Car roof box buying guide: How to find the best roof box for your car

What you need to know to maximise your car space and hit the road without leaving anything behind.

Car roof boxes (also known as cargo boxes) are storage spaces that are fitted to your car's roof and mounted to your car's built-in or installed roof racks. With a roof box, you can stop stressing about how you can possibly pack everything you need for a camping weekend away with the kids or a road trip with friends and family. The extra storage space can make it easy to transport bicycles, ski gear, fishing equipment and other large items.

Our guide will help you compare the different sizes and features of car roof boxes, so you can choose the right one to meet your needs.

Compare some of the best car roof boxes

Data obtained January 2019. Prices are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.
Name Product Average price (AUD) Capacity (litres) Colour Dimensions (L x W x H) Carries Purchase today
Yakima Rocketbox Pro 12
Yakima Rocketbox Pro 12
$496.95
340
Matte black
147.3 x 91.4 x 40.6 cm
Gear
The Rocketbox Pro 12 is Yakima's shortest box, designed for hatchbacks and small cars.
Thule 6035 Ranger 500
Thule 6035 Ranger 500
$599
260
Black and silver
190 x 50 x 30 cm
Skis, snowboards
The Thule 6035 Ranger 500 is extendable and foldable for easier transport and storage.
Yakima Skybox 12 Carbonite
Yakima Skybox 12 Carbonite
$599
340
Black
233.7 x 61 x 40.6 cm
Gear, skis, snowboards
The Yakima Skybox 12 Carbonite is designed to reduce drag and made with up to 80% recycled material.
Prorack Exploro 4 (EXP4)
Prorack Exploro 4 (EXP4)
$649.99
425
Satin black
142 x 96.5 x 38 cm
Luggage
The Prorack Exploro 4 (EXP4) is compatible with several Prorack roof bars including the S-Wing, P-Bar, Aero Bars.
Thule 634804 Touring L 780 Anthracite Aero Skin
Thule 634804 Touring L 780 Anthracite Aero Skin
$699
420
Black
197 x 78 x 43 cm
Skis, snowboards
The Thule 634804 Touring L 780 Anthracite Aero Skin has multiple locking points and can be opened from both sides.
Rhino-Rack MasterFit RMFT550
Rhino-Rack MasterFit RMFT550
$803.70
550
Black
216 x 91 x 44 cm
Excess gear, camping equipment, prams/strollers, skis, snowboards, wakeboards, golf clubs
The Rhino-Rack MasterFit RMFT550 is designed with durable materials for off-roading, 4WDs and road trips.
Yakima Skybox Lo Carbonite
Yakima Skybox Lo Carbonite
$999
425
Carbonite
234 x 91.4 x 29.2 cm
Gear, skis, snowboards
The Yakima Skybox Lo Carbonite includes locks for added security and lid stiffeners for more durability.
Whispbar WB751B
Whispbar WB751B
$999
400
Gloss black
180 x 89 x 43 cm
Skis, snowboards
The Whispbar WB751B is designed for small to medium-sized vehicles.
Whispbar WB752S
Whispbar WB752S
$1,150
450
Gloss silver
200 x 89 x 43 cm
Skis, snowboards
The Whispbar WB752S is adjustable to fit just about any roof racks.
Thule 611907 Excellence Titan Gloss
Thule 611907 Excellence Titan Gloss
$1,999
470
Titan gloss
218 x 94 x 40 cm
Skis, snowboards
The Thule 611907 Excellence Titan Gloss has a unique design to optimise air flow around the box and reduce drag.

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Size and shape

When choosing a roof box, the most important factor to consider is the size and shape of the roof box.

While roof boxes can reasonably fit on most cars, varying sizes will provide different amounts of storage. Roof boxes are usually rectangular, but their dimensions vary. It's more helpful to compare the dimensions of the roof box, rather than its stated capacity. Extra litres in capacity could translate to only a few extra centimetres in height or length, which realistically won't make much difference. Remember to check the dimensions of the roof box against the dimensions of your car; you will want to be able to open your car's tailgate completely without the tailgate spoiler hitting the rear of your box.

Roof boxes come in half, medium and full-widths in both long and short options. With a half-width box, you can carry additional gear on your roof, such as a bike or canoe. Medium-width boxes typically suit a family of four. A long, full-width roof box that covers your whole roof offers more storage space but requires two people to maneuver it. A long roof box would suit those carrying skis.

Standard roof box sizes:

TypeSpecificationsFeatures
Narrow-width60cm wide or less
  • Gives you extra space on the roof for other gear such as bikes.
  • Long narrow-width boxes are suitable for carrying skis.
Medium-width60cm to 75cm wide
  • Most popular width for families as they are easier to lift and move than full-width boxes, but still provide adequate storage space.
Full-width75cm to 95cm wide
  • Allows you to maximise roof storage space.
  • Requires two people to lift and move.
ShortLess than 1.5 metres long
  • Suitable for smaller cars (eg hatchbacks).
  • Can be stored more easily than long boxes when not in use.
LongOver 2 metres long
  • For those who want the biggest box.
  • Should provide adequate storage for a family of 4 to 5.
  • Can be difficult to lift and store.
Do I need a roof rack?

Yes, if you want to attach a roof box to your car, you need a roof rack. You will need to install the roof bars before you can fit a roof box to your car. Though your roof box doesn't have to be a particular shape for your car, your roof bars do. Check what roof racks fit your car by finding out your vehicle's roof type. For more information, about what roof bars and roof rack system to purchase, check out our roof rack buying guide

Height restrictions

When adding a roof box, it's important to check the increased height of your car and be aware of height restrictions of tunnels, parking lots and other restricted height spaces. Height restrictions in Australia depend on the location and the road.

If you buy a roof box without checking the total height of your car, you could end up trying to drive into a restricted height space, damage your car and roof box, and potentially face heavy fines.

Before buying a roof box, check the following heights:

  • Car
  • Roof box
  • Roof rack

Add the three heights together to get the total height of your vehicle with the roof box and add an extra margin of at least a few centimetres just to be safe. To find out the height of your car, check your car manual. If you are storing anything additional on your car, such as an upright bicycle, make sure to measure from the highest point.

Once you are on the road, keep an eye out for low clearance roads, tunnels, underpasses and parking lot entrances.

How to compare car roof boxes

A car roof box can cost you from around $499 up to $1999 depending on the size of the box, the material used and the brand.

To work out which roof box is right for you, consider these essential features:

How should I store my roof box?

If you're not leaving your roof box permanently on your car roof, we recommended that you store it horizontally instead of upright which can cause damage to the end or side of the box. If space is an issue, you can purchase a hoist system so that your box can be suspended from your garage roof, or use a wall holder to keep it securely mounted against the wall. Roof boxes should be stored in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight to avoid damage from extreme temperatures and UV rays.

Alternate storage options

If you don't want to shell out the money for a roof box, soft-sided roof bags and roof baskets can give you additional storage for a lower cost.

If you only want to transport your bicycles, you could also opt to get a tow bar or trunk-mounted bike rack instead of investing in a roof box.

DescriptionProsCons
Soft-sided roof bagsSoft fabric bags that can be strapped to roof racks or directly to your car's roof.
  • Usually cheaper than roof boxes.
  • Can be folded up for easy storage.
  • Not as secure as hard shell roof boxes.
  • Won't keep your items fully dry.
Roof basketsOpen-air container that requires contents to be strapped into place or covered by a net.
  • Cheaper than roof boxes.
  • Can be used for oversized and irregularly shaped items that can't fit into a roof box.
  • Can't be locked.
  • Not weather-proof.
  • May not keep out bugs.


 

Georgia Tan

Georgia Tan is a writer for finder.com.au. She loves words almost as much as she loves drinking long blacks. When she’s not hitting the keyboard, she can be found wandering the outdoors, travelling and writing novels.

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