The 7 Best Car Roof Carriers of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

We’re fans of Thule’s Motion XT model for its sporty and secure design.

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roof

Michal Hanover

Sometimes the trunk of a car just won’t cut it for packing bigger items like camping gear, golf clubs, or skis and snowboards. Unless you’re a light packer or keep your trips short, it might be time to invest in a roof carrier to add more space.

After researching and carefully matching car roof carriers to Travel + Leisure product testers, we tried 16 options over the course of three weeks. We completed road trips with the cargo boxes and rated each one based on ease of use, stability, security, and durability. Our favorite option is the Thule Motion XT. It impressed us with a sporty and aerodynamic design that had an impressive capacity and lightweight feel. We loved several other Thule models, like the Force XT for an easy setup and the Vector Alpine for a splurge-worthy cargo box.

Best Overall

Thule Motion XT Rooftop Cargo Carrier

4.9
Thule Motion XT Rooftop Cargo Carrier

REI

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Use
    4.5/5
  • Stability
    5/5
  • Security
    5/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Value
    5/5

Why We Love It: The design is lightweight and spacious, but it still feels heavy-duty and sleek.

What to Consider: We wish the top could open up a little wider for loading big items.

Out of the four Thule roof carriers we tried, the Motion XT model is our favorite one and overall winner. The cargo box weighs 55 pounds, and the lightweight design makes it easy to load and unload it from a rooftop. The instructions are straightforward and simple to follow, and we love that it only took 20 minutes to assemble and install the roof carrier with two people. This was also one of the sturdiest boxes we tested. “It feels completely stable, and I can’t tell when driving that I have a car roof carrier. I tried to shake and move the car roof and it wouldn't budge,” our tester said.

We were able to pack camping gear, luggage, and snowboards into the main compartment, so we know the capacity is ideal for a variety of activities. There are also straps included in the interior for extra protection, and it has dual access to make packing and unpacking even easier. We do wish the lid opened up a little wider for packing large items, but it was still painless to load and unload all of our gear. The top also won’t close without locking it with the key, and we found the keyhole to be a little tricky to use, but we love feeling confident that our gear is secure and safe in the locked box.

Price at time of publish: $1,050

Dimensions: 91.5 x 37.5 x 18 inches | Weight: 55 pounds | Load capacity: 165 pounds

Thule Motion XT

TRAVEL + LEISURE / MICHAL HANOVER

Best Budget

SportRack SR7018 Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box

4.7
SportRack SR7018 Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Use
    5/5
  • Stability
    4.5/5
  • Security
    5/5
  • Durability
    4.5/5
  • Value
    4.5/5

Why We Love It: The large capacity is perfect for oversized luggage and coolers.

What to Consider: It’s not long enough for items like skis.

We’re big fans of the taller capacity of the SportRack Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box for packing tall items like luggage that might not fit in sportier cargo box styles. Despite the high design, the light weight of the box made it easy to load it onto a roof. We had slight issues with getting the brackets onto the roof rails, but we’re confident the installation will only become easier with time. Our tester was able to fit oversized luggage, coolers, and golf clubs into the box with ease, and we found that the UV-resistant plastic material has a bit of give for fitting bigger items. “The Vista XL Sportrack was surprisingly very aerodynamic and fit a variety of items. I like that it is hard-sided to protect the contents from rain,” our tester shared after using the box for a variety of day trips to state parks and in the city. While it’s not long enough to fit skis, we’re content with the number of items it’s able to store for road trips.

Price at time of publish: $480

Dimensions: 62.5 x 39 x 19 inches | Weight: 28 pounds | Load capacity: 100 pounds

Best Security

Yakima CBX 16 Roof Box

4.4
Yakima CBX 16 Roof Box

REI

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Use
    4.5/5
  • Stability
    4/5
  • Security
    5/5
  • Durability
    4.5/5
  • Value
    4/5

Why We Love It: The key locking system feels protective and tamperproof.

What to Consider: The box rattled a bit during a road trip.

Whether you’re heading out on a hike or making a pit stop at a gas station, the Yakima CBX 16 Premium Cargo Box has a sturdy key-locking system to protect your items. We love that the clamshell box won’t close without being locked by the key, meaning you’ll never wonder whether or not you locked the cargo box. “This cargo box is highly secure and very easy to lock, giving me peace of mind knowing that my belongings are secure and protected. The hard case is reinforced and tamperproof, and the box has to be closed completely in order for it to be locked,” our tester shared. The high-quality materials and easy setup equally impressed us: The cargo box came assembled, and its lightweight design made it hassle-free to install on the car roof. The only downside to this box is that it rattled quite a bit during a road trip, but it was a champion during several thunderstorms, keeping our camping gear and luggage dry. Overall, it’s a solid option.

Price at time of publish: $999

Dimensions: 83 x 38 x 15 inches | Weight: 57 pounds | Load capacity: Not listed

Yakima CBX

TRAVEL + LEISURE / JOHN SOMERALL

Easiest Setup

Thule Force Rooftop Cargo Box

4.8
Thule Force Rooftop Cargo Box

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Use
    5/5
  • Stability
    4.5/5
  • Security
    5/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Value
    4.5/5

Why We Love It: The lightweight design and simple assembly make the installation process a breeze.

What to Consider: The sides are a little wobbly.

Loading a carrier onto a car can be relatively difficult, but the Thule Force XT Rooftop Cargo Box won us over for its simple assembly and installation process. “Having had a few large rooftop carriers over the years, this one is by far the easiest to manage across the board,” T+L’s expert gushed. There are no tools required to put the box on the roof, as there are knobs that cramp onto roof rails and tighten with ease. “The quick-connect system is very simple to install and affix to the roof rails of the vehicle. The box opens from either side of the vehicle, so again, accessing the installation hardware and loading the box with gear is easy-peasy,” they added. We noticed that because of the lightweight design of the box, the sides feel a little wobbly when the top is open for loading, but we don’t think that’s a deal breaker by any means. We loaded skis, golf clubs, and camping gear into the compartment with no issues, making it one of the best we tested.

Price at time of publish: $750

Dimensions: 74.75 x 24.75 x 16.75 inches (large size) | Weight: 41 pounds | Load capacity: 165 pounds

Thule Force

TRAVEL + LEISURE / HUGH PASTORIZA

Best Splurge

Thule Vector Alpine Roof Box

5
Thule Vector Alpine Roof Box

 Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Use
    5/5
  • Stability
    5/5
  • Security
    5/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Value
    5/5

Why We Love It: The cargo box has luxe features like LED lights, dual access, and premium-feeling materials.

What to Consider: It’s easier to install the box with two people.

Road trippers with higher budgets looking to invest in a spacious, sporty cargo carrier should consider Thule’s Vector Alpine model. Earning perfect scores in all of our testing categories, the cargo box’s special features like LED lights for loading gear at night, a felt-lined interior, and dual access from either side of the box impressed us. The installation process is easiest with two people, but we do think one person could tackle it since it was fairly simple (although, the box does weigh almost 66 pounds). We were able to fit sports gear like several pairs of skis, and we appreciated the straps on the interior to tie down gear if needed. The box doesn’t rattle or shake at high speeds, and it feels very sturdy and protective in all types of weather conditions thanks to the SlideLock system and thick plastic material.

Price at time of publish: $2,000

Dimensions: 91 x 35 x 12.5 inches | Weight: 65.9 pounds | Load capacity: 165 pounds

Thule Vector

TRAVEL + LEISURE /FRANCES CROUTER

Best Mid-size

Goplus Waterproof Rooftop Cargo Carrier

4.5
Goplus Waterproof Rooftop Cargo Carrier

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Use
    4/5
  • Stability
    5/5
  • Security
    4.5/5
  • Durability
    4/5
  • Value
    5/5

Why We Love It: The size is perfect for fitting golf clubs and camping gear with ease.

What to Consider: The materials feel a bit flimsy.

For travelers looking to purchase a medium-sized cargo box, we love the lightweight and aerodynamic Goplus Rooftop Carrier. It’s not quite long enough for a pair of skis, but we had no issues fitting items like golf clubs, folding chairs, and other camping gear for short and long road trips. At first, the instructions were slightly unclear, so we did have to do some Googling to put together the cargo box. But once it was on, the box felt very sturdy with “zero wiggles or shift with the box after driving in all sorts of conditions,” according to our tester. “The clamps really grab onto the crossbars well, and even when we tried to wiggle it ourselves it didn't budge. There's no sound of anything shifting or rattling when driving, even at high speeds.” The cargo box is super lightweight at only 25 pounds, making it easy for one person to load it onto the car, but the polycarbonate materials (what most suitcases are made of) felt a little flimsy. However, our gear remained in perfect condition after plenty of car rides, so we’re confident the mid-sized cargo box is worth the investment.

Price at time of publish: $480

Dimensions: 63 x 31 x 15 inches | Weight: 25 pounds | Load capacity: 165 pounds

GoPlus

TRAVEL + LEISURE /MELISSA INMAN

Best Cargo Bag

RoofBag Rooftop Cargo Carrier

4.4
RoofBag Rooftop Cargo Carrier

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Use
    4.5/5
  • Stability
    4.5/5
  • Security
    4/5
  • Durability
    4/5
  • Value
    5/5

Why We Love It: The budget-friendly bag was super easy to install and kept the contents perfectly safe while driving.

What to Consider: It’s a softshell design, so it doesn’t have the same security as a plastic, locking cargo box.

The RoofBag Rooftop Cargo Carrier is the perfect storage solution for your annual camping or road trip. Typically, rooftop carriers have a plastic, clamshell design, but this handy bag is budget-friendly and much easier to store since it folds up. Plus, you don’t need to have a roof rack on your car since the bag has straps that are fastened by going under the doors to the interior part of the car — a process that we found to be very easy and simple. Our tester used the bag during a 700-mile California road trip, and although it didn’t rain, the waterproof material is heavy-duty, keeping the packed camping gear safe and secure from high speeds. “This cargo carrier is an excellent option for the budget traveler or someone who wants extra storage for their vehicle but won't be using that extra storage often,” our T+L tester concluded.

Price at time of publish: $139

Dimensions: 48 x 38 x 12 inches | Weight: 8 pounds | Load capacity: 3,000 pounds

Other Car Roof Carriers We Tested

The cargo carriers listed below barely got edged out of our list of top performers, but we still like aspects of them despite inconveniences we encountered.

Yakima GrandTour 16: This sleek roof carrier had an impressive capacity and trustworthy locking system, but it felt a little less sturdy than other boxes we attached to car rooftops.

Thule Pulse Medium Rooftop Cargo Box: We love that this carrier protected the packed camping gear from light rain, but the capacity wasn’t as big as we wished (we couldn’t fit a cooler) and the installation process was somewhat cumbersome.

Jegz Rooftop Cargo Carrier: While the setup was fairly difficult at first, this cargo carrier redeemed itself by keeping luggage safe against harsh weather conditions during a weekend road trip. Still, it didn’t stand out enough against our other carriers with rave reviews.

Our Testing Process

We got our hands on 16 rooftop carriers to evaluate and compare after a series of thorough tests. After installing the cargo boxes on our vehicles and packing gear like skis and luggage, we rated each carrier based on ease of use, stability, security, and durability.

INNO Wedge 660

TRAVEL + LEISURE / DUANGKAEW RANDALL

After researching popular cargo boxes from trusted brands like Yakima and Thule, we made sure that the carrier was compatible with our testers’ car make and model. To get a feel for the ease of use, we assembled each rooftop carrier and thoroughly examined the quality of the boxes by opening and closing the lids, looking at the tie-down points, and shaking it around a bit to see how secure it feels. We packed the carrier with items like luggage, skis, golf clubs, and camping gear and then loaded the packed box onto the rooftops of our cars before driving around for at least an hour. If the cargo box had a security feature, we paid close attention to how secure the key or lock felt.

Go Plus

TRAVEL + LEISURE / MELISSA INMAN

In the end, the best rooftop carriers we tried had us raving by being ultra-durable against the elements, easy to load and unload, and able to keep belongings safe and secure for road trips. Our testers were unaware of the prices of each cargo box, and they uncovered the price only after testing was finished to judge the overall value of the carrier.

Tips for Buying a Car Roof Carrier

Consider the type of cargo you’re bringing

For skiers or outdoor enthusiasts, make sure you get a roof carrier that is designed to fit the length of skis, golf clubs, or other gear that has a unique shape. Similarly, for packing luggage or camping gear, you’ll want to make sure your cargo carrier is tall and wide enough to fit your desired items.

Security and protection are key

No matter the size or shape of your carrier, the most important thing is that it keeps its contents safe during travels. The best carriers will keep your gear safe from high speeds and any weather conditions during the trip. Road trippers should also look out for carriers that have the ability to lock for extra protection.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Can I put a car top carrier on without a roof rack?

    For most cargo carriers, you will need a roof rack with crossbars to securely fasten the carrier. Some cargo bags can be attached to a roof without a rack or rails, but it’s imperative that you check beforehand. You’ll also want to ensure that the make and model of your car will fit the cargo carrier you’re interested in.

  • How much weight can I carry on my car roof?

    Every carrier has its own weight limits, so refer back to the manufacturer’s instructions for the load capacity. Most cargo boxes have a maximum weight of around 165 pounds, but it’s essential to check for safety concerns.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Anna Popp is a Commerce Writer at Travel + Leisure, where she writes and reviews travel products. She has been travel writing since 2018 and product testing since 2021. Anna worked with travel editors to determine the results for the best car roof carriers based on a series of tests completed by our expert T+L product testers in a real-world setting.

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Updated by
Taylor Fox
Taylor Fox, Commerce Updates Writer at Travel + Leisure
Taylor Fox is a Commerce Updates Writer at Travel + Leisure where she tests, researches, and writes about travel products. Taylor holds a Master’s in Geography and has been a writer and editor for over seven years.
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