Reviews You Can Rely On

The 5 Best Cargo Boxes

We bought and compared the best cargo boxes from Thule, Yakima, SportRack, and more to find the ideal storage solution for you and your vehicle
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Best Cargo Box Review (Some of the boxes in our lineup. From left to right: Yakima SkyBox, Yakima ShowCase, Thule Motion XT, Thule Force...)
Some of the boxes in our lineup. From left to right: Yakima SkyBox, Yakima ShowCase, Thule Motion XT, Thule Force, SportRack Vista, Thule Sidekick
Credit: Jenna Ammerman
By Lauren DeLaunay and David Wise  ⋅  Nov 3, 2023

The Best Cargo Boxes


We've tested and purchased close to 20 different cargo boxes in the past 9 years. For this review, we looked at the 9 best models and tested them head-to-head to find out which rooftop cargo-carrying solution came out on top. Our gear junkies have driven thousands of miles with these boxes on different vehicles, filled to the brim with all manner of gear, passing through deserts, mountains, and many landscapes in between. Read on to see which cargo box can carry the most gear, which is the most secure, and which is the best if you are shopping on a tighter budget.

Whether you're packing up your favorite travel bags and all your camping gear before heading out on a road trip or climbing trip, or traveling to a new beautiful location to ski or snowboard, a cargo box can help you stay organized and maximize space inside your vehicle. The more dialed-in your car set-up is, the more you can focus on enjoying the open road and the adventures awaiting you at a new destination. We've also tested the top-rated bike racks if you want to bring your bike along, too.

Editor's Note: Our cargo box review was updated on November 3, 2023, to offer alternative recommendations to our award winners.

Top 9 Cargo Boxes - Test Results

Displaying 6 - 9 of 9
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Awards Best Buy Award  Best Buy Award  
Price $598.95 at Amazon
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$649.95 at Amazon
$450 List
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$400 List
Overall Score
65
58
53
49
Star Rating
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Pros Great value, easy to install, dual-openingTextured matte finish hides blemishes, easy to installWell-priced, decent looking, fits long skis and snowboardsSimple design, lots of room, decent price
Cons Limited to <170cm skis/boards, not the sleekest lookNo handle, only opens on one side, priceyNot the easiest to install, less convenientAwkward rear opening, flimsy lid
Bottom Line If you are searching for a cargo box without busting your budget, then we highly recommend this optionIf you are searching for a bare-bones cargo carrier without bells and whistles, then this is a good choiceIf you want to transport skis and snowboards on top of your car without spending a ton, this is a great optionThis is a great value buy with a simple design and functional features
Rating Categories Yakima RocketBox Pr... Thule Pulse SportRack Horizon A... SportRack Vista XL
Ease of Use (40%) Sort Icon
6.0
5.0
4.0
4.0
Security (30%)
7.0
6.0
6.0
6.0
Quality (20%)
7.0
7.0
6.0
5.0
Appearance (10%)
6.0
6.0
7.0
5.0
Specs Yakima RocketBox Pr... Thule Pulse SportRack Horizon A... SportRack Vista XL
Weight 40 lbs 36 lbs 25 lbs 28 lbs
Volume 14 cu ft 16 cu ft 11 cu ft 18 cu ft
Dimensions 74" x 33" x 16" 76" x 33" x 16.5" 88.75" x 21" x 15.75" 63" x 38" x 19"
Additional Available Sizes Pro 11 (11 cu ft), Pro 12 (12 cu ft) Alpine, M L (16 cu ft), XL (17 cu ft) n/a
Maximum Ski Length 170 cm 181 cm 210 cm n/a
Access Dual-side Passenger Side Passenger side Rear


Best Overall Rooftop Box


Yakima GrandTour 16


75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Use 8.0
  • Security 7.0
  • Quality 7.0
  • Appearance 8.0
Capacity: 16 cu ft | Box Opening: Dual-side
REASONS TO BUY
Sleek
Easy to use
Quick to install
REASONS TO AVOID
Extra tool required for install

If you want the best all-around cargo box, the Yakima GrandTour 16 is your ticket to ride. This cargo carrier is one of the easiest models to install and to use — we particularly like the smooth interior that keeps your gear from getting caught on anything during loading or unloading. It opens on both sides, is quite durable and secure, and looks good on most cars. The clamps also have a wider range than most, allowing this box to secure to more crossbar sizes and shapes. The lid isn't floppy, and operating the latches and locks is straightforward. We have tested plenty of cargo boxes that are annoying to operate, but this one flat-out works nicely and comes in at a reasonable price.

One downside to the smooth interior is the need for a separate tool to tighten or loosen the clamps. That said, Yakima includes a handy torque wrench for this, and we like this wrench — it makes installation convenient and produces a clicking sound to indicate that tightening is just right. Yakima also has a holder for the tool inside the cargo box, so it can live safely and conveniently inside. However, the possibility of losing it remains, though replacements can be purchased from Yakima, should that need arise. If you want a super premium cargo box, we recommend the Thule Vector, but it costs nearly three times the price of the GrandTour. Overall, we really enjoyed testing and using the Yakima GrandTour and highly recommend it as our top choice for anyone seeking a well-designed solution for their rooftop storage needs.

Read more: Yakima GrandTour 16 review

cargo box - the sharp-looking yakima grandtour is one of the best cargo boxes...
The sharp-looking Yakima GrandTour is one of the best cargo boxes we've ever tested.
Credit: David Wise

Best Bang for the Buck


Yakima RocketBox Pro 14


65
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Use 6.0
  • Security 7.0
  • Quality 7.0
  • Appearance 6.0
Capacity: 14 cu ft | Box Opening: Dual-side
REASONS TO BUY
Convenient
Feels secure
Dual-side opening
REASONS TO AVOID
Not the most stylish

The Yakima RocketBox Pro 14 is a great bargain buy, perfect for anyone wanting an all-around excellent cargo carrier without paying the high price of a top-tier model. This roof box is very quick and easy to install on most vehicles and convenient and easy to use. It has dual-side openings –- an absolute must, in our opinion –- and feels very solid, secure, and well-made. The matte finish and dimpled texture also do an excellent job of hiding scrapes and scuffs.

However, a few concessions were made to keep the price lower — as is typically the case. The overall size of this cargo carrier is a bit smaller than the premium models, meaning the maximum length of gear you can carry is around 170 cm. It also looks a bit stubbier and less sleek and stylish overall than some of its pricier counterparts. Despite that, we would highly recommend this product to anyone who needs additional vehicular gear storage and doesn't want to make too many sacrifices with respect to quality and budget. However, for a few bucks more, the Thule Pulse gives you the capability to carry skis up to 181cm.

Read more: Yakima RocketBox Pro 14 review

cargo box - if you&#039;re shopping on a budget, yakima&#039;s rocketbox pro is a great...
If you're shopping on a budget, Yakima's RocketBox Pro is a great roof box.
Credit: David Wise

Another Solid Budget Option


Goplus Rooftop Carrier


64
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Use 7.0
  • Security 6.0
  • Quality 6.0
  • Appearance 6.0
Capacity: 14 cu ft | Box Opening: Dual-side
REASONS TO BUY
Convenient to use
Quick to install
REASONS TO AVOID
Can't hold long skis or boards
Small openings for water intrusion

If you are shopping for a rooftop cargo carrier and aren't routinely moving long items like skis around, we think the Goplus Rooftop Carrier is a great option. It has many of the top-tier models' convenience features, making it very easy to use and install while costing you less. It has a dual-opening lid so you can access your gear from both sides of the car, and the quick clamps make installation and removal a breeze. The low weight of just 25 pounds helps make installing it atop a vehicle easier, too. This is one of the lightest boxes in our lineup and the shortest from front to back, so for those needing to install the box on their own or have a short car, this could be an ideal pick.

As for compromises, again, this cargo carrier is short compared to the other options. It has a maximum ski/board length of around 140 cm, meaning most adult skis will not fit. (For a budget box that will fit longer skis, we recommend the SportRack Horizon Alpine.) Some cars will also have too wide of a crossbar span to attach this carrier to if they aren't adjustable. Additionally, the quick clamps don't have an indicator to show that they are sufficiently tight –- other models have an audible click that lets you know when they are clamped securely. Still, this is a great option if you don't need a cargo carrier for skis and are hoping to save some cash.

Read more: GoPlus Rooftop Carrier review

cargo box - the goplus is a great way to stash your gear if funds are tight, but...
The GoPlus is a great way to stash your gear if funds are tight, but be warned - it won't fit your skis.
Credit: David Wise

Best Bargain for a Basic, Long Option


SportRack Horizon Alpine


53
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Use 4.0
  • Security 6.0
  • Quality 6.0
  • Appearance 7.0
Capacity: 11 cu ft | Box Opening: Passenger Side
REASONS TO BUY
Fantastic bang for the buck
Easily holds longer pieces of gear
REASONS TO AVOID
Installation system can be finicky
Higher potential for water intrusion

Products in this gear category are expensive. If the price tag of most of them is still outside your budget, then the SportRack Horizon Alpine is the cargo carrier for you. The Horizon Alpine is a bare-bones product that can't compare to the top-tier products in terms of convenience features but retails at a fraction of the cost of those models. This budget box is decent-looking and feels very sturdy and durable. It's relatively painless to get on and off a car once you get the hang of it, and it can hold skis/snowboards up to 210 cm in length — a rarity for budget cargo carriers. It also only weighs 20 pounds, which is a plus for those who may not have a buddy to help lift it on and off the vehicle.

While the Horizon Alpine will get your stuff from Point A to Point B, the low price means you'll miss out on some premium features. The lid only opens on one side, and there's no way to reconfigure it. It lacks any integrated straps for securing your gear inside, and the lid is also a bit floppy. It's not the sharpest box on the block, but we figure that'd not first on your radar if you're looking at budget models. Despite the drawbacks, this is still a great option if you don't want to spend a whole paycheck on a cargo solution for your car.

Read more: SportRack Horizon Alpine review

cargo box - the sportrack&#039;s hybrid mounting system has a bit of a learning curve.
The SportRack's hybrid mounting system has a bit of a learning curve.
Credit: David Wise

Best Luxury Option


Thule Vector


75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Use 8.0
  • Security 7.0
  • Quality 7.0
  • Appearance 8.0
Capacity: 13 cu ft | Box Opening: Dual-Side
REASONS TO BUY
Has all the bells and whistles
Very sleek and stylish
Super easy to install
REASONS TO AVOID
Very expensive

If you are looking for the peak of luxury when searching for a new cargo box, then we highly recommend the Thule Vector. This slim and sleek roof box has a much more striking appearance than most of its counterparts, standing out from the rest of the group. It includes an exterior cover, an interior liner, and two motion-activated interior lights. It's also very easy to install and remove and is exceptionally convenient to load or unload gear with its dual-side opening. The Vector feels very sturdy and secure and has a look that complements almost any vehicle.

Unfortunately, this top-tier performance is paired with a top-tier price. This roof box is one of the most expensive options we have tested and is likely outside the budget for many people. It is a great premium product that received a top score, and we would highly recommend it to anyone who wants the best and will pay a premium price, but we think most people would be just as happy with some of the less expensive options, including the Yakima GrandTour 16, which scored neck and neck with the Vector.

Read more: Thule Vector review

cargo box - this cargo carrier has ample room for all sorts of gear.
This cargo carrier has ample room for all sorts of gear.
Credit: Kat Elliott

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
75
Yakima GrandTour 16
Best Overall Rooftop Box
$879
Editors' Choice Award
75
Thule Vector
Best Luxury Option
$2,400
Top Pick Award
74
Thule Motion XT XL
$950
70
Thule Force XT XL
$800
65
Yakima RocketBox Pro 14
Best Bang for the Buck
$599
Best Buy Award
64
Goplus Rooftop Carrier
Another Solid Budget Option
$640
Best Buy Award
58
Thule Pulse
$650
53
SportRack Horizon Alpine
Best Bargain for a Basic, Long Option
$450
Best Buy Award
49
SportRack Vista XL
$400

cargo box - we buy, install, and hit the open road with every model we assess...
We buy, install, and hit the open road with every model we assess and review.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Why Trust GearLab


We've been testing and reviewing cargo boxes for years now and constantly seek new and notable models to add to our review. To ensure objectivity, we purchase all the products we test and never accept any free products or incentives from manufacturers. We began testing by unpacking and assembling each model while paying close attention to how easy each one is to install and load with gear. Each box was left on for several weeks and driven for hundreds of miles. We evaluated how user-friendly each one was for day-to-day use and noted any significant changes in vehicle handling and fuel efficiency. The boxes were loaded with a wide variety of equipment, from sleeping bags to climbing ropes to skis. Throughout testing, we kept track of any visible wear and tried to find flaws in durability.

We divided our testing process into four weighted rating metrics:
  • Ease of Use (40% of total score weighting)
  • Security (30% weighting)
  • Quality (20% weighting)
  • Appearance (10% weighting)

Our cargo box testing team is headed up by Lauren DeLaunay and David Wise. Lauren has lived out of her van for several years and taken these boxes all over the country, filling them with gear for many kinds of trips. David lives in Tahoe and spends a significant amount of time transporting skis, snowboards, and camping equipment throughout the year. In addition to performing comprehensive real-world testing, David also contributes via his background in mechanical engineering when ranking and scoring each model's aerodynamics and structural design.

cargo box - assessing these models meant lots of measurements and road trips...
Assessing these models meant lots of measurements and road trips. Our testers were more than happy to load them up with gear and hit the road.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Analysis and Test Results


To rank and score these products and see which cargo-carrying box is truly worthy of being crowned the best, we began by doing extensive research, looking at the best products currently on the market. We then picked out the most promising cargo carriers to purchase and test head-to-head. We developed a comprehensive testing plan, evaluating and judging the performance of each product on everything from its ease of installation to how well its finish hides scrapes and scratches. Our assessments can help you find the right cargo box for your needs.


Value


The Yakima RocketBox Pro 14 and the Goplus Rooftop Carrier are our favorite inexpensive cargo boxes for those on a budget. The RocketBox is very easy to use and feels well-made and secure. We love the convenience of the dual openings and the tool-free installation. The Goplus is a great option if you want to save some cash and don't need to carry extra-long items. However, both of these boxes aren't necessarily the most stylish options out there.

At the top of the line, the Yakima GrandTour is a premium model that comes with a heftier price tag — though still a price point we consider quite fair. We like how easy to use and how sleek and stylish it is, but it's certainly more of a financial commitment for most people unless you are planning on using a cargo box all the time, not just for the occasional road trip.

cargo box - the classy yakima grandtour has an almost mirror-like finish.
The classy Yakima GrandTour has an almost mirror-like finish.
Credit: David Wise

Ease of Use


Whether you plan to use your cargo box occasionally or throw it on your roof and leave it there for months, there are a few ways in which some products are considerably easier to use than others. For this metric, we looked at the assembly process, which included mounting, opening, and closing the box. This helped us develop a picture of how much or little effort was required when using these boxes on a daily basis. Overall, we found this metric to be the biggest factor when selecting a cargo box, so it is weighted the most heavily regarding each product's overall score.


When it comes to ease of use, the Yakima GrandTour, Thule Motion XT XL, and Thule Vector all rose to the top in our tests. We love that all three of these cargo carriers come close to fully assembled, just requiring you to place the clamps into position and thread the straps through — no inserting locking cores or attaching lids.

cargo box - we tested, rated and ranked all the top cargo carriers on the market.
We tested, rated and ranked all the top cargo carriers on the market.
Credit: David Wise

The mounting system on the Thule Motion XT makes installation a breeze and is usually accomplished in under five minutes. We spent more time trying to locate where the manufacturer had taped the key than actually mounting it the first time. The lid opens from either side and is decently sturdy. The only missing add-on, in our opinion, is a light inside the box, though this can easily be added aftermarket for a low price. That said, we found the Thule Vector and Yakima GrandTour a bit easier to install than the Motion when using aftermarket, larger square cross bars. The Motion clamps barely fit around the bars, almost giving us cause for concern, compared to the clamps on the GrandTour that easily fit around them. The Vector has a mounting system similar to the Motion and has all the features you could want, including an integrated light and an interior pad. It even has an exterior dust cover, along with a dual-opening lid.

cargo box - the thule vector is one of the best boxes we have seen but it might...
The Thule Vector is one of the best boxes we have seen but it might blow your budget. The mounting system is excellent, but similar to that of the Thule Motion XT, which costs significantly less.
Credit: Kat Elliott

The Yakima GrandTour also opens on both sides and is very easy to install and remove. It uses a slightly different system with a single-piece clamp that requires a tool to install (included) but has the benefit of being much flatter on the inside than other Thule. The smoother interior surface (lacking awkward knobs or protrusions) makes loading and moving gear throughout the cargo box easier. There is even integrated storage for the torque wrench inside the cargo box.

cargo box - the single-piece clamp of the yakima grandtour can fit a variety of...
The single-piece clamp of the Yakima GrandTour can fit a variety of different crossbars.
Credit: David Wise

The Goplus Rooftop Carrier and the Thule Force XT XL fairly quick and easy to install, with dual-opening lids. The Force features the same PowerClick mounting system as the more expensive Thule models but lacks the more convenient locking systems featured on those models. Still, we appreciate having this added perk.

cargo box - the powerclick mounting system on the force is one of the easiest to...
The PowerClick mounting system on the Force is one of the easiest to use that we have seen to date.
Credit: David Wise

cargo box - a close up of the lock on the force xt.
A close up of the lock on the Force XT.
Credit: Steven Tata

The GoPlus Carrier also features quick clamps and opens on both sides. The quick clamps don't permanently mount into the box, but they are very user-friendly, making the installation process quick and easy. However, the clamps don't have an indicator to tell you when you have tightened them sufficiently. Still, we like that the lid is secure and easy to open and close. The shorter length means it is easier for one person to install on a car, but crossbars with larger spans may not be compatible.

cargo box - the goplus is a great bargain option, but its installation process...
The GoPlus is a great bargain option, but its installation process is not as smooth as the premium cargo boxes. If you won't frequently remove and re-install your cargo box, though, this is not a major issue.
Credit: David Wise

The Yakima RocketBox is also above-average regarding ease of use. This cargo carrier has a solid handle and is dual-opening, making it very easy to load or unload with gear. The installation clamps can be a bit finicky, especially with larger crossbars. We like the tool-free installation, but it can be a bit harder to judge if they have been tightened sufficiently.

cargo box - the rocketbox pro 14 is very quick and easy to install in our...
The RocketBox Pro 14 is very quick and easy to install in our experience.
Credit: David Wise

Security


The security of each cargo box was our next concern. Everyone wants to be confident that a roof box will keep their gear as safe as possible, though a determined thief could probably get into any of these products with enough motivation and the right tools. We awarded the most points to carriers that have simple and easy-to-operate security systems that seem durable enough to resist break-ins and solid enough that we would entrust them with our beloved gear.


In all honesty, all the products in our lineup are relatively equal, and we were never worried about security. In all these models, it is impossible to remove the key without the box being properly latched and secured, which we consider a crucial feature. That being said, some of the boxes we tested have useful indicators to let you know if the box is latched properly or not before trying to remove the key. The Thule Motion XT and Thule Vector have a red indicator, and the Yakima GrandTour has nice large handles that make closing everything up securely easy and obvious. These features inspire extra confidence that your belongings are safe, so we boosted their scores in this metric accordingly.

cargo box - we found the motion xt to be one of the more secure offerings in our...
We found the Motion XT to be one of the more secure offerings in our lineup.
Credit: David Wise

The remainder of the boxes, like the RocketBox Pro 14, are all average in terms of security. They have factory-installed locks but lack any extra indicators or ergonomic handles. Still, they are all easy to latch and unlatch and won't permit the key to be removed while the box is unlocked, preventing you from forgetting to close it or locking your keys in the box.

cargo box - the rocketbox pro 14 doesn&#039;t have an indicator to show if it is...
The RocketBox Pro 14 doesn't have an indicator to show if it is unlocked or locked but won't let you remove the keys if the box is unlocked.
Credit: David Wise

While these boxes all have locking mechanisms, we are sure that each model could be broken into without too much effort if someone really wanted and had the proper tools, so you might want to think twice about leaving particularly pricey gear in your unsupervised cargo box for extended periods.

Quality


All of these products are made from similar materials, so we looked at the details for clues about their longevity. We drove each box around for weeks without any signs of wear and tear, so this category is primarily concerned with structural integrity and weather resistance. For the most part, every box in this review passed the rain and wind tests, which were easy to account for in the Eastern Sierra in springtime, but some had more questionable design features than others. We know you want to invest in a long-lasting roof box that you can count on for countless future adventures, so we assessed this metric with a critical eye.


One of the main indicators of quality for a cargo box is the overall rigidity of the frame, particularly with the lid. We looked for fairly rigid lids that aligned the latching mechanisms without issue. We also looked at the construction and design of the clamps and locking systems, as well as the amount of potential water intrusion. Finally, we assessed any wear and tear or other damage that each cargo carrier might have experienced after our rough and tumble-testing process.

We found the Thule Vector, Yakima GrandTour, Thule Motion XT XL, Thule Force XT XL, Yakima RocketBox Pro 14, and Thule Pulse all to be the frontrunners in terms of quality. These cargo carriers all held up very well to our testing process and feel solid and sturdy, with a lid that opens with minimal flopping. They are some of the most resistant to water intrusion in our experience as well, and the different clamps and latches all feel well-designed.

cargo box - we found the components on the thule motion xt to be very well-made...
We found the components on the Thule Motion XT to be very well-made and of high quality.
Credit: David Wise

In general, we found that most of these products will offer adequate protection for your gear. Our belongings were usually dry even after driving through heavy rainstorms or getting sprayed with a garden hose on full strength for 20 minutes, one of our rigorous simulated weather tests.

We put these cargo boxes through the wringer, testing their water...
We put these cargo boxes through the wringer, testing their water resistance in all sorts of inclement weather.
The Force keeps our gear dry after a springtime rainstorm.
The Force keeps our gear dry after a springtime rainstorm.

We are a bit more concerned about water resistance regarding the SportRack Vista XL and SportRack Horizon Alpine. These cargo carriers mount to roof racks with a set of U-bolts and come with a series of pre-drilled holes to accommodate different crossbar spacing. This means that there are multiple holes on the bottom, consequently leaving multiple points for water to get in. To remedy this, these SportRack products include vinyl stickers to cover the unused holes. These stickers performed fine during testing, but we wonder if their effectiveness at keeping water might degrade over time.

cargo box - the yakima mounting system is waterproof and durable.
The Yakima mounting system is waterproof and durable.
Credit: Lauren DeLaunay

Regarding water resistance, the clamps on the Goplus Carrier are mediocre. The clamps push through a slit in a piece of rubber sheeting, which probably provides a better seal than the vinyl stickers, but it's not as good as the premium models with quick clamps that have a sliding seal.

cargo box - the quick clamps are a separate part of the goplus cargo box - a...
The quick clamps are a separate part of the GoPlus cargo box - a somewhat unique feature.
Credit: David Wise

None of these boxes showed any significant signs of damage through normal wear and tear, though most showed a handful of scrapes and scuffs from repeatedly installing and uninstalling them. One tester managed to bend two of the four mounting clips by accidentally backing a Thule box into a cement wall, but there wasn't major damage to the cargo carrier.

Glossier models like the Yakima GrandTour and Thule Motion XT XL tended to show scuffs and scrapes easier than the matte or satin-finished models — something to consider if you frequently store your cargo carrier off of your vehicle.

cargo box - all components of the motion xt are high quality and reliable...
All components of the Motion XT are high quality and reliable, though the shiny exterior is more prone to showing wear and tear.
Credit: David Wise

Appearance


Although we tend to prioritize function over form for most categories, we do recognize that cargo boxes can be an eyesore and are something you'll have to see daily while on your vehicle. Testing for this metric was fairly subjective and based upon a group consensus.


There were no shocking designs in this review; all the products we tested generally look like what we'd expect from cargo boxes these days. They did come in a surprising amount of finishes, though, and we had clear preferences. We find the futuristic look of the Thule Vector and the gloss black appearance of the Yakima GrandTour appealing. However, these do show dirt and scrapes a bit more readily.

cargo box - the yakima grandtour box has a very glossy finish.
The Yakima GrandTour box has a very glossy finish.
Credit: David Wise

If you're going for a more muted aesthetic, the Thule Force or Horizon Alpine might be better options. We find that we generally prefer the matte finish for our adventures. A matte finish also hides dead bugs well — a problem we hadn't initially thought of. Scratches and scuffs are notably more subtle on the matte finishes as well, a problem that glossy models struggled with after many miles.

cargo box - we love matte black. left: yakima skybox (now discontinued), right:...
We love matte black. Left: Yakima SkyBox (now discontinued), right: Thule Force
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Additionally, we appreciate that some models, like the Thule Motion XT and Thule Vector, are available in multiple colors, letting you pick the best match for your car. This gives a definite boost for versatility and personalization.

cargo box - the matte finish does a better job of hiding blemishes than the...
The matte finish does a better job of hiding blemishes than the glossy finish on the base, maintaining the elevated style of the Thule Vector.
Credit: Kat Elliott

We weren't the biggest fans of the surface texture and finish on the shorter, stubbier cargo boxes. The textured finish on the SportRack Vista seemed a little cheap to us, to the point where we felt it might detract from the appearance of nicer cars. We liked the dimpled finish on the Goplus a bit more.

cargo box - the goplus cargo carrier is as secure as most cargo boxes and opens...
The GoPlus cargo carrier is as secure as most cargo boxes and opens from both sides, a feature we appreciate.
Credit: Cindy Wise

The Yakima RocketBox 14 also shares a dimpled matte texture that is convenient for hiding minor blemishes, but found the overall appearance of this box less sleek and stylish than some of the other models, slightly bumping it down in this metric. Regardless, it could be a good option if you don't care much about the appearance of your cargo box or if you like how the textured surface matches your vehicle and are trying to save some money.

A Note on Gas Mileage


You may be wondering if it is even worth getting a cargo box in the first place due to their impact on vehicle handling and mileage. We posed the same question and dedicated an entire metric to this. However, we found after testing that there wasn't a significant impact on how a variety of different test cars handled, regardless if we were traveling on the freeway at high speeds, over windy mountain passes, or over potholes and bumps on rough roads. These are all large boxes that go on top of your car and increase the wind resistance and drag while you are driving, but they are all pretty much comparable, especially if you drive a larger SUV or truck that isn't particularly aerodynamic in the first place. Drag is hugely dependent on speed as well, so you most likely can negate any loss in fuel economy by driving just a bit slower — and you don't really want to be speeding all that much with a fully loaded cargo box on top of your car anyway. Does adding a heavy box to your vehicle affect its power, handling, and fuel efficiency? Sure. Were we able to notice the difference, especially comparative differences between each box? No, not really.

cargo box - cargo boxes can be convenient storage, freeing up space in your...
Cargo boxes can be convenient storage, freeing up space in your vehicle and allowing you to bring more gear to your next destination. We hope our assessments and recommendations help you land the right purchase decision for your needs.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Conclusion


We genuinely hope this review and expert recommendations guide you toward the perfect cargo carrier for all your transport needs, no matter the type of gear you need to move or your budget.
Clearly, all of these products will get your stuff from Point A to Point B and may seem very similar. Nonetheless, our comprehensive research is here to help you identify the minute differences so you can find the perfect product. Safe travels!

Lauren DeLaunay and David Wise