Thule Vector Alpine

13. Goplus Rooftop Carrier ($500)

Goplus rooftop cargo box

Thule and Yakima are certainly industry giants, but as it turns out, building a functional rooftop cargo box isn’t rocket science. The Goplus here gets most of the formula right, with a dual-sided opening, tool-free mounts that install on most bar styles, and a nice sleek profile that—unlike many entry-level models—is available in both matte and gloss finishes. With no added stiffeners, the lid isn’t as robust or confidence-inspiring as more premium offerings here, but flop is less of an issue due to its compact shape. And looking on the bright side, the tradeoff is an impressively lightweight design (25 lb.) that is easy to load and unload with just one set of hands.

With a recent price jump to $500, the Goplus has lost some of its appeal and fallen lower in our rankings as a result. Further, given its length of just 62.5 inches (the Goplus only comes in one size), skiers beware: this is not the cargo hauler for you. Finally, it’s important to note that the Goplus is only compatible with crossbar spreads of about 16 to 25 inches, which can be fairly limiting (for comparison, the RocketBox’s spread is 24 to 40 in.). It’s nice to have an alternative to the name brands above, but the Goplus unfortunately doesn’t stand out much anymore unless you can find it on sale. See the Goplus Rooftop Carrier

14. Yakima CBX Solar 16 ($1,499)

Yakima CBX Solar 16 rooftop cargo box

Yakima released a solar-panel-clad version of their high-end CBX rooftop box a couple seasons ago to a good bit of fanfare. The design is pretty neat: you get Yakima’s most premium cargo box for adventuring (the CBX) with a 36-watt (5V) solar panel mounted on top. With a seamless and wireless integration, two USB ports sit on the inside box’s roof for device-charging while in motion or at camp. All told, it’s an intriguing and user-friendly option for off-grid adventurers that want the convenience of a roof box with integrated charging capabilities to power phones, lanterns, headlamps, camera batteries, and other electronics in the field.

However, before getting too excited about the CBX Solar 16, it’s important to do some math. At $1,499, you’re spending an additional $500 for the charging capabilities compared to the standard CBX 16 ($999). For reference, you can purchase a 100-watt, 12-volt Renogy solar panel (popular amongst van dwellers and overlanders) for just $150, which offers considerably more power for a fraction of the cost. If you go that route, you can even tack on a portable battery like the EcoFlow RIVER 2 ($239) to store power and charge devices when the sun goes down or on cloudy days. But for many, the biggest draw is convenience: the CBX takes away the DIY work, hides the wires nicely, and is more than sufficient for keeping your phone charged on remote outings. Although limited on power, it’s a well-designed unit and hopefully a sign of where the rooftop cargo box market is headed. See the Yakima CBX Solar 16

15. SportRack Vista XL ($450)

SportRack Vista XL rooftop cargo box

It might slide into last place on our list, but the SportRack Vista XL still has several things going for it. First off, with 18 cubic feet of capacity, you get significantly more storage than boxes like the 14-cubic-foot Thule Pulse M above, and the 19-inch height is great for accommodating bulky items such as golf clubs or strollers (many sleeker boxes are 15 in. or less in height). Additionally, its build is a bit stiffer than that of budget alternatives like the Thule Sidekick and Jegs Rooftop Carrier, which makes it easier to operate and arguably longer lasting. And finally, unlike the Sidekick, the Vista XL comes fully assembled and installs quickly and easily without the need for any extra tools. For those in the market for an affordable and hassle-free cargo box, the SportRack is certainly worth a look.

The Vista XL used to be our top budget pick, but with a recent price jump to $450 (or $400 on Amazon at the time of publishing), it’s now tougher to justify over the Jegs. Price aside, the most glaring weakness is the Vista’s rear opening—we strongly prefer a box that opens at the side for more complete access to all of our gear. Further, like most of the budget options here, the SportRack does not accommodate skis, and the U-bolt mounting system isn’t quite as sleek as more modern clamp styles. In the end, we’d prefer to save with the $170-cheaper Jegs above, but the SportRack is a viable alternative with a slightly more premium build. See the SportRack Vista XL

Rooftop Cargo Box Comparison Table

Rooftop cargo box buying advice, vehicle length and hatch clearance.

  • Rooftop Cargo Box Volume
  • Interior Length
  • Low-Profile and Narrow Designs

Cargo Box Access: One Side, Dual Side, and Rear

Open/close and lock mechanisms, water resistance, wind noise and aerodynamics, rooftop cargo box weight capacity, roof rack compatibility, how to pack a rooftop cargo box, can i drive with an empty cargo box.

  • Ordering Your Rooftop Box Online  

The first step in selecting a rooftop box is to identify the maximum length of carrier your vehicle (or vehicles) can accommodate. Importantly, you don’t want the box to be much longer than the roof of your car—a box that extends over your windshield (front or rear) will compromise your ability to see the road and have a negative impact on aerodynamics (see below). And second—and particularly applicable if you drive an SUV, wagon, hatchback, or van—you’ll want to make sure that the backend of your box doesn’t get in the way of your rear hatch opening or antenna.

Thankfully, it’s easy to find a good fit without having to “try on” multiple models: Simply measure the distance between the front crossbar of your roof rack and your open hatch and compare it with the cargo box’s specs (both Thule and Yakima have published helpful fit guides). Hint: To maximize your length, you can move the front crossbar as far forward as possible.

Rooftop cargo box hatch clearance (Yakima SkyBox 16 Carbonite)

Cargo Box Carrying Capacity and Dimensions

Next, you’ll want to identify the type and general size of gear you plan to haul around. For most, these versatile carriers offer a great storage solution for bulky outdoor equipment, including skis and poles, fishing rods, and camping and backpacking supplies . And the list goes on: Perhaps you’re toting golf clubs, a stroller or baby carrier, or even construction and gardening tools. With your cargo in mind, you’re ready to decide on the right size box for you. There are a number of factors to consider here, including volume and length. This is also where it’s worth considering if you need a low-profile design (for low-clearance areas) or half-width box (to make room for a bike or kayak, for example).

Rooftop Cargo Box Volume Rooftop cargo boxes come in a range of volumes, generally measured in terms of cubic feet (length x width x height). The options on our list start around 8 cubic feet (the Thule Sidekick) and max out around 22 cubic feet for some of Thule’s XXL designs (the Motion XT and Force XT ). For most users, we recommend a box in the 16- to 18-cubic-foot range, which should accommodate overnight camping gear for three to four people. If you’re sizing up, you’d better have a fairly good reason for doing so. Remember that bigger isn’t always better: larger rooftop boxes are more expensive, heavier (more difficult to install/remove), and create more drag, which has a negative impact on gas mileage and road noise.

Loading duffell into rooftop cargo box

Interior Length Not everyone will be picky about the length of their cargo box, but this is an important consideration primarily for skiers and snowboarders. Because rooftop cargo boxes are so popular for toting snow gear, most manufacturers specify the length of ski (and sometimes number of pairs) that each model is able to fit. For example, the Yakima SkyBox 12 Carbonite accommodates skis up to 215 centimeters in length, while the Thule Motion XT L fits 3 to 5 snowboards and 5 to 7 pairs of skis up to 175 centimeters. The length is also an important number if you’re looking to tote bulky items like strollers (height comes into play here too), gardening tools, or climbing stick clips. And a final note: if you’re considering the length spec, keep in mind that it measures the box at its longest point, and it’s a good idea to take a look at the shape of the box too, as tapered ends and contoured bases can result in a lot of lost space.

Yakima SkyBox 16 Carbonite Cargo Roof Box (removing snowboard)

Low-Profile and Narrow (Half-Width) Designs Most rooftop cargo boxes add about 15 to 18 inches to the height of your vehicle, but if you routinely navigate city parking garages or park your car in a garage or carport, you might want to consider a low-profile design. Low-profile cargo boxes are generally 13 inches or less in height (Thule’s “Alpine” sizes fit into this category), with particularly streamlined models like the Inno Wedge 660 adding just 9.6 inches of bulk above your vehicle’s crossbars. Not only do they offer lower clearance, but these designs are also more aerodynamic overall, resulting in slight reductions in drag and wind noise. And whether you opt for a standard-height or low-profile box, it’s a good idea to confirm the final dimensions of your vehicle to mitigate any potential disasters in confined areas. 

Yakima SkyBox NX 16 rooftop cargo box (nose)

If you plan to haul additional gear on your roof rack—popular items include a kayak or bike—you may want to consider a narrow or half-width design. Compared with a standard box, 24-inch-wide models like the Yakima SkyBox 12 Carbonite and Thule Force XT Sport shave off a foot or more in width, leaving a good portion of your rack available (an average crossbar measures about 50 in. wide). The main downside in selecting a narrow model is less overall storage—the aforementioned Force has a small 11-cubic-foot capacity—and they’re often fairly long, which can lead to compatibility issues with a rear hatch. But for the right user, they’re a very functional option.

Thule Motion XT XL rooftop cargo box (with boat on roof)

Rooftop cargo boxes consist of a stable base that connects to the vehicle’s rooftop and a clamshell lid that open via hinges on both ends, giving you complete access to the contents inside. There are three main styles featured in the picks above, including one-sided (usually the passenger side), dual-sided, and rear access.

The most user-friendly carriers include dual-sided access with a handle and lock on both sides, meaning that you can open the box from either the driver or passenger side of the vehicle (but not both at once). This versatility is helpful whether you’re parked on a busy street or need to find something tucked away in the far corner of a cavernous box. One-sided and rear access is more common on budget designs—Thule’s Pulse opens on the passenger side, while the SportRack Vista XL is accessed at the rear. Before opting for a design with one-sided or rear access, make sure you consider the limitations, as these styles are less convenient for organizing and reaching your gear (and in the case of a rear opening, you’ll probably have to close your hatch to toggle the handle).

Rooftop cargo box hinge

The devil is often in the details, and a box’s open and closing mechanism and lock designs are some of the main features that distinguish bargain models from more user-friendly, premium haulers. Some designs combine these two features, with basic lock mechanisms that also function to secure the lid to the base (i.e., when the box is unlocked, the lid is ajar). While this simplified design saves money, it also places a lot of force on the fairly delicate lock and key (this is why Thule’s entry-level designs have an issue with broken keys). On the other hand, more high-end boxes have a mechanism that opens and closes their latch—a push button, twist handle, or slider—and a separate lock that secures the closed lid. What’s more, they usually have indicators that show when they’re ajar (the SlideLock on Thule’s Motion XT displays red), which provides an extra level of confidence that your lid is secure.

Thule Motion XT XL rooftop cargo box (lock and latch)

All of the picks above come with at least one lock and key (boxes with dual-sided access feature a lock on both sides). The majority of designs only permit you to remove the key when locked: although some users find this feature inconvenient, it does keep you from leaving the box unlocked or accidentally losing your keys inside. And if you have other Yakima or Thule products mounted on your vehicle(s), you might especially like Yakima’s SKS (same key system) and Thule’s One-Key system, which allow you to swap out the cores with an identical set so that you can open all of your accessories (including ski/snowboard racks and bike racks ) with the same key. And a final note: manufacturers specify that these locks are not theft-proof, but rather meant to serve as theft deterrents.

Yakima SKS keys (rooftop cargo box)

Interior Features

The majority of rooftop cargo boxes are fairly barebones on the inside, with many featuring just a simple cavernous compartment for your gear and usually a pull strap to close an out-of-reach lid. Some models incorporate tie-down points (straps included in most cases), which can be a nice feature to secure a loose load. Moving into the ultra-high-end models is where we start to see more features. For instance, the Thule Vector ($2,400) adds a removable felt-lined base to protect your gear, motion-sensing interior LED light, and white-colored lid to make it easier to see your gear. But while these are nice features, they’re not worth the large price bump for most, especially when you can make similar after-market customizations to a more affordable box.

Thule Motion XT XL rooftop cargo box (interior straps)

Materials and Durability

All of the roof boxes above are made with durable ABS plastic that holds up well to repeated opening and closing and the rigors of the road. However, their level of quality (or lack thereof) becomes more apparent when looking at the details. Rigidity increases with the premium models (by way of added stiffeners), while budget designs like the Thule Sidekick and Jegs Rooftop Carrier have noticeably floppy lids and bases that you’ll want to be sure to carefully close and secure (they might not easily line up). Another distinction comes in the amount of overlap between the lid and base, which is important for wind resistance (especially at the nose). And all the little details add up too, including mounting hardware, hinges, handles, and locks—if these break, your box will likely be out of commission. Finally, whether or not you opt for a matte or gloss finish is mostly a matter of personal preference, although it’s common to see the sleek aesthetic on more luxury designs (like the Yakima GrandTour ). 

Unlocking Yakima SkyBox NX 16 rooftop cargo box

One of the key advantages to opting for a cargo box over a rooftop bag or basket is the ability to keep your gear protected from the elements. The majority of rooftop boxes are highly water-resistant, with waterproof plastic shells, weather sealing around the edges, and large lips that close the gap between the base and lid. However, there are a few points of vulnerability inherent in the design. In some cases, wind can cause gaping at the front of a box (allowing moisture and air to enter), and water can also make its way in through mounting holes on the base. Some designs include vinyl stickers to cover unused holes, while more premium models have their mounting hardware loaded on a track that mitigates water entry. But regardless of the cargo box, it’s a good idea to assume that it’s not fully waterproof. Dry bags or waterproof duffel bags are helpful for protecting vulnerable items (make sure to place them away from the base and edges), but if there’s any question, we recommend storing your gear inside the vehicle.

Rooftop cargo boxes (wet weather resistance)

Generally speaking, the bulkier your cargo box—especially in terms of width and height—the more drag it will create. And while the exact science on this is hard to figure (keep in mind that a number of factors come into play, including vehicle type, interior load, speed, and external wind conditions), more drag most often results in lower gas mileage and more wind noise. If you want to maximize aerodynamics, we recommend opting for a model that looks more like a bullet than a box, including a tapered nose (this includes most offerings from Thule and Yakima) and a relatively low profile. Looking at your cargo box head-on, the smaller the profile, the better.

Rooftop Cargo Box (Yakima Skybox 16 Carbonite on vehicle)

It’s also worth noting that wind noise is not simply a result of the bulk of the box. In fact, much of this noise is generated by air moving in between the rack and the roof of your vehicle. Some modern box designs (like the Thule Vector) tackle this issue with noses that dip below the front rail, thus eliminating the gap between the roof and the rack. There are also a few ways to hush this whistling without spending up for a techy box design, including both DIY solutions and after-market purchases. You can wrap your front bar with a towel (and duct tape) or a bungee cord, swap in aerodynamic crossbars ( Yakima’s JetStream is a popular option), or add a fairing (like the Thule AirScreen XT ). While these solutions might not cut the noise out completely, they’ll go a long way in disrupting airflow, which is well worth it for a more peaceful drive (and the gas savings might pay off in the long run). Finally, keep in mind that wind noise can be worse with an empty box (it’s less stable when not weighed down), so we encourage you to take your box off when it’s not in use (for more, see “Can I Drive with an Empty Rooftop Cargo Box?” below).

Loading a snowboard into a rooftop cargo box (Yakima SkyBox NX 16)

Rooftop Cargo Box Weight

Rooftop cargo boxes range from 20 pounds for the Thule Sidekick to around 65 pounds for the Thule Vector Alpine and Yakima CBX 18. Weight is an important factor for a few different reasons. For one, the heavier the box, the more challenging it will be to install and remove from your vehicle. While the Sidekick can be installed by one person, the CBX 18 will require at least two sets of hands, unless you’re very strategic (accessories like the Thule MultiLift can help). Second, as we cover below, a rooftop can only handle so much weight—the more pounds you eat up with your box, the less you have left over for gear. And finally, you’ll want to be wary of ultra-lightweight boxes too, as this might indicate a flimsier design. In the end, some of the best boxes clock in around 40 to 50 pounds (for roughly 14-18 cu. ft. of capacity), which is simply the price you pay for a durable, functional set-up.

Rooftop Cargo Box (Thule with awning)

When it comes to weight capacity, there are two key factors at play: the load limit of your roof box and the dynamic load limit of your vehicle (both of which are easy to find in the user manual or via a quick internet search). The models above range from a 75-pound weight capacity (for the Thule Sidekick ) to 165 pounds for premium designs. But in most cases—and this is important to remember—the true limiting factor will be your vehicle’s dynamic load limit. This number specifies how much weight you can safely carry on your rooftop while driving (a parked vehicle can handle much more) and generally maxes out around 165 pounds for a wagon, sedan, or crossover SUV, and up to 330 pounds for a large van. Thus, when determining how much gear you can put into your cargo box, you’ll want to start with your vehicle’s dynamic load limit and subtract the weight of your box and rack (and any other items on your rooftop). Most of the time, that equation will leave you with about 100 pounds left over for gear.

Thule Motion XT XL rooftop cargo box (next to basket)

Knowing that a rooftop box can only carry about 100 pounds’ worth of gear tells us a few things. For one, you’ll want to be cautious about opting for one of the larger models, as 22 cubic feet of capacity might not be very useful if your weight limit maxes out when it’s only half full. Second, it’s a good idea to be strategic about what you put in your cargo box. We like to start with lightweight and bulky gear like sleeping bags, tents, and backpacks, which frees up room in the trunk for heavier items like food, a climbing rack, or a camping stove . Finally, while manufacturers tend to bring attention to the higher weight capacities of some boxes, vehicle load limits are the true equalizers, meaning that there’s not much advantage to opting for a 165-pound limit over a 110-pound limit (like the budget SportRack Vista XL). Of course, if you’re planning to mount your cargo box on a larger vehicle with a higher load capacity, this becomes more of a distinguishing factor.

Before you install your cargo box, you’ll need to make sure you have the right rack to secure it to your rooftop. A lot of vehicles come with factory-installed racks, and after-market designs can also be easily matched to your make and model. There are two factors to be aware of when selecting a roof rack to pair with your cargo box (or vice versa): crossbar spread (the space between the front and rear bars) and shape.

Rooftop cargo box loaded with gear (Yakima SkyBox 16 Carbonite)

The good news is that most modern cargo boxes have a fairly wide range (the Yakima SkyBox NX 18 ’s spread is 24 to 40 in.) and are compatible with an assortment of bar types, including round, square, and aerodynamic varieties. Manufacturers like Thule even help with the decision by listing the racks that complement each of their cargo boxes. That said, expect less versatility with some of the budget designs—the Jegs, for example, has pre-drilled holes to accommodate a 24-inch crossbar spread, but no wiggle room outside of that (you’ll have to adjust your crossbars or drill new holes). All told, matching your cargo box to a roof rack shouldn’t cause much headache, but it’s never a bad idea to double check compatibility before hitting purchase.

Assembly and Installation 

Unless you purchase your rooftop box at your local vehicle rack store, chances are you’ll be doing the assembly and installation yourself. Most boxes come already built and ready to mount, but some budget designs require more in-depth assembly (which can be arduous if DIY isn’t your thing). The Thule Sidekick , for example, takes most users over an hour to put together, including attaching foam weather stripping and installing the lock assembly (wrench required).

Yakima's tool free installation (Yakima SkyBox NX 16 rooftop cargo box)

Next up is mounting the box, which again is a relatively user-friendly process for most modern designs and can be done in just a few minutes. Our favorite models feature clamps that slide on tracks to accommodate various crossbar spreads, tighten via a thumbwheel, and secure with an audible “click” or by way of an integrated lever. On the other hand, budget boxes will often use simple U-bolt mounts, which require many moving parts (don’t lose anything) and can take some effort to tweak into position and secure (sometimes this involves drilling new holes or moving your crossbars). The extra time required to install these more rudimentary mounts is less of an issue if you anticipate keeping your box installed on your rooftop. However, if you plan to routinely remove your box, you might want to opt for a more premium design. And finally, make sure to complete this process with your rear hatch open to ensure you’re getting proper clearance (if applicable), and check your mounts often, as they might need to be tightened from time to time.

Thule Motion XT XL rooftop cargo box (installation)

When loading items into your cargo box, you’ll want to give some thought to what you place where. In general, manufacturers recommend situating about half of the load (weight-wise) overtop and in between the two crossbars, with a quarter in the front and the remaining quarter in the rear. It’s also important to consider the weight capacity of both your box and your vehicle—surpassing this number is never a good idea, so prioritize lighter items up top and heavier items in the trunk. Once your gear is loaded, we recommend securing it with tie-down straps (if available), which is especially helpful if you have a half-full load. And finally, as we touched on above, you’ll want to think about protecting items from the elements by wrapping them in dry bags or waterproof duffel bags (even garbage bags will do the trick) and keeping especially vulnerable items away from the base and edges.

Most manufacturers recommend that you don’t drive with an empty cargo box on your roof, for reasons much more practical than safety-oriented. First off, an empty box is much more likely to be pushed around by the wind, which will result in a noisier ride. Second, we already know that rooftop boxes have a negative effect on gas mileage, so it behooves your wallet to remove yours when not in use. And finally, keeping your cargo box out of the elements will go a long way toward extending its lifespan, especially if you live in a particularly unforgiving climate. When not on your vehicle, we recommend storing your box in a cool and dry space (preferably inside), either base-down on the floor or hanging flat against a wall.

Rooftop Cargo Box (loading backpacking into Yakima SkyBox 16)

Ordering Your Rooftop Box Online

Rooftop boxes are no small item, which can create some hurdles if you like to shop online. We’re generally big fans of purchasing outdoor gear from REI and Backcountry (thanks to great customer service and generous return policies), but in this case, both retailers charge oversized shipping fees (you can see them displayed at checkout after adding a box to your cart). One way to circumvent this charge is by having REI ship the cargo box to your local store, where you can pick it up for free. It’s also worth noting that many other online retailers ship for free (including Amazon and Etrailer), but keep in mind that the retail price can often be higher as a result. And a final note for online shoppers: you’ll want to be 100% certain you’re purchasing the right product, as returning such a large item via mail isn’t cheap (another benefit to picking it up at your local REI store ).  

Other Cargo Carrying Options

We love rooftop boxes for their ease of use (just throw in your gear and close the lid), weather resistance, and security, but there are a number of other solutions, including rooftop baskets and bags and hitch-mounted options. A basket mounts on a roof rack and provides a stable area for you to secure gear with bungee cords, rope, or a net. Compared to a box, baskets are more affordable (the popular Yakima LoadWarrior is $499), significantly lighter (read: easier to install and leaves more weight allotment for gear), and can accommodate bulkier items (like a cooler or Rubbermaid storage containers). On the other hand, many cargo bags—like the Rightline Gear Sport 2 —retail for less than $150 and install directly to the roof of your vehicle, which eliminates the cost of a roof rack. Plus, they pack down small when not in use (fitting easily into your trunk), which is a nice solution if you don’t want to have a box or basket occupying your rooftop at all times.

Driving Sprinter van with Thule Motion XT rooftop cargo box

It’s also worth considering if a hitch-mounted box or basket might be a better way to expand your vehicle’s carrying capacity. Compared to rooftop options, hitch storage is easier to access and doesn’t require that you perch on your tire or door well to load and unload gear. What’s more, whistling is less of an issue, and gas mileage won’t be nearly as impacted with the rear placement. And because most modern hitch boxes are designed to be easily removed, they double as a handy storage container once you establish camp (the Yakima EXO GearLocker excels in this department). But not every vehicle comes with a hitch or hitch capabilities, and rear storage can be inconvenient if you need a lot of access to your trunk. Finally, skiers will want to stick with a roof box or basket. In the end, each type of rooftop storage has its strengths and weaknesses, and taking a close look at your cargo and travel plans will help you decide on the best solution. Back to Our Top Rooftop Cargo Box Picks   Back to Our Rooftop Cargo Box Comparison Table

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The Best Rooftop Cargo Boxes of 2021

family standing by vehicle with rooftop cargo box

Whether you’re road tripping with the family’s skis and boots or need to stow your weekend camping gear, here are the best rooftop cargo boxes for outdoor travel.

As soon as you dabble in a new outdoor pastime , the gear adds up as well as the need for a way to transport those cherished goods. A rooftop cargo box helps organize all of your stuff and increases the comfort and space inside your adventure chariot with the bonus of protecting the interior.

It’s nice to be able to stash damp, smelly, or sharp items up top, too. The longer the road trip, the more valuable rooftop storage can become.

A variety of box volumes and styles exist whether you steer a van, truck, hatchback, or SUV. Here, we highlight a handful of our team’s top choices for rooftop cargo boxes.

If you have general questions about cargo box design features, use, and maintenance, check out the buyer’s guide and FAQ at the end of this article. Otherwise, hop to a category that interests you or scroll through our picks:

  • Best Overall
  • Best Budget

Best of the Rest

Best overall: yakima skybox carbonite.

yakima skybox carbonite

If you’re a bit intimidated by adding a roof accessory to your rig, the user-friendly SkyBox Carbonite is your new friend. And the design includes five size options ($550-700). Tried and true, this cargo box is among the most durable and secure on the market. The silhouette is streamlined, narrow, and long.

We use ours in all seasons and across various outdoor trips to load up skis or kayak paddles for the family. And there’s still space on the roof rack for our bikes, kayaks, or standup paddleboards — that’s hard to beat.

We like the texturized lid, which helps hide scuff marks and grime. Plus, the box offers great weatherproofness (but we recommend that electronics or valuables go inside the cab or a dry bag for good measure).

  • Model options: 12, Lo (15 cu. ft.), 16, 18, 21
  • Volume: 12-21 cu. ft.
  • Load Capacity: Unavailable
  • Weight: 41-62 lbs.
  • Locks included: Yes

Ski Carry Capacity:

  • 12: Up to 4 pairs (or 2 snowboards) with a max length of 215 cm
  • 16: Up to 6 pairs (or 4 snowboards) with a max length of 185 cm
  • Lo, 18, 21: Up to 6 pairs (or 4 snowboards) with a max length of 215 cm
  • Easy to use, stout, comfortable handle
  • Solid value, yet not as costly as other premium choices
  • Opens on both sides
  • Installation process might annoy some folks

Check Price at REI

Best Budget: Yakima RocketBox Pro

yakima rocketbox pro

We’re hard-pressed to find a more dependable investment than a RocketBox — some of our family members still have theirs from the ’90s. Today’s Yakima RocketBox Pro comes in several capacities ($470-600). Plus, the 11- and 12-cubic-foot options are on the lower end of the price scale.

You could pick up a more compact choice like the Inno Ridge Box ($400) for less money with no space to haul skis or snowboards. But the extra bucks could be worth the length and the decades of use you’ll get out of the RocketBox. We like that we can fit our skis and snowboards in the narrow, long RocketBox while still having half of the roof rack open for other equipment like surfboards or bikes.

Note: The 12-cubic-foot box is 58 inches long and not a great choice for trips to the ski hill.

  • Model options: 11, 12, 14
  • Volume: 11, 12, 14 cu. ft.
  • Load Capacity: Not available
  • Weight: 30 (12 cu. ft.), 38, 40 lbs.
  • 11: Up to 2 pairs (or 2 snowboards) with a max length of 210 cm
  • 12: Not compatible with skis or snowboards
  • 14: Up to 3 pairs (or 3 snowboards) with a max length of 170 cm
  • Practical build
  • Pretty easy to pull RocketBox on and off the roof
  • A more economic price compared to priciest options
  • Not the top-shelf sturdiest construction

Check Price at Yakima

Best Style: Thule Vector

thule vector

On the premium end, the Thule Vector is one of the sleekest, most stylish, and superbly made options out there. This luxurious rooftop cargo box features two models with the same volume and load capacity but different dimensions and weights ($1,400-2,000).

Beyond its classier shape, we found the design extremely functional, easy to install, and simple to operate day to day. To boot, this rigid box is reinforced with steel along the base.

  • Model options: M, Alpine
  • Volume: 13 cu. ft.
  • Load Capacity: 165 lbs.
  • Weight: 59, 66 lbs.
  • M: Up to 5 pairs (or 4 snowboards) with a max length of 185 cm
  • Alpine: Up to 6 pairs (or 5 snowboards) with a max length of 200 cm
  • Felt-lined interior bottom for gear protection
  • Integrated tiedown straps
  • White interior lid and integrated LED light help with loading and unloading in the dark
  • Stylish aesthetic

Check Price at Amazon Check Price at Thule

Thule Force XT

thule force xt

The spacious and functional Thule Force XT comes in four sizes ($580-750). This build can haul a huge quantity of bulky gear and still handle off-road adventures or winter trips to the local ski mountain.

Ultimately, the silhouette has generous height and is a sturdy choice. Be sure not to force the locking mechanism — it’s not a top-shelf component.

  • Model options: Sport, L, XL, XXL
  • Volume: 11, 16, 18, 22 cu. ft.
  • Weight: 32, 41, 47, 52 lbs.
  • Sport: Up to 5 pairs (or 4 snowboards) with a max length of 175 cm
  • L: Up to 7 pairs (or 5 snowboards) with a max length of 175 cm
  • XL: Up to 7 pairs (or 5 snowboards) with a max length of 195 cm
  • XXL: Up to 7 pairs (or 5 snowboards) with a max length of 215 cm
  • Dual-sided access
  • Voluminous shape provides space for a variety and high quantity of gear
  • Easy installation
  • Latch system isn’t the smoothest
  • Not as streamlined as other boxes
  • Some users have issues with the flimsy lock and key
  • Not the stiffest material

Check Price at REI Check Price at Amazon

Pelican BX140R Cargo Case

pelican bx140r cargo case

Fashioned in a rectangular shape, the burly Pelican BX140R Cargo Case is among the most secure rooftop boxes on the market. This specific model is the largest — and priciest — choice from the lineup, which features four roof-compatible sizes ($300-450).

In Pelican fashion, the streamlined build is weatherproof to protect valuable cargo from apparel, gear, and hunting equipment to tools and dry food. The body is made of rotomolded plastic, which is lightweight, shock-absorbent, and blocks ultraviolet light.

With hardy construction, the steel latches are e-coated with a corrosion-resistant finish. The lid features a rubber gasket, but these are not submergible. These cargo cases are also not on par with the crushproofness and watertightness of the extremely rugged Pelican Protector lineup.

  • Model options: BX55S , BX85S , BX90R , BX140R
  • Volume: 4 cu. ft.
  • Load Capacity: 50 lbs.
  • Weight: 35 lbs.
  • Lock included: No (there is an integrated padlock hasp)
  • Dustproof and wind-, water-, and weather-resistant
  • Burly handles snap down to lie flat
  • Easy to mount
  • Attractive design
  • Linear design is less adaptive to fit certain cargo compared to oblong shapes
  • Exterior easily marks
  • Thin base causes uncertainty about long-term durability
  • Necessary to purchase compatible aftermarket locks and the hasp is small

Inno Ridge 240

Inno Ridge 240

The Inno Ridge 240 Rooftop Cargo Box ($400) is a tidy choice for compact vehicles and stouter equipment. Built with three-layer plastic construction, the materials are hardy and the construction is dependable.

For folks who want to avoid mounting a long, narrow, tall, or huge box, the Ridge delivers at a price that doesn’t break the bank.

  • Model options: Ridge 240 (there’s also a long Ridge 460 model)
  • Volume: 8 cu. ft.
  • Load Capacity: 110 lbs.
  • Weight: 20 lbs.
  • Lock included: Yes
  • Key can only be removed when the box is locked
  • Strong construction
  • Compact and light design
  • Economic price
  • Only has passenger-side opening versus dual-sided opening
  • Can’t fit skis or snowboards, which is a dealbreaker for some recreationists

Check Price at Inno Racks

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Rooftop Cargo Box

Roof length compatibility.

It’s key to make sure the box can seamlessly pair with your vehicle’s roof and rack, especially if you have a top-hinged trunk. First, position the front crossbar as far forward as possible (some are not adjustable). Then open the hatch and measure from the back hatch to the center of the vehicle’s front crossbar.

That distance needs to exceed the hatch clearance of a cargo box, which is listed on the manufacturer’s website. You’ll also want to be sure the length doesn’t hinder visibility up front or hit any antennas.

If you’ve never owned a rooftop setup, this is rack 101. The mount is a component that runs lengthwise (front to back) and attaches to the top of your vehicle. Generally, vehicles come with factory mounts like raised rails, tracks, or fixed points.

If you’re working with a bare roof, you can permanently mount a rack or opt for a setup that’s compatible with the door jamb. Two crossbars or load bars sit perpendicular to the roof and are attached to the mount via four compatible towers. Crossbars vary in size and shape.

Each cargo box is compatible with specific crossbars, so make sure those crossbars work with your vehicle and mount or if an adapter is required.

Carrying Purpose and Capacity

Before you start shopping for a rooftop cargo box, take a look at your gear. What do you need and intend to carry on trips? Shorter or packable items like camp chairs or sleeping bags generally fit well in rooftop cargo boxes.

Lengthier items like skis, paddles, golf clubs, and strollers will require a longer box — make sure the box’s internal dimensions fit the length of your equipment.

Read the width and height of each box to help conceptualize the overall volume. Boxes also list the gear capacity in cubic feet (or inches or liters). The more people in your group, the more space you’ll need for each individual’s gear.

best rooftop cargo boxes - capacity

There are two weight factors to take into account: the cargo box weight and the weight capacity of the box. The cargo boxes listed here range from 20 to 66 pounds without any cargo. The majority of these carriers safely hold a weight capacity of up to 165 pounds, but others are lower, around 110 or even 50 pounds.

Don’t sacrifice the cost for a less structural cargo box if you need to transport heavier items. Your heftiest cargo, like a loaded cooler, is easier and safer to store inside the vehicle.

Check with each box manufacturer for a specific box’s weight limits. Likewise, check the owner’s manual of your vehicle for the recommended maximum load. You’ll need to subtract the weight of the box, aftermarket towers, and crossbars, as well as the max weight of the cargo stored inside the box.

Cargo boxes are built with durable plastic, and a handful have additional reinforcements, such as the steel along the base of the Thule Vector . Others are coated with an additional finish for extra durability and weather resistance. To point, the Pelican BX140R Cargo Case has a corrosion-resistant coat.

The hardware, like the latches and lock systems, vary in quality, which is reflected in the price. Overall, the size and materials influence the box’s weight, too.

best rooftop cargo boxes - materials

Water Resistance

Most rooftop cargo box designs are extremely weather-resistant, thanks to a waterproof shell and weather sealing, so they’ll generally do a great job of blocking snow and rain. Some even feature a liner for water resistance, like the integrated rubber gasket of the Pelican BX140R Cargo Case .

However, none of these cargo boxes claim to be completely waterproof. We recommend you store any water-sensitive, precious cargo in a dry bag or inside the rig.

Extra Features

A handful of the top-shelf designs have extra features for comfort, utility, and ease of use. For instance, we appreciate the interior LED lights of the Thule Vector and the integrated solar panel plus two USB ports inside the Yakima CBX Solar .

rooftop cargo boxes - extra features

Are rooftop cargo boxes universal?

Rooftop cargo boxes are not all created equal. The designs vary by weight, dimensions, gear capacity, and rigidity. You’ll need to consider what type of gear you need to haul as well as your vehicle length and roof capacity.

The best rooftop cargo box will fit well with adequate hatch clearance. Also, note certain cargo boxes are compatible with specific crossbar or load bar models, shapes, and size ranges. Be sure to get the correct setup for your vehicle.

Can a rooftop cargo box be too big?

A larger rooftop cargo box might not be the best choice for your vehicle and purpose. If a box length exceeds the rooftop clearance, it can hinder the hatchback when it swings up, or it can potentially hang over the roof in the front, impeding windshield visibility.

Bigger designs are more challenging to move and store, have a greater impact on fuel efficiency, are costlier, and are noisier while on the road. Be sure not to exceed the maximum length and weight your vehicle’s roof can carry.

How do dou pack a rooftop cargo box?

Place the heaviest and the majority of the cargo in the center of the box and the lightest items toward the nose and tail. Use tiedown straps, which are included in some designs, to secure loose goods if the box isn’t full.

Though many cargo boxes are weatherproof, most manufacturers suggest putting electronics and valuables in a dry bag for extra protection.

Can you drive with an empty rooftop cargo box?

Without additional weight, empty cargo boxes can get slightly jostled around by the wind, which could cause audible drag. If you don’t mind the potential noise, then it’s technically fine to drive with an empty rooftop cargo box. That said, the lifespan of the box will be extended if you store it safely away from the elements between long periods of nonuse.

Also, removing the cargo box could lead to greater fuel economy in the long haul. But for weekend warriors who commute 20 minutes to work several days a week, the repeated mount time might not be worthwhile, especially in a mild climate.

How should you store your rooftop cargo box?

When your rooftop cargo box isn’t mounted on your vehicle, it’s good to store it in a cool, dry indoor space like a garage, attic, or basement. It’s ideal to keep it out of direct sunlight and extremely hot or cold temperatures.

You can set the box flat on the ground — or atop a couple of 2x4s — or rig it to hang on a wall via the base side.

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Based among the awe-inspiring peaks of Crested Butte, Colorado, Morgan Tilton is a Senior Editor for GearJunkie honing the SnowSports Buyer’s Guides alongside warmer coverage. More broadly, she’s an adventure journalist specializing in outdoor industry news and adventure travel stories, which she’s produced for more than a decade and more than 80 publications to date. A recipient of 14 North American Travel Journalists Association awards, when she’s not recovering from high alpine or jungle expeditions she’s usually trail running, mountain biking, or splitboarding in Southwest Colorado, where she grew up and lives today. From resort to backcountry and human-powered to motorized travel, she loves sliding across snow.

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The 10 Best Roof Racks for Road Trip Storage

You can add tens of cubic feet to your cargo capacity.

roof racks

Whether you have a sedan or SUV, you might need more space than your vehicle provides, especially on a long family road trip. These cargo boxes, baskets, and roof rails add many cubic feet to your capacity, and look good doing it. Some require roof rails already installed, others will fit universally on any vehicle. Now there’s no reason to leave your favorite stuff at home.

Universal Roof Rack

Universal Roof Rack

This 64-inch universal roof basket carrier from ARKSEN comes in other sizes, too, and is highly rated for hauling extra cargo bags, camping equipment, and luggage. It’s extendable and collapsible.

Aluminum Roof Top Cross Bar Set

Aluminum Roof Top Cross Bar Set

This two-piece aluminum crossbar set by CargoLoc fits a maximum of 46 inches in width and is rated for 150 pounds. A heavy-duty clamping mechanism ensures the cross bars will remain firmly fastened.

Universal Black Steel Roof Rack

Universal Black Steel Roof Rack

This rooftop cargo carrier by Curt has 4-inch high walls to hold your stuff in place and expands from 11 square feet to nearly 17. It attaches to most roof rack rails.

Rooftop Cargo Basket

Rooftop Cargo Basket

This basket by Rola mounts to most round, square, and factory OEM racks and measures 48 x 37.5 inches. A special finish protects against the elements and resists scratches.

Universal Inflatable Roof Rack

Universal Inflatable Roof Rack

This rack by HandiRack is inflatable and can hold 175 pounds when inflated. It’s universal and fits compacts, sedans, minivans, SUVs, and crossovers, though it doesn’t work with soft tops and side curtain airbags.

Car Roof Bag Cargo Carrier

Car Roof Bag Cargo Carrier

This reinforced roof bag by Fivklemnz uses eight reinforced adjustable straps to stay in place and fits 15 cubic feet of cargo. It’s waterproof, and all seams are heat welded.

Gear Car Top Carrier

Gear Car Top Carrier

This waterproof bag carrier by Rightline fits 18 cubic feet of stuff and is waterproof. It measures 46 by 36 by 18 inches and is a universal fit.

Anti-Slip Waterproof Roof Cargo Carrier

Anti-Slip Waterproof Roof Cargo Carrier

This soft-walled bag by HeyTrip is made from double-coated PVC and is built to handle bulky items. It fits cars with and without a roof rack and it comes with a lock.

Roof Cargo Bag Protective Mat

Roof Cargo Bag Protective Mat

If your bag doesn’t come with a mat, or you want to be extra safe, pick up this product for 10 bucks. It’s anti-slip and fits most vehicles.

Roof Rack Crossbars

Roof Rack Crossbars

These crossbars from StayThere only fit factory raised rails but can hold up to 200 pounds. It fits most vehicles with a maximum span of 49.5 inches between side rails.

The Hearst Autos Gear Team is dedicated to bringing you the very best in automotive tools, parts, and accessories, based on the expertise of the editors of  Car and Driver ,  Road & Track , and  Autoweek . 

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  • 16 Cubic Feet of Cargo Space
  • Excellent Tailgate Clearance
  • Holds Up To 185cm Skis
  • Universal Roof Rack Fit


  • 21 Cubic Feet of Cargo Space
  • Ideal for Larger Vehicles
  • Holds Up To 215cm Skis


  • 12 Cubic Feet of Cargo Space
  • Long & Narrow Alpine Design


  • 18 Cubic Feet of Cargo Space
  • Holds Up To 195cm Skis


  • 14 Cubic Feet of Cargo Space
  • Holds Up To 170cm Skis


  • Holds Up To 175cm Skis


  • 10 Cubic Feet of Cargo Space
  • Ideal for Trucks
  • gear for up to 2-3 travelers


  • 15 Cubic Feet of Cargo Space
  • Excellent for Garage Clearance
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Shipping Notice

Express Shipping orders will be shipped same-day if received before 11:00 am PT Monday - Friday. Otherwise, all Express Delivery orders will ship the next business day.

FedEx Ground & FedEx SmartPost w/ USPS may take up to 5-10 business days to ship and may take up to 2 weeks to be delivered depending on your distance from our warehouse.

Orders with Cargo Boxes and Rooftop Tents must ship via a Truck carrier and cannot be expedited.

Orders will not be shipping on weekends or holidays.

Hawaii and Alaska: we are unable to ship Cargo Boxes and Rooftop Tents to Hawaii or Alaska. Shipments to Hawaii and Alaska should expect one additional day delay for all deliveries.

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Prorack EXP360 Roof Pod, , scaau_hi-res

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Additional Information

Product info.

  • Download User Manual
  • Luggage Capacity of 360L
  • Made of Super strong ABS Material
  • Easy to assemble (Tools included)
  • Accessible from either side of your vehicle
  • Spring assisted opening and closing
  • Lockable lid
  • Made in Italy
  • External Dimensions: 1450mm (L) x 850mm (W) x 450mm (H)

Recommended Products

NEW YOUTUBE DROP: S54-Swapped BMW 328is

Best Roof Racks: Carry Bikes, Skis, and More With These Top Picks

Keep your equipment sturdy and secure with these top products.

Roof Rack Close Up

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If you like outdoor adventures and activities such as kayaking, biking, and skiing, you need a means of transporting your equipment from home to the lake, trails, or mountain. You may also need extra space to carry camping supplies or oversize luggage. A high-quality roof rack can securely hold this type of gear in place and give you peace of mind while you're driving at highway speeds, or on rough country roads, towards your destination. Roof racks come in different styles to accommodate a variety of purposes, and some are better than others. It's important to learn the distinctive features about these racks in order to find the best one that will fit your vehicle and carry your specific type of adventure gear.

Yakima Universal Roof Rack

Yakima Universal Roof Rack

  • Quicky and easy to install
  • Well-known brand
  • No tools required
  • Padded to prevent scratches
  • Can make vehicle interior wet when installed in the rain
  • Straps aren’t the best quality

PRO-SERIES 47 in. Universal Aluminum Roof Bars for Small SUVs

PRO-SERIES 47 in. Universal Aluminum Roof Bars for Small SUVs

  • No drilling required
  • Rubber guards prevent scratches
  • Anti-theft end caps
  • Noisy at high speeds
  • Brackets are plastic
  • Other accessories needed

YAKIMA LockNLoad Platform Roof Rack

YAKIMA LockNLoad Platform Roof Rack

  • Supports heavier loads
  • No crossbars required
  • Multiple sizes available
  • Additional hardware required for installation

Summary List 

  • Best Overall: Yakima Universal Roof Rack
  • Best Value: PRO-SERIES 47 in. Universal Aluminum Roof Bars for Small SUVs  
  • Premium Pick: YAKIMA LockNLoad Platform Roof Rack
  • Best Crossbar: Thule AeroBlade Edge Raised Rail Load Bar
  • Best for Bicycles: Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack
  • Best for Kayaks: YAKIMA JayLow Rooftop Mounted Kayak Rack  
  • Best for Skis & Snowboards: Thule 91725B Universal Ski & Snowboard Rack
  • Best for Canoes: Leader Accessories Folding Kayak, Canoe, Surf Board, SUP Rack

Our Methodology

I took many factors into consideration when compiling this list of the best roof racks. First, I made sure to choose products by well-known brands in the industry, such as Thule and Yakima, which are leaders when it comes to transporting adventure equipment. I included racks that support different types of gear, from bicycles to kayaks. Roof racks require several elements, including crossbars and specific add-ons for specific gear, so there are a range of options available in this list. These products aren't cheap, but I was able to find some that are more affordable than others to appeal to a wide range of budgets. While I was unable to personally test these items, I've had experience using some of these brands in the past. To close the gap, I researched user feedback to see how these particular roof racks perform in real-world conditions. For more information on our methodology at The Drive , go here.

Best Roof Racks: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall

  • Brand: Yakima
  • Installation: Removable
  • Weight: 5 pounds
  • Capacity: 80 pounds
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to install
  • Straps are not the best quality
  • Interior of your vehicle may get wet if it rains during installation
  • Brand: PRO-SERIES
  • Installation: Semi permanent
  • Capacity: 165 pounds
  • Locking end caps to prevent theft
  • Won’t scratch your roof
  • Can produce a wind noise
  • Brackets are plastic and not the best quality

Premium Pick

  • Weight: 55 pounds
  • Capacity: 165-330 pounds
  • Strong, durable, and reliable
  • Available in multiple sizes
  • Other hardware required for installation
  • Written instructions could be better

Best Crossbar

Thule AeroBlade Edge Raised Rail Load Bar

Thule AeroBlade Edge Raised Rail Load Bar

  • Brand: Thule
  • Weight: 5.5 pounds
  • Capacity: NA
  • One of the strongest crossbars available
  • Fairly easy to install
  • Permits fast installation/removal of compatible racks
  • Low profile design minimizes drag
  • Only one included
  • May interfere with operation of sunroofs

Best for Bicycles

Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack

Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack

  • Weight: 18.5 pounds
  • Capacity: 44 pounds
  • Holds bikes with non-traditional frames, carbon frames, rear suspension
  • Won’t scratch your bicycle
  • Easy to mount
  • Can be locked
  • Requires Thule or other aftermarket crossbars for installation
  • Locks are sold separately

Best for Kayaks

YAKIMA JayLow Rooftop Mounted Kayak Rack

YAKIMA JayLow Rooftop Mounted Kayak Rack

  • Weight: 13. 2 pounds
  • Capacity: 80-110 pounds
  • Folds down for clearance and to reduce drag
  • Kayaks won’t wobble
  • Crossbars not included
  • Locks cost extra
  • Can be tough to load kayaks if you’re on the shorter side

Best for Skis & Snowboards

Thule 91725B Universal Ski & Snowboard Rack

Thule 91725B Universal Ski & Snowboard Rack

  • Weight: 6.9 pounds
  • Capacity: N/A
  • Compatible with most factory and aftermarket crossbars
  • Durable materials
  • Simple to load and unload gear
  • Locks included
  • Bolts may be a little short

Best for Canoes

Leader Accessories Folding Kayak, Canoe, Surf Board, SUP Rack

Leader Accessories Folding Kayak, Canoe, Surf Board, SUP Rack

  • Brand: Leader Accessories
  • Weight: 23.6 pounds
  • Capacity: 150 pounds
  • Folds flat when not in use
  • Quick-release design for convenience
  • Rust-resistant, durable construction
  • Accommodates a wide range of equipment
  • Not compatible with round crossbars
  • Hardware may be too short for some applications
  • Brackets can pinch your fingers if you’re not careful

Our Verdict on the Best Roof Racks

My pick for the top roof rack is the Yakima Universal Roof Rack . It's more affordable than many alternatives, and it's removable, so you can easily take it with you on the go. No crossbars are required for this option, so it’s ready to use out of the box. Plus, it can accommodate a range of equipment from kayaks to snowboards. For an even more budget-friendly option, consider the PRO-SERIES 47 in. Universal Aluminum Roof Bars for Small SUVs .

Consider Secondhand

When we start shopping for tools and products, we never overlook the secondhand market. In fact, it’s usually the first place I look. Whether you’re scrolling through Amazon’s Renewed section, eBay for car parts or tools , or flipping through the pages of Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist , you have hundreds of thousands of used tools, parts, and gear ready to be shipped to your doorstep. Refurbished to like-new status, they’ll be willing to give you many more years of faithful service all while saving you money. 

If those options don’t have what you need, your local salvage yard is great for car parts, while swap meets are a great resource you should tap. Just Google either and head on down.  

Secondhand Tips

To make your secondhand search easier, here are two tips for finding the best deals and making sure your new-to-you stuff wasn’t destroyed by the previous owner. 

  • Check for rust, and make sure all the moving parts operate smoothly.
  • Confirm that all parts are included, such as hardware and tie-down straps.

Things to Consider Before Buying Roof Rack

Type of roof.

Some vehicles have factory-installed side rails that are designed to support certain types of roof rack systems, such as those offered by Thule and Yakima. These rails can either be flushed or raised and come in a variety of different sizes. Other vehicles have fixed mounting points and/or tracks that can accommodate a range of different roof racks. There are also bare or "naked" roofs that can accommodate clip-fit types of racks. You may also have a vehicle with two metal tracks or gutters. Make sure your roof configuration fits properly with the type of rack you're considering. 

Type of Rack

Different types of roof racks are designed to carry different types of gear. You can haul everything from cargo boxes to tents, skis, bicycles, and canoes. The best roof racks can accommodate a variety of items. Depending on your needs, you may need a rack for your children's bikes, you and your spouse's kayaks, or for a surfboard. You can also purchase racks with cargo boxes or baskets to carry extra-large items that may not fit inside your vehicle.

Weight Limit

This is a two-part consideration. First, you need to check the amount of weight that your vehicle's roof can hold. This information should be available in the owner's manual. Next, determine how much weight you plan on putting on the roof, and make sure the rack is heavy duty enough to hold the items effectively and safely. 

Easy of Use

Some roof racks are easier to install and remove than others. Some are designed to be semi permanent, while other options are removable. Also, some racks are more simple to operate, particularly when it comes to loading heavier gear such as a kayak. Read user reviews to see how user-friendly these racks are to both set up and to operate.


When you put equipment on your roof, it's going to cause a little more drag on your vehicle, which can affect its fuel economy. In addition, some racks are noisier and produce more wind noise than others. Look for racks that are more aerodynamic so that you can travel more comfortably without too much wind buffeting, which will save you money and possibly a headache. 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: What is the difference between roof rails and roof racks?

A: Roof rails are installed along the length of your vehicle, while roof racks are mounted across the roof. Rails are used to mount crossbars, cargo boxes, ski racks, etc. 

Q: Do roof racks damage your car?

A: As long as you purchase the correct roof rack for your particular vehicle and set up and install it properly, it will not damage your roof.

Q: How much do roof racks cost?

A:   Roof racks vary in price, depending on the type you choose. Some are reasonably priced and can cost less than $75, such as our best value pick. However, these less-expensive offerings typically require other equipment in order to haul certain items. This will drive up the cost. Some roof racks are several hundred dollars, but they are usually very heavy duty and able to accommodate different types of equipment.

roof rack travel pod

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.


Other ‘ Trailer Accessories ’ Reviews You Might Like:

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roof rack travel pod

How to Put a Roof Rack on a Travel Trailer 

Adding a roof rack to a travel trailer or 5th wheel can be a great way to add extra storage for travel, but the process must be undertaken carefully. Whether you get a mechanic to install the roof rack for you or tackle the installation yourself, knowing how to install it correctly can mean the difference between a successful result and a leaky, crumpled roof. 

Below you’ll find a list of the steps necessary for choosing and installing a roof rack on your camper. Installing a roof rack can be complicated depending on the RV model, so preparing for the installation can take a lot of guesswork out of the process. 

Steps to Install a RV Roof Rack

If you decide to take the leap and install a roof rack yourself, the smartest thing to do is to follow the included instructions carefully. There are so many different configurations of roof racks that the instructions for installation are specific to each setup. However, a do-it-yourself roof rack installation can be broken down into these seven simple steps: 

  • Choose your roof rack. Be sure to copy down your travel trailer’s specifications and measurements before shopping so you know which roof racks will fit your vehicle. 
  • Get your installation gear together. Making sure you have all the necessary tools and materials before you start the installation can prevent delays during the job. 
  • Install the base. For travel trailers that have built-in side rails, this step of the roof rack installation process may be unnecessary. For bare trailer roofs, the base of the roof rack must be secured parallel to the roof of the travel trailer from front to back. Keep in mind that you’ll want to avoid having to screw over vents or other roof components.  
  • Drill the holes. Holes have to be drilled into the roof of the travel trailer to act as a mounting point for the brackets that hold the roof rack on the roof. Be sure to use the smallest drill bit possible since you want to avoid any loose screws where moisture can get through. Use a stud finder to find the framing in your roof to secure the rack to.
  • Secure the roof rack. Once the base of the roof rack is secured to the travel trailer roof, the holes are drilled, and the base is bracketed down, the rack itself can be added. The rack is typically mounted at fixed points and screwed down. It’s important that each part of the roof rack is screwed down tightly to prevent the rack from falling off during travel.
  • Seal the roof rack. Sealing the roof rack is what keeps the travel trailer waterproof. Many types of roof sealant for travel trailers are solar reflective to help keep the roof of the trailer (and the interior) cooler. 
  • Adding accessories. Almost all roof rack kits have some accessories, but the most important ones involve accessories to secure luggage such as tie-down brackets and accessories to access the roof crack such as roof rack ladders and tire steps. 

Once you’ve installed your roof rack, congratulations! You get to enjoy additional cargo space and can also help pack some of the clutter inside your trailer on the roof instead to enjoy more space in the cabin. 

Choosing a Travel Trailer Roof Rack

Before you get started installing a roof rack on your travel trailer , you need to choose the rack you’re going to install. There are several things you should consider when you’re picking a roof rack, such as the following: 

  • The size of your travel trailer roof: The size of your RV will determine the size of your roof rack. It’s smart to choose a roof rack that matches the size of your roof so that you utilize all available roof space. It also helps keep weight on the trailer top distributed evenly. 
  • The type of RV roof rack: Travel trailer roof rack kits come in several different types, such as clip fit roof racks, flush side rails, and raised side rails. The type of roof rack you choose will depend on the style of your camper and what you’re transporting. 
  • What you’re transporting on your travel trailer: Depending on how heavy the items you’re trying to carry on the roof rack are, you might need to install roof reinforcement to hold the extra weight. Each camper will have a different specified load capacity according to the owner’s manual or manufacturing specifications. 

There are many roof rack options available, so it’s a good idea to do some comparison shopping to see what all of your options are. You’ll also need to look at the roof of your trailer to see whether you have built-in crossbars or a bare rooftop. A plain roof will require drilling and additional gear compared to a camper with basic equipment included. 

Keep in mind the height of your travel trailer as well as the height of your items you are installing as compared to the roads and bridges you may be traveling on.

What to Look For in a Travel Trailer Roof Rack 

Different roof racks can seem similar at first glance, but there are several different ways you can tell between them. Look at these features in roof racks to determine which will be the best option for your trailer: 

  • Durability: When you shop for roof racks, you’re likely to run into a wide range of prices and models made of many different construction materials. Keep in mind that metal components are more durable than plastic roof racks, but metal roof racks add more weight to the trailer’s roof. 
  • Lightweight design: Aluminum is a popular metal choice in roof rack designs since it is relatively durable but doesn’t add as much weight to the roof rack as steel designs do. This makes it ideal for carrying heavier luggage without causing the travel trailer roof to sag or buckle. 
  • Versatility: If you plan to carry various gear on the roof of your travel trailer, going with a roof rack kit that is compatible with lots of accessories means that you’ll be able to switch your cargo out on the fly easily. 
  • Aerodynamics: It’s important to look at weight when you choose a roof rack, but you should also keep aerodynamics in mind too. The further a roof rack is raised above the roof of the camper, the less aerodynamic it is. This leads to drag that reduces the travel trailer’s fuel efficiency. Wind deflectors can help dampen this effect.

Types of Roof Racks

Along with looking at the qualities you want in a roof rack system for your travel trailer, you’ll also need to look at the type of roof rack you want. Here are a few of the major roof rack types: 

  • Side rails: Side rails are often not factory-installed on a camper. Side rails come in two major styles: raised and flush. Raised side rails break the silhouette of the camper trailer roof and have a gap between the rail and the roof. Flushed side rails are flush with the trailer’s roof. These can be added aftermarket.
  • Fixed point roof rack installation: Fixed point roof racks are permanent installations, and the amount of work that goes into them is not recommended for do-it-yourselfers. Incorrectly installing a fixed point roof rack can lead to roof leaks. 

Picking a roof rack type is important. But depending on what rack you choose and what you’re planning to transport, you’ll also want to look at roof rack accessories. 

RV Roof Rack Best Options

Roof rack cargo carrier.

ARKSEN 84"x 39"x 6" Universal Roof Rack Cargo Extension Car Top Luggage Holder Carrier Basket SUV Camping, Black

This will cargo carrier mount directly to the roof of your RV. You will want to make sure your rack gets screwed directly into the wood framing on your roof. This option gives you multiple mounting points and keeps a low profile. When choosing your size, remember you may have a/c or solar on your roof you will need to measure for.

Universal Rack

Surco 501R Universal Motorhome Rack

This universal rack will give you some mounting points and security for items you store on your roof when traveling. This is a simple install compared to the others.

Seah Hardware Universal Roof Rack Cross-Bars 2 PC. 48 Inches Black

The side rail option will give you the best options for accessories. These universal side rails can hook up to crossbars which will allow you to pretty much use any accessory that is available for a roof rack on a car. This is easy to work around your a/c unit, vents, or other roof items.

Roof Rack Accessories

Roof rack accessories are another factor you should look at when you’re choosing your roof rack. Someone who plans to carry a kayak on their travel trailer will need different gear than someone who plans to carry luggage or other cargo. 

Here are some of the different roof rack accessories to consider: 

  • Tie-downs: Tie-downs are a way for travel trailer owners to secure their cargo on the trailer roof. Tie-downs are crucial for making sure that wind resistance doesn’t rip the cargo off the top of your trailer, as this can present a deadly road hazard to other motorists. 
  • Gear adapters: Roof rack adapters come in a wide variety of designs for transporting everything from snowboards to kayaks . 
  • A cargo basket type accessory is one of the best as it is very versitile for your gear.

The roof rack accessories available for your roof rack will vary from model to model, but not every travel trailer owner will have the same needs. Check out all of the accessory options available for each model you’re considering before making a final choice. 

Equipment Needed for Roof Rack Installation

If you don’t have the roof rack on your travel trailer installed by a mechanic, you’ll need to gather up the equipment needed to install the roof rack yourself. This is the gear you’ll need to get started: 

  • High-bond tape or polyurethane adhesive
  • L-brackets for each mounting point
  • Screws for brackets (match to the holes in the L-brackets)
  • Roof sealant ( here is a popular one )

Some roof rack installation kits may come with mounting brackets and screws already included. The most important pieces of equipment that you’ll need to install the roof rack are the drill and the sealant. The roof rack will need to be screwed down tightly to prevent it from coming loose, and roof sealant should be used to keep the installation waterproof. 

Does the Travel Trailer Roof Need Reinforcement? 

If you’re planning to carry heavy cargo on the top of your travel trailer or you’re installing a heavy roof rack kit, you might need to provide some reinforcement in the trailer overhead to help bolster the roof against the extra weight. A good choice for doing this is to install some steel angle brackets to add strength. 

Adding reinforcement is a good option to look into if you’re trying to renovate an older travel trailer. Age combined with wear and tear can cause the travel trailer’s roof to sag over time. 

When adding reinforcement to the trailer roof, however, it’s important to keep in mind that with each hole that is screwed in the travel trailer’s roof comes the risk of introducing a leak into the interior of the travel trailer. 

Water leaks can cause serious damage to both cloth interiors and electrical components of a travel trailer, so sealing off any drilled holes with waterproof sealant is crucial. 

Should a professional install your RV roof rack?

The process of installing a roof rack on your travel trailer will vary depending on how you choose to go about it. The simplest way to get a roof rack on your travel trailer is to purchase a roof rack installation kit that is compatible with your travel trailer model and take it to an automotive technician to install the roof rack for you. 

Here are a few advantages of having a mechanic install your roof rack: 

  • Tool access: Mechanics have access to specialized drills and other tools that make trailer modifications quick and simple. In contrast, trying to install a roof rack on your trailer when you’ve never done any kind of similar do-it-yourself project can be a tedious process that may inadvertently damage your trailer. 
  • Right the first time: With something as expensive as a travel trailer, you don’t want to make any rookie mistakes trying to install the roof rack yourself. By doing it yourself when you don’t have any experience, you’re leaving yourself open to problems like roof leaks that may require repair from a professional anyway. 
  • Safety first: Because they have experience with installing roof racks, mechanics know the most important parts of the roof rack installation to reinforce and tighten to prevent rack liftoff while driving. You don’t want to find out you installed your roof rack incorrectly when it flies off the roof of the trailer on the freeway. 

Can You Install the Roof Rack Yourself? 

Even though there are a bunch of benefits to getting a mechanic to install your roof rack, there are some drawbacks too. Here are a few reasons why you might consider doing the roof rack installation yourself: 

  • You’re using a universal roof rack. Universal roof racks are easy to fit on most travel trailer roofs without a complicated setup. Using a universal roof rack means you normally won’t be required to troubleshoot or make any modifications on the fly. 
  • You’re using factory rails. If your travel trailer comes stock with factory rails, it’s much easier to install a compatible roof rack kit than it is to try and install a roof rack kit on a bare trailer roof. 
  • You’re trying to save money. While it’s nice to have a professional install your roof rack for you, it means being prepared to pay up for the labor costs of having the kit installed. Many mechanics may refuse the installation unless they order the roof rack kit themselves or try to upcharge for you bringing in your own parts.
  • You have experience with auto repair or carpentry. People who are comfortable working on vehicles are more likely to have the experience needed to confidently install a roof rack. They’re also more likely to have the necessary tools to do the job right.

When Should You Hire a Roof Rack Installation? 

Some roof rack kits are simple and easy even for beginners to install themselves as long as they’re meticulous about sealing and measuring their work. However, if you’re trying to install a custom aftermarket roof rack or one that involves electrical hookups, you’re better off seeking out the help of a mechanic.  

If you’re at all unsure about whether you have the skill to pull off installing the roof rack kit you’ve chosen on your own, it doesn’t hurt to consult some RV mechanics and get a few installation quotes. Sometimes it can be worth a few extra hundred dollars to avoid the stress of having to put the roof rack on yourself. 

Roof Racks Are Great for Travel Trailers

Even if you’ve never installed a roof rack on a vehicle before, many people are capable of installing a roof rack on their travel trailer themselves. All it takes is getting the right roof rack kit for your trailer and gathering up the right supplies to get the job done. Once the roof rack has been installed you will be ready to hit the road with some additional storage to make camping more enjoyable for you and your family! Happy camping!

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