Here Are the Best Roof Cargo Boxes to Increase Your Vehicle’s Storage

The Yakima CBX 16 is our top pick for the best roof cargo box

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Intrepid road-trippers instinctively understand the myriad benefits of getting a rooftop cargo box. It liberates you from the confines of your vehicle's storage capacity, freeing up much-needed space inside your car or truck while securely hauling both standard outdoor gear and more awkward items like skis and snowboards. And it also cuts down on the potential of getting your vehicle's interior wet or dirty from hauling used equipment inside your car.

But even occasional vacationers can benefit from a cargo box, which provides ample extra storage space to haul family-travel essentials like strollers or an additional cache of juice boxes or helping lug a load of holiday presents to a big celebration.

These are the best rooftop cargo boxes, from those perfect for skiers to ones that won't hamper your vehicle's slender silhouette.

Best Overall: Yakima CBX 16 Roof Box

Yakima CBX 16 Roof Box

Yakima

What We Like
  • Opens on both sides

  • Flat floor

  • Same model also available at 18 cubic feet

What We Don't Like
  • Slightly pricey

Boasting 16 cubic feet of storage space—enough to store gear for up to three campers, the CBX 16 from Yakima gets all the details right. It mounts to the roof rack with a removable torque-limiting knob, freeing ample space. The grab handles operate intuitively and lock the gear inside and the box to the rack.

Internal lid stiffeners improve durability and make it easy to open and close the lid, which can be done on either side. Integrated interior tie-down points let you secure your cargo from sliding around, and it’s long enough to store snowboards and skis up to 185 centimeters. And it also looks great, with a streamlined design and a rugged, angular finish and a stealth-like texture with black chrome badging.

Dimensions: 83 x 38 x 15 inches | Weight: 57 pounds | Capacity: 16 cubic feet

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Thule Vector M Roof Box

Thule Vector M Roof Box

Backcountry

What We Like
  • Opens from both sides

  • Available in both black metallic and titan matte

What We Don't Like
  • A bit expensive

Thule lines the interior of their premium Vector M rooftop cargo box with felt to help keep your kit protected mid-journey. It comes with 13 cubic feet of storage and can accommodate skis and snowboards up to 185 centimeters. Integrated LED lighting makes it easy to load and grab essential gear, with a white interior to improve visibility.

A slightly forward position shouldn’t interfere with opening your trunk or hatchback. The Slidelock system has separate locking and opening functions that automatically lock the lid and indicate when the box is securely closed. PowerClick, an integrated torque indicator that clicks when it’s properly mounted, adds peace of mind, and the sporty design marries well with most vehicles.

Dimensions: 83.5 x 34.5 x 14 inches | Weight: 59.3 pounds | Capacity: 13 cubic feet

Best Budget: Rightline Gear Sport 2 Car Top Carrier

Rightline Gear Sport 2 Car Top Carrier

Dick's Sporting Goods

What We Like
  • Inexpensive

  • Works on any vehicle

  • Also available in 10- and 18-cubic-feet models

What To Consider
  • Not as secure as a hard-topped box with a lock

  • Rear zipper construction means you’ll have to balance on your bumper to access the interior when it’s mounted on the roof

Going with a cargo bag instead of a box means you don't need—or have to pay for—a dedicated roof rack. And the Rightline Gear Sport 2 gets everything right. It includes Car Clips that attach the straps to the vehicle's door frame, weather molding, or straps directly to an existing roof rack (the type that runs parallel to the doors) that comes standard on some vehicles.

The soft-top carrier is 100 percent waterproof, with welded seams and SZIP waterproof zippers that remove a zipper flap's need (and hassle). Constructed from UV-protected PVC semi-coated mesh TX, a polyester-reinforced PVC, it'll withstand years of abuse. An enclosed front end helps fit your gear to the size of the carrier's 15 cubic feet of storage, with a big, wide-open mouth that makes it easy to pack. It even comes with a stuff sack and a sewn-in instruction guide.

Dimensions: 42 x 34 x 18 inches | Weight: 7 pounds, 9.6 ounces | Capacity: 15 cubic feet

Best Splurge: Yakima CBX Solar 16 Roof Box

Yakima CBX Solar 16 Roof Box

Yakima

What We Like
  • The ability to charge smart devices, action cams, and camp lighting without draining your vehicle’s battery

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Yakima took everything that makes their CBX Rooftop Cargo Box great—and then integrated a heavy-duty Sunflare solar panel on the lid, which produces a 36W/five-volt output that can power your devices via one of the two USB ports. It comes with 16 cubic feet of storage, accessible from either size with a grab lid handle that locks gear inside the box and the box to the vehicle.

Tie-down points inside make it easy to secure everything, and a flat internal floor provides easy storage options. The torque-limiting knob used to secure the box can be removed after successfully mounting the product to the roof rack. They’ve also stiffened the lid to make it easy to open and stand up against wind gusts.

Dimensions: 83 x 38 x 15 inches | Weight: 60 pounds | Capacity: 16 cubic feet

Best for Skis: SportRack Horizon Cargo Box

SportRack Horizon Cargo Box

SportRack

What We Like
  • Inexpensive

  • Includes a lock

  • Also comes in 16- and 17-cubic feet models

What We Don't Like
  • Mounting is a little tricky

  • Only opens on the passenger’s side

Capable of storing up to six pairs of skis (and poles) or three snowboards up to 210 centimeters in length, the SportRack Horizon Alpine box is ideally suited to keep your vehicle free of snow and clutter you'd otherwise have to endure while driving to the resort, backcountry access point, or the nordic track.

Depending on your gear cache, you can also likely stash your helmet within its 11-cubic-foot capacity. Impact-resistant ABS material will help it stand up to the worst winter weather. The mounting system works with most factory racks and SportRack's round and square bars.

Dimensions: 88.75 x 21 x 15.75 inches | Weight: 29 pounds | Capacity: 11 cubic feet

Best Low-Profile: Inno Wedge 660 Roof Box

Inno Wedge 660 Roof Box

REI

What We Like
  • Attractive

  • Low-profile design that combats wind noise

  • Comes in black or white

What We Don't Like
  • Smaller storage page

Inno adds downward slopes to the front and back on the underside of their Wedge, making this rooftop cargo box low-profile and aerodynamic. In addition to providing a stylish alternative to boxier models, the design also helps cut down on wind noise. It opens on both sides for added versatility and includes a one-touch buckle belt inside to help secure your load. An “open edge” design improves the max storage capacity from corner to corner.

As you’d expect from a streamlined box, it doesn’t boast a massive amount of storage space—just over 10 cubic feet, making it ideal for small SUVs, compacts, and standard sedans. But it still boasts enough space to carry up to eight skis. The “memory mounting system” makes it easy to configure and take off when you don’t need it. And the key in the lock system can only be removed once the box is locked, a nice safety feature.

Dimensions: 74.5 x 33 x 15.78 inches | Weight: 44 pounds | Capacity: 10.6 cubic feet

Best Style: Thule Pulse Alpine Rooftop Cargo Box

Thule Pulse Alpine Rooftop Cargo Box

REI

What We Like
  • Inexpensive and stylish

  • Also available in 14- and 16-cubic-feet versions

What We Don't Like
  • Only opens on the passenger side

The Alpine edition of the Pulse rooftop cargo box from Thule delivers a rugged, durable design that keeps your kit protected without dramatically sacrificing the aesthetic of your vehicle. It provides 11 cubic feet of storage, with a central locking system that only disengages when all the locking points are secured. One-hand mounting is easy thanks to the FastGrip system, which assembles in moments.

Dimensions: 88.5 x 25.5 x 112.5 inches | Weight: 30 pounds | Capacity: 11 cubic feet

Final Verdict

With 16 cubic feet of storage and easy access from both sides, the Yakima CBX 16 (view at REI) gets a lot right. It has the space to haul skis and snowboards up to 182 centimeters, internal tie-down points, a flat floor to maximize storage configuration, and locking handles. But if you want to add a few bells and whistles, go with the Vector M (view at Backcountry) from Thule. The 13-cubic-foot box comes with a felt lining to protect your gear, LED lights, a white interior to help you locate low-light items, and an attractive, sporty design.

What to Look for in Rooftop Cargo Boxes

Weight

Rooftop cargo boxes come with two weight stats—the actual product's weight and the load capacity, which tells you how much the box can safely hold. The former consideration will help you know how easy it will be to lift the box onto the roof to install it on the roof rack—if you plan on removing the box when you don't need it, consider ones that weigh less. The latter stat should marry the max weight of the gear you're looking to haul. 

Installation

Most cargo boxes use a series of clamps that attach the product to the roof rack and are secured by tightening bolts or torque handles inside the box. Lower-priced models typically have that hardware built into the box, while higher-priced items have removable tools so that you can maximize the space inside rather than dealing with clutter on the box floor. Almost all boxes today work with most third-party roof rack systems, but be sure to check for compatibility if you aren’t buying both the box and the roof rack as a package. Always be sure to check that the box is securely fastened to the rack before driving, especially after you’ve loaded everything up.

Security

Except for rooftop cargo bags—which might have a zipper lock but are still prone to sharp objects–most hard case rooftop boxes come with locks and keys at the handles, and most employ security protocols that won’t let you remove the key until everything is firmly locked in place. This locking mechanism also means that, once the box lid is secured, the box is effectively locked to the roof rack since any attachment systems that anchor the box to the rack reside inside the box. 

Durability

Typically made of high-quality PVC (and sometimes reinforced with extra materials), all rooftop boxes are plenty durable, able to block out snow and water, combat wind, and stand up to years of rigorous abuse on the open road—both from debris and the inevitable bumps that’ occur as you you load and unload your gear. The mounting systems are equally durable, but it’s always good to inspect both the mounting touchpoints and the overall “health” of the box to assure that there aren’t any weak points, that the lid closes soundly, and that the handles and locks engage correctly.

Capacity

The smaller, streamlined models typically top out at around 11 cubic feet, which is ample storage for several skis or snowboards, but might not handle larger tasks like storing family camping gear. Sixteen cubic feet hits the sweet spot for most travelers, with the space to keep a camping kit for up to three people, though larger boxes are available, and work best when partnered with larger vehicles due to the box's wider footprint. When considering boxes, also take into account any gear that has set lengths–think skis, snowboards, paddles–and be sure that the internal-storage length of the box will accommodate your items.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How do I choose a cargo box for my roof?

    Unless you’re using a cargo bag, which straps directly onto your vehicle, start by acquiring a roof rack system for your cargo box. Most cargo boxes come with compatible mounting systems for most roof racks, so pairing your dream box to your set-up should be easy. Then take into account the size of your vehicle. Sedans and smaller cars should use boxes that slightly hang over the vehicle's roof.

    Meanwhile, SUVs, vans, hatchbacks, and other vehicles with larger roofs can typically accommodate longer boxes than a standard car. Also, pay attention to the height of the cargo box, especially if you have a vehicle that sits high off the ground so that you can clear parking lot max height requirements and things like your own garage. Thankfully most rooftop cargo box manufacturers provide detailed fitting guidance for the box and their roof racks based on your vehicle’s make, model, and year.

  • What is a good size roof box?

    The right size for you should be primarily dictated by what you plan on hauling in your rooftop cargo box. Skiers and snowboarders need boxes long enough to accommodate their kit—both in length and in the number of skis or boards you’re trying to haul, meaning you have to consider the box’s total cubic feet of storage as well as its storage length. The same goes with paddles or other longer-than-average gear.

    But if you’re looking to carry items that don’t require a set length limit, you can focus more on overall storage volume and then take into account any gear that might have a max height like a helmet. All boxes spell out their overall dimensions and the total storage space in cubic feet. When it doubt, size up.

  • What makes a roof cargo box aerodynamic?

    The more streamlined the design, the more aerodynamic the rooftop cargo box will be—which naturally means that larger-volume boxes will cause more drag than a lower-profile design. Look for ones that boast channels in the design, which directs the wind generated while driving to cut down on drag, and those with a dropped-angle front section, which cuts down on wind cutting underneath the box and reduces drag and noise.

Why Trust TripSavvy

Nathan Borchelt has been rating, reviewing, testing, and writing about outdoor gear for decades, and has loaded and unloaded skis, snowboards, and countless other outdoor and travel gear from cargo boxes. Each product was evaluated based on ease of installation, storage capacity, internal configurations, max length and height, ease of use, lock functionality, and aesthetic before making the final selection.

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