Any way you look at it and anywhere you go, the gear or equipment you bring along with you on the road is what makes the trip possible. A climbing trip isn’t the same without a rope, just like a beach trip isn’t the same without all of the sandcastle equipment. With the best rooftop cargo carrier, you can get everything you need to your destination even driving through the most difficult and demanding elements.
There’s a huge market for different ways to bring things along in your car, but the best rooftop cargo carriers, car toppers, and other forms of car roof storage are taking over. With these easy to install, affordably priced, and incredibly effective additions to your roof you can save space inside the car as well as bring along the extra gear that you may have had to leave behind in the past. There are even fantastic options for people that need a car top carrier with no roof rack installed on their vehicle. Whether you choose a rooftop cargo bag or any of the car top carriers you are sure to be pleased with how well your precious possessions are taken care of in transit.
Out Top 3 Choices
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The best of the best this year out of all the best rooftop cargo carriers is the Thule Force XT Rooftop Cargo Box. This is another amazing product put out by Thule, and there really is no surprise here. They only make the best of the best and this one isn’t any different. It comes in three different sizing options to fit your vehicle and will easily secure to the vast majority of roof racks out there. The real clincher is that it opens on both sides. As a single driver, you won’t have to walk all the way around the car to get something out quickly or fully unload your cargo. Pop out of the car and have access to everything in there.
9 Best Cartop Carriers Reviews
1. Thule Force XT Rooftop – Our Top Pick
The Force series is the best Rooftop Cargo Box series for a multitude of reasons. This comes in all different sizes that will give you just as much or as little rooftop storage that you want. The Thule Force Rooftop Cargo Box is incredibly easy to use with its quick-grip mounting system. In addition to easy installation, the cargo box opens from both sides of the vehicle. There’s no need to walk around the car multiple times just to load and get back in the driver’s seat. This is simple to pop open, shut, and be on your way.
The built-in lock is going to help protect your gear from anyone looking to sneak in while you’re away. You can rest easy both while on the road and off. The sleek, aerodynamic and low-profile design means it won’t be taking as much away from your gas mileage just to get to the mountains.
With the huge amount of space possible, you can make sure to free up enough space inside of the vehicle to make everyone comfortable. If you want something for a smaller car, with less storage, there are different options for that. Thule truly delivers it all with this line of cargo boxes.
3 different sizes – 18 cu ft, 22 cu ft, or 11 cu ft, compatible with most popular roof racks, tool free mounting system that clicks on, dual side opening, narrow design
- Variety of different sizes
- Easy to install with quick-grip mounting
- Opens from both sides of the car
- Aerodynamic design
- Higher price for higher quality
2. SportRack Vista XL – Best Value
18 cubic feet of space is going to be a game changer when you are going on the extended family road trip and are used to cramming all of the kids or extra gear into the backseat. The SportRack Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box features a taller profile that allows you to bring larger items along with, where a lot of other popular designs are much shorter. You get the huge amount of space, for a significantly lower price when put up against other top brand name competitors.
In order to allow access from almost all angles, this uses a rear-opening system. This way, you can get at the contents from both sides of the car and can use the back bumper as a small step stool for easier access. When you don’t need to get at it, the incorporated lock keeps everything secure inside of its UV resistant and waterproof home so you don’t need to worry.
The biggest downside of this cargo box is the height. While it will be able to fit much larger items, it also will cut down on your gas mileage. This can be a bigger price to pay for some, depending on your vehicle, but is often worth the tradeoff for the interior space. That being said, the value of this cargo box is the top of the class. It is incredibly well built and will do everything you want for a lower cost.
Fits most standard roof racks, tool-free mounting, rear opening, included key lock, ABS construction, carries up to 100 lbs
- Huge amount of space that can fit bigger objects
- Rear access is convenient from both sides
- Affordable price
- Taller profile will cut down on your average MPG
3. SHIELD JACKET Cargo Luggage – Best Cargo Carrier Bag
The Shield Jacket Waterproof Roof Top Cargo Bag is an incredible option when you are looking for a car top carrier that is heavy duty and easy to use. The Shield Jacket will up your cubic feet of storage by 15 cubic feet and get it out of the way from inside the car so you can stretch out and relax. The build quality of the Shield Jacket is incredible. It is completely waterproof with welded seams and double-wall vinyl construction to protect your gear without needing a hard shell topper.
The soft-sided design will let you carry along objects of weird shapes as well as letting you pack it away and store the roof top cargo bag easily when not in use. The soft shell does mean that it won’t be the best protection for valuable or delicate items, as well as being punctured more easily than hard shell toppers.
8 different built-in tie down straps are used to fasten the bag securely to the top of your car without any worries of it moving around or flying off in transit. We think this is a great solution to those that want additional cubic feet of storage, but want to pack it away easily without taking up a whole corner of your garage. It doesn’t need to live on top of your car forever, just when you need it.
Completely waterproof, welded seams, 8 built-in tie straps for easy install and removal, double-wall vinyl construction
- Completely waterproof
- Easily packed away when not in use
- Secure fastening system
- Can’t be trusted for easy-to-break or sharp items
The Leader Accessories Cargo Bag is designed to be incredibly easy to use as well as trustworthy and durable to protect all of your belongings. The heat welded seams will keep everything together for a longer life and make sure it’s all waterproof on the inside. To use this you just need to unzip the bag and throw everything in, which can be a lot easier to figure out than other systems.
On top of this, you can easily fold the cargo bag down to be flat and easily stored away. This is definitely the greatest benefit of choosing a soft shell storage bag rather than hard plastic.
In order to keep this cargo bag in place, it comes with an anti-slip mat that goes underneath and protects your car as well as the bag. High quality metallic ratchet straps make sure to tighten down easily and not come undone until you need to get the bag off the top of your car. It fits with most roof racks that you likely already have installed, so you don’t need to buy another product just to make this one work.
High quality metallic ratchet straps, PVC tarpaulin construction, heat-welded seams, 15 cubic foot capacity, anti-slip mat included
- Easy to use
- Waterproof zipper and heat welded seams
- Folds down flat when not in use
- Less aerodynamic than other options
To add 12 cubic feet of storage to your smaller and more compact car, the Yakima RocketBox Pro Compact Roof Top Cargo Box is the best pick. This box is aerodynamically designed to not create even more drag while you are cruising down the highway and lets air slide over it easily. Smaller hatchbacks and SUVs need the extra space and not all options will fit on top of them. This one will, and will give you loads of extra room.
Quick-dial mounting hardware makes sure that you don’t have any trouble installing the RocketBox and can get to using it quickly. Yakima provides a limited lifetime warranty that backs the rooftop carrier for as long as you can possibly have it.
The only downside to the Yakima RocketBox is the initial investment. This product costs a bit more than most others, but does come with the lifetime warranty so you won’t ever have to spend the money again. This one will transfer easily between cars and make it so you can go on longer trips with your smaller vehicle. It’s a great option, even if it may be a high cost.
Aerodynamic design, designed to fit small cars, hatchbacks and SUVs, quick-dial mounting hardware, limited lifetime warranty
- Aerodynamic design
- Fits on smaller cars and SUVs
- Lifetime warranty
- Higher price tag than most
If you are looking for an affordable, but effective method of upping your roof top storage for your next camping trip, the Keeper Waterproof Roof Top Cargo Bag should be on your list. You get the choice between 11 cubic feet and 15 cubic feet of additional storage to strap on the roof and go.
The soft shell bag is completely waterproof with a rubber laminated nylon design and is designed to fit any roof rack. When you aren’t using it, it will fold down to a small size and keep your storage levels to a maximum. This bag is one of the best cargo bags available today and shouldn’t be passed up.
The final big draw of the Keeper Waterproof Cargo Bag is the price. It’s a shockingly cheap cost to pay to get all of the great features of this product. It will be an easy fix if you are in a pinch but don’t have the money to get one of the top brand name products.
Fits any roof rack, completely waterproof, folds down to easily store when not in use, rubber laminated nylon
- Fits any roof rack
- Completely waterproof for protection from the elements
- Folds down to save on storage
- Gives a huge amount of storage
- Cargo bag doesn’t give a lot of aerodynamic potential
The RoofBag Rooftop Cargo Carrier is exactly that. It’s a bag for your roof and carrys your cargo. There’s not a lot of fluff to this product, but it is a great product all the same. It is a little bit more pricey than other cargo bags on the list, but it fits any vehicle that you might have. It gives you a huge amount of security both physically with 3,000 pound rated straps, and mentally with a 2-year warranty.
The RoofBag is fully waterproof and uses a more aerodynamic design for roof bags. The best part about it all is that you can install this with or without a rack already installed on your car. That means you don’t need anything else to get this on your car for a last minute trip or if you don’t have any need for a roof rack.
The anti-slip mat will keep the bag in place on top of the car or inside of any metal baskets for extra support. Additional liner bags are also available to give you even better protection when things get even worse weatherwise. This company has great customer service and will help you out whenever you need it. They believe the product is good and you’ll be covered with that warranty.
2-year warranty, wide securing straps with 3,000 lb rating, fully waterproof, aerodynamic design, installs with or without rack
- Two year warranty
- Highly rated straps
- Completely waterproof
- No need for a roof rack to install
- More pricey than other cargo bags
Another great option for smaller vehicles that still want that additional storage is the Thule SideKick Rooftop Cargo Box. It is made for small to midsize cars and gives an additional 8 cubic feet of storage. With the name of Thule coming alongside the product, it’s guaranteed to be a top-notch cargo box made for the toughest of activities. It may not fit a whole pair of skis, but will be able to bring along a ton of extra gear for your adventures.
It mounts easily to most factory installed roof racks, and just about every aftermarket roof rack. The installation is a bit more complicated than most, but still not difficult. The 75 pound capacity means you can bring along a ton of extra camping gear without really needing to worry about maxing this one out.
The best part of the compact design is that you can fit this on your roof, but also fit a kayak or a pair of skis strapped on right next to it. There’s more room on top of your car for things that don’t need protection from the elements, or we suppose you could always just buy a second SideKick. You can also check our recent post about everything you need to know about the best kayak roof storage.
Compact design, U-bolts with reinforcement plates and adjustable brackets, passenger side opening, 75 pound capacity
- Compact design leaves room for other play toys
- Fits most standard roof racks
- Top-name brand
- Doesn’t hold as much
- Harder to install than other systems
Our final product on the list is another high quality and heavy duty cargo bag. The WeatherTech RackSack gives you 13 more cubic feet of storage to strap on top of the car for all of your long haul adventures. The tear resistant and heavy duty 1000 denier nylon material is sure to give your gear a solid amount of protection from the elements. The inside is lined with a PVC coating that makes it incredibly water resistant.
This is connected to your roof rack with swivel straps that adjust to the best fitting angle on your car. That makes it easy to move between vehicles and still have the most secure fitting to any vehicle. The felt bottom of the bag protects the roof from any dents or scratches that may happen with heavier loads.
If you’re looking for something that will live on the top of the car at all times and give you the ultimate weather protection, this may not be the one. It is however a great option to have when you may need it for a long or short haul cross country. It can easily be stored away, but isn’t best to be used all the time.
Water-resistant material, swivel straps, felt bottom to protect roof, 1000 D nylon material
- Swivel straps make it easy to move between vehicles securely
- PVC coating on inside of 1000D material is great weather resistance
- Felt bottom protects your roof
- Not the most heavy duty option to be used constantly
Car Roof Storage Buyer’s Guide
To get the right storage for the top of your vehicle you are going to need the best rooftop cargo carrier. Depending on your vehicle and your needs, each car top carrier delivers differently. If you are looking into rooftop cargo bags, or a different cargo carrier that fits on your roof rack, we can help you get to the right choice for your vehicle. With so many different cargo carriers out there as options when looking at your car top carrier, you will want to narrow the field down. In order to do so, we need to look at the different specifications that each of the several car top carriers or rooftop cargo carrier bags have.
Camping can require a lot of gear that doesn’t always fit into your SUV. Thanks to a roof box, you can bring along a whole array of camping gear on top of the SUV. It brings a new world of possibilities to adventures and some can even fit multiple pairs of skis! You could potentially fit a cargo rack with a bike rack for SUV. You can fit even more by buying a spare tire bike rack when bringing your bike!
Every car top carrier on this list is here to give you additional storage on top of your vehicle. For most of these cargo bags or boxes we are looking at increasing your storage anywhere from 8 cubic feet to 22 cubic feet. The owner of any vehicle wants to get the most out of their vehicle and depending on that vehicle, you may need some extra space. For Toyota Tacoma owners, our recent post about Toyota Tacoma roof racks will help you more on having extra roof rack for your things.
If you have a roof rack already, you are in luck. Most of these cargo bags and car top carriers are designed to fit on any roof rack that you may already have. This will make increasing your carrying capacity simple.
If you drive a smaller car, you may need to be in the market for cargo bags or boxes that have a more compact design and store just slightly less gear. A good carrier bag will still get you the space you need however. Cargo boxes are made for any size car and tend to offer the most space. The SideKick cargo box from Thule gives you a compact design that allows you to fit more on your roof than just the rooftop carrier.
A choice for a carrier bag rather than any of the cargo boxes will limit your storage, but you can still get up to 15 cubic feet of additional space. Cargo bags are good for not taking up that additional space when you don’t need it. A carrier bag folds up easily and is stored away at the end of the day.
Amount of Use
Cargo boxes are made to live on the top of your vehicle for a long time. They will stand up against the harshest of elements and honestly, the roof of your vehicle is the best storage spot for them. Cargo boxes take up a lot of space, so if you aren’t using them often it may not be worth it and a carrier bag will be a better choice.
Any rooftop carrier will be able to give you what you need, but cargo boxes will be there all the time when you need them. If you are using it every day, they are a great choice. If you rarely need the additional space on a rare road trip, a roof cargo carrier bag will be better, it just needs installed every time. Luckily, installing a roof cargo carrier bag is easy to do. A good roof cargo carrier bag just straps down and folds up easily when you take it off. Cargo boxes on the other hand require a bit more installation time.
Again, rooftop bags tend to be for those looking to use these less to take gear from place to place. For gear that gets move constantly, cargo boxes tend to be better. A car top carrier bag is made to be removed easily rather than to live on the roof.
Shape and Aerodynamics
The biggest problem of having any additional storage space on the roof of your car is that it will drop your average MPG. Roof boxes have the benefit of being shaped aerodynamically, but the best roof boxes still create extra drag.
Rooftop bags are harder to make more streamlined, but the best roof top bags work to make it as efficient as possible. A roof basket is a good option as the wind can pass through it, but has a lot of drawbacks as well.
Do I need a roof rack for a cargo carrier?
Roof racks are necessary for almost every cargo carrier on the list. There is however a way around it to get a cargo carrier that does not require a roof rack already on your vehicle. The RoofBag is designed to fit on your vehicle without a roof rack, which makes it a great rooftop cargo bag for those that don’t want to buy anthing additional. Unfortunately for all cargo boxes you will need a roof rack to use it. The cargo carrier bag is the only option to make this work without a roof rack.
Can you rent rooftop cargo carriers?
These days there are businesses that make rentals available for just about anything! There are many sites that will allow you to rent a cargo carrier, either a cargo bag or box, rather than buying one. Rooftop cargo bags tend to be pretty cheap so you may want to just purchase one, but you can get the best rooftop cargo carrier for a cheaper price, just a short time.
Are rooftop cargo bags safe?
Rooftop cargo bags are absolutely safe. We suggest that you purchase a lock to put on the cargo carrier zipper because most cargo bags don’t have locking mechanisms while cargo boxes almost all do. A good rooftop cargo bag will have zipper that you can lock together and make sure that the rooftop cargo bag stays shut when you are away. And to understand how to properly store your cargo on the roof of your car, you can check our recent post where we talk about luggage rooftop carriers. You might also interested to know the best hitch cargo box that would help you store all of your things on your vehicle. And to guide you on your purchase, our post about Thule vs Yakima cargo box might help you choose.
We have also made a list of our favorite 4Runner roof racks that can be useful for you on your next travel goals. And maybe you are finding a solution to store your bikes at home. Our post about the best garage bike rack and indoor bike rack will surely help you out. And if you also want to know about the best truck bed bike racks, you can go here.
A roof top carrier system is an incredible option when you are wanting to add room to the interior of your car, but still bring everything along on the road trip. If you don’t have a hitch, you don’t have the option to get a hitch mounted box. The great news is, every (well just about every) car has a roof. These systems are all incredibly easy to use and give you a great amount of protection for all the gear you want. There’s a solution to anyone wanting to bring just about anything on any car. We’re here to help and hope this list has brought you the best possible solution. You can also look at the best roof box and cargo boxes for your car here.
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