How to Choose a Rooftop Cargo Carrier (Buyers Guide)

All opinions and recommendations are our own

car stacked with a rooftop carrier

Have you ever gone on a road-trip with your car piled so high with luggage that it’s nearly impossible to see out the back or the rearview mirror? Maybe you want to take your dog on road trips, but there’s no room for your pet to sleep because of all your extra gear?

We’ve got a solution! Rooftop cargo carriers offer much-needed space for your golf clubs, skis or snowboards. Depending on the size of the roof carrier you select, you can store just about any bulky item, from camping gear to luggage, directly on the roof of your car. 

How to Choose a Rooftop Cargo Carrier

Gone are the days when the road-tripping family station wagon was stacked with suitcases plus a toboggan or beach chairs tied precariously to the roof with nothing but fraying rope. Nowadays, there are secure, sturdy roof carriers!

In today’s article, we’ll show you how to choose a rooftop cargo carrier for your next adventure!

Also called cargo boxes, cargo bags, or roof boxes, roof carriers feature modern designs and materials that are sleek and durable. Cargo boxes can be safely and easily secured to your car without stress or hassle.

Made of weatherproof plastic, smaller roof carriers are usually 12 cubic feet, while larger options offer up to 22 cubic feet of storage. The size that you select will partly depend on the size of your vehicle.

The roof of an SUV, for example, can support a larger cargo box than a compact car. If your rooftop is big enough, look for an elongated, xl cargo box, especially if you want to store extra-long items like skis and snowboards. 

You’ll first want to determine which size cargo boxes will fit your car. The number one rule here is to accurately assess the dimensions of your vehicle’s roof to ensure you have the surface area that cargo boxes require. Choosing a roof carrier that’s the right size for your vehicle is important so that your car won’t end up top-heavy. 

One of the most ingenious aspects of rooftop cargo carriers is that their mounting hardware features a universal design. This means that it can be attached interchangeably to the roof rack of different vehicles. Cargo boxes require a few simple steps to secure them to your vehicle, but after that, you’re good to go!

Our Top Brands of Rooftop Cargo Carriers

Below, we’ll recommend some top brands on the market so you can choose a rooftop cargo carrier that fits your needs. To help you select the right one for your next road trip, here are our top three.

Yakima Skybox

The Yakima Skybox features an aerodynamic Carbonite design that will literally slice through the air. Unlike some roof carriers that create drag because of their inefficient shape, the minimalist design of the Yakima Skybox reduces wind-resistance. Compared to other options on the market, you’ll save on gas mileage. 

This cargo box has dual side opening, so you can conveniently access your gear from either side of your car. Moreover, the Yakima Skybox will give your vehicle a stylish, sporty look. Its curved edges are reminiscent of the sleek shapes you’d find on a racecar. The back of the cargo box tapers nicely to provide added clearance for hatchbacks. This turbo shape is anything but boxy. 

Whether the crossbars on your roof are round or square, custom or factory-grade, the Yakima Skybox can easily be attached and later removed thanks to quick-release mounting hardware. 

A security feature called SuperLatch also locks the cargo box securely in place to its base. It will not suddenly fall off, even on the steepest hairpin turns. 

So, if your vehicle will soon be sporting a bumper sticker that says: “This car climbed Mount Washington!” on your next road trip, this could be the cargo box for you.

Thule Motion XT

For another great option with a weather-resistant plastic exterior, consider the Thule Motion XT roof carrier. This cargo box won favorable reviews from golf-loving road-trippers because of its extra-long design, which even comes in three separate lengths: 77”, 84.5”, and 91.5” long. This cargo box is not only good for storing golf bags, but it can also hold up to 5-7 skis or 3-5 snowboards. 

An added convenience is the dual-side opening. With an easy-grip surface, you can lift the lid of the Thule Motion XT from either side of your car for quick access to your stored gear. When mounting this cargo box onto your vehicle, you’ll hear it “click” securely into place. That beats tethering your belongings with a bungee cord!

There’s also sufficient clearance for hatchbacks to open without hitting the cargo box. And thanks to Thule’s One-Key Lock System, you’ll only need one key to access any of your Thule storage products. Fortunately, the Thule Motion XT roof carrier comes with two matching keys, in case you lose one. 


Although hard plastic roof carriers have certain advantages, there’s something easy and convenient about the malleable, weatherproof RoofBag. Technically, it’s not a cargo box… it’s a cargo bag! 

If you’re a fan of using duffle bags to store your stuff while traveling, you’ll appreciate our third and final option for roof carriers. The RoofBag reminds us of high school sports practice—but that’s half the fun! In addition to items like foldable beach chairs, you can also store a bunch of kid-friendly gear in this cargo bag, from soccer balls to tennis rackets.

The RoofBag is great for storing lumpy items that don’t fit neatly into a hard, compact cargo box. For example, if you like to go boating or water-tubing while on warm-weather road trips, then you know that packing life jackets and deflated water-tubes can be awkward when it comes to vehicle storage space. 

Instead, stuff all that bulky gear into the RoofBag. Secure it to the top of your car, and in a matter of minutes, your storage problem is solved. There are two sizes, small and large. One of the two is guaranteed to fit on any-sized car. And at only 12 pounds, this is by far the lightest option.

Hit the Road!

Rooftop cargo carriers are designed to fit efficiently on top of your car. Some are sleek and sporty, so you can set out in style. Most importantly, you can store your luggage or equipment while freeing-up important space in your vehicle. You’ll even be able to store that special souvenir for Grandma, without worrying about accidentally crushing it with your gear. 

Knowing you have a place to store everything you need on your next road-trip will ease your mind tremendously. Once your gear is safely secured to the roof, you’ll be ready to hit the road and begin your adventure!

Have questions or comments? Drop us a line.
We’d love to help you organize your next trip!

How to choose a rooftop carrier - buyers guide