Welcome back, Log Out

What Cargo Box Fits My Car?

cargo box hatch clearance

April 4, 2019

Rack Attack Team

You need a cargo box that not only fits your car but will also fit all of the gear you want to put inside it. By the end of this step-by-step guide you'll know exactly what to look for in a roof-top cargo box.

The cargo box you choose needs to work for you and not against you. If it's too small for your skis (or whatever you want to put in it) it's no more useful than not having one in the first place. But if your Cargo Box is too large, stopping you from opening your trunk, then that's no good either. Before considering anything else you need to first start with the size and fitment.

Step 1: Make Sure It Fits

To carry a cargo box on your vehicle you're fist going to need a roof rack. If your vehicle came with a factory installed rack with cross bars (bars going across your roof, door to door) then you're already good to go.

If you need a roof rack then you can head to our convenient roof rack fit guide to get you started.

When you're all set with a rack then you need to make sure the box you choose will fit your vehicle. The only worry here is if you have a vertically opening tailgate hatch (like on an SUV). Some vehicles, with some boxes, won't give you enough room to open your hatch fully.

The only way to know this ahead of time is to have your roof rack installed on your roof, and then do some measurements. If your rack is adjustable move the front bar as far forward as it will go, and the rear bar about 24 inches behind that (measured from the center of the front bar to the center of the rear bar). The specific location of the rear bar isn't crucial here, as long as it's at least 25 inches away, but close enough for the box hardware to reach. Now you can measure from the center of your front bar to the point of the open hatch level with the top of the rear bar.

Every cargo box is different, but the range will be somewhere around 40 inches to 57 inches. If hatch clearance is a worry, and you still need something quite long, you might want to look into the Thule Motion line of boxes, which are designed to minimize the amount of clearance needed for the boxes to fit.

On top of a box needing to fit your vehicle, it also needs to be sized correctly for what you're planning on putting inside it. All of our cargo boxes have their dimensions listed, and you can figure out what you need from that. While length is always the first number to look at, especially if you're carrying skis or snowboards, height is the second number to assess. You want your box tall enough for your gear, but short enough to keep you under any height restrictions you may have and to keep aerodynamics at their best.

Crucial tip: If you park in a garage, be very sure your vehicle with the box installed can still fit. You don't want to put on your brand new box only to wreck it the first time you drive home. Make sure to measure your total height after you install the box so you know where you'll fit when reaching any overhang with a listed height.

Truly the easiest way to know what box will fit your gear and your car is to give us a call. We have decades of experience and can tell you exactly what will fit and what won't. We've installed and tested nearly every combination of box and vehicle, so if you're in doubt just phone or email us.

Once you have a firm grasp on the size of roof box you need, and the requirements it needs to fit your vehicle, you can start looking into what features are important to you.

Step 2: Make it Work for You

While they all serve the same function, not all cargo boxes are the same. There is a wide variety of features and options available across roof boxes. What you need and want in your box will depend on your needs and priorities.

These days nearly all cargo boxes are dual-side opening. There was a time when this was a rare feature, but pretty much all of them do it now. It's incredibly useful to be able to open your box from either side, and would suggest this be a mandatory feature when looking.

All cargo boxes come with locks. You want to make sure whatever is inside your box is secure. While they all have locks, not all locking mechanisms are the same. If you look at a box like the Sportrack Horizon you'll see the lock is simply a core you turn with a key. This works fine, unless you are in a situation where your box freezes over, at which point trying to unlock it has a very real danger of breaking off the key.

Other boxes have mitigated this risk by having you turn the lock mechanism without putting pressure on the key. If you only ever use a box in Phoenix Arizona, chances are this feature is wasted on you.

Beyond that it comes down to how the mounting mechanism works. They all serve the same function, but on the cheaper boxes it take a lot more work and time to mount and dismount the box than it does on the better ones. You also want a box with adjustable mounting hardware, allowing you to move the box forward and backwards on the rack to get the perfect fit.

Finally, there are some other features you can find here and there. Internal tie downs or even carpeted interiors.

Once you're sure you have the fit and features you need, the final question is the look.

Step 3: It's all About the Look

The look all comes down to your preference. With a variety of cargo box sizes, shapes, colors, and even materials the look of your box can be diverse. There is really no advice here other than making sure to follow your heart. Get what you want with the box you need!

Bonus: Are You Sure it's a Box You Need?

Before wrapping this up there is one important final question to ask: are you sure you actually want a cargo box? For most things a cargo box is the best choice, without a doubt. But if you're only looking to carry rugged, dirty things that don't need to be protected from the weather, perhaps you're better suited to a cargo basket?

Of if you just need a little more space, for a quick trip, and don't need something 100% fully weather proof, a cargo bag is a cheaper (less functional) option, perfect for a quick trip. They're easier to store when not on your car, but sacrifice the true protection and convenience offered by a full hard-shell box.

In the end what box you get comes down to what you need and what you want. With so many choices, and wanting to make sure it will all fit, it's often best to come into one of our stores or contact us with your questions. We want to get you into the best box for you, and are always around and excited to give you a hand.

The Best Boxes we Sell: Our Staff Picks