Even with the largest vehicles, storage space will never be enough, especially for families or when traveling in groups. When hitch carriers won’t do, the next best option for cargo transportation is your vehicle’s roof. Rooftop cargo bags offer protection and security to roof-mounted cargo, whether camping equipment, outdoor, or sports gear – an excellent investment for any frequent traveling and outdoorsy family.
Rooftop cargo carrier bags come in various sizes and shapes. Most of these are quality-made, durable and waterproof. These bags offer fantastic protection against traveling wear-and-tear and environmental damage.
You want a bag large enough to hold extra luggage, waterproof enough to keep everything dry, easy to install, and rugged enough to last through demanding trips. The Roofbag cargo carrier exceeds all these categories and stands above the competition, making it the recipient of our Best overall cargo bag award.
What Is a Rooftop Cargo Bag?
A rooftop cargo bag provides extra temporary storage for your vehicle. Generally made from strong, durable, and weather-proof materials, they protect your belongings. They are easier to store and much more affordable than their hardshell cargo box counterparts. These are an excellent option for people that want a fast solution for lack of storage in the car.
Advantages and Disadvantages of a Rooftop Cargo Bag
There are many advantages to rooftop bags.
- Quick and easy installation.
- More affordable and versatile than cargo boxes.
- Most of them are waterproof to be used in different weather conditions.
Like in everything, there are some disadvantages.
- Car bags are not hardshell; therefore, driving is less fuel-efficient if they don’t have an aerodynamic design.
The Best Overall Rooftop Cargo Bag Is the Roofbag Cargo Carrier
When searching for a rooftop cargo carrier bag, a few components should be at the top of the list. You want a bag large enough to hold extra luggage, waterproof enough to keep everything dry, easy to install, and rugged enough to last through demanding trips. The Roofbag cargo carrier exceeds all these categories and stands above the competition, making it the recipient of our Best overall cargo bag award.
Rooftop cargo bags are not small but installing one shouldn’t be an arduous process. The Roofbag cargo carrier comes with an abrasion pad and straps and fits most car types, with or without roof racks. If adjusted correctly, you should be done setting it up in minutes.
This isn’t a huge downside, but the roof bag comes in two sizes, 11 and 15 cubic feet. Compared to other offerings, these sizes fall right in the middle, so the bag can handle a decent amount of luggage but isn’t the largest rooftop cargo bag there.
If the bag is over-filled or something impedes the track, you risk the zipper failing or popping off the way. Avoid this by packing similarly sized items and avoiding overstuffing. I also used extra straps to cinch everything down; the included straps worked fine, and I didn’t notice any wear, but peace of mind came with a couple of extras, especially when driving fast.
For the vast majority of environmental conditions I encountered, the bag’s contents remained dry and sturdy. Even during extreme situations, the bag held up. The weaker elements around the zipper are primarily protected by 3-inch flaps and no exposed stitching. Make sure to position the zippers facing the back of the car; this way, the wind doesn’t lift up the flap and let rain settle around the zipper track.
The peel-proof, heavy-duty fabric can handle a lot of strain. This waterproof rooftop cargo carrier bag will accompany you on many trips and through various conditions without the significant wear and tear expected in lesser products.
The Roofbag Carrier Bag works best when filled close to capacity (think 70-95%). If you’re using the bag to transport a small number of items, they may slide to the back of the bag, putting more pressure on the zipper. The uneven shape of the pack may also lead to more flapping. While initially harmless (despite the sound), excessive flapping can accelerate material rubbing against the straps, which impacts the effectiveness of the waterproofing.
Rooftop cargo carrier bags fit in a unique category, more malleable than hardtop covers, but leagues cheaper and able to hold up well under road trip strain. Best among the offerings, the Roofbag cargo carrier is sure to please, with a capacity of up to 15 cubic feet. It has an abrasion pad and straps that limit scratches and rubbing against the roof of your car and material that is reliable and as close to waterproof as any carrier bag will get.
Asani Cargo Carrier Bag Is the Best Budget Option
Life is expensive, which makes budget items all the more attractive. However, the budget category is full of products that cost less but may fall apart much quicker; there’s usually a tradeoff between quality and price. While the Asani rooftop cargo carrier bag may not be the absolute best carrier bag, I found far fewer downsides to this option than comparable products. The versatile bag has earned our award for best budget cargo bag and can support a variety of endeavors without draining your wallet.
2. Asani Cargo Carrier Bag
44 x 34 x 17 Inches
The price is the most significant selling point. A quick glance lets you know this rooftop carrier cargo bag is about half the cost of more expensive varieties.
The Asani cargo carrier bag was surprisingly tough compared to its competitors and held up under scrutiny for several long road trips. The material is durable, and the size is perfectly adequate at 15 cubic feet.
The bag is easy to attach to most roof racks but falls short in providing an option for cars without racks. Additionally, while the bag works well for roof rack rails, it doesn’t fit as well if you only have crossbars. Get a roof basket to help alleviate the uncomfortable fit on crossbars, or limit its use to cars with roof rack rails.
The straps keep the bag locked in place but tightening them is a chore, and any extra slack will bat against the roof of the car unless you find a way to cinch or tie it down. The Velcro loses its grip under intense sunlight and accelerates the wear and tear on the bag.
The bag held up surprisingly well for the vast majority of uses in the rain. This rooftop cargo bag is effectively waterproof if all components are working together. In high-stress environments or deluges, water may leak in. The material, while perfectly suitable for paved roads, will not perform as well on dirt roads in the backcountry. Scratchy pine trees can rip holes into the exterior, and excessive bouncing or dust can reduce the effectiveness of both the Velcro and the straps.
If you’re on a budget and need extra space for an upcoming adventure, the Asani Cargo Carrier Bag should be at the top of your list. For the reduced price, you get the satisfaction of a large space to store additional luggage, a reliable water seal, and durable material. This choice doesn’t stack against the more expensive varieties in extended, high-stress environments, but if you use a rooftop cargo bag irregularly, it performs well and saves you money.
For the Best Heavy-Duty Cargo Bag, Get the Smashier Rooftop Cargo Carrier Bag
For the wayward soul among us, the siren song of the road is hard to ignore. Embrace exploration and travel with peace of mind, knowing whatever nature decides to hurl your way, the heavy-duty Smashier rooftop carrier bag can handle it. When I’m headed into the backcountry, this is the carrier bag I bring.
3. Smashier Rooftop Cargo Carrier Bag
55 x 39 x 17 Inches
The Smashier rooftop cargo carrier bag is made from military-grade nylon fabric and can withstand almost everything mother nature can chuck its way. Like similar models, the zippers are weak, but big Velcro flaps hide the zipper track from rain and debris, and all the straps cinch to various points on the bag, creating much less flapping at high speeds. I liked how smooth the driving felt with this rooftop carrier bag at highway speeds.
However, installation is more complicated than other models. There are more straps to deal with, and for shorter people, it may be hard to adjust the carrier or lift bags into the carrier once it is fastened to the car’s roof. Filling the bag before hoisting it up will likely require 2+ people. At nearly 10 pounds empty, the bag’s weight is heavier than similar models.
With six connecting points for various straps (2 straps to a connection point), you really sense that when this bad boy is cinched down, it’s not going anywhere. The placement of the straps also helps reduce rubbing and fading of the nylon, so the waterproofing component isn’t compromised. With options of 16 cubic feet or 21 cubic feet, it offers more space than the average carrier bag and can easily alleviate packing pressure of all kinds.
Too much stress on the zipper will cause breaks and tears. Remember when stuffing any carrier bag not to overfill the contents, and make sure to line up the top and bottom to the best of your ability before zipping. This is a supremely durable rooftop cargo bag option, but it requires less aggression to zip up than one may think.
With a price under 70 USD, this cargo bag is half as expensive as our pick for best overall and feels like a steal for what you get. Remember to follow all of the recommendations when setting it up to maximize the bag’s lifespan, including proper use of the non-slip carpet pad to prevent scratching the top of your car.
Some adventures are more challenging than others; in those cases, you want something that won’t rip or fray under stress: enter the Smashier rooftop cargo carrier bag. All the rooftop cargo bags we recommend stand up to duress on road trips but if you need one that’s tougher than the rest for camping, off-roading, or transporting, consider our award recipient for best heavy-duty cargo bag.
The Vetoos Rooftop Cargo Carrier Bag Is the Best Oversized Option
While all carrier bags allow users to bring extra luggage, sometimes you need more than the standard 11-16 cubic feet of space. For a family between 3-6 members, space comes at a premium, and that’s where the Vetoos car rooftop cargo carrier bag carries the torch. Specifically designed for lots and lots (and lots) of stuff, this carrier bag is our choice for the Best oversized cargo carrier bag.
4. Vetoos Rooftop Cargo Carrier Bag
52 x 39.5 x 17.5 Inches
The Vetoos rooftop cargo carrier is a LARGE bag at 21 cubic feet, even compared to some of this article’s other sizable rooftop carrier bags. I had no trouble fitting 6 medium bags (suitcases and duffels), a tent, and two foldable lawn chairs; the bag could’ve accommodated more easily. It pairs well with most cars, with or without roof racks. There wasn’t much-added cost (time or labor) when fitting this carrier to cars without roof attachments.
The 4.7-inch zipper flap, designed to fold over the zipper track, is much larger than comparable models, giving rain less chance to get in. The protective mat is a good inclusion, along with four straps (one for each corner) that help cinch everything down. You can also easily fold the carrier bag into the case, another plus.
The bag held up really well in the rain but suffered under wild temperature variations, which created some fabric tearing. I discovered the tears while driving through arid landscapes after cresting a snowy mountain pass. It was an easy duct tape fix but potentially problematic if you use the bag often and for demanding trips.
Initially, the bag fit along my roof rails, but after lots of flapping noises (and a drain on gas), I had to pull over to make adjustments. Re-cinching the straps, especially if the bag is less full, was a critical move. The bag held to the rails easily but migrated to the rear of the setup. Once I adjusted everything, I drove for hours without worry, but giving the setup a good trial run before committing to hours on the road made all the difference.
Many promotional pictures of this product indicate that, at full capacity, the bag holds a squarish shape (rounded off at the corners). If the images are to be believed, it’s close to a hard shell; this is incorrect. The bag is strong, but it is a softshell carrier bag and will not look like the advertisements when filled.
For the Best Compact Option, Get the Rightline Gear Car Top Carrier
Recipient of our award for best compact cargo bag, the Rightline carrier provides the best option for smaller cars with or without roof racks. As an added bonus, you get reliable waterproofing and three different sizes to fit all sorts of rooftops. The price is right in the middle of the pack compared to its peers, and it feels like a good value for what you pay. Keep in mind that the rooftop pad (which I think is fairly crucial) has to be bought separately, and make sure to tie off your strap tail ends, or they’ll create extra noise and drag when you drive.
5. Rightline Gear Car Top Carrier
36 x 30 x 16 Inches
The Rightline Gear cartop carrier bag comes in three size options, the smallest being 10 cubic feet, and the largest at 18 cubic feet. There’s also a 15 cubic foot option, so a lot of built-in versatility based on your needs.
If you’re not going to fill up the cargo bag to near capacity, it’s best to leave it off the car. When filled below half, cinching down straps becomes more challenging, wear and tear easier, and in some cases, the bag can fly straight off of its mount. If you only use this rooftop carrier bag for small loads, be cautious, adjust often, and drive slowly.
Like other entries in our article, this rooftop cargo bag works with or without a roof rack, so installation isn’t limited to car type, another boon to the bag’s versatility.
The cargo mat is pretty critical to stopping the bag from sliding around and potentially scratching or damaging the roof. If it was included, this package would absolutely sing, but as it stands, the mat is an extra purchase and one you really want to consider spending money on.
The material holds up under various weather situations, including heavy downpours, and the design of the waterproof zipper means no velcro flap to deal with. It’s a simplified design but very effective in repelling moisture and keeping contents dry.
This is a separate point from the waterproofing. Straps need to be hooked into the car in cases without a roof rack. Moisture managed to travel down the length of the straps, into the car, and onto seatbelts and seats. The overall amount was relatively low, but the inconvenience of having water leak into your vehicle during a storm is a negative.
Trends in the auto industry seem to be heading in a few directions, namely greener and more compact. In highly populated areas, a compact car seems like a no-brainer but exacerbates the problem of too little space for road trips. Many of the other rooftop cargo bags we recommend are simply too large to effectively fit on top of a compact car, but that’s where the Rightline gear car top carrier comes through in a big way.
The Midabao Rooftop Carrier Bag Is the Best Waterproof Option
For extra space during long road excursions, check out the MIDABAO waterproof rooftop carrier if you need a malleable, soft-cover bag. Now, I don’t use rooftop cargo bags every day, but I can think of a few things as frustrating as packing 90% of your gear for a long trip only to realize the rest isn’t going to fit, no matter how much you cram. Don’t make the same mistake twice; the MIDABAO waterproof rooftop cargo bag nails the trifecta of great size, easy installation, and water resistance.
6. MIDABAO Waterproof Rooftop Carrier
51 x 39 x 17 Inches
This rooftop cargo bag is BIG. At over 20 cubic feet, you can fit a cornucopia of things in there, from multiple hardcover luggage pieces to duffle bags and sports equipment. Of all the rooftop cargo bag options I looked at, the MIDABAO stood out for its easy-to-use design. Installation is a breeze, and the bag is compatible with cars that don’t have roof racks and those that do.
It’s not usually an immediate concern when buying rooftop cargo carrier bags, but some models create a lot of wind resistance which can impact overall drive efficiency and make unpleasant noises. If your road trip is more than a few hours long, cargo bag noises get annoying. The MIDABAO held up exceptionally well here, with minimal noise and air resistance for longer road trips when strapped down correctly.
I saw an ad that overtly references an included abrasion pad, this was not my experience. You can always buy one separately, but this marketing snafu could have the effect of disappointing future shoppers.
If you rely on rooftop cargo carrier bags frequently, as in, use them weekly, at some point, repeat use issues rear their head; this is true for all products across most disciplines. The most common issues I’ve noticed with the MIDABAO cargo bag are difficult zipping when the bag is stuffed, and a soft-shell design that is hard to keep center-mounted without enough weight in the bag.
While others in the waterproof category may hit one design feature flawlessly, they tend to fall apart when looking at the bigger picture. What’s nice about the MIDABAO is that it performs to a high standard through the lion’s share of environmental conditions you may encounter on the road. The size is a huge plus, and the level of waterproofing is consistent with its main soft-shell competitors. The price is good for the type of bag, the mounting is super easy, cars with and without car racks can use it, and the bag creates much less noise at high speeds than similar products.
Choosing the Best Rooftop Cargo Bag – A Buyer’s Guide
It’s always a good idea to do some research on key considerations to keep in mind, especially when investing in transportation accessories for your vehicle.
Like with all bags, you can choose between different carrying capacities. The most common and all-around size is around 15-20 cubic feet. If you are transporting a lot of cargo, choose a bigger rooftop carrier bag.
The largest size you can fit depends on the car’s roof dimensions. Whichever rooftop cargo carrier bag you choose, there will be a dimension of it, and you can measure if it works for you.
Of course, something that transports your luggage needs to be durable. Cargo bags need to be able to protect against harsh conditions such as rain, snow, UV rays, etc. Usually, the best materials or rooftop bags are synthetic.
It goes without saying that something that is loaded onto the exterior of your vehicle should have some level of waterproof abilities. Especially during the winter months, when rain and snowfall are a regular occurrence. Protecting your gear and luggage from water damage should be one of your top considerations when choosing the best rooftop cargo bag.
A good rooftop cargo carrier bag should have an aerodynamic shape. This will help minimize drag while driving, while the oncoming air pressure will stabilize the cargo load and bag.
Anti-theft features should also be considered, as you want to ensure that your belongings are fully protected. Some cargo carrier bags have additional security features or accessories such as locks to ensure that the bags can’t be opened or removed from your vehicle’s roof.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Rooftop Bags Safe?
Yes, they are safe to use. However, it is up to you how secure the bag will be. Ensure that there isn’t any part of the bag hanging over the sides of a roof. Also, pack your cargo tightly to prevent it from shifting around inside the bag while driving. Before embarking on your trip, ensure that all straps are properly tightened and secured. When driving under low-hanging structures, keep in mind that additional height is added to your vehicle through the rooftop cargo carrier bag.
How Can I Keep My Rooftop Cargo Bag From Making Road Noise?
The noise made from cargo bags can be due to bag shape or poor placement. Some noise can be while driving if your bag doesn’t have an aerodynamic design. If an aerodynamic design isn’t the case, the carrier bag probably isn’t secured correctly. A rooftop cargo bag often has a rubber placemat that prevents movement during transit and protects your roof. These also help to minimize road noise.
Can You Use a Rooftop Cargo Bag Without a Roof Rack?
While loading a rooftop cargo bag with a roof rack is much easier, roof racks are not always necessary. It mainly depends on the bag and its strapping and securing methods.