Accessories

Best Roof Cargo Carriers – Review and Buyer’s Guide

We've got a list of the 8 Best Cargo and Carriers for Cars: carry something on your roof

Car Luggage Top Rack Box with Mountain and Lake in BackgroundImage by Depositphotos.com
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Roof cargo carriers are vital for anyone that partakes in camping, long road trips, or frequent moving. Having extra baggage space on your roof can save you the time and effort of trying to fit everything into your trunk, and allows you to bring more than you would’ve otherwise. The right rooftop cargo bag for you and your vehicle depends on a number of factors, however.

Technical Terms

Of all the products available to accessorize your vehicle, cargo carriers are perhaps the least intensive in the technical aspect. The dimensions listed are fairly straightforward; it is length x width x height. The length describes the size of the carrier along the car’s direction, and the other two should be easy to figure out from there. 

The materials used in cargo carriers are typically nylon and polyester; it’s not mentioned much in this review, but these materials are some of the toughest synthetic fibers around. They are commonly relied on in many applications for their water-resistant and durable properties. 

Finally, there is the question of soft-top carriers; what this essentially refers to is the soft nature of the roof bag. Soft-tops are more flexible, versatile, and easier to use, at the cost of potential weather damage.

Best Roof Cargo Carriers in 2019

There are a variety of traits that separate the roof racks in our list, ranging from budget-friendliness to overall durability. Below are some characteristics that separate the items in our list, which should hopefully paint a better overall picture.

ProductDimensions (inches)Price RangeWeightWarranty
Roofmax Solid Waterproof Roof Cargo Bag
48 x 38 x 18

$

8.6 pounds

Yes; no info
Car Top Carrier Roof Bag + Protective Mat
51.1 x 31.4 x 14.9

$

8.65 pounds

2-year, money-back
RoofPax Car Roof Bag & Rooftop Cargo CarrierUp to47.2 x 35.4 x 19.8 
$$$

11.7 pounds

Lifetime
RoofBag WaterproofUp to48 x 38 x 18
$$$

8 pounds

1-year
Keeper 07204 Black Premium Waterproof Cargo Bag
Up to 44 x 34 x 17


$


6 pounds


1-year
AmazonBasics Rooftop Cargo Carrier Bag 
Up to 43.5 x 16.84 x 33.5

$

6.2 pounds

1-year limited
Car Roof Bag Bundle
44 x 34 x 17

$$

8 pounds
1-year, money-back
Rightline Gear Sport 2 Car Top Carrier
44 x 36 x 19

$$

7.5 pounds

1-year

Buy on Amazon

Weighing in at only 8.6 pounds, the Roofmax cargo bag is surprisingly heavy duty. This waterproof roof top cargo bag is also fire resistant, and can be used for cars and SUVs of all sizes. 

Small but Inexpensive 

Its supporting straps can secure up to 3,000 pounds, and are easily attached to your vehicle. With dimensions of 48” x 38” x 18”, the Roofmax gives you 15 cubic feet of storage space that has been tested through extreme weather conditions and is guaranteed to keep your belongings safe no matter where you are travelling. 

When not in use, it can be folded and stored in your trunk without taking up a lot of space. It is a great alternative for those looking for something both cheaper, smaller, and lighter than a solid overhead cargo box for their vehicle. Those who have purchased the Roofmax confirm that it is an easy to install cargo hold for a more economical solution to their overhead storage needs. 

Mostly Durable

Some users have reported a few negative aspects of the Roofmax that should not be overlooked. Though some state their cargo bag withstood rain and tough conditions without issue, others reported severe tearing in their bags over time. Others state that special attention must be paid to the locations of the cargo bag’s flaps, as improper placement can result in water seeping inside the bag. 

Take these points as something to consider to get the optimal experience from your roof carrier. This product is our choice of them all, as it is lightweight, inexpensive, and durable. If you follow the user’s manual when using it, you shouldn’t run into any problems.

ProsCons
LightweightAffordableEasy to installKeeps contents dry and safeStraps require attention

Buy on Amazon

This cargo bag is composed of tarpaulin fabric, making it durable and water resistant. The entire bag is 8.65 pounds, with dimensions of 51.1”x 31.4” x 14.9” when fully expanded and only 15” x 13” x 7” when folded, making it easy to store in your trunk when not in use. 

Universal Fit

It can be used on small cars, SUVs, vans, or any roofed vehicle even if the vehicle does not have racks. The bag is built to last through the wear and tear of regular and extended use, and is angled to avoid wind drag, which is the main culprit behind damage to roof cargo bags. Included with the roof bag is a protective mat to ensure that the bag does not scratch any paint off of the roof during extended trips. Tool Guard stands behind the durability of their bag and offers a two year 100% money back guarantee should any damage occur. 

Most users of Tool Guard’s carrier roof bag also tout that the bag is very durable and reliable, some going as far to say that it is indestructible. Installation is reportedly very simple and fast for both cars and trucks alike. For the few who eventually ran into some issues with their bag such as holes and tears, they described some of the best customer service they’ve ever experienced with a company, all getting replacements or their money back in a timely manner. 

Potential Problems

However, not all customers have had such a great experience with Tool Guard’s carrier roof bag. The protective mat that comes with the bag is prone to slipping off for some. While many users had a long history of positive experiences with the product, others reported major tears within the first few days of use, as well as the buckles coming apart mid-travel. The bag can also come loose and is at risk of detaching from the car completely. Overall, most reviews of Tool Guard’s cargo bag are overwhelmingly positive, and considering their generous warranty, it is a wise investment for those who need the extra storage space during long trips. 

ProsCons
Generally reliableFairly affordableComes with protective matMat might slidePossible tears due to designPossible damage to roof

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The RoofPax car carrier comes in two sizes: 15 cubic feet and 19 cubic feet, with the larger bag weighing 11.65 pounds. Both the smaller roof bag and larger cargo carrier are suitable for vehicles of any size with or without racks. 

Safety Above All

RoofPax puts safety first, using door hooks instead of straps to secure their bags. This hook design insures that the airbags of the vehicle are not interfered with, which can be an issue with strapped cargo bags. The hooks can be attached to any racks installed on your vehicle, and is also suitable for cars without any racks in place. 

RoofPax’s cargo carriers are made of military grade materials, and has a double sealant coating along with heavy duty zippers, ensuring that is is 100% waterproof. A protective mat is built into the bags, as well as velcro straps to prevent the bag from moving or flapping in high speeds. The larger 19 cubic feet bag can hold over 6 suitcases, so you can be sure that all your necessities can come with you on long trips and will stay safe, rain or shine. RoofPax offers a lifetime warranty for their bags, and will give a full refund or replace your bag no matter what issues may arise over time. 

Easy to Use — Mostly

Most drivers who have purchased the RoofPax car carrier bags are satisfied with the quality of the bags, and also report that they are very easy to attach to both racks and car frames. However, many state that the hooks are not suitable for all car roofs and will not attach properly onto every vehicle depending on measurements. Some have also reported damage to their car seals from the bag’s hooks when attached directly to the frame of their vehicle. Another issue of the RoofPax cargo bags revolves around how the velcro straps are sewn onto the bag. Several users found holes in their bags where the straps are sewn onto the bag, which can allow water to leak onto it. Overall though, the negatives are far outweighed by the positive experiences.

ProsCons
Safe and secure materialsEasy to attachProtective mat built-inNot a universal fitFlimsy straps allowing leakage

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The waterproof car top carrier from RoofBag is a very safe option for those that can afford to shell out a bit of money. For a waterproof rooftop cargo carrier, this is one of the best “middle-of-the-road” options for drivers.

Large Enough and Sturdy

Several users were pleasantly surprised with this product; despite the skepticism that the price and promises warrant, it certainly appeased many drivers with its performance. Some noted that the straps would come loose after several hours of driving, but didn’t particularly complain about it. On the other hand, many buyers were thoroughly pleased with the straps, describing a snug fit even in speeds of up to 100mph. All in all, this bag does its core job very well. Rain, high speeds, long drives—none of these seemed to matter for a lot of users.

Waterproof—to what extent?

While a hefty portion (close to 80%) of buyers were very happy with their purchase, some had some stinging complaints to air out. To start with, the bag (if used without a roof rack) seemed to leak water in two ways. Less commonly, it would let water into the bag itself. More commonly, it would let water into the car if secured through the straps it comes with. Some other complaints included damage to the exterior of the car (either paint or the roof itself) and flimsiness of the carrier. All in all, it seemed the bad experiences were scattered in their focus, and for the most part, this is a solid purchase.

ProsCons
Larger than many competitorsReliable in harsh conditionsLong drives and high speeds not an issueHeftier priceWater leakage commonPossible damage to roof

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The runt of the litter, this product comes in at just 6 pounds. Despite its size, it is marketed as a luggage travel bag that opposes all sorts of weather, from sun to grit. Do these promises hold up?

Good for the Short Term

While this bag seems to do its job well, it doesn’t last according to some users. It stores all your necessities, blocks the harsh weather, and doesn’t make much noise. However, this doesn’t always last, as some buyers have noted. Firstly, buyers recommended getting a pad to put under the cargo bag, as it was prone to damaging the roof of their car. Similarly, removing the straps was an ordeal in rainy weather, as (even if it is waterproof) it gets water all over the roof and, sometimes, the interior as well.

Issues Over Long Drives

As mentioned above, this bag might not hold up for longer periods of time or even longer drives. Issues ranging from the tedious method of tightening the straps to its lack of water resistance over time rank it lower in many users’ eyes. Again, it’s a good option for any casual trips, but over longer periods or long-term usage, it might not hold up. It might not be worth the low price for more avid road-trippers. 

ProsCons
LightweightAffordable priceNot as much noiseNot suited to long-term usePotentially frustrating strapsRoof damage common

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Amazon’s very own cargo bag comes in at number 6 on our list, and it doesn’t necessarily disappoint. It’s a solid bag for most uses, but much like the previous item in our review, it brought up some complaints regarding its longevity.

Durable Over Long Rides

Unlike the Keeper, it seems to hold up quite well over one-time long distances. While it does succumb to some issues down the line, reviews would suggest that it holds up well for the regular annual trip. From its waterproof quality to the wide, secure straps, it pleased many customers with its effectiveness. The straps and general sturdiness of the design were talking points among positive reviews.

Iffy in the Long-Run

While it is extremely effective in the short term, the Amazon product doesn’t handle ageing gracefully. To be fair, it is very affordable and quite compact. However, it doesn’t deal well with asymmetrical contents (if you have camping supplies, for example) too well, nor does it deal with harsh road or weather conditions too well. Many buyers described tears in the seams from a single roadtrip, suggesting the material isn’t the sturdiest out there. Overall, it is a decent product, but the price certainly suggests its quality when compared to the best roof bags. 

ProsCons
Suited to long drivesAffordableStrong materialRipping is commonNot suited to repeated useNot the best in harsh conditions

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The Car Roof Bag Bundle from Whistler seems a decent choice for those looking for easy installation and usage. It seems to put up with any sort of weather with very minor issues—which we’ll explore below.

Minor Straps Issues

While not major, the straps seem to be the focal point in a lot of the casual complaints regarding this item. It does the job well in most aspects, but the straps are a talking point in that they often hold water, block airflow (because of the nature of securement), or cause a lot of noise. Despite this, they do their primary job quite well—multiple accounts of cross-country trips will point to their efficacy in holding down weight.

Other Durability Problems

While the straps hold down the weight quite well (and are easy to install, to boot), the bag itself left quite a few buyers disappointed. For a lot of people, the bag would let in water to a destructive extent (not something you’d expect from a waterproof bag). For others, the bag would cause damage to the roof of their car. And, as mentioned before, the bag/straps would leak water into the inside of their car in heavier rain. In general, this isn’t the worst choice, but for the price, you could find something more reliable and secure. 

ProsCons
Works well under milder conditionsVery easy installationReliable StrapsWater leaking commonNot suited to long drivesPossible damage to roof of car

Buy on Amazon

The Rightline carrier seems to be the best if you’re only assessing based on the description. 100% waterproof, no-noise, solid carrier—what more can you ask for? To be frank, there is a lot to be desired from this product.

Works With Caveats

As one buyer accurately noted, the carrier works well with some difficulties along the way. In very hot weather, the straps and the material supporting it would soften and rip. In other cases, buyers were left wanting from the hooks and pads that came (separately) with the product. As with many other products in our list, water would often drip through the seams and into the interior of the car.

Not Worth the Price

A statement that was echoed by many users, the bag would simply not hold up over long use. Whether it was wear-and-tear or outright ripping that made this product unusable, many customers were left disappointed. The main complaint was aimed specifically towards it ripping in the wind or longer drives. To be frank, this item might not be worth the money, as its performance reflects a few of the cheaper bags on our list.

ProsCons
Works well under milder conditionsEasy installationRipping is commonNot suited to long-term useWeather-reliant

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do I need a roof rack for cargo carriers?

A: The short answer is: it depends. Some cargo carriers can be mounted without a rack via straps. However, buyers often complain about damage to either the bag or the car roof when alternative methods are used to secure the carrier. It’s best to play it safe and follow any company recommendations.

Q: What is the difference between hard top and soft top carriers?

A: Hard top carriers are typically rounded plastic containers that are designed to be water resistant and aerodynamic. They are harder to install than soft tops, which are large bags designed to be fastened via straps, typically onto a roof rack.

Q: Are waterproof roof carriers truly waterproof?

A: Typically, cargo carriers described as waterproof aren’t 100% so. While they will resist and protect loads from water, heavy storms or downpours can still make a dent in your cargo. For bags, this issue typically arises when there are tiny holes anywhere along the bag, most commonly the zipper. General wear and tear could also affect your carrier’s water resistance over time.

Conclusion — Buyer’s Guide

To preface this, most of the products in this list have mainly positive reviews. However, to separate the good from the best, the negative qualities of the bags were outlined moreso. 

Budget-Friendly Options

To those wanting to save some money, there are several choices on our list. From the Roofmax to the Amazon-brand carrier, there are many affordable products on the market. Nearly all of them have questionable durability over time and in harsher weather. The Keeper and Amazon bags seemed to have the same issues; in casual use, they held up quite well, but over longer drives or long-term usage, they durability began to wane. So, if you’re looking for a casual trip or two, these bags might save you some money.

On the other hand, the Car Top Carrier Roof Bag + Protective Mat option is decent across the board. The reviews are generally positive and the negative aspects of the product aren’t unique to it specifically. All in all, it’s worth a look regardless of your trip habits. The Roofmax, while not resonating with all buyers, seems to be the best choice on paper. Its functionality coupled with the price makes it a solid contender for one of the best overall roof bags.

Higher Price Ranges

The other four items are more reliable, but have their own issues. The general problems of leakage into the interior and harsh weather conditions are a couple of the issues faced by any roof carriers. Those that want to avoid these issues as much as possible can look into the RoofPax and RoofBag carriers; they still face such issues in some cases, but generally seem reliable. They are also the highest-priced products in this review.

Otherwise, some middle-of-the-road choices include the Whistler and Rightline carriers, and there’s a clear winner of the two. While the Rightline advertises pristine design and functionality, there are several common issues that make it a questionable purchase. Meanwhile, the Whistle Car Roof Bag Bundle also seems prone to errors related to leakage, but it is a solid choice regardless. Both of these might be worth the price for you, but it seems that the higher-priced options are a more secure investment.