The last few years have witnessed a great improvement in the overall quality of cargo boxes for cars from what we were used to. Central to that is the advanced technology of the day which has made it possible to develop spacier, yet more compact cargo carriers that are stronger and more rigid at the same time – without compromising on the aerodynamics. If anything, it has been greatly enhanced.
These are all qualities you could wish for in a cargo carrier. In this review, we take a look at some of the best cargo boxes for cars making headlines in 2017. Before you proceed though, this might be a better place to start.
First up on our list is the Weathertech 60001 Racksack Cargo Carrier, and its name should be a straight giveaway as to what type of car rack it is. You may recognise Weathertech as the cut floor mat specialists, but their forays into the roof cargo carrier segment have been impressive. At least if this offering is anything to go by.
With a box measuring 39 x 32 x 18 inches (length/width/height) the Racksack boasts an impressive load capacity of thirteen cubic feet. It is made of repellant polyester, which means it is water resistant (as opposed to waterproof), down to the double-stitched seams. There is a hack to prevent your things from getting wet, however – simply wrap the things you do not want to get wet in plastic bags, and bingo!
It comes with swivel straps that are easily mountable to the side rails and crossbars, with ‘Roll and Wrap’ Velcro tabs that inhibit strap flapping. This Weathertech weighs an impressive 7.7 pounds (approx. 3.5kg), and it comes complete with a handy stow-away bag.
Nylon bags may be rugged, but they have their limits, so if you are frequently hitting the trail, this sack will only last so long. But if you get out only a couple of times a year, it should serve you just fine.
As with every other cargo box, you should check your vehicle’s measurement to ensure it will fit prior to making a purchase. Double so if your own a compact car.
- Attaching the cargo box is easy, and the carrier holds up sturdily
- Light in weight but fabric is made from heavy-duty material that should protect your valuables against harsh elements
- Durable tie-down racks which wrap nicely around the rack
- Not subject to noise as some roof racks are prone to be
- Provides for easy storage when not in use
- Fabric is not ideal for heavy travellers
- Not waterproof
- Needs side rails or roof rack system
Another soft-case carrier bag that may appeal to many people for two reasons in particular.
One is that they come with an impressive price tag of under 60 dollars (we found ours for that price). This, however, should not be misinterpreted to mean it’s of flimsy quality. Far from it. In addition to being waterproof, the Keeper 07203-1 Waterproof Roof Top Cargo Bag can be relied upon to protect your stuff from rain, the sun and wind, as well as grit on the road.
Second, in terms of available space, few carriers can hold a candle against this Keeper. Stretching 44 inches in length, 34 inches wide and 17 inches high, the bag has a storage capacity of 15 cubic feet. That is some enviable amount of extra space to have, especially considering its soft sides allow for squeezing in loads that are oddly shaped.
Comes as no surprise then to know this waterproof cargo bag remains a bestseller among families and just about anyone looking for a simple solution that guarantees swaths of space.
As with all soft-case carrier bags, this cargo bag is best attached on side rails, and if your car lacks this provision, then a roof rack system needs to be installed. It comes with four straps attached, one for each corner which allows you to revel in the knowledge that your luggage is securely attached, no matter where you mount it.
The Keeper is also available in a package deal that includes a protective mat for your roof and an extra strap, which you can add across the middle, for instance. This is only to give you peace of mind in our opinion, as the four are just sufficient.
Its soft material means it folds up easily, and you will find that it is extremely compact.
If what you are after is a simple cargo bag that just gets the job done, few can beat this Keeper to that gong.
One of its few downsides is that it is susceptible to wear if used vigorously.
- Ample storage capacity
- Good fit for small cars
- Stores easily when not in use
- Needs side rails or roof rack system
- Heavy use will lead to wear after a couple of thousand
Next up on our list of best car racks is an item that doesn’t really need a cargo rack. That’s right, unlike its two aforementioned close cousins that need side rails or rack system for attaching, the RoofBag Explorer Waterproof Soft Car Top Carrier is specially designed to absolve you of the need for any extra hardware, pre-installed or otherwise (although it also works fine with them) for just…a little more.
Still, it is on the lower end of the price spectrum as you can secure one for less than 100 dollars.
For that, what you get in exchange is a generous 48 x 38 x 18-inch carrier with two capacity sizes: the 11 cubic-foot carrier which should be a good fit for most vehicles (car, van, SUV etc.), and the 15 cubic-foot model best suited for larger vehicles.
This carrier is made from a high quality environmental-friendly polyester canvas material, a sturdy fabric that means you can squeeze a couple of years of service out of it before hitting the market again. If you are the once or twice a year traveller, then expect the RoofBag Explorer Waterproof Soft Car Top Carrier to serve you for years to come.
It is 99% waterproof, according to RoofBag, which is more than sufficient for any practical uses. It is thick and has a waterproof vinyl coating both inside and outside which means it should not have a problem keeping everything inside dry, even in snow and rainstorms.
The big question is whether the model which doesn’t attach to the side rails can securely stay strapped while speed-driving on the highway. But the California-based gear company had that clearly thought out as they have fitted the carrier with special clips to attach to your car which can withstand 3,000 pounds of force.
The pass-through straps, which can be adjusted through any of the pair of side-release buckles, allow the car doors to close without any interference. However, if yours is a minivan, or any other car with sliding doors for that matter, you will need to manually close the doors as the straps can fool the sensors into thinking there is an obstacle in the way.
The Waterproof Soft Car Top Carrier comes with a protective mat to prevent the bag from scratching your paintwork.
- Easy to install
- Can be installed with or without rack system
- Made from high quality environmental-friendly material
- Guarantees secure vehicle movement even at high speeds
- Easy storage features
- Shielding mat keeps roof both safe and steady
- Not the best fit for the smallest cars out there
Another soft-case roof top carrier that does not need a rack system to work. It has four straps which can firmly loop around the roof rails, and if your vehicle doesn’t come with rails, there is still enough to run through the doors and under the roof, maintaining a solid hold even at high speeds.
If you want, you can also purchase car clips to hook the straps on the frame of the window, although this will mean shelling out a couple of few more dollars.
As for the carrier itself, it is constructed from a combination of PVC mesh and Hydrotuff, making it highly durable, with seams welded to ensure they remain solidly waterproof as the bag itself.
The Rightline Gear 100S20 Sport 2 Car Top Carrier is identical to most other carrier bags in the market in the sense that it has a protective flap bordering the top part to keep rain drops from penetrating the zipper. But unlike most other carrier bags, the zippers for this carrier are inside the flap. This works to protect the wind from forcing water to break through when you are speeding on the highway.
And with Urethane-coated zippers that make it even harder for water to seep into your stuff, there really can be no doubt as to the meticulous attention to detail the North Carolina-based gear company paid this product.
To cap it off, Rightline Gear adds – as part of the package – a sack with drawstring closure for you to stow the carrier when you are not using it.
Speaking of using.
Something to remember about this Rightline product is it needs to be filled completely whenever you want to use it, otherwise you run the risk of damaging it. This can be a deal-breaker for some, especially those who are constantly on the move. The manufacturer also claims it is 100% waterproof, but we have yet to come across a soft-carrier bag that offers that much waterproof capability.
All in all though, it is far better than many in its category, especially considering the 100-dollar price tag attached that guarantees a 15 cubic-foot capacity.
- Can be installed with or without rack system
- Thorough attention to detail
- Good fit for small cars
- Drawstring sack for storage
- Car clips sold separately
- Need to pack to the brim to avoid damaging the bag
If you are in the market for a hitch carrier rack, the Pro-Series 63604 Amigo cargo carrier should make for a wonderful prospect.
It is constructed from a heavyduty rainproof material, with sonically-sealed seams which makes it a great fit for cross-country expeditions. It comes fitted with easy-to-open zippers enclosed in a three-inch flap and secured with hook and look fasteners, and all these features combine to serve the purpose of ensuring the contents of your bag are completely dry throughout.
For a hitch-mounted cargo carrier bag, you just cannot underestimate the importance of good waterproof capabilities. Because look, in addition to protecting your valuables during a heavy downpour or in snowy weather, the fact that the carrier is situated at the back of the vehicle means driving through puddles is bound to splash not-so-clean water on the bag.
Measuring 59 x 18.5 x 24 inches in length, width and height respectively, it adds to a total capacity of 15 cubic feet. That is a great amount of cargo space we are talking about; space that can comfortably fit everything from spare clothes, to sleeping bag(s) and other gear you may wish to bring along.
The Pro-Series 63604 Amigo Hitch Cargo Carrier Bag comes with six straps and buckles that firmly secure the bag on the cargo carrier. These work just fine without the need to keep stopping and retightening, or worrying that you will leave your luggage in the middle of nowhere.
An obvious downside with this hitch carrier bag is the lack of handles which makes carrying cumbersome, especially if you are alone. For less than $70, though, the cargo bag is great value for dough.
Its price skyrockets to a tad over 200 dollars if you purchase it as part of a package inclusive of a cargo basket and hitch tightener. Not the cheapest of the lot, true, but the upside is the durability it guarantees, and this is largely thanks to its overall premium quality.
We highly recommend.
- Ample storage space
- Premium quality
- Lack of handles
- Added cost when buying with cargo basket and hitch tightener
Rola is an Australian brand keen on putting out gear that cannot only withstand the harshest of elements, but also achieve that feat in a stylish fashion. The Rola 59119 Rainproof Cargo Carrier Bag has a little of both worlds.
Everyone knows the weather doesn’t come any harsher than in the land down under, and with this carrier bag being one of the company’s flagship hitch rack carriers, it goes without saying that it is built for the job. It has a rugged exterior and rubberised interior which are further fortified by sealed seams and rain flaps around the zippers, thus ensuring it remains weatherproof and able to keep any form of wetness at bay.
The fact that Rola gives a 5-year limited warranty really says it all.
It boasts a capacity of an impressive 20 cubic feet achieved through a generous cut of 59 x 24 x 24 inches. That is enough to hold several large suitcases and duffel bags. And the second best thing about its size? It folds compactly for easy storage.
As for the straps, the bag has six of them which help secure it to the carrier. The straps do not have those quick release buckles, so you have to loop them on the carrier and through the buckles, strapping the bag firmly in place even during a bumpy ride.
This Rola cargo carrier is as stylish as they come and can be used all year round.
A definite winner.
- Superior quality
- Stylish design
- Compact, making for easy storage
- Need to purchase a hitch basket
When it comes to hard-shell cargo boxes, the first names that spring to mind are Thule and Yakima. They are the mobile equivalent of Apple and Samsung; companies that churn out some of the most creative high-end quality smartphones that split opinion like Ernest Rutherford did the atom in 1917.
Whichever the one, you can always be assured absolute quality, bar a few hitches that are the result of the quest for perfection.
And so it is with the Thule Force Cargo Box.
The Swedish-based outdoor gear company really pulled off the design on this cargo box. Car racks don’t come any sleeker than this, and this unique shape, coupled with a diamond-textured finish on the lid, means it can cut through air with minimal effort.
Cargo boxes have gotten a lot of stick with regard to noise on the drive, but owners of the Thule Force cargo Box have noted how quiet it is. This is no doubt a big plus especially where long-distance trips are concerned.
You would think installing this cargo box takes much. But as long as you have a roof rack system in place, all you need is the accessories that come with the unit. The Thule Force series is available in a range of sizes to choose from: Medium (13 cubic feet), Large (16 cubic feet), Extra Large (17 cubic feet), as well as Extra Extra Large (21 cubic feet) and Alpine.
Medium-sized sedans, minivans and SUVs are best served by L and XL, depending on size, and as you go down this vehicle size range, M should do. The larger XXL sizes are best suited for large sedans and SUVs.
There have been cases of reported lid openings, but in a move akin to those high-end smartphone manufacturers with a loyal legion of followers, Thule has since moved swiftly to address the issue.
If you are in the market for one of the best car racks all-round, this solid, sleek and attractive car rack is an item you need to pay attention to. And if you need a fitting rack system to accompany it, try the Thule AeroBlade Edge Flush Mount Rack. This is not only one of the best roof racks on the market, but one that also comes with a lifetime warranty.
The Thule AeroBlade Edge Raised Rail Roof Rack System Bar is another good option, although this is designed for vehicles with raised side rails.
- Size range makes it suitable for different car sizes
- Ample storage with the XXL model capable of theoretically holding about a dozen skis
- Extra strong material without extra weight, thanks to the lamination process
- No noise during drive and sleek shape reduces impact on fuel consumption
- High security for your valuables with over-sized locks
- Can be accessed from either side
- Being the best comes at a cost
Yakima is the other top brand, alongside Thule, when it comes to travelling and camping gear, as well as related exterior accessories. It is a brand you are likely to come across on many roads and the reason behind this is simple: their offerings may be a little costly, but they sure have made a name for themselves through quality products, and roof rack systems and cargo boxes are areas they shine at in particular.
Take the SkyBox 21 Carbonite Cargo Box, for example. It warrants an entry into our list of best car racks for several reasons.
One, you are not going to find many quality boxes that come with such a generously-spaced cargo room. The SkyBox 21 has an impressive 21 cubic feet (other sizes include 12, 16, 18 and Lo), making it one of the biggest cargo carriers in the Yakima stable. Let that not fool you into thinking it’s a heavy piece of block, though.
Despite the size, this shell – as with most Yakima products – comes in an aerodynamic shape that helps your vehicle cut through the wind with minimal ease while reducing drag.
Third, the box has a lock on either side that allows you to lock or open it from the right or left, and fourth, it has a mechanism that prevents your keys from getting locked inside. When you unlock it, you cannot remove the key until you shut the box completely and re-lock it.
Given the size of this thing, families would find it ideal for holding up belongings in a single place, as would multiple people taking a trip together. The large SkyBox 21 would also fit long snowboards and skis.
On the minus side, some customers have expressed concerns over its 75-pound weight. This makes work of mounting it as you need two pairs of hands to do so. Moreover, its small opening means it can be a hard ask trying to get large suitcases inside.
That aside, everyone who has purchased it concurs it is a quiet, roomy, well-made cargo box well worth the big bucks they shelled out for it.
This is a cargo carrier designed to last a lifetime.
As for the rack system, you can never go wrong with the Yakima RailGrab Kit (58” bars + 4 towers). Yakima will guide you on the best fit for your car size.
- Ample room
- Innovative technology
- Aerodynamic shape reduces drag, and fuel consumption in turn
- Opens on both sides
- Anti-lock mechanism
- Sturdy locks for security
- Small opening
The road to finding a hard-shell cargo box that offers the best bang for buck may not be a cakewalk. And given this breed of car racks is one the most expensive on the market, you really don’t have the luxury of buying and dumping.
This is why we would recommend the SportsRack SR7018 Vista XL Cargo Box, the biggest bargain you will find on the market in terms of value versus price. Compared to Thule or Yakima, you cannot help but notice the significant cost saving. Without compromising on much.
With a capacity of 18 cubic feet, that is ample cargo room. This is the capacity offered by the Rightline, but in this case, you don’t need to load unnecessary stuff to make sure it is full every trip. It has a good aerodynamic, and although it cannot match the flashier boys, it boasts more room in terms of height, meaning you can store bigger items that you can’t otherwise stash in the Thule or Yakima.
It is made from ABS plastic which makes it pretty durable. This also means it can withstand UV rays for many years to come. It comes with a lock that allows you to seal it completely from any unwanted pair of hands.
Attaching the box to the car is easy, although you need a roof rack for that. If you do not have one, this will mean upping your budget a little. In case you need a complete package, we would recommend the Sportrack SR1002 roof rack system to go with it.
On the downside, the SportsRack SR7018 Vista XL Cargo Box can only be accessed from the rear, unlike other boxes that offer a right and left option. Some have also taken issue with the buzz it makes when driving.
With a strong, waterproof, ample and quality cargo box that will last years while holding 100 pounds of gear, however, it is no doubt a price worth paying for many, especially looking long-term.
- Storage space
- Value versus price
- No side access
- A little noise when driving