Cargo boxes are a must when you’re going away with your family for a long camping weekend or holiday. With different sizes and models designed for different brands of vehicles, we’ve reviewed some of the top contenders on the market in 2014 and we’re sure you’ll love each one of them, but depending on the car you own and your particular requirements you’ll probably end up buying only one of them. The cargo boxes that we’ve looked into were tested for durability and appearance, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Their aerodynamic capabilities were also tested to the limit when we drove on the highway with them and we’ve got some figures which will let you know just how much such cargo boxes could increase the fuel consumption of your car. Although some models appealed to us more than others, we’ve tried to stay as unbiased by the looks and write more about functionality and value instead, so read on and you’ll see our top picks. Keep in mind that this review is quite long, so it could take you quite a bit to get to the end of it. We’ve actually made a comparison chart of the models here that you could refer to if you don’t feel like reading too much and you just want the most important info summarized in a graphic way (who doesn’t like a graphic explanation, right?)
In this review of the best cargo boxes you will not only find our top picks for best value cargo box and what we have picked as our editor’s choice, but also the best cargo boxes for individual brands such as Subaru, Nissan and Toyota – which are some of the more common cars used by families which love camping. Don’t worry though as we’ve picked a few great models for European and American brands such as Ford, Audi and BMW as well.
So here we go we’ll start by introducing you to all of the models we’ll include in the review and then you can see the criteria for evaluation that we implemented in this review. As cargo boxes are really versatile in terms of what you can store in them we really believe that the best cargo boxes we’ve reviewed for you would serve you even if you haven’t decided to go camping, but you’re going skiing or snowboarding instead.
Although the cargo boxes you’ll find on this review are extremely versatile we at HikingGearGuru believe that versatility is the best thing about a list such as this one as there isn’t a one size fits all solution to the requirements of all people and this is the reason why cargo boxes are made out so different from one another.
So here we go, let’s go over the best cargo box models on the market today starting with the Yakima Skybox Pro 16.
Yakima Skybox Pro 16 cargo box
You’ve obviously seen that this model is the clear winner and was picked as our editor’s choice, but please keep reading and you’ll find out that the Yakima Skybox has it’s flaws and there are reasons why we haven’t ruled out all of the other models in the list. For instance it’s finish is easily scratched and although this seems like a minor issue, when you think that you’ve paid for it nearly 500$ you won’t really like the idea of it being scratched easily would you. The model really appeals to our editorial team because it’s easy to mount on top of your car and it does offer a huge storage that you will probably find hard to fill, unless you are like us and you like to pack even unnecessary things when you go camping. If you do need extra space though this model really offers tons of it with it’s dimensions of 81′ x 36′ x 15′. Below you will find some more of it’s features that make this particular cargo box a really great choice for storing your camping equipment
- Weights 47lbs
- A 2013 model – but still awesome in 2014
- Dimensions of 81′ x 36′ x 15′
- Robust and really durable
- It’s really easy to install and use
- It’s built by high quality plastic
- Offered in 4 different sizes (we’ve reviewed the biggest one)
- Two color variations available
- The price tag of almost 500$
- The paint on it is scratched easily which is really annoying
- Compared to some of it’s rivals on the list it’s a bit heavy, but it is the biggest one, so we won’t take away points for this
As a conclusion although it’s expensive this particular cargo box is really fantastic for long holidays away from home. It is actually big enough to fit a real live person in it, like you can see in this video of Lady Gaga. Although it’s really aerodynamic in it’s design, this particular cargo box will increase your fuel bill from about 10% up to 40% depending on how much luggage and camping gear you’ve got in it. In terms of drag, it’s not bad at all, just like any other modern cargo box out there, but when you fill it with gear you could put up to 125 additional pounds of luggage in it, which will add to the overall weight of your car – thus your lower MPG.
Enough for the Yakima Skybox, we’ve got a lot of reviewing to do more and our next contender is the:
Thule Sonic Large cargo box
The Thule Sonic (Large) is another example of amazing engineering which went into creating a beautiful cargo box which will fit almost all of the gear which didn’t get in the back of your car. We’ll switch things up here and start with it’s bad points though, which aren’t that many to begin with. First of all this model costs about 550$ which automatically makes it one of the more expensive models on the list. It’s actually ranked second in this category, only behind the Inno Racks Shadow 16. This particular model was reviewed by our team at a camping trip in Europe actually as we went to Camping Les Baleines, Île de Ré, near La Rochelle which is a camping site in France. The gear that was in the Thule Sonic was mostly beach equipment and we didn’t bring any heavy gear such as sleeping bags or ski or snowboard equipment to try, but according to the manufacturer Thule, skis longer than 155cm won’t fit in it, which in most skiing enthusiasts case will probably be a deal breaker. We did enjoy the awesome looks of this cargo box though as well as the rugged and robust construction that it has. Unlike some of the other models in this 2014 review, we did notice that the Thule Sonic was incredibly quiet on the top of the Subaru which we were in. Most top-mounted cargo boxes would have this annoying whistling sound when you drive with a higher speed. Anyway we’ll skip right into the main features along with the pros and cons of the Sonic Large cargo box by Thule.
- Dimensions 73×34.5×16
- Weights 40 pounds (7 less than the Yakima)
- Opens from both sides
- The high quality look, feel and materials which it’s made of
- It’s quite at higher speeds like we already mentioned.
- It’s price tag of 550$ puts it on the high end of this list of rooftop carriers
- You won’t be able to fit your long skis or snowboard in here.
Although the things we’ve said about this particular Thule model aren’t that impressive and it’s worse in terms of it’s dimensions compared to the Yakima Skybox, this is actually the better one in terms of value. This rooftop cargo box was so easy to mount on the top of the Subaru Forester we were with, that even a child can do it. With it’s 3 locking points and exceptionally durable mechanisms for opening this model would really serve it’s purpose well and considering that it’s made out of Thule – a brand which is famous for producing only high quality products, you can rest assured that your money won’t go to waste. This cargo box will probably last you a lifetime if you treat it right and keep it properly attached to the rooftop of your vehicle. All these facts along with the one which we pointed in the pro’s column about the Thule Sonic Large Cargo Box being really silent at speeds up to 75 or even 80 mph makes it a really good choice if you want to invest your money into a long lasting piece of car equipment. The 550$ price tag means that you would have to use it more than once so it won’t seem like a stupid investment.
On to our next competitor the
Rhino Rack Master Fit 550
The Rhino Rack Master Fit 550 is just a little bit less expensive than the Thule Large but it’s built quality isn’t that great. We didn’t really know much about the Rhino brand and the products they make before using and reviewing this particular cargo box, but after using it for a camping trip near the lake Tahoe in Nevada we can say a few things about it. It’s actually the biggest cargo box we’ve reviewed this year and although it’s virtually impossible to put it on a smaller vehicle, because of it’s sheer size, this cargo storage for your rooftop will hold a ton of stuff (not literally). It does weight 45 pounds, which makes it about 2 pounds lighter compared to the Yakima Skybox 16, which is almost as big as this one and 5 pounds heavier than the Thule, but that’s pretty much most of the upsides of this model. Although it’s pretty easy to install, the top of it also known as the lid on such cargo boxes is a bit shaky and floppy at best. We aren’t really impressed by how it handles, but the fact that it holds up to 19 cubic feet of luggage is pretty impressive, so things pretty much even themselves out. So here are some of it’s main features below including the pros and cons that all of our editorial team pointed out as important.
- Dimensions – 85×35.8×17.3
- Weight – 45 lbs
- Storage space – 19.4 cubic feet
- The large amount of luggage that you can fit in the Rhino Rack Master Fit 550
- The installation is a breeze
- It’s more expensive compared to it’s main rival the Yakima Skyrocket
- There aren’t any color variations – there’s only a white pearl color available
- It won’t fit on smaller cars
- The construction isn’t as good as on it’s main rivals
In terms of security or reliability the Rhino Rack Master isn’t the best choice out there really. It is definitely and by far the best cargo box for skiing and snowboarding and that’s the award we’re giving it as it will hold large skis and snowboards easily, which we can’t say about the Thule Sonic. That’s one of it’s main selling points for sure and here at the HikingGearGuru we appreciate gear that is made for snowboarders, almost as much as we do for people who are into hiking.
The next contender in our 2014 review of the best cargo boxes is the Inno Racks Shadow 16 which is actually
The best cargo box for tall SUVs and Subaru
This model from Inno is actually the sleekest looking model on our list and although it ranks 3rd in terms of cubic feet capacity out of the five models on our list. In the review of this cargo box it’s essential to note that it does look rather well with it’s stylish slim profile, but it did not win our editorial choice award for several reasons. One of these reasons was that it’s actually not that great construction wise. The lid on this model is a bit underwhelming considering that if you want to own the Inno Racks Shadow, the price you’d have to pay is about 530-580$ which is actually in the high range. It does really appeal to people who are looking for stylish solutions for the problem of needing more space to store their luggage.
The awesome sleek look does cost you a bit space though and you get only 16 cubic feet of storage space, which like we already mentioned ranks this model right in the middle in terms of capacity. This being said it’s actually pretty impressive that the cargo box which looks that sleek and stylish could hold so much inside and considering the low amount of drag that you’ll get with this one it’s price tag could easily be justified as you’ll save a lot on fuel bills at the end just because of this reduced air resistance. The Inno Racks Shadow is actually the best cargo box in terms of drag and wind resistance as well and you should definitely take this into an account considering that cargo boxes usually go for over 500$. At the end of the day though this model is more of a skiers cargo box than anything else, because this sleek design won’t really let you stack bulky items in it. It is perfect for snowboarding though and we have picked this Inno model to be
The best cargo box for skiing and snowboarding
Anyway if you’ve like it we’re sure that the floppy lid won’t bother you too much and you’ll learn to live with it after a while, when you see how much money it saves you because of it’s low profile and reduced drag. The fuel consumption with this model only rises with a mere 10 to 15% even when it’s loaded and at high speeds there isn’t another model that would feel more like a part of your car than this one. Here are some more features of the Inno Racks Shadow here along with the pros and cons we noted as important:
- Dimensions of 78.7 x 31.9 x 13.4
- Weights 42 lbs
- Locks at 3 different points and opens on both the passenger and the driver’s side for easy access
- Has the lowest drag resistance of all reviewed roof cargo storages
- Looks both stylish and like a part of the car (especially if you’re driving a “piano black” painted car as that’s the only color option available)
- It’s quieter than the rest at higher speeds
- Fits well on smaller vehicles just the same
- It will fit in your garage even if you own a tall Audi Q7 Ford F150 or BMW X5
- It’s perfect for carrying a few pairs of skis or a couple of snowboards
- It’s floppy lid is a real pain considering the price you’re paying
- The hard installation is another unnecessary part of owning this model
- It won’t be able to carry bulky items and gear
As you can see this cargo box really has a ton of features and has a lot of things in the pros section, but there are quite a few cons to it too. If there weren’t the downsides of the Inno Racks Shadow we’d simply pick it as the winner of each category, but that’s simply not how things work is it. After all is said though, this really is the top pick for skiing and winter sports for sure. The hard installation is something that should be noted too. Most of the rooftop storage boxes that we reviewed here are pretty easy to install, which makes this one stand out in this aspect and if you are planning on lending it to friends for example it will be much harder to do so with this model. The bottom line is that you’ll be better off setting up this cargo box on the top of your car and simply leaving it there forever. It’s plastic will withstand washing easily and unlike the Yakima Shybox 16 the paint here isn’t as easily scuffed.
So without taking too long, we’ll go over the last model in our list of the best cargo box models of 2014, which is the Yakima Rocketbox Pro 14. We really believe that this is the
Best cargo box under 500$
With a price tag of just 399$ at some retailers this Yakima model appeals to the people that are looking for a smaller rooftop storage and it is on this list not because of it’s lower price compared to the rest, but a few other reasons that we’ll elaborate here. Although it offers lower quality compared to all the other models here, the price is about 150$ less than most of the others, which is about 30% less – a substantial amount. This model though offers some pretty good storage space considering it’s low cost and it’s easy to install too. There are actually a few different sizes – 4 to be more specific with a different storage on each one but more on that later. Let’s go over the main features of this model along with the pros and cons, just like we did on the rest of the models on the list.