Best Cargo Carriers for Your Vehicle's Roof Rack

The right cargo carrier for you depends on how much you can spend, what you’re looking to carry, and how often you plan to use it. Here’s a quick guide to your options.

Cargo racks are one of the most useful pieces of equipment you can buy for your vehicle. They’re great if you need extra room for more gear than you can fit in your car or your SUV, and especially great if you need to use the room you have for kids, dogs, or other passengers. There are three basic types of rooftop cargo carrier. Cargo baskets, hard shell cargo boxes, and soft-sided cargo bags.

Hard Shell Cargo Boxes

Thule Force XT Rooftop Cargo Box
This aerodynamic cargo box from Thule opens from both sides, giving you easy access to all of your gear.Thule

Hard shell boxes are waterproof, aerodynamic, and you can stuff them with a ton of gear. They're great for carrying clothes, tents, sleeping bags, and luggage. These boxes aren't cheap, and they don't carry bulky objects as well as open cargo baskets do, but they'll save you money on gas and they're lightweight and easy to store.

Rooftop Cargo Bags

AmazonBasics Rooftop Cargo Carrier Bag
This bag comes with built-in cinch straps and has 15 cubic feet of storage capacity.AmazonBasics

Waterproof rooftop cargo bags are less aerodynamic than hard shell boxes. They're also harder to load and unload. But they're also a lot less expensive, and you can store them in small spaces when you're not using them. They're great options if you only plan to carry gear up top occassionally and don't need to carry bulky items.

Rooftop Cargo Baskets

Leader Accessories Roof Rack Cargo Basket
This adjustable cargo rack fits up to 3.25" wide x 1.375" thick or round bars up to 1.375" in diameter and carries loads of up to 150 pounds.Leader Accessories

Cargo baskets are durable, useful, and versatile tools for carrying lots of gear on top of your vehicle. They're not waterproof, but they're easy to load up and give you the fastest access to all your stuff. Pair them with dry bags for storing clothes, tents, and other stuff you don't want getting wet. Cargo baskets also let you carry bulky, oddly shaped objects that don't fit into standard bags or boxes.