Top 8 Best Rooftop Cargo Boxes
By | Last updated: May 19, 2021
best rooftop cargo boxes

Installing a rooftop cargo box is the vehicular equivalent of donning a backpack before heading into the woods. Its extra space either frees up other areas of the car for humans or permits the purchase of every Elvis bust you find between here and Graceland.

It’s worth keeping in mind the soft-sided bags on this list are easily accessed by thieves with long legs and a sharp knife. Removing the bag and taking it into a secure area during overnight stops is a good idea. Whether the thief decides to cut into the bag or slice off the straps and make off with the whole this, your stuff is at risk.

Any accessory that is lashed to the exterior of a vehicle needs to be well-secured and tightened down in such a way as to rival security measures at Fort Knox. Anything less than a solid and thorough install can result in roadway calamity if the rooftop carrier lets go and flies off into traffic. Best not test the legalities of that situation.

Here are an array of rooftop storage boxes which, like an Old El Paso kit, contains both hard and soft shells.

1. Editor's Choice: Auto Dynasty Waterproof Roof Top Mount

It would seem that, for once, an off-brand replica of an expensive product is actually worth considering. Ratings on this totally-not-a-Thule rooftop cargo container are overwhelmingly positive from the handful of customers who have chosen to leave a review. It is consistently praised for providing the type of functionality usually found in products that are much more expensive.

Made from heavy-duty ABS plastic, it opens over a foot wide and has a total of 10 cubic feet of storage capacity. The lid opens from the side and apparently stays open until the operator closes it, preventing knocks to the head or scythed digits. Overall dimensions are generous and the styling makes it look like more than just a box on the roof.

Pros/Slippery styling, attractive price, hard shell security
Cons/Snobs will point out it is not a brand name
Bottom Line/Ignore the haters and save a couple of bucks

2. ECWKVN Car Rooftop Cargo Carrier

Inscrutable brand name aside (can I buy a vowel, Pat?), this carrier has a lot going for it as described. Made from heavy-duty coated tarpaulin with a welded dual seam, its urethane coated zippers and hook & loop closure located on the flap should keep out most weather. Also helpful in that regard is a PVC inner liner.

The seller asserts its size is ideal for all types of vehicles, but drivers of an original Austin Mini might dispute that given the bag’s 51″ x 39″ footprint. It does have a generous height, well over a foot, providing plenty of storage space – almost 20 cubic feet, in fact. Straps are included for use on cars with our without roof racks.

Pros/Large capacity, good ratings
Cons/Just try and pronounce that name
Bottom Line/Made of stern stuff

3. RoofBag Premium Triple Seal

Including an option with a 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 percent 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
Bottom Line/Literally does what it says on the box

4. Thule Motion XT Rooftop Cargo Carrier

Thule is probably one of the best-known brands in this segment, having positioned itself as a premium offering in the car accessory biz. This thing is no different, costing an absolute fortune and looking like something out of Batman’s personal collection.

In this case, however, it does seem that you get what you pay for. Dual side hinges permit it to be opened from either the driver or passenger side of the car and load capacity is a stunning 165 lbs. Three sizes are available, the largest of which can contain 22 cubic feet of gear (but still only 165 lbs) and weighs over 50 lbs empty.

Pros/Great name, well built, looks like a Batman weapon
Cons/Eye-wateringly expensive
Bottom Line/Go for broke if you’ve got the scratch

5. Toolguards Car Top Carrier

Despite first-glance appearances, this car rack roof system is made of heavy-duty coated tarpaulin & fabric-guarded coated zippers. Its design permits the thing to be affixed to cars with baskets, full racks, side rails only, or no roof rack at all. The latter might produce scratches, because it’s in direct contact with the paint, no matter what the seller says about a protective mat.

Those cam buckles look stout, as do the tie-down points themselves, meaning it isn’t likely this product is going to self-immolate at highway speeds and deposit your priceless vintages all over the tarmac. Reviews are largely positive given the nearly 2200 ratings, with 4- or 5- stars being offered by over 80% of customers.

Pros/Cavernous interior, makes an attempt at aero
Cons/Hideously ugly, promise of reduced "full" consumption
Bottom Line/Slap a few novelty stickers over that branding

6. Midabao Thickened Waterproof Car Rooftop Carrier

This carrier has a square footprint of 51 inches by 39 inches, providing about 20 cubic feet of storage atop your car or crossover. Designed to be lashed to an existing roof rack, or simply plopped on the roof itself, this unit uses adjustable straps for attachment. When it’s not in use, just remove it and fold the thing up for storage.

The ad touts heavy-duty zippers but, as with most soft-sided 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 entertainingly-named Midabao is rated as waterproof, but it’s never a good idea to put valuable electronics up there if you plan on driving through a rainstorm.

Pros/Well-priced, large storage capacity, positive reviews
Cons/Not the most attractive thing in the world
Bottom Line/Frees up interior space

7. RoofPax Car Roof Bag

In a shocking moment of honest branding, this soft-sided carrier constructed out of tarpaulin materials is actually called a bag. The bright orange branding right on its forward-facing surface not only shouts the company name but also features a cheeky outline of a Beetle that’s just different enough from reality to avoid the copyright lawyers. Maybe.

There is no shortage of reviews, racking up a 4.6 out of 5-star rating from very nearly 2000 customers. Pricing is reasonable is not stellar, though this does seem to be a segment of product in which (most times) a person gets what they pay for. It boasts dual seam technology and a water repellent double coating.

Pros/Extra-large size, your stuff will stay dry in most conditions
Cons/Infernal exterior branding
Bottom Line/Works with or without a roof rack

8. Thule MultiLift Storage System

Your author is tossing this unit in at the end of our list because those of you who decide to pop for a hardshell cargo carrier are likely to take the time and store it properly when the thing is not in use. This goes double if you spend four figures on a Thule unit.

Basically, a suspension rig that cradles a hard-sided cargo rooftop box from the ceiling of one’s garage or storage unit, this thing has a built-in winch-style lifter that can bear up to 220 pounds. It is preassembled but don’t forget to mount this item into joists when installing it on the ceiling; simply punching through sheetrock just won’t do.

Pros/Safe storage for your expensive rooftop box, frees up floor space
Cons/Yet another expense for your road trip largesse
Bottom Line/Make sure to install it properly

Rooftop Box FAQs

Why are there so many variants of these things?

Because the roof box market is a huge industry, that’s why. According to a report, the pre-pandemic value of this segment was a quarter-billion bucks, indicating to your author that travelers do indeed like to take the kitchen sink with them when they hit the road. With a lot of pent-up energy created by people sticking (relatively) close to home for the past year, expect that number to increase in 2021/2022.

Are there recommendations for install?

Yewbetcha. Read all the instructions and make sure the rooftop box is well secured before hitting the road. Most of the soft-sided bags come with a strapping system that mounts the thing onto a roof rack or the edge of a door frame. Avoid running the strap through the interior of the car, no matter how good an idea it seems at the time. Hard-sided boxes have much more robust mounting systems but often require either a specific or factory-installed roof rack.

What else do I need to know?

These things won’t help your fuel economy – obviously – since they are the equivalent of driving into the wind with an upright mattress atop your car. This is another vote for engineered (read: expensive) rooftop boxes that are slim and shaped like a bullet.

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.

(Editor’s note: 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.)

[Main photo credit: alexfan32 / Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

2 Comments on “Best Rooftop Cargo Boxes: Storage Wars...”

  • avatar

    If you’ve got the space, in America, get a pickup……

    If you don’t have the space, and have to make do with one of those, expect your Prius’, or Tesla’s, range to near halve at decent highway speeds. Those cars are very dependent on their aerodynamics once at highway speeds. These boxes affect that soooo badly, that their drag is near doubled. Somyou may as well get a truck, or minivan, and carry more stuff easier, without much in the way of a penalty anymore. Less extreme aero-dependent cars suffer a bit less, but almost all sedans are now so aero, that adding these kludges to their roofs, has a huge impact.

  • avatar

    The Ex-Cargo used to be a leading cargo carrier but with no more Sears I guess it is Ex-Cargone. Anyone remember those?

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