Need more cargo space than your vehicle can provide for your next outdoor adventure?
Car top carriers are a way to add additional capacity to any vehicle with a luggage rack.
When you only need an extra 10 to 20 cubic feet of cargo space, they can be the simplest solution compared to towing a trailer.
If you’re shopping for a car top carrier, we’ve put together a set of reviews of the best models available on the market to help you find the right one for your needs. We’ve also created a quick buyer’s guide on how to choose the right carrier for your vehicle.
Top 5 Rooftop Cargo Carriers
1. SportRack Vista XL
2. Thule Motion XT
3. Keeper 07203-1 Waterproof
4. Rightline Gear Sport 3
5. Yakima SkyBox
- Top 5 Rooftop Cargo Carriers
- 1. SportRack Vista XL – Best Small Cargo Box
- 2. Thule Motion XT – Best Large Cargo Box
- 3. Keeper 07203-1 Waterproof – Most Affordable Cargo Carrier Bag
- 4. Rightline Gear Sport 3 – Best Cargo Bag Option
- 5. Yakima SkyBox – Premium Roof Cargo Carrier
- How to Choose the Right Car Top Carrier
- The Bottom Line
1. SportRack Vista XL – Best Small Cargo Box
It’s designed with an aerodynamic shape intended to minimize the additional drag it’ll create when you drive at high speeds. The material used is durable, and the cargo box is waterproof and UV resistant.
We liked the fact that the lid is held open when lifted, which makes it much easier to add or remove items without help from a second person.
It’s the best option on the market if you just need a way to carry more gear for camping trips.
2. Thule Motion XT – Best Large Cargo Box
The Motion XT has 22 cubic feet of space in its largest size, which is the one we reviewed.
Other size options include Alpine (16 cubic feet), Large (16 cubic feet), and X-Large (18 cubic feet). If you’re wondering what the difference is between the Alpine and Large sizes, the Alpine has a lower profile to reduce the height of your vehicle.
Despite the cost of this cargo box, we liked the convenience features that Thule builds into it. The lid locks into place when lifted, and it can be opened from either side of your vehicle.
Mounting and dismounting the Motion XT is simple once you’ve installed its fasteners. The box detaches from the fasteners mounted on your luggage rack with a quick-release design.
3. Keeper 07203-1 Waterproof – Most Affordable Cargo Carrier Bag
It comes in a couple of different versions, but the 15 cubic-foot bag is the largest size available.
Despite being a canvas bag, it provides good protection from the elements. It’s made of rubber laminated nylon, so it repels water and dust with an airtight seal.
We liked the fact that this cargo bag is affordably priced and versatile.
It’s secured to a vehicle’s roof with tie-downs, so it can be adjusted to fit any size vehicle. It’s also a plus that the flexible bag makes it easier to pack awkward or oversized items.
4. Rightline Gear Sport 3 – Best Cargo Bag Option
Its largest size holds 18 cubic feet of cargo, but you can opt for smaller sizes that range from 9 to 15 cubic feet.
Rightline goes the extra mile to provide protection against rain and dust with a dual seam design. The sewn seams are welded to create an airtight seal.
What we liked most about this cargo bag was that it was designed to fit almost any vehicle you might have. If you don’t have a luggage rack, it comes with extended tie-down straps that can be anchored to the weather molding of most door frames.
The only drawbacks we could see were that it’s not a very aerodynamic cargo carrier, and it isn’t a solid container.
If you’re not shopping on a tight budget and looking for the best features available, the SkyBox should be at the top of your shopping list.
It comes in several size options that range from 12 to 21 cubic feet of cargo space. The SkyBox is also built from a smooth carbonite material molded for minimal air drag on the road.
We especially liked the SkyBox’s security features. The box itself is sturdy, but Yakima’s SuperLatch design ensures that your possessions are kept safe inside both on the road and while parked. It also has one of the best aerodynamic designs available.
How to Choose the Right Car Top Carrier
Car top carriers are not all equal. Their size, aerodynamics, type of construction, and the cargo space that provide all play a role in deciding which one is right for your needs.
Some carriers are better at protecting their contents against weather or impacts. Other carriers are designed to minimize the loss of fuel efficiency caused by added an object to your vehicle’s roof. Below are the main factors to consider when evaluating a car top carrier.
The reason for buying a carrier is to add cargo space for a road trip, so the first consideration is the amount of space each carrier offers.
You’ll want to think about how much you need for the trips you’re planning. How much gear do you typically take on an outdoor vacation? Are you planning to move cross-country and need more space to move your personal items?
Once you know how much space you’ll need, you can eliminate carriers that are too small.
The second thing to consider will likely be the pricing of your candidate carriers. If you have a budget, then decide what your price range will be and stick to it. It’ll narrow down your options further after you’ve sorted your choices by size.
Security and Durability
If you are be traveling and parking your vehicle in public places, you may want to consider the security features of a carrier. Locks and solid construction materials go a long way towards protecting your belongings from loss or damage. It goes hand-in-hand with durability, too. Some carriers are made of cloth bags that may be strong enough to resist puncture, but they don’t protect their contents from being crushed or stolen.
If you take fuel efficiency seriously, then you’ll want to look at the aerodynamics of a carrier. The more wind resistance a carrier creates, the more additional work it creates for your vehicle’s engine. It can lead to a noticeable loss of gas mileage on long road trips.
Ease of Use and Mounting
Another factor to look at when deciding which car carrier is right for you is whether it fits your vehicle. How easily is it mounted and dismounted from the luggage rack? Can it be attached to a trailer as an alternative? Online reviews can give you a sense of how difficult a carrier model is to use and assembly.
That wraps up our review of the best car top carriers available on the market. We did our best to highlight carriers for shoppers with tight budgets as well as models with premium features.
There’s also a variety of car top carrier solutions available, so we included a little of everything ranging from Keeper’s no-nonsense cargo bag to Yakima’s full-featured SkyBox. Check back with us in the future for updates when new car top carriers hit the market.