As seen in:
Thule
Thule Force
WeatherTech
RackSack
Rightline Gear
Sport 3 Car Top
SportRack
Vista XL Rear Opening
Yakima
Skybox 21 Carbonite
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Good

Extremely quiet ride. Large capacity. Multiple layers of ABS plastic create a light, tough shell. Durable construction will last for years.

Padded with felt to prevent scratching. Lightweight and easy to store.

Multiple attachment options. Price is similar to WeatherTech, but capacity is larger.

A large, hard-shell box of durable ABS plastic. Locks provide extra security. Mounting is incredibly easy.

Large capacity. Made of 80 percent recycled ABS plastic.

Bad

Some 2013/2014 models were impacted by a manufacturing flaw.

Water-resistant, but not waterproof. Roof bars must be purchased separately.

Must be completely filled to maintain structural integrity. Prone to holes and leaks.

Occasional owner complaints of wind noise.

Smaller opening (13.5 inches) makes it difficult to insert some suitcases.

Bottom Line

An aerodynamic, large-capacity box with a protective ABS shell. The highest quality available.

With durability that mirrors that of a nylon bag, this low-priced soft cargo bag is suitable for occasional travelers.

Designed for minivans and SUVs, this soft cargo box is an affordable choice for those who travel only a few times a year.

Built with safety and security in mind, this is a reasonably priced, durable cargo box with a protective shell.

A pricey hard-shell cargo box that is praised for its overall quality, design, and durability.

How we decide
BestReviews is committed to providing comprehensive and trusted reviews for products that matter to consumers. We do the research to help you save time and money.
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Products received from manufacturers
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Models Considered
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Hours Spent
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Experts Interviewed
152
Consumers Consulted

Best Cargo Boxes

When you need additional lugging ability – or you simply don't want the inside of your vehicle to be jammed full of stuff – a cargo box (or bag) can be a convenient and efficient solution. The challenge lies in finding a box that's the right size, easy to use, and able to handle bad weather. We've carefully compiled a shortlist of cargo boxes that represent both value and quality. Our finalists are:

Products we Considered

Thule
Thule Force
WeatherTech
RackSack
Rightline Gear
Sport 3 Car Top
SportRack
Vista XL Rear Opening
Yakima
Skybox 21 Carbonite

Considerations

Capacity & Construction

It's not necessarily about having the biggest box – it's about having the one that best fits your needs. There's also the question of what your cargo box is made of. Is a light cargo bag your best solution, or should you go for a hard-shell carrier?

Features

Each cargo box manufacturer offers different features to enhance their product. In this part of our review, we look at the particulars of each model: how it attaches to the car, how it keeps the elements at bay, how easy it is to fill and empty, how secure it is.

Usability

Do the claims made by cargo box manufacturers stack up in the real world? Owner feedback is one of the best ways to find the answer to that question. With help from actual owners, we examine the pros and cons of each product.

Price

In the last part of our ratings, we look at how much each cargo box costs, the quality of its performance, and the overall value it delivers.

Considerations

Capacity & Construction

WeatherTech 60001 RackSack Cargo Carrier

At 13 cubic feet, the WeatherTech 60001 RackSack Cargo Carrier has the smallest capacity in our cargo box review. However, 13 cubic feet is still a surprisingly large amount of space. The box is 18 inches tall, 32 inches wide, and 39 inches long. (As with all cargo boxes, you should check if it will fit your vehicle before making a purchase. This is especially important if you drive a compact car.) The WeatherTech is comprised of fairly tough polyester with water-resistant, double-stitched seams. It's important to note that WeatherTech calls its box “water resistant” rather than “waterproof.” With the durability of a nylon bag, potential buyers need to be aware of its limits.

Rightline Gear 100S30 Sport 3 Car Top Carrier

With the word "sport" in the title, you might initially think the Rightline Gear 100S30 Sport 3 Car Top Carrier is a sleek little number. In fact, it's quite the opposite. At 18 cubic feet, the Rightline – which has been designated by its manufacturer for SUVs and minivans – boasts as large a capacity as you usually find in soft cargo bags. It is 48 inches long, 40 inches wide, and as much as 19 inches tall when full. It's made from reinforced PVC and a product called “Hydrotuff” – a tough polyester. Seams are double-stitched, zips are urethane- coated with protective flaps, and the manufacturer claims that it's 100 percent waterproof. (As we'll see later, however, not every owner agrees with the “waterproof” designation.)

SportRack SR7018 Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box

Like the Rightline, the SportRack SR7018 Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box has a capacity of 18 cubic feet. In every other respect, however, it's quite different from the Rightline. It's a hard-shell cargo box, and at 19 inches tall, 40 inches wide, and about 64 inches long, it's quite a sizable unit. The SportRack is made from ABS plastic – a popular choice because the material can withstand the type of "abuse" this kind of product inevitably takes during its lifetime.

Yakima Skybox 21 Carbonite Cargo Box

The Yakima SkyBox 21 Carbonite Cargo Box measures 90 inches long and can hold a capacity of up to 21 cubic feet. At just 36 inches wide and 20 inches tall, it's quite slender when compared to some of its competitors. Like the SportRack, the Yakima's hard shell is made of ABS plastic. (The type of plastic is known as “Carbonite.” For those who favor “green” manufacturing, it's a material that's up to 80 percent recycled.) In spite of being a recycled product, the Carbonite shell is still quite tough.

Thule Force Cargo Box, Black

The Thule Force Cargo Box has a capacity of 21 cubic feet. It's quite long (92.5 inches); width, however, is a svelte 36 inches, and height is just 18 inches. In many ways, it's a direct competitor of the highly respected Yakima. ABS plastic is the material of choice; Thule uses multiple layers of the material to create what they call “Aeroskin” technology. Owners agree that the Thule's shell is light, tough, and aerodynamic.

The SportRack is made from ABS plastic – a popular choice because the material can withstand the type of abuse this product inevitably takes during its lifetime.
Considerations

Features

To install the WeatherTech Cargo Bag, you will need some type of roof bars on which to anchor it. Once installed, a felt-like material on the bottom of the box helps prevent marks and scratches on the top of your vehicle. The WeatherTech's flexible straps will adhere to horizontal or vertical rails; they're quick and easy to fit. A clever “Roll and Wrap” Velcro system ensures that the straps won't flap around and cause damage to the vehicle when you're driving. When not in use, the WeatherTech may be stowed in its handy carrying case.

Like the WeatherTech, the Rightline Cargo Bag includes four straps that must be secured to your vehicle. However, if you don't have any kind of rack or rail system, you can attach it to your car by opening the doors, looping the straps through the inside of your car, and clipping them on the outside. (You can purchase clips that hook to the tops of your door edges; these cost extra.) The Rightline's multiple attachment options provide plenty of flexibility, though some owners do complain that the straps are difficult to manipulate and the bag is tough to fit between cross-rails. As always, it's wise to check the dimensions of your vehicle before purchasing any cargo box.

SportRack SR7018 Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box

One big advantage that a hard-shell cargo box like the SportRack offers is security. You can lock the SportRack; the lock is at the back, and it's from there that the box opens. (This configuration is also a safety measure, as you never need to be near passing traffic to load or unload.) You'll need crossbars with a minimum of 23-5/8 inches between them in order to mount the SportRack. It should fit most factory set-ups, but as we've said before, it's always wise to check dimensions for compatibility before making a purchase. After initial set-up, the U bolts will need to be fitted. This quick-detach process is quite straightforward,

Security on the Yakima Cargo Box comes by way of a “SuperLatch” locking system. Personal safety is enhanced by the fact that the box can open from either side. The manufacturer has paid special attention to the aerodynamics of this box; the shape minimizes drag and reduces the box's impact on fuel consumption. What's more, the rigid lid protects the contents of the box. You can fit the Yakima Skybox to your vehicle via a clever, quick-release system that requires either Yakima's own rack and rail system or a compatible alternative. (Our research indicates that compatible alternatives are plenteous.) Owners agree that this high-quality cargo box is built with longevity in mind.

Thule Force Cargo Box, Black

The Thule Cargo Box provides the same attention to detail and “quality feel” as the Yakima. The exterior has been contoured to minimize the effect on your gas bill, and there's a “SecureLock” system to keep your contents safe. Like the Yakima, the Thule Force can be opened from either side. The manufacturer claims that the “Quick-Grip” mounting system can be set up without any tools in less than five minutes. You'll need either a Thule rack or a relevant alternative; our research indicates that there are lots of Thule-compatible alternatives on the market today.

The Thule's "QuickGrip" mounting system makes assembly a fast and easy task.
Dale
Expert Consultant
Dale
Automotive Super-User

Dale brings over 40 years of automotive industry experience to the BestReviews table. An avid DIY guy, he has worked with, rebuilt, and led maintenance on a variety of vehicles. He’s also well-versed in fleet management and operation. Dale’s past experiences include distinguished service as an officer in the US Army.

Considerations

Usability

WeatherTech 60001 RackSack Cargo Carrier

If you can accept the limitations of a soft exterior, the WeatherTech Cargo Bag is not a bad choice. It's light and easy to store when not in use, and although it makes no claims to be “quick-release,” it doesn't take long to fit to your car. The box doesn't lock, and it will leak in poor weather conditions, but all rooftop cargo bags are prone to leakage – regardless of what the manufacturer says. If that's a problem, simply stow things you don't want to get wet in plastic bags before you load them. It's also important to secure the straps properly; doing so will reduce your chances of fabric tears, noise, and vibration. Over the long haul, the WeatherTech may not be as durable as some of its competitors, but most owners are perfectly happy with their purchase.

Rightline Gear 100S30 Sport 3 Car Top Carrier

The Rightline parallels the WeatherTech in terms of storage, security, water resistance, and fit. Despite the manufacturer's claim that it's 100 percent watertight, a notable number of owners have seen water inside their Rightline after a rain. Others found the Rightline a bit awkward to attach and pack. Indeed, the Rightline is not as durable as a hard-shell cargo box. Owners sometimes experience tears and holes – even if they haven't owned the Rightline for very long. As impractical as it may be, the instructions do point out that the Rightline should always be completely filled in order to maintain its structural integrity.

SportRack SR7018 Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box

If soft roof bags have any big advantage over hard shells like the SportRack Cargo Box, it's how small they fold up when not in use. Obviously, you can't fold up the hard-shell SportsRack. Nevertheless, at over five feet long and 40 pounds (when empty), it shouldn't be too hard to find a home for this box in the average garage. (Note: because the box weighs so much, it wouldn't hurt to have a helping hand around when attaching it to your car.) In use, a few people reported more wind noise than they would have liked, but wind noise is a fairly common occurrence with cargo boxes. Overall, the SportsRack receives above-average ratings from owners

Yakima Skybox 21 Carbonite Cargo Box

There's no argument that the Yakima cargo box exudes quailty. There are, however, a couple of features that could be improved. The Yakima will only stretch open to a width of 13.5 inches, which can make it difficult to insert larger suitcases. (Once inside, however, there's plenty of height.) The Yakima will hold a maximum of 62 pounds, which may or may not be enough for some travelers. This product features an excellent quick-detach system, but you'll want help getting it onto the roof of your vehicle – especially if you've got a tall SUV. In spite of these criticisms, the Yakima is generally praised for its design, build, and tremendous capacity.

Thule Force Cargo Box, Black

If you're looking for top quality, the Thule Cargo Box normally delivers even more than expected. There was a brief period in the product's history in which a manufacturing flaw caused some products to open while in transit. Thule quickly became aware of the problem and fixed it; the incidents were in 2013 and 2014, and it's unlikely that the flaw affects any models in stores today. Should you be unlucky enough to find one, Thule will replace it immediately. That aside, we've uncovered few problems or complaints about the Thule Force Cargo Box. At 56 pounds, it's a fair lump to move around, but you can put an awful lot inside of it. Despite its obvious size, many owners comment about how quiet it is while in transit and how little it affects the ride of their vehicle.

At over five feet long and 40 pounds (when empty), it shouldn't be too hard to find a home for the SportRack Cargo Box in the average garage.
Considerations

Price

WeatherTech 60001 RackSack Cargo Carrier

Currently priced at $104, the WeatherTech 60001 RackSack Cargo Carrier is an affordable cargo bag that would be an ideal solution for many. At 13 cubic feet. it's not the biggest in our ratings, but not everyone needs to move half a house full of gear all the time! It's light, it stows easily when not in use, and it's made from reasonably durable polyester fabric that yields a decent level of weather protection. Fitting the WeatherTech to your car is no more difficult than throwing it on the roof and attaching four straps. (Potential buyer note: you will need a rack or rails of some kind.) In heavy rain, the WeatherTech will leak, and if you treat it badly, the material could tear or become punctured. Indeed, soft cargo bags can never compete with their hard-shell competitors in this arena. Nevertheless, the WeatherTech provides a good amount of storage for very little money. If you only plan to use your cargo box a few times a year, the WeatherTech could be the perfect solution.

Rightline Gear 100S30 Sport 3 Car Top Carrier

In many ways, the $119 Rightline Gear 100S30 Sport 3 Car Top Carrier is just like the WeatherTech – but bigger. Actually, five additional cubic feet make it quite a lot bigger than the WeatherTech, so you'd want to double check the dimensions of your vehicle before making a purchase. The Rightline can be fitted to a “bare” roof. (Straps can be hooked to door openings or inside the vehicle. The clips you would need to hook the straps to your doors cost a few extra dollars.) The Rightline's mixture of PVC mesh and “Hydrotuff” material adds reasonable strength, but the manufacturer's “100 percent waterproof” claim isn't borne out by a number of owners. To be fair, we have yet to come across a soft cargo bag that is completely waterproof, so the Rightline is no worse than any other on the market. In fact, it's better than many. Potential buyers should note that the Rightline needs to be filled completely every time, or it runs the risk of damage. This could be a deal-breaker for some, but if you only need a cargo box for a few vacations a year, the price could be worth the minor inconvenience.

SportRack SR7018 Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box

If you want an inexpensive hard-shell cargo box, you'll struggle to find better value than the SportRack SR7018 Vista XL for $259. At 18 cubic feet, it has the load capacity of the Rightline but no concerns about needing to make sure it's full every trip. It's made from tough ABS, but it's not too heavy to lug around. And, although it needs a bit of storage space when not in use, most people should be able to find a corner for it somewhere. The SportRack is lockable, easy to attach to a car, and can hold up to 100 pounds of gear. Not surprisingly, it's very popular with consumers. A few owners said it buzzed a bit when driving, and it's not as aerodynamic as some, but it is highly rated by most owners for its value and quality.

Yakima Skybox 21 Carbonite Cargo Box

You certainly get excellent quality if you opt for the Yakima SkyBox 21 Carbonite Cargo Box, but it will cost you $599. On the plus side, it offers a huge capacity of 21 cubic feet. It's easy to attach to your vehicle and includes convenient, quick-release clamps. You'll need to ensure that you've got the correct rack to mount it on, but plenty of compatible racks are available today. It's put together very well; the manufacturer has obviously poured a lot of thought into mounts, locks, hinges, and other fittings. In short, the Yakima is the kind of durable load lugger you're going to have around for years. On the minus side, a few owners have struggled with the Yakima's weight (you really need two people to mount this box), and because the opening isn't very wide, it can be tedious to insert certain larger suitcases. Overall, however, most owners say it's a well-made, roomy, quiet cargo box – definitely worth the big bucks they paid for it.

Thule Force Cargo Box, Black

The two big names in racks, boxes, and other vehicle attachments are Yakima and Thule. There may be a lot of debate about who is actually best, but there's no question that the quality of the Thule Force XXL is right up there with the Yakima Skybox. Right now, the Thule costs $499. When compared to the Yakima, it's equally sleek, attractive, and solid. Owners note how quiet it is on the go – a definite plus, especially if you intend to travel very far. You will need a large vehicle to accommodate this model. (Smaller models are also available from this manufacturer.) Apart from a former problem in which Thule boxes opened slightly at a certain speed, it seems that owners give it top marks for just about everything. The manufacturing problem that occurred in 2013/2014 has since been rectified by Thule. With a cargo box this good, we'd expect nothing less.

If you're looking for a big cargo box, the Thule's capacity of 21 cubic feet is certainly substantial.

Best of the Best

It's a tough call, but the Best of the Best cargo box is the Thule Force XXL. The Yakima is a worthy rival, but the Thule just shades it.

If you're looking for a big cargo box, the Thule's storage capacity of 21 cubic feet is certainly substantial. Thule will tell you, for example, that the Force Cargo Box could theoretically hold 10-12 pairs of skis! Regardless of what you want to put in there, 21 cubic feet is definitely a lot of room. What's more, the Thule also features "Aeroskin" aerodynamics that help reduce the box's impact on fuel consumption and make it quieter while you drive.

The Thule and Yakima are both made of ABS, but the Thule's shell has undergone a lamination process that provides extra strength without the extra weight. As a result, it's a little lighter than the Yakima. Thanks to the clever "Quick Grip" fixing system, it should only take around five minutes to attach the box to your car. You will need a compatible rack and cross-rail system, but even if you don't opt for Thule's own model, there are plenty of factory and aftermarket alternatives. For personal safety, the box may be opened from either side. Over-sized locks keep contents secure and are easy to operate, even with gloves on.

Feedback from owners consistently puts the Thule Force XXL cargo box at the upper end of satisfaction ratings. It may not be bullet-proof, but complaints about durability are rare. For all of these reasons, we declare the Thule Force Cargo Box to be the very best cargo box on the market today.
Best of the Best
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Feedback from owners consistently puts the Thule Force XXL cargo box at the upper end of satisfaction ratings.

Best Bang for your Buck

The Best Bang for Your Buck cargo box is, without a doubt, the SportRack SR7018 Vista XL. It's a reliable hard-shell cargo box at a desirable price, and it's highly popular with consumers.

Soft cargo bags have their uses. They have good capacities, they're a breeze to stow when not in use, and they're cheap by comparison. If you want occasional load hauling, then the WeatherTech or Rightline could well be your perfect solution. The problem with soft bags, as we see it, is their lack of security for long road trips. Are you really going to put 13 or 18 cubic feet of gear into a soft bag and leave it in the motel parking lot overnight? We certainly wouldn't. So that means you would have to unload the bag each night and load it again each morning.

Instead of opting for a less-reliable soft cargo bag, we recommend an economical hard-shell cargo box like the SportRack. At 18 cubic feet, you lose nothing in terms of space, but the entire box is still a manageable 42 pounds. Indeed, the manufacturer claims that the SportRack can be mounted in minutes (to an appropriate rack system), so it's almost as fast to fit as the Thule. It's made of ABS, so it will take a lot more punishment than soft bags, and it's lockable, so it's more secure. For personal safety, it opens at the rear. Perhaps the SportRack is not as easy to load as some other boxes, but what's a few extra minutes at the start of your journey when you won't have to unload it again until the end?

It's true that the Yakima and Thule are better quality, but that doesn't mean the SportRack is flimsy. Put simply, its fixtures and fittings are "functional and effective" rather than "prime-time." A handful of owners report a buzzing sound when driving, but there haven't been enough complaints to deem it a particular problem. If you're looking for a solid, all-round cargo box on a budget, you simply won't find a better deal than the SportRack Vista XL.
Best Bang for your Buck
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If you're looking for a solid, all-round cargo box on a budget, you simply won't find a better deal than the SportRack Vista XL.
The team that worked on this review
  • Bob
    Bob
    Writer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Editor
  • Ann
    Ann
    Operations
  • Jimi
    Jimi
    Product Analyst
  • Kriti
    Kriti
    Data Scientist