Top 8 Best Cargo Carriers
By | Last updated: May 5, 2020
best cargo carriers

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.

1. Editor’s Pick: 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

2. Budget Choice: OxGord Roof Top 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

3. Well-Reviewed: 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

4. Tuff Truck Bag Waterproof Heavy Duty

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.

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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

5. 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

6. Goplus Cargo Box Waterproof Rooftop 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.

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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

7. 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

8. RoofPax Car Roof Bag

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.

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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

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.

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.]

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