By on May 10, 2019

best cargo carriers

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.

Look, we get it. Not every road trip in your vehicle will be a model of efficient packing. Jimmy wants to take along half his soccer gear, the dog won’t eat out of any other bowl, and Jane simply has to have her hockey stick for practice because tryouts are next month. Where are you going to fit it all?

In a rooftop cargo carrier, that’s where. These things have been around in various and sundry forms since the days of the Model T and, thanks to advancements in modern materials, have actually morphed into something resembling a usable tool. Most of them are easy to access (well, if you’re tall), waterproof, and rugged enough to withstand the forces pressed upon them by 60 mph highway travel speeds.

We’ve plucked eight different options from the digital pages of Amazon. Prices vary, as does total square footage, so be sure to select carefully before splashing out the cash. These things will scupper the use of that panoramic sunroof, too, don’t forget. And, for the love of all that’s holy, carefully read and follow the instructions for a safe and secure placement of a cargo carrier on top of your vehicle. The last thing anyone needs is for the thing to fly off into traffic behind you at speed.

With that out of the way, let’s motor.

(Editor’s note: As noted above, this post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)

Best Cargo Carriers

1. Editor’s Pick: Reese Explore Rainproof Cargo Tray Bag

reese explore rainproof cargo tray bag

Featuring a good 15 feet of dry storage, this cargo carrier from Reese takes on a rectangular shape when fully packed with gear. Rainproof construction keeps your stuff dry and the works of it folds flat when not in use. Note well: this thing is designed to be secured to one of those hitch-mounted cargo trays, which is not included in the bag’s selling price.

Some users had the idea to frame the unit with PVC piping, allowing the bag to retain a rectangular shape even when empty. Detailed, community sourced instructions for that are found in the ad listing and is a great idea. The whole bag measures about 6 feet long by a foot and a half wide. It is 2 feet tall when fully extended.

Pros: Recognized brand name, good community support, rainproof

Cons: Not cheap, requires a separate mounting tray

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2. Budget Choice: OxGord Roof Top Waterproof Carrier Bag

oxgord roof top cargo rack waterproof carrier bag

This carrier has a square footprint of a good 3 by 3 feet, providing about 10 cubic feet of storage atop your car or crossover. Designed to be lashed to an existing roof rack, this unit uses adjustable straps for attachment to that rack. You’ll need crossbars, by the way. When it’s not in use, just remove it and fold the thing up for storage.

ALSO SEE: Getting Hitched: The Best Hitch Accessories for Your Car

The ad touts heavy duty lockable zippers but, as with most of the units on this list, it can be defeated with a sharp knife. Keep that in mind if you’re leaving the bag mounted atop your car during an overnight motel stop. The OxGord is rated as water-resistant, not waterproof, so while it does make our list of the best cargo carriers, don’t put too-valuable electronics up there if you plan on driving through a rain storm.

Pros: Very affordable, big footprint

Cons: May not keep out all the water, looks like butt

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3. Well-Reviewed: RoofBag Premium Triple Seal

roofbag premium triple seal

Including an option with solid string of good reviews is important in this series, so we present this not-creatively-named unit from, ahem, RoofBag. Well, at least it does exactly what it says on the package. This one is claimed to be 100% waterproof, so go ahead and chase that wild weather. The seller says there’s no need for a roof rack in order to mount this bag securely on your car’s roof but does recommend placing a soft mat between the bag and roof to avoid scratches.

It’s worth mentioning that RoofBag comes in two sizes, 11 and 15 cubic feet, so be sure you’re ordering the right one to fit your car before hitting the buy button. Its strapping system is designed to pass through slips on top of the bag, rather than pulling down on loops along its edge. This should prevent it from ripping out of place at highway speeds. Bonus: this bag is manufactured in the USA.

Pros: No need for a roof rack, waterproof, two-year warranty

Cons: Annoyingly large advertising printed on the bag

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4. Tuff Truck Bag Waterproof Heavy Duty

tuff truck bag truck bed cargo carrier

You know I had to slip a solution for pickup trucks in here somewhere, right? Absent of a tonneau cover, which isn’t the right solution for everyone, this Tuff Truck Bag is a good idea for those who want to haul gear in the bed of their truck but keep it out of the weather. Measuring 40 inches wide by 50 inches long, this bag provides a significant 26 cubic feet of enclosed storage space.

ALSO SEE: Work That Body: The Best Dent Repair Kits for Your Car

A quartet of adjustable mounting cords are used to anchor the unit so it shouldn’t shift around in the bed. The seller states it is made from weatherproof, waterproof, non-breathable PVC material and feature heat fusion sealed seams along all edges. It weighs about 10 pounds and folds up to a convenient size when not in use.

Pros: Cheaper than a tonneau cover, lots of all-weather cargo space for your truck

Cons: Much more expensive than rooftop bags

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5. Thule Interstate Cargo Bag

thule interstate cargo bag

You lot would likely revolt if this failed to include a product form Thule, and you’d be right to do so. The company is synonymous with cargo solutions and is known for building products of excellent quality. Heavy-duty, double-stitched webbing straps attach the bag to roof-rack crossbars or raised rails and a padded base protects vehicle finish from abrasion.

Twin compression straps cinch things down to keep cargo securely positioned while in transit, minimizing friction and noise. Thule says it is their most weather-resistant cargo bag and has been IP-test-verified for water resistance. It boasts sealed seams and a generous storm flap over the three-sided zipper. This bag has 16 cubic feet of storage space.

Pros: Known brand, well made, will probably outlast the car

Cons: Costly

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6. Goplus Cargo Box Waterproof Rooftop Carrier

goplus cargo box waterproof rooftop cargo carrier

When one thinks of a rooftop box, a lockable rigid carrier like this one probably springs to mind for most people. Why doesn’t it appear until this point in our post? Well, it’s several orders of magnitude more expensive than everything else on this list. Fourteen cubic feet of space is contained within this hard plastic unit and is able to bear up to 165 pounds. This thing might be more expensive than anything else, but it is also more robust than anything else as well.

ALSO SEE: Flat, Busted: Best Portable Air Compressors and Tire Inflators

The Goplus roof box is equipped with 4 quick connect anchors for easy installation and latch security ensures the lid is secured to the box base. It also can’t be sliced open with a sharp knife as with a soft-sided bag. Dual-sided opening means easy access from either side of a vehicle.

Pros: Aerodynamic design, secure storage for gear, very sturdy

Cons: Bucks deluxe pricing, personal experience shows this type of carrier tends to rattle

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7. AmazonBasics Rooftop Cargo Carrier Bag

amazonbasics rooftop cargo carrier bag

With a brand name like this, you know you’re playing in the same end of the pool as when you buy no-name laundry detergent. This rooftop cargo carrier bag has 15 cubes of storage capacity and an octet of cinch straps to keep your gear from spilling onto the macadam. Its oversized zipper closures are said to have storm flaps to help keep out the rain.

Made with waterproof material and ultra-strong seams, the durable rooftop cargo bag keeps belongings dry and protected from foul weather. What’s more, the manufacturer says this cargo bag’s solid-black exterior won’t easily fade, even with extended exposure to direct sun light. That’s good, seeing as how the thing will spend 100% of its life outdoors.

Pros: Easy to deploy, waterproof, reports of very good durability

Cons: Everyone knows you bought it from Amazon

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8. RoofPax Car Roof Bag

roofpax car roof bag rooftop cargo carrier

RoofPax boasts that it is the only brand which uses free door hooks to secure the bag to the car’s roof instead of straps that go inside the car. That’s just one of the reasons it makes our list of the best cargo carriers. The company alleges this is a safer method of lashing a carrier bag to your vehicle’s roof yet will not harm the window or door seals.

ALSO SEE: Turn Down For Watt: Best Portable Car Jump Starters

They go on to say the bag is made of military-grade materials with waterproof dual-seam technology and a water-repellent double coating. Able to be mounted atop vehicles with or without a roof rack, it comes with a built in protective mat to prevent scratching the car. This carrier has a volume of 15 cubic feet meaning it is able to hold four or five suitcases.

Pros: Heavy duty construction, free hooks instead of straps, works with or without roof rack

Cons: Expensive, brightly colored advertising mars appearance

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Extra Notes About Roof Bags

Any accessory that is lashed to the exterior of a vehicle needs to be well secured and tightened down in a way that rivals security measures at Fort Knox. Anything less than a perfect install can result in roadway calamity if the rooftop carrier lets go and flies off into traffic.

ALSO SEE: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Tonneau Covers for Your Truck

It’s worth keeping in mind that the soft-sided bags on this list are easily accessed by any ne’er-do-well with long legs and a sharp knife. Removing the bag and taking it into a secure area during an overnight stop is an exceptionally good idea. Whether the thief decides to cut into the bag or slice off the straps and make off with the whole kit and caboodle, your stuff will be at risk.

Carefully consider for what tasks you’ll be using the carrier, think about the conditions in which you’ll be using it, and take your time before hitting the buy button online. Properly bought and installed, these cargo carriers can add a whole other dimension to your next road trip.

[Images provided by the manufacturer, featured image © / alexfan32]

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9 Comments on “Car, Go: Best Cargo Carriers...”

  • avatar

    Only one hard, thief-proof carrier?
    I love the softer, more volume carriers, but most of our traveling requires a night at some dogs allowed hotel.
    No way to prevent the entire thing from being stolen in a matter of silent minutes.

  • avatar

    I have a Yakima Sky Box 16 (hard shell) and love it. The company even send me extra keys for free! It fits the Sienna like a glove and you can’t tell it is up there while going 75-80 down the highway. Quite and didn’t show any signs of leaking. Can’t say enough good things about this Sky Box.

    I had a similar style as the RoofPax. But at a certain speed, 65-70/75 mph, it made so much noise it drove us crazy. I bet I stopped 4 times on the way to the beach to adjust it to no avail. Must have been some type of harmonic thing. I gave it to my sister and they use it in the back of their RAM, they love it.

    • 0 avatar

      I have one of the Yakima Sky Boxes as well. Just excellent all around, it’s really well made, and all these boxes are hinged on both sides now, cool feature. I’ve used it on several vehicles, small mileage drop and the only noticeable issue is in heavy crosswinds, then you feel the little sail on the roof. It takes literally about one minute to attach/detach so you don’t need to leave it on all the time, the hassle factor is so low.

  • avatar

    I’ve had a Roof Bag since 2014 which we’ve used for trips from Delaware to South Carolina and to Illinois, including one through a very heavy rain.

    I like that the strap placement gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of threading, especially if your load is an unusual shape. However, you do need to be cognizant of loading out to the corners. I had a trip where one corner was underloaded and flapped in the wind causing the outer skin of the bag to fray.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Our 25-year-old (?) Sears XCargo hard carrier has served us well. It is generally waterproof even in heavy rain. I store it suspended under our back deck so it’s out of the way.

    Noise isn’t usually an issue (tie-down strap management is more important), and it does reduce fuel economy by 2 or 3 mpg since it makes the Sedona’s profile a lot taller.

    At ~20 cubit feet (IIRC), it easily holds tents, sleeping bags, lawn chairs, and other bulky items.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve got a similar vintage Sears unit, but must admit that I haven’t used it in many years, that big drop in MPG is one of the reasons that we stopped using it. I don’t understand the people who leave these on their vehicles all the time and take that MPG hit when they don’t use it regularly.

  • avatar

    A few years ago I rented one of these carriers from Uhaul. It looked just like that Amazon basic one. I strapped it to the roof rack of our GMC Safari van and loaded it up for our trip to Florida. It was all good until we hit the interstate. At that point, the thing started to roar and howl at a deafening pitch. After about 20 miles everyone in the van was ready to get out and walk. We pulled over and I moved the unit as far rearward as I could on top. That helped quite a bit, but it was still annoying. I would never try to use one again.

  • avatar

    I don’t need a car rooftop carrier often enough to buy one, but I’ve rented from U-Haul and Penske. How many of these carriers are available for rent?

  • avatar

    Down the road I see the use of a whole lota black Gorilla tape on these, especially to hide that Amazon logo!

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