Can You Drive With An Empty Roof Box

Can You Drive With An Empty Roof Box?


You may have already discovered how useful a rooftop storage box can be on your travels with all the extra space that it gives you. You may now be looking for some advice on whether you can drive with an empty box since you’re not going to need to use it every day.

The short answer is yes you can drive with an empty roof cargo box but there are many reasons why you shouldn’t do it!

The majority of storage boxes are fairly easy to install and remove so there really isn’t any reason for leaving it on your roof when you don’t need to carry extra gear.

Why You Shouldn’t Drive With An Empty Roof Cargo Box

If you need to use your roof box a lot then you’re probably not keen on having to keep fitting it and then removing it in between trips. In this scenario, you are probably just as well leaving the box in place. However, if you’re only using your box for the occasional weekend getaway or yearly vacation then you really should remove it once you complete the trip.

Let’s take a look at the reasons why driving with an empty storage box on the roof of your vehicle isn’t a great idea.

Fuel Economy

Even an empty cargo box or just a roof rack will increase the wind resistance of your vehicle and therefore lower your fuel economy. Although cargo boxes aren’t especially heavy in relation to the weight of most vehicles you are still going to be adding some additional weight and therefore increasing your fuel consumption. In order to achieve the best possible MPG figure, you will need to remove the additional storage and also if possible remove the rack/bars.

Several studies have shown that having a roof box installed will increase your fuel consumption. Whether you want to be more eco-friendly or not, driving around with a cargo box installed is going to increase your driving costs directly. This article by Berkeley Lab shows that almost 1% of fuel consumption in the US in 2015 was caused by roof racks!

What About Noise?

Even a well-fitted and fully laden aerodynamic design can produce some additional wind noise, an empty box is likely to produce even higher noise levels since there is nothing to prevent the box from being buffeted by the wind.

Depending on how bad it is some people may find this an annoying noise while traveling.

Spare Tire?

If you use a rooftop cargo box then you may have seen advice that suggests placing a spare tire in the box when you are not actually using it to carry anything. Weighing down the box in this way should reduce or eliminate wind noise. However, if you’re going to the trouble of moving your spare tire to and from the storage box then surely it’s not much more effort to simply remove the rooftop carrier. 


Leaving a rooftop storage box on your vehicle also potentially restricts where you can go. You may find that the additional height means you’re no longer able to access certain facilities such as public parking garages. It also means you need to be taking extra care wherever you see signs for restricted headroom. You certainly won’t be the first person to damage their vehicle or belongings because they forgot they had something fitted to their roof.

Wears The Box Out Quicker

No matter how expensive and well constructed your rooftop cargo box is it will wear out much quicker and show more signs of use if you leave it installed permanently on your vehicle. To maintain the box in its best condition you should store it away when not in use. A quality roof box can be an expensive purchase so why leave it at the mercy of the elements for longer than is really necessary.

Target For Thieves

It is also advisable to remove your box for security reasons. It’s not unknown for roof boxes to be stolen or broken into. While you won’t lose any belongings, why give thieves any temptation when you don’t need to. Your box could be damaged to the point of needing an expensive repair or you could lose the whole thing. If you have an expensive box then why take the risk?

Can You Drive With An Empty Roof Box?: Conclusion

Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it is always a great idea. The best practice would be to remove your cargo box and store it away until the next time you need it. That way you will maximize the useful life of the carrier and avoid paying for extra gasoline. Removing your roof rack as well would be ideal but the effects of a roof rack are significantly less than a rooftop cargo box. If you are going to drive without removing it then make sure you regularly check all the fixings are secure and that the box is closed and locked correctly so it doesn’t start letting the rain in!

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]

Can you leave a roof box on car?

Yes, you can leave a roof box on your car even when it is empty. However, your fuel costs will go up by as much as 19%, the box will wear out quicker and your car will probably be an even more attractive target for thieves.

Can you rent a roof box?

Yes, it is possible to rent a roof cargo box for your vehicle although you won’t have too many choices.

Should I Get A Thule Roof Box?

Thule are a well respected manufacturer of roof cargo boxes for all types of luggage and vehicles. They are one of the more expensive options though.

Should I Leave My Roof Rack On All The Time?

If you aren’t going to be transporting anything in the near future then removing any roof rack you have will improve your fuel economy so it’s best to take of the rack when you don’t really need it.

Should I adjust y driving style if I have a roof box fitted?

Always read the manufacturer instructions for both the roof box and your vehicle as they may set out speed limits when using roof mounted storage solutions.

Realistically, unless you are driving on German autobahns you are likely to be good up to the local speed limits anyway.

You might want to drive a little more conservatively however to offset some of the increased fuel consumption.

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