Road Trip! The Best Rooftop Cargo Carriers of 2024

best rooftop cargo carriers
The Best Rooftop Cargo Carriers of 2024Yakima; Amazon - Car and Driver

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This article was updated with new products and information in March 2024.

The roadtrip is a classic family pastime, often filled with fond memories of being in the car with loved ones. But remove those rose-colored lenses for a moment, and let's be honest: there's never enough room for the people and the stuff. Luggage, gear, toys, gifts for the folks at your destination—all of it needs to make the trip. But does it all need to stay inside the vehicle?

Many modern SUV and CUV cargo holds simply aren't roomy enough to hold all the stuff a family road trip requires. Hence, the proliferation of rooftop cargo carriers. But which one is the right fit for you?


Of course, we could have mounted, tested, and evaluated a bunch of cargo carriers ourselves, but that's a timely and involved process. Our colleagues at Good Housekeeping just did all this heavy lifting only recently—so why not ask them for insight? Here's what the experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute found in their latest test of rooftop cargo carriers.

How GHI Tested Rooftop Cargo Carriers

The Good Housekeeping Institute has been evaluating consumer products for over 100 years and while the methods and measurements have surely changed, GHI's dedication to getting it right is as strong as ever. For this test, scientists and testers the Institute evaluated a slew of rooftop pods, carriers, bags, and racks to find the best versions of each type. First, they checked each product's dimensions and versatility to pinpoint luggage carriers for every need—family road-trippers, skiers, car campers, pack rats, etc. Then, they mounted them on their cars and used the heck out of them.

Led by Good Housekeeping's Chief Technologist & Executive Technical Director Rachel Rothman, GHI editors and testers put a host of various cargo carriers, racks, and bags through the paces of everyday life and travel using different types of vehicles. The Institute evaluated four main benchmarks to measure each carrier's performance in real-world applications:

  • Usability

  • Ease of installation

  • Storage capacity

  • Convenience

After weeks of researching the field, swapping carriers among testers, and comparing data, the Institute narrowed its list of the best rooftop cargo carriers down to these top six—one for almost every driver and vehicle on the road today.

Someday soon, we intend to perform a test of our own on rooftop cargo carriers. In the meantime, here's what testers, scientists, and editors at Good Housekeeping discovered when they set out to determine the Best Rooftop Cargo Carriers.

The Best Rooftop Cargo Carriers

Yakima SkyBox NX 18

Thanks to its clever design and durable build, the Yakima Skybox NX 18 is the Good Housekeeping Institute's top overall pick for best rooftop cargo carriers. Also available in a 16-foot cubic model, it can hold ski, snowboards, luggage, and more. "You're paying a premium for NX 18, but all its little details make it worth it, like the tapered back of the pod, which allows for hatch clearance while squeezing in an extra couple inches of storage for extra long items," says Rachel Rothman, Chief Technologist at the Good Housekeeping Institute. Even better, Yakima's "Same Key System" is designed to unlock all your Yakima products with one key.

The NX 18 is user-friendly, with dual-side opening and inner tie-down points. It's sleek design and high-gloss finish make it good looking, which can't be said for all rooftop carriers on the market. The installation is simple with a simple knob system that secures into the roof rack's tracks. All these details add up to a superior rooftop carrier experience.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Yakima SkyBox NX 18</p><p></p><p>$798.95</p><span class="copyright">Amazon</span>

Thule Force XT XL

One of the most trusted brands in rooftop storage, Thule's extra-large cargo carrier is also aerodynamic and easy to use. GHI testers were able to load seven pairs of skis into the Force XT XL and, even at high speeds with a full load, wind noise and drag were minimal.

GHI testers were impressed by the usability of Thule's quick-mount system with its intuitive "PowerClick" design that makes an audible clicking sound when the carrier is properly secured. One tester noted that she needed to add wingbars to her Volvo XC90 in order to mount the Thule, but said the process was easy.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Thule Force XT XL</p><p></p><p>$799.95</p><span class="copyright">Amazon</span>

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Thule Force XT XL



JEGS Rooftop Cargo Carrier

If you're looking for an affordable rooftop pod without sacrificing functionality, you could do worse than JEGS. It's one of the largest-capacity cargo carriers on this list—it's also one of the deepest and, therefore, boxiest—and features much of the functionality of pricier options, such as dual-sided access and a watertight design. GHI engineers noted that the lightweight construction may not hold up as well as some other boxes, but it definitely provides more protection than a soft-sided cargo bag. The squat, boxy design isn't ideal for long items such as skis and golf clubs, but it's perfect for suitcases, camping gear, and more.

Notably, the U-bolt mounting system requires your crossbars to be exactly 24 inches apart, which may require an additional aftermarket crossbar (or some clever jury-rigging on your part). Still, if you want rooftop storage and a soft cargo bag won't cut it, this is a solid rooftop box.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>JEGS Rooftop Cargo Carrier</p><p></p><p>$299.99</p><span class="copyright">Jegs</span>

Inno Wedge 660

Looking to transport skis, snowboards, or other long and thin items? This is the rooftop cargo carrier for you. It rises just 9.6 inches above the roof rack, limiting cargo space to 11 cubic feet (enough for six to eight skis or four snowboards) but making it ideal for parking in a short garage or carport.

The Wedge has a great design. It's one of the priciest cargo boxes on this list, although not by much.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Inno Wedge 660</p><p></p><p>$689.99</p><span class="copyright">Inno</span>

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Inno Wedge 660




If you're not sold on a hard-shell cargo box, the RoofBag offers an affordable, versatile—albeit temporary—solution. Available in four sizes from 13 to 34 cubic feet, this U.S.-made cargo bag is waterproof and tear-resistant, with triple heat-sealed seams (no stitching) and a 3-inch flap to protect the zipper.

It's simple to install on any large car or SUV, with or without roof racks. And it costs hundreds less than the other cargo pods on this list. That said, we're not convinced we'd trust anything valuable inside it to not get wet or accidentally damaged.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>RoofBag </p><p></p><p>$99.99</p><span class="copyright">RoofBag</span>

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Arksen Universal Roof Rack

If a covered cargo pod isn't required and you just want a rooftop cargo carrier to strap your gear to, this alloy steel Arksen rack offers an affordable solution. It's just six inches high and it mounts to any vehicle with roof-rack crossbars using four U-bolts. GHI engineers say the angled front panel increases aerodynamics and cuts down on wind noise.

If you're looking for a higher-quality roof cargo basket from a renowned manufacturer, we highly recommend the Yakima LoadWarrior ($499 at Amazon).

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Arksen Universal Roof Rack</p><p></p><p>$119.96</p><span class="copyright">Arksen</span>

How Good Housekeeping Picked the Best Rooftop Cargo Carriers

With so many options, how did Good Housekeeping choose the six that made this list of the best rooftop cargo carriers? The answer is simple: research.

Analysts first surveyed the market, relying on user reviews, brand recognition, top sellers, and more to pare down their selection to a manageable number. The product experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute leaned into their expertise in the automotive space to identify brands, types, and styles of rooftop cargo carriers that have proved the most reliable through years of auto-related product testing. They also looked at newer brands with interesting features and innovations.

Based on a review of technical data, including dimensions, claimed capacity, and installation methods, the team selected various models for rigorous hands-on testing, allowing for real-world evaluation involving actual vehicles. Testers assessed the ease of installation, determining how long the carriers took to mount and how intuitive the process was. They also measured actual storage capacity; product experts always know to be skeptical of manufacturer claims. Next, testers assessed overall usability: how easy the pods were to open and close, any included accessories, and the ease and efficacy of locking mechanisms. Finally, Institute experts assessed each cargo carrier's durability, noting the quality of materials and construction as well as how weatherproof each carrier is likely to remain over time.

What to Look For in a Rooftop Cargo Carrier

To find the ideal rooftop cargo carrier for your needs, consider the following:


  • Box: A box rooftop cargo carrier features hardshell walls. They typically come preassembled with a locking mechanism. If your vehicle already has racks, you just need to install the box using the provided mounting hardware. Although these are durable, they are also the most expensive options. They are raised off the roof on the racks, which can create a noisy whistling sound while also increasing drag and reducing fuel efficiency.

  • Bag: Soft-sided bags are exactly as described- soft bags for your roof. Their main advantage is they don’t require roof racks; instead, they use straps that run into the cabin for security. In addition to no roof racks, they are easy to install alone, affordable, and easy to stow away when not in use. However, we aren’t convinced these are as waterproof as many claim, so buyer beware.

  • Basket: Baskets are large metal baskets that mount to the roof of your car. Attached to your roof rack, they provide a solid platform for bulky items, which are then secured with bungees and straps. The main downside is security; if you don’t secure your items well, they could fly off, be stolen, or get soaking wet in the rain. However, they are affordable and easy to use.


  • Dimensions: Ensure your vehicle length can accommodate the carrier without obstructing your views. Also, consider how far the carrier extends beyond the rear of your car, as it could impact trunk access. Additionally, be mindful of the carrier's height, mainly if you frequently use parking ramps, to ensure you can fit into their clearance.

  • Shape and Storage Capacity: Consider what items you’ll be carrying. For example, skis require a more extended carrier, and luggage requires a carrier with increased height. Buy accordingly!

  • Weight: Heavier carriers are more challenging to install on your car roof, so consider a lighter model if you are lifting and installing on your own. Additionally, each carrier has its own weight capacity, so be mindful of the weight as you fill the carrier.


  • Mounting hardware. More than likely, your rooftop carrier will need mounting rails. To avoid frustrations or unseen costs, make sure you either have the correct rails installed or that your car is compatible with rails.

  • Lock. This is especially important if you plan to haul expensive gear. GHI experts stressed that all the carrier locks they tested were rated as theft-deterrent, not theft-proof. Buyer beware.

  • Open/close mechanism. Different carriers have different access points for the opening mechanisms. The dual side feature is most accessible, but some are three-sidedzip, rear open, or open only on one side. One-sided or rear access is the norm on budget carriers.

  • Interior storage. The least expensive carriers tend to be empty shells. As the price goes up, you'll see more helpful storage features. Integrated internal tie-down points help secure loads, while felt liners prevent scratches. Some high-end cargo boxes feature built-in LED lights.

rooftop cargo carrier for car in mountains
Thule - Car and Driver

Are Rooftop Cargo Carriers Safe?

Absolutely—provided they're installed correctly and used appropriately. Here are three keys:

  • Size it correctly. A pod should be just big enough to carry your gear, but not so massive that it adds wind or weight drag to the vehicle. Also, make sure the carrier's load capacity doesn't exceed that of your car.

  • Install it securely. Loose bolts, unsecured straps, and over-torqued clamps can all create hazards on the open road. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions to the letter, and check to see if your OEM offers cargo carrier guidance; many car models have certain limitations or installation methods they recommend.

  • Load it evenly. Even weight distribution of gear is crucial. Experts recommend tying down stowed items to keep your gear from sliding around inside the pod.

Why Trust Good Housekeeping?

The Good Housekeeping Institute Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab provides expert reviews and advice on all things home and autos related, including rooftop carriers. In his role as Director of the Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab, Dan DiClerico brings more than 20 years of experience to the Institute, having reviewed thousands of products for Good Housekeeping, as well as brands like Consumer Reports and This Old House.

For this report, Dan worked closely with Rachel Rothman, Chief Technologist & Director of Engineering at the Institute. For more than 15 years, Rachel has put her training in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics to work by researching, testing, and writing about products across the home improvement and autos space.

a rooftop cargo carrier mounted on a gh staffer's car
Car and Driver

Why Trust Us?

Hearst Autos combines the talent, resources, and expertise of three of the largest, most influential automotive publications in the world. The Gear Team has tested a wide variety of automotive products, parts, accessories, and gear, such as garage flooring, catalytic converter anti-theft devices, and foam cannons. We get our hands on each and every product we test. Most are purchased; some are supplied by manufacturers.

Hearst Autos doesn't need to game algorithms for traffic or promote lousy products to earn a buck. Instead, we're more concerned with our legacy, our reputation, and the trust that our readers have in Autoweek, Car and Driver, and Road & Track to deliver honest opinions and expert evaluations.

Visit our Tested & Trusted page to see the very best in automotive gear. Read more about our product testing and evaluation process here.

a review of the best rooftop cargo carriers you can buy
Thule - Car and Driver

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