cargo bags vs cargo boxes
Last Updated: May 19, 2021

Cargo Bags Vs Cargo Boxes: The Winner Is?

Sometimes, there just isn’t enough room in your car to pack everything you need for your next camping or outdoor adventure, especially if you’re traveling with family and/or friends. This leads to making tough choices about what to leave behind, but really, you’d like to take it all. 

This is when having a cargo bag or a cargo box on your roof comes in extremely handy. The extra storage space not only lets you bring everything you want and need with you, but it’ll also free up a load of space inside the car for a far more relaxed and comfortable journey. 

But, which one is best? Join me as we discuss Cargo Bags Vs Cargo Boxes and look at what they are and their pros and cons, so you can decide without any doubt, which one is best for your needs. 

What Is A Cargo Box? 

A cargo box is a rigid plastic box that you mount on your car roof for extra storage and they come in various sizes to match your extra storage needs. 

Being hard-shelled, cargo boxes protect your belongings from anything they might encounter while speeding along on your car roof. Any adverse weather, debris, and insects will end up bouncing off the cargo box and ensure your belongings don’t get damaged on the journey. 

Another great thing about cargo boxes is that you can lock them, and their hard shell makes breaking into them a load more effort than say a fabric cargo bag. 

Cargo boxes are quite expensive and you will need a roof rack on your car in order to mount one. If you don’t already have a roof rack on your car, you’ll have to spend a little extra on installing one before mounting a cargo box. And, not all cargo boxes match all roof racks, so you’ll need to ensure the one you choose works with the roof racks you have installed. 

Also, being rigid, cargo boxes are hard to store and you’ll need to find a space in your garage or house to keep one when it’s not being used. You might also find that you have to remove your cargo box before parking in your garage as it adds quite a lot of height to your vehicle. 

Pros 

  • Lockable so your belongings are secure 
  • Adds a good amount of extra storage 
  • Hard-shelled to protect your belongings from weather and impacts
  • Durable and long-lasting 

Cons 

  • You’ll need a roof rack to install a cargo box on your vehicle 
  • More expensive than cargo bags 
  • Harder to install and you might have to pay for installation 
  • Can be a hassle to store and take up a lot of space when not in use 

What Is a Cargo Bag? 

Cargo bags are just like cargo boxes except they aren’t made with a hard shell and instead are made from a durable, normally waterproof fabric. Imagine a waterproof backpack enlarged and strapped to your car roof, that’s a cargo bag. 

Cargo bags come in a range of sizes similar to cargo boxes and provide an excellent amount of extra cargo space to your car. Installing them is super easy as there is no need for a roof rack. All you do is strap the bag under the car roof to secure it. This is convenient but you will have to deal with straps sitting around your head while driving and on your journey. 

Being an avid surfer, I have soft racks for my car with the same strapping system. It does get in the way a little bit, but it’s actually fine and very manageable. One thing I do find is that the racks will rub on the car roof and mark it. 

Cargo bags are made from durable and waterproof materials and protect your belongings from both impact and bad weather just like cargo boxes but, they are likely to wear out a bit faster than cargo boxes, as hard plastic is far for durable than fabric. 

From a budget and storage perspective, cargo bags are far better than cargo boxes. They cost less and there is no need for a roof rack, saving you even more cash at the end of the day. When it comes to storage, you can remove the bag in seconds, fold it up, and put it in a draw at home, which is far easier than storing a large cargo box. 

Pros 

  • More affordable than cargo boxes 
  • Doesn’t require a roof rack for installation 
  • Provides a great amount of extra storage space 
  • Waterproof and impact-resistant to protect your belongings
  • Super easy to fold up and store away 
  • Easy installation you can do yourself 

Cons 

  • Not as secure and easier to break into than cargo boxes 
  • Not as durable and will wear out faster than cargo boxes 
  • You might have to drive with straps near your head 
  • More likely to scratch the roof of your car 

Cargo Bags Vs. Cargo Boxes – Which is best? 

Both cargo bags and cargo boxes solve the issue of needing extra storage space in or on your vehicle but which one is right for you? 

Space 

When it comes to space they are pretty much equal. You can find both cargo bags and boxes that match each other when it comes to capacity. But packing into a soft shell often gives you more wiggle room than a hard shell in my experience. 

Cost 

Cargo bags are more affordable than cargo boxes, and by a long shot if you don’t already have a roof rack. 

Protection & Security 

Cargo boxes are far more secure and will better protect your belongings than a cargo bag. Their hard shell makes them easy to lock and they have better impact resistance. 

Storage 

The great thing about a cargo bag is that you can fold it up and store it with ease. Whereas you’ll have to find a dedicated space for a cargo box, or just leave it on your car roof permanently. 

Which should you choose? 

From a convenience and budget perspective, cargo bags are the clear winner but from a security, protection, and durability standpoint, cargo boxes blow cargo bags out the water. 

If you plan on using roof storage often, then a cargo box makes the most sense. Whereas, if you only need extra car roof storage once or twice a year, a cargo bag is the best option in my eyes. 

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

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