Love spending time in the outdoors? Hate feeling like you’re playing Tetris every time you pack up the car? Sounds like you might be in need of a cargo box!
Cargo boxes are a great way to move your gear from A to B. They free up space in the interior that can be used by passengers (or more gear) and they also protect your gear as you’re driving around. They come in all shapes and sizes, with longer cargo boxes being used most commonly among skiers, snowboarders, and surfers, and smaller ones often being used for extra bits of camping or climbing gear.
At A Glance: Our Top 3 Cargo Boxes
Whatever your outdoor activity of choice, there’s a cargo box out there with your name on it. Here, we’ve scoured the marketplace to bring you a varied selection of the best cargo boxes currently around, and we’ve weighed up each of their pros and cons to help you decide which one is right for you – enjoy!
Best For Large Loads
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Best For Medium Loads
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Best For Small Loads
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If you’re looking for a way to transport large, bulky items, then the Thule Motion XT XL rooftop cargo box is definitely worth checking out.
This XL model, with a spacious 18 cubic feet capacity, can house up to 7 pairs of skis or 5 snowboards. What’s more, you don’t need to worry about the weight of your gear because its weight capacity, at 165 lbs, is one of the highest we’ve seen.
Mounting this box won’t take you long, thanks to the pre-installed quick-mount system, and we love the reassuring ‘click’ that tells you everything is in the right place. And we love that it’s been cleverly designed to sit forwards on the car, maximizing trunk access.
Opening the box is easy, despite the large size, because of the grippy handles and supporting lid lifters that help to take the weight off. Plus, you can pack this box from either side (or both, if you’re lucky enough to have a helper) and, when you’re done, the SlideLock system will automatically lock the lid and let you know that the box has closed properly, pretty neat huh?
Also available in L and XXL, these boxes have you covered for all your large capacity needs. Unfortunately, their large size does make them heavy, and they certainly don’t come cheap… but if you can afford one of these cargo boxes, you definitely won’t regret buying one.
If you’re looking for a super reliable way to transport medium-sized cargo, then your search might be over. The YAKIMA RocketBox Pro is an ultra-robust rooftop cargo box that offers an additional 12 cubic feet of storage.
The broad aerodynamic design combined with forward-mounting hardware makes this a great option for smaller cars, as drag will be reduced and you’ll still have great trunk access.
We love that this box doesn’t require any assembly, so you can leave your toolkit in the shed, and the quick-release system means you can pop it off in no time – perfect when you get back exhausted from a weekend trip. You can un/pack from either side too for convenience.
The SKS locks and integrated push-button security mean that you can rest assured that the box is sealed. However, we do recommend storing your gear in a waterproof bag if possible, as water can occasionally make its way inside. For such a sleek, well-designed box with a decent capacity, we were expecting a higher price tag – this box offers excellent value for money and, what’s more, it comes with a limited lifetime warranty included.
Bear in mind that the smaller size means that you won’t be able to fit extra-bulky items, such as boards or skis, in this box. However, it’s a great shout for other gear, especially if you’ll be traveling in a small vehicle – oh, and we love the matte finish too.
The Thule SideKick Cargo Box is a fantastic option for when you need just that bit more space and you don’t want to overdo it with an enormous rooftop cargo box.
This compact storage box provides 8 cubic inches of extra capacity, which is perfect for golf clubs or family holidays when packing has got out of hand (obviously not for skis or boards).
The smaller dimensions mean that you’ll encounter less wind resistance and go through less fuel. Plus, with a weight of just 16 lbs, mounting this box is a breeze. We love the self-standing top lid and sturdy hinges that hold this box open for ease of packing but bear in mind that the box can only be opened via the passenger side. Once packed, you can use the dual locks to ensure a secure seal.
It does have a lower weight capacity than larger models but, for its size, it can hold a decent amount of extra gear. Overall, if you don’t have any unusual-shaped items and just need a tad more storage, there’s no point spending extra cash on the extra capacity that you don’t need – it’ll only drag you down and make mounting more cumbersome – instead, consider a cargo box like this.
If you’re looking for an economical way to transport extra gear, then we can’t recommend the JEGS Cargo Carrier enough.
The best thing about this carrier is how incredibly durable it is. The HDPE plastic coating is super tough and even features UV protection to stop gradual weathering, and you don’t have to worry about water making its way in either – there’s a four-corner locking system, a latch on the front, and a watertight seal to make sure your gear stays nice and dry.
Despite its robust nature, this box weighs just 28 lbs, so you’ll be able to mount it single-handedly without any troubles. Yet it can still bear up to 100 lbs in weight, giving it a great weight to weight-bearing capacity ratio. It can be loaded from either side, has a self-standing lid, and definitely won’t limit your trunk access.
This cargo box really is a box and, although it’s been sculpted slightly to help with the aerodynamics, it isn’t the sleekest design we’ve come across. It won’t fit any unusually shaped bits of sporting equipment either.
However, this box is an extremely high-quality and affordable way for you to transport ordinary shaped items from A to B.
The Goplus Cargo Box is a super stylish way to add 14 cubic feet of capacity to your vehicle.
Available in three different colors, and with a sleek streamlined design, this is certainly one of the best-looking cargo boxes we’ve come across. What’s more, the aerodynamic design will cut down on your fuel costs too, winning.
It’s not just a pretty face though (well, pretty box), this is one sturdy bit of gear that can hold an impressive 165 lbs. It also features metal lid stiffeners at the base for added stability (although we wish the roof was slightly sturdier). Despite this, it’s far lighter than we expected, weighing in at just 25 lbs. This, combined with the quick-connect anchors (aka clamps), makes mounting this box a breeze.
When it comes to packing, the box can be opened via either side and there are sturdy arms on hand to prop it open for you. When you’re done, lock the box using the dual side locks and you’re good to go.
Sure, it can’t hold boards of skis but, for every other purpose, this box is a real winner – it’s lightweight, it’s stylish, it can hold very heavy loads, and it’s easy to use.
We’re returning to the realm of super spacious cargo boxes by introducing you to the SportRack Horizon Alpine.
As the name suggests, this box has been designed with alpine adventures in mind. Its large dimensions and 16 cubic feet capacity means that this box can house up to 6 pairs of skis (up to 180 cm) or 4 snowboards (but it can also fit surfboards if you find yourself at the coast). And, if that isn’t enough, there is actually an even larger model available too. We wish that the weight capacity was a little higher, but this box is more affordable than most large-capacity boxes, making it a great budget option nonetheless.
Despite the low cost, this box is constructed from impact-resistant ABS material, so it can handle some bumps and scrapes. It’s a little on the heavy side, but mounting won’t be too bad thanks to the included quick-release attachment kit.
It doesn’t have as many fancy touches as other more expensive options, such as dual side opening and multiple locks, but it’s large, fairly easy to install, and won’t break the bank either.
If you’re after a huge capacity, but you don’t want to shell out for it, then we definitely recommend the SPORTRACK SR7095 Skyline XL.
For a fraction of the price (and weight) we’d expect to see, you’re getting 18 cubic feet of extra storage capacity. Constructed from high-density UV-resistant plastic, and with a water-resistant seal, dual locks, and dual latches for total security, you can be sure that your gear will stay protected, no matter how sunny, windy, or rainy it is.
It may only open from the passenger side, but this can actually be a handy safety feature if you have kids around). Plus, once opened, the lid will hold itself ajar while you’re packing. the shorter dimensions mean that access to your trunk is unobstructed too.
So, what’s the catch? The main issue is the installation. Although there are tools and instructions included, most people find that it takes far longer than advertised to actually mount this box.
Overall, if you’re after a lot of storage space at a great price, and you don’t mind a bit of installation work, then this could be the cargo box for you.
And last, but by no means least, on our list of the best cargo boxes is the INNO BRA1210BK Shadow Box. This box has been designed to transport unusually shaped items while minimizing drag.
Although it can accommodate up to 6 snowboards, 8 pairs of skis, or 2 surfboards, this box is not as tall as other similar models (exterior height = 13.4 inches). This helps to streamline the box, which reduces drag and helps to conserve fuel.
When you’re top-loaded with that much gear, you want to be sure that things are stable. The INNO Shadow has you covered on that front, thanks to its durable three-layer construction and reinforced base, which substantially increases the overall stability.
It is a little heavy for its 13 cubic inch capacity, but at least the quick-mount system will help you out. It’s also compatible with almost all crossbars, and you can load up this beast from either side when packing.
It might be a little on the pricey side, but you’re getting a well-design, solid box that can accommodate various unusually shaped bits of spring equipment, so we reckon it’s worth the investment.
So, there you have it, our list of the top cargo boxes around. As you’ve seen, they come in various shapes and styles, and each have their own pros and cons. But what should you really be keeping an eye on when you’re shopping around?
This all comes down to how much gear you’ll be carrying around. If you just want some back-up space for times when you realize you’ve overpacked for a trip but you’re running late and don’t want to start over, a small box (<10 cubic inches) will be more than enough. If you’ll be transporting tonnes of gear for climbing or other sporting activities, and often take trips in big groups, then you’ll want to go for something larger.
The capacity isn’t everything – you need to consider the dimensions too. If you want to take skis or boards with you, make sure you check the measurements precisely to make sure they’ll fit. Other things to consider are the length of the box and your car – is access to your trunk going to be an issue? Also, if you want to reduce drag, consider seeking out boxes with shorter heights.
Typically, the larger the box the greater the weight capacity; however, this isn’t always the case. Don’t get caught out by assuming a large box can handle the weight of your load – make sure you check the specs. Equally, if you’ll have a few heavy items that aren’t that bulky, there are some very sturdy smaller options out there that will likely cost you less than the larger models.
Still struggling to decide which box is right for you? To help you decide, here are our best boxes for small, medium, and large loads.
If you want some back-up space for emergencies that won’t cost the earth or add tonnes of drag to your car, then we recommend the Thule SideKick Cargo Box.
The 8 cubic feet of capacity will make all the difference to a weekend camping trip, yet this box weighs just 16 lbs. It also features a self-standing lid to help you pack, and dual locks for security – go on, you know you want to.
For medium loads, we reckon the YAKIMA RocketBox Pro is your best bet. The 12 cubic feet of storage means you can cram a lot of extra gear on board, and you can use it with smaller cars too, thanks to the forward mounting.
It’s also durable secure, and stylish – we don’t think you’ll find anything better at this price.
For large cargo, our top box is the Thule Motion XT XL. It’s great for skiers, snowboarders, and surfers alike thanks to its 18 cubic feet capacity and the fact it can carry 165 lbs.
It’s also easy to set up, has dual side openings, and it even indicates when it’s mounted and closed properly, pretty cool huh?