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Best Cargo Boxes

A quality cargo box can add to your vehicle’s storage capabilities for a long road trip or weekend vacation.
Written and Tested By:
Will Moore
Written and Tested By: Will Moore Senior Writer – Motor1 Review Team

Will has written for several major auto sites including Motor1 since 2020, logging hundreds of hours researching and testing products ranging from child car seats to torque wrenches. Will is also Certified by Safe Kids Worldwide as a Child Passenger Safety Technician (#T836339).

Last Updated 01/03/2024

Motor1 Reviews Team Take:

  • The best cargo boxes of 2024 include the Thule Force XT, SportRack Vista XL, and Thule Pulse based on storage capacity, ease of installation, and overall durability.
  • On average, a high-quality cargo box will cost anywhere from $450 to over $700 depending on its size and storage space.
  • When buying a new cargo box, design and ease of use are worth considering so you can safely and comfortably secure your belongings.
Best Cargo Box
Thule Force XT

A dual side-opening cargo box that doesn’t take up much space, but offers tons of added storage.

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Best Budget Cargo Box
SportRack Vista XL

A highly durable and budget-friendly cargo box that opens from the rear rather than the side(s).

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Best Cargo Box For Luggage
Thule Pulse

A high-quality cargo box that maximizes the amount of storage space you have in your car.

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A cargo box can dramatically increase your vehicle’s storage capabilities. We’ve all been caught trying to stuff a car full of supplies for a road trip, struggling 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 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 choosing a product.


Cargo Box Reviews

For this review, our team thoroughly tested and evaluated each cargo box based on its capacity, ease of installation, and durability. The scores in each category are compiled into a single overall rating that ranges from 1.0 to 5.0 stars.

What Is The Best Cargo Box?

We named the Thule Force XT, SportRack Vista XL, and Thule Pulse as the best-rated cargo boxes on the market in 2024.

Brand/ModelCostOverall RatingAward

Thule Force XT

$700

5.0

Best Cargo Box

SportRack Vista XL

$480

4.8

Best Budget Cargo Box

Thule Pulse

$600

4.7

Best Cargo Box for Luggage

*Because cost data fluctuates, the prices in the table above are approximate values that our team regularly updates.

Cargo Box Ratings: Our Testing Process

After looking at factors such as aerodynamics, fuel efficiency, customer ratings, and prices, our product testing team ordered the cargo boxes that best met these standards. A team member tested each product on a 2003 Ford Focus ZX3, 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 5.0 stars based on these criteria.

Learn more about how we tested products here.

1. Thule Force XT: Best Cargo Box

  • Cost: $700
  • Overall rating: 5.0 out of 5.0
  • Dimensions: 74.8 x 24.8 x 16.7 inches
  • Weight: 32 pounds
  • Load capacity: 165 lbs.
  • Volume: 11.0 cu. ft.

Thule Force XT Review

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. ft.) of storage space.

You can see how the Thule Force XT performed in each category below:

Review CategoryScore (Out of 5.0 Stars)

Ease of Use

5.0

Stability

5.0

Versatility

5.0

Overall Rating

5.0

A PowerClick Quick-Mount system allows you to quickly and easily mount this cargo box to your vehicle’s roof by 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. Below are the pros and cons of the Thule Force XT:

Pros High carrying capacity Different sizes available Quick mounting system
Cons Larger sizes can be bulky

Our Experience

We tested and reviewed the Sport size of the Thule Force XT. But there are larger sizes available, including Large, XL, and XXL.

  • 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 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 because 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 a user error on our part, and that you should have no issues with this cargo box lasting if you install and use it properly.

What Customers Are Saying

Amazon review score: 4.6 out of 5.0 (approx. 1,800 reviews)

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 the mounting clamps are easy to use and secure.

2. SportRack Vista XL: Best Budget Cargo Box

  • Cost: $480
  • Overall rating: 4.8 out of 5.0
  • Dimensions: 62.5 x 19 x 35 in.
  • Weight: 28 lbs.
  • Load capacity: 100 lbs.
  • Volume: 18.0 cu. ft.

SportRack Vista XL Review

sportrack vista xl cargo box

Made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) material, the SportRack Vista XL is UV-resistant. This cargo box is unique in that it opens from the rear, which we found made loading cargo notably easier than standard side-opening 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.

See how the SportRack Vista XL performed in each category:

Review CategoryScore (Out of 5.0 Stars)

Ease of Use

5.0

Stability

4.5

Versatility

5.0

Overall Rating

4.8

While all cargo boxes will negatively impact your vehicle’s gas mileage, this one 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. Weigh the benefits and potential drawbacks of the SportRack Vista XL:

Pros Good value Aerodynamic Lightweight
Cons Lower loading capacity

Our Experience

The SportRack Vista XL is a strong option to consider if you’re looking for a budget-friendly cargo box. In fact, it’s the favorite among several of our team members out of all the boxes we tested.

  • Capacity: The SportRack Vista XL’s load capacity is as high as you can expect from most cargo boxes. However, the fact that it has a volume of 18.0 cu. ft. is what separates it from competitors and makes it one of the best cargo boxes on the market in 2024.
  • Ease of Installation: While this cargo box was undoubtedly easy to install, it wasn’t as easy 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 2024, 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

Amazon review score: 4.5 out of 5.0 (approx. 2,100 reviews)

A huge number of reviewers mention 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 miles with this cargo box and didn’t have a single issue during the trip despite reaching highway speeds over 80 mph.

3. Thule Pulse: Best Cargo Box For Luggage

  • Cost: $600
  • Overall rating: 4.7 out of 5.0
  • Dimensions: 67 x 35 x 16 in.
  • Weight: 34 lbs.
  • Load capacity: 110 lbs.
  • Volume: 14.0 cu. ft.

Thule Pulse Review

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.

You can see how the Thule Pulse performed in each category below:

Review CategoryScore (Out of 5.0 Stars)

Ease of Use

5.0

Stability

4.5

Versatility

4.5

Overall Rating

4.7

This cargo box is similar to the Thule Force XT in terms of roof rack compatibility but differs because you load it from the passenger side versus dual-side loading. As such, 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. Below are the pros and cons of the Thule Pulse:

Pros Durable construction Easy to install and operate Full protection from the elements
Cons Expensive

Our Experience

If you want a well-made, high-capacity cargo box, the Thule Pulse should be on your list.

  • 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 Best Cargo Box for Luggage in 2024.
  • 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 category is because our tall team member struggled to reach and tighten each mount. Not being able to open the cargo box from either side made things a bit more difficult. 
  • Durability: The Thule Pulse is certainly durable, and you’ll be able to trust 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 it will last for trip after trip.

What Customers Are Saying

Amazon review score: 4.6 out of 5.0 (approx. 800 reviews)

The Thule Pulse is renowned for its durability over time, with some reviewers noting it survived cross-country road trips. One person claims 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.


Cargo Boxes Buying Guide

Now that we’ve highlighted some of the best cargo boxes on the market, we’ll talk about some key features to consider when comparing products. 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 crossbar 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 are the least fuel efficient. 
  • Square crossbars: This style of crossbar acts as a middle ground between round and aerodynamic crossbars. These cross bars are reasonably priced, somewhat aerodynamic, and have been known to create whistling noises from time to time.
  • Aerodynamic crossbars: This is generally the most expensive style of crossbar, but it’s also the sleekest looking, most fuel-efficient, and quietest option available.
  • Factory crossbars: These crossbars 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

Aside from getting a cargo box that fits all your road trip gear, 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 behind the cross bars.

If you have a rear-opening trunk hatch, double-check that you can fully open your trunk without it bumping into the cargo box on your roof. We also recommend checking that your cargo box doesn’t overhang above your windshield, as that can limit your field of view.

Weight Limitations With Cargo Boxes

It’s one thing to physically fit all the gear into the cargo box you just purchased, but can your car withstand all of that weight?

We recommend checking your vehicle’s owner’s manual, which should tell you the 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.

Compare Cargo Boxes

Brand/ModelLoad CapacityItem WeightDimensions (LxWxH)

Thule Force XT

165 lbs.

32 lbs.

74.8 x 24.8 x 16.7 in.

SportRack Vista XL

100 lbs.

28 lbs.

62.5 x 35 x 19 in.

Thule Pulse

110 lbs.

34 lbs.

67 x 35 x 16 in.

Will A Cargo Box Fit My Car?

If you’re looking at cargo boxes for cars, your first step should be ensuring these will actually fit your vehicle. Try the following:

  • Check if your vehicle has roof racks or cross bars that support the cargo box’s mounting hardware
  • Measure from the first crossbar to the end of the roof, or open the trunk if you own a hatchback vehicle
  • Check your vehicle’s weight limit for rooftop storage and pick a cargo box that doesn’t exceed the total capacity

Some of these specs will be in your vehicle’s owner’s manual, as well as instructions for how to adjust cross bars if the automaker installed them from the factory. We discuss more tips in our fit guide below.

How Will A Cargo Box Affect My Car? 

While a great option for storing camping gear and improving your vehicle’s versatility, there are some drawbacks to using rooftop boxes. Even low-profile options can add wind noise to the driving experience, and you can expect your gas mileage to take a hit.


Best Cargo Boxes: Bottom Line

Before making a decision on which cargo box to purchase, get to know your vehicle’s weight limits, capabilities, and how much of your cargo can comfortably fit in it. For the box itself, consider its storage capacity, ease of installation, and overall durability. In this article, along with sharing helpful purchasing tips for those interested in buying a cargo box, we reviewed our picks for the top cargo boxes in 2024, which are:

  1. Best Cargo Box: Thule Force XT
  2. Best Budget Cargo Box: ​​SportRack Vista XL
  3. Best Cargo Box for Luggage: Thule Pulse

Other Best-Selling Cargo Boxes

We researched hundreds of cargo boxes to generate our list of top recommendations. Here are some honorable mentions for the most popular cargo boxes on the market in 2024.

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. ft. You won’t need to worry about mounting this cargo box, as it installs with a simple tool-free process.

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 is its waterproof design, allowing you peace of mind that every inch of your 20.0 cu. ft. of storage space is dry and protected from the elements.

Thule Motion XT

Offering between 16.0 and 22.0 cu. ft. 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 is 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 carrier that much easier. You won’t need to worry about crossbar compatibility, as the product works with all styles of crossbars and even factory bars.

Thule SideKick

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. ft. and a load capacity of 75 lbs.

Jegs Rooftop Cargo Carrier

The Jegs Rooftop Cargo Carrier features a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic shell that’s lightweight and durable. It offers 18.0 cu. ft. 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. ft. 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 it resistant to cracking and fading.


Cargo Boxes: FAQ

What are cargo boxes?

Cargo boxes—also known as roof boxes, car top carriers, roof bags, or cargo carrier bags—are storage boxes that mount to the top of your car. Most cargo boxes are weatherproof and allow you to store more gear without buying a bigger vehicle.

Does a cargo box affect gas mileage?

Yes, a cargo box can affect your car’s gas mileage. Although many manufacturers of cargo boxes emphasize their product’s aerodynamics or sleek design, a cargo box will create more drag in the wind. This can lead to reduced fuel mileage.

Are rooftop cargo boxes worth it?

A rooftop cargo box can be worth it depending on your needs. Although they cost more than rooftop cargo bags, they’re generally easier to install and are more secure. Note that cargo boxes are typically weather-resistant, while not all rooftop cargo bags are.

How fast can you drive with a cargo box?

Manufacturers have different recommendations, but it’s generally best practice to drive under 80 mph to ensure the cargo box stays secure in the event of a sudden stop. You should also only have your rooftop box installed while it’s carrying cargo.

How big is a cargo box?

Dimensions vary across models, but cargo boxes for cars can offer between 11.0 to 18.0 cubic feet of storage.


Full Cargo Box Testing Methodology

The best cargo boxes are designed to make lugging cargo easier than ever. Cargo boxes should be simple to install on your vehicle, have good aerodynamics, and carry all the extra cargo that won’t fit in your vehicle. To meet these expectations, we tested each cargo box under the following criteria: capacity, ease of installation, and durability.

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.

How We Score Products

Star ratings help us differentiate between the top-performing products in all of our reviews. For cargo boxes, we tested each product based on capacity, installation, and durability with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5.0 stars.

  • 5.0 Stars: A 5.0-star rating is the highest score you’ll see in most of our reviews. If the cargo box provided optimal storage space, was easy for us to install, and seemed to hold up well during our testing process with minimal movement while driving, you’d see a 5.0-star overall score.
  • 4.0 Stars: A 4.0-star rating is an above-average score. If one of the cargo boxes in our review still exceeded our expectations but could have offered more storage space in comparison to other cargo boxes we tested, you’ll likely see a 4.0-star rating for capacity.
  • 3.0 Stars: 3.0 stars is an average score. For example, if we noticed some movement while driving that made us slightly concerned when taking sharp turns, but the build quality is well-constructed, you’d see an average score for durability.
  • 2.0 Stars: A 2.0-star rating is a below-average score. If we felt like the cargo box was more difficult to install than other boxes in the review, we’d likely give the cargo box a below-average rating for ease of installation.
  • 1.0 Star: A 1.0-star rating is the lowest score we give in all of our reviews. If the cargo box is defective in some way or breaks during our testing process due to poor-quality construction, we’d give the cargo box 1.0 star.

Why Trust Motor1.com

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. For more information on our testing methodology and how we evaluate every product, check out our methodology page here.

*Data accurate at time of publication. Products subject to availability.