A cargo box can dramatically increase your vehicle’s storage capabilities. We’ve all been there trying to stuff and pack a car full of supplies for a road trip to the point that you struggle to close the doors. With one of the best cargo boxes in the industry, you’ll be able to fully utilize every last pound and inch of storage space.
Our team of experts has physically tested several of these cargo boxes to give you an insider look at the installation process and help you determine whether the manufacturer’s carrying capacity claims are true. Below is a list of our recommended cargo boxes, followed by a buyers guide that delves into what you should know before clicking add to cart.
3 Best Cargo Boxes
#1 Best Overall: Thule Force XT
The Thule Force XT separates itself from the competition with its dual side openings, making installation and packing your cargo box that much easier. Additionally, this cargo box features a narrow design to leave space for extra gear such as skis, snowboards, bikes, and even kayaks. Although this cargo box is narrow, it still boasts 11.0 cubic feet (cu feet) of storage space.
A PowerClick Quick-Mount system allows you to quickly and easily mount this cargo box to your vehicle’s roof by simply tightening the integrated torque indicator until it clicks. A LockKnob system lets you open and lock the cargo box, giving you easy access to your rooftop storage.
- Price: About $700
- Dimensions: 74.8 by 24.8 by 16.7 inches
- Weight: 32.0 pounds
- Load capacity: 165.0 lbs.
- Volume: 11.0 cu feet
We tested and reviewed the Sport size of the Thule Force XT. But there are larger sizes available, including Large, XL, and XXL.
|Overall Rating||5 out of 5|
|Ease of Installation||5|
Capacity: In terms of load capacity, no other cargo box can boast that it’s built to withstand over 150.0 lbs. of kit and caboodle. While you may find other cargo boxes with a higher volume capacity, specifically the Thule Pulse, few cargo boxes have such a high weight capacity.
Ease of Installation: The Thule Force XT was hands down the easiest cargo box to install that we researched or tested. Thule’s mounting systems are levels above the rest of the competition, but the fact that this cargo box could open on each side is what ultimately made the installation process so easy.
Durability: While we originally had concerns about the durability of the cargo box due to the fact that we opened both sides simultaneously, it was much more durable than expected. We’d like to note that opening both sides of this cargo box simultaneously was user error on our part, and that you’ll have no issues with this cargo box lasting if you install and use it properly.
What Customers Are Saying
About 1,500 customers have left reviews on Amazon for the Thule Force XT. Many customers highly recommend this cargo box, with several noting that there’s plenty of room to store all of their gear. One man claims he’s taken three cross-country trips with this cargo box and says he loves how easy to use and secure the mounting clamps are.
#2 Best Value: SportRack Vista XL
Made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) material, the SportRack Vista XL is UV-resistant. This cargo box is unique in the fact that it is rear opening, which we found made loading bits and bobs notably easier than standard side-opening cargo boxes. In terms of mounting the cargo box on your vehicle’s roof, you simply utilize the SportRack’s quick-release mounting system, which involves tightening U-bolts to inside knobs.
While all cargo boxes will negatively impact your vehicle’s gas mileage, this cargo box features angled contours to make the rooftop cargo carrier aerodynamic and reduce its drag in the wind. Once locked, the cargo box becomes waterproof. It should be noted that the product is compatible with square and round load bars, as well as most factory roof racks.
- Price: About $475
- Dimensions: 62.5 by 19.0 by 35.0 in.
- Weight: 28.0 lbs.
- Load capacity: 100.0 lbs.
- Volume: 18.0 cu feet
The SportRack Vista XL is a great option to consider if you’re looking for a budget-friendly cargo box. In fact, it’s the favorite cargo box that we tested for several of our team members.
|Overall Rating||4.8 out of 5|
|Ease of Installation||4.5|
Capacity: In terms of capacity, the SportRack Vista XL has as high a load capacity as you can expect from most cargo boxes. However, the fact that this cargo box has a volume of 18.0 cu feet is what separates it from competitors and makes it one of the best cargo boxes on the market in 2022.
Ease of Installation: While this cargo box was undoubtedly easy to install, it simply wasn’t as easy to install as the Thule cargo boxes featured in this review. The inside knobs require a bit of focus to screw in, but that’s the only reason this cargo box doesn’t have a perfect ease of installation score.
Durability: Even though the SportRack Vista XL is our review team’s choice for the Best Value cargo box in 2022, it doesn’t mean SportRack used lesser quality materials. We felt that this heavy-duty cargo box has arguably the best build quality of all the cargo boxes we tested – and it felt incredibly durable throughout our testing process.
What Customers Are Saying
The SportRack Vista XL has over 1,700 customer reviews on Amazon. A huge number of reviewers mention that this cargo box is compatible with Subaru’s factory roof racks, specifically the Outback and the Forester. One reviewer claims to have driven over 1,700.0 miles with this cargo box – even reaching 90.0 miles per hour (mph) – and didn’t have a single issue during the trip.
#3 Highest Capacity: Thule Pulse
The Thule Pulse is available in three sizes: Medium, Large, and Alpine. We tested the Medium size of this cargo box. A Central Locking system means the Thule Comfort Key can only be removed once the lid is securely fastened, which keeps all of your gear safe while out on the road.
This cargo box is similar to the Thule Force XT in terms of roof rack compatibility, but differs in the fact that it is passenger-side loading rather than dual side-loading. This means that regardless of which type of crossbars you have on your vehicle – square, aero-style, round, or factory crossbars – this cargo box can be tightly secured to your car’s roof.
- Price: About $600
- Dimensions: 67.0 by 35.0 by 16.0 in.
- Weight: 34.0 lbs.
- Load capacity: 110.0 lbs.
- Volume: 14.0 cu feet
If you want a well-made and high-capacity cargo box, then the Thule Pulse has to be on your list.
|Overall Rating||4.7 out of 5|
|Ease of Installation||4.5|
Capacity: While hitch cargo carriers may naturally have a higher carrying capacity than cargo boxes, you’ll struggle to find a cargo box with a higher carrying capacity than the Thule Pulse. The balance of high load capacity and high volume is what makes this cargo box our review team’s choice for the Highest Capacity cargo box of 2022.
Ease of Installation: Installing the Thule Pulse was incredibly easy thanks to the brand’s FastGrip quick-mount system. The only reason the cargo box doesn’t have a perfect score for this testing category is because our six-foot-four team member struggled to reach and tighten each mount without the ability to open this cargo box from either side.
Durability: The Thule Pulse is certainly durable, and you’ll be able to trust in this cargo box to last, as it’s from one of the biggest names in the industry. Our team members had no issues with the cargo box throughout the testing process and believe that it will last trip after trip.
What Customers Are Saying
With around 1,150 customer reviews, the Thule Pulse is renown for lasting through several road trips, with some reviewers noting it survived cross-country road trips. One person claims that he forgot he had this cargo box attached to his roof because of how quiet it was at high speeds. Customers who leave negative reviews complain that the locking mechanism doesn’t last.
Other Cargo Boxes We Recommend
We researched hundreds of cargo boxes to generate our list of top recommendations. Here are some honorable mentions for the best cargo boxes on the market in 2022.
Auto Dynasty Roof Storage Box
Constructed of impact-resistant ABS material, the Auto Dynasty Roof Storage Box feels rugged and durable to the touch. This cargo box has a load capacity of 110.0 lbs. and a volume of 11.0 cu feet. You won’t need to worry about mounting this cargo box, as it requires a simple and tool-free installation.
MeeFar XBEEK Roof Carrier
The MeeFar XBEEK Roof Carrier isn’t necessarily a cargo box and fits more closely in our review of the best rooftop cargo carriers, but it shares several similarities with cargo boxes. The most notable similarity is its waterproof design, allowing you peace of mind that every last inch of your 20.0 cu feet of storage space is dry and protected from the elements.
Thule Motion XT
Offering between 16.0 and 22.0 cu feet depending on the size you order, the Thule Motion XT maximizes your car’s potential storage space. This cargo box comes with the easy-to-use PowerClick Quick-Mount System, which Thule is known for. It should also be noted that the cargo box is dual side-opening, which makes installing and loading the Motion XT a breeze.
Yakima Skybox 16
The Yakima Skybox 16 is made from carbonite and aerodynamically styled to minimize your car’s uptick in fuel consumption. This cargo box is dual-side opening, making installation as well as physically packing the cargo box that much easier. You won’t need to worry about crossbar compatibility, as the product works with all different styles of crossbars and even factory bars.
Ideal for storing smaller loads such as sleeping bags and golf clubs, the Thule Sidekick features a compact design to leave room for other roof-mounted accessories. This passenger-side opening cargo box has a volume of 8.0 cu feet and a load capacity of 75.0 lbs.
Jegs Rooftop Cargo Carrier
The Jegs Rooftop Cargo Carrier is made from a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic shell that’s lightweight and durable. It offers 18.0 cu feet of waterproof storage capacity thanks to a four-corner locking system and weather-tight seal. It should be noted that no tools are required for mounting the cargo box to your vehicle’s roof.
Tactik Rooftop Cargo Carrier Box
Featuring a dual side-opening design, the Tactik Rooftop Cargo Carrier Box makes loading and unloading your gear convenient. This cargo box provides you with 18.0 cu feet and 110.0 lbs. worth of storage capacity. The Tacktik’s shell is not only waterproof, but it also features a built-in UV stabilizer – ultimately making this cargo box resistant to cracking and fading.
Cargo Box Buyers Guide
While we’ve highlighted some of the best cargo boxes on the market, we haven’t had a chance to fully walk you through what you need to be looking for in a cargo box. Ease of installation, durability, and carrying capacity aside – you should be aware of the different types of cross bars, trunk access and overhang, and car weight limitations.
Types Of Cross Bars
There are four types of cross bars: round, square, aerodynamic, and factory. Below is a brief description of each style of cross bar and how they differ.
- Round cross bars: The most common style of roof racks, this is typically the least expensive option available. However, these cross bars are most prone to whistling and the least fuel efficient.
- Square cross bars: This style of cross bar acts as a middle ground between round and aerodynamic cross bars. These cross bars are reasonably priced, somewhat aerodynamic, and have been known to create whistling noises sometimes.
- Aerodynamic cross bars: This is generally the most expensive style of cross bar, but it’s also the sleekest looking, most fuel-efficient, and quietest option available.
- Factory cross bars: These cross bars are originally installed on your vehicle. As many different car brands and manufacturers pre-install cross bars, factory cross bars can vary dramatically from car to car.
Cargo Box Fit Guide
Besides getting a cargo box that fits all of the gear that you want to take with you on your next road trip, you’ll need a product that fits your car. First and foremost, you want to balance 60 percent of your cargo box’s weight between your two cross bars, with 20 percent of the weight in front and 20 percent of the cargo box’s weight behind the cross bars.
If you have a rear-opening trunk hatch, you’ll want to double-check that you can fully open your trunk without it bumping into the cargo box on your roof – as there’s no point getting additional storage space if you’re not using all of the storage space within your car’s cabin. We also recommend checking that your cargo box doesn’t overhang above your windshield, as that can limit your field of view.
Car Weight Limitations With Cargo Boxes
It’s all well and good that the cargo box you purchased can physically fit all of your gear, but is your car meant to withstand all of that weight?
We recommend checking your vehicle’s owner manual, which will tell you your vehicle’s recommended maximum load. Subtract the weight of your cargo box and cross bars from your vehicle’s maximum load to determine how much gear you can safely pack in your cargo box, in terms of sheer weight.
How We Tested
The cargo boxes in this article went through two rounds of reviews. We started by searching retailers like Amazon and Advance Auto Parts for top products, looking at factors such as aerodynamics, fuel efficiency, customer ratings, and prices.
Our product testing team then ordered the cargo boxes that best met these standards. A team member tested each product on a car, taking note of how easy the cargo box was to install, its capacity, and its durability. Each cargo box was given a rating out of 5 stars based on this criteria.
- Capacity: Arguably the most important characteristic of a cargo box, we tested for capacity by noting the weight capacity and volume of each cargo box. Our team then tested whether each cargo box could withstand the load and volume that it says it can.
- Ease of Installation: Not to be overlooked, our review team unboxed each cargo box and proceeded to mount it to our testing vehicle’s roof racks. As our testing vehicle, a 2003 Ford Focus ZX3, did not come with factory roof racks, we used the cross bars of a team member’s bike rack kit to mount our cargo boxes. We specifically used Thule SquareBar Steel Load Bars, the Thule Roof Rack System Fit Kit, and the Thule 480 Traverse Foot Pack.
- Durability: We tested durability by feeling and observing the build quality of each cargo box. We noted the materials used in construction as well as how each cargo box handled high speeds, sharp turns, and bumpy roads.
Why You Can Trust Us
Each year, we test over 350 auto products on vehicles and in our testing lab. Our team of product testers thoroughly researches top products, unboxes and puts our hands on each component, and tests the items on real vehicles before making recommendations to readers.
We publish hundreds of product and service reviews to bring car enthusiasts detailed guides on automotive tools, detailing kits, car seats, pet products, and much more.
Cargo Box: FAQ
*Data accurate at time of publication.