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Thule Pulse Review

If you are searching for a bare-bones cargo carrier without bells and whistles, then this is a good choice
thule pulse cargo box review
Credit: Thule
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Price:  $650 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  Textured matte finish hides blemishes, easy to install
Cons:  No handle, only opens on one side, pricey
Manufacturer:   Thule
By David Wise ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 10, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
58
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 10
  • Ease of Use - 40% 5.0
  • Security - 30% 6.0
  • Quality - 20% 7.0
  • Appearance - 10% 6.0

Our Verdict

If you are looking for a plain and simple cargo box that can carry your stuff and doesn't have all the extra bells and whistles of the premium products, then the Thule Pulse might be a perfect choice. This box is quick to install or remove and can fit a considerable amount of gear. It also has a textured matte finish that does a better job hiding scuffs, scrapes, and dirt than some competitors' high-gloss finishes. Overall, this box is a little underwhelming for the name brand's price, but we also don't think you'll be disappointed if it ends up on top of your car.

Compare to Similar Products

 
thule pulse cargo box review
This Product
Thule Pulse
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price $650 List
Check Price at REI
$829 List
Check Price at REI
$579 List$660 List
$509.99 at Amazon
Check Price at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Textured matte finish hides blemishes, easy to installSleek, large capacity, dual-opening, flat bottomGreat value, easy to install, dual-openingRelatively inexpensive, easy to attach, convenient to useWell-priced, decent looking, fits long skis and snowboards
Cons No handle, only opens on one side, priceyNo integrated light, dedicated tool required for installLimited to <170cm skis/boards, not the sleekest lookWon’t fit longer skis, longer crossbar spans can be problematic for installNot the easiest to install, less convenient
Bottom Line If you are searching for a bare-bones cargo carrier without bells and whistles, then this is a good choiceIf you are looking for a premium cargo box that's easy to use with plenty of room, this is our strong recommendationIf you are searching for a cargo box without busting your budget, then we highly recommend this optionIf you are searching for a well-priced cargo box and don’t need to transport longer skis and boards, then this is a great optionIf you want to transport skis and snowboards on top of your car without spending a ton, this is a great option
Rating Categories Thule Pulse Yakima GrandTour 16 Yakima RocketBox Pr... Goplus Rooftop Carrier SportRack Horizon A...
Ease of Use (40%)
5.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
4.0
Security (30%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
Quality (20%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
Appearance (10%)
6.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
7.0
Specs Thule Pulse Yakima GrandTour 16 Yakima RocketBox Pr... Goplus Rooftop Carrier SportRack Horizon A...
Weight 36 lbs 51.5 lbs 40 lbs 25 lbs 25 lbs
Volume 16 cu ft 16 cu ft 14 cu ft 14 cu ft 11 cu ft
Dimensions 76" x 33" x 16.5" 79" x 35" x 18" 74" x 33" x 16" 63" x 31" x 15" 88.75" x 21" x 15.75"
Additional Available Sizes Alpine, M 18 cu ft Pro 11 (11 cu ft), Pro 12 (12 cu ft) n/a L (16 cu ft), XL (17 cu ft)
Maximum Ski Length 181 cm 180 cm 170 cm 140 cm 210 cm
Access Passenger Side Dual-Side Dual-side Dual-side Passenger side

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Pulse is pretty basic, but one nice feature, if you have other Thule products, is its one-key system compatible, allowing you to order a set of lock cores and have one key that unlocks all of your Thule vehicle accessories.

Performance Comparison


thule pulse cargo box review - the pulse is about as basic as you can get when it comes to cargo...
The Pulse is about as basic as you can get when it comes to cargo boxes.
Credit: David Wise

Ease of Use


Our first testing metric for the Thule Pulse focused on convenience and user-friendliness. The bulk of the score for this metric is based on the effort it takes to remove or install this cargo carrier on most cars, but we also looked at how easy the lid is to open and close and how much work it is to load or unload gear. The Pulse did decently well; we are definitely fans of how easy it is to install and remove this cargo box. It uses Thule quick-clamps for a tool-free install. This process usually only took us 5-10 minutes, with the hardest part being simply lifting the cargo box into position, particularly on taller vehicles. That said, this box is one of the lighest 16 cubic feet capacity boxes we have tested at 36 pounds.

That said, the clamps are slightly different than those found on the top-tier Thule models, as there is no indicator on the clamps that you have tightened them sufficiently. The top-tier models will audibly click when they are tightened with sufficient torque. It also isn't quite as easy to open or close the Pulse as it just has the smallest molded protrusion to act as a handle. However, the lid does open and close smoothly, and there are included straps for securing your gear in place, using the integrated brackets on the four quick clamps.

thule pulse cargo box review - we very much appreciate that they went with a one-piece clamp...
We very much appreciate that they went with a one-piece clamp compared to a U-bolt system.
Credit: David Wise

Our biggest complaint with the Pulse is that it can only be accessed from the vehicle's passenger side. While this isn't a huge problem, especially when you have the established habit of always going to that side of the car to get your gear, we did find ourselves missing the added flexibility of a dual-opening cargo box.

Security


We feel the Pulse did about average when it comes to security. Generally, we wouldn't trust any of these cargo carriers to withstand a determined thief for all that long. However, the Pulse does have what feels like a solid locking system. The clamps can only be loosened from the inside of the box, and it would take considerable force to bend or break them enough to remove the entire cargo carrier from your crossbars without access to the inside. The lock seems fairly common and run-of-the-mill, inspiring average confidence that our belongings would still be where we left them. However, there aren't any indicators on the Pulse to see if the box is unlocked or locked. Fortunately, the keys can't be removed when the lock is unlocked, minimizing the chance that you will accidentally forget to lock it.

Quality


We rated and scored the durability of each cargo box by looking at how floppy the lid is when opening and closing, as well as how well they stood up to the rigors of our comprehensive testing process. The Thule Pulse again scored quite well, meriting one of the better scores of the group.

This cargo box is one of the larger options available (we tested the 16 cubic foot size Large), so there is some inherent lid floppiness, but overall we were impressed with the general sturdiness and rigidity of the Pulse. It almost always lined up perfectly when we went to shut it, without any extra coaxing to get the latches to engage.

We also like that the textured matte finish does a better job concealing scuffs and scrapes than the high-gloss finishes on some of the premium models. However, we could see the quick-clamps wearing out a bit faster, as these are easier to overtighten with the lack of an audible click.

thule pulse cargo box review - the keys can&#039;t be removed when the cargo box is unlocked -- a very...
The keys can't be removed when the cargo box is unlocked -- a very handy feature.
Credit: David Wise

Appearance


Our fourth and final metric focused on the overall aesthetics of each cargo carrier, as just about everyone cares about style at least a little. Overall, we found the Pulse to be pretty plain in the looks department. It does have some sleek lines but is essentially a large matte black box on the roof of your car. It's not available in any other colors or styles but it at least doesn't clash with the appearance of most automobiles in our opinion. The textured finish can make it seem a bit cheap though.

Value


The Pulse is a decent value. It has all the key features that we want without any extras. While the price is a bit high, it's lower than many premium models.

Conclusion


If you are shopping for a cargo carrier that is easy to install or remove from your car and won't totally break the bank, then the Thule Pulse is a solid option. The quick-clamp system makes the installation process a breeze, and we found this cargo carrier to be spacious enough for most of our adventures. It looks fine and is decently secure and durable in our experience.

David Wise
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