Best Cargo Boxes
If you’ve ever thrown your outdoor gear loosely in the back of your truck, then taken off to your next adventure, you’ve probably discovered after arriving that your gear is now in chaos. To make sure your gear always arrives organized and intact each time you set to play outside, consider purchasing the best cargo box for both you and your adventures.
You’ll find that, when you start looking to purchase the best cargo box, you’re going to run into a lot of selections and choices. To help save you time, and guide you to making the best purchase, we’ve created a list of the top ten best cargo boxes in the market today. We also reviewed detailed criteria including pros and cons for each product to help you decide which cargo box is the best fit for you.
- Thule Motion XT XL
- Thule Force
- SportRack Vista XL
- Yakima Showcase Rooftop
- Thule Pulse
- Yakima Skybox Carbonite
- Yakima RocketBox Pro 12
- Rightline Gear Sports 3 Carrier
- Keeper Waterproof Rooftop
- WeatherTech Rack Sack
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top Ten Cargo Boxes
1. Thule Motion XT XL
Integrated torque indicator
PowerClick quick-mount system
Handle could be easier to use
The Thule Motion XT XL Cargo Box brings you a great design that’s space-saving and aerodynamic. The
Thule Motion Cargo Box is both easy to mount and built to last so that your outdoor gear will stay safe as you drive to your next adventure.
The Thule Motion XT XL Cargo Box comes with an integrated torque indicator which clicks when the cargo box is mounted correctly. The torque indicator helps to ensure that you’ve mounted the cargo box correctly, providing both safety and ease of mind.
The Thule Motion XT XL Cargo Box also comes with grip-friendly outer handles and lid lifters, making this cargo box very easy to open from any side of your vehicle. Also, this cargo box gives you full trunk access since it sits towards the front of the vehicle’s roof.
The Thule Motion XT XL Cargo Box was made to be an effective usage of space. The cargo box is aerodynamic and easy to mount since it utilizes the wide PowerClick quick-mount system, enabling you to save time mounting your cargo box before each trip.
Another great feature this cargo box offers is the SlideLock system with separate opening and locking options. This SlideLock system will lock the lid in place and also indicates that the box is closed, so you know your items will remain safe.
2. Thule Force
Lock is a bit difficult to use
The Thule Force Cargo Box is a high-performing option with an average price. With this box, you’ll get a design that’s both strong and aerodynamic, so that the cargo box actually cuts through the air more efficiently.Read more
The Thule Force Cargo Box is designed to fit many factor racks as well as Thule rack systems. So, it’s a versatile cargo box and can be used with most rack systems, and it’s got a nice, sleek appearance as well.
It offers a suburb mounting system that’s both fast and easy to use. Since you can connect the cargo box to your rack in less than five minutes, this cargo box is great for those impatient outdoors enthusiasts that can’t wait to hit the road.
The Thule Force Cargo Box comes with a diamond-textured aero skin lid, which makes the shape of the lid aerodynamic for easier, safer travel. Thule’s cargo box also comes with a tool-free quick-grip mounting system, which makes it easy for you to set your cargo box on your rack in five minutes or less.
The Thule Force Cargo Box is also designed with an oversized secure lock, to keep the box closed so you can ensure that your gear is always safe. With the Thule design, you’ll also get dual-side openings for loading or unloading from either side of the vehicle.
3. SportRack Vista XL
Keeps items safe
Lid feels flimsy
The SportRack Vista XL cargo box is meant to fit SportRack Roof Systems and many other factory racks, making it an easy fit at an affordable price. It’s made to be both strong and UV-resistant, so your outdoor gear will be protected on your ride over to your next adventure.Read more
At an affordable price, the SportRack Vista XL works well as a basic box with basic functionality. However, as a cargo box that sells for less, it’s certainly still an effective one.
With the SportRack VistaXL, your items will still stay safely locked away from the weather and any other chaos while you travel. Your gear can travel easily from one place to the next while still staying organized and out of harm’s way.
The SportRack VistaXL is designed with strong ABC construction, making the cargo box UV-resistant. It also has a rear opening feature, so you can open it while facing away from traffic.
The quick release hardware mounting system on the SportRack Vista XL makes it much easier to get the cargo box on and off your vehicle. Plus, the SportRack’s cargo box also locks so that your items stay safe in the box, and won’t’ fall out while you are driving on the streets.
4. Yakima Showcase Rooftop
Fits smaller vehicles
Mounting system could be easier
The Yakima Showcase Rooftop Cargo Box offers you a high-quality cargo box with a sleek appearance and easy-to-use features. Yakima’s Showcase Cargo Box is both strong and made to fit a wide variety of vehicles and racks.Read more
Yakima’s Showcase Rooftop Cargo Box is a nice-looking option for a cargo box since it’s got a high-gloss automotive quality finish. The Yakima Showcase Rooftop Cargo Box was designed with appearance in mind, and should look great on just about any vehicle.
The design of the Yakima Showcase Rooftop Cargo Box offers an internal lid stiffener, which makes this cargo box both durable and easy to open and close. Yakima’s Showcase Cargo Box also has dual-sided opening options, so that you can access your items from both sides of your vehicle easily and safely.
The hardware in the Yakima Showcase Cargo Box is forward-facing and has a tapered tail end so clearance on all vehicles is easier with this cargo box. This cargo box is also made to fit many smaller vehicles easily.
5. Thule Pulse
Great for skis and boards
Secure Lock feature
Extreme heat can affect the box
Depending on what outdoor activities you like to indulge, the Thule Pulse Cargo Box might be the option for your activities. The Thule Pulse Cargo Box is actually an excellent choice for skiers or anybody using any type of board for conducting outdoor activities.Read more
If you need something that can hold around six pairs of skis or three boards for your outdoor activities, you’ll enjoy using the Thule Pulse Cargo Box. Not only can you easily pack this kind of gear, but the Thule Pulse Cargo Box is well-designed to protect your items from the weather.
Built to be long-lasting, the Thule Pulse Cargo Box is made with durable ABS material that provides you with a strong bag that can protect your gear easily during your trip. The Thule Pulse Cargo Box also comes with Easy-Grip mounting capabilities, making it easy to assemble and mount to your rack.
With the Thule Pulse Cargo Box, you also get the Secure Lock feature, to ensure your box stays locked and protects your gear. This cargo box also comes with a single-side opening system so you can safely load and unload items on the passenger side.
6. Yakima Skybox Carbonite
Matte and nice in appearance
Comes in several sizes
Can fit a large amount of gear
Could have a better mounting system
The Yakima Skybox Carbonite Cargo Box is a more affordable option for those of you who need a cargo box that’s roomy enough to fit gear for the entire family. Yakima’s Skybox offers you a larger option for hauling gear, and the Skybox is both durable and versatile enough to protect whatever gear you pack into it.Read more
If you need to haul a large amount of gear and watch your budget when purchasing a cargo box, then the Yakima Skybox should provide you with what you need. This Yakima cargo box is made to fit gear for up to five campers, meaning you can easily pack your things for your entire family.
Plus, the Yakima Skybox Carbonite Cargo box comes with an integrated SKS lock system, which ensures your gear stays inside the cargo box. With this peace of mind and protection, you’ll be able to easily make it to your outdoor adventures knowing your gear is safe.
The design of the Yakima Skybox Carbonite Cargo box offers a few sizes—either 12, 18, 16, or 21 cubic feet depending on how much room you want. It can handle hauling snowboards and skis as well, making it a reliable option to fit a large amount of gear.
The Yakima Skybox Carbonite Cargo box can fit any Yakima round or factor round or square bars. It’s versatile and easy-to-mount, making it both an effective and reliable system.
7. Yakima RocketBox Pro 12
Made for smaller cars
Lifetime limited warranty
SKS lock system
Not fully waterproof
If you’ve got a smaller car and want to pack your outdoor gear into a strong cargo box, then you might want to consider the Yakima RocketBox Pro 12. It’s both affordable and provides you with plenty of extra room when you travel in a smaller, compact car.Read more
While the Yakima RocketBox Pro 12 is made for smaller cars, it also hauls a decent amount of gear for up to two people. It’s also made to be both affordable and strong, and comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
Plus, you’ll get an SKS lock system to ensure your gear safely stays in place while you travel. You’ll get some peace of mind with this cargo bag since you’ll know your items will remain organized as you move.
The Yakima RocketBox Pro 12 comes with an aerodynamic design, which helps to reduce drag as you drive. The Yakima RocketBox Pro 12 is also designed to sit more towards the front of the car, making clearance and trunk access both much easier on smaller cars.
The Yakima RocketBox Pro 12 is made with quick-dial mounting hardware, so it’s easy to mount and fits all Yakima and factory round, square, or aerodynamic bars. You’ll also get dual-sided opening with this cargo box, making it easy for you to access your items from either side of the car.
8. Rightline Gear Sports 3 Carrier
Can be used without a rack
Bag needs to be full to keep the structural integrity of it
Depending on how much you travel, you might want a more affordable box to meet your goals. If you don’t travel too often but still need a durable cargo box, then the Rightline Gear Sports 3 Carrier just might be the option for you.Read more
Made to be waterproof, the Rightline Gear Sports 3 Carrier’s dual seem technology makes it a box that can easily withstand the elements and keep all of your gear safe. It’s also UV resistant, so you’ll know that your items are protected whenever you gravel with the box.
The Rightline Gear Sports 3 Carrier is made to easily fit most minivans and SUVs, providing a cheaper option for those of you looking for a good cargo box with basic features. It also comes with multiple attachment options at a more affordable price than most similar cargo boxes.
The aerodynamic make of the Rightline Gear Sports 3 makes it an effective option, and one of the other nice features about it is that you can use it without a roof rack on your car. It’s made from polyester re-enforced PVC mesh, making it weather proof and tough.
9. Keeper Waterproof Rooftop
Offers flexible packing to fit any item
Not the most aerodynamic
While this is more of a bag style cargo option than a box, the Keeper Waterproof Rooftop Cargo Box is an affordable option for those of you who need something that both costs less and is durable. One benefit of this soft box model is that it’s easier to fit gear that might be oddly shaped, and still protect it effectively while traveling.Read more
The Keeper Waterproof Rooftop Cargo Bag is waterproof, meaning you’ll be able to protect the gear you stash into it effectively from the elements. You also get up to fifteen cubic feet of space with which to pack your items, meaning you can fit quite a bit into this bag.
The Keeper Waterproof Rooftop Cargo Bag is designed to boost your vehicle’s cargo space, and is also made to fit all roof racks while providing additional attachment capabilities. You also get a bag with soft sides so it’s easy to shape the bag to fit almost any item.
The Keeper Waterproof Rooftop Cargo Bag also folds down so it becomes compact and easy to store. While you’re giving up some of the protection of a hard box with this choice, you’re also gaining the ability to pack almost any item.
10. WeatherTech Rack Sack
Lightweight and easy to store
Expandable and retractable
Protects your vehicle
Must purchase roof bars separately
WeatherTech’s Rack Sack offers another affordable option for the occasional traveler that wants to ensure his or her gear is safely protected throughout the trip. This durable bag can help you bring whatever you need, ensure it’s protected, and save you some money with its low cost.Read more
The WeatherTech Rack Sack is an expandable cargo case, meaning it can carry a large amount of gear and adapt to your needs, holding up to thirteen cubic feet of gear. Also, because this cargo box is expandable, it can also retract easily and be stored away in its own bag.
The WeatherTech Rack sack’s material is made up of a water repellent polyester, which will help keep your items safe from the elements while also protecting the finish of your vehicle. WeatherTech’s cargo box is also padded with felt to help further ensure your vehicle doesn’t get scratched by the cargo box.
WeatherTech’s cargo box is both lightweight and easy to store, but also durable enough to protect your items from the weather. It’s swivel straps also make it very simple to mount to a crossbar or side rails on your car.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
When taking time out to look for the best cargo box for your outdoor activities, one factor you need to consider is the type of items you plan to pack in your cargo box. For instance, if you are planning to back both skis and boards, you need to look for a longer and leaner type of cargo box which is typically also a more expensive type. So you need to initially determine whether or not you need the cargo box for skis and boards, or just plan to opt for a cargo box that will work for more simple trips. If you don’t need to worry about skis and boards, you can purchase a more affordable, smaller cargo box.
Next, you need to determine whether or not you need a cargo box that’s a hard option, or a soft roof bag. Again, much of this will depend on how often you use the cargo box and what you plan to use it for. If you go with a soft roof bag, you’ll save quite a bit of money but won’t get the durability of the hard-sided cargo boxes. Roof bags are also easier to store, so they are great for people traveling longer distances that might need to pack the bag at some point. If you aren’t planning to use your cargo box daily and only need it for trips, then the more affordable rooftop bag option might be for you. However, if you’re going to use your cargo box every day, then a hard-sided cargo box is probably the better choice for you.
Another factor you need to think about when purchasing the best cargo box for your outdoor activities is how often you plan on using your cargo box. If you’re the type of person that wants to mount your cargo box and simply leave it on your car for long periods of time, then worrying about how fast and easily you can mount your cargo box might not really be a factor for you. If you do wish to strap your box on your car and leave it there, just remember that most cargo boxes aren’t designed to be driven with nothing in them. So, unless you really need your cargo box for long-term storage on your vehicle, you’ll want to take it off between uses.
If you aren’t using the cargo box for the long-term and need to remove it and then put it back on later, you’ll probably want to consider some of the faster-mounting cargo boxes. How often you both mount and use the box is going to heavily determine whether or not you want an easy-to-mount cargo box. Those of you opting for long-term use should look more at how well the box opens and closes to fit your needs rather than how easy the box is to mount. If you’re installing the cargo box and then leaving it on your car, you’ll want an easy-opening feature for faster access to your items.
When it comes to cargo box volume, again the type of cargo box you select will vary depending on what you decide to use it for. Many longer and leaner boxes are made with similar sizes, so the storage capacity of this type of cargo box doesn’t vary quite as much.
Most of the longer and leaner cargo boxes come in two size styles, so which size you pick will depend on the size and amount of the skis and board you plan to pack. Most times, what the manufacturer suggests on ski and board sizes are fairly accurate when selecting a cargo box. Shorter, stumpy cargo boxes vary much more in size selection than longer and leaner cargo boxes. Many of the shorter, stumpy cargo boxes on the market come with a variety of size choices themselves, so when you are selecting this type of cargo box, go for the size options you feel you really need.
Another option you’ll need to consider when searching for the best cargo box is the size and type of the vehicle you drive. Depending on what vehicle you use, you’ll find that some cargo boxes will work better than others for you.
For instance, some of the cargo boxes on our list are designed to fit smaller cars, while still others are made to fit SUVs and vans. So, you’re going to want to make sure you look at the manufacturer’s suggestions for what kind of vehicle their cargo boxes will fit. If you purchase a cargo box that doesn’t fit your vehicle well, like a smaller box on a larger car, you might find that the cargo box is difficult for you to access simply because it isn’t made for your type of vehicle. Also, depending on your vehicle’s cargo bars, you’ll also find that different sized cargo boxes will fit different types of cargo bars better.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
When looking at investing in a cargo box for your vehicle, keep in mind that they usually come in two options which is a permanent cargo box that is always attached to the car or a portable cargo box which can be easily installed when needed. Both have their advantages and disadvantages but if you are going to invest in a permanent cargo box, keep in mind this will take an affect on your gas mileage and the economy of your car, due to the fact, that it will have extra weight and will impact how your vehicle performs against the wind.
Frequently Asked Questions
You want to consider a few items when you’re selecting your cargo box. Take a close look at features, usability, capacity, and price.
-Different cargo box manufacturers offer different features on their products that enhance the cargo boxes in a variety of ways. So, you want to look at the particular features of each cargo box you’re considering like how it withstands the weather, how quickly you can mount it to your vehicle, how secure it is once on the car, and how easy it is for you to put your items in it, and get your items out.
-You don’t necessarily need to get the biggest box if you don’t plan to haul around a lot of items each time you use your cargo box. So, you need to consider if you simply need a light cargo bag or a hard-shell carrier depending on your needs.
-Make sure to take a look at both reviews and feedback when you select your cargo box so you can get a feel for how well your cargo box holds up to manufacturer claims. Discovering how well the cargo box actually functions will help you determine whether or not the cargo box is right for you.
-Depending on exactly what you need to utilize your cargo box for, you’ll discover that there are more affordable options out there if you lean towards a more basic cargo box style and don’t need something fancy.
When you are deciding what cargo box you want to purchase, you need to look specifically at a few concepts about the cargo box. These concepts include material, size and weight, brand, design, warranty, and weight limit.
-Analyzing the type of material the manufacturer used to make the cargo box will tell you a lot about what it’s likely made for. Materials that are more tough and made to handle the elements will last longer, and also protect your items better. So, consider the type of weather conditions you might be encountering, and what you need your cargo box to withstand. One example of excellent weatherproof material is ABS plastic, which works great if you know you might run into rain and snow conditions.
-Size and weight. The size and weight of your bag will also help determine the type of cargo box you should pick. If you need something that can move large amounts of gear each time you play outside, then you’ll want a larger sized box. However, weight is also a factor. No matter how large you need your cargo box to be, try to get something that is lightweight and easy-to-handle, which will make it better for you to install and remove the cargo box with less body strain.
-We’ve listed a few different brand options here in our guide, but the better the brand, the better the cargo box. If you purchase a cargo box that comes from a manufacturer offering years of great products and good customer service, then you’re much likelier to be happy with your purchase. Most of the better brands offer cargo boxes that are of a superior quality and built to last.
-The design of your cargo box will matter a lot on the vehicle you’re placing it on. You want something with a nice finish and appearance that looks great on your car. Also, if you can get an aerodynamic cargo box, you’ll cut down on wind resistance and fuel expenses. So, make sure you consider the cargo box’s design and how well it will meet your needs.
-Many cargo box manufacturers make their products with extended warranties, and these are also usually the best types of cargo boxes you can buy. The better the warranty, usually the better the performance of the box. Plus, if a manufacturer offers a great warranty with their cargo box, then you know the company stands behind its product, and your cargo box is made to last.
-Weight Limit. Weight limit is also another thing to take a close look at when you’re selecting a cargo box. Most manufacturers state weight and size load limits for their cargo boxes. You have to make sure you select a cargo box that won’t damage your car, and can carry just what you need. So, take a little time to plan ahead before figuring out the weight limit you might need.
Many outdoor enthusiasts seeking to purchase cargo boxes worry about how the box might affect gas mileage. However, the majority of cargo boxes don’t affect gas mileage that much, and the ones that do seem to make you spend more money in gas were noted in this review.
Overall, most cargo boxes don’t hurt your gas mileage that much, or make it difficult to drive your vehicle. So, while this is one feature many outdoor enthusiasts worry about, it’s something that doesn’t necessarily need to concern you all that much as you search around for the best cargo box.
There are several different types of roof racks on the market today, and to purchase the correct cargo box, you want to make sure you know what style of roof rack you have on your car. If you aren’t certain, we’ve provided you with a list below that should help you identify your type of roof rack. Roof rack types include factor roof racks, naked roofs, and roof racks with side rails only.
-Factory Roof Racks. Some vehicles are sold new with full roof racks and cross bars, meaning these vehicles are utilizing a factory roof rack. If your vehicle already came standard issue with a full roof rack, then you shouldn’t need to buy anything else to mount your cargo box. You should be able to more easily set-up your cargo box simply using the items provided when you purchase it. However, if you have a factory roof rack, you want to make sure the cargo box you buy will be compatible with the factory roof rack you have. To tell this, figure out your crossbars shape, which will be OEM, round, square, or aero. Most cargo boxes on the market today are made to accommodate factory roof racks, but every brand of cargo box can be different. For instance, Yakima cargo boxes are better for round, square, and factory crossbars. On the other hand, Thule cargo boxes are easy to mount on square and aero bars, but not as easy to get on round factory bars.
-Naked Roofs. Vehicles that have roofs without cross bars or side roof rails are classified as naked roofs. To use your cargo box, you’ll need to make sure you have a roof rack installed on the top of your vehicle first. One easy way to do this is to get a fit kit, crossbars, and a foot pack to easily install a roof rack on your car. Once the roof rack is on your car, then you can select the kind of cargo box you wish to purchase.
-Side Rails. Vehicles made with side rails only usually have roof rails that run down the length of the vehicle without crossbars. If you have this type of roof rack, you’ll need to get those crossbars to set-up your cargo box on your car. You’ll see the side rail only feature on a lot of SUVs and wagon-type vehicles. So, select a good set of sidebars to mount on your factory side rails. When you select your crossbars, make sure you pick something that will keep the wind noise down inside your car when you drive. The shape of your crossbars will determine this, since square bars tend to make more wind noise, while oral (aero) cross bars will cut back on the noise. Once you’ve got your crossbars on your vehicle, you’ll be able to get your cargo box easily and effectively on your roof. All you’ll need to do is slide your crossbars to stabilize your load. Your cargo box will come with all the mounting parts you’ll need to effectively place the box on your vehicle.
While both Thule and Yakima offer a wide variety of cargo box options for your outdoor gear needs, many wonder if one brand is better than the other. Thule cargo boxes tend to cost more than Yakima, so the question really is about any benefits you might get from purchasing a higher-priced Thule cargo box.
Most Thule cargo boxes are manufactured with the appearance in mind, so they tend to both fit and look better once mounted on your vehicle. Typically, you also get more features when purchasing a Thule cargo box. On the other hand, Yakima’s cargo boxes are fairly standard and affordable. If you’re worried about cost and just want something that works well, then you’ll get what you need to protect your gear by purchasing a Yakima cargo box.