Updated June 2023
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom line
Best of the Best
Thule Force XT Cargo Box
Force XT Cargo Box
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Customer Favorite
Bottom Line

This top-of-the-line box is aerodynamic, with a high capacity and tough, protective ABS shell.


Extremely quiet ride. Large capacity. Multiple layers of ABS plastic create a light, tough shell. Can be opened on both sides for convenience. Durable, long-lasting construction that usually lasts for years. Offers a reassuring, audible "click" when it's properly attached.


We recommend taking it easy with the lock mechanism. If you have a problem, support is not very responsive.

Best Bang for the Buck
RoofPax Cargo Carrier Bag
Cargo Carrier Bag
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Softshell Body
Bottom Line

This rooftop cargo bag has a soft-shell body so it can adjust slightly to what you pack.


There are 4 capacities of this cargo bag to choose from: 15, 19, 23, and expandable 15 to 19 cubic feet. It comes with a range of securing methods so any car can strap it down safely and securely.


It’s not completely waterproof. Some customers struggled to get the cargo bag back inside its storage bag.

SportRack Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box
Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box
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Fully Assembled
Bottom Line

This roomy, hard-bodied box can be quickly mounted without using any tools.


Made from heavy-duty ABS material and boasts 18 cubic fee of capacity. Designed to open from the rear, keeping you out of traffic while loading and unloading. Arrives fully assembled. Water-resistant.


It's water-resistant, not fully waterproof. Some find the rear opening design awkward since it locks on the side.

Rightline Gear 100S30 Sport 3 Carrier
Rightline Gear
100S30 Sport 3 Carrier
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No Rack Required
Bottom Line

Uniquely versatile, this soft cargo box can be used with or without a roof rack.


Waterproof cargo bag that can be attached to a roof rack or using the included straps and clips. Produced with larger vehicles in mind, but smaller sizes will fit a sedan. Made from UV-resistant PVC with welded seams. Easy to store when not in use.


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

Thule Pulse Rooftop Cargo Box
Pulse Rooftop Cargo Box
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Good for Large Cars
Bottom Line

This rooftop cargo box is great for both cars and for SUVs.


This cargo box comes in 2 sizes, medium and large. The medium box measures 67 by 35 by 16 inches and has a capacity of 14 cubic feet. The large measures 76 by 33 by 16.5 inches and has a capacity of 26 cubic feet.


Water can leak inside during medium-to-heavy rain. The key can’t be removed when the box is unlocked.


We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for best cargo boxes

Traveling by car can be a great adventure, but having to cram luggage and occupants together in limited space can detract from the fun. A rooftop cargo box solves this problem by providing additional space for needed items without taking up any interior room. 

Cargo boxes come in different shapes and sizes, and hardshell and softshell models are available to fit different needs. Those made of soft materials, also called cargo bags, are water resistant just like their hard-sided counterparts. Most cargo boxes are made for vacationing, but some models are ideal for stashing sports gear

Regardless of the size and design, all of these useful carriers fasten securely to the roof of a vehicle to maximize interior space. The top-selling Thule Force XT Cargo Box has an aerodynamic design, while the value-priced RoofPax Carrier Bag is available in several sizes. 

Best cargo boxes and accessories

Thule Force XT Cargo Box

Made of rugged ABS plastic that’s built to last, this cargo box is ideal for anyone who travels frequently and has a lot of items to take along. It’s also great for sports enthusiasts because it can accommodate skis, snowboards and other equipment. It boasts an aerodynamic design, with a capacity of 16 cubic feet. The Force XT is easy to install on a vehicle’s roof rack, and it’s simple to access because it opens on both sides. The quick-mount fastening system makes a notable “click” to alert you that it’s securely installed. The streamlined design is compatible with many different types of vehicles, making it a versatile option for the avid traveler who needs a spacious, high-end cargo box. 

RoofPax Cargo Carrier Bag 

Strong hooks and straps keep this carrier bag securely in place, whether it’s attached to a car’s roof rack or directly to the roof. Once on top of a vehicle, it’s easy to adjust for the perfect fit. The bag is crafted of a soft, sturdy polyester material that expands to hold lots of luggage. It comes in four sizes to match your needs, whether you have just a few items to pack or large amounts of luggage for an extended trip. The price is another selling point of this budget-friendly cargo carrier. Despite its many user-friendly features, all sizes of this bag are available at a fraction of the price of hard-sided cargo boxes. 

SportRack Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box 

This rooftop cargo box is compatible with different types of automobiles. The durable ABS plastic holds up nicely to use as well as the sun’s rays and will last through years of frequent travel. If you need a cargo box to fit lots of luggage, this model won’t disappoint. It offers 18 cubic feet of interior space so you can fit items for multiple people. This cargo box takes minimal effort to put in place because it doesn’t require tools to install. You’ll also appreciate the mid-range price.

Although some users may find the rear-opening lid a bit awkward when it comes to accessing the contents, it does provide the benefit of keeping you behind the vehicle and away from traffic when opening it.  

Rightline Gear Sport 3 Rooftop Cargo Carrier 

No roof rack on your car? No problem, because this softshell cargo bag can be installed on top of a vehicle that doesn’t have one. A combination of strong clips and straps make it easy to fasten this carrier securely. Its lightweight construction makes it simple to maneuver and remove from the roof. When it’s time to put it in storage, it folds in minutes and doesn’t take up a lot of space. While this cargo carrier isn’t as durable as a hardshell cargo box, it is suitable for occasional use, and the low price is appealing to budget-conscious travelers. 

Thule Pulse Cargo Box

This is another well-made cargo box by Thule, a top brand in the industry. It has fastening mechanisms that are compatible with many vehicles, and once installed, this sleekly designed box stays put. The capacity is spacious, and it’s available in two sizes to fit most travelers’ needs. The material of this model is also impressive: a durable hard plastic that can withstand the rigors of road trips. If Thule is your brand of choice for a cargo box but you don’t want to pay top dollar, this model is worth considering. 

Yakima SkyBox Carbonite Aerodynamic Cargo Box 

It’s the sleek design of the SkyBox that reduces drag when driving, making it quiet and efficient. Its tough construction is made for travel, but possibly the most exciting thing about the Carbonite material is that it's made of 80 percent recycled material, making it a good pick for eco-conscious shoppers. You don’t have to worry once you stash your items in the SkyBox, because it has a proprietary SuperLatch system that provides security once the lid is shut. This cargo box is compatible with numerous types of vehicles and roof racks, and no tools are required to install it. 

SportRack Horizon Cargo Box

Whether you’re transporting sports equipment or vacation essentials, the Horizon cargo box has you covered. Its 16 cubic feet of storage space can be used to stash skis or lots of luggage. Travel won’t harm this tough model thanks to the strong ABS plastic material. It boasts an aerodynamic structure that works with most vehicles. The fasteners are compatible with many cargo racks and come with quick-release attachments. You won’t have to pay a premium price for this cargo box either. At less than $500, it’s an appealing buy for a hardshell model.

What to know before you buy a cargo box


Sport: These cargo boxes are made of a hard plastic polymer material, such as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), and designed to carry sporting equipment. Some can fit skis, kayak paddles and other oversize gear. Narrower boxes are designed for smaller sporting or gaming equipment. If you use a smaller sport box, you might still have room on the roof of your car for a kayak or bike rack as well. Because of their design, a sport cargo box can make it difficult to open the hatch or trunk on some vehicles.

Luggage: These cargo boxes are also made of hard materials but are typically shorter than sport cargo boxes. They’re designed to hold suitcases and other items that may be bulky but not necessarily very long. Some luggage cargo boxes can also keep a rear hatch from opening easily. Keep in mind that some sport and luggage cargo boxes are similar in style and can be used to carry either sports equipment or luggage. 

Bag: A cargo bag is similar to a cargo box except it’s made of durable, weather-resistant fabric as opposed to hard plastic. These bags are lightweight and easier to remove from the vehicle when you’re not using them, but they aren’t quite as durable as cargo boxes.

Attachment to vehicle 

Nearly all cargo boxes require that the vehicle have a roof rack with crossbars. If your vehicle doesn’t have a roof rack, you can buy one, but make sure it will properly attach to your car.

Before you buy a cargo box, make sure that your chosen model will connect with the crossbar on your roof rack. Your vehicle might have a square, round, factory, or aerodynamic-style crossbar. Cargo boxes come with the necessary mounting hardware. 

If you don’t have a roof rack and don’t want to invest in one, a cargo bag is your best option. Some models can be placed on top of a car and attached to the roof and doorframe. 

Size and volume

The different sizes of cargo boxes have to do with volume, which is measured cubic feet or cubic meters. Most cargo boxes range from 9 to 22 cubic feet (0.25 to 0.4 cubic meter).

Obviously, the more cubic feet, the more stuff you can fit inside it. However, larger boxes are heavier and create more wind resistance, which affects fuel efficiency. IIf you’re concerned about gas mileage, look for a cargo box with an aerodynamic, streamlined shape to help cut down on wind resistance.) To find the best cargo box for your needs, consider the number and size of the items you plan to carry as well as the size of your vehicle. Most cargo boxes come in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes.

  • Small, medium and large cargo boxes typically work best for luggage and other conventionally sized items.
  • XL and XXL cargo boxes are usually best for oversize sporting equipment. However, they’re also good options for travelers who need a lot of extra space for luggage when heading out on road trips. 

Weight limit

Every cargo box has a specific weight limit designated by the manufacturer. Most can accommodate between 90 and 110 pounds. Always check the manufacturer’s specifications to make sure your chosen model can hold as much as you need it to. Never exceed the quoted weight limit.

Ease of installation and access

If you travel frequently and need a cargo box on your car most of the time, you probably won’t be overly concerned with how easy it is to install because you’ll leave it on the car for prolonged periods. If that’s the case, your primary concern should be how easy it is to open and close the box. Look for a box that you can open with one hand and stays open once unlocked. For the easiest access, consider a cargo box that opens on both sides. A hardshell carrier is the best choice, because it will hold up well to frequent use and last a long time. 

If you only need to use your cargo box a few times a year, you’ll want one that’s easy to install and remove. Cargo bags are a good option for infrequent travelers because they’re lightweight and easy to mount. They’re also simple to remove and place in storage. 

Vehicle compatibility

Even if a cargo box is the right size for your needs, it won’t do you any good if it doesn’t work with your type of vehicle. For example, a small box can be difficult to access on top of a large vehicle, while a large box may block access to the rear hatch of a small vehicle. Check the manufacturer's recommendations to see if your preferred cargo box will work with your particular car. 


  • Never exceed the cargo box’s stated weight limit. Overloading it could damage your car and even lead to an accident.
  • Distribute the weight evenly. In general, it’s best to pack lighter items in a cargo box if you can. That said, the heaviest items should go in first, and make sure the weight is evenly distributed.
  • Pack items tightly. Avoid putting loose items in a cargo box. Smaller items should be tucked securely inside something else so they won’t move around.
  • Check visibility before driving. Sit behind the wheel and check that the packed cargo box doesn’t affect your ability to see all around your car.
  • Carry spare straps. It’s a good idea to bring extra supplies for the cargo box or bag like straps to secure it in place. That way, if a strap should break, you can easily replace it.
  • Know your vehicle’s clearance. A cargo box adds extra height to your vehicle, so be careful driving through places like drive-thrus, parking garages and underpasses.


Q. How much does a cargo box cost? 

A. Cargo boxes come in a wide range of prices to fit different needs and budgets. The material, size and design determine the price you’ll pay. They typically cost between $100 and $800. Cargo bags, while not as durable, are much more affordable. Expect to spend between $100 and $200 for a bag. Cargo boxes made of hard plastic range in price from $300 to $800. Regardless of the type you choose, larger ones cost more. 

Q. Does a cargo box work with any car?

A. Your car must have a roof rack in order to support a cargo box. If your vehicle doesn’t already have a rack, you’ll need to have one installed before you can mount a cargo box on top.

Q. How much weight can a cargo box hold?

A. That depends on the model, so be sure to consult the manufacturer’s specs to determine how much you can load into it. Most boxes can hold up to 110 pounds.

Q. What features make it easier to load and unload a cargo box?

A. You’ll have a much easier time packing and unpacking a cargo box, particularly a large one, if it opens on both sides. That way, you won’t have to reach across the box when you’re loading or unloading your gear, and you can stand on the side away from traffic if you have to stop on the road.

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