Looking for your perfect rooftop cargo box?
Family road trips can get exciting, especially when you have the right kind of gear to accompany you. One of them is having the best cargo box.
The cargo box is a must-have travel accessory that attaches to the rooftop of your vehicle and accommodates plenty of gear like skis, kayaks, canoes, etc. This way your vehicle’s trunk or back seat won’t overflow with stuff.
Cargo boxes mostly attach to a roof rack system, whereas low-priced cargo bags go over bare roof thanks to the strap system they come with.
Choosing an ideal cargo box can be a gruesome task, especially when the market is packed with different models of all shapes and sizes.
Check out the following review to see which one is best, easy to use and durable enough to cater to your needs.
(in cubic feet)
(L x W x H)
Thule Force Cargo Box - Best Cargo Box
16 Cu. Ft.
74” x 36” x 16.5”
Yakima Skybox Carbonite Cargo Box - Runner-Up
21 Cu. Ft.
93” x 37” x 20”
18 Cu. ft.
63” x 38” x 19”
Rightline Gear Sport 2 Car Top Carrier - Best Budget Cargo Bag
15 Cu. ft.
44"x 36”x 14-19"
RoofBag Car Top Carrier -Best Cheap Cargo Bag
15 Cu. ft.
48”x 38 x 18”
Thule Force Cargo Box - Best Rooftop Car Cargo Box
- Exclusive diamond-textured AeroSkin surface is durable and the aerodynamic shape helps cut through the air
- Dual-side opening for loading/unloading from either side of the vehicle
- Tool-Free Quick-Grip mounting system attaches box to rack in minutes. Height off crossbar 15.4 inch
- Oversized SecureLock is easy to grasp, even with gloves on, and ensures the box is closed securely and properly prior to driving
- Fits Thule AeroBlade, AeroBlade Edge, Xsporter, Thule Square Bars, round bars and most factory racks
Our very first hard cargo box is from Thule.
With more than 70 years of expertise, the Swedish-based “Thule” has become one of the legendary brands to manufacture top-of-the-line cargo equipment.
By all means, it promises quality, durability, and reliability. Aesthetics of Force Cargo Box is another thing to look forward to!
The diamond-textured AeroSkin lid is deliberately designed to endure bumps and knocks during rides.
Thick five-layered ABS plastic build is what helps the cargo box to dampen impacts. Altogether, Force Cargo Box is lightweight yet durable enough to last you for years.
Thule Cargo box comes all-included with “Quick-Grip” knobs for easy installation and removal. No tools required whatsoever! The complete setup process will take just about 5 minutes.
The base of the box features raised flooring for better grip.
Thule ensures you have easy access to your gear, as it provides a dual-side opening. Inbuilt lifters further keep the lid open for your convenience. This way, you can load or unload your equipment using both hands.
As you close the lid, the Force cargo box locks itself, credits to Thule’s SecureLock technology.
The black body is aerodynamically designed to slice through the wind and considerably reduce wind resistance and noise. This also means that you won’t have to compromise on fuel economy due to excessive drag.
Cargo boxes really cannot get sleeker than this!
The best thing about Thule Force line is that it comes in a variety of sizes, right from 13 cubic foot up to 21 cubic foot. The Alpine version is specially designed to accommodate winter sports equipment.
As per your vehicle’s model and cargo needs, you can choose the one that suits you best.
Customers describe Thule Force Cargo box to be quiet and stable, unlike most of the noisy cargo boxes. No doubt, this is a huge perk, especially for long trips.
Owners found it extremely easy to install and large enough to hold bulky items. Overall, users are quite happy with its reliable performance.
The only negative thing is that it is not fully leakproof/waterproof, but only water-resistant. Hence, it cannot withstand heavy rainstorms.
Things we liked
Things we didn’t like
Coming from a legendary brand, Thule Force is undoubtedly one of the best cargo boxes that offer amazing durability and ample amount of storage space.
Diamond-textured lid, a sleek black body, and aerodynamic shape add to its aesthetics and functionality.
Whereas, dual-side opening, various size options, and oversized lock are some of its main highlights. Bottom-line is, Thule cargo box is great for anyone who wants to haul camping or sports equipment.
Yakima Skybox Carbonite Cargo Box
- Sleek aerodynamic Carbonite textured lid; Designed with internal lid stiffeners for durability and easy open and close
- SuperLatch security ensures your lid is secure to its base, and your gear is safe; Dual-sided opening for easy access on either side of your vehicle; Tapered design reduces hatch interference
- No assembly required; Tool-free installation/removal from vehicle; SKS Locks included
- Fits Yakima round, square, factory, and aerodynamic bars; Minimum and maximum crossbar spreads: 24" - 42"
- Hauls gear for up to 5 campers; fits snowboards and skis up to 215cm; Available in five sizes: Lo, 12, 16, 18, and 21 cubic feet
Standing firm beside Thule, Yakima is another well-received brand to produce premium-quality cargo carrying gear.
Although a bit pricey, their line of cargo boxes and roof rack systems are superior in every which way.
All of the praise applies to their impressive SkyBox Carbonite model.
Large Cargo Space
The SkyBox Carbonite offers 21 cubic feet of cargo space, thereby qualifying as one of the biggest cargo boxes to exist in the market. But that does not make it heavy at all!
There are four additional size options (12, 15, 16 and 18 cubic feet) for you to select from.
Yakima goes one step further by incorporating environment-friendly design into their cargo boxes.
SkyBox has been crafted from ultra-lightweight Carbonite material, out of which almost 80% is recycled. This is so you can carry plenty of equipment without worrying about weighing your car down.
Tapered back of SkyBox is designed to minimize hatch interference, so the cargo box does not get damaged when you access car’s back.
SuperLatch Closure system
The sleek aerodynamic shape of SkyBox helps it cut through the wind, to reduce drag and minimize wind noise.
Dual-side opening adds to its convenience, whereas internal lid stiffeners keep the box open so you can load/unload your gear with both hands.
SkyBox snaps itself securely with the SuperLatch closure system. Moreover, it is also integrated with SKS lock system to keep your gear safe from unauthorized hands.
Quick-release mounting system
The quick-release mounting system is what allows SkyBox to be easily installed or removed. There’s no need to use assembly tools at all.
People who’ve purchased Yakima SkyBox found it to be roomy, well-built and durable for the price. Many say that it can last you a lifetime. Customers think that it is one of the best cargo boxes to carry if you are an active camper or just someone who hauls around sports gear.
However, there were few concerns regarding its small opening. Some found it difficult to get their large bags inside.
Things we liked
Things we didn’t like
Rock-solid Yakima SkyBox Carbonite screams high-end and durability, making it ideal for rugged trips. The massive size of the cargo box can even fit skis and long snowboards with much ease.
It keeps your gear safe, secure and allows easy access to it whenever needed. All of that for slightly lesser than Thule Force!
SportRack Vista XL Cargo Box
- Fits SportRack Roof Rack Systems, square, round and most factory racks (Check fit guide)
- Tool-free mounting hardware for easy installation and removal included
- Rear opening for easy access away from traffic includes a key lock to secure contents in the box
- ABS construction that is durable and UV-resistant; Easy to clean with mild soap and water
- Min-Max Crossbars Spacing : 23 5/8" - 29 3/4"; Max Weight Capacity: 100 pounds
SportRack Vista XL can be termed as the best bang for the buck, seeing its low price and top-grade design.
With a whopping 18 cubic feet capacity, Vista XL is roomy enough to accommodate most of your belongings needed for long trips.
Vista XL showcases a nice aerodynamic shape and offers plenty of height as compared to Thule or Yakima models. In other words, you can stash larger items in this spacious rooftop carrier hassle-freely.
It measures 19” height, 63” length and 38” width.
SportRack Roof Rack Cargo Box is made from high-quality ABS plastic, which distinctly makes it durable. Besides, it can endure UV rays for years without showing any signs of fading. For the sake of security, it comes with a built-in cylinder lock to prevent unauthorized access.
It offers 18 cu.ft. of large space and can hold up to 100 pounds of your gear.
Attaching this roof cargo box is a breeze, but you will require a roof rack system for that. SportRack includes a U-bolt hardware mounting kit in the package for quick setup and removal.
It is compatible with round, square and most factory racks.
Another key point here is that SportRack Vista XL only opens from the rear, unlike other carriers that can be accessed from left or right. But, it comes down to your preference.
One drawback of such design is that it becomes tough to unload or load cargo box if your vehicle has a high profile like an SUV or Van.
SportRack Vista XL proves to be an excellent value for money due to its large size and sturdy built, say, users. Few say that securing it to the roof was easy, as SportRack provides you with the hardware.
Some had no issues of noise, even on highway speed. Most loved feature about Vista XL is its low price and humongous size.
On the downside, a bunch of customers has not liked its rear opening design as it makes it difficult to load/unload the cargo box.
Things we liked
Things we didn’t like
SportRack Vista XL stands out from the competition by being more “stumpy.” It one of the best cargo box when you’re on a tight budget. All in all, it is reliable, water-resistant and remarkably spacious. Its reasonable price makes it a steal!
Rightline Gear Sport 2 Car Top Carrier
- 100% WATERPROOF CONSTRUCTION: welded seams and SZIP waterproof zipper; no zipper flap required
- 1 YEAR MANUFACTURER'S : Shop confidently; our service team is based in the USA & skillfully trained to help you with any questions or concerns.
- ATTACHES WITH OR WITHOUT A ROOF RACK: Attach the carrier's straps to a vehicle’s roof rack or use the Car Clips to attach the straps to a vehicle's door frame weather molding.
- LARGE CAPACITY DESIGN: 15 cubic feet of storage; 42" L x 34" W x 18" H; designed for SUVs, minivans, and crossovers.
- EASY TO INSTALL: Your bag comes with everything you need to load it up, attach it, and hit the road in minutes! Includes carrier, (4) attachment straps, (4) Car Clips, and stuff sack with sewn-in set up guide.
Our very first softbox in this review is by Rightline Gear called Sport 2 Car Top Carrier.
Rightline Gear is a North-Carolina based company, which meticulously designs travel gear with great attention to detail.
Their Sport 2 Carrier installs over minivans, crossovers, and SUVs, even without rack system.
Loop the straps around the roof rails, and it will firmly stay put throughout your journey. And, if your vehicle does not have a rail system, use the car clips to hook the carrier under door frame weather molding.
Dual Seam Technology and Aerodynamic Shape
Sport 2 Carrier is designed with an aerodynamic shape to slice the wind. Thereby, saving you money on gas.
Rightline Gear incorporates Dual Seam Technology for their Sport 2 carrier. Crafted from a durable combo of Hydrotuff material and UV-protected PVC semi-coated mesh, the Sport 2 is built to last.
Both these materials are first sewn together and then welded along the seams to make it truly waterproof.
For Sport 2, Rightline Gear promises 15 cubic feet of load capacity. Although, there are other size options as well.
More: Best Backpacking Chair
100% Waterproof Design
One remarkable thing about this carrier is that it is 100% waterproof.
Its waterproof material and watertight seams ensure complete protection from rainwater.
Additionally, Rightline Gear ZipRight System features urethane-coated zipper situated under protective zipper flap. This way, water won’t enter the carrier at all. Moreover, urethane coating makes it even harder for water to penetrate the carrier.
For added convenience, Rightline Gear also includes a stuff sack with drawstring in the package. When not in use, collapse and stow the carrier into it for easy storage.
The setup guide is sewn right onto this sack for quick reference.
Few customers have found Sport 2 to withstand heavy rains, keeping all their inner stuff completely dry. Another thing that has alluded users is its collapsible design and large storage capacity.
However, there were quite a few complaints of bag ripping off due to heavy winds at high speeds. Some users describe it as unideal to carry for long, speedy trips.
Things we liked
Things we didn’t like
Rightline Gear Sport 2 Car Top Carrier is a perfect option for people seeking an affordable cargo bag for short or occasional trips. The biggest advantage of the Sport 2 is that your vehicle need not have a roof rack to install this.
It goes onto SUVs, crossovers, and minivans without any rail system! The true waterproof design is another great perk for rainy days.
RoofBag Car Top Carrier
- Size: 15 cubic feet. Manufactured in the USA, RoofBag PREMIUM roof cargo carriers are 100% waterproof with Triple-Seal technology for maximum protection in extreme weather. Highest customer rating among soft car top carriers reflects its high reliability. Two-year warranty.
- Includes: (1) Standard RoofBag Soft Cargo Carrier, Set of (2) Heavy Duty Straps with genuine YKK buckles.
- RoofBag cartop carriers work on any car with side rails, cross bars, or without roof rack (bare roof).
- Secure Waterproof Strap System: straps secure carrier at any highway speed (seat-belt style, 1.5” wide, 3,000 lbs strong) and don’t wick water into the car (are water repellent), with 4 genuine YKK buckles for easy access. Proprietary Strap Guide fastening system is the most secure.
- Heavy Duty Fabric: specially formulated with no toxic or harmful chemicals. Made with heavy-duty polyester liquid-coated with vinyl on both sides (not laminated) for maximum resistance to tears and abrasion. Also resists extreme heat and cold and the sun’s UV rays. Easy to install: RACK: straps loop around rails. NO RACK: straps loop from top of carrier through inside of car. Door closes over strap: no interference with door, window, door seal, or side curtain airbag.
For a little lesser than Rightline Gear Sport 2, this RoofBag Car Top Carrier is another option for people who like textile cargo bag.
Just like Sport 2, RoofBag Car top carrier also goes over vehicles with or without roof rail or rack system. No need for any pre-installed roof hardware system!
With 15 Cu. Ft. of total capacity, RoofBag offers plenty of storage space to stow in your essentials for long trips.
RoofBag Car Cargo Carrier offers a generous space of 48” x 38” x 18” and comes in two different capacities viz. 11 cubic foot and 15 cubic foot.
The smaller 11 Cu. Ft. carrier is ideal for most SUVs, cars, vans, etc. Whereas, the 15 cu. Ft. version will best suit large vehicles.
Made from high-grade polyester canvas fabric, the RoofBag screams durability in every which way. It is sure to last you for years, especially when you’re only going to use it occasionally!
RoofBag claims that their cargo carrier is 99% waterproof and can endure practical use.
Thick fabric and vinyl coating on the inside and outside of carrier ensures optimal waterproofing. Thus, it can keep your stuff dry even in rainstorms and snow.
Soft cargo boxes are likely to come off during high-speed drives. Hence, it is necessary to look for a carrier that stays strapped even on highway speed.
RoofBag has incorporated this carrier with heavy-duty seatbelt-style straps that can withstand 3000 pounds of force.
Myriads of users find RoofBag Carrier to be extremely spacious to carry essentials and waterproof. Also, few customers mention that it does not make any noise because of the wind on highways.
On the negative side, there were few complaints of rainwater running down the straps and into the car (when used without the rack system).
Things we like
Things we didn’t like
Made in the USA, this premium RoofBag is one of the best cargo carriers in the market. It goes on vehicles with or without roof rail/rack system and is a breeze to install!
Overall, it is waterproof, well-built and comes with 2 years of warranty. It is an affordable option for occasional travelers.
Buying Guide for Best Cargo Box
Your best cargo box has to have good aerodynamic shape, easy installation process, and quality construction.
There are myriads of cargo boxes out there to choose from. To make an informed decision, you need to know what to look for in a cargo box before spending your money.
Following are the few factors you need to consider before buying any cargo box:
The material of the cargo box plays a vital role in deciding its durability and noise it makes.
- Poorly constructed cargo boxes will rattle even during normal highway speed, whereas heavy-duty carriers will withstand long trips.
- High-quality cargo boxes will make use of premium materials like ABS plastic and others. The best cargo box is the one that is thick and has multiple layers of plastic used to make it rugged and weather-resistant.
- Cheaper models will use thin plastic that won’t be able to withstand bad weather elements and UV rays. Some might even crack due to cold temperatures.
As for Cargo bags, they are made from a Polyester fabric similar to what is used for backpacks.
Manufacturers might incorporate waterproof design elements like double vinyl coating or welded seams, etc. to make it 100% leak proof.
More: Best Compact Umbrella
Mounting system must be such that it should allow quick and easy installation. You don’t want to spend hours trying to figure out how the cargo box goes over your vehicle.
Look for the one that comes with a mounting kit and does not require tools for installation.
Some cargo boxes come with U bolts, Quick-Grip locks, and other such systems to attach the cargo box to the roof.
U bolts are fitted beneath the roof rack and then affixed to the two holes provided in the cargo box. Whereas, Quick-Grip locks are somewhat similar to U bolts, but they have a clamp to hold the box in place.
Ease of access
Ease of access is an essential factor to consider, especially when you load/unload gear from the cargo box very often. Best cargo box allows seamless loading/unloading process, without demanding much effort from the user.
Check whether your cargo box has a dual-side opening for quick access, has internal lid stiffeners to keep it open on its own or hydraulic opening to make things easier. All these minimal features hold significant value as to how easy it is to access your cargo box.
Car Top Carriers made from fabric are generally less secure than hard cargo boxes. That’s because they do not incorporate any lock system.
On the other hand, hard cargo boxes mostly come with a secure lock system to prevent your stuff from thieves.
High-end cargo boxes will feature some advanced technology for complete sealing, whereas average models come with traditional padlock and key system.
Size of the cargo box will not only decide its fit with the vehicle but also determine what load it can carry. If you are someone who engages in camping and sports activities frequently, you would want your best cargo box to hold necessary equipment viz. skis, snowboards, etc.
Small cargo box will be hard to access when installed on large vehicles. Whereas, the large box might interfere with the rear hatch of small cars. Make sure you check the capacity and dimensions of the box before purchase.
Boxy cargo boxes will promote wind noise and wind resistance, costing you more money as it reduces the miles per gallon. Brands today are striving to design aerodynamic, streamlined shape for cargo boxes. This is, so it slices through the wind, thereby reducing wind noise, wind resistance and improving fuel economy.
The best cargo box is the one that is curvy and sleek, does not have sharp edges that caters noise and wind resistance.
High-end cargo boxes are backed with a Lifetime warranty, given their premium build and reliable design.
Fabric-style car top carriers will have around 1 or 2 years of warranty. Make sure you check the Manufacturer’s warranty before you buy.
Excellent warranty means the Manufacturer is confident about the quality of their cargo box.
FAQs regarding Cargo Boxes
Q. How to attach a cargo box to your car?
Nearly all roof cargo boxes need a roof rack with crossbars at the top of the vehicle for attachment. Your car might have round, square, aerodynamic-style or factory crossbars.
If not, you need to buy one separately, that attaches precisely to your roof.
Cargo boxes mostly come included with mounting hardware (U bolts or Quick-Grip knobs) and setup instructions. You can easily attach it to your vehicle’s rooftop accordingly.
Q. How much weight can a cargo box withstand?
Most of the cargo boxes can hold 90 pounds up to 110 pounds of weight. It depends on the type of model.
Q. What features make it easier to load/unload gear from a cargo box?Dual-opening design is what makes it easier upon you to load/unload your gear from a cargo box.
Q. Cargo Bags vs. Cargo Box- which is better?
The cargo box is ideal to choose if you often go for long trips and haul heavy gear with you. They have maximum carrying capacity, strong build and are more secure than cargo bags. Most of them can even carry sporting equipment.
Whereas, cargo bags are better for infrequent travelers, as they are easy to mount, lightweight and fairly waterproof. Even a single person can install it effortlessly. Another advantage of cargo bags is that they can hold oddly shaped objects and fold down easily when not in use.
The Final Word
Considering all things, we conclude that the Thule Force is one of the best cargo boxes out of all the others mentioned in this review.
Everything you’d expect in a premium cargo box, you’ll find it in the Thule Force, given it comes from a leading brand.
Although a bit expensive, Thule Force abides by its high-price by offering excellent durability, large storage space, and sleek aerodynamic shape.
Main highlights of the Thule Force include its diamond-textured lid, thick five-layered ABS plastic body and “Quick-Grip” knobs that allow quick setup.
Another key point is that you can open it from both sides and lock it securely with Thule’s SecureLock technology. It is optimal for campers or active athletes who usually haul around snowboards and skis.
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