Thule Force XT Rooftop Cargo BoxThule Force is a rooftop cargo box with a quick-mount system and dual-side opening.
Thule Motion XT Rooftop Cargo BoxThule Motion is a rooftop cargo box with a dual-side opening and a SlideLock system that makes it the most secure box of its kind.
Want to get a Thule cargo box but not sure which to pick? The two most popular models are Force and Motion and I’ll tell you all about them in this detailed comparison!
There are pros and cons to each cargo box, and one of them is certainly the right option for you. Read more about the technical specifications, unique and shared features, and pricing differences to figure out which Thule box is the better fit for you!
Thule Force and Motion look very much alike, with a few notable differences in their design, so let’s start with those.
The Motion box has a slightly lower end, as well as an angled back. The Force, on the other hand, has a slightly bumpier back end. But that’s not a bad thing – it lets you store bulkier gear even in this part of the cargo box, which you can’t do with the Motion. Also, the shape of the back end is actually the opposite of the Force – whereas the end of the Motion kind of tucks inside at a sharp angle, the Force box sticks out towards the end.
Both the Force and the Motion have cutouts in the back for the car antenna, so that’s one thing you don’t have to worry about when deciding between the two. Also, the angled back of the Motion means slightly better aerodynamics, but unless you plan to enter races with the car, that shouldn’t matter too much.
In terms of the actual box sizes, the Force is slightly smaller than the Motion. The Motion boxes are longer, wider, and narrower, but the internal volume and load capacity of both remain exactly the same.
However, the external dimensions don’t really impact the internal volume and gear capacity. More on that later, but for now, suffice it to say that there aren’t any benefits to buying the more expensive cargo box when it comes to just the amount of stuff you can store inside it.
On the other hand, it’s important to consider the box dimensions and measure them against your car. Make sure that the cargo box will fit nicely on the roof and don’t get anything that’s too big for your car.
Both the Force and the Motion are available in three staple sizes – L (16 cu ft), XL (18 cu ft), and XXL (22 cu ft). Also, both boxes come in one extra size that is designed for a specific purpose. The Thule Force is available in a Sport version, which features a narrower high-profile design with an 11 cu ft capacity.
The Motion box, on the other hand, features Alpine as the fourth size option. This box is designed for carrying ski equipment with a low-profile design and a capacity of 16 cu ft.
If you are not interested in the special versions of the boxes, you can go with either the Motion or the Force. The main three sizes have exactly the same gear capacity, so it ultimately comes down to other differences like price and color.
Both Thule cargo boxes feature dual side opening but they open in different ways.
With the Motion, there’s a SlideLock system with a key. The key automatically locks and unlocks the handle that opens the box, meaning that zero pressure is applied to the actual key.
The Force features a lock knob that you turn to unlock the box. There is no handle – instead, it’s enough to just turn the knob and you will be able to lift the entire top of the box. Some pressure is applied to the key and you should always be gentle with it, to avoid snapping it.
Both boxes have a safety feature that doesn’t let you take out the key until the cargo box is safely closed and locked. That’s an excellent feature since it eliminates the need to double-check whether you locked the cargo box.
The Motion also has a slight advantage of an audible click when you close the box. On top of that, you also have visual clues on the handle – when the box is still open, you can see red on the handle. But once you’ve closed the box properly, the red disappears and you can safely lock the cargo box.
You don’t have that with the Thule Force. The lid smoothly comes down over the base, without any clicks or visual cues. But it’s still easy to close the box – there’s no need to apply excessive pressure, the operation is smooth and silent, and you just need to turn the knob to lock the cargo box.
The interiors of these two Thule boxes are pretty much identical. There are no notable differences, apart from the shape and size that I’ve already pointed out earlier. Both the Motion and the Force feature six metal tie-down points in the smallest boxes. Also, both boxes come with nylon straps that let you secure your gear to the metal bars.
If you’re only worried about gear storage and you don’t care about any of the other specs then you might as well go with the Force. The boxes are identical in terms of load capacity and volume, and there aren’t any benefits to getting the more expensive box in that sense.
Another thing worth noting is that the amount of skis and snowboards you can store in the boxes doesn’t increase with the size. No matter which size of the cargo box you get, you’ll be able to fit between three and five pairs inside it. What changes is the length of the skis – the smallest box can store skis up to 175 cm, while the largest box gives you the option of packing 215 cm skis. That’s one of the key things to keep in mind, especially if you’re a tall person with some rather long skis.
One of the more obvious differences between the Motion and Force boxes is the finish. Thule Motion features a glossy finish, whereas Thule Force has a matte black finish. The Motion box is available in both grey and black colors with a glossy finish, whereas the Force box comes in only the AeroSkin design.
In general, the glossy finish of the Motion is considered more upscale, but it will ultimately come down to personal preference. Consider which would look better on your car – if you have a glossy car, then the Motion is certainly a more suitable option for you. But if you’re rocking a matte black wrap on your car, the Force will look much better on the roof.
There’s one more thing worth pointing out and it concerns the aerodynamic design of the Motion box. The lip is thinner on the sides and thicker on the front, while the lid is designed to overlap with the lip. This is to guarantee that no air can get in between the base and lid, making the Motion the safest box on the market, in terms of aerodynamic integrity.
The Force doesn’t have a thicker lip on the front, but there is still overlap between the lid and the base. It is a secure cargo box, but not quite as much as the Motion.
Both Thule boxes are equally easy to use and install. They both feature metal bars inside that you can use to secure luggage, ensuring that it stays attached to the box even in the event of a catastrophe. Both boxes are also easy to mount on your car and if you follow instructions to the letter, you should be able to finish the job quickly.
It’s worth noting that installing the cargo box on top of your car is a two-person job. The box is very heavy and keep in mind you must lift it above your car. If you drop it on top of the car with too much force, you could scratch the paint on your vehicle. It’s best to avoid that, so just get someone to help you with the installation.
Also, it’s best to take the locking mechanisms out of the box when you’re mounting it. They’re not secured to anything so they can slide around the box and scratch it. Then, center the box on top of the rails – it shouldn’t interfere with the trunk and it shouldn’t obstruct the car antenna in any way.
When you’re sure that the box is mounted exactly how you want it, just secure it in place with those locking mechanisms. Adjust the slider so that you can line up the circles on the slider and the lock, and just snap the lock in place. The teeth should be on either side of the rail. From there, just turn the plastic knob until the lock is tightly secured – make sure that the teeth are comfortably hugging the rail, but don’t make it too tight.
One of the more obvious differences between the two rooftop cargo carriers is the price point. With both the Force and the Motion, the exact price depends on the size of the carrier.
Thule Force is generally the more affordable option. The prices start at some $630 for the smallest carrier and go up to a little over $1,000 for the XXL one.
Thule Motion carriers are more expensive, even though the actual carriers have the same capacity as the Force ones. The smallest Motion cargo carrier will set you back some $730, while the largest option runs for a staggering $1,600+.
If you are on a tighter budget and you’re just looking for the more affordable option, you should definitely go with the Thule Force. It’s significantly cheaper for the same cargo capacity and the difference is especially notable with the largest carriers. With the smallest boxes, it’s only about a $100 difference, and that’s not that bad for a few new features, better aerodynamics, and a glossy finish. But it’s a $600+ difference with the biggest boxes, and I honestly doubt that the different locking mechanism is worth that much.
Thule Force and Motion are both great rooftop cargo boxes. They have a lot in common – they’re available in three same sizes that feature identical size volumes and load capacities, so how are you supposed to choose between the two?
Easily – if you’re on a tighter budget, the Force is clearly the better option. It’s between $100 and $600 cheaper than the Motion depending on the size and you should factor that in when making the final decision.
But what if money is not an option – do you just go with the more expensive box? You could, but first, consider how it would look on your car. The Motion is available in gray and black, both with a glossy finish. The Force, on the other hand, is available only in matte black – which would go better with your car?
The differences between the two boxes are so minimal that they don’t need to impact your decision. If all you want is a rooftop box for luggage then do yourself a favor and get the Force. But if you’re into technical specs, aerodynamics, and shiny cars, then the Motion sounds like a great option for you – as long as you’re okay with the higher price tag.