Car roof boxes, or roof cargo carriers, are a staple piece of equipment any long-term traveler should have.
With a well-functioning roof box, you won’t have to worry about your luggage being exposed to the elements whilst driving, and it will allow you to use the extra space in your trunk for other purposes.
This guide will cover all aspects of Roof Boxes as well as provide some brief buying recommendations for anyone looking for information on Roof Boxes.
Best Car Roof Box Summary Table
Thule is a well-regarded company in the world of outdoor traveling solutions for vehicles, and for good reason. Thule has been making bike racks, ski carriers, and rooftop baskets for years.
The Thule Force XT Rooftop Cargo Box is a cleverly designed aerodynamic roof box cargo carrier that is available in three sizes – L, XL, XXL. The XL size will accommodate 5-7 pairs of 195cm length skis or 3-5 snowboards comfortably.
Price-wise, this roof box carrier is on the higher end, but it’s also clear where the extra money goes.
Accessibility is excellent with the Thule Force XT able to open from both sides of the vehicle. This gives you the convenience of being able to open the roof box from the passenger or driver side, which especially helps on a busy highway.
Installation is straightforward and doesn’t require any tools, although due to the size and weight of the roof box, it will be easier with another person to help move it in place.
From a security perspective, the Thule Force XT has a central locking system that is operated by a single key, that is included, for ease of use.
The Thule Force XT Rooftop Cargo Box is very easy to use and is made of high-quality materials that ensure durability even through rough weather conditions.
One of the big pluses is that it opens from the sides which helps from a safety perspective. Even though it is pricey, it stacks up well against other brands.
Meefar is another manufacturer that is known for providing high-quality storage solutions for vehicle travel.
The MeeFar Car Roof Bag is an extremely durable and versatile storage bag that attaches to the roof of your car. It comes with a rain cover, making it ideal for protecting your gear during long journeys in unpredictable weather.
The material is PVC tarpaulin and performs well against the elements. As long you secure it correctly, ensuring that the flaps cover the exposed parts of the bag, such as the zips, it should make it through fairly tough weather unscathed.
Being a soft roof bag, we’d say avoid storing fragile items in this. Although, if packed correctly, they should be OK really.
When not in use, the Meefar roof bag can be folded and stored away easily. A big plus from a portability perspective.
Arriving supplied with security hooks and straps ensures that you won’t need to buy extra bits to ensure it functions properly. They even provide a slip-proof mat to help stability and a security lock for the zip.
The roof bag is opened and closed via a zip that spans all the way around, allowing you to access the contents easily.
The MeeFar roof bag is an excellent option for use on camping trips and the like.
A versatile and easy-to-install soft roof bag made by MeeFar. This kind of storage is excellent for use on camping trips and similar outdoor adventure trips.
The heavy-duty design also suits such activities. Overall an excellent roof bag that can be used on most vehicles.
The MIDABAO Car Roof Top Carrier Cargo Bag is a reinforced, waterproof car cargo bag that has been designed to provide high storage volume. This waterproof roof carrier is reinforced with PVC.
The rooftop bag also includes heavy-duty straps and clamps, to ensure secure and safe transit.
Installation is clear and can be done in minutes. Supplied with nonslip mats for added safety and security the product is compatible with most cars, trucks, and SUVs.
The exterior of the roof bag has an attractive color with reflective piping. It is waterproof and ensures that you will be able to keep your belongings safe, even in the wettest weather! The rooftop luggage carrier also comes with lockable zippers.
This bag can hold up to 20 cubic feet of cargo and is physically flexible so that you can squeeze as much as you like in there.
This is another soft rooftop carrier that is great for outdoor weekends away like camping trips etc.
The storage volume is enormous and should provide for most people, especially when you factor in the freed-up trunk space as well. A rooftop bag that is well worth considering.
The Fivklemnz Car Roof Bag Cargo Carrier can carry a lot of cargo. Just like the previous two previous roof bags, this has an enormous capacity.
While this isn’t suitable for packing skis and snowboards, it certainly is excellent for any other luggage purpose.
The manufacturer says that it can fit 6-8 suitcases of luggage and at 21 cubic feet it will handle enough for a family to comfortably go away for a weekend with.
It’s not only useful if you are moving or going on vacation but also great for transporting camping equipment or other sports gear. And when not in use you simply take out the bag and collapse it until your next need arises.
Some other roof bags on the market can be a bit of a hassle to put on and take off, but this bag is easier to use, although still quite large. We’d still say that two people may be needed especially if it is fully packed.
There are straps that you can either hook around your car’s roof rails, roof rack, or if you don’t have any of these, the door frames.
Those without roof racks and rails can use the supplied roof mat to protect their car from unintended scratches.
The buckles are strong and secure and should handle high-speed travel well.
The material is tough and durable and will comfortably protect your cargo in prolonged exposure to bad weather.
The Fivklemnz Car Roof Bag Cargo Carrier is a great option for those looking for a way to transport a large amount of cargo.
This carrier has a capacity of 21 cubic feet, making it perfect for transporting luggage for weekend trips or camping excursions.
The bag is easy to use, with straps that can be attached to the car’s roof rails, roof rack, or door frames. The material is tough and weatherproof, ensuring that your cargo is protected from the elements.
The XCAR roof rack carrier basket is suitable for vehicles that have roof rails.
The basket is constructed entirely of steel and is very lightweight. It is designed to handle loads of up to 150lbs of gear.
The XCAR roof basket is securely held in place with four clamps that are locked in with four u-bolts.
When it comes to assembly the instructions are clear and concise and can be completed in minutes.
Afixed at the front is a windshield which is angled to give it a more areodynamic characteristic. This also serves to protect the luggage from exposure to wind and rain during travel.
XCAR also provide an option with a bag should you opt for this.
The material is made from strong and sturdy metal which has been powder coated to protect it and give a nice finish.
The XCAR Roof Rack Carrier Basket is a sturdy and strong carrier that is designed to handle loads of up to 150lbs. It comes supplied with all the fixings needed to install this securely and easily.
This type of roof cargo carrier is especially useful if you want the flexibility to load different types of luggage, instead of just a bag.
SportRack Horizon Cargo Box is a great storage utility for carrying outdoor equipment such as camping, skiing, or fishing gear.
It is well built and durable making it suitable for carrying heavy loads.
Like the Thule Force XT, this comes with a central locking system that is operated with one key. However, this roof box only allows access from the passenger side.
This is perfectly fine as it is safer than the driver side, but having the flexibility of access from both sides would have been ideal.
The upside of the single-sided access is that the hinge feels more secure than the Thule Force XT, probably because that side is designed to never be opened.
The material is very solid and will withstand even the harshest of weather without leaking.
This cargo box is perfect for people who need to carry long and heavy loads and is especially suitable for skiing and fishing gear, as well as conventional traveling luggage.
While not exactly cheap, this is a high-quality roof box. It is a durable and long-lasting product that will not fall apart at the first sight of foul weather.
What are the different types of Roof Boxes and Cargo Carriers?
Before we discuss roof boxes in more detail, it would be good to discuss the different types of roof/cargo carriers that exist for cars.
A car roof box is an excellent option when you want to take a substantial amount of luggage with you on a trip, but don’t want to take up valuable space in your trunk.
The benefit of owning a roof box also extends to truck owners who know how useful such accessories can be.
There are a few different types of roof boxes and cargo carriers. In order from least to most recommended, they are as follows:
Roof Boxes / Cargo Boxes
Given that, roof boxes can be a great storage solution for the likes of skiing and fishing equipment, or just regular luggage.
There are also some variants that use the rear of your car as a method of attaching the cargo carrier. We discuss this further down.
Pros of Roof Boxes / Cargo Boxes
Cons Of Roof Boxes / Cargo Boxes
Rooftop baskets are a less popular, but still effective very type of roof box.
They are essentially a sturdy basket that sits on top of your car and can be attached to the roof rack or roof rails with secure clamps or straps.
They are a good option if you are looking for something to transport bulky items that are safe to store without fully concealing.
Rooftop baskets are designed to rest on top of your already installed roof rack. These are very useful if you have a sturdy, well-made roof rack that can support the weight.
Pros Of Rooftop Baskets
Cons Of Rooftop Baskets
Roofbags for cars are sacks that fit over the roof of a car and are secured by straps. They are a less expensive and less permanent option than roof boxes and can be used to store a variety of items.
Pros of Roof Bags
Cons Of Roof Bags
Hitch-Mounted cargo carriers
Hitch-mounted cargo carriers are a type of carrier that is attached to the hitch attachment at the rear of the vehicle.
Although not as popular as some of the other options, they are nonetheless useful.
Hitch-mounted cargo carriers are useful for those us that:
- Need extra storage solutions in addition to the roof box and trunk
- Have a vehicle that isn’t compatible with roof boxes
- Find it is difficult to access the roof box
Pros Of Hitch-Mounted cargo carriers
Cons Of Hitch-Mounted cargo carriers
What should I look for when buying a car roof cargo box?
How much you will need to store – if you need to store a variety of things then you may need a roof box that is larger than one specifically designed to store something like skis.
How much clearance you will need for the rear door to open (if you have one) – you don’t want a roof box that will cause damage to the rear door or window.
How much roof space is available – if the roof box is too long for your car it could overhang the front of the vehicle. This can be a safety concern as it will likely restrict your view as a driver.
The volume of roof boxes, usually given in cubic feet or cubic meters, is another thing to consider. It will not only affect only how much you can store but also how easy it is to access.
Roof boxes used for skis won’t necessarily need a large volume, but if your roof box will be holding regular luggage then the volume is something that should be considered.
Generally speaking, roof boxes that have a volume in the range of 15 – 20 cubic feet will be enough for most of us that intend to go away for a night or two.
Roof boxes can be made from a variety of different materials.
Most modern roof boxes are made from reinforced plastic, fiberglass, aluminum, steel, or a mix of materials.
Whilst all options serve the same purpose they do have their own unique advantages and disadvantages.
Aluminum for instance is relatively light and resists corrosion, but can also be more expensive than other options on the market today.
Steel is generally cheaper than aluminum however it can rust if not treated properly. Both steel and aluminum are often used in the manufacture of roof baskets.
Generally speaking, plastic and fiberglass roof boxes tend to have the most variance in price and durability.
On the flip side, they offer peace of mind that these materials won’t corrode from exposure to the elements and they are very durable.
Some roof boxes are better protected than others. Some models will have a locking mechanism built into the box to prevent thieves from stealing your luggage.
Others require you to purchase a separate lock, so it’s important to consider such options before buying.
If you rent or borrow cars frequently then it may be worth investing in a model with its own mechanism for protecting your belongings.
In terms of overall cost, roof boxes vary from different companies and different models.
It’s important to understand that the cheapest isn’t always the best option for your money. Sometimes opting for a more expensive roof box with better features can be justified in order to get what you pay for.
Some more expensive options are often engineered to optimize the combination of capacity, weight, robustness, design, and aerodynamic characteristics.
If roof boxes are something you intend on using regularly then it may make sense to invest in a higher-quality model which offers peace of mind, convenience, and reliability.
While this depends on your specific requirements, generally speaking, it’s advisable to find a roof box that has multiple points of entry.
For example, some roof boxes will allow to you open them from both sides of the vehicle. This is helpful from a safety and flexibility perspective.
Shape / Aerodynamics
Car roof boxes are not aerodynamically built. This means they disrupt the flow of air over your car and can thus reduce fuel economy and increase noise.
However, there are ways to combat this with deeper lids, for instance, which helps channel airflow more efficiently through your car.
Roof boxes tend to be very heavy when compared to a bag or suitcase so consider this if you will be likely to require moving it around often.
Vehicle Make and Model
There are two types of car roof box fits. They are Universal and Fitting.
The universal type generally fits multiple vehicle models that have certain dimensions.
This can be useful if you find it difficult to find a roof box designed for your specific vehicle model, or are just not too fussed about custom-fitted options.
Custom fitted versions are designed to fit the specific vehicle model. This can be reassuring, as this should give confidence that the roof box will definitely fit your vehicle.
Never forget how useful car roof boxes can actually be and why getting one should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, especially those who regularly travel with luggage.
Make sure that you know what you want to use the roof box for and how often to ensure it is the right purchase.
When weighing up your options, consider what material it’s made from, its shape and aerodynamics, weight, security, and importantly the ease of installation.
In general, we feel that the pros of owning a roof box outweigh the cons for those who love to travel regularly.