Best Car Top Cargo Bags

Updated November 2019
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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 we never accept free products from manufacturers. 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 
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Why trust BestReviews?
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 we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
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 we never accept free products from manufacturers. 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 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

45 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
513 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best car top cargo bags

Last Updated November 2019

You load up the family, luggage, and pets for that long-awaited vacation. Somehow, you end up with a pile of important stuff that just won’t fit in the trunk of your car. What do you do?

Here’s a solution: a car top cargo bag. Strap one of these to the roof of your car before a vacation, and you’ve got instant storage space. Car top cargo bags utilize a section of the car you might not have considered before: the roof! Not only are these great for carrying standard suitcases and other bags (a real plus for large families), but they can also be used for carrying bulky or oddly shaped items that may not fit anywhere else.

This guide will help you navigate the world of car top cargo bags. We examine what type of roof these will work with (you might not even need a roof rack), what to shoot for in terms of construction, and what features you should keep in mind when shopping for one. We also check out the various price ranges these cargo bags fall into and highlight a few bags that are our favorites.

Clean the bottom of the cargo bag and the top of your vehicle’s roof thoroughly before installation. This will help to cut down on the possibility of scratching.

Key considerations

Do you need a roof rack?

If you currently have a roof rack on your car, you’re going to be all set to install one of these cargo bags. Some work only with a roof rack, actually. A wide range of car top cargo bags do not require a roof rack, however. These sit directly atop your roof and are tied down with straps that either pass through your car or attach to the vehicle moulding with hooks.

Will it fit your car?

Similar to the roof rack question, you should verify that the cargo bag will actually fit atop your car. While some car top cargo bags are supposedly universally compatible, others are designed to fit only certain types of vehicles (like sedans). Even with a universal compatibility claim, it is still advisable to measure your car top and compare it with the bag’s specifications. When in doubt, contact the seller or manufacturer to verify a fit.

Construction

The road can be a tough place, and your car top cargo bag will need to be able to stand up to it. From PVC-coated mesh to rubber-laminated nylon to vinyl, the materials used to construct cargo bags vary considerably. Whatever you buy should be able to hold up to sun/UV rays, the wind, insects and other flying debris, and poor weather. Some features to keep an eye out for that speak to durability include a double-walled design, welded or double-stitched seams for strength, and long-lasting molded bases to better grip your roof.

EXPERT TIP

The opening of your car top cargo bag should be located at the rear of your vehicle when you install the bag.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Waterproofing

Whatever cargo bag you buy, it will offer some degree of resistance to rain, but this can vary quite a bit from bag to bag. A bag that is advertised as waterproof will likely offer more protection than one advertised as water resistant or rainproof. Fabrics coated with PVC generally offer more water resistance than those that aren’t. Extra weatherproofing features, such as urethane-coated zippers and zipper flaps, can also help to keep water out of what are traditionally the weakest waterproofing aspects of a cargo bag: the zippers.

Shape

If possible, go with a bag that offers an aerodynamic shape. These create considerably less drag than bulkier bags. Aerodynamic bags put less of a demand on fuel consumption and less wind-related stress on the bag.

Size

The larger a bag, the more it can hold. And, as these bags fold up when not in use, a larger size shouldn’t affect your ability to store it. However, if you have a compact car, you might have issues fitting a larger cargo bag on your roof.

Car top cargo bags typically range in size from 9 cubic feet to 19 cubic feet, with 15 cubic feet being average. Some manufacturers offer a variety of sizes, so you can pick and choose one based on a variety of dimensions and prices.

Installation

Whether you are mounting it to a roof rack or directly to your car roof, a car top cargo bag should easily install in just a few minutes. Be sure that you verify receipt of all straps, clips, and other installation materials before attempting an installation. Also completely read through the included instructions before beginning.

Straps and clips

Straps, and occasionally clips, are used to attach the cargo bag to your car roof. These will vary depending on whether you’re using a roof rack, clipping the bag to the car’s molding, or passing straps through your car doors. All straps and clips should be durable. Straps should also be adjustable to better fit your particular model and make of car.

Zippers

Car top cargo bags typically use zippers to seal them, keeping your valuables in and everything from insects to rain out. Zippers should be durable, and features such as flaps with Velcro or hook-and-loop fasteners can be a great addition in terms of waterproofing.

Dual zippers featuring larger holes in the ends of them can also be used with compact locks to offer some level of security for your belongings.

Extras

While not standard with all car top cargo bags, some do ship with a variety of extras, which might include:

  • A protective mat to keep the bag from scratching your roof
  • A padlock or combination lock for security
  • A storage bag for when the cargo bag is not in use
EXPERT TIP

Consider picking up some extra straps to carry with you on the road. This will prove handy in case a strap breaks or becomes lost.


Staff  | BestReviews

Car top cargo bag prices

Pricing for car top cargo bags can range from $25 to $100 or (rarely) more. The average for this type of bag is $50 to $60.

A big price influencer is the physical size of the bag, with pricier bags generally offering more space. Where car top cargo bags under $50 tend to be less durable and smaller in size, more expensive bags have better builds and tend to be bigger, more rugged, and long-lasting. You can expect pricier bags to hold up better in extreme weather. They may have advanced features such as coated zippers and rain flaps to help keep your items dry.

Also check to see if the manufacturer offers a warranty. Typical warranties for cargo bags range from three months to a year.

Tips

  • Bags that use clips on the inside of your vehicle to secure the cargo bag can affect how “sealed” your car is, resulting in drafts and increased noise. Consider using pass-through straps, if possible.
  • To load a cargo bag, place heavier items on the bottom of the bag, closest to the roof. Carefully distribute the weight as you add items. This will keep the bag from shifting when you are driving.
  • You will be riding higher with a cargo bag on your car, so take special care when driving into garages, under low branches and bridges, or anywhere with signs warning of “low clearance.”
  • Manufacturers generally recommend that you not use this type of cargo bag atop a sunroof, as the weight of the full bag could damage it.
  • If your cargo bag did not ship with a protective pad to place between it and your roof, you can improvise by using a piece of carpeting or a non-skid pad.
  • If you want a backup system to secure your cargo bag to your car better, consider picking up a cargo net.
  • Some car top cargo bags are more waterproof than others. If you are worried about yours, you can double up on the waterproofing by only loading the cargo bag with waterproof bags and suitcases. This way, you will have two layers of protection against bad weather.
EXPERT TIP

Do you need a roof rack? Some cargo bags do and some don’t. Be sure to find out the answer to this question before investing in a car top cargo bag.


Staff  | BestReviews

Other products we considered

The Roofbag Waterproof Car Top Carrier offers two sizes: 11 cubic feet and 15 cubic feet. It mounts either with or without a roof rack. The fabric of this bag is rip- and fire-resistant in addition to being waterproof and UV protected.

At 19 cubic feet, the LED Kingdomus Roof Top Cargo Bag is one of the larger bags we considered. It can be installed with or without a rack and can even be used in a truck bed.

The best-selling ToolGuards Car Top Carrier Bag offers durability and added waterproofing with its coated zippers. It ships with a protective mat and a storage bag.

Before taking off in your car, make sure the placement of your cargo bag affects no portion of your visual field while driving. If it is correctly installed, it shouldn’t, but a last-minute check is always helpful.

FAQ

Q. What is the difference between a cargo bag and a cargo box?
A.
While both cargo bags and cargo boxes offer top-carrying solutions, they differ considerably in terms of their advantages and disadvantages.

  • Cargo bags: If price is a primary issue, this is your best choice. Car top cargo bags can be much less expensive than comparably sized boxes. They are lighter and more flexible, and they are often easier to store because you can fold them. Some cargo bags can be used with a car rack.
  • Cargo boxes: Usually constructed with a hard shell, cargo boxes provide much more protection than cargo bags. They are generally sturdier on the road, and the majority feature locking options, something rarely found in cargo bags. Cargo boxes tend to cost more than cargo bags, and a roof rack is required to securely mount the box to your roof.


Q. How can I keep my cargo bag from making noise when I’m driving?
A.
You can minimize cargo bag noise by filling the bag as much as possible, leaving little empty space within it. More often than not, however, it is not the bag that is creating noise when you drive. Rather, it is the straps used to secure it.

To keep straps quiet while on the road, put a few twists into them before securing them. Be sure to also tuck away any strap ends. This will help keep them from flapping around and distracting you when you drive.


Q. Do car top cargo bags have built-in locks?
A.
Most cargo bags do not have any form of locking mechanism incorporated into them, although some manufacturers do ship bags with padlocks or combination locks for use with the dual zippers. Alternatively, you could purchase your own lock. The primary problem here is that all a thief has to do is slice through the fabric or the straps to rob you. If security is an issue, consider a car top cargo box, which will offer more protection in this area.

The team that worked on this review
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Rich
    Rich
    Writer

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