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The best cargo box

Pay attention to overhead clearance when using a cargo box. Remember the extra height you've added when going into parking garages or other low-clearance areas.
Pay attention to overhead clearance when using a cargo box. Remember the extra height you've added when going into parking garages or other low-clearance areas.

Does it always feel like you're short on space when it comes to packing the car for a trip? If so, then you could probably use a cargo box. Cargo boxes attach to the roof of your car and can hold anything that you want to bring along on vacation or road trip.

If you think a cargo box is for you, then read this helpful buying guide on how to choose the best one. We've even provided reviews of a few of our favorites, including our pick for Best of the Best, the Thule Force Cargo box.

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Considerations when choosing cargo boxes

Box type

The three most common types of cargo carriers are sport cargo boxes, luggage cargo boxes, and cargo bags. Sport cargo boxes are designed for skis, paddles, and other sporting equipment. Luggage cargo boxes are meant to transport suitcases, as the name would suggest. Cargo bags are soft and lightweight alternatives that are less expensive than a cargo box, but also less durable.

Weight limit

Think about how much cargo you want to pack into a cargo box before purchasing. Most of them can carry between 90 and 110 pounds. However, you'll have to check the manufacturer's details to find out exactly how much your cargo box can carry.

Size and volume

You'll have to choose between small, medium, large, XL, and XXL cargo boxes. Most cargo boxes range between 11 and 22 cubic feet. Keep in mind, though, that larger cargo boxes will be heavier and create more wind resistance when driving.

Vehicle compatibility

Most manufacturer recommendations for cargo boxes will state whether that box will work with your vehicle. Not all cargo boxes are compatible with all vehicles, so know the facts before deciding on one.

Frequency of use

If you plan to use a cargo box regularly, then you probably won't need to install and remove it often, as you may just leave it on the vehicle. If this is the case, then ease of installation may not be an issue.

Gas mileage

Keep in mind that using a heavy cargo box can have an impact on your gas mileage. If fuel consumption is a concern for you, then look for a cargo box that is lighter and more aerodynamic. This will help to reduce your fuel costs in the long run.

Ease of access

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Some cargo boxes are easier to open and close than others. Try to find one that has a well-designed access feature, allowing you to add and remove things with minimal effort. Obviously, the heavier the cargo box, the more difficult it will likely be to open.

Features

Dual-open feature

Cargo boxes that open on both sides are beneficial because it makes accessing your items inside much less complicated. These are perfect for those people who want easy access to their items at any time.

Single-hand access

Single-hand access is a convenient feature on some cargo boxes. It means that once you open the cargo box, the lid stays up, without a need for you to hold it open. This feature works similar to a car hood that has a hydraulic arm that holds it open.

Price

The majority of cargo boxes cost between $100 and $600. This price range covers everything from small cargo bags, up to an XXL cargo box. While cargo bags are on the lower end of the price range, cargo box prices are directly related to their size. The larger the cargo box, the more expensive it costs.

FAQ

Q. What's the maximum weight limit of a cargo box?

A. Although the exact answer depends on the individual cargo box, most will hold up to approximately 110 pounds.

Q. Can I get a cargo box for any vehicle?

A. Cargo boxes only work with cars that have a roof rack. If you don't have a roof rack on your vehicle, then you won't be able to use a cargo box.

Cargo boxes we recommend

Best of the best: Thule Force Cargo box

Our take: This aerodynamic cargo box has enough space for all of your items, and the durability to protect them.

What we like: The shell is made of multiple layers of ABS plastic, making it light and extremely tough.

What we dislike: Some models from 2013 and 2014 had a manufacturing defect.

Best bang for your buck: Thule Sidekick Rooftop Cargo Box

Our take: A great value option. Not as spacious as others, but also not as expensive.

What we like: This model is easy to secure to your vehicle and does a good job of keeping moisture out.

What we dislike: Not as well built as some of the competition.

Our take: Expensive, but worth the price for such a durable and well-designed model.

What we like: Made of 80% recycled ABS plastic.

What we dislike: Some suitcases are hard to insert because of small 13.5" opening.

Adam Reeder is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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