Editor’s Note – This list of the best cargo box was updated on March 24, 2023, to remove old listed products and improve content relevance and usefulness.
In an ideal world, one car could fit all of our supplies, but the reality is that car space runs out. If you need extra for your next adventure or road trip, consider buying a cargo box or a durable cargo bag.
A cargo box is specifically designed to increase a vehicle’s carrying capacity. It’s accessible and easy to install. However, with plenty of options in the market, often in the form of car top carriers, choosing the best one that fits your needs can be challenging. To make the decision-making process manageable, we’ve shortlisted the best roof cargo box in the market and a comprehensive buying guide.
SportRack Vista Cargo Box
Fits any bike. Versatile with high-quality components, fully supported by a lifetime warranty. Hard to beat.
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The SportRack Vista is a rear-opening rooftop cargo box. It gets the pick for the best overall cargo box due to its different crossbar compatibility, high-quality design, and generous storage space.
1. SportRack Vista Cargo Box
62.5 x 19 x 39 inches
This attribute-loaded option is our favorite. The SportRack has a sleek and lightweight design (28 lbs.) that shouldn’t negatively affect your gas mileage. Made from strong ABS plastic with a UV-resistant coating, the durability is also very high.
The shape of the cargo box minimizes air resistance due to its tapered aerodynamic front. And while the front is tapered, the curved back end of the box is easily large enough for you to store bigger and bulkier items. One small downside is the rear opening. It’s manageable without much fuss, but I could’ve used a handle to ease the process.
Installing the SportRack Vista is a straightforward process that utilizes a universal rack system. There aren’t many cross bars that this cargo box isn’t compatible with. The cargo box also comes with a key and lock to prevent valuables from being stolen.
The JEGS cargo carrier box is a safe and trustworthy bet if you want to save a few pennies. At $259.99, this is one of the most affordable cargo boxes, yet still offers quality design and practicality compared to more expensive brands like Thule and Yakima. Its large storage capacity of 18 cubic feet makes this a massive deal for bargain shoppers.
2. Jegs Rooftop Cargo Carrier
61.25 x 39 x 12 inches
The JEGS Rooftop Cargo Carrier is made with durable HDPE plastic, making it waterproof and capable of handling challenging weather. The plastic also has a UV-resistant coating, which helps it look brand new for a long time.
Loading and unloading your cargo is convenient with this cargo roof box because of the handy dual access feature. The lid is also easy to lift, so you don’t need much power or effort to get to your stored items. I love that you don’t need any special tools to install this storage solution. All the mounting hardware is included with the carrier.
Before settling on this option, measure the distance between your crossbars. The JEGS Rooftop Cargo Carrier works best with 24 inches between crossbars. If you have something significantly larger, like over 30 inches, it won’t fit.
You can’t go wrong with the Thule Force cargo roof box if you’re a loyal Thule fan. Its high-quality design is obvious from the start, considering its immaculate design and manufacturing. Offering a decent storage space of 16 cubic feet with additional benefits like the integrated quick mount system and its duel-opening hatch, this is one of the brand’s best cargo boxes, albeit in a much higher price range than other competitors.
3. Thule Force Rooftop Cargo Box
74.75 x 24.75 x 16.75 inches
Thule delivers with its Force Rooftop Cargo Box. You get 16 cubic feet of storage space and a hardy plastic design. Similar to other Thule models, it also comes with several size varieties. This model is ideal for bulkier cargo because of its higher roof height.
Developed with a quick-mount system, it makes a click sound when the cargo box is properly and securely mounted. Its mounting hardware is universal, so it fits most crossbars, giving it fantastic universal compatibility. Access can be gained on either side of the vehicle, which is a very convenient feature. Both sides also come equipped with a high-quality lock to prevent theft.
The downsides to Thule cargo boxes are that they’re expensive. You will likely hear some wind noise while hauling down the highway. Despite any potential noise, your items will stay securely inside the box if locked.
Die-hard Yakima loyalists must fork out a pretty penny to take the Yakima Skybox home. At $718.95, comes in as the most expensive cargo roof box on this list. This aerodynamically designed cargo box is made from 80% recycled materials. Its SuperLatch and SKS security features are top-notch, which has come to be expected from Yakima.
4. Yakima SkyBox Rooftop Cargo Box
81 x 36 x 15 inches
The main selling point of the Yakima SkyBox is its sleek aerodynamic design. Its sharp lines allow it to minimize wind resistance and help preserve fuel efficiency when traveling.
The exterior of this cargo roof box features a stylish carbonite lid. This carbonite coating offers protection against adverse weather conditions. At the same time, the interior is equipped with lid stiffeners that add extra support and durability to the entire lid while providing convenient access to the cargo.
The Yakima SkyBox features a SuperLatch security system and an SKS lock, which ensures that your lid is secured up to its base, allowing you to keep your cargo safe and contained and help deter theft. The lid can be opened on both sides for easy access, while its tapered design minimizes hatch interference.
This cargo box does not require special tools to assemble and mount, making it very convenient. It is compatible with round, square, aerodynamic, and factory crossbars with a minimum spread of 24 inches.
Despite its stellar reputation, the Yakima SkyBox is heavy at 60 lbs. Empty, have a friend help you install it. Additionally, it’s the most expensive item on our list, so consider that before buying. However, if you do spring for this excellent solution, know there are 21 and 12-cubic-foot options to help fit whatever car you have.
The following products are also extremely reliable and high-quality, providing exceptional protection and storage solutions.
Thule Pulse Rooftop Cargo Box
Regarding car top cargo boxes, Thule is among the more prominent brands in the market. This particular one is an excellent option to consider.
5. Thule Pulse Rooftop Cargo Box
67 x 35 x 16 inches
The Pulse is another solid product from Thule, lightweight, flexible, and tough. The cargo box doesn’t have a large effect on drag and won’t cost you much in fuel efficiency. While the 14 cubic feet of space isn’t the largest option available, it’s still a surprisingly spacious cargo box.
The Pulse is designed to fit any roof rack configuration and system. One small downside is that there’s only single-side access on the passenger side. But, typical of Thule, the security features are nice, with the standard SecureLock Technology.
The SportRack Horizon cargo box is constructed from an impact-resistant ABS material. It is quite lightweight and easy to carry. However, the material is durable and should handle tough conditions while traveling. Something that I value when it comes to outdoor gear is that there should be some form of UV protection, which protects the color of the gear, keeping it pristine over long periods of regular use. The SportRack Horizon box ticks that box.
6. SportRack Horizon Cargo Box
88.4 x 20.7 x 15.9 inches
The Sportrack Horizon Cargo Box is compatible with SportRack rack systems, most factory roof racks, and square or round crossbars. Like the Thule Pules, it only has a one-sided opening hatch on the passenger side. I like having the option to open it on both sides; it’s more convenient.
The centralized lock system on the Sportrack Horizon Cargo Box is durable, attaches securely, and will help deter theft. As with previously mentioned cargo boxes, the SportRack Horizon also features a quick-release attachment kit. With it, the installation’s a breeze.
GoPlus Cargo Box
Compatible with most vehicles fitted with factory crossbars, the GoPlus offers 14 cubic feet of extra cargo storage space. The interior of this cargo box is designed with three different compartments, which I find extremely useful as it allows you to arrange and organize your cargo. These compartments also prevent the cargo from moving around when driving over uneven terrain.
7. GoPlus Cargo Box
ABS and PC plastic
63 x 31 x 15 inches
The GoPlus Cargo Box is an aerodynamic and well-made product. It’s also waterproof, meaning it can accompany you on epic road trips while your belongings stay dry. At 14 cubic feet, the size is large than other options but not as long. While bags and suitcases can fit easily, long items like adult skis and snowboards may not.
The Cargo Box also has a car trunk organizer, which is a nice touch. At 25 pounds, it’s one of the lighter selections, making overall installation much easier. Additionally, the cargo box has a dual-sided opening for more convenience.
Are There Different Types of Cargo Roof Boxes?
There are different types of cargo roof boxes available on the market. Generally, cargo roof boxes can be categorized into hard-shell and soft-shell.
When choosing a cargo roof box, it’s important to consider your specific needs and budget. Hard-shell roof boxes are ideal for those prioritizing protection and durability, while soft-shell roof boxes are great for those needing a more budget-friendly and easy-to-store option.
Hard-Shell Roof Boxes
These cargo roof boxes have a rigid, durable construction and are made of materials like fiberglass, ABS plastic, or metal. They are generally more expensive than soft-shell roof boxes but offer better property protection. Hard-shell roof boxes are also more aerodynamic and have a higher weight capacity than soft ones. Some popular models of hard-shell roof boxes include the Thule Motion XT, Yakima SkyBox, and Rhino-Rack MasterFit.
Soft-Shell Roof Boxes
These cargo roof boxes have a flexible fabric construction and are made of nylon or PVC. They are generally less expensive than hard-shell roof boxes but offer less property protection. Soft-shell roof boxes are also less aerodynamic and have a lower weight capacity than hard ones. However, they are easier to store and can be folded down when not in use. Some popular models of soft-shell roof boxes include the Thule Outbound, Yakima SoftTop, and SportRack Horizon.
Are There Any Benefits to Using a Cargo Roof Box?
Using a cargo roof box provides several benefits for those who need additional storage space while traveling. Here are some of the top benefits of using a cargo roof box:
- Increased storage capacity: Cargo roof boxes provide additional storage space for luggage, sports equipment, camping gear, and other bulky items that may not fit inside the vehicle.
- Protection of belongings: Cargo roof boxes are designed to protect your belongings from the elements, such as rain, snow, and wind, as well as from road debris and dust.
- Improved safety: By storing items in a roof box, you free up interior space and reduce the risk of injury in case of an accident or sudden braking. Additionally, you can improve your vehicle’s handling and stability by placing heavy items on the roof rather than inside the car.
- Convenience: Cargo roof boxes are easy to install and remove and can be locked to prevent theft. They also allow you to access your belongings without unpacking the entire car.
Safety Tips When Using a Cargo Box
The primary concerns associated with a cargo box are adequate load security and visibility. These are reasonable worries because you don’t want to experience these inconveniences while on the road. The following safety tips should be kept in mind to mitigate these issues.
Take Note of the Extra Height
If you’re using a rooftop cargo box, consider that your car’s height has been increased and that you need to compensate for this when driving underneath low-hanging or overhead structures.
Your License Plate and Tail Lights Should Be Visible
A hitch cargo box mounted to the rear of your car may obstruct the visibility of your license plate and tail lights. If this is the case, you might encounter issues with traffic laws as it’s mandatory in most states that your license plate and tail lights should be visible.
Make Sure to Secure the Cargo Box Properly
Most cargo boxes, whether roof or hitch-mounted, come equipped with hooks or cargo netting to help secure the load properly. Use high-quality ratchet straps, netting, or hooks to keep your rooftop cargo boxes in place, especially during adverse weather conditions or rough, uneven terrain.
Tips on Packing a Cargo Box
Unlike regular car storage, there are special considerations when packing your car’s top cargo box to prevent possible damage to the cargo or vehicle and ensure the car’s driving efficiency.
Know the Weight Limits
Each roof rack system that your cargo box is attached to has its weight limitation, and you should make sure you are aware of what that weight is, as it’s always better to stick to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Evenly Spread the Weight
When packing a cargo box, place the heaviest item in the center of the box, as that is where you will have the most support. Try and pack the sides of the box evenly in terms of weight distribution and tightly. This can help to ensure that cargo items do not roll around or become damaged during transit or rough terrain.
Make Sure the Cargo Box is Properly Secured
Before heading out on your trip, take the time to check that the cargo box is properly secured to your roof rack or your hitch cargo carrier. It can lead to serious accidents or injury if it comes undone or falls off during transportation.
Also, make sure that you close all the lids properly and engage the locking mechanism. If you’re using a hitch cargo box, use hooks, cargo nets, and ratchet straps to properly tie down and secure your box. You can also do this as an extra precaution when using roof-mounted cargo boxes.
Cargo boxes are expensive investments, so it is important to consider some key factors before buying one on a whim.
Cargo boxes have two weight considerations to remember: the actual weight of the cargo box and the maximum loading capacity. If you’re using a roof cargo box, then considering the weight of the actual box is important, as you would need to be able to lift and load it onto your vehicle’s roof safely.
With roof-mounted cargo boxes, clamps are normally used to attach the box to the roof rack system or crossbars, alongside tightening bolts on the cargo box itself. Most rooftop cargo boxes have universal fits. However, ensuring that your cargo box and roof rack system are compatible is still important to avoid disappointment. After installation, ensure the box is securely attached and locked before setting out on the road.
Most cargo boxes are equipped with some security and anti-theft features. Normally the locking mechanisms are quite comprehensive in terms of security but are easy to use.
Normally cargo boxes are made from a high-quality PVC plastic compound that offers fantastic durability and resilience. A strong cargo box is important as it should be able to take on bad weather, traveling-related debris, and loading and unloading it from the car. Pay close attention to a cargo box, especially to possible weak points in its mechanics and design. Consider the integrity of the lid’s locking and opening mechanisms, the box’s handles, or the locking features.
Also, invest in a strong and durable mounting system, whether a roof rack or hitch cargo carrier.
Depending on your traveling and cargo needs, finding a suitable storage capacity for your cargo box shouldn’t be a problem, as many size options exist. Compact models offer around 11 cubic feet of storage space on average. However, a storage capacity of 16 cubic feet is more than adequate for most people.
Regarding cargo boxes, they are considerably more expensive than their cargo bag counterparts. They are also much more durable, offer better protection to your cargo, and are a great long-term investment. This all comes at a price, so consider how much you can afford to spend on a cargo box and what quality you are willing to accept.
Cargo Box Access
Cargo boxes usually open one of three ways; one-sided, dual-sided, or at the rear. This is ‘n a personal preference but an important consideration nonetheless.
Anti-theft features are useful to any cargo transportation product, especially when leaving your vehicle unattended. Locks and keys secure the cargo box to the car and serve as a deterrent to thieving hands. Water Resistance
When traveling through heavy weather conditions, cargo boxes serve a much better purpose than cargo bags. Ensure that the box seals properly and that the material on the exterior is water-resistant. This is extremely important to protect your cargo from possible water damage.
A heavy cargo box will place unnecessary weight on your vehicle, which might damage the roof or the crossbar system that it is mounted. Choose a box from high-quality but lightweight materials to lessen drag and improve aerodynamics and fuel consumption.
Maintenance and Care Tips for Cargo Roof Boxes
Proper maintenance and care of your cargo roof box can help prolong its lifespan and ensure it functions effectively. Here are some maintenance and care tips for your cargo roof box:
- Cleaning and washing: Regular cleaning of your cargo roof box is important to prevent dirt and grime buildup, which can cause scratches and damage to the box’s finish. Use mild soap and water to clean the box’s exterior, and rinse it thoroughly with water. Avoid using abrasive cleaners, as they can cause scratches.
- Storage: Store your cargo roof box in a cool, dry place when not in use. Avoid exposing it to direct sunlight for long periods, as this can cause the material to degrade. If you store the box for an extended period, remove any dirt or debris and allow it to dry completely before storing it.
- Maintenance checks: Regularly check the mounting hardware and locks on your cargo roof box to ensure they function properly. Tighten loose bolts or screws and lubricate moving parts to prevent rust or corrosion.
- Winter care: If you plan to use your cargo roof box during winter, remove any snow and ice buildup from the box before driving. This will prevent damage to the box and ensure that it functions properly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Cargo Boxes Universal?
Most rooftop cargo boxes are designed to have a universal fit to crossbars and roof rack systems. However, take the time to make sure there are any manufacturer requirements or notices regarding roof-mounted cargo boxes. With hitch cargo carriers, a universal fit is more dependent on the size of the cargo carrier and the whether or not it is compatible with the size of the cargo box.
Can You Drive With an Empty Rooftop Cargo Box?
Yes, you can drive with an empty cargo box without compromising your safety or causing damage to your vehicle.
24/03/2023 – Updated product boxes and added additional supplementary content for user usefulness.
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