Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much space you appear to have in your car or how big it is; there just isn’t enough to fit everything in. That’s when you need to consider a car top carrier.
You could, of course, opt to tow a trailer behind you. However, this will generally slow you down and be more inconvenient that the car top carrier. There are also more safety issues when towing a trailer and potential problems when looking for parking spaces. It is important you be aware of the potential safety issues before you start using your rooftop carrier.
In fact, that’s the beauty of the car top carrier, it is relatively easy to fit into place and you’ll barely notice it when driving. But, it will provide you with a huge amount of extra space.
But this is where the problem also starts! There are hundreds of different manufacturers; all offering a range of products designed to meet your specific needs. You’ll recognize some of the mainstream manufacturers such as Thule. However, there are plenty of other manufacturers which offer quality products even if they are not so well known.
Then there is also the debate over the size of the car top carrier you need and whether to go for a soft one, hard one or one that only occupies half your roof. These can be particularly useful if you often find yourself carrying a bike on the roof as well.
There are 2 Main Types of Roof Carriers:
This is often referred to as a rooftop bag. They are more like a bag mounted onto your roof bars; they do not generally need crossbars as well. Most of them are waterproof and simply zip closed. These are generally the cheaper option and can be folded away when not in use.
However, these are not always as durable as the hard top option and don’t generally offer as much security. They are great for occasional use when the weather is not too bad.
This is probably what you first thought of when you started to consider a car top carrier. These are generally made of hard plastic which offers great weather protection. The predefined shape remains the same no matter what you’re carrying; helping to boost the aerodynamics of your vehicle. These rooftop carriers tend to be more expensive but they are extremely durable and can be locked to your vehicle as well as having a good level of security themselves.
Of course, these do need to be mounted on crossbars; you can’t have a hard box resting on the roof of your car. It is worth noting that the hard top takes longer to install and you may need specialist racks from the same manufacturer as your box.
Fortunately, this guide is here to help! We’ll take a look at the 5 best cargo bags for the roof of your car and the 5 best cargo boxes. This will help to ensure you choose the right product for your needs. Alongside this, there is an extremely helpful guide to purchasing the right rooftop carrier. There are many things you should consider before you commit to purchasing a product.
The 5 Best Roof Top Cargo Bags:
This soft rooftop carrier from Keeper offers an impressive 15 cubic feet of space and is designed to fit any type of roof rack.
It is necessary to have cross bars on your vehicle to ensure the bag is fully secured. There are 8 tie down points, two on each side of the bag. This means you’ll be able to secure it on all sides to your existing roof bars; ensuring the bag won’t move no matter what your style of driving is. The tie downs are all buckle style clips with adjusters. However, you can also purchase additional straps to go over the entire bag; but these are extra and shouldn’t be needed.
Each of the tie down straps simply clip together and can be fully adjusted to make sure your load is properly positioned and secure. You can choose not to use cross bars but you may find the load moves and there is an undue strain on the other mounting points. It is possible to put a liner under this roof bag to help prevent it from sliding; although this is a personal decision.
The keeper 07203-1 is designed to be fully waterproof; protecting your valuable contents from the rain and the sun as well as road debris. The fact that it is a soft bag means that it can easily adapt to fit almost any object. The heavy duty construction ensures the material doesn’t rip easily.
It weighs just 5.25 pounds and measures 44 x 34 x 17 inches and when not in use you can simply fold it up. You’ll be surprised at how small it becomes and how easy it is to store somewhere in your home or garage.
It is important to note that this roof bag has a covering flap; this must be used if you wish to protect your belongings from rain and other inclement weather. Of course, being a soft bag there is the potential for it to roll at the sides; especially if you’ve not packed it to bursting point. This shouldn’t affect the handling of your vehicle or its ability to protect your items but it may increase the chance of items becoming damaged.
This is an excellent product for a surprisingly reasonable price. In fact, it is one of the best selling soft shelled carriers currently available and with good reason! It also comes with a comprehensive warranty that should provide you with some peace of mind when undertaking a long road trip.
The second offering on this list also offers you 15 cubic feet of space. It is made in a stylish black with the name of the supplier emblazoned across the top of the bag at one end. It is worth noting that you can purchase this bag in an 11 cubic feet option as well; you can even opt to have the bag in gray.
The Roofbag is exceptionally easy to fit to your vehicle. It is designed to ft straight onto your roof or you can use it with roof bars, cross bars and even a roof basket! Again, putting a liner under the bag will help to prevent it moving while you’re driving. It is possible to purchase one of these from the supplier but they are an extra.
The bag itself is made from double coated vinyl. This is designed to withstand abrasions; it won’t rip and the material won’t peel. Despite being a bag the design has been optimized to improve the aerodynamics of your vehicle. This reduces wind noise, drag and fuel consumption.
The fabric has also been treated to ensure it is waterproof and can withstand extreme temperatures; it is just at home in the snow as by the beach. Even continual sun exposure should not affect the performance of color of this roof bag.
Roofbag have also worked hard to make sure this bag appeals to the environmentally conscious. It is certified to have no toxic chemicals, no BPA and to be fire resistant.
What’s more the straps have been tested to ensure they can secure loads up to 3,000 pounds; that’s a lot more than you’ll be putting on your roof! The 15 is designed to fit larger vehicles, such as a full size sedan or SUV. If you have a smaller car you’ll need to choose the Roofbag 11. The installation of this roof top carrier depends on what you are fastening it to. If you have no rails then the straps will need to go inside the car; you’ll have to close the doors onto the straps to prevent the roof box from moving.
Should you be using just side rails then the straps can be secured to these on the left and the right. Alternatively you can use the cross bars and secure the bag at the front and the rear. The straps are exceptionally strong but easy to adjust; they use a buckle clip and a straightforward adjuster. You’ll have it positioned on your car roof in virtually no time.
The bag weighs 9.1 pounds and measures 48 x 38 x 18 inches; again you can fold it up when not in use. It is important to be aware that it comes with a 1 year manufacturer’s warranty against defect; you shouldn’t need it!
The Rightline Gear 100S30 is a roof bag offering an impressive 18 cubic feet of space. There are other options from this manufacturer; the smallest is just 9 cubic feet and they also offer a 12 cubic feet and a 15 cubic feet.
This roof bag is huge! It measures 48 x 40 x 19 inches and will swallow anything you want to carry. Again, being a soft bag it can flex slightly allowing you to add unconventional loads. This could be helpful for those skis on the way to the snow covered mountains!
The bag is built from durable vinyl which is waterproof and fairly resistant to most types of debris and dirt. It uses dual seam technology to help ensure that your items stay dry; no matter how bad the weather is. Alongside this it use a urethane coated zipper. This is inside a protective flap but is highly unlikely to break or let any water in to damage your contents.
The Rightline can be used with a roof bar system or without. Of course, a roof liner is a useful investment to protect your roof and help prevent the bag from slipping. It can be safely used on virtually any type of vehicle.
The bag is secured to your roof via 4 attachment straps and their associated clips. There are two on each side which can be easily adjusted to suit your needs. The straps attach to the clips which hook onto the frame of your car; before you close the doors. This will hold the bag safe while you drive. These clips can also attach the bag to your roof bar system. Full instructions regarding the different fitting methods are included with the bag.
You’ll also benefit from a useful stuff sack which you can fold, roll or literally stuff the bag into when you’re not using it.
The bag weighs a reasonable 8.6 pounds. When folded it measures an impressive 14 x 12 x 6 inches; you can store that somewhere and lose it! It is designed to maximize the aerodynamics of your vehicle without creating any unnecessary wind noise. The manufacturer does recommend that the front of the bag be full to ensure it is in contact with you roof. This will drastically reduce the wind noise and the feeling of drag as you drive.
To give you an idea of just how big this roof bag is; you should be able to put 12 carry on size bags inside it!
It has to be said that this bag displays a startling amount of similarities to the Roofbag offering. However, there are some critical differences. The first of these is that this bag is specifically designed to be used with roof bars or a roof basket. It is not intended to be placed directly onto the roof of your vehicle.
Ideally you’ll need cross bars located at the beginning and end of the Vault roof bag. This will allow you to use the ratchet straps included to secure the bag to your vehicle. It is actually very easy to install. The Vault roof top carrier bag is actually made from heavy duty canvas. This has been treated to ensure it is waterproof and will resist abrasions as well as rips. Of course, you won’t be able to keep the dead bugs off of it!
It is designed to hold an impressive 15 cubic feet; ensuring you has enough to meet all your needs. Again, the softness of the material will allow you to add abnormal loads and still get them securely to their destination. The bag weighs just 6.39 pounds and measures 13.2 x 12.1 x 5.8 inches when delivered. This is how small you can fold it up if you need to. Once on your roof it opens up to a maximum of 44 x 34 x 17 inches!
It uses a double zip system which allows you to lock them together; preventing anyone from taking a peak at your belongings. Of cure, they could just cut the straps but they may find it is a serious weight to lift off your roof when full! The zips are also covered by a rain flap to help ensure that your belongings stay dry no matter how bad the weather gets. There are even handy pulls attached to the zips; making opening and closing easier.
The straps are positioned at the front and rear of the bag. You simply need to wrap them round the crossbars and adjust them tight onto the buckles. This will ensure the bag stays in place no matter what your trip is like. You can add additional ratchet straps across the top of the bag and round your roof rails if you wish but this should not be necessary.
Because it rests on the cross bars this bag does not need to be loaded heavily at the front; wind noise will already be at a minimum so you can spread the weight of any load.
The whistler can be used with your car without a rack fitted. In fact, this bundle provides everything you need to get the roof bag onto your roof and ready to go in just a few minutes.
It comes with a useful nnon-sliproof mat that protects your roof while preventing the roof bag from sliding. You also get a convenient storage bag to pack the Whistler into when you’re not using it. The bag itself offers 15 cubic feet of space and can be fitted to any car, SUV or even a van.
It is made from heavy duty tarpaulin which is extremely tough; providing you with long term durability. It is unlikely to rip or suffer from abrasions and it is 100% waterproof. Your belongings should arrive at your destination in the same condition as they left. Even if you’re driving in a hail storm or snow!
The bag is also designed as a premium product. It is fastened to your vehicle with cam buckle straps. The buckles are metal and easy to adjust but offer a great deal of strength; ensuring your bag is securely positioned.
Perhaps the most impressive part of this roof bag is actually the guarantee offered by the manufacturer! They provide a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you are not happy or the product is faulty within the first year then you can have your money back! That’s a pretty impressive guarantee and a good reason to test this product.
When folded the bag is 14 x 10.1 x 7.8 inches and weighs just 8 pounds. However, once you open it out you’ll be impressed to see that it measures 44 x 34 x 17 inches. You can only buy it in black. The bag closes with a zip which is tucked underneath a rain cover. This rain cover actually Velcro’s shut itself; making sure that the weather cannot get inside your bag.
The straps are attached to the sides of this bag. If you don’t have a roof rack you’ll need to pass these through the open doors and then pull them tight before closing the doors. They are thin enough to go between your door and frame without affecting the car but still strong enough to hold your bag in position for even the longest of drives.
Of course, it is worth noting that loading the front of the bag will help to ensure the wind noise is kept to a minimum when driving.
However, you should be aware that in really heavy, continuous rain the straps can get saturated. If you have them through the doors of your car then this could mean the inside of your car receives the drips; while the items in your roof bag stay dry!
The 5 Best Roof Top Cargo Boxes:
If you’re not sure that the roof bag is the right solution for your needs and you have additional funds available then these roof top cargo boxes are an idea step up.
The 5 Best Roof Top Cargo Boxes:
There is no doubt that this is a stylish cargo box designed to minimize aerodynamic disturbance in your vehicle. Its sleek lines make it a very attractive addition to the roof of any vehicle. However, you will need roof bars to secure this box properly!
The box is made from ABS plastic which is not only very strong but is also UV resistant. This will protect the items inside the box and stop the box from fading over time. The box opens at the rear; this ensures you are out of the traffic flow and, if necessary, can even stand on the bumper to get into the box.
The lid will stay open by itself; allowing you to access your belongings. When it closes it overlaps the base; ensuring a waterproof seal. It offers an impressive 18 cubic feet of space and measures 19 x 64 x 39 inches (H x L x W). It should be noted that the box weighs 42 pounds; you may want some assistance when lifting it onto your vehicle; it is bulky as well as weighty! Of course, this helps to hold it in place while you drive.
It is also important to be aware that the box will hold a maximum of 100 pounds of weight. The latch at the rear of the box has a built in locking mechanism helping to keep your items safe. It is also possible to lock the box to your roof bars but you’ll need to get this as an extra.
Another great feature of this roof box is that you don’t need to purchase matching SportRack bars. The box can be fitted to factory bars and most other systems whether they are square or round. Of course you can purchase SportRack bars and you do need to be aware that the minimum load bar spread is 23 5/8 inches.
Adding the box to your roof bars, once you’ve fitted them, is very easy. Simply slide a U bolt (included with your purchase), round the roof bar and through the holes in the roof box. You can then add the quick release nuts to the bolts. The nuts are threaded on inside the roof box; ensuring that they cannot be undone without first getting inside the cargo box.
Of course the cargo box is fully waterproof and SportRack will also give the first owner a lifetime warranty against defects. This warranty cannot be transferred to a second owner.
It’s not surprising to find a Thule roof box in this list. They are one of the best-known brands and have been making roof boxes and other vehicle accessories for many years. The Force cargo box is available in just one color; black. In fact the outside skin is diamond textured; specifically designed to improve the aerodynamics of your car. While it may not be possible to eliminate drag completely this box is going to get you as close to it as possible!
The box opens at the side but impressively you can select which side to open it from; this means you can always stay out of the traffic no matter what country you’re in. Of course, you’ll need to load it evenly to ensure access from either side is possible.
Once opened the box will keep itself open. The lid is fractionally wider than the base to ensure there is no chance of rain getting inside the box. You’ll also note there is an extra large lock on the Force. This is simply to make sure the box is as safe as possible from anyone with dishonorable intentions.
You do need to have cross bars to mount this box. However, getting it into position and securing it is surprisingly easy. Simply position your box and then tighten the quick grip knobs inside the bix. They will clamp onto the roof bars holding the box safely and securely in place.
You should be able to install it in less than five minutes!
The Force actually comes in a variety of choices; all have the same features the main difference is the space inside:
- Thule Force M – 13 cubic feet, weight 35 pounds: 65 x 34.5 x 16 inches.
- Thule Force L – 16 cubic feet, weight 39 pounds: 74 x 36 x 16.5 inches.
- Thule Force XL – 17 cubic feet, weight 44 pounds: 84 x 34.5 x 17 inches.
- Thule Force XXL – 21 cubic feet, weight 56 pounds: 92.5 x 36 x 18 inches.
All of the Force cargo boxes can accommodate 110 pounds in weight and come with locks included and one key system. This makes them one of the most versatile boxes currently available on the market; you can even attach skis to the top of them!
It is worth noting that even the longest of these boxes will still allow you to open your tailgate and make the most of all the space you have available.
Unsurprisingly this box is made from 80% carbonite; hence the name. This material is known to be extremely strong and waterproof. It is also very light; making it exceptionally good for on top of your vehicle. This box is made from 80% recycled material; you are certainly doing your part for the environment. The use of carbonite gives the box a slightly dimpled effect; this adds to the style; setting it apart from much of the competition.
Of course, the box offers 100% waterproof protection to everything inside it. The fact that the upper section has a lip to extend the lid wider than the base helps to ensure water cannot get in. You don’t need to do any maintenance to keep this box in excellent condition, except perhaps the odd bit of grease on the opening sliders.
This box is similar to the Thule Force in that it can be opened on either side. Again this is a great safety feature as you can always access your items no matter where you are parked or what the traffic is doing. It shouldn’t interfere with your boot and even your sunroof should still be usable.
There is 18 cubic feet of space inside this box, plenty enough to store all you might need for an extended holiday or even day to day use. The box measures 93 inches long, 36 inches wide and 16 inches deep. It does weigh a hefty 69 pounds; you are likely to need help maneuvering it into position on your car.
There is a high-tech closing and locking system built into the box, allowing you to leave your car with peace of mind. Simply turn the handle and then lock. You can also get locks to secure the box to the rack if required.
Fitting the box to your car is surprisingly easy. It is designed to fit most roof bars on the market. Simply position the box and then tighten the clamps through the box onto the roof bars. Again, it’s not possible to remove the box without first getting inside it.
It is worth noting that although this is an excellent box there is only 13 inches available to load through when the box is open. This may seem like a large amount but you will struggle with large suitcases. The box itself with handle 100 pounds; you won’t have an issue with carrying everything; just sliding it in!
Thule can cement its reputation as the premium manufacturer of cargo boxes and bike racks just by looking at the finish on the 615 Pulse. It is matt black and yet has a shine that gives it a truly stunning edge.
The box itself is made from ABS; a material that is environmentally friendly, durable and extremely rugged. It is possible that your Thule cargo box could survive a crash better than your actual vehicle! The box will certainly ensure that everything inside it is both protected and remains dry; even in the worst of storms.
It is big enough to accommodate your needs as it offers 14 cubic feet of space. But, at the same time, this makes it small enough to be fitted to a small sedan, as well as full-size ones, SUV’s and vans. The box can handle a maximum weight of 110 pounds and weighs a reasonable 34 pounds itself. A Pulse 615 is 67 inches long, 35 inches wide and 16 inches deep; you won’t have a problem getting your suitcase in this one!
Unlike the Thule Force, this box only offers single-sided opening; on the passenger side. In most cases this will suffice however you will have to exercise care if you are parked on the wrong side of the road or traffic is passing you for some other reason.
The Pulse is similar to the Force in that it utilizes the easy grip mounting knobs. All you need to do is position the box where you want it on the roof bars and then tighten the knob from inside the box. It will clamp around the roof rail; securing the box in place. Of course, there are four easy-grip knobs to ensure the box will not move in transit.
These knobs can only be accessed when the box is empty; making it extremely difficult to remove the box without your consent. Alongside this, there is Thule’s patented SecureLock technology. This built-in lock secures the lid to the base. Of course, in keeping with all the other best cargo boxes, the lid over encloses the base; preventing any water from entering.
The good news is that while you can purchase Thule roof bars you don’t need to. This box and the fitting system should connect with virtually any factory rail bar including circular and square ones.
The Pulse 615 will fit almost any vehicle potentially making it the best choice if you are likely to be putting it on different cars.
Another offering from Yakima shows why this manufacturer deserves to be on this list; they are certainly rivaling Thule as one of the best manufacturers of Cargo boxes currently in existence!
This is an incredibly stylish looking box. It is available in black, a common feature of most roof boxes. The front has the traditional slope to encourage air to move over the box and under it; reducing any additional drag on your car. It has even adopted a larger hatch clearance in a bid to make it more attractive and practical when fitted to smaller vehicles.
It is not the largest on the market as it offers just 11 cubic feet of space. However, this is still a lot of space and probably more than you’ll need. The fact that you can open this box from either side is a testimony to the fact Yakima has considered the consumer as much as humanly possible. Included with your purchase are SKS lock cores to mount on the roof box. Combine this with a simple, but effective push button and your box are safely locked to itself and to the car.
You can purchase Yakima bars for this box but it is designed to operate effectively with factory bars, square ones, and even aerodynamic ones. If you already have a roof bar system then this box should fit it.
The box itself is actually quite skinny, this is specifically to make it usable by sports enthusiasts as well as the average person. There is enough room to mount your bike or skis next to the box and you don’t have to worry about which side they go as you can access this box from both sides!
The actual dimensions are: Length 89 inches, width 24 inches and a depth of 16 inches. It weighs an impressive 38 pounds. The Yakima RocketBox Pro is made from 80% recycled material, injection molded ABS plastic to be precise. It is fully waterproof and comes with a limited lifetime warranty. This covers the first owner against all defects not a result of wear and tear. If you decide to sell the box the warranty is not transferable.
It is worth noting that the box only opens approximately 6 inches at first. You can then remove the side supports by clicking them out; this will allow the lid to open fully and you to put all your gear in. The limited opening is a security measure should you accidentally open it; you won’t lose all your stuff!
Your Guide To Buying The Right Roof Top Carrier
Discovering the best 5 roof bags and roof boxes are great. But, before you rush out and purchase your favorite looking one or the cheapest option on the best list, you should consider the following factors. They will help you to get the right box for your needs today and in the future.
Your Size Needs
How many people are there traveling in your car? If there are just two of you and dogs then the roof box doesn’t need to be large; it is simply replacing the boot.
However, if there are 4 or 5 of you and the boot is already full you need to get the largest box you can afford which will fit your car. This will give you the best chance possible of having enough space for everything!
You should consider what budget you have available to purchase a roof box with and how quickly you need the box.
Even the most expensive options on this list can be purchased for less than 4 digits; including buying rails if necessary. This is considerably cheaper than replacing your vehicle!
However, if you plan ahead you can budget to purchase any of these boxes. The real question then becomes how much are you going to use it? The less you use it the better it is to buy at the budget end of the scale. These boxes can be just as good as the premium ones.
Roof box manufacturers tend to consider the aerodynamics of their boxes before they release them for sale. However, it is worth considering what you’ll be carrying and how it may affect the miles per gallon of your vehicle.
In general, the roof bags are less aerodynamic as they can be molded into a variety of shapes. You also need to load these at the front; the better they connect to the car the more streamlined your vehicle will be and the less noise you’ll experience when driving.
If you think you’re going to use your roof carrier a lot then the box may be a better option than the bag; it has better security, aerodynamics and even looks better. But it is more expensive.
The reputation of some manufacturers, such as Thule, precedes them. However, if you are considering a lesser known brand then you may want to verify that the product is as good as you think it is.
Check with your friends and look at social media sites to see what people who have used the specific product have to say. Not all reviews will be positive but the majority of them should be!
The material that your box or bag is made from is important. It should be waterproof and durable; giving you years of service. It is also possible to get boxes made from recycled material. If you are concerned about the environment this may be the most sensible option.
Whichever option you select you to need to make sure the box or bag is abrasion proof; this will prevent it from getting damaged just because you accidentally dragged it along the ground.
Ease Of Access
Depending on the height of your vehicle your roof box/bag may be difficult to get into. Some manufacturers create rear opening boxes for safety reasons. The theory is that you can stand on your bumper to access the box. However, this may not be an option if your bumper is not strong enough or a spoiler gets in the way.
A side loading box is usually easier to access as you can stand on the sill of the car. Of course, this means having the door open and you’ll need to consider if this affects how well secured the bag is on your roof.
Assembly & Mounting
Some people choose to leave their cargo box on the roof all the time. In this case, you probably won’t be worried about how easy it is to put it on and off.
However, most people fit the box when they need it and then remove it. In this instance, it is advisable to choose a box that is easy to fit your vehicle. The easy grip knobs on Thule boxes are a good example of this.
The reason behind this is simple; you want to be able to add your box and get it loaded with the minimal of fuzz; don’t choose a box that is unnecessarily complicated!
In line with how much you use your box, you have to consider the fact that a box is a large item and rigid. While a bag can be folded into a small space and tucked away the same is not true for your roof box.
Before you choose which is right for you consider where you will keep your roof box or bag when you’re not using it. You’ll need enough space to keep it safe without being a hazard to you or your family. If storage is an issue then a roof bag may be the best solution for you.
Cargo boxes tend to be more secure. They usually have locks on them and can be locked to your roof rails. The roof bags can be locked if they have a dual zip feature. However, it is possible to cut the securing straps or even slash the bag itself in order to get at the contents.
You may wish to consider where you are likely to be driving and how often you will be leaving the car parked up with the box or bag on.
If you leave it often a box is probably the better option for you, or you’ll need to unpack it and remove it every time!
You should also consider your personal preference! Just because a roof bag is the best option for you does not mean that that is the one you have to buy. Choose one that reflects your style, your vehicle and what you are comfortable with. That will make sure you actually use the roof box or bag as opposed to avoiding it.
Summing It All Up
Having a car top carrier gives you a huge amount of additional space; enabling you to carry vacation clothes, sports equipment or any manner of other things. They are a great asset and help you avoid the need to replace your vehicle when it is not really necessary.
However, it is important to consider carefully before you select the right roof box or bag for your needs. This guide has shown you the best 5 roof bags and 5 roof boxes. All you need to do now is consider what really fits your needs and then get the car top carrier that will last you for years to come!