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Do you plan to haul more cargo than you can fit inside your car, truck, or SUV? If so, several types of accessories, including rooftop cargo carriers, can help. But before you leap to purchase one, know your options and safety considerations to keep in mind. There’s plenty to consider when choosing a rooftop cargo box and using one correctly. For instance, how fast can you drive with a rooftop cargo carrier?

Why would you need a rooftop cargo carrier?

A Yakima rooftop cargo carrier attached to a vehicle's roof
A Yakima Skybox rooftop cargo carrier attached to a pickup | Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Rooftop cargo carriers, also known as cargo boxes, can be attached to a roof rack on your vehicle to create extra storage space. They’re so handy we’ve named them among the five most useful car accessories for road trips

What inspired us to recommend rooftop cargo carriers when they’re not all that common? Mainly, it’s a question of utility. If your vehicle is on the smaller side or you have many belongings, it can be difficult to haul all the items you’d like to bring with you when you go on a road trip, change residences, or do anything else that requires greater storage space. 

This can be especially true if you’ll be bringing several passengers in addition to your stuff. Rooftop cargo carriers can make all the difference in expanding your car’s hauling capabilities. 

Keep these cargo carrier safety considerations in mind

Before installing a rooftop cargo carrier on your vehicle, there are certain car safety considerations you should be aware of to avoid trouble down the road. 

First, users often wonder how fast they can travel with a cargo carrier atop their car. Find Camping Gear recommends that if you use a cargo box such as one made by Thule, you should keep your speed under 90 mph (which we would advise even if you weren’t hauling a cargo box). Keeping a slower speed is recommended to maintain safe control of your vehicle. 

You’ll also want to ensure that you adhere to any instructions from the cargo carrier’s manufacturer and that you’re aware of the height of your vehicle with the cargo box installed. That will prevent you from getting into difficult situations where your car can’t fit in places like parking garages or under bridges with low clearance.  

In addition, keep in mind that a rooftop cargo box will also have a significant impact on your car’s fuel economy, much more so than cargo carriers attached to the rear. For example, a 2009 Toyota Corolla usually gets around 40 mpg at 65 mph. But a 100-pound cargo box attached to its roof will reduce its fuel efficiency by 25% at the same speed.  

3 of the best rooftop cargo carriers

Are you ready to purchase a rooftop cargo carrier? You’ll find numerous options. One to consider is the Thule Interstate Roof Pouch Bag. This convenient bag is lightweight and can easily be folded for storage in your car, TripSavvy reports.

If you’re looking for something more like a traditional cargo box, check out the Thule Sidekick. It weighs only 16, offers eight cubic feet of storage space, and can support up to 110 pounds. Plus, it allows passengers to open the cargo box from their side of the car.

Finally, there’s Shield Jacket’s waterproof rooftop cargo luggage travel bag. It’s notable for its affordability and the flexibility it allows users in cargo placement. 

No matter which option you choose, you won’t regret using a rooftop cargo carrier if you have a smaller vehicle and need to haul more than your car can carry. Just be sure to use proper safety precautions when installing and using it.  


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