In theory, at least, station wagons, SUVs and minivans offer a lot of cargo space. But throw children, dogs and stuff into the mix, and it can become difficult to hold all of your gear. A rooftop cargo box can be a great solution for adding storage capacity for skis, snowboards and camping gear. It can also be a more cost-effective option than leveling up to a pricey full-size SUV that may prove unwieldy in real life.
You can score a cheap cargo carrier, but if you travel frequently, it may make sense to invest in one of the best rooftop cargo boxes from brands like Yakima or Thule. Spending more can get you more durable, lightweight materials, a more aerodynamic design to reduce noise and improve fuel economy and a simpler, more secure setup process.
One factor to consider when buying a rooftop cargo box is rack compatibility. Does the cargo carrier work with any roof rack, or does it require a brand-specific one? Another important consideration is size. The last thing you want to do is make a significant investment in a rooftop cargo box and find out it's not big enough to accommodate what you want to carry.
The Best Roof Cargo Boxes:
The Best Overall Rooftop Cargo Box
The Yakima Skybox 16 offers ample space within a compact footprint while still offering a sleek, aerodynamic shape to reduce drag and wind noise. It also has a tapered design at the rear to reduce hatch interference. It can hold camping gear for three, skis and snowboards up to 185 cm. It's also made from up to 80 percent recycled material.
16 cubic feet will be about right for most people; still, you can pare that down to 12 or level up to 21 with other models if need be.
The Best High-End Rooftop Cargo Box
Yes, the Yakima CBX Solar is pricey. But it provides great looks, a low profile, and a flat floor for holding more gear. It's also great for 0verlanding trips with an integrated heavy-duty solar panel that connects to two USB ports for device charging.
The Best Affordable Rooftop Cargo Box
The Sportrack Vista XL is durable, quiet and easy to install with its tool-free mounting hardware. It also has a rear opening for easy access. You don't get that slick brand name on the outside. But you do save a few hundred bucks to spend on 18 cubic feet worth of gear to stash inside it.
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The Thule Motion XT is optimized to be stylish, spacious, and aerodynamic. It mounts quickly and securely with a powerclick mount system. Grip-friendly outer handles make it easy to open in all conditions. It also sits forward on the roof to permit full trunk access.
The Sidekick is a great, affordable option from Thule for carrying smaller loads, up to 110 pounds. Its compact design can fit on the rack alongside other roof-mounted gear or provide an easier fit for smaller vehicles.
The Inno Wedge 660 is designed to be aerodynamic and low profile for efficiency and noise reduction. It uses a special injection molding process designed to make it 50% stronger than conventional, vacuum-formed roof boxes. And it can hold up to four snowboards and eight pairs of skis.
Getting a fancy roof rack and a cargo box can get pricey. But Amazon's rooftop bag is a compelling alternative for those on a serious budget or those who need the storage capacity once. It holds up to 15 cubic feet of gear. And it's waterproof to protect everything from the elements.
If you’ve always enjoyed the top bunk, you should invest in a rooftop car tent.