The best car top cargo bag
When it's time for a family road trip, you have your work cut out for you in regard to packing. With a full car and overstuffed suitcases, you definitely feel the squeeze -- but you can take the edge off with a car top cargo bag.
Thanks to these convenient carriers, you're no longer limited to using your trunk for storage. In fact, car top cargo bags maximize storage by as much as 15 cubic feet. That provides plenty of space to store outerwear, sports gear, and anything else you need to stuff inside, including oddly shaped items.
Before you hit the road for your next vacation, expand your storage options. Our buying guide can help you compare car top cargo bags, plus we're including a few of our top picks. Our favorite, Rightline Gear Sport 2 Car Top Carrier, fits onto cars with or without roof racks and features a patented waterproof zipper design.
Considerations when choosing car top cargo bags
Car top cargo bags fall into two categories: those that require a roof rack and those that don't. Installation is simple for those that require roof racks, given their intuitive components. Car top cargo bags that don't require roof racks feature strap systems that secure to car doors.
Whether or not they require a roof rack, car top cargo bags are often model-specific. Many are designed to fit compact cars or sedans, and others are intended for use only on SUVs.
As you begin comparing styles of bags, one term you may come across is "universal." While these bags can fit a broad range of vehicles, you still need to compare dimensions between the bag and your vehicle to ensure a proper fit.
When you're traveling at highway speeds for hours at a time, your car top cargo bag takes a beating from wind and weather. For that reason, top-quality bags feature reinforced or double-walled designs to withstand challenging conditions. There are options with PVC-coated mesh, rubber-laminated nylon, and UV-resistant coatings, just to name a few.
In terms of keeping your belongings dry and damage-free, aim for waterproof car top cargo bags. These typically feature waterproof coatings and urethane-coated zippers to prevent moisture from penetrating the bag. These are far superior to water-resistant or rainproof bags, which only repel a moderate amount of water and moisture but can become saturated with prolonged exposure.
Car top cargo bags are available in a few sizes, ranging from 9 to 19 cubic feet. The most common size, however, is 15 cubic feet. That said, dimensions can vary quite a bit between car top cargo bags, even if they hold the same capacity. Aerodynamic or low-profile bags, for example, tend to be longer and flatter than their counterparts of the same capacity.
Car top cargo bags are secured to your car via strap systems. These are fully adjustable to ensure the bag is held in place without shifting or dislodging. If straps are too loose, the bag can slide around the roof of your car and cause scratches. For that reason, many consumers opt to place a yoga mat or non-slip mat between the bag and the roof to reduce friction.
Car top cargo bags with smaller capacities closer to 9 cubic feet cost $40 and below. Mid-size car top cargo bags range in price from $50 to $75 and tend to have rugged, weather-resistant designs. The largest-capacity bags designed to withstand extreme weather can cost $100 or more.
Q. Are my belongings safe in a car top cargo bag?
A. Car top cargo bags are accessible via zippers, and you can invest in travel locks to keep them closed. Some bags are outfitted with integrated locks, but these cost significantly more than other styles.
Q. Can car top cargo bags be repaired if they sustain tears?
A. Theoretically, you could patch a car top cargo bag, but the whipping winds of road travel will undoubtedly cause the tear to get bigger. To be sure your bag won't burst open and release belongings, it's best to simply replace it.
Car top cargo bags we recommend
Best of the best: Rightline Gear's Sport 2 Car Top Carrier
Our take: Can be used with or without a roof rack, making it a popular choice for first-time buyers.
What we like: Aerodynamic design minimizes wind resistance, and waterproof design holds up well in rainy and snowy conditions.
What we dislike: Clipping mechanism into door can affect door seal, but overall it's a solid purchase.
Best bang for your buck: Reese Explore's Rainproof Car Top Carrier
Our take: Universal design made with sonically welded seams for a totally waterproof bag.
What we like: High-quality, highly durable zipper closures. Strap and buckle system is easy to adjust.
What we dislike: Popular for modest car trips; however, prolonged highway use can result in micro-tears.
Choice 3: Keeper's Waterproof Roof Top Cargo Bag
Our take: Low-profile design with flexible sides to accommodate oddly-shaped items.
What we like: Easy installation, works well with all roof racks. Impenetrable covered zipper design.
What we dislike: Some consumers recommend placing a pad beneath the bag to prevent friction and scratching.
Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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