Best Hard Shell Roof Carrier 2019 – Roof Carrier Buyer’s Guide

Best Hard Shell Roof Carrier – MaintainYourRide Recommends:

Yakima SkyBox Carbonite Cargo Box


Introduction – Best Hard Shell Roof Carrier 2019

Everyone has run out of trunk space at some point in their life. Whether its packing extra stuff for the family, skis and snowboards for a trip up to the slopes, or just a weekend camping trip. Maybe Fido needs to take up half the trunk and you just can’t fit everything you need. Regardless of the reasoning, cargo space can get extremely limited even in the largest vehicles.

Roof Carriers are the most efficient way to add extra cargo space to your vehicle. They can add as much as 21 cubic feet of extra space. Mid Size sedans offer 15-25 cubic feet of cargo space and Mid-Large sized SUV’s typically come with 30-50 cubic feet so these larger Roof-top carriers can give you as much as 50-100% more space. Most are weather-sealed, include locks, and are durable enough to provide almost as much security to your stuff as being in the trunk.

There are hard shell and soft-shell roof cargo carriers. While the hard shell variety is significantly more expensive in most cases, they provide a good bit of extra security relative to the soft. Soft-shell carriers are typically weather resistant but full weather-proofing, locking, anti-theft, and rigid support are features only available in the hard shell products. Installing and uninstalling the carrier, adding and removing cargo, road noise, and even wind resistance/aerodynamics are significantly better with the hard shell as well.

There are a few main companies that are well-known for their roof racks, cargo boxes, etc. Yakima and Thule are the big names, well-known for their quality and durability. Some smaller companies like SportRack and Apex also have some great offerings within the space. While the quality of the smaller companies may not be quite up to par with the Yakima and Thule products, they are generally about half the price.

Due to the universal nature of the product, we view roof top cargo carriers as a one-time purchase that you invest in and continue to use for years to come. You have to decide whether you want to fork over the big bucks for the top-of-the-line cargo box, or perhaps give one of the smaller companies a try. They all come with hundreds of recommendations and 4+ star reviews.  Lets take a look at the top 6 best hard shell roof carrier options:

Best Hard Shell Roof Carrier 2019 Comparison



Yakima SkyBox Carbonite Cargo Box

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Thule Motion XT Rooftop Cargo Carrier

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SportRack SR7018 Vista XL Cargo Box

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Yakima ShowCase Rooftop Cargo Box

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Thule 682 Sidekick Rooftop Cargo Box

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Apex RTB-18 Roof Carrier

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6. Apex RTB-18 Roof Box Cargo Storage Carrier

The Apex RTB-18 is the cheapest cargo carrier on our list. It has 18cu ft and 110lbs of cargo capacity which is plenty for your next trip. It is actually accessible from 3 different sides (left, right, rear) making it a breeze to load and unload.

The dimensions of the box are 57″ x 39″ x 19.5″. It does not include an integrated locking system, but has a locking mount for securing the box with a padlock. It is made with high-quality shatter-resistant platic in the USA and sealed to protect your cargo from the weather.

This is a decent option if you need to maximize space without breaking the bank. Most reviewers gave it four stars and cited that it felt a bit flimsy relative to some of the other options available on the market. We couldn’t find any mention of a warranty or the recommended spacing of the rails that this would fit. Be sure to check for compatibility prior to purchasing.

Buy Apex RTB-18 Roof Carrier


5. Thule 682 Sidekick Rooftop Cargo Box

The Thule 682 SideKick is a much smaller option for users that want the Thule quality without spending upwards of $500. It includes 8 cu ft of space with a cargo weight limit of 110 lbs and dimensions of 54″ x 15.5″ x 25″. It uses an Easy U-Bolt mounting system that provides compatibility with virtually any rack within minutes. It requires a minimum spacing of rack crossbars of 23.5″ and a maximum spacing of 32″.

The SideKick only provides passenger-side cargo opening so you won’t be able to pop out of the driver’s seat and open it right up. It actually includes a dual lock system that locks the box to the carrier and locks in the contents of the box. This ensures that someone won’t just steal the entire cargo box off the roof of your car.

The limited lifetime warranty protects against manufacturing defects but not against normal wear and tear, accidents, etc. Again, this box is not rated to be waterproof, but it does provide good protection from the elements. This option is a just over four stars on the review scale and has a few hundred review to back it up. If you’re in the market for a smaller option, but you still want the guarantees of a big-name brand, this is the perfect cargo box for you.

Buy Thule 682 Sidekick Rooftop Cargo Box


4. Yakima ShowCase Rooftop Cargo Box

The Yakima ShowCase is actually a higher end option than our #1 rated SkyBox option. It is about 30% more expensive and draws on the form of the SkyBox with a design that aligns better with contemporary automotive styles. This box comes in two colors and two sizes: Anthracite Black and Quick Silver, 15 & 20 cu ft.

It is an ideal fit for smaller vehicles and has a tapered tail end to prvent interference with the hatch/trunk lid. Internal lid stiffeners provide additional durability and easy opening and closing of the box. It opens from both sides and includes an upgraded locking mechanism with a quick release button to unlatch the lid.

Although it is probably the nicest box on the list, we factor in price with our recommendations. This is perfect for those users that want to spend the money to get something that’s going to perform great and last a lifetime. It is our clear recommendation for the best hard shell roof carrier in the performance category.

Buy Yakima ShowCase Rooftop Cargo Box


3. SportRack SR7018 Vista XL Cargo Box

The SportRack SR7018 Vista XL Cargo Box is one of the most popular options we researched/reviewed. It seems to be the most commonly used alternative to the Yakima and Thule offerings. It features 18 cu ft of carrying capacity and 100lbs of weight capacity. Black is the only color option and the ABS plastic construction is stated to be durable and UV-resistant.

It is a rear-opening cargo box that can lock in an open position to make accessing your cargo easier. The integrated lock provides a level of security. It is not rated to be waterproof, but reviews have indicated that it is very weather-resistant and many have driven hundreds of miles through rainstorms and had no issues.

The box uses a U-Bolt installation system that is “virtually tool free” and can be installed/removed in minutes. It includes a limited lifetime warranty that covers all manufacturing defects. The price of this box and the almost four and a half stars that it has received from hundreds of reviewers make this an easy choice for the best hard shell roof carrier in the value category. If you need the extra space on a budget, start with the SportRack SR7018.

Buy SportRack SR7018 Vista XL Cargo Box


2. Thule Motion XT Rooftop Cargo Carrier

The Thule Motion XT Rooftop Cargo Carrier is a top of the line roof carrier that comes in three sizes: L, XL, XXL. They are 16 cu ft, 18 cu ft, and 22cu ft and weigh in at 42lbs, 46lbs, and 55lbs respectively. All three have a load capacity of up to 165lbs and come in two colors, black glossy and titan (grey) glossy. Thule is among the top brands in the automotive roof top carrier market and well known for the quality of their products.

This cargo carrier is designed to fit almost any vehicle thanks to its PowerClick Quick-Mount System which come preinstalled for ease of installation. The Secure SlideLock System provides separation of locking and opening functions and automatically locks the lid in place with clear indication of whether the box is fully closed or not. Dual side opening provides easy access to your cargo from either side of the vehicle and its forward design eliminates risk of contact between the trunk/hatch and the rear of the cargo box.

The dimensions are as follows:
Thule Motion XT – L: 77″ x 36″ x 17″
Thule Motion XT – XL: 84.5″ x 36″ x 17″
Thule Motion XT – XXL: 91.5″ x 37.5″ x 18″

Dozens of reviewers gave this product almost five out of five stars! It comes highly recommended and we rate it at the same level as the Yakima SkyBox that sits in our number 1 spot. We chose to put the SkyBox ahead strictly because we were able to gather slightly more information about it. Both are great purchases for the money.

Buy Thule Motion XT Rooftop Cargo Carrier


1. Yakima SkyBox Carbonite Cargo Box

The Yakima SkyBox Carbonite Cargo Box is actually a product line that includes different sizes from 12 cubic feet to 21 cubic feet. Yakima is well-known for their quality and design so you know your money will be well-spent. This particular cargo box is fairly low-profile with a highly aerodynamic design that helps reduce wind resistance and road noise.

It is designed to fit almost any type of roof rack bars including round, factory, aerodynamic and square bars so compatibility with your vehicle should not be an issue. The SuperLatch with integrated SKS Locking System (Same Key System) not only provides security for your cargo, but it also enables you to use a single key for all of your Yakima products. This makes it quick and easy to integrate multiple Yakima products without having to carry around a pocket full of keys.

The Carbonite textured finish gives a great look and feel to the box and the internal lid stiffeners offer additional durability without adding a ton of weight. Dual-sided opening provides easy access to your cargo from either side of your vehicle and a tapered rear design reduces hatch interference allowing your trunk to open fully without making contact with the cargo box.

The mid-size 16ft version weighs in at 47lbs and has dimensions of 81″x36″x15″ and is rated as a tool-free, 5-minute installation even for beginners. With hundreds of reviews providing an average of over four and a half stars, this cargo box definitely qualifies as our recommendation for the best hard shell roof carrier.

Buy Yakima SkyBox Carbonite Cargo Box


How to Install a Roof Carrier

Due to differences in manufacturer specifications, it’s not possible for us to give a complete installation guide for Roof Cargo Boxes.  However, the user manual that came with your carrier should provide plenty of details.

Check out this video for a sample installation of a Thule Roof Carrier:


MYR Recommended Best Hard Shell Roof Carrier – Overall: Yakima SkyBox Carbonite Cargo Box
MYR Recommended Best Hard Shell Roof Carrier – Performance: Yakima ShowCase Rooftop Cargo Box
MYR Recommended Best Hard Shell Roof Carrier – Value: SportRack SR7018 Vista XL Cargo Box

If you’re headed out camping or off-roading with your new Roof Carrier, don’t forget to beef up your vehicles lighting with an LED Light Bar.  We reviewed the Best LED Light Bar options on the market today.  Be sure to double-check your oil filter and car battery as well to ensure you don’t get stranded in the middle of nowhere!

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