The 7 Best Rooftop Cargo Carriers of 2023
Adventure requires gear, and gear requires storage. Check out these best cargo carriers and decide which will work for your next trip.
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Planning your next road trip? Maybe you’re taking the family camping, going on a ski trip with friends or hiking a scenic route with your pup. Whatever the case, you’ll want to bring everything you need for the outdoors without cramming it all into the car—especially if you’re traveling with others. That’s where rooftop and hitch-mounted cargo carriers come in handy. They provide additional storage space outside of your vehicle.
To get you ready for that upcoming getaway, we’ve researched the best hitch-mounted basket and box cargo carriers, the best rooftop cargo boxes and bags and more. From luxury options from brands like Thule to more affordable picks available on Amazon, here are the best cargo carriers for your next adventure.
Best Overall Hitch-Mounted Basket Cargo Carrier
Oklead Heavy Duty Hitch Mount Cargo Carrier
How would you like to add half of a full-size pickup bed to the back of your SUV, car or truck? With 10 square feet of space, the Oklead Cargo Carrier can handle 400 pounds.
The wobble-free design keeps the basket from shifting while hitched to your vehicle, and the heavy-duty steel is finished with a coating that resists rust and scratches. The lightweight alloy steel frame, which weighs 64 pounds, is plenty sturdy. Strap down gear with straps for a more secure fit.
- Holds up to 400 pounds
- Features safety reflectors
- Mesh surface prevents smaller objects from falling through
- Won’t break the bank
- Might have to remove cargo gear to open trunk
Best Luxury Rooftop Box Cargo Carrier
Thule 6299 Motion XT Extra-Extra-Large Cargo Box
The Thule Motion XT is an award-winning luxury cargo carrier with top-of-the-line looks and performance. It’s contoured for maximum aerodynamic efficiency, and is large enough to hold seven pairs of skis, along with poles and five snowboards.
The PowerClick quick-mount system sets this box apart by giving that “click,” telling you it’s mounted correctly. The SlideLock system also clicks to let you know the box is properly closed. Plus, with dual-sided accessibility, it’s easy to get to your stuff.
- Sleek with a glossy finish
- Made of tough acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic
- SlideLock system automatically locks lid
Best Value Hitch-Mounted Basket Cargo Carrier
Mockins Folding Cargo Carrier
The Mockins Cargo Carrier includes an 16-cubic-foot waterproof cargo bag, ratchet straps, a safety bag lock and cargo net, making it one of the best deals out there for a hitch-mounted cargo system.
It folds up when not in use to reduce the overall length of your vehicle. The carrier can hold up to 500 pounds of cargo, and its mesh base and 6-inch sides prevent smaller items from falling out. A hitch stabilizer reduces noise, and a hitch lock helps prevent theft.
- Includes carrier, bag and additional accessories
- Holds up to 500 pounds
- Easy assembly
- Not compatible with cars that have a tire on the back
Best Overall Rooftop Box Cargo Carrier
Yakima CBX Solar 16 Roof Box
The Yakima CBX Solar rooftop storage box integrates a solar panel charging station, giving you a backup power source to charge batteries and other camping necessities.
The 16-cubic-foot box features a dual-sided opening, and we particularly like the angular look that sets it apart from other cargo carriers. The easy-grab lid handle clicks into place once your gear is clear of blockages. The SKS locks add an additional layer of security to give you that extra peace of mind.
- Solar-panel charging station can withstand elements
- Dual-side and one-handed opening
- Torque-limiting knob for secure installation
Best Hitch-Mounted Box Cargo Carrier
Yakima EXO GearLocker
With the functionality of a rooftop cargo box, the Yakima EXO GearLocker provides 10 cubic feet of accessible storage that securely mounts to your hitch or roof rack.
Easy-on-and-off design makes it smart for hauling gear to and from your car. The Locking SpeedKnobs securely attach and lock the EXO GearLocker to the rack without the use of any tools. The tool-free system attaches and locks in seconds, so you don’t have to waste time putting on and taking off this cargo carrier when you’re on the go.
- Rugged and only 28 pounds
- Has a wide-angle opening
- Made of durable ABS plastic
- Holds up to 100 pounds of cargo when hitch-mounted
- On the pricier side
- Requires EXO SwingBase or EXO TopShelf (not included)
Best Rooftop Bag-Style Cargo Carrier
RoofPax Rooftop Cargo Carrier Bag
There are a lot of rooftop bags out there, but not all of them will expand to meet your carrying needs. The waterproof Roof Pax expandable rooftop cargo bag fits vehicles lacking a roof rack. It comes with a five-year material warranty, and a protective mat so it doesn’t scratch the roof.
One standout feature: the mechanism that holds the bag down. Some rooftop bags feature straps that are unsafe and illegal in some states. In this system, door hooks lock the bag into place, keeping the straps from creating any slack.
- Works with or without a roof rack
- Features double zippers
- Affordable and comes with accessories
- Not totally waterproof in heavy rain
Best Hitch-Mounted Basket Cargo Carrier With Ramp
MaxxHaul 70275 Aluminum Cargo Carrier with Folding Ramp
The MaxxHaul cargo carrier includes a 5-foot folding ramp that transforms it from a simple gear basket to a loading dock for anything with wheels weighing less than 500 pounds.
The ladder folds up and out of the way, acting as a side rail to strap items, and folds down when space is available. The rust- and corrosion-resistant aluminum frame means the entire system weighs less than 80 pounds.
- Extra-wide carrier bed
- Anchor points for secure loading
- Reflectors for road safety
- Some reviews reflect issues with quality control
How We Found the Best Rooftop and Hitch-Mounted Cargo Carriers
As shopping experts, our only job is to help you find a winning product. We start with the research and reporting basics—what products are made of, what they look like and how much they cost—to ensure that we’re only recommending the buys that are worth your time and money. Then, we research the features that speak to the product’s quality, taking advice from industry insiders and subject matter experts on what makes a product a smart value (or worthy of a splurge). Finally, we do the work of combing through user reviews to see how real people interact with the product, and if it stands up to the test.
How does a rooftop cargo carrier work?
Rooftop cargo carriers provide more surface space for your extra stuff, but they can cut down on your vehicle’s aerodynamics. However, because of their location, rooftop cargo carriers don’t leave your extra cargo vulnerable to fender benders, like with rear cargo carriers.
Most rooftop carriers attach to a vehicle’s roof rack, and users make use of their width by sliding the crossbars apart to stabilize the load. This style is often installed with brackets and screws that create a clamp to attach the carrier to the vehicle.
What size rooftop carrier do I need?
Outdoor adventures are often accompanied by bulky gear: Backpacks, tents, snowboards, hiking sticks and skis are just some of the things you may find yourself hauling.
When deciding what size rooftop carrier is right for you, think about what you plan on storing. Generally, bulky, lightweight things fit well in a rooftop carrier as they are spacious, but often don’t hold as much weight as a hitch-mounted cargo carrier. If you plan on storing long things, such as skis and snowboards, then be sure to buy a longer rooftop carrier.
How much can you fit in a rooftop cargo carrier?
Most rooftop carriers are designed with a maximum weight capacity of around 100 pounds. To avoid reaching the max weight, it’s best to haul really heavy items on a hitch-mounted basket carrier, like the folding cargo carrier from Mockins.
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