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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
Photo: Thule
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Price:  $530 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Textured matte finish hides blemishes, easy to install
Cons:  No handle, only opens on one side
Manufacturer:   Thule
By David Wise ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 5, 2021
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59
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 11
  • Ease of Use - 40% 5
  • Durability - 25% 7
  • Security - 20% 6
  • Appearance - 15% 6

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 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 at hiding scuffs, scrapes, and dirt than the high-gloss finishes of some of the competitors.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Thule Pulse
This Product
Thule Pulse
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
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$699 List
Check Price at REI
$599.00 at REI
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$460 List$340 List
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54
Star Rating
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Pros Textured matte finish hides blemishes, easy to installSleek, large capacity, dual-opening, flat bottomGreat handle, cool appearance, less expensiveRelatively inexpensive, easy to attach, convenient to useInexpensive, decent looking, fits long skis and snowboards
Cons No handle, only opens on one sideNo integrated light, dedicated tool required for installFrustrating installationWon’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 recommendationAn exceptional value because of its top-notch user friendly designIf you are searching for bargain 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 Skybox 16 Ca... Goplus Rooftop Carrier SportRack Horizon A...
Ease Of Use (40%)
5.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
4.0
Durability (25%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
Security (20%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
Appearance (15%)
6.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
Specs Thule Pulse Yakima GrandTour 16 Yakima Skybox 16 Ca... Goplus Rooftop Carrier SportRack Horizon A...
Weight (lbs) 36 lb 51.50 lb 47 lb 25 lb 25 lb
Volume (Cubic Feet) 16 cu ft 16 cu ft 16 cu ft 14 cu ft 11 cu ft
Size (Inches - L x W x H) 76" x 33" x 16.5" 79" x 35" x 18" 81" x 36" x 15" 63" x 31" x 15" 88.75" x 21" x 15.75"
Additional Sizes Alpine, M, L 18 cu ft Lo, 12 cu ft, 18 cu ft, and 21 cu ft n/a L (16 cu ft), XL (17 cu ft)
Maximum Ski Length 181 cm 180 cm 185cm 140 cm 210 cm
Box Opening Passenger Side Dual-Side Dual-side Dual-side Passenger side

Our Analysis and Test Results

One nice feature about this cargo carrier, if you have other Thule products, is its one-key system compatible, allowing you to order a set of lock cores to have one key that unlocks all of your Thule vehicle accessories.

Performance Comparison


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.
Photo: David Wise

Ease of Use


Our first testing metric for the Thule Pulse focused on how convenient and user-friendly this rooftop cargo carrier is. The bulk of the score is based on the effort it takes to remove or install this cargo carrier from most cars, but we did also look 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, earning a score just above average.


We are huge fans of how easy it is to install or 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.

However, the clamps are slightly different than those found on the top-tier Thule models, as there is no indicator on the Pulse’s clamps that you have tightened them sufficiently. The top-tier models will audibly click when they are tightened with sufficient torque.

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.
Photo: David Wise

It also isn’t quite as easy to open or close this cargo carrier, 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.

However, our biggest complaint with the Pulse when it comes to ease of use is the fact that it can only be accessed from the passenger side of the vehicle. 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.

Durability


We rated and scored the durability of each cargo box by looking at how floppy the lid is when opening and closing each container, as well as how they handled 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 so there is some inherent lid floppiness but we overall were impressed with the general sturdiness and rigidity of the Pulse. It almost always lines up perfectly when you go to shut it, without any extra coaxing to get the latches to engage.

We also like that the textured matte finish does a bit better of a job at 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.

The keys can'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.
Photo: David Wise

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, earning it an average score.


Right off the bat, we do like that 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 itself 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.

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 small amount. Overall, we found the Pulse to be pretty plain in the looks department, earning it a score in the middle of the group.


While the Pulse does have some sleek lines, it 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 good value in our books. It has all the key features that we want without any extras, with a lower than average price tag.

Conclusion


If you are shopping for a cargo carrier that is easy to install or remove from your car and won’t break the bank, then the Thule Pulse is a solid option. The quick-clamps systems make the installation process a breeze and we found this cargo carrier to be more than spacious enough for the vast majority of our adventures. It looks fine and appears to be decently secure and durable in our opinion. Even better, it typically retails for less than the top-tier models, saving you more money in your budget for buying gear to load inside.

David Wise