The 7 Best Vehicle Cargo Baskets
This wiki has been updated 21 times since it was first published in October of 2016. If you're planning to haul more than can fit in the trunk or bed of your car, SUV, or truck, one of these vehicle cargo baskets should be able to carry the rest of the load. Offering weight capacities of up to 500 pounds, these carriers are designed to tote luggage, firewood, tools and more, and look good while they're doing it. Make sure to properly secure any items before driving off. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
May 07, 2020:
Unsurprisingly, roof racks have a significant impact on a vehicle's fuel economy (it can be as much as 25% per some studies), which you feel particularly on long trips. This results from both added drag and weight. Of course, if you increase the weight on your vehicle, this will lower its fuel economy and there's not much you can do about that. However, some racks like the Rhino-Rack X-Tray and the Tyger Auto RK1B906B try to mitigate this a bit with a front wind-fairing with modest but non-trivial results. Both the Rhino and the Tyger are excellent racks with the primary difference being that the Rhino is welded while the Tyger is modular. The Tyger's modularity allows users to extend and retract it but it does sacrifice rigidity and probably longevity since those mating joints are eventual failure points - these don't exist on the Rhino's welded joints.
Failing to properly secure items in cargo baskets can result in accidents and death. Even small items can be dangerous at speed. Familiarize yourself with proper tie-down and cargo net use. Check your local laws about securing cargo and about weight restrictions. In the U.S., those laws are set at the state level.
Leave No Important Items Behind
Most options will include these components as part of the package; if the basket you’re considering does not, make sure to purchase these items separately.
Ah, the open road — there’s nothing standing between you and your next adventure except for miles of smooth pavement, a handful of stops at the gas station, and the unfortunate fact that you have nowhere to store all the bulky gear your ambitious excursion requires.
Don’t let anyone convince you that this conundrum necessitates the purchase of a larger vehicle. For a fraction of the price, you can pick up a nice cargo basket, attach it to your car, load it up with all the equipment you need, and set out on the trip of a lifetime.
Whether you mount the cargo basket to your vehicle’s roof rack or attach it via a trailer hitch, you’ll significantly increase the amount of luggage you’re able to transport without exerting much effort. From standard, box-style baskets to specially-designed carriers that can accommodate bulky, oddly-shaped items like skis and kayaks, something will be able to suit your needs.
As cargo baskets typically feature a solid base and sturdy side walls, you’ll just need to secure your load with ropes, nets, or cords to ensure everything remains tightly packed in place. Commercial vehicles are actually subject to federal guidelines dictating how cargo must be secured. Most options will include these components as part of the package; if the basket you’re considering does not, make sure to purchase these items separately.
The weight capacity of your basket will have a limit, of course, but since it’s essentially an open storage platform, you can load it up with as much gear as that limit permits. This also makes loading and unloading a simpler process than with other type of automotive carrier.
The basket style of cargo carrier does come with a downside: unless you cover everything with a waterproof tarp or similar protective material, your luggage will be exposed to the elements as you drive.
Finding The Right Basket For Your Vehicle
Before you can focus on evaluating the array of cargo baskets available, you’ll probably want to decide which style works best for your vehicle: roof top or hitch.
This decision shouldn’t be too difficult. If your vehicle doesn’t have a tow hitch, the hitch style isn’t even a realistic option. The same goes for a roof basket — if your car doesn’t feature the proper roof bars for securing the basket, you’ll need to look elsewhere for a solution.
If you travel often, you’ll want to find a model that you can install and uninstall quickly and easily.
For those of you who do have a legitimate choice, there are a few things to consider. If you install a roof basket, you won’t have to worry about configuring extra taillights. Long items with odd dimensions will also fit better into a roof basket, as you’ll have more flexibility on its length and width.
Because a hitch carrier often blocks taillights, stop lights, and license plates, you may have to come up with a workaround for making these components visible while you’re on the road. On the plus side, hitch baskets don’t face any wind resistance, which means they have a minimal impact on fuel economy. The opposite is true for roof baskets.
Another question to ask yourself: how often will you need to transport cargo? While you can usually leave roof carriers on top of your vehicle without creating any inconvenience, you’ll likely need to remove and reinstall a hitch basket somewhat often to avoid it becoming a hazard when you park the car. If you travel often, you’ll want to find a model that you can install and uninstall quickly and easily.
Ideally, your cargo basket will be strong, yet not too heavy. Steel models, while often durable and well-built, usually fall into the heavy category. A quality aluminum model will be noticeably lighter, and you won’t have to sacrifice on strength.
Make sure to consider the floor of your carrier, as well. Models with widely-spaced slats or bars on the bottom won’t accumulate dirt or debris, but some small items may slip through the cracks. Baskets with mesh grate floors offer a more secure surface and still provide an outlet for the removal of rubbish.
Equip Yourself For The Ultimate Road Trip
Okay — you’ve booked your lodgings, mapped out your route, and assembled your brand new cargo basket. Your last step: ensuring that you’re fully prepared with everything you need to make your next adventure as comfortable, efficient, and memorable as it can possibly be.
Driving can be fun, but as the hours pile up, boredom inevitably starts to seep in. A solid smartphone mount serves as a useful remedy to the monotony, allowing you to change songs, sift through podcasts, and manage calls single-handedly without taking your eyes off the road to fumble around with your device.
Your last step: ensuring that you’re fully prepared with everything you need to make your next adventure as comfortable, efficient, and memorable as it can possibly be.
For those of you who regularly venture off the beaten path, your smartphone’s map functions may not meet your requirements. In this case, a high-tech GPS unit will put all the navigation assistance you need at the tips of your fingers.
As the driver, it can be easy to forget about your passengers, but assuring their comfort will make the trip more enjoyable for everyone. The sun, when it’s low in the sky during the morning and evening hours, can be an absolute nuisance during a road trip.
Passenger window shades are easy to install and offer reliable protection from UV rays — as a result, they’ll help provide a welcome relief from the chorus of “are we there yet?” remarks that tend to emanate from little ones during long rides.
Speaking of kids (and adults, for that matter), some backseat entertainment can help break up the monotony. For a simple solution, pair an iPad with a tablet mount that attaches to the back of the front headrest to create an instant video and movie viewing system.
When it comes to refreshments, never underestimate the power of a versatile travel mug. If you’re able to get your hands on one with both heat and cold retention properties, you can keep hot coffee or iced tea on hand for hours without having to stop at a gas station or to root around in the cooler.