The 10 Best Rooftop Cargo Carriers

Updated June 20, 2018 by Chase Brush

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We spent 42 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. Maybe you used to be able to carry everything you own in a compact car, but your lifestyle has changed and now you need more room. Don't worry: these rooftop cargo carriers comes in all shapes and sizes, from the compact to the spacious, as well as from the hard shell to the soft, so you can cart all your family's belongings on the next road trip with ease. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best rooftop cargo carrier on Amazon.

10. Auto Expressions Cargo Carrier

It's not the most robust option, but the Auto Expressions Cargo Carrier is a good choice for the budget traveler. It's made of a soft nylon material that can easily be folded up and stuffed in the trunk if needed, then made to fit over most loads, regardless of shape.
  • attaches to all types of vehicles
  • very easy to install
  • not completely waterproof
Brand Auto Expressions
Model 223102
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

9. Highland 10396

The Highland 10396 doubles as a rolling duffel bag so you don't need to remove your items when taking them in and out of the house. This clever design maximizes your vehicle's transport capacity and saves you time while traveling.
  • durable inline skate wheels
  • includes a protective cover
  • not as aerodynamic as other units
Brand Highland
Model 1039600
Weight 13.4 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

8. RoofBag Cross Country

The RoofBag Cross Country is available in a bright silver finish that helps reflect solar heat, protecting the precious cargo you store away within. Its electrically sealed joints also help ensure the stuff is safe, and it comes in several different sizes and styles.
  • made in the united states
  • backed by 2-year warranty
  • does not include instructions
Brand RoofBag
Model CC-11-GY-RACK-amz
Weight 7.4 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

7. Lund 601016 Soft Pack

The Lund 601016 Soft Pack nests securely between roof racks, instead of perching atop them, as do many similar models, so you don't have to worry about the unit shifting, even on long drives. The square, bulky shape means it's not the most aerodynamic option, though.
  • quick-attach straps
  • rugged nylon and polyester material
  • hardware could be better quality
Brand Lund
Model 601016
Weight 5 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

6. Yakima SkyBox Carbonite

Few models are as high-tech as the Yakima SkyBox Carbonite, which boasts a highly streamlined shape, internal lid stiffeners for strength, and an integrated locking system that protects valuables with unrivaled reliability. Then again, few units are as expensive, either.
  • accommodates snowboards and skis
  • made from recycled materials
  • not a great price to capacity ratio
Brand Yakima
Model 8007337
Weight 93 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

5. Keeper 07203-1 Waterproof

With soft sides that flex to hold bulky and unwieldy items, the Keeper 07203-1 Waterproof is great for all sorts of sports equipment, such as skis and golf clubs. It will protect your items, but will also shield your vehicle against scratches from the contents.
  • folds for easy storage
  • 8 attachment straps
  • does not offer much security
Brand Keeper
Model 07203-1
Weight 6.7 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

4. SportRack Vista XL

Perfect for regular weekend trips to the park, the SportRack Vista XL opens from the rear, providing quick access to whatever sports or outdoor equipment you stow inside. This unit works with many types of vehicles, though it does require roof racks for installation.
  • good-looking design
  • lightweight and easily lifted
  • initial installation takes a while
Brand SportRack
Model SR7018
Weight 39.7 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

3. Rightline Gear 100S10 Sport

The Rightline Gear 100S10 Sport offers a generous 12 cubic feet of storage space, ensuring your whole family can take their favorite things on every trip. The unit is weather and UV-resistant, so it will last for years to come, and it works on vehicles without roof racks.
  • 100 percent waterproof material
  • optional roof pad and car clip
  • sewn-in setup guide
Brand Rightline Gear
Model 100S10
Weight 7.2 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. Yakima RocketBox Pro 14

If you like the added space of a rooftop cargo carrier but think most are simply too big for your needs, consider the Yakima RocketBox Pro 14. It's a low-profile, sleek model that won't slow you down, isn't an eyesore, and will also ensure your goods are kept safe.
  • quick-dial mounting hardware
  • easy access dual side openings
  • built-in sks lock cores
Brand Yakima
Model 8007192
Weight 53.1 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. Thule 682 Sidekick

The reliable Thule 682 Sidekick mounts to most aftermarket removable and standard factory-made luggage racks, making it a versatile option that works on just about any vehicle. Its side-opening design makes it easy to access your things on the go, too.
  • 8 cubic feet of storage space
  • removes in minutes without tools
  • lid stays in place when opened
Brand Thule
Model 682
Weight 20.8 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

A Journey With Space

Road trips can make for some of the most important time you can ever spend with your family. They create an atmosphere of adventure, the feeling that anything is possible, that the worries of your daily life are but a distant memory. The journey inevitably brings you closer together. Sometimes, the journey brings you a little too close together, like when your car is so overstuffed with luggage that you spend the bulk of the drive wondering what limb is poking you in the back and to whom it may belong.

Reducing the amount of stuff you carry with you on a given road trip is one option, but for most families, there's a limit to how much you can leave behind. If there are very young children in tow, putting the car seat, stroller, diapers, and other baby necessities in the car is enough to fill up most models long before your personal luggage enters the picture.

A rooftop cargo carrier can help alleviate the stress caused by an overstuffed vehicle by simply giving you more space. They strap with the greatest of ease to the roof racks of any vehicle equipped with them, like minivans and SUVs. In the event that you don't have roof racks to which your cargo carrier can attach, aftermarket racks exist that strap along the underside of your roof and through the cab of the car, making for a secure and simple installation.

Once attached, you can fill these to capacity with anything that will fit. Some models include hard shells and sturdy locks to secure your gear atop the vehicle, while others are designed to with soft shells to carry more of your less important or expensive materials, but materials that would take up too much space in the car nonetheless.

The Hard And Soft Of It

Looking back at the things I packed into my car when I moved across the country, I had good reason to utilize a rooftop cargo carrier. A move like that requires that you pack a lot of clothes, and that kind of stuff takes up a lot of space.

For items like clothing and bedding–soft, replaceable items that can fill a suitcase in no time–a soft shell cargo carrier is ideal. These carriers represent the class that holds the most, that can expand to fit the needs of your trip, and whose capacity it only truly limited by your ability to shove things inside it. Soft shell cargo carriers are a little more sensitive to the elements, particularly to debris on the road. They tend to be waterproof, but a small tear from a flying piece of salt or stone could leave them susceptible to rain and snow.

The hard shell cargo carriers on our list are much better at protecting your things from the dangers on the road, and they also make for much better deterrents against theft. Their locks tend to be very well made, and, unlike the soft carriers, you can't cut through them with a knife to get at what's inside. If you have more delicate or more expensive materials to pack atop your vehicle, these are the way to go.

This is especially true if you don't want to spend a lot of time taking your carrier on and off of your vehicle. If you're traveling in inclement weather, being able to leave your carrier atop your vehicle without worry will save you time and a whole lot of hassle.

Once you do invest in one of these carriers, and you get it installed and all packed up, make sure you take the time to measure your vehicle from the ground up. Most underpasses, fast food drive-throughs, parking garages, and similar structures will advertise their height clearance on a big yellow sign running across the top of the space. Make sure you know your height and that you can actually fit wherever you want to go. Nothing's worse than loading your cargo carrier up with important things only to have it knocked off by a bridge support and sent hurtling into a river.

Carried Through Time

The rooftop cargo carrier is indelibly tied (both literally and figuratively) to the automobile roof rack. The roof rack consists of those runners heading down the length of a car's roof from front to back, and they've been around for some time. Early automobiles, like the horse-drawn carriages before them, had racks for the transportation of trunks and other luggage.

As the American auto industry began to incorporate rain gutters along the edges of their vehicles, many cars lost their roof racks, and third-party roof rack manufacturers came along to fill the void. Of these there were very few until the 1960s, when a boom in outdoor enthusiast activities reignited an interest in strapping all kinds of goodies to the roofs of cars.

By 1973, Yakima Industries introduced its first roof-mounted cargo carrier, and an industry specifically targeted at the these outdoorsy types was born. As more and more companies vied for a piece of that market, a few of them realized that there was an entirely different sector into which they could tap, which is when companies like Thule and RoofBag began an appeal to movers and travelers of all ilks looking to make their way a good distance with a little more in-car comfort.

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Last updated on June 20, 2018 by Chase Brush

Chase is a freelance journalist with experience working in the areas of politics and public policy. Currently based in Brooklyn, NY, he is also a hopeless itinerant continually awaiting his next Great Escape.

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