What is the perfect cargo carrier for your car?

When vacation time is just around the corner, and you’re ready for the next outdoor adventure, you will end up needing to answer this question, “How on earth are we going to fit everyone along with those large bags inside the car?” Lucky for you, there are cargo carriers out there that can help you with that problem. With a cargo carrier, you can save the cabin just for the people. Everyone can sit comfortably because all your cargo is kept outside of the car.

Cargo carriers are not only useful when you go for a vacation. They will serve you well too when you need to move out to a new place, but you don’t have much stuff to justify using a moving company.

To help you make a more informed decision when buying cargo carriers, we have created this ultimate buyers guide with everything there is you need to know. From the different types of carriers to the most frequently asked questions about them, we cover them all.

Hitch-Mounted Cargo Carriers

Hitch-Mounted Cargo Carriers

Check the back of your car, under the trunk. Do you see a square steel hole there? That’s the trailer hitch. If your car has one, then you can use a hitch-mounted cargo carrier. Can’t find anything like it down there? Relax, contact your dealership or local towing companies. They can set one up for a fee.

A car hitch receiver can be either 2-inches of 1.25-inches. Most hitch carriers are made for 2-inches receivers while some work with both with the help of adapters. To install the carrier, you just need to slide its main shaft into the receiver hitch, insert the locking pin or fasten a locking screw, and you’re done.

The biggest advantage of having a hitch-mounted cargo carrier is you can load and unload your cargo easily. Whether it’s a heavy propane tank, a giant luggage, or a cooler with tons of ice and drinks in it, you can get them on and off the cargo rack with relative ease.

The second biggest advantage is the high load capability. Many hitch carriers are rated at 500 pounds, and that’s a lot. Even for an over-packer, it’s going to be hard to load the rack up to its maximum weight capacity.

A hitch carrier also doesn’t affect your gas mileage as much as a roof-mounted one. Since it’s mounted on the back of your car, wind resistance is negligible, and you don’t have to push the pedal harder to get up to speed.

“Hang on, how can I open the hatch with all my stuff on the hitch carrier?”

Worry not. A lot of hitch cargo carriers have tilting mechanisms. They tilt down at an angle so that your hatch has enough clearing to fully open. It’s harder to tilt them once you pack your stuff because of the weight, but it’s still doable. You just need a helping hand to engage the tilting mechanism while you hold the rack’s weight so that the lock that keeps the rack straight up isn’t jammed.

“Is tilting the carrier really enough for the hatch to open without obstruction?”

In most cases, yes. To be absolutely sure, you can always use a hitch extender to increase the clearance between the rack and the back of your car. An extender also helps if you have a rear-mounted spare tire. The downside of using an extender is it will cut the weight capacity of the carrier by 50%, give or take. It’s simple physics. The farther the weight is from the pivot, the greater the torque. So if the distance is twice longer, the torque will be twice greater, unless you cut the weight by half.

One important thing you need take into account when using a hitch mounted carrier is whether your license plate is obscured. Different states have different laws, but in many places, you can get pulled over for obscured license plate.

The simple fix for this is to move the plate to the back of the carrier. Some carriers already come with the necessary bracket for this, but you can also buy a license plate attachment separately.

If you have a small car, a hitch-mounted carrier may also block the tail lights. In such a case, installing lighting kits is necessary for your own and other people’s safety. Blocked tail lights may also give you trouble with the law, so it’s best to play safe and install one.

Hitch Mount / Trunk Mount Bike Racks

Hitch Mount  Trunk Mount Bike Racks

For transporting your valuable bikes, a hitch-mounted or trunk-mounted bike rack is essential. Many cyclists prefer a hitch-mount or trunk-mount bike rack to a roof-mount bike rack. The reason is incredibly simple; it’s a lot easier to load and unload the bike to and from the rack.

The trunk-mount bike rack, while convenient for cars without hitch receivers, has one major drawback; the hooks can dent the trunk lid and damage the paint because the lid is the one that will hold all the bikes’ weight. That’s not all, accessing the trunk is also impossible with the carrier attached there. Furthermore, your bike will also sway a lot when you drive on uneven road surfaces.

Because of these problems, you should always choose a hitch mount bike rack over a trunk mount one whenever possible. That being said, it doesn’t mean that a trunk-mount bike rack is totally useless. If you need to occasionally carry one or two bikes over short distances, or you can’t justify installing a hitch receiver just for the sake of carrying a bike once a month, then a hitch-mounted bike carrier is a great solution.

As for the hitch –mounted bike carrier itself, it is further categorized into two types based on how the bikes are secured. There’s a hanging type, and there’s a tray type.

On a hanging type carrier, you hang the bike’s frame or wheels on a pair of metal bars. This method works well for bicycles with straight frames such as road bikes. For mountain bikes, women bikes, or BMX with sloping top frame, you’re going to need a crossbar adapter. Velcro straps or clamps are used to secure the bikes to the metal bars. As you might have guessed from this setup, the bike will naturally sway a lot, and there’s always a chance that they will bump into each other and scuff their paint.

The second carrier type uses trays. These kinds of carriers have vertical metal bars with pairs of wheel trays on the bottom. You secure each bike on one pair of trays that holds the front and back wheels in place. There’s a hook on the carrier’s vertical frame, and you slide that down to secure the bike further.

Since the bikes have multiple points of contact to the carrier, they will be more stable even when you’re driving on rough terrain. The major downside is it might be harder to fit a small children bike because the distance between the wheels might be too short and the hook on the vertical frame can’t slide down far enough to grip the bike’s frame. If you’re planning to carry your children’s bike along, get a carrier with adjustable trays with hooks that move all the way down.

Rooftop Cargo CarriersRooftop Cargo Carriers

When you can’t or don’t want to carry your luggage on the back of the car, then the roof offers a wide open space that you can also use.

A rooftop cargo carrier is basically a metal basket that you attach to your car roof. It can be attached to crossbars or roof rails using U-bolts or clamps.There are also carriers that hook on the window frame if your car doesn’t have factory rails installed.

You can also have the carrier permanently attached to your car if you prefer. This involves some drilling, but if your line of work or hobby requires hauling large stuff all the time, then a permanent install is a fine alternative to consider. With it, you don’t have to worry about retightening screws, bolts, or clamps every time you need to quickly hop on and go.

Rooftop cargo carriers are made of steel or aluminum. The ones that are made of steel are normally powder coated to protect it from corrosion.

Since rooftop cargo carriers usually come in parts, you will need to spend some time to put the whole thing together. Do note that you should use Rustoleum or similar products on the seams to prevent rust from forming there. Far too many people complain about rusty water dripping whenever they’re driving in the rain. Yet, those same people never bothered to do this simple prevention.

Aluminum cargo carriers don’t need any special treatment to prevent rust. If you’re the type that hates extra maintenance work, perhaps an aluminum carrier will be a better choice for you.

On the front of the cargo carrier, you’ll often see a piece of plastic or metal attached at an angle. That thing is called a wind fairing, and its job is to make the rack more aerodynamic. It is essential for a cargo carrier to be aerodynamic so that it can cut through the wind easier, create less drag and reduce wind noise. Increased drag will eat to your gas mileage to some degree, but it’s just a mild nuisance compared to the wind noise. A rooftop carrier with bad aerodynamic will make you feel like driving with the windows rolled down all the time.

One problem with rooftop cargo carriers is how you get your stuff up there. Some people just stand on the doorframe and others prefer to stand on the tires. Either of those still requires you to use one hand to hold on to the car to maintain balance, so you’re left with one hand to do the heavy lifting. Take our advice: use a step stool or lightweight wheel steps. They are much easier and safer to use.

When you are driving with a full load, you may notice some rattling from up there. To make the rattling sound go away, use foam inserts on spots where the carrier and crossbars are only thinly spaced.

Roof Cargo Boxes

Roof Cargo Boxes

You’ve seen these everywhere, right? Especially when it’s camping season. Sleek-looking boxes on top of everyone’s car that’s heading to the beaches or mountains. That sleek look is more than just for show. As we’ve mentioned earlier, being aerodynamic helps cutting down wind noise and keeping the car’s mpg in a decent range.

Roof cargo boxes are installed on crossbars using clamps or U-bolts. Both are fairly easy to use and allow for quick and stress-free installation. The big problem is the box’s weight and size. That thing can weigh more than 50 pounds. Yes, you read that right- fifty pounds. The big ones are that heavy. It’s always a good idea to have extra helping hands to help you carry the box up. With two people working on it, it’s easier to position the box right where you want it and keep the box from scratching the car paint during the process.

Many people opt for cargo boxes when it’s winter time, and they need to carry their skis to the slopes. Some boxes are long enough to carry 75-Inches long skis. Of course, you can also pack more than just skis in it. Those who love camping often rely on cargo boxes to haul their gears too.

The main reason why people choose a roof cargo box is that it’s waterproof. The hard shell is made of amorphous plastic so water can’t get in. The only way for water to get in is through the front part. You see, some cargo boxes don’t stay shut when you drive at high speed. The strong wind can force the front part of the top lid to lift up. On a clear weather, that gives you dead bugs and dirt on your cargo, but on a rainy day, you’ll end up with your cargo soaking up in rainwater.

To avoid that, you need to make sure the carrier is rigid. A rigid top shell also makes opening and closing the box much easier.

Cargo boxes can be opened from one side only or from both sides. The ones that open from both sides are favorable. You can access your cargo from either the passenger side or the driver side. However, cargo boxes that open from one side aren’t always bad. For instance, there are boxes that open from the back, but the opening is so wide, you can access your stuff from the left and right side too. When it comes to waterproofing, the ones with one opening on the back is hard to beat. With the hinge on the front, it’s almost impossible for the wind to lift up the top lid.

Now, let’s have a look at the limitations of cargo boxes.

Due to its rigid shape, you can’t just stuff it with your cargo without thinking ahead. You need to make sure the big and bulky load is placed on the center where the box is the tallest. Save the sides for smaller objects or things that can be squeezed tight like blankets. Over-packing a box will make it very hard to close and lock the box.

“Lock? What lock?”

Often times, a cargo box comes with a lock. Boxes that open on both sides usually have a lock on each side. The locks serve two purposes. The first is to let you know that the box is properly shut. The locks won’t engage if the top shell isn’t properly aligned with the bottom part. The second one is to secure your cargo.

Another problem with cargo boxes is where you’re going to put it when it’s not in use. Some people store their roof boxes standing in the garage. That’s the wrong way to do it. The box will deform over time, and you might not be able to open and close it easily the next time you need it. It will be better to store it horizontally on the floor. If you don’t have that much space left in the garage, you can try hanging it on the wall. Just mount a piece of metal bar on the wall so you can attach the box using the clamps or U-bolts. Be sure to oil the hinges and locks first to prevent rusts.

One more thing, when you put a box on the car roof, you need to keep a mental note that you just put something up there and tell your passengers to keep reminding you of it. Too many people used rooftop cargo boxes and totally forgot about it halfway. They went through drive-thrus and cracked open their cargo boxes just like that.

Cargo Carrier Bags

Cargo Carrier Bags

Boxes are not the only thing that can carry your load. Cargo carrier bags work well too. One of the great things about carrier bags is that they’re much more affordable than cargo boxes. They make an excellent cargo-hauling gear when you’re not ready to invest in the more expensive cargo box.

Cargo bags are versatile. You can use them on the roof with or without any basket or tray. You can also use them on a hitch-mounted cargo carrier or throw them on your truck bed. When you don’t need it, you can fold it compact and put it in the trunk for later use.

Unlike cargo boxes, cargo bags are flexible. This allows you to pack oddly-shaped items as well as the big and bulky ones. This flexibility is both a good and bad thing. You see, when you don’t pack it fully, the material will flap in the wind, and that’s really irritating. You can always tighten the straps attaching the bag to the car, but it is always a good idea to pack it full instead. Pillows and blankets make great stuffing for this purpose. They add a lot of volumes but not the weight.

Zippers and Velcro straps are the two most common closure choices for cargo bags. Both are simple to use, but bags with zippers are the ones you should pick. Why? Because Velcro straps might rip open when you drive at high speed. They also tend to gather lint, so they won’t stick as firmly as they used to when you first buy the bags. Go for bags with big and heavy-duty zippers. They’ll last longer than bags with Velcro closures.

Most cargo carrier bags are waterproof. Some are made of waterproof material, and some include a rain cover to protect the bag against rain and snow. However, in most cases, the former is better than the latter. A rain cover is nice and simple to use, but you still have to remember to put it over the bag all the time. When the weather has been nice for weeks, people tend to forget to put the cover on. When they’re caught with sudden rain in the middle of their trips, they end up with soaking wet spare clothes and everything.

Being waterproof takes more than just using waterproof material or using a rain cover. The best kind of cargo bag also uses clever designs to prevent water from getting into the bag when you drive through torrential rain. For instance, using flaps to cover the surrounding zippers, placing the zippers inside the flap to keep the wind from blowing rainwater in, and electrically-welded instead of stitched seams.

That last instance is a pretty big deal. When the seams are stitched, no matter how neatly it is done, the holes can get bigger and bigger as you stuff the bag.

Cargo bags are kept in place using straps. The straps are usually sewn on top of the bag, so there’s no chance of you losing them. The straps can connect the bag to at least four tie-down points. Some even use eight points to ensure the bag is not moving about at all.

Roof Rack Cross Bars

Roof Rack Cross Bars

Having cross bars is essential if you want to use rooftop cargo carriers. Even though you can use rooftop cargo carriers that don’t require crossbars, regarding reliability, cargo carriers mounted on cross bars are better than those mounted on bare roof.

Roof rack cross bars often have many attachments available to improve its carrying ability. That means you can use it to haul not just camping gears, but also bikes, kayaks, canoes, surfboards, and even boats. However, you still need to check for compatibility, which is sometimes brand-specific.

The simplest cross bars are only square metal bars with feet that you mount on the roof rails. Square-shaped cross bars are far from aerodynamic, but they get the job done nonetheless. Round crossbars are better in terms of aerodynamics, but slim bars are the best. They cut through the wind smoothly and whisper quiet. These slim bars are often referred to as aero bars. To improve the noise reducing capability, some of these crossbars have specially-designed rubber strips the top parts and end caps covering the bar ends.

Crossbars are quite easy to install. They have clamps to secure them to the roof rails. To accommodate different car sizes and roof racks, crossbars come in different length. There’s always a perfect fit for your car regardless of how wide or narrow the distance between the roof rails on your car is. Please note that the crossbars should not extend beyond the side mirrors. That’s dangerous because you might yank or hit something when you drive. It’s also illegal in some states, and you might get fined for that.

If you don’t have factory side rails installed and you’re not interested in installing them, you can still use crossbars. There are cross bars that use hooks to grip the window frames. You just need to turn some knobs to tighten the hooks. These bars can be as durable and reliable as the ones mounted on roof rails. Still, you need to make sure to get them from reputable manufacturers.

For cars with sloping rooftop (like the kinds you see on SUVs lately), a fit kit may be required to complete the installation. The bottom of the fit kit mold with the contour of the roof, so all the feet stands horizontally instead of at an angle.

To prevent the bars from being stolen, most bars have some kind of locking device located at the feet. You can also buy the locks separately if the one you already have has no locking mechanism.

What to Look for when Buying a Cargo Carrier

There are some important things you need to consider when buying a cargo carrier. You need to consider about the storage capacity, ease of use, material, quality, cost, and much more. Let’s discuss each one in greater detail, shall we?

Storage Capacity

If you often take long trips with your family and friends, having a cargo carrier with high storage capacity will save you a lot of headache in the long run. Why? Because when you just have to take all of your gears and leave nothing behind, an extra-large carrier means you can do just that.

What Will You Carry?

Transporting things like bicycles, kayaks, and boats will be a lot easier if you use a rack/cradle/mounting system made specifically to transport them. If you only need to take bags camping gears, or perhaps coolers, then any kind of cargo carrier will do.

Material

Cargo racks and basket are usually made of steel or aluminum. A small number is made of polycarbonate, but if you value your gears, just stick with metal carriers.

Cargo racks and basket made of steel are tough but heavy. They also need protection from the elements. Manufacturers usually use powder coating instead of simple paint job since powder coating is more resilient and last a lot longer protecting the steel from the elements.

Aluminum is perfect when you aim for the lightest setup possible. Aluminum is kind of soft, but with the right manufacturing process, aluminum cargo racks can be as tough and durable as steel racks. Aluminum also resists rust pretty well. No fancy coating or finish is required. What people don’t like about aluminum is the threading doesn’t last as long as steel.

For cargo bags, the common material is Polyester. It’s basically the same kind of material used to make ordinary bags. To protect it from the elements, manufacturers use their own secret recipes, but most of them just use vinyl layering on both the exterior and interior.

Cargo boxes are made of ABS plastic. It’s tough, durable, and resists the elements pretty well. To make the box more pleasing to the eyes, manufacturers use glossy finish. Such finish also makes the box easier to clean from dirt, grime, and bug splatter.

Quality & Cost

It is widely accepted that quality is directly proportional to cost; something that cost more is usually of higher quality that the cheaper counterpart. There are, of course, anomalies to this simple statement. When you shop around, you will find that some cargo carriers have exceptional quality but without the hefty price tag. So, if you have a very limited budget, you can relax because you can still get a high-quality carrier.

Style & Size

The dimension of cargo carriers should not be too big that it looks out of place on your car. Rooftop cargo bags that are too wide will have the sides flop down and cause quite a racket when you drive. You also need to choose between a basket or tray. A basket style means the carrier will have tall sidewalls or railings. Those sidewalls help to keep your cargo from sliding off, and when you want to use tie-downs or a cargo net, the sidewalls give more tie down and hooking points compared to a tray.

Features & Accessories

For a hitch mount cargo carrier, the most useful features are folding and tilting mechanism. With a folding mechanism, you can use normal parking spaces as if you don’t have anything mounted on the back of your car. You don’t always have the luxury of an open and wide parking space on your destination, right?

A tilting mechanism is useful to give you access to the trunk or hatch when the carrier is loaded with stuff. You’ll have enough clearance to let the trunk open and close unobstructed. For accessories, there is quite a number of them. There’s the anti rattle, hitch lock, lighting kit, and hitch adapter.

  • Anti-rattles tighten the connection between the carrier and hitch receiver. Without any play, there won’t be any more rattling. A hitch lock is essential to prevent your carrier from getting stolen. Anti-rattles sometimes have locking mechanism too.
  • A lighting kit is crucial to improve visibility. During heavy downpour or nighttime, other road users can notice the carrier easier with the lights on. Since the lighting kits are also connected to your turn signals, you can turn left and right safely without other people blaring their horns and cursing at you.
  • With a hitch adapter, you don’t need to worry about hitch receiver size difference anymore. If you happen to buy a carrier that connects to a 2-inches receiver, but the one on your car is only 1.25-inches, you can still install the carrier safely. Some adapters are curved or raised. These adapters are meant for cars with low ground clearance so that the carrier won’t scratch the road when you go through speed bumps or climbing steep inclines.

What Car You Drive

Yes, what kind of car you drive dictates what kind of carriers you can install. If you have a convertible, then any sort of roof racks, bags, and boxes are out of the question – even for a hardtop. A hitch-mounted carrier is your only option if you drive a convertible.

For other types of cars (SUV, minivan, MPV, Jeep, crossovers, sedan) all kinds of cargo carriers will work just fine. A hitch-mounted bike and cargo carrier, for example, will work well for sedans too. Carriers with raised trays are easy to find these days, so even though a sedan has low ground clearance, you can still install a hitch-mounted cargo carrier. You can also use a hitch raiser for the same purpose.

If you have a car with sliding doors, then the only type of cargo carrier you may want to avoid is a rooftop cargo bag with long pass-through straps that loop under the roof. The straps might block the door sensors, and you’re going to need to close the doors manually every time.

Warranty

A company that gives excellent warranty is usually confident about the quality of their products. You should also check online reviews about how a company treats warranty claims. If a customer must go through a dozen of hoops to claim warranty, then forget about buying anything from that company.

Comfort While Driving

When you add something on top of your car or the back, you will need to adjust your driving style accordingly – there’s no way around it. You may not notice it much when you drive in a straight line, but you will notice it when you need to make a sharp turn. For example, with a hitch-mounted cargo bag on the back, you may feel that your driving is less stable. Turning the steering wheel doesn’t give the same feedback as it used to. This is why you need to do a test drive with the cargo carrier fully loaded before the actual trip. It lets you know how much that extra luggage affect your driving. A couple rounds around the block should suffice. Take your time and go with a longer route if you feel it’s necessary.

Ease Of Assembly And Installation

Other than rooftop cargo boxes and bags, the other types of carriers usually require some kind of assembly. Sadly, some manufacturers skimp on the assembly instructions, so you need to do some guess works to put everything together. It’s really not that hard, though. If you already know how it should look like, you just need to lay every single part on the floor and sort out which part goes where.

You can always rely on YouTube when you’re stuck. Just search for the exact make and model of your carrier, and there’s a 99% chance someone already have a video describing how to assemble and install that particular carrier.

Ease Of Use

Let’s talk about cargo bags and boxes first. For these two, you need to check how easy it is to open/close, load/unload your cargo, and lock/unlock them.

Cargo bags typically uses zippers or Velcro closure which are equally easy to open and close. Most cargo bags open on three sides; left, right, and back. This setup makes loading and unloading easy. The absence of opening on the front-facing side also improves aerodynamic and reduce the chance of rainwater getting blasted in by the wind while you’re driving in the rain.

Safety

What we mean about safety here is your safety along with all your passengers and other people sharing the road with you. Let’s take a bike rack as an example. All bike racks have some kind of mechanism that’s supposed to keep the bikes in place when you transport them. Some bike rack manufacturers do it worse than others. As a result, you sometimes hear people complaining about their bikes falling off the rack in a freeway. That kind of stuff can give people driving right behind them a minor heart attack.

Let’s go for a rooftop cargo box as the second example. If the top lid is not tightly secured and locked to the bottom part, then when you drive at high speed, the wind can blow the top lid off and smash it to the car right behind you.

To prevent these kinds of scary stories from ever happening to you, it’s imperative to get a cargo carrier made by a reputable manufacturer. And that brings us to the next important point of what you should consider before buying a cargo carrier

Aerodynamics

An aerodynamic carrier won’t cause annoying wind noise that you can’t help but hear throughout your trip. It also means your gas mileage won’t drop significantly. When it comes to aerodynamics, a hitch mounted carrier wins over any rooftop boxes. Yes, even the most streamlined ones. Being located at the back of your car, a hitch mount carrier doesn’t even need to be aerodynamic. That hitch carrier just tags along.

Brand

Yes, brand still matters. Reputable brands have a lot at stake. Those who have been building their credentials for decades can’t afford to make and selling crap anymore. It’s a different story from run-of-the-mill brands that buy OEM products from China and then rebrand them as their own. Things are way easier for them. When things go south, they can just start over under a new company name and slap a new brand on the same OEM products the used to sell.

Cargo Carrier FAQs

Can’t I just use ratchet straps to secure my canoe or kayak to the crossbars?
Of course you can, but there’s a 99% guarantee it will fly off your car when you go speed bumps or make a sharp turn. Use crossbars with proper canoe or kayak racks if you want to transport them safely. The racks will keep them centered and safely
Which one’s better – Thule or Yakima cargo carriers?
It’s impossible to know the answer without comparing specific carriers from each brand. Thule and Yakima make great carriers, but that doesn’t mean one is always better from the others. In general, these two brands are comparably equal. Instead of basing your buying decision on the brand, you should select one that offers the best systems and attachments fitting your specific cargo-hauling needs.
What’s the difference between roof rails and cross bars?
Roof rails are fixed on the sides of the car roof. That’s why they’re also known as side rails. They go from front to back. Cross bars go from one side of the roof to the other, left to right. Cross bars are often referred to as load bars since they’re the ones that are holding the load of cargo boxes, bags, and other roof-rack-mounted accessories. The combination of the roof rails and bars is what you call roof rack. However, some people use the term roof rack loosely to refer the crossbars only.
Will a hitch-mounted carrier work with sedan and other cars with low ground clearance?
Ah yes, cars with ground clearance may have a problem with hitch mounted carriers. Since the rack sits low to the ground, it will most likely scratch the road when you go through speed bumps or steep incline. The easy solution for this is to buy a hitch carrier with a built-in riser so the rack sits a couple of inches higher that it normally would. Raised hitch adapters are also widely available, and they are easy to install too.
Is the lock on my rooftop cargo box good enough to prevent theft?
In a way, yes. Some thieves couldn’t be bothered to try harder when they see a store or house is locked shut. Same thing with your cargo box. Obviously, the more determined ones may use a crowbar to pry open the box and won’t mind smashing your window to grab the stereo while they’re at it.To ease your mind a bit, never put valuables is a cargo carrier. When you’re stopping at a motel to get some sleep, unload all your stuff and put them in your room. Stopping at a diner? Park your car in a clearly visible spot. Apply the same precaution when you’re transporting bikes, and things should be okay.
Do I need a professional installer to install my roof rack?
For roof racks that mount on the rails or door frame, you really don’t need one. Those things are made for easy installation by the average Joes and Janes. If you’re looking into a more permanent solution that requires some drilling and you just can’t afford to get it wrong, then a professional installer certainly helps. Permanent installation is indeed harder to do since you need to make sure no rusts or leaks are resulting from the drilled holes. A professional installer can pick the right combination of roof racks, mounts, and all the necessary hardware to complete the installation.
Do I need to use a protective mat when using a rooftop cargo bag?
If you place the bag directly over the roof, then yes – you should use a protective mat under the bag. The mat protects your car paint and prevents the bag from slipping. Even when you tie the bag down tightly, there will still be some minor movements. When dust and dirt get under the bag, the bag will grind those dust and dirt against your car paint.
How much weight can I carry on my rooftop cargo bag?
The weight limit depends on your setup. Do you put the bag on the crossbars or directly on the roof. If you put the bag on crossbars, then the weight limit of the crossbars is the limit. If you put it directly on the rooftop, we recommend that you carry no more than 150 pounds of distributed weight.
Is it okay to put a cargo bag right on top of the roof if my car has as sunroof?
Yes, it’s still okay to put a cargo bag on a sunroof. You just need to distribute the weight of your load and avoid placing the heaviest object directly on top of the sunroof.
Do I have to remove the cross bars when I’m not using them?
No, It’s alright to leave them on the car roof. Still, you need to clean them once in a while to get rid of dirt buildup that might stick after you drive thousands of miles. Consult the owner’s manual to see what the recommended cleaning period is.
How can I transport my kayak on roof racks without any fancy cradles or kayak carriers?
To carry your kayak directly on the roof racks, you need to adjust the distance between the racks, put foam padding on the racks, and then put the kayak upside down. Never put the kayak facing up since that may distort the hull during transport. You may need to move the kayak around to find the best spot where it will rest firmly and doesn’t slid to the front or rear. Use non-stretchy tie-down straps to secure the kayak to the racks and rails. Avoid using bungee cords. Their stretchiness cannot give the necessary support.Be advised that using kayak carriers to transport kayaks on their sides is still the best option. Use the method above only if it’s not possible for you to get such carriers before your trip.
Is there a bike rack that fit all kinds of bikes?
This is a hard one to answer, but we’re pretty sure none exist at the moment. You see, bikes come in a wide variety of frame, size, style, weight, wheel width, and suspension. However, bike racks with wheel trays come close to a one-size-fits-all bike rack. As long as the distance between the wheel trays is adjustable, and the hooks that keep the bike in place can slide up and down, you have a pretty good rack that will fit most bikes in the market.
Is it okay to mount the hooks of a trunk-mount bike carrier on the rear spoiler?
No, it is not okay. That spoiler may not be strong enough to withstand the weight of the bikes. Even if the spoiler is made of steel and bolted on the trunk, it is still a bad idea to hook a bike carrier on it.
What is the recommended way to pack my gears in a rooftop cargo bag?
The rule of thumb is to put the heaviest items on the bottom first, then stack all the lighter stuff on top. You want the center of gravity to be as low as possible so that the whole setup is more stable when you drive. Arrange your stuff so the center part is slightly taller than the sides. Doing this will prevent rainwater from pooling on the center.You also need to spread the weight evenly whether you put the bag on crossbars or directly on the roof. To make loading and unloading easier, it is recommended that you pack your stuff in duffel bags first instead of putting everything directly on the cargo bag. When you stop at a hotel to get some rest, you can get everything to your room without taking too many round trips.
My three-bikes hitch-mounted bike rack has 105-pounds of weight capacity. Is it okay to put two 45-pounds bike on two slots?
No, it is not. Even though the total weight is only 90-pounds (well under the 105-pounds weight limit) each slot is meant to withstand 35-pounds of the load at most. By exceeding the slot’s weight limit, the clamp or strap that hold the bike in place may fail. You spend a lot of money on your bikes, right? Be safe and follow the directions written in the bike rack’s owner’s manual.
How fast can I drive when I have a rooftop cargo bag or box?
While the safe speed limit varies by the bag’s installation method, total load weight, road conditions, and various other factors, driving at 80mph is usually still considered safe. Still, you must always adhere to applicable speed limits and regulations. Be sure to check the straps, mounts, clamps, tie-downs that hold the bag or box in place before you hit the road.

Cargo Carriers Top Brands

  • Allen Sports
    Since 1971, Allen bike racks has been sold nationally by many bicycle distributors. Dick Allen, the founder of Allen Sports, was a cycling enthusiast himself. His innovative bike-carrying device was the very result of him trying to find an efficient method to carry bicycles on weekends. Simplicity is where Allen Sports excel at, and it shows throughout all its product lines.
  • Arksen
    Arksen is a company that makes a lot of stuff in the home improvement, pet, outdoors, kitchen, car, and trucks niche. Their products range from pasta maker to hitch-mounted carriers. While their products are diverse, all of them have something in common – high quality and affordable price.
  • Cargoloc
    Cargoloc is a cargo carrier brand from Allied International. This company makes more than just cargo carriers. Under the Cargoloc brand, this company also makes anchors, bike storage, bungee cords, cable ties, garage storage solutions, shop accessories, straps, tarps, and tie downs. In summary, Cargoloc is a brand that covers your every cargo carrying needs.
  • CURT Manufacturing
    This company is well-known for its towing equipment. Actually, that has been the case since 1995. Their line of custom color hitches hit the market on 1998. Since then, the name CURT has been synonymous to a reliable cargo management solution that the average people can rely on to take care all of their gear. Their commitment to their customers is the main reason why people trust CURT products.
  • E-GO
    E-GO Bike LLC is a company headquartered in Hayward, California. E-GO specializes in fashionable e-bikes and e-bike accessories. However, the quality of their cargo carriers is nothing to scoff at. Their cargo carriers are made to last while remaining aesthetically pleasing. A cargo carrier may not leave much room for any fashionable and chic touches, but if you have an E-GO carrier, you know it won’t be an eyesore.
  • Goplus
    The Goplus brand is a familiar one in the automotive world. You will come across it when you shop for bike hitch carriers, hitch-mounted luggage basket, garage floor jack, and various other tools and hardware related to cars. Goplus products are affordable yet tough and dependable.
  • Heininger
    Heininger has been around for quite a while, offering people like you the solution to their limited space problems. Heininger’s cargo carrier is easy to assemble and includes an anti-wobbling device that minimizes Established in February 1998, Heininger’s quest to enhance road travel continues to this day.
  • Highland
    As one of the leaders in cargo management, Highland is determined to make your road trips as stress-free as possible. Their cargo organizing lines include rooftop carriers, truck racks, bike racks, cargo trays and bags, storage nets and cargo bars, and interior organization solutions. The experiences they have gained since 1945 give them the ability to exceed your expectations.
  • Hollywood Racks
    What started as a small operation behind a bike shop in 1973, has grown into a large business producing bike racks that fit trailer hitches, trunks, or spare tires. Today, many people put their trust in Hollywood Racks whenever they need something to carry their bikes safely on their cars over thousands of miles. Hollywood Racks’ reputation of being reliable, has earned them that trust.
  • Keeper
    Keeper has been in the business of cargo management for over 30 years, and they’re excellent at it. All of Keeper’s products, including their towing and electric winches, are geared to perfection. To this day, Keeper stays true to their tagline – Performance Engineered. Their cargo management products are perfect for on-the-go families looking to bring tons of gears on their next outings.
  • Maxxtow Towing Products
    Maxxtow is an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) for various towing products. Maxxtow was originally founded in 1996 as a trading company, but it started to make its own towing products in 1999. In 2011, this company developed its own brand, MaxWorks, to cater its growing customer base in the USA.
  • Merax
    As a B2C manufacturer and distributor, Merax sells more than just cargo carriers. This company offers a multitude of products such as exercise machines, furniture, pet supplies, and much more. Headquartered near LA, California, Merax continues to expand its business to provide you with exceptional product selections at exceptionally affordable prices.
  • Pro Series
    When you want a towing product that gives you Legendary Value, you go with Pro Series product line. Such is the promise of Cequent Performance Products that owns the Pro Series trademark. This company makes a diverse array of products, and their goal is to make products that offer the best value and made by the best people.
  • RAGE Powersports
    Once you start searching for cargo management solutions, you will stumble upon RAGE Powersports product again and again. This brand is one of the most trusted names when it comes to loading, hauling, and transporting. Whether you need to carry bags, bikes, or pets, RAGE Powersports has got your back covered.
  • Rightline Gear
    On any road trip, you can always count on Rightline Gear carriers to haul your cargo around. Both their top and back carriers are popular due to their strength and waterproof feature. Rightline Gear also makes a variety of Pop-up, SUV, and truck tents. If your family loves to go camping, you’re going to love Rightline Gear.
  • ROLA
    Coming from down under, ROLA made its first roof rack to accommodate the need of an avid Australian windsurfer to carry a surfboard in a convenient and stylish manner. Today, it’s not just Aussies that put their confidence in ROLA whenever they need durable cargo carriers. Wherever your adventures are taking you, ROLA is ready to haul your gears in style.
  • Roofbag
    Not everyone has roof racks on their cars, and Roofbag knows this very well. This company, as you might have guessed, makes roof bags that fit cars with or without roof racks or crossbars. The sheer convenience and unique design have made Roofbag a popular choice among adventurers with bare car roofs.
  • Saris
    It’s pretty rare to come across companies that are willing to give a lifetime warranty on their products. Saris is one of those rare breeds. Saris makes highly efficient bike racks that fit on the back of your car easily. Their rock-solid lifetime warranty is a clear sign of how confident they are about the quality of their bike racks.
  • SportRack
    SportRack’s bike racks, cargo boxes, and roof racks are well-received by consumers because of SportRacks commitment to quality. Their products are loaded with useful and innovative features that make cargo carrying a less stressful chore for adventurous families.
  • Surco
    Surco cargo carriers are made in the USA. They rely on in-house manufacturing facilities instead of asking other company to make the cargo racks for them and then slap the Surco brand all over. That means, you don’t just get a generic product, but something that’s developed and made by a company that understands what their customers want.
  • Thule
    No doubt you’ve heard of this brand being recommended in many forums and online discussion whenever the topic of cargo carrying pops up. Established in 1942 in Sweden, Thule has come a long way. They’ve been helping millions of people bringing their boards, bikes, skis, camping gears wherever they want to go. That’s their mission, and you can be sure they will continue doing that for years to come.
  • TMS
    TMS is well-known for its aluminum SUV roof racks. The reason is pretty obvious; their roof racks strike a balance between a high-quality product and a reasonable price tag. Their products appeal to those who wishes for dependable roof racks for their cargo that doesn’t cost an arm and leg.
  • Yakima
    Yakima is right there with Thule as the most well-appreciated brands in the world of cargo carrying. Their cargo boxes and rack systems are superb and, just like Thule, have been recommended over and over again by people who already used them for numerous outdoor adventures.

Conclusion

Cargo carriers are handy when you don’t have enough space in the car to pack all your camping and sporting gear. By now you should have a good grasp on which cargo carrier you should pick. Remember, always pick one that suits your specific requirements. Just because your neighbor got a spanking new rooftop cargo box doesn’t mean you have to. If you need to haul more than 200-pounds of cargo, a rooftop cargo box is a bad choice. Go for a hitch-mounted carrier and put a waterproof cargo bag on it.

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