We purchase every product we review with our own funds—we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Note: The above product recommendations were updated August 2017. The products below were our original choices and have yet to be updated.
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.
That's where we come in! At BestReviews, we want to help you pick the perfect cargo box for your car.
We're dedicated to writing the most honest and unbiased reviews out there. We never accept free products from manufacturers. Instead, we buy products off of store shelves, test them in our labs, consult experts, and examine feedback from product owners.
Our ultimate goal: to become your go-to source for trustworthy product recommendations whenever you’re faced with a buying decision.
Our five favorite cargo boxes on the market represent both value and quality, and are all highly rated products.
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?
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.
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 vehicle operations. Dale’s past experiences include distinguished service as an officer in the US Army.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you’re hoping to get good gas mileage, look for a cargo box with an angled front. Flat fronts disrupt the aerodynamics of the car and will lower your MPG.
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.)
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.
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.
Be careful in areas of high wind, as a cargo box can affect your ability to control your vehicle.
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.
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.
Although this may sound like common sense, never put any living animals in your cargo box.
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.
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.
If you travel frequently in rain or snow, stay away from a cargo bag. They tend to leak and may not be stable in high winds.
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.
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.
A cargo box creates a drag on your fuel economy. If you’re not using it, take it off.
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.
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
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.
Always be wary when purchasing a cargo box used. Double check that all the hinges are in good condition and that anything touching the car is like new.
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.
Currently priced at $127, 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.
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.
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.
If you want an inexpensive hard-shell cargo box, you'll struggle to find better value than the SportRack SR7018 Vista XL for $366. 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.
You certainly get excellent quality if you opt for the Yakima SkyBox 21 Carbonite Cargo Box, but it will cost you $579. 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.
Feedback from owners consistently puts the Thule Force XXL cargo box at the upper end of satisfaction ratings.
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.
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.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.