The Best Car Roof Carriers for Every Road Trip of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

Travel + Leisure / Michal Hanover

Sometimes the trunk of a car just won’t cut it for packing things 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 each cargo box and rated them 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.

Amazon Dished All the Details on Prime Day 2023 — Here are the Dates and the Best Deals You Can Shop EarlyOur Top PicksBest Overall:Thule Rooftop Cargo Carrier at AmazonJump to ReviewBest Budget:SportRack Vista XL Cargo Box at AmazonJump to ReviewBest Security:Yakima CBX 16 Roof Box at REIJump to ReviewEasiest Setup:Thule Force Rooftop Cargo Box at AmazonJump to ReviewBest Splurge:Thule Roof Box at AmazonJump to ReviewBest Mid-size:Goplus Waterproof Rooftop Cargo Carrier at AmazonJump to ReviewBest Cargo Bag:RoofBag Rooftop Cargo Carrier at AmazonJump to Review

Best Overall

Thule Motion XT Rooftop Cargo Carrier



View On AmazonView On REIView On Abt.comOur RatingsEase of Use4.5/5Stability5/5Security5/5Durability5/5Value5/5Why 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. After using the carrier for three months, including to pack ski gear for four people, it still feels completely stable, and we can’t tell when driving that there’s a car roof carrier attached.

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

The Details: 91.5 x 37.5 x 18 inches | 55 pounds | 165-pound load capacity

Travel + Leisure / Michal Hanover

Travel + Leisure / Michal Hanover

Travel + Leisure / Michal Hanover

Travel + Leisure / Michal Hanover

Travel + Leisure / Michal Hanover

Best Budget

SportRack SR7018 Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box



View On AmazonView On 4wd.comView On 4wheelparts.comOur RatingsEase of Use5/5Stability4.5/5Security5/5Durability4.5/5Value4.5/5Why 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. We were 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 travel gear. After using the box for several day trips to state parks and cities over three months, we especially like that it is hard-sided to protect the contents from rain. 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

The Details: 62.5 x 39 x 19 inches | 28 pounds | 100-pound load capacity

Travel + Leisure / Nellah McGough

Travel + Leisure / Nellah McGough

Travel + Leisure / Nellah McGough

Best Security

Yakima CBX 16 Roof Box



View On REIView On Yakima.comOur RatingsEase of Use4.5/5Stability4/5Security5/5Durability4.5/5Value4/5Why 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. 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. After three months of use, the only downside to this box is that it rattled quite a bit during a road trip, but it worked well during several thunderstorms, keeping camping gear and luggage dry. Overall, it’s a solid option.

Price at time of publish: $999

The Details: 83 x 38 x 15 inches | 57 pounds

Travel + Leisure / John Somerall

Travel + Leisure / John Somerall

Travel + Leisure / John Somerall

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Easiest Setup

Thule Force Rooftop Cargo Box



View On AmazonView On REIView On Thule.comOur RatingsEase of Use5/5Stability4.5/5Security5/5Durability5/5Value4.5/5Why 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. 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. 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

The Details: 74.75 x 24.75 x 16.75 inches (large size) | 41 pounds | 165-pound load capacity

Travel + Leisure / Hugh Pastoriza

Travel + Leisure / Hugh Pastoriza

Best Splurge

Thule Vector Alpine Roof Box



View On AmazonView On REIView On Thule.comOur RatingsEase of Use5/5Stability5/5Security5/5Durability5/5Value5/5Why 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 over three months, 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

The Details: 91 x 35 x 12.5 inches | 65.9 pounds | 165-pound load capacity

Travel + Leisure / Frances Crouter

Travel + Leisure / Frances Crouter

Travel + Leisure / Frances Crouter

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Best Mid-size

Goplus Waterproof Rooftop Cargo Carrier



View On AmazonView On WalmartView On Goplusus.comOur RatingsEase of Use4/5Stability5/5Security4.5/5Durability4/5Value5/5Why 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 without shifting of the box after driving in all sorts of conditions. The clamps really grab onto the crossbars well, and even when we tried to wiggle it ourselves it didn’t budge. After using the box for three months, we found that there are no sounds 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: $490

The Details: 63 x 31 x 15 inches | 25 pounds | 165-pound load capacity

Travel + Leisure / Melissa Inman

Travel + Leisure / Melissa Inman

Travel + Leisure / Melissa Inman

Travel + Leisure / Melissa Inman

Travel + Leisure / Melissa Inman

Best Cargo Bag

RoofBag Rooftop Cargo Carrier



View On AmazonOur RatingsEase of Use4.5/5Stability4.5/5Security4/5Durability4/5Value5/5Why 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. We 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.

Price at time of publish: $123

The Details: 48 x 38 x 12 inches | 8 pounds | 3,000-pound load capacity

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Other Car Roof Carriers We Liked

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, packing gear like skis and luggage, and testing these boxes for months, we rated each carrier based on ease of use, stability, security, and durability.


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.


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 QuestionsCan 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 byTravel + 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.” tabindex=”0″ data-inline-tooltip=”true”>Taylor Fox Taylor Fox 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.learn more

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