If you find that you are often running out of space in your car then a roof mounted cargo box could offer a solution. After all, especially for families even if you’ve invested in a SUV, a Minivan or another similar sized vehicle, no matter how big they may seem they are not Dr Who’s Tardis and they don’t have unlimited space inside!
Once pushchairs, toys and luggage is loaded into the car, you may realize you don’t actually have room left for the kids. There are a range of different models and designs on the market right now however, so we have compiled our list of some of the best out there on the market right now to help you find the one that is right for you.
The Best Roof Mounted Cargo Boxes:
Thule is one of the best-regarded manufactures of cargo boxes out there right now. They are so good in fact that – spoiler alert – this is the first of two Thule products that have found their way into our list.
This is the higher end product from Thule, and so whilst it carries a range of useful features, it also has a price tag of about $600 that increases with the size of box. That is however pretty average for a higher end product in this category, so Thule aren’t ripping you off here.
Especially when you consider what you get for that price. Depending on the size you get anything from 13 to 21 cubic feet of extra storage space which is very useful indeed. The box has tapers to a point and employs diamond textured aero skin to help it slice through the air and protect vehicle fuel economy.
The Quick-Grip mounting system is both tool free and very easy to use and, with a bit of practice, you can get the box on and off the car in about 5 minutes. A secure lock protects your luggage too, rounding off a pretty impressive list of features.
Tool Free Easy Mounting System
Built in Secure Lock
- WeightAround 40 lbs Average
Another product from the more premium end of the range, just as with the item above from Thule there are a number of excellent design features on this product. First and foremost as you can see on the images it is lovely and aerodynamic so again every effort has been made to minimize drag and protect the fuel economy of your car. It also fits onto almost all brands of roof rack bars to make installation nice and easy.
This is to a certain extent a bit of specialized product in that is probably aimed more toward the sportier buyer. To that end, no matter the size you select, most of the mass is given to the length, making every model suitable for packing skis and snowboards. It’s also been kept nice and thin in regards width to keep the rest of the roof rack bar free for mounting other things like mountain bikes for example.
This could be the perfect cargo box then for people who enjoy their outdoor sports and activities.
Extra Long for Skis
- WeightAverage 50 lbs
This product from SportRack is at the cheaper bed of solid body boxes, and whilst it has a number of useful features (and is pretty big too) it is considerably cheaper than some other products on this list.
You don’t get all the bells and whistles with this product though. Whilst it tapers to a point it’s not quite as aerodynamic as some others on this list and the overall design and appearance is quite basic.
On the plus side, the ABS plastic body is pretty durable and provides both UV and Waterproof protection to your luggage. The fact it opens to the rear is handy as you don’t have to potentially stand in traffic to reach inside – though make sure you don’t pack your baby’s spare pacifier right at the front of the box!
It fits on a wide range of racks of various sizes and shapes and the quick release mechanism is very useful too. It’s also quite light, weighing in as just 28 pounds for a box that provides 18 cubic feet of storage.
It only comes in the one size however, so make sure it fits your vehicle before you purchase it.
Can Mount to Almost All Rack Systems
Quick Release Mechanism
- Weight28 lbs
This is the first soft bag style cargo box to make it to our list. These types of products have a number of pros and cons when compared to the solid body style we’ve looked at so far. Chief amongst the pros has to be the price, with this model coming in at well under $100 no matter which size you go for.
This particular model is manufactured right here in the USA, using the highest-grade materials. The heavy-duty canvas is extremely thick and double coated (inside and out) with abrasion proof vinyl to provide complete waterproof protection.
It is secured with straps that are rated to be 3,000lbs strong, so well up to the task of securing suitcases of T-Shirts and underpants to the roof. It mounts easily to most racking systems and, very handedly, some models of this design can even be mounted onto cars that don’t even have any racks.
Can be Mounted to Cars Without Racks
- Weight7 lbs
Our second entry from Thule represents the manufactures attempt to corner the budget end of the cargo box market. This model is going to set you back considerably less than the price tag on the premium models on this list including the other Thule one above.
The trade off there is that this is more of a basic design, with generally less carrying power. It has 8 cubit feet of storage and a max load of 75 pounds of luggage, both of which are considerably less than you get with the premium models.
It’s still a useful amount of additional space however, and you are still getting the Thule build quality, albeit with lower grade materials. The heavy-duty plastic construction will protect your luggage in transit, and the secure lock will do the same when you stop.
Side loading makes it easy to get your luggage in and the Thule attachments fit to most bars and racks. So whilst you may lose carrying capacity and higher end materials, it still comes equipped with quite a few useful features.
Simple Easy to Use Design
Side Opening for Easy Loading
Mounts to Most Rack Systems
- Weight16 lbs
Our second soft sided cargo box option, and with a price tag of under $50 this model is the cheapest on our list.
Don’t let that you put you off however, as this product brings an awful lot to the table, the first and most impressive being that it provides a huge 15 cubic feet of storage. That is an extremely generous amount of space whilst 8 built in tie straps and two vertical compression straps will solidly secure both the bag itself to your roof, as well as hold the packed items in place.
It utilizes double wall vinyl construction with welded seams to protect your load from both water and sunshine and it’s tough enough to protect against flying grit and small road debris.
It is strong, durable and has a very impressive loading capacity – and all for a rock bottom price.
Very Low Price
Huge – 15 Cubic Feet of Storage
Double wall Vinyl Construction, Welded Seams
- BrandShield Jacket
- Weight7 lbs
First off, we have to celebrate that name – RocketBox? Awesome, we love it!
Now, to serious matters. This product is designed primarily for people with smaller cars. It has a much squatter design than normal, meaning that much of the space is generated by the width of the box rather than the length. So if you have a smaller roof area, this box can be installed without overhanging the windshield or stopping the trunk being fully opened.
You also get the high quality design and build you would expect from Yakima. So 12 cubic feet of storage has been squeezed into this model (excellent design) and you also get high quality locks, and easy to use quick release connectors (excellent build).
For hatchback style cars with that little less rack room than a SUV or Minivan this could be the perfect cargo box.
Perfect for Smaller Cars
- Weight44 lbs
Our final product is another soft box, and like the others on the list it brings some useful features. It is constructed of semi-coated PVC and built with welded stitching to provide 100% waterproof protection.
It also has a very well designed Urethane coated zipper. This is essentially a pair of flaps of flexible material that covers the zipper. As this can be the weak point in soft cargo boxes as far as waterproofing is concerned, it’s excellent that they have identified this issue and worked to solve it.
It comes in sizes from 9 cubic feet which is perfect for smaller cars all the way up to a huge 18 cubic feet version that is going to allow you to pack up pretty much anything you could possibly need on a road trip – seriously, there are people living in apartments in Manhattan with less than 18 cubic feet of storage, but you can just throw that amount right up onto the roof of your car!
It can also attach with or without a roof rack in place, which could be an extremely useful feature and save you the cost of installing a set if your car came without racks.
Attaches with or Without Roof Racks
- BrandRightline Gear
- Weight6.1 lbs
Best Roof Mounted Cargo Boxes Buying Guide & FAQ
To our mind the list above represents the best roof mounted cargo boxes on the market right now. As you will have seen they come in a remarkable range of deigns, materials and – most importantly – prices.
Which one is right for you and how will you make the most of the model you select?
Read on to find out.
Who Needs a Cargo Box?
The best question would really be who doesn’t need one. If you’re never had to worry that the trunk won’t shut on your luggage, if you’ve never had to ask passengers to put bags on their laps as you drive then you probably don’t need a cargo box.
If however you have ever found yourself trying to carefully load your car like it’s a giant game of Tetris then a cargo box could be very useful. Families with children in particular can find a cargo box useful to store things like pushchairs that can easily fill the trunk space all by themselves.
People who like sports with bulky equipment such as skiing, hiking, hockey and mountain biking – to name just a few – could also benefit from the additional storage space a roof-mounted box can bring.
Finally, they can be very useful for long distance drives, where just keeping more of the luggage out of the car space and stored out of the way can allow more space in the car cabin and a more comfortable driving experience.
Types of Cargo Boxes
Cargo boxes come in two distinct flavors, Hard & Soft. Both have their unique pros and cons, which is why we have included both types in our list.
Hard – The traditional box type, it is, quite literally, a box made of hard plastic. The obvious benefit here is that by being of solid construction it will provide better protection to your items. This means both on the road but also when you stop. A good box will have a decent lock, so when you park up you can leave the box packed and in place – you may have to unload a soft bag style cargo box every time you park up.
Soft – More like a large bag with straps, this style will usually incorporate thin plastic (PVC or Vinyl usually) to provide waterproof protection for your luggage. They are much cheaper and usually easier to install than hard boxes. They also often weigh less, making them better suited for smaller cars. They will generally provide les protection though, especially when you park up for the night.
What Makes a Good Roof Mounted Cargo Box?
There are numerous features across the range of cargo boxes that can be the difference between a good and outstanding product. It will also depend on what you’re looking for in a box and both how and when you will use it. Here are a few things to keep an eye out for:
- Aerodynamics – A cargo box will create drag, and that can negatively affect the cars performance. The more premium models will be styled and built to be as aerodynamic as possible. Over a long driving route, that can end up saving you money by protecting and maintaining your cars typical fuel economy.
- Length – Some boxes are longer, some are a bit wider. If you need to store longer items – such as skis or golf bags – bear that in mind when selecting.
- Width – On the other hand, sometimes it can be helpful to have a box that goes wide instead of long. This is particularly true if you have a smaller, hatchback sized vehicle for example.
- Security – Hard boxes will come with locks and, of course, are made of tough material. Soft boxes can also be locked and are relatively tough, but don’t offer any where near the deterrence of a hard box. If you’re on a road trip with frequent stop over’s, do you want to unload the soft box every time you park up for the night?
- Price – These items can be quite an investment! The soft bag style products are always going to be cheaper, so if you’re not going to use the box very often, they could be the better choice. A hard style box is more expensive but it will generally be much longer lasting, making it more of a long term investment and also the better choice for frequent use.
Attaching a Cargo Box to Your Car
Attaching a cargo box is relatively straightforward, though given the weight of most of them – especially the hard ones – it might be best to rope in a second person to help.
This video guide here, despite being made by Toyota, actually applies to near enough most models of car and cargo box. It’s also made by Toyota UK, so bonus points in that the narrator has a relaxing, British accent. It’s like having a James Bond villain teach you how to install your cargo box.
The soft style boxes, because of the different amount and placement of straps, will all have their own instruction methods. Generally speaking they are also pretty simple, just make sure to read the enclosed instructions thoroughly.