Roof Box Buying Guide: Best For 2021
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A roof storage box can be a great asset if you spend a lot of time on the road for work or pleasure. It will give you increased luggage space without having to increase the footprint of your car.
Whether it’s your annual family camping trip or a regular weekend visit to your cabin in the woods, a storage box will give you the ability to carry so much more while on your outdoor adventures.
Camping gear, sports equipment or other personal belongings can be stowed away securely leaving you with a more comfortable journey because the passenger cabin isn’t overloaded with stuff!
Still a little unsure of the benefits? Check out these pros and cons.
If you’re just looking for some recommendations then here are some top choices:
Overall Best Roof Box: Thule Motion XT
Why: Large enough for almost every eventuality and a quality brand.
Value For Money: SportRack Vista XL
Why: A lot of additional storage space for not much money.
Best Low Profile: INNO Wedge 660
Why: Adds the minimum height to your vehicle.
Best Roof Boxes Compared
Before pulling out your credit card here are some of the things you need to consider when choosing a roof box for your vehicle.
Buy Or Rent?
Given that some roof boxes can run to 4 figures you may be thinking of saving some money by renting a storage box. It really depends on how often you’re going to need to use it and whether you have the storage space for it when it’s not being used.
Do I Need Roof Bars Or A Roof Rack?
In order to fit a roof cargo box, you will need to have roof bars or a roof rack fitted to your vehicle. We would recommend sourcing the appropriate fittings from the manufacturer of your car. In this way, you should avoid making a costly error and also damaging your car.
A rooftop carrier can be quite a costly bit of kit. Unless you happen to be Warren Buffett or Bill Gates then the price is likely to be one of the most important factors in your purchasing decision.
As a general rule, you will pay more for more storage capacity. Also, additional features or a popular brand name will bump up the cost somewhat.
A reasonable quality carrier from a decent manufacturer is going to set you back in the region of $300-$400. If you need something larger then, unfortunately, the price will increase.
“Buy cheap, buy twice” as the saying goes. I’ve certainly fallen foul of that on occasion with different pieces of equipment. It’s probably best to go for a slightly more expensive model as it should prove more durable, saving you the hassle of replacing it every few years.
Likely to be the second most important factor influencing which rooftop box to buy. It’s no good buying a box 40 inches long if you want to carry a couple of pairs of skis!
Don’t forget that it’s not the external dimensions that you need to worry about but the internal ones.
The width and height of the box should also be taken into consideration when thinking about the types of items you are planning to carry on your roof.
Aside from the dimensions you also need to consider if the total volume of space in cubic feet is sufficient for your needs. With sizes ranging from 8 ft³ to 22 ft³ you can probably find a box to accommodate your requirements. However, you need to avoid buying something that is too big for your vehicle.
You will need to check the owner’s manual to see what the maximum load is for your car roof. A typical maximum weight is 75 kg or 165 lbs. Don’t forget that this includes the weight of the box and any rack/rails that it is attached to. Typically boxes will weigh 30-40 lbs so that will only leave you around 120-130 lbs for cargo.
The level of security you require will probably depend on the value of the items you are planning to carry. Theft from roof boxes and even theft of the whole box shouldn’t be dismissed entirely.
Security is one area where a hardshell box wins out over other forms of roof storage. A cargo bag can be accessed using a decent utility knife but you will need something a bit more forceful to gain access to the contents of a rooftop cargo box.
You are probably quite keen to keep your gear safe from thieves and vandals and for that reason a roof box is a better choice.
In an ideal world, we load up our stuff and do not need to access it again until we reach our woodland hideaway. In reality, you’re probably going to need to get to some of your belongings along the way so make sure you pick a carrier that allows you access from your preferred direction.
Some only allow access from one side while others can be opened from either. Others will allow access from the rear which means you should be clear of any traffic if you need to stop on the side of the road.
Ease Of Use
If you’re only going to use the box a few times a year then you’ll want to consider how easy or hard it is to install and remove. Different manufacturers use different methods of attachment and some can be easier and quicker than others.
The aerodynamic design should be taken into account. In general, if you opt for the most aerodynamic designs they will tend to be more costly and also be somewhat more restrictive in their dimensions and ability to carry certain shapes. By contrast, cheaper boxes tend to be less concerned with aerodynamics which will allow you greater freedom in terms of the shape and size of objects you can carry.
Getting the most aerodynamic design possible will reduce the effect on your fuel consumption and also should help reduce wind resistance and therefore the potential for wind noise.
Adding a roof storage solution is going to have a negative impact on your fuel economy. Even if you aren’t carrying any cargo the weight of the box and mountings will affect your gas mileage. While plumping for an aerodynamic design will mitigate the impact somewhat you will still see a reduction in your miles per gallon figure the.
Probably not the most important criteria. Adding any sort of roof box is going to detract from the look of your vehicle particularly if you have a sleek and sporty car. By sticking to more aerodynamic designs you should at least minimize the negative impact.
Depending on what color your vehicle is you may be able to find a roof box in a similar color although generally, they are only available in grey, black and occasionally white.
Performs the same function as a rooftop box but is constructed from material rather than hard plastic. Might be a good option for you if you only need extra storage on rare occasions.
Basically, just an open roof rack that allows you to secure your belongings to the roof. Your cargo is exposed to the elements and prying eyes so probably not the best option if you be spending a lot of time in an urban environment.
Has the advantage of offering even more space but does increase the overall footprint of your car. Also means you need to have a towbar added to your car.
Best Rooftop Cargo Boxes
Thule Motion XT: Best Overall
This is probably the epitome of a modern, aerodynamic roof box. It is available in three different sizes (16, 18, 22 ft³) which means it should be suitable for a wide range of vehicles and cargo.
This particular model can be opened from either side making it easy when packing or unpacking. It’s certainly not a cheap option but is made by one of the top manufacturers in the industry.
Features the PowerClick mounting system. You get an audible “click” from the integrated torque indicator when the box is correctly mounted, meaning you get a quick and secure fitting. Fitted with their SlideLoc cup k locking mechanism. This automatically locks the lid in place and indicates that it is closed securely.
As long as you don’t go overboard when selecting the size for your vehicle you shouldn’t have any issues with accessing the rear hatch on your SUV or hatchback.
Has a load capacity of 75 kg (165 lbs) although given its weight of 20 kg (44 lbs) that means that a typical car would be able to carry around 50 kg (110 lbs) of cargo.
While I personally wouldn’t store my own golf clubs in a roof box this one should be big enough for you to carry quite a large golf bag.
As a premium model, it also has a significant capacity for skis and at 22 ft³ has the largest cargo capacity of the models covered in this guide.
Thule also carries a wide range of accessories to complement their boxes including:
A great way to store your cargo box when not in use. Allows you to easily add or remove the box to the top of your vehicle.
Thule Box Lid Cover
Keep your box in tiptop condition while stored away with this cover.
Thule Box Ski Carrier Adapter
Add these adapters to protect your skis on your next trip.
Yakima SkyBox: Great Sizing Options
Available in four different sizes (12, 16, 18 and 21 cubic feet) you should be able to find a version of this Yakima cargo box to suit pretty much any vehicle or use case.
The largest version is a little heavy at around 62 lbs meaning that about 40% of your roof load capacity is taken up by the box and its mountings.
Made in the USA from up to 80% recycled material these boxes are able to carry enough equipment for as many as five people including snowboards and skis.
Its aerodynamic design means the impact on your gas mileage shouldn’t be too severe. It also features Yakima’s SuperLatch security system to keep your belongings safe.
There’s no assembly required and the Yakima can be installed without any tools. It’s compatible with a number of different roof bars.
SportRack Vista XL: Best Value For Money
For those needing a lot of extra space but without the cost of some other brands, the SportRack Vista XL could be the model for you.
This particular carrier offers 18 ft³ of space for your belongings which can be easily and safely accessed from the rear.
Can be mounted to your car without the need for any tools and includes a locking mechanism to secure the box to your vehicle and also to keep your contents away from prying eyes.
It will fit a wide variety of different racks and bars and has a maximum weight capacity of 45 kg (100 lbs). Considering it weighs around 40 lbs that would take you close to the typical weight limits for the roof of a vehicle.
Thule Sidekick: Option For Smaller Vehicles
If you like the idea of a Thule cargo carrier but have a smaller vehicle and don’t need the volume available in their more expensive offerings then the Sidekick model might be a good choice.
At only 8 ft³ it’s not giving you a massive amount of storage space however if you’re adding it to a smaller vehicle then it could prove to be a significant increase and obviously as it is among the smallest hardshell boxes you can get it is by nature a compact design.
Unlike many other solutions, this particular model requires some assembly on arrival (you will need to fit the weather protection strip and locks). It uses basic u-bolt mountings and has a basic latch mechanism although you will need to open to locks in order to get at the contents.
It only opens from one side and doesn’t have a built-in handle. The Sidekick is small enough that you shouldn’t have a problem with hatch interference.
It’s a smaller size box which means it is quite lightweight at only 16 lbs and combined with its capacity of only 75 lbs that means you may have room to add a bike or some skis to your rack assuming your roof can handle the combined weight.
Probably not the best choice for someone that needs extra storage on a regular basis but if you only need the carrier for occasional trips then the downsides of this model won’t be too apparent.
INNO Wedge 660: Best Low Profile
If you need your rooftop box for extended periods on your car then you might want to think about the Wedge 660 model from INNO.
It has an ultra low profile design which should minimize the extra height that will be added to your vehicle. Some models might add as much as 24 inches to the height of your car which will significantly impact your ability to use the vehicle if you want to park in your garage or in a public parking lot.
This carrier will only add an additional 9.6 inches over the height of your crossbars so is a great option if the overall height of your vehicle is important to you. It also means it’s a pretty aerodynamic car roof box.
This comes at the cost of the total space you have available which is only around 11 ft³. It offers tool-free installation and does look like a premium product although that is reflected in its price.
If you have a little more clearance to play with the new might consider the Thule Pulse Alpine which has the same volume and only rises about 1.5 inches higher than the Wedge 660.
Roof Box Buying Guide: Summary
No matter whether you are looking for a low profile box or one with high capacity there should be something for you to pick from. Think about what you’re going to store in the box and how often you’re going to use it before committing to a purchase.
RoofBoxDude.com picks for best roof cargo box:
Best Overall: Thule Motion XT
Value for Money: SportRack Vista XL
Best Low Profile: INNO Wedge 660
For Smaller Vehicles: Thule Sidekick
What is a good size roof box?
A good size roof box is one that is best suited to your needs and circumstances. It’s no good getting a 22 L roof box if you drive a tiny car. Conversely, if you have a particular requirement like carrying skis then you need to take account of the size of the skis when purchasing a roof cargo box.
What is the best position for a roof box?
Ideally, this you want to place the roof box centrally when looking from the front of your vehicle. This should mean the weight is evenly distributed. Try to set the roof box far enough forward that you can access your hatch although you may have to sacrifice that to avoid longer roof boxes overhanging your windscreen too much.