Cargo Boxes vs Cargo Bags: Which is Better? and Why

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Are you planning an extended family vacation for more than three people? If so, then you're probably struggling to fit everything into your car. You've got luggage, camping equipment, skies, and more. You've considered leaving something behind, but it's all essential to have a good time.

It's situations like this where a rooftop cargo box or cargo bag can save the day. At, I've got ample Guides of both at affordable prices.

Yet, it can be confusing to know which type of rooftop cargo will best suit your needs. 

Cargo boxes and cargo bags may serve the same purpose, but they have many crucial differences. That's why we're here to pit Cargo Boxes vs Cargo Bags to break down the pros and cons of each.

What Are Rooftop Cargo Bags?

Rooftop cargo bags feature very durable, waterproof materials. They're designed to attach directly to the roof of your vehicle. The bags must be rigid and resistant to the elements to protect your cargo. If they weren't, your luggage and equipment would get wet or damaged.

An ideal rooftop cargo bag is robust and spacious. Luckily, we have a wide selection of fantastic cargo bags at our online store.

For example, like The RoofPax soft rooftop cargo carrier (on amazon) is one of our highest-rated cargo bags. It features:

  • 19 cubic feet of capacity
  • 48 inches long, 36 inches wide, and 18 inches high
  • Weather protection flap to protect cargo from damage
  • UV resistance
  • 5-7 pairs of ski 
  • waterproof zipper

As you can see, the cargo bag is resistant to both harmful UV rays and rain. It's got a massive amount of storage space, allowing you to carry all your gear easily.

Like other cargo bags, it's effortless to install. It comes with handy car clips that allow you to attach the bag directly to your rooftop.

Cargo bags are a very affordable option for extra storage space. Not only do they cost less than cargo boxes, but there's no need for a roof rack. Instead, all you need are the car clips to attach a cargo bag to your roof.

A cargo bag will save you time when it's time to break everything down and unpack. You can remove the bag in a few seconds, and it folds up so that you can store it anywhere.

Surfers, anglers, cyclists, and hikers all love rooftop cargo bags. They're affordable, convenient, and quick to set up and break down. So if you're heading out on an outdoor adventure and need some extra space for more gear, a cargo bag is a great idea.

Pros of Cargo Bags

  • A cost-effective option for extra storage
  • Waterproof, UV, and impact resistant
  • Effortless to install and break down
  • Stores anywhere once it folds up
  • No need for a roof rack, roof rail, or cross rail

Cons of Cargo Bags

  • Wears out faster than a cargo box
  • Less secure than cargo boxes
  • Straps and driver clips can hang down and get in your way
  • Can scratch the roof of your car
  • less storage capacity
  • affect gas mileage

How to Install roof cargo bags

  • Open your door and carefully pull back the weatherstripping seal.
  • With the seal pulled back, place one of the 6 included door hooks on the metal doorframe.
  • Applying gentle force, pop the weatherstripping seal back into place with your hand and close the door.
  • Apply the same procedure to the other doors. These hooks will safely anchor the rooftop cargo bag.

Related: The 6 Best Waterproof Rooftop Cargo Bags Money Can Buy

Here’s a video generalized installation guideline:

What are Roof Cargo Boxes?

The next step is to take a look at cargo boxes. They are boxes made from rigid plastic that mount on the roof of your car for extra storage. While cargo bags are durable, cargo boxes take the cake in this regard. Since they're made from hard plastic, they will keep your belongings protected.

For this reason, cargo boxes are resistant to weather, debris, and insects by nature. They will all bounce off your box and leave your belongings unharmed.

Another huge plus is that you can lock cargo boxes. So if you're transporting some valuables, you'll definitely want to use a cargo box. It will keep your gear protected from break-in attempts as well as the environment.

Unlike a cargo bag, a rooftop cargo box will require a roof rack. That's an extra step you'll have to take before installing a cargo bag, which can be cumbersome. A roof rack is also an added expense. Not only that, but cargo boxes are already more expensive than cargo bags. So installing a cargo box is the more expensive option. Yet, it can be well worth it if you have rare valuables that you want to keep under lock and key.

my top-rated cargo box is the Thule Force XT Cargo carriers on amazon . It comes in four different sizes, with the largest adding 22 cubic feet of space to your vehicle.

It's made from an ultra-strong ABS material that's surprisingly lightweight. It's completely waterproof, and it has a unique clamping system for easy installation. For your protection, it comes with a generous 5-year warranty.

Finally, it features an aerodynamic design. That way, it won't interfere with the performance of your vehicle.

Cargo Boxes vs Cargo Bags: Which is Better? and Why

Pros of Roof Cargo Boxes

  • Lockable boxes for added security
  • Can add more storage capacity than bags
  • Very durable and long-lasting
  • weather protection and impact-proof
  • 165IB weight capacity
  • keeps your gear safe and organized
  • durable material

Cons of Roof Cargo Boxes

  • A roof rack is a required element for installation
  • More expensive than cargo bags
  • A more complicated installation
  • Takes up a lot of space to store at home

How to Install roof cargo boxes

  • Install anchor points inside your roof box (could be U-brackets/bolts). Push the sliding block screws from the bottom of the roof box and thread the clamp plates from the top. Screw the bolts loosely. Repeat for each of the 4 anchor points.
  • Place the roof box on the roof rails (PS: It’s advisable to find help).
  • Slide the roof box to the left of the carrier rails and the sliding blocks into the roof bar carrier. Repeat for the right side.
  • Align the roof box centrally and tighten all clamping bolts on the sliding blocks.
  • Done! Pack your luggage and drive off.

Related: The 5 Best Hard Shell Rooftop Cargo Carrier: Complete Guide

Here’s a video generalized installation guideline:

Cargo Boxes vs Cargo Bags: The Ultimate Decision

Okay, so by now, you've seen the benefits and drawbacks of cargo boxes and cargo bags. Now, it's time to make the final verdict on which is best for your needs. Here's one final comparison:

Storage Space

Both cargo boxes and cargo bags offer lots of added storage space. In this regard, they are about equal. Yet, the softness of a fabric bag can give you more wiggle room than a rigid box.


It's a no-brainer here; cargo bags are far more affordable than cargo boxes. You also don't need to spring for a roof rack with a cargo bag.

Car cargo carriers are a great way to transport more of what you need without having extra space in your car. However, these boxes increase wind resistance and can harm fuel efficiency depending on how aerodynamic or boxy your car already is.


That is where cargo boxes get their chance to shine. Since they lock, they're far more secure than a cargo bag. If you're transporting gear that's very valuable, a cargo box is your best bet.

Final Thoughts

All right, so in general, cargo bags are the winner here. They're more affordable, offer a fair amount of protection, and are easy to install and store. If you're hauling gear around often, we'd recommend a quality cargo bag from our online store. That's not to say that cargo bags win every single time. If you're transporting precious and fragile goods, then a roof cargo box is the way to go. To learn more about roof rails, crossbars, or roof baskets, check out, please feel free to reach out for assistance. I am happy to help answer any questions you may have about which cargo carrier is best suited for your car.

About the author 

Vieira Babeker

Hi! I'm Vieira. I've always been interested in different Auto Accessories

My passion here at is to provide helpful straight forward clear advice and tips for Automotive Accessories.

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