Stow Patrol: The 7 Best Roof Mounted Cargo Boxes

You could just throw all of your stuff into your trunk or the cargo area in your hatchback like some kind of animal. It will start beautifully, but the minute you take a turn, it will collapse and you’ll either be concussed by the bowling ball you didn’t know you owned or impaled by a ski pole. Avoid creating a jumbled morass in the back of your vehicle by using a storage box for your car’s roof. These cut down on wasted space and are easy to load tight to prevent shifting.

If you have a roof rack on your car, then you have everything necessary to mount a mobile storage facility. In selecting one, you’ll need to consider how much you plan to pack, and the size of your vehicle. You do not want a box that is going to hang over the front or back since it can catch updrafts and inhibit your visibility. You’ll need to decide whether it will be living atop your car or if you need something which can be swapped out for a car bike rack. However you roll, go deeper with one of the 7 best roof mounted cargo boxes.

SportRack Vista XL

SportRack Vista XL

Pro: Inexpensive
Con: High profile

Smart Buy: One of the troubles with these cargo boxes is they are one of the most costly options for stowing your gear. SportRack has managed to keep their price point low without giving you a grossly inferior product. The XL is made from ABS material that is resistant to UV damage and opens from the back, rather than the side, so you’ll never need to stand in traffic to load it. Completely waterproof, you’ll find a spacious 18 cubic feet of storage on the inside that is more than enough for your tent, sleeping pads, and other sundries with ease. With a lightweight body and easy attachment mechanisms, this can be added or removed by a single person. [Purchase: $250]

INNO Ridge

INNO Ridge

Pro: Small
Con: Lacks weatherproofing

Small Fry: You don’t need to prove anything out on the road. You’re perfectly happy with your tiny hybrid car; except that it needs a little more storage space. While most cargo boxes are meant for the Escalade you roll in, the Ridge is made with the smaller vehicle in mind. The body is ABS plastic that is triple layered for a stiffer, stronger feel and will give you 9 cubic feet of storage space. Though it is a little bit boxy, that cannot be avoided for any box meant for the minuscule car market. Fits with most factory and aftermarket crossbars. For security, the locking mechanism is passable, though determined thieves will make short work of it. Not truly weather or water proof, so bag your gear if storm chasing. [Purchase: $326]

Thule Pulse

Thule Pulse

Pro: Very light
Con: Single side opening

Low Rider: There’s three models of the Pulse line from Thule. Beginning at 11 cubic feet and going up to 16, nearly anyone can get one when they need a slicked-down cargo box for their roof. Made for set-and-forget usage, the profile of the Pulse is as low as possible without shedding precious cargo space. It also reduces drag for better gas mileage on longer trips, limited road noise, and less overall movement in case you’re hauling dynamite. Easy-grip knob locks attach to any size or shape of crossbar and are readily attached by hand should you need to take it off. ABS thermoplastic materials make this a year round accessory that won’t absorb heat or let the elements slip in. Our complaints were the single-side opening limits how you get to your stuff and the whole body bends like a yoga guru. [Purchase: $390+]

Yakima Skybox Pro 16

Yakima Skybox Pro 16

Pro: Tool-free installation
Con: Heavy and slightly awkward for single-person installation

All-Purpose: Starting with 12 feet of storage space and going all the way up to 21, the SkyBox line from Yakima has a size to fit just about everyone. They even have a LoPro version for bigger cars that need to go into a garage. Among this embarrassment of riches, our favorite is the Pro 16. With 16 cubic feet of storage it is big enough for most loads while not as cumbersome as the larger models. The entire body is reinforced for a stiffer feel that keeps the lid from being sloppy and cuts down on noise from wind and vibration. It opens from either side and can accommodate plenty of camping gear and most snowboards. An integrated SKS locking system is top of the line and makes stealing from the box too tough to consider. It simultaneously keeps impacts, jostles, and heavy winds from popping the top. [Purchase: $479]

Inno Racks Shadow

Inno Racks Shadow

Pro: Makes very little road noise
Con: Securing mechanism is fairly weak and difficult

Silent Partner: Side by side, this is a sexy cargo box that looks especially nice on high-profile vehicles. The slender body with its matte finish top and streamlined look allows it to keep wind resistance to a bare minimum while still giving a solid 16 cubic feet of storage. It closes tight as a drum thanks to a lock and button system that requires an extra step to release, as well as three latches at the front, middle, and rear. Easily the quietest box we looked at when you hit the highway, even among smaller options. Unless you have very low crossbars and plan on going up to speeds in the triple digits, it won’t make a peep. [Purchase: $501]

Rhino Rack Master Fit

Rhino Rack Master Fit

Pro: Interior locking straps included
Con: Lid feels flimsy

Easy Rider: If you have a rack on the roof of your car, and it isn’t some strange convex enneadecagon, then this will almost surely fit it. Master Fit is the perfect moniker for this box, which attaches so easily with a rapid clamping system. Inside is 17.5 cubic feet of storage that has been spread out fairly evenly in this longer box. It can be opened from either side and has a multiple locking system that prevents thieves from gaining ingress or crosswinds from cracking it open. Can be popped on and off in a few minutes by a lone wolf thanks to the feathery ABS material. Resists rain, sleet, and snow with aplomb while not sticking out like the thumb you smashed using that slick new hammer you recently scooped up. [Purchase: 629]

Thule Sonic XXL

Thule Sonic XXL

Pro: Immense interior
Con: Front locking mechanism has had failure issues

Size Matters: When you’re trying to fit your cross-country skis along with a 40-lbs. bag of dog food and the kitchen sink, there’s only one choice, and that is the 22 cubic foot Sonic XXL. Despite the enormous interior capacity, the AeroNose design allows it to cut through winds and cope with high speeds without plummeting your gas mileage or looking like the Ark of the Covenant. The AcuTight mounting offers an audible click when it is properly secured, eliminating guesswork when it comes to mounting. Dual access capability lets drivers and passengers get their gear without ever needing to speak. A boon at the end of a long road trip. [Purchase: $700]

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