How to Choose the Right Cargo Carrier for Your Vehicle?

February 6, 2024

When you are planning a road trip, or moving larger items, the cargo box on your car’s roof can make a significant difference. But not all cargo carriers are created alike. Selecting the right one for your vehicle is a critical task that demands your time and attention. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process, providing you with important considerations and tips on choosing the best roof cargo carrier that suits your needs.

Understanding the Basics

Before you start shopping for a cargo carrier, understanding the basics about these rooftop boxes can come in handy. The right cargo box can easily transform your vehicle into a high-capacity transport system without compromising on safety or driving comfort.

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A cargo carrier or a cargo box is generally a hard-shelled, lockable box that can be attached to the roof of your car for storing and transporting additional gear. Carriers are available in various designs and sizes, and are made from different materials, including plastic, metal, or fabric.

Keep in mind, the type of carrier that will best fit your car depends on your vehicle’s roof type, the type of items you plan to transport, and the weight capacity of your vehicle’s roof.

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Evaluating Roof and Hitch Cargo Carriers

Cargo carriers come in two types: roof and hitch. A roof carrier is mounted on top of the car, while the hitch carrier is attached to the car’s rear.

Roof cargo carriers offer an additional storage capacity without taking up interior space. They are ideal for storing lightweight, bulky items like tents, sleeping bags, and other camping gear. However, they can affect your vehicle’s aerodynamics, impacting fuel efficiency. Also, loading and unloading can be challenging for shorter individuals or for heavier items.

Hitch cargo carriers are easier to load and unload, and do not affect aerodynamics as much. They are best for heavier items as they do not put additional weight on the car’s roof. However, they can make parking more difficult and limit access to the car’s trunk.

Therefore, consider your needs and your vehicle’s capacity before deciding on a roof or hitch cargo carrier.

Considering the Size and Capacity

The size and capacity of your cargo carrier are paramount. Your carrier should have enough room to accommodate your gear, but it should not be so large that it impedes your vehicle’s operation.

The size of your cargo box will depend on the gear you plan to transport. Smaller boxes are perfect for weekend trips, while larger ones can accommodate gear for extended vacations or moving larger items.

Similarly, the weight capacity of your cargo carrier should align with your cargo’s weight. Overloading your carrier can lead to damages and unsafe driving conditions. Always cross-check your vehicle’s maximum roof load capacity before purchasing a cargo box.

Checking Compatibility with Your Vehicle

To ensure that your cargo carrier fits your vehicle perfectly, check its compatibility. The best way to do this is by checking the product specifications or consulting the manufacturer’s website for a fitting guide.

The type of roof your vehicle has (naked roof, raised rails, flush rails, or fixed points) will determine the type of cargo carrier and the mounting system you will need. If your vehicle lacks a roof rack, you may need to buy one or opt for a hitch carrier instead.

Roof carriers like Thule are known for their universal mounting systems, which allow them to fit on a wide range of vehicles.

Selecting the Right Material and Design

The material of your cargo carrier will impact its durability, weight, and weather resistance. Hard-shell carriers, usually made from plastic or fiberglass, are durable, waterproof, and secure. They are ideal for protecting your gear from the elements. Soft carriers or cargo bags are lighter, flexible, and easier to store when not in use, but they offer less protection.

The design of the cargo carrier also matters. Aerodynamic shapes reduce wind noise and drag, improving fuel efficiency. Some boxes open from either side, offering convenience, while others may have additional security features like locks.

In conclusion, selecting the right cargo carrier for your vehicle involves understanding your needs, evaluating the different types, considering the size, checking compatibility, and selecting the right material and design. By keeping these factors in mind, you can find a cargo box that serves your needs and ensures a smooth journey.

Reviewing Security and Convenience Features

Before settling on a cargo carrier for your vehicle, it’s worth considering the security and convenience features that come with it. These features can make a significant difference in terms of usability and peace of mind, particularly if you frequently travel or carry valuable items.

Firstly, let’s talk about security. Cargo boxes often come equipped with a locking mechanism designed to prevent theft. These locks may come in the form of a key lock or combination lock. Depending on your needs and personal preferences, you may opt for a cargo box with a more advanced locking system. For instance, some premium models offer advanced security features, like central locking systems that automatically lock the box when the lid is closed.

Secondly, consider the convenience features of the cargo carrier. Some boxes are designed to open from either side, allowing you to easily access your cargo from both sides of the vehicle. This dual-side opening can be incredibly convenient, especially when parking or loading spaces are limited.

Other convenience features worth considering include quick-mount systems, which simplify the installation process, and internal tie-downs, which help secure your cargo during transport. Some cargo carriers also come with internal lighting, which can be handy when loading or unloading your gear in low-light conditions.

Lastly, consider the carrier’s aesthetics. While functionality should be your primary consideration, you might also want a carrier that matches your car’s style and color. Some brands, like Thule Motion, offer sleek designs and a range of colors to choose from.

Maintaining Your Cargo Carrier

Once you’ve selected and installed the right cargo carrier for your vehicle, maintaining it will ensure its longevity and performance. Whether you opt for a roof box or a hitch cargo, proper care and maintenance are crucial for keeping your gear safe and secure during your travels.

A cargo carrier is exposed to the elements, so it’s important to regularly check it for any signs of wear and tear. This includes checking for any cracks or damage to the hard shell, inspecting the locks to ensure they are functioning properly, and making sure the mounting system is secure.

Cleaning your cargo box regularly will also help maintain its condition. Use mild soap and water to clean the exterior of the box, avoiding harsh chemicals that could damage the material. For a roof box, it’s a good idea to remove it from your car roof when not in use to prevent any potential damage to your vehicle.

In terms of storage, if you’re not using your cargo carrier regularly, it’s best to store it in a dry, cool place. Protect it from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures, which can cause the material to warp or crack over time. Many cargo boxes, like the Thule Pulse, come with a storage bag for this purpose.

Conclusion

Choosing the right cargo carrier for your vehicle is a task that requires careful thought and consideration. By understanding your transportation needs, evaluating the different types of cargo carriers, considering the size and capacity, checking the compatibility with your vehicle, selecting the right material and design, reviewing security and convenience features, and understanding how to maintain your carrier, you can make an informed decision.

Remember, a well-chosen cargo carrier can enhance your vehicle’s storage space, making your road trips more comfortable, convenient, and enjoyable. Whether you opt for a roof top carrier or a hitch cargo, always prioritize safety, functionality, and compatibility with your vehicle. Happy travels!