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Rooftop Cargo Carriers

How to Choose the Best Rooftop Cargo Carrier

Vacations. Ski trips. Road trips. Sporting events. There are a ton of reasons we sometimes need more space in our vehicles (as the driver of a coupe, I experience this on a painfully regular basis). There are a lot of great options for expanding your storage space, including rooftop cargo boxes, cargo baskets, and cargo bags. But which is the best choice for you? Don't worry — we'll help you out and break down the major differences between these handy cargo solutions below.

How to Choose the Best Rooftop Carrier

The best roof cargo solution for you depends on your gear, your roof type, and personal preference. Generally, cargo boxes and baskets cost more than cargo bags and mount on roof racks. Cargo boxes provide the most secure storage so are a great choice if you have valuable gear (like your favorite set of golf clubs) that you want to protect. Cargo baskets are great for long or bulky gear that won't fit in a box or bag. Cargo bags are great for gear that isn't particularly fragile (it won't have that hard box shell protecting it) but that you want to keep safe from the elements. They're also the most versatile when it comes to mounting options; roof bags can be mounted to vehicles with bare roofs, roof racks, or cargo baskets.
Best Security
Cargo Box
Roof Cargo Box
  • Lockable for superior security
  • Hard shell is weatherproof
  • Mounts to roof rack
Best for Bulky Gear
Cargo Basket
Roof Cargo Basket
Multiple Mounting Options
Cargo Bag
Roof Cargo Bag
Thule Rooftop Cargo Box
Roof Cargo BoxesCargo boxes are the total package. They offer security, storage capacity and weather protection. Most cargo boxes include locks to keep your gear secure during bathroom breaks or over-night rest stops. The hard shell design deflects the elements and debris that can go flying over your roof. Although they aren't waterproof, they are weatherproof. Everything will stay dry for the most part, but if you are carrying electronics, paper, or something that absolutely cannot get wet, it would be a good idea to pack it in sealed plastic bags. Hard rain or dust in a windy climate can leave a small surprise in any exterior carrier.Skis, snowboards, suitcases, and sleeping bags are a few examples of gear you may want to carry in a cargo box. These rooftop catchalls can hold anything from golf bags to golf balls and they come in a variety of sizes. Many cargo boxes allow for dual-side access or passenger-side access for safe loading and unloading on the side of the road. The adjustable mounting clamps on cargo boxes also allow you to position the box toward the front of the vehicle, leaving enough room in the rear for your hatch to open fully.
Rooftop Cargo Basket Loaded with Gear
Roof Cargo BasketsIf you need extra space, but you aren't ready for the expense of a cargo box or you just don't like the look, a cargo basket or cargo tray might be the way to go. Cargo baskets don't offer the same level of protection as a cargo box, but they will get your items from point A to point B. Their open design won't limit the height of your cargo, so they are great for coolers, suitcases, and spare tires. They can also give you a rugged look that is popular in the off-road and 4-wheeling communities.
Roof Cargo Bag Strapped to Naked Roof
Roof Cargo BagsIf you don't have a roof rack and don't want one, or if you want a low-cost way to transport your gear, cargo bags are a great option. They are extremely lightweight and foldable for easy storage in the garage or basement when you aren't traveling. What's more, many are waterproof or water resistant for gear you want to keep dry.
Related ArticlesRelated ProductsUpdated on: 4/12/21

Questions and Comments about this Article

Robert V.
would like to order a set of spare keys to my Malone cargo carrier. key #039 modular Italy
Etrailer Expert
Reply from David B.

Hey Robert, sorry to say but we don't have that key, you will need to get it direct from Malone.

Thomas N.
I own a grey 2019 Buick Encore SUV with flush rooftop rails. I am looking to purchase a roof rack system to use with an existing older cargo carrier box for a road trip. Any suggestions? Also, if existing cargo carrier box does not work-out....Any suggestions for a replacement? ThanQ...
Etrailer Expert
Reply from David B.

Ahh man, we don't have racks for grey, only blue Buicks! I joke, I joke, this will work lol, # RRVA126S-2 , # RRSX040 . I have no idea what brand or style of cargo box you have so I can't say yes or no if it would work with this Rhino Rack but this system will work with any standard roof rack accessory.

Ed D.
Just purchased a 2017 Little Guy Rough Rider 5-wide. What roof-rack system would you recommend? I would like to be able to add an awning and 1 or 2 bikes. Thanks in advance for your expert advice.
Etrailer Expert
Reply from David B.

I think this set up will work for you. Yakima 42" Tracks for Roof Racks # Y01126 Landing Pad 1 for Yakima SkyLine and Control Towers - Qty 2 # Y00221 SkyLine Towers for Yakima Crossbars - Fixed Mounting Points, Flush Rails, and Track Systems - Qty 4 # Y00148 . With this set up you can use any Yakima Jetstream crossbar. I have added a link to the cross bars so you can check them out.

Bryan P.
Do you have a full length roof basket kit that will fit a full length (Titan Chassis) 2021 Nissan 4x4 van
Etrailer Expert
Reply from Les D.

@BryanP are you talking about a Nissan NV200 Cargo Van or the NV2500? Where the cargo area is 70 inches long and 47 inches wide.

Bob S.
What cross bars and feet do have available for a 2021 VW ID.4 with existing roof rails? Interested in both square bars and aero bars pricing. Thanks, Bob
Etrailer Expert
Reply from Les D.

@BobS I checked several sources and we do not have any roof parts for a 2021 ID4. We will have some roof parts for a 2022 later in the year.

We are wondering if we can put a roof carriages on our Toyota Avalon 2019. If we can, what is the best way to go?
Etrailer Expert
Reply from Les D.

It sounds like you want to put a rooftop cargo basket on your Avalon. Since you could have considerable weight I would recommend using the Rhino-Rack that mounts to your existing fixed mounting points. For this you will need Part Numbers: # RRVA118B-2 , # RRRLKVA , # RR99YV Add to that the Curt # C18115 rooftop basket

Angela B.
Easy peasy.
Chuck M.
2020 Chevy Equinox. What are my cargo box options for zero interference problems? I was looking at the Yakima Rocket Box but can’t see any installation measurements. Any other product suggestions would also be appreciated. Thanks
Etrailer Expert
Reply from Les D.

@ChuckM The Thule Force XT XL Rooftop Cargo Box part # TH6358B and the Thule Force XT L Rooftop Cargo Box part # TH6357B will both fit and clear the hatch on a 2020 Chevrolet Equinox. The Force XT L will give you more room for error and will be better sized for this vehicle but if you want to use the Force XT XL it will still work as well.

Reply from Chuck M.

@LesD Thank you Les. And any issues with the Rocket Box?

Etrailer Expert
Reply from Les D.

@ChuckM The RocketBox is probably fine, but the others have been tested with your Equinox.

Jules G.
I recently bought a Thule weekender online. It has all the parts but no instructions on how to install. I have a 2017 Subaru outback. Will it work on the rooftop bars that is on this subaru? Do I need a different fit kit? Do you have any PDFs with instructions for this? Thanks,
Etrailer Expert
Reply from Jon G.

I don't have instructions or a PDF but we do have an answer page that has a visual of how the mounting hardware sits on the crossbar. I'm linking this for you to check out.



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