On the hunt for the perfect rooftop cargo box for the family road trip or your #vanlife setup? We looked at dozens and dozens of cargo boxes currently available, then picked the 4 most promising products to purchase and test head-to-head to see which cargo box is indeed the best.
We drove these boxes thousands and thousands of miles, over desolate stretches of highway, rough-and-tumble dirt roads, and all around town. Along the way, we installed these boxes on all sorts of different cars and in various configurations, loading and unloading them with every piece of gear that we could think of.
Check out our comprehensive review to see which box is the most durable and easy to use, which looks the best, and which one is the best bet when shopping on a tight budget.
1. Best Overall Rooftop Box
Thule Motion XT XL
Earning one of the highest scores overall, the Motion XT XL claimed the Editors’ Choice Award and the title of Best Overall Cargo Box. This box is incredibly convenient and easy to use with one of the best, most intuitive mounting systems that we have seen to date, usually allowing you to install it in about five minutes. This box is durable and secure, with a locking mechanism that prevents you from accidentally leaving the box unlocked. It has a decently sleek, aesthetically appealing design and is available in two colors — black and off-white — to better match a wider variety of cars.
Unfortunately, this cargo box can take a hefty chunk out of your budget and is one of the most expensive cargo boxes we have reviewed. However, this can be totally worth it if you plan on taking your cargo box on and off your car frequently. If the price isn’t right for you, consider saving some money and getting a less-expensive product that is a bit more difficult to install but leaves more room in your budget for what goes inside the box. Excluding price, though, this is the best box in the bunch.
2. Best Bang for Your Buck
Yakima Skybox 16 Carbonite
Searching for a great rooftop box that won’t blow your entire gear budget? The Skybox Carbonite by Yakima is a fantastic value, earning it our Best Buy Award. This rock-solid box is another one of our absolute favorites, and we would highly recommend it. The SkyBox Carbonite does a great job of keeping our gear safe, secure, and easily accessible, all at a price that leaves you some money left over to buy gear to fill it. The lid isn’t really floppy at all, and the latching system indicated when the SkyBox is unlocked, making it much harder to drive away with an unlocked box accidentally. On top of that, the matte black finish hid scuffs and scrapes much better than the glossy sheen of some of the more sleek and stylish models we have tested.
However, the initial installation is quite a pain. It is still totally doable but if you are planning on leaving the box off of your car most of the time, then throwing it on for a weekend getaway, you will probably be better served by a product that is a bit easier and more convenient when it comes to installation. If you plan on leaving the cargo box installed on a semi-permanent to permanent basis, the more laborious installation procedure shouldn’t be a deterrent at all, and you should stick with the SkyBox and spend a little less.
3. Best on a Tight Budget
SportRack Vista XL
While the majority of the boxes we tested were of a longer and thinner aspect ratio, two of the boxes are of the “short and stumpy” variety. Of these two, one, in particular, stood out, with the SportRack Vista earning a Best Buy Award for being the best cargo box you can get when shopping on a tight budget. Usually retailing around $340, this box costs significantly less than most of the other models we tested and holds its own against them. While it did receive one of the lower scores overall, it is a solid, all-around box with a surprisingly spacious interior and a simple, clean design that complements most cars. It doesn’t have many of the additional features that the top boxes do, but you can’t go wrong with the SportRack if you are looking to save some cash and save some room in your budget.
The SportRack does have a few significant drawbacks. While the somewhat unique rear opening may look cool, it makes it almost impossible to load or unload the box if it is installed on a higher profile car — a large SUV or cargo van. It wasn’t problematic on smaller cars, like a Subaru, but it still isn’t as easy to access your gear as the side loading models. It’s something worth considering if you are thinking about purchasing the SportRack.
4. Top Pick for Style
Thule Hyper XL
Cargo boxes aren’t the best-looking addition to a vehicle; we get it. And while none look great atop a Porsche, our testers, friends, and family agree that the Thule Hyper XL is the slickest of the bunch. Its low profile goes a long way to keep this model stylish, yet it still manages to fit a ton of gear. Like our Editors’ Choice Award winner, the Hyper XL is easy to install and remove from vehicles, and several features and details make regular use a comfortable, happy affair. Built with quality at the forefront of the design, we expect this model to last many years of use.
The drawback on this model is clear — the price. Costing $1000, it’s not the model we would recommend to everyone. Regarding utility, you can save hundreds of dollars by selecting another model. However, your vehicle won’t look as good. So, there you have it. If you place a high value on style, the Hyper XL won’t let you down in the looks or performance departments.
What Makes a Good Roof Mounted Cargo Box?
There are various highlights over the scope of payload boxes that can be the contrast between a decent and remarkable item. It will likewise rely upon what you’re searching for in a container and both how and when you will utilize it. Here are a couple of things to look out for:
- Streamlined features – A payload box will make drag, and that can contrarily influence the vehicle’s execution. The more premium models will be styled and worked to be as streamlined as could be expected under the circumstances. Over a long driving course, that can finish up sparing you cash by securing and keeping up your autos regular mileage.
- Length – Some crates are longer, some are somewhat more extensive. On the off chance that you have to store longer things –, for example, skis or golf sacks – remember that while choosing.
- Width – On the other hand, now and then it very well may be useful to have a case that goes wide rather than long. This is especially valid in the event that you have a little, hatchback estimated vehicle for instance.
- Security – Hard boxes will accompany locks and, obviously, are made of intense material. Delicate boxes can likewise be bolted and are generally intense, yet don’t offer anyplace close to the discouragement of a hard box. In case you’re on an excursion with incessant stop over’s, would you like to empty the delicate box each time you park up through the evening.
- Cost – These things can be a significant venture! The delicate sack style items are continually going to be less expensive, so in case you’re not going to utilize the container all the time, they could be the better decision. A hardstyle box is progressively costly yet it will, for the most part, be any longer enduring, making it to a greater extent a long haul venture and furthermore the better decision for incessant use.