The 5 Best Hard Shell Rooftop Cargo Carrier: Complete Guide

Sometimes even the most spacious SUVs and trucks aren't enough to carry all your luggage. 

If you're planning an extravagant vacation for a family of seven, you'll run into some space issues. No matter how you arrange it, you simply can't fit seven suitcases, kayaks, and bicycles in the trunk.

Rather than buying a second car, you should opt for a hard shell rooftop cargo carrier instead.

They will add extra storage space to your vehicle at an affordable cost. Now you can finally transport all your outdoor gear in addition to your luggage.

Not sure if you need a hard shell carrier or a soft-shell one? Then check out this head-to-head comparison that we did to find out. For this post, we will focus on hard shell cargo carriers in particular.

So stick around to learn about the top 5 best rooftop cargo box options available.

#5: Thule Force XT Rooftop Cargo Box

Thule Force XT Rooftop Cargo Box, XX-Large

This Thule rooftop cargo carrier is an oversized option for those needing lots of space. If you weren’t aware, the average storage size for cargo boxes is 15 cubic feet.

The Thule XT provides an impressive 22 cubic feet of space. You can store up to seven suitcases, 5-7 pairs of skis, 3-5 snowboards, and more. You’ll be able to pack all your favorite outdoor toys for the trip.

If you have a huge family, this is the hard shell rooftop cargo carrier for you.

At a load capacity of 165 pounds, you can easily carry everything you want to include for your vacation. Bear in mind; each vehicle will have its own weight limit for the rooftop. Consult your user manual to see the specific roof weight limit for your car. If it can withstand up to 165 pounds, then you can pack this cargo box to the brim.

Users love its dual-side opening doors. That makes it extra convenient to load and unload your items from the top. Two family members can even grab their suitcases at a time.

Locks are included for added safety measures. You can keep your box locked to keep your expensive belongings protected inside.

Its essential features include:

  • 22 cubic feet of storage space with a 165-pound weight limit
  • Dual-side opening doors for easy access
  • Quick-mount system that will click into place
  • Full access to the trunk without obstruction
  • Universal fit for all types of vehicles
  • Waterproof and highly durable

Are Rooftop Cargo Carriers Safe?

In general, hard shell rooftop cargo carriers are very safe, especially for securing belongings. It's pretty standard for hard shell carriers to come with combination locks. Since your cargo is up high on the roof and locked, the chances someone will break in are meager.

The only time that they aren't safe is when users ignore their vehicle's weight limit.

Lots of carriers can hold up to 160 pounds of cargo or more. That's teetering on the roof weight limit of even the most robust truck. On average, vehicles have a weight limit of around 100 pounds for the roof.

To stay safe, you should pay close attention to your vehicle's roof weight limit. Also, weigh the items that you plan to carry on top. The more specific you can get, the better. The last thing you want is to exceed your roof's weight limit, as that can lead to complicated issues.

#4: Yakima RocketBox Pro

YAKIMA - RocketBox Pro Compact Rooftop Cargo Box for Smaller Cars, 12...
This fantastic Yakima car top carrier is the perfect option for smaller cars. If you don’t have a massive truck or SUV, you’ll need a tinier rooftop cargo box. With 12 cubic feet of storage space, this compact box is still quite spacious. You can carry up to four suitcases as well as other items.

It has a unique aerodynamic design to cater to smaller cars. It won’t mess with your wind resistance or fuel economy, which is a huge plus. Since it’s more compact, it’s also more affordable.

A tinier cargo box also means that it’ll be easier to store at home. If you have a pulley system in your garage, it will fit nicely above your car. That way, it’s already in the perfect spot to load it up for an extended road trip.

It has a universal fit that will attach to most roof racks and crossbars with ease. Finally, there’s a limited lifetime warranty included with the purchase. If you’re on the fence about buying a rooftop cargo box, a guarantee such as this can be a huge benefit.

Essential features include:

  • Quick-dial mounting bar that fits most crossbars and roof racks
  • Lifetime warranty for guaranteed satisfaction
  • Aerodynamic design to reduce drag and improve fuel economy
  • 12 cubic feet of storage space
  • A perfect choice for smaller cars
  • Lightweight and easy to store at home

Can You Attach a Cargo Carrier Without a Roof Rack?

Drivers are always wanting to know if they can use a rooftop cargo carrier without crossbars. The answer is yes, you can, but it has to be a soft-shell carrier.

Almost universally, hard shell rooftop cargo carriers require a roof rack.

If you don't have crossbars or a rack, you won't be able to use a hard shell case. The good news is that roof racks are relatively inexpensive, easy to find, and straightforward to install. So if you're set on going with a hard shell case, then you need to install a roof rack on your vehicle.

If you don't want to mess with a roof rack, you can go with a soft shell rooftop cargo bag.

How Do You Secure a Rooftop Carrier?

That is another question that drivers have all the time. For hard shell carriers, you'll need to secure them via the roof rack.

Cargo carriers come with reinforced straps that will attach to your roof rack. Please pay close attention to the instruction manual for each cargo box to ensure that you install it properly.

If your carrier comes with an anti-slip mat, you'll want to put that down first. If you don't have a mat to use, then substituting a towel or blanket is ideal. You don't want your cargo carrier to make direct contact with your roof, as it can scratch it.

For soft-shell cargo carriers, you can use door hooks to secure them down. These handy hooks attach to your doors and save you from having to dangle straps through your interiors.

Whether you're using a roof rack or not, you should make sure that your carrier is 100% secure before heading out. When installed properly, your rooftop cargo box shouldn't move an inch when in motion.

#3: INNO BRM864RE Wedge Plus Cargo Box

INNO BRM864RE Wedge Plus Cargo Box 13 Cubic FT (Red)
Next, we have this INNO offering from Japan. It’s one of the highest-rated cargo boxes on Amazon right now. While it’s a tad pricey, its incredible features are worth it. Its glossy red color is sleek and stylish.

At 13 cubic feet of storage space, it’s a happy medium in between smaller and larger boxes. As a result, it’s a very versatile offering.

It can work for smaller sedans as well as heftier trucks and SUVs. Its storage space can store kayaks, bicycles, suitcases, and much more. If you’re transporting luggage for a small family, it will work perfectly. You’ll even have some extra room to store emergency equipment and other essentials.

Unique to the INNO model is its protective inner-mat. While many rooftop cargo box carriers come with anti-slip mats for the exterior, interior mats are rare.

That’s strange, as an internal mat provides a lot of value for this cargo box. It keeps your gear in place, reduces noise, and makes cleanup more manageable than ever.

The memory mount system provides an effortless installation. Out of all the boxes on this list, it’s the easiest to install. So if you’re hesitant about using a rooftop cargo carrier, you should give this one a try.

The dual-side opening doors make unloading your cargo a total breeze. There’s also a safety key lock system to keep your valuables protected at all times.

Other essential features include:

  • Widest range to slide front to avoid contact hatch
  • Dual-side opening doors for convenient loading and unloading
  • Durable, weatherproof, and waterproof
  • Locking system with key for extra security
  • Inner mat to reduce noise, secure your belongings, and make cleanup easy
  • Stylish glossy red color that looks great

How Much Weight Can a Cargo Carrier Hold?

Each cargo carrier will have different weight limits. On average, hard shell rooftop cargo carrier boxes can hold 100 - 140 pounds of luggage and equipment. Other larger containers that can store up to 22 cubic feet can hold up to 165 pounds.

It's crucial to note that your vehicle's roof weight limit is more important to worry about the most.

While a rooftop cargo box can carry 165 pounds, your vehicle may only be able to handle 120 pounds.

To make doubly sure, consult your vehicle's user manual to learn the weight limit for your roof. You mustn't exceed this limit when loading up your car. So to stay safe, check both the weight limit for your cargo box as well as your vehicle.

#2: SportRack Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box

SportRack Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box
As the name implies, this waterproof rooftop cargo carrier opens from the back. That means you can unload your cargo without having to stand in the way of traffic. It’s these intelligent features that made this carrier an Amazon’s Choice. It also boasts excellent reviews online, with countless happy customers.

When you start to break down its characteristics, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular.

It’s also very versatile in the types of vehicles and racks it can fit. It works with SportRack systems, square bars, round bars, and most factory crossbars/racks.

If you don’t feel like dealing with a complicated installation, then you’ll love this rooftop cargo box. It has tool-free mounting hardware for quick installations and effortless removals.

It comes with a key and padlock for security purposes. It will keep all your expensive belongings safe during the entire trip.

The extra-large 18 cubic feet of storage space is perfect for large families and outdoor gearheads. It’s large enough to pack all the goodies that you want to bring on your journey.

It’s also exceptionally durable, as it’s constructed from UV-resistant ABS material. It’s waterproof, weatherproof, and highly rigid. This rooftop cargo carrier can withstand even the harshest conditions when driving.

Other features include:

  • 18 cubic feet of storage space
  • Lock and key system to protect your belongings
  • Rear-opening door for access away from traffic
  • Tool-free mounting hardware
  • Affordably priced

How Do You Install a Rooftop Cargo Carrier?

If you just bought a hard shell rooftop cargo carrier and have no idea how to use it, you're not alone. Lots of drivers get confused when it comes to installing their rooftop cargo boxes. Luckily, there are only a few steps that you need to follow:

  • If you have a hard shell cargo box, you'll need to attach its straps to your roof rack. If you don't have a roof rack or crossbars, you'll need to install them first.
  • For soft-shell cargo bags, you can use door hooks to attach to your doors. Make sure that you don't have any straps dangling through the interior of your car, as that can be dangerous.

#1: JEGS Rooftop Cargo Carrier

JEGS Rooftop Cargo Carrier | Hard Car Top Large Luggage Box |...
Finally, we have the JEGS Rooftop Cargo Carrier. It’s a highly heavy-duty case made from rigid materials. It’s straightforward to assemble, as no tools are required. It’s perfect if you want a cargo box that you can install in a few minutes without any complicated tools.

It has an aerodynamic design so that it won’t impact your wind resistance or fuel economy. At 18 cubic feet of space, it’s one of the more extensive options. You can easily fit six or seven suitcases, as well as many other items and pieces of equipment.

You’ll love the weather-tight seal that will keep your belongings safe and dry at all times. Due to its rigid design can withstand wind, rain, debris, snow, and more.

Other features include:

  • Dual-side loading and unloading
  • Waterproof and weatherproof storage with a tight seal
  • 18 cubic feet of storage space
  • Limited lifetime satisfaction guarantee
  • Very affordable price

Bestselling Vehicle Hard Shell Rooftop Cargo Carrier on Amazon

Bestseller No. 1
Thule Pulse Rooftop Cargo Box, Medium
Thule Pulse Rooftop Cargo Box, Medium
Functional rooftop cargo box provides 14 cubic feet of additional packing space; Rugged and durable design keep contents protected
Bestseller No. 2
SportRack Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box
SportRack Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box
18 cubic foot (510 L) internal cargo capacity; Made from durable UV-resistant ABS material
Bestseller No. 3
Thule Sidekick Rooftop Cargo Box Grey, One Size
Thule Sidekick Rooftop Cargo Box Grey, One Size
Compact roofbox, ideal for small loads such as camping gear or golf clubs; Compact design leaves room for other roof mounted accessories
Bestseller No. 4
Thule Force XT Rooftop Cargo Box, X-Large
Thule Force XT Rooftop Cargo Box, X-Large
A versatile roof-mounted cargo box for everyday use; Provides 18 cubic feet of additional packing space
SaleBestseller No. 5
Waterproof Heavy Duty Hard Shell Roof Top Mount Car Storage Travel...
Waterproof Heavy Duty Hard Shell Roof Top Mount Car Storage Travel...
▶️ Heavy Duty ABS Plastic Construction; ▶️ Overall Dimensions: 53" L x 34" W x 15" H

Final Takeaways

Any of these hard shell rooftop cargo carriers will do an excellent job for you. Whether you have a small family or a large one, these carriers will expand the storage capacity of your vehicles. To learn more about roof carriers and hitch carriers, check out this definitive guide. Also, don't forget to check out our buyer's guide at The Roof Boxes.

Last update on 2021-10-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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