6 Best Rooftop Cargo Carriers – (Reviews & Buying Guide 2020)

As you plan that perfect getaway with your family, you cannot travel without the essential stuff. Things like tents, clothes, food and other supplies do take up a lot of space. On the other hand, you can’t travel in separate cars since that defeats the whole purpose of a family outing. This is where a simple yet highly useful accessory for your car comes in- the best rooftop cargo carrier for your SUV.

With a rooftop carrier, you can carry anything ranging from everyday supplies to snowboards, tent and many other things that fit in it. However- with so many to choose from, finding the ideal one can be quite a task. Here, we have created a detailed rooftop cargo carrier review to make this search simpler for you. It will also help you to learn the important factors that you must keep in mind when choosing the right rooftop cargo carrier.

Thule Force XT Rooftop Cargo Box, XX-Large

Thule Force XT Rooftop Cargo Box, XX-Large

  • Price : $$$$$
  • Type : Box
  • Volume : 22
  • Dimensions (inches) : 90 x 35,5 x 18,5
  • Max. Weight (lbs.) : 165
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RoofBag Rooftop Cargo Carrier Bag

RoofBag Rooftop Cargo Carrier Bag

  • Price : $
  • Type : Bag
  • Volume : 15
  • Dimensions (inches) : 48 x 38 x 18
  • Max. Weight (lbs.) : 3000
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RKSEN 64″ Universal Black Roof Rack Cargo

RKSEN 64″ Universal Black Roof Rack Cargo

  • Price : $$$
  • Type : Rack
  • Volume : NA
  • Dimensions (inches) : 64 x 39 x 6
  • Max. Weight (lbs.) : 150
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SportRack Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box

SportRack Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box

  • Price : $$$$
  • Type : Box
  • Volume : 18
  • Dimensions (inches) : 62,5 x 19 x 39
  • Max. Weight (lbs.) : 100
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RoofPax Car Roof Bag & Rooftop Cargo Carrier

RoofPax Car Roof Bag & Rooftop Cargo Carrier

  • Price : $
  • Type : Bag
  • Volume : 19
  • Dimensions (inches) : 47,2 x 35,4 x 19,8
  • Max. Weight (lbs.) : NA
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Waterproof Car Roof Top Cargo Carrier Bag

Waterproof Car Roof Top Cargo Carrier Bag

  • Price : $
  • Type : Bag
  • Volume : 15
  • Dimensions (inches) : 44 x 34 x 17
  • Max. Weight (lbs.) : 99
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MaxxHaul 70117 Rooftop Cargo Bag

MaxxHaul 70117 Rooftop Cargo Bag

  • Price : $
  • Type : Bag
  • Volume : 15
  • Dimensions (inches) : 44 x 34 x 18
  • Max. Weight (lbs.) : 100
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Best Rooftop Cargo Carrier Reviews – Top-Picks

1. Thule Force XT Rooftop Cargo Box, XX-Large

Thule Force XT Rooftop Cargo Box, XX-LargeThis XX-Large cargo box from Thule gives you 22 cubic feet of storage space. It is compatible with several vehicle models. 22 cubic feet of storage is equivalent to around 3 to 5 snowboards or 7 pairs of skis. It has a dual sided opening feature which means that you can access it from either side of your vehicle. The design of the box is such that access to the vehicle’s rear boot is not obstructed.
For safety, it makes use of a PowerClick Quick-Mount system. You do not require any extra tools to install with this mechanism. Its torque indicator clicks to let you know that the box is securely fitted and fastened. There is also the LockKnob system that allows convenient opening and closing. The length and height of this cargo box are 90.5 inches and 18.5 inches respectively.

2. RoofBag Rooftop Cargo Carrier Bag

RoofBag Rooftop Cargo Carrier BagThis rooftop cargo bag comes with a capacity of 15 cubic feet. This cargo bag fits almost all cars. Additionally, It is 100% waterproof. The seatbelt type straps of this bag are secure and designed to ensure that it does not get detached from the car easily. The straps are 1.5 inches wide and and can support up to 3000lbs. The aerodynamic design helps to decrease noise at higher speeds and does not impact your vehicle’s fuel efficiency. The protective mat with this cargo bag protects your car’s roof from any scratches or damage.

Installing it is quite simple, regardless of whether your car has side rails, crossbars or none of those. You do not need anything other than the provided straps to attach it to your car. The material of this carrier bag can also withstand extremely hot or cold temperatures and continuous exposure to the sun. It has double-coated vinyl that is abrasion-resistant too.

3. ARKSEN 64″ Universal Black Roof Rack Cargo

RKSEN 64″ Universal Black Roof Rack CargoARKSEN 64″ universal black roof rack cargo can be used to carry any type of luggage as well as additional cargo bags. One of its best features is that you can extend its dimensions by an additional 23 inches to get more space. Assembling this is easy and you get all those instructions in the package. It does not take more than 15 minutes to put the cargo rack together. The side rails are 5.5 inches tall with a diameter of 1 inch to keep your cargo secure.

This cargo rack has a universal design, which means it works well with almost all vehicle types. The metal bars are heavy-duty and can withstand up to150 lbs. The rack has steel wind fairing to decrease noise and wind resistance. It has a black powder-coated finish. You can mount it on your vehicle’s crossbars with the help of just 4 U-bolts.

4. SportRack Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box

SportRack Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo BoxAs the name suggests, this is an extra-large rooftop cargo storage box. You get 18 cubic feet of storage. It is completely waterproof, protecting all your luggage from heavy rain and snow. This can fit on any type of roof rack. The installation and removal of this cargo box are easy and do not take too much time. It has a quick-release hardware mount mechanism. The construction is UV-resistant, with ABS plastic being the primary material.

It can support a maximum weight of 100 lbs. The lid of this cargo box opens in the rear. This allows for easier access as you can make use of the car’s rear bumper as a step to reach it. It can fit SportRack roof racks, as well as round, square and all other rack types. The cargo box has angled contours to minimize noise and drag at high speeds.

5. RoofPax Car Roof Bag & Rooftop Cargo Carrier

RoofPax Car Roof Bag & Rooftop Cargo CarrierWith 6 door hooks to secure it and waterproof double coating with 10 strap retainers, this rooftop cargo carrier provides a lot in terms of safety and protection for your cargo. You get 19 cubic feet of storage with it. This is sufficient for carrying 4 to 6 suitcases. It can work with cars with or without a roof rack. Installation is easy and takes just a few minutes.

The material is water repellent and has a dual coating to protect any cargo inside from water, snow and other harsh weather conditions. It is made of elastic Velcro retainers. In addition to all this, you also get a 7mm integrated mat with this rooftop cargo bag. This is required to prevent any scratches on your car’s paint. It also keeps the luggage from sliding around while the car is moving.

6. Waterproof Car Roof Top Cargo Carrier Bag

Waterproof Car Roof Top Cargo Carrier BagThis rooftop carrier bag gives you 15 cubic feet of waterproof storage space. It makes use of a triple-layered design to give you protection against rain, heat, wind and all other adverse weather conditions. There is also a flap that covers the zip to ensure no water penetrates through. It has soft sides to allow for the storage of oddly shaped items. You can store a maximum of 99 lbs of cargo in it. This is roughly adds up to 5 medium-sized suitcases.

With the carrier bag, you get a set of 8 reinforced straps that have heavy-duty buckles for simple and secure installation. When you do not need this bag, it can be as easily removed and stored since it folds to the size of a tablet. You will require a roof rack on your car to install this carrier bag.

7. MaxxHaul 70117 Rooftop Cargo Bag

MaxxHaul 70117 Rooftop Cargo BagThis rooftop cargo bag from MaxxHaul is made of PVC material with UV coating and polyester reinforcement. Its zipper is also covered with loop flaps and hooks that provide extra protection from water. There are 8 polypropylene straps with a width of 1.5 inches to keep the bag secured. You get a total of 15 cubic feet of storage space in this bag.
The bag is suitable for storing cargo/luggage up to 100 lbs in weight. It has a height of 18 inches with a 34-inch width, giving you sufficient room to store different types of luggage, including sports and camping equipment. It is specifically made to store soft goods and light-duty cargo. Installing or removing it is easy. You can remove, fold and store it in your car’s boot when not in use.

Rooftop Cargo Carrier Buying Guide

When looking for a rooftop cargo carrier, there will be a lot to consider. Right from the size to material and durability, all factors are equally important. However, first, there are some questions that you must answer. Let’s go ahead and discuss those.

3 Considerations When Buying a Rooftop Cargo Carrier

  1. What type of cargo/luggage will you be transporting most often?

    This will help you to decide the material, size, and type of cargo carrier. If you are planning to use it for irregularly shaped cargo, snowboards, etc. then you will need one that does not have hard/rigid sides. Such rooftop cargo bags give you the flexibility to store oddly shaped items. If you will be carrying small or medium-sized items but with more mass, then you will need a cargo box that can withstand heavy weights and stay secure.

  2. What type of weather conditions will you be traveling through?

    Do you frequently encounter extreme weather conditions like rain and snow? In such a case, you need a cargo box that can withstand these conditions and protect your cargo. For waterproofing, many cargo bags have a double or even triple layering to protect the stuff inside even in the harshest of rains. Also, check what are the maximum and minimum temperatures it can withstand.

  3. What type of vehicle do you have?

    If a cargo box is compatible with your vehicle will depend on the vehicle type. There are many things to check here- including the size, whether you have roof racks on the car or not, checking if it blocks the rear boot, etc.
    With these questions answered, you will start getting an idea of what type of rooftop cargo carrier you need. Next, we will see what features you must look for in a cargo carrier.

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5 Important Features and Specifications of Rooftop Cargo Carriers

  1. Storage Type

    If you need something that can help you with carrying extra luggage during your family trips, then a small rooftop carrier bag may do. If you are going to use it for carrying skis or snowboards, then you will need a longer carrier box. With rooftop bags, you get the added advantage of removing them and storing them after folding it into size as small as your laptop.

  2. Volume

    The volume is the next important consideration. Depending on what luggage and equipment you plan to load in it, you will have to check the volume. With most rooftop boxes, you can check the volume in the context of how many of a particular item it can store. For instance, a cargo box with 22 cubic feet of volume will give you enough space for approximately 7 pairs of skis.

  3. Material

    Several materials are used for making rooftop carrier bags and boxes. These include hardened PVC, ABS plastic, etc. You should also check the material for waterproofing qualities, UV resistance and resistance to extreme temperatures.

  4. Installation mechanism

    Depending on whether your car has roof rails or not, you will need to select the right rooftop cargo carrier. While some models require roof rails, there are several that can go on vehicles without them.

  5. Compatibility with your vehicle

    Roof rails are just one aspect of compatibility. You also need to ensure that the cargo box is appropriate as per your vehicle’s size, that it does not block the rear trunk for opening and can be easily accessed from one or both sides.
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Rooftop Cargo Carrier Types

There are 3 types of rooftop cargo carriers that you can choose from. These are cargo bags, boxes, and baskets. Let’s go ahead and see what each one of them offers.

  1. Cargo Bags

    A cargo bag is made of a fabric with soft sides. These offer you comparatively less storage volume but are also affordable. If you get one made of high-quality material, your cargo will be protected from most environmental factors.

    • Pros:

      Easy to install
      Can be removed and stored easily as they can be folded

    • Cons:

      Less storage space
      Fabric is more prone to damage as compared to hard materials

  2. Cargo Boxes

    Cargo boxes are available in various finishes and sizes. As the name suggests, this is a solid-sided box attached to the car’s roof. You will require a rack system with these boxes.

    • Pros:

      Sturdy and secure
      Lockable cargo boxes add to the safety of your cargo
      Protect the cargo inside from damage

    • Cons:

      Cannot be installed on vehicles without a roof railing
      Removing and storing them if not required for some time can be a hassle

  3. Cargo Baskets

    Think of a cargo basket as an extension of your car’s existing roof rack. This is like a narrow and large shopping basket on your car’s top. A rack system is needed to install a cargo basket.

    • Pros:

      Greater flexibility in the type of cargo that can be carried
      Can be used to hold multiple cargo bags
      Easy to install

    • Cons:

      No protection from rain, snow, etc.
      Need additional cargo nets and hooks to secure things kept in it

Hitch Cargo Carrier vs Roof Cargo Carrier

When it comes to cargo carriers for your car, the 2 options for you include a rooftop cargo carrier and a hitch cargo carrier. What exactly is the difference between the 2 and which is the better choice? Let’s try to find out.

  • Hitch Cargo Carrier

    A hitch cargo carrier is one that is ‘hitch-mounted’. The hitch or tow bar is that small device that is attached at the rear of your vehicle on its chassis. With a hitch cargo carrier, your cargo/luggage is easily accessible on the rear of your vehicle at your waist level. You must be aware of local laws that require the taillight and license plates to be fully or partially visible with hitch cargo carriers. Additional license plate/lights on the hitch carrier can also be required, but this can vary as per state laws.

    • Pros:

      No wind resistance is created, no impact on your vehicle’s performance
      Ideal for passing through areas with low clearance
      Easy to load and unload
      Work well with vehicles that have a limited rooftop area

    • Cons:

      Increase the vehicle’s length, can be a safety concern
      Adjustments required to make the rear license plates and lights visible

  • Roof Cargo Carrier

    As the name suggests, a roof cargo carrier is mounted on the roof of your car. These are of different types- including boxes, bags, and baskets. A rooftop cargo carrier can carry large amounts of cargo. Roof cargo bags can also be easily folded and stored when not needed. Many roof cargo carriers offer 100% protection from rain/snow and other weather extremities.

    • Pros:

      Can store large volumes of luggage
      Roof cargo bags and boxes provide safety from snow and rain
      Do not hamper the visibility of the vehicle
      Available for a wide variety of vehicle types

    • Cons:

      Loading and unloading can be hard for vehicles with more height
      May be an issue while passing through areas with low clearance

If a hitch cargo carrier is indeed what you are looking for, then this hitch cargo carrier buying guide will help you to get on the path to buying the best one in the market.

Are Roof Cargo Boxes Safe? When They Are NOT Safe

When you think about the safety of having a rooftop cargo box on your vehicle, your concern is justified. Considering that you will be traveling at least 50MPH or even more, safety is of utmost importance. Rooftop cargo boxes are specifically designed to go through high speeds and uneven terrains without flying off or becoming a hazard.

Additionally, there are clamps, locks, and cords that you can use to ensure that the rooftop cargo box is secure in your car. Manufacturers also ensure that they design rooftop cargo boxes with an aerodynamic shape. This reduces the drag on the vehicle and therefore does not impact its performance. However, there are conditions when rooftop boxes may not be safe. Just putting the cargo box on your vehicle and latching it is not all to be done. Every cargo box has its own set of instructions to be followed to ensure safety.

Improper installation, not securing the cargo box, items sliding back and forth inside it, etc are all factors that contribute to an increased risk with roof cargo boxes. Some of the major risk factors include:

  • Loose clamps or straps for the cargo box
  • Uneven distribution of weight in the cargo box
  • Extreme weather conditions
  • Exceeding the mentioned weight and/or speed limits
  • Low tire pressure
  • Any obstruction to the lock of the cargo box

6 Safety Tips When Traveling With Rooftop Cargo Carriers

A few tips that you must follow to ensure the safety of your rooftop cargo box include:

  1. Read all instructions regarding the installation and loading cargo in the cargo box. These will help you to secure and store things in it safely.
  2. The cargo inside the box should not move back and forth loosely. Secure the luggage inside properly before traveling.
  3. The cargo box should be locked. Ensure that it will not pop open due to a sudden jerk or bump on the road.
  4. The weight distribution inside the box should be uniform.
  5. The weight limit of the cargo box must be adhered to at all times. This should be there in its manual. While calculating the maximum weight you can load, subtract the weight of the empty cargo box from the weight limit.
  6. The maximum speed for the safety of the cargo box varies across models. Check the same in its instructions/specifications and adhere to the speed limit strictly.

Are Hitch Cargo Carriers Legal?

The answer to this depends on a few factors. The first and most important concern/fault is that if it blocks the view of the vehicle’s license plate or its taillights, then it would be illegal in most states. Certain states permit cargo carriers to partially block the view of the license if it is loaded but require that the license plate be fully visible if the cargo carrier is empty.

In case of taillights, if the cargo carrier does block them, then the law requires that you add extra lights on the cargo carrier too. This is not only mandatory as per the law but also important from a safety point of view. It helps your car be more visible on the highways and roads. Many states also have laws against carrying unsecured loads on the cargo carrier. In 16 states, such offenses also include jail time.

FAQs & Answers

  • Q: Will a rooftop cargo carrier block/obstruct access to the rear boot?
    A: Most rooftop cargo carriers are designed to ensure that they do not block access to the rear boot of your vehicle. This is specifically mentioned in the manual and can also be judged from the design of the cargo box.
  • Q: What is the difference between hard car top and soft car top carriers?
    A: Hard car top carriers are rigid boxes of plastic. These will require a roof rack and additional metal hardware to install to your vehicle. These are durable, waterproof and retain the aerodynamic shape when empty to allow for minimal impact on the vehicle’s performance.
    A soft-top carrier is like a large bag that you fasten using straps on the car’s roof. These can be installed on vehicles with or without roof racks. You get additional flexibility with such roof carriers since you can remove and fold them to easily store in the vehicle’s boot or the glovebox.
  • Q: Is a roof rack required to install a cargo carrier?
    A: Most rooftop cargo carriers can be installed by fastening to the roof rack if available or can be fastened to the roof-door frame if there is no rack. You get both these options in the majority of the rooftop cargo carriers. However, some cargo boxes can only be attached to roof racks- so you should check that before buying if your car does not have one.
  • Q: Does having a rooftop cargo box impact the performance/mileage of the car?
    A: If you buy a quality rooftop cargo box, then your car will not have any performance impact from it. These are designed keeping aerodynamics in mind to minimize wind drag. Additionally, there are prescribed limits for maximum weight and speed for each cargo box. Adhering to these will ensure that you get the best performance from your vehicle.

Best Rooftop Cargo Carriers Comparison Chart

PRODUCT PRICE Type Volume Dimensions (inches) Max. Weight (lbs.)
Thule Force XT Rooftop Cargo Box, XX-Large $$$$$ Box 22 90 x 35,5 x 18,5 165
RoofBag Rooftop Cargo Carrier Bag $ Bag 15 48 x 38 x 18 300
RKSEN 64″ Universal Black Roof Rack Cargo $$$ Rock NA 64 x 39 x 6 150
SportRack Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box $$$$ Box 18 62,5 x 19 x 39 100
RoofPax Car Roof Bag & Rooftop Cargo Carrier $ Bag 19 47,2 x 35,4 x 19,8 NA
Waterproof Car Roof Top Cargo Carrier Bag $ Bag 15 44 x 34 x 17 99
MaxxHaul 70117 Rooftop Cargo Bag $ Bag 15 44 x 34 x 18 100

Wrap Up

The next time you plan your family outing or a trip with friends, carrying extra luggage and cargo will not be an issue. Now that you know what to look for in the best rooftop cargo carrier, the risks and any modifications that your vehicle may need for using one, you can go about getting it. A rooftop cargo carrier helps to minimize the space utilized for luggage inside the car as well, thus allowing you to travel comfortably.

With so many variants and types to choose from, these rooftop cargo carrier reviews will help you get an accurate idea of what each model offers. Every accessory or modification that you make to your vehicle must be done after thorough evaluation and research, and the same is true while getting a rooftop cargo box, bag or basket. Time to get one and make your road trips comfortable and hassle-free.

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