A car roof box is a must-have if you’re the type of person who wants to maximize every weekend with a golf, camping, skiing, or travel adventure.

It only makes sense to own one. You can pay once and have a rooftop cargo box that will last for years.

The alternative is having to pay that same amount every single month in the form of a car payment for a bigger vehicle to haul around your stuff.

A car roof box frees up precious space in your car when you are traveling. Tents, sleeping bags, luggage, golf clubs, snow boards, fishing poles, and all the other equipment we need for a fun-filled getaway take up room in even the roomiest cars or SUVs. You and your passengers can stretch out in comfort if you relocate all your gear to the rooftop.

Travel frequently with infants or small children? Then you know that baby stuff hogs all the space.

A rooftop cargo box is an ideal way to stash the stroller, portable crib, and more. That way, your car ride will be more comfortable. In addition, baby will still have his or her playthings to keep him happy when you get to your destination.

Car roof boxes have come a long way in recent years. Today, the designs are much more aerodynamic.

They reduce drag and don’t wreck your gas mileage. They are easier to mount and more secure than ever before. You no longer have to worry about your stuff spilling out along the highway.

And they look good, too. You won’t be embarrassed to hit the highway with a low, sleek, spacious cargo box adorning the top of your car.

There are a lot of car roof boxes on the market today. Many different styles and sizes exist for you to consider.

This buyer’s guide will help you through the process of selecting the right cargo box for your vehicle and your lifestyle.

Rankings

RankingProductCapacityHeightEase of InstallationAccessReviewPrice
#1thule sidekickThule SideKick8 cubic feet15.5 inchesHighPassenger Side AccessRead Review
See Price on Amazon
#2thule motion xt xlThule Motion XT - XL18 cubic feet 17 inchesMediumAccess from both sidesRead Review
See Price on Amazon
#3sportrack vista xlSportRack Vista XL 18 cubic feet19 inchesHighRear AccessRead Review
See Price on Amazon
#4thule motion xt xxlThule Motion XT - XXL22 cubic feet18 inchesMediumAccess from both sidesRead Review
See Price on Amazon
#5thule motion xt alpineThule Motion XT - Alpine16 cubic feet 13.25 inchesMediumAccess from both sidesRead Review
See Price on Amazon
#6yakima showcase 15Yakima ShowCase 1515 cubic feet14.5 inchesMediumAccess from both sidesRead Review
See Price on Amazon
#7thule motion xt lThule Motion XT - L16 cubic feet 17 inchesMediumAccess from both sidesRead Review
See Price on Amazon
#8yakima skybox carboniteYakima SkyBox Carbonite 16 cubic feet 20 inchesLowAccess from both sidesRead Review
See Price on Amazon

Finding a Car Roof Box That Fits Your Needs

Not all car roof boxes are created equal. Sure, they all keep your stuff from cluttering up your trunk or backseat. However, there is a bit more to it than simply strapping a roof box to the top of your car and hitting the open road.

You need to consider:

  • The size of roof box you need
  • The type of car or truck you drive
  • How it attaches to your car
  • The shape of the roof box

You should also factor in how often you plan to use the car roof box. Where you will be storing it when it is not being used? Knowing these things will help you determine if you need a super-durable roof box or if you can get away with a more lightweight one.

You’ll want to avoid making the wrong purchase at the store. Make sure you think through these factors ahead of time. That way, when you are ready to buy, you will be able to make an informed decision and you won’t waste time at the store trying to calculate storage capacity in your head.

What Size Car Roof Box Do I Need?

That depends. How much stuff do you have?

When traveling, I am a less-is-more type of person. However, I also have a large family.

Once we throw eight sleeping bags and two tents in the hatch back, it becomes clear that space is at a premium. Most of our trips are of the long-weekend variety.

But from time to time, there is a longer adventure in store for us. Extra days mean extra stuff.

Before jumping into your cartop box purchase, consider the number of traveling companions you will have. Each additional person means more stuff to fit in the car.

Also, how long will your traveling adventures be? If you are planning an epic cross-country road trip, you may end up taking more stuff with you.

Cartop cargo boxes come in different shapes and sizes. The low and long roof boxes are ideally suited for sports equipment, like skis or fishing poles. Squarer, boxier boxes are better for luggage, backpacks, and rolled up sleeping bags.

Small and medium sized roof boxes may give you enough additional cargo space, but if not, there are large and extra-large ones on the market. If you are regularly traveling with a lot of luggage or equipment, or baby items, you might want to take a look at the extra-large models.

When you are shopping for a cartop box, you will notice that the volume of the box is listed on the box. Most manufacturers note the volume in cubic liters. That is frustrating because, as Americans, we never really embraced the metric system.

No worries, though. Nearly all of them also list the cubic feet of capacity space.

They also include a weight limit. The car roof boxes are only designed to carry a certain amount of weight before it compromises the integrity of the box and causes damage to your vehicle.

Are All Roof Boxes Compatible with All Vehicles?

Most of the rooftop cargo boxes manufactured today claim to be universally compatible. However, make sure you check the manufacturer’s recommendations on the packaging before you make your purchasing decision.

If you drive a smaller car with a hatch back, for instance, you may find that the hatch won’t open completely. It may be too hard to get into smaller roof boxes atop large trucks or SUVs because of location of the box.

The roof boxes also come with mounting or installation systems that allow for them to be mounted onto any type of vehicle. However, it is a good idea to double check your vehicle compatibility before you buy.

Will a Roof Box Make My Car Too Tall?

It might! If you drive a large truck or SUV and you buy an extra-large roof box to mount on top of it, you might encounter some clearance issues. Be careful backing out of the garage!

You should be aware of the total height of your vehicle with the rook box installed. That way, you know if you have enough clearance to get into parking garages and under overpasses and bridges.

What Should I Know About Aerodynamics and Wind Resistance?

Any type of car roof box mounted on top of your car will do terrible things to your gas mileage. This trick is to find the product with the least amount of drag and the best aerodynamics.

Look for a model with a low, sloping nose that will allow the air to roll up over it. Today’s manufacturers have made great strides in the material used to make the roof boxes. The outer surfaces are textured to allow for maximum air flow and reduced noise.

How Do I Store My Roof Box?

You don’t want to drive around with the car roof box on top of your vehicle all the time. Although, it would make a convenient place to put your groceries.

You will need to remove the box and store it when you aren’t using it. A long and low roof box can probably fit in the rafters of your garage. However, a boxier cargo box may take up a bit more storage space in your garage (tip: look into a roof box hoist).

If you don’t have a garage or room in yours to store it you may need to keep the roof box outside. These boxes are made to withstand the elements. But you will want to make sure you select a durable model if you know you will be exposing it to the rain and snow.

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Criteria We Used for Ranking Car Roof Boxes

We evaluated the car roof boxes in this buying guide on several criteria.

Ease of Mounting and Installing the Roof Box

The first was ease of mounting and installing the roof box. After all, you like life on the go and you don’t want your adventures interrupted by a difficult rooftop cargo box.

If you enjoy solo travels, you’ll want a model that you can install yourself without the need for an extra set of hands.

Size

The size of the car roof box was the next factor we considered. Because the roof boxes come in different shapes and sizes, it is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. The important thing is to have a model that adequately fits your gear and equipment.

Safety and Security

The safety and security of the rooftop cargo box was the next consideration. This was a threefold one.

We looked at how securely the box mounted to the car roof to see if there were any issues with the unit coming loose while the vehicle was speeding down the road.

We evaluated the locking mechanism to make sure that the contents of the box were protected from theft and weather encroachment. Lastly, we looked to see if the product had a history of damaging the vehicle it was mounted on.

Cost Aspects

Various cost aspects were next on the list. This included not only the cost of the car roof box, but the decrease in fuel efficiency when driving with the unit, due to drag. We wanted to see if the manufacturers’ claims of aerodynamic designs really did impact gas mileage.

It can be a balancing act to find the right product to meet your standards in all of these categories. Let’s see how they compare to each other.

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Research & Reviews

Now that you have had an opportunity to visualize your ideal car roof boxes, it is time to research what products are available on the market. Luckily, we have done the legwork so you don’t have to.

Without further ado, let’s dive into reviewing the 8 car roof boxes we have handpicked as best buys. Every product has its own unique high and low points, and we have tried to objectively assess them.

  1. Thule SideKick
  2. Thule Motion XT – XL
  3. SportRack Vista XL
  4. Thule Motion XT – XXL
  5. Thule Motion XT – Alpine
  6. Yakima ShowCase 15
  7. Thule Motion XT – L
  8. Yakima SkyBox Carbonite

Our #1 Pick: Thule SideKick

thule sidekick
  • Capacity: 8 cubic feet
  • Dimensions: 54 in. wide x 15.5 in. high x 25 in. long.  16 lbs.
  • Mounting: Easily mounts to most removable and factory roof mounts.
  • Maximum Weight: 75 lbs.
  • Material: Impact-resistant polyurethane
  • Features: Passenger side access, locking system to keep your items secure.
What We Said:

The Thule SideKick gets top marks from us because of the size and ease of use. With 8 cubic feet of space and a length of 25 inches, this is a good-sized model for the average adventurer.

The SideKick is not so tall that you have to worry about underpasses. However, it still gives you plenty of storage space to get sports equipment and suitcases out of the backseat so you have more passenger space in your car.

Ease of use was a major factor for us. The SideKick only weighs about 16 pounds so it is light enough for one person to lift it onto the roof.

It mounts safely and securely to all types of roof mounts. That way, you don’t have to buy extra mounting kits in order to have the confidence that the car roof box is securely mounted to your car roof.

While most of the car roof boxes are made of tough, durable materials, the SideKick’s outer layer is made of an impact-resistant polyurethane composite. That means that the roof box won’t show dings and damage from hail, rocks, and more. The color won’t fade in the sunlight or become cracked and brittle.

We like the passenger side access door because it provides a measure of security. If you pull over on the side of the highway to retrieve something from the car roof box, it is a little risky to be standing on the driver’s side of the vehicle with cars whizzing past.

When it is time to load and unload the box, it would be nice to be able to get into the box from both sides, but we appreciate the company’s safety concerns.

The other thing we like about the SideKick is that it is not huge and imposing on top of the vehicle. We felt as though it wasn’t there at all when driving.

The design reduces wind resistance so there is no buffering or rattling, even when zooming down the interstate. The manufacturer has worked directly with engineers to design a product that doesn’t significantly impact the gas mileage. So it is not a cost burden to use.

What Reviewers Said:

Reviewers said that, although this is a smaller roof box, it was spacious enough for golf clubs, tents, and sleeping bags. This smaller-sized cargo box is the perfect size for an adventurous couple or the minimalist camper.

In addition, because the SideKick is small and light, it was relatively easy for one person to install the box alone, without needing assistance.

Considerations:

Reviewers were disappointed that this cargo box required some assembly and was not ready-to-use out of the box. Others expressed frustrations that the keys to unlock the cargo boxes were flimsy and prone to breaking off in the lock. That can cause major inconveniences when traveling.

Reviewers understood that the access door was positioned on the passenger side in order to keep the user safely out of traffic when getting into the cargo box. However, solo travelers noted that it was inconvenient for them to have to walk around to the other side of the car when they wanted to get something from the roof box.

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Our #2 Pick: Thule Motion XT - XL

thule motion xt xl
  • Capacity: 18 cubic feet
  • Dimensions: 84.5 in. long x 36 in. wide x 17 in. high.  46 lbs.
  • Mounting: Power Click Mounting system
  • Maximum Weight: 165 lbs.
  • Material: Fiberglass composite
  • Features: Available in two colors, black and gray. Locks to keep the contents safe.
What We Said:

Because of the length of the Motion XT-XL, it is easy to see why this model would be extremely popular with the surfing crowd. They can haul surfboards, in addition to skis, camping gear, and fishing poles, without risking damage from the elements because the solidly-built access doors and locks create a seal so that water cannot seep inside.

We ranked this model high because the Power Click mounting system allows users to see that the box is securely mounted. Some users report that the length of the Motion XT-XL makes it is cumbersome to install.

Buyers can pick between a black or a gray Motion XT-XL. So users can get the color that looks best with their vehicle.

Some users reported some unwanted noise and buffering occurred, especially when traveling at high speeds.

What Reviewers Said:

It is long enough for surfboards, in addition to skis and fishing poles. Reviewers noted that it is spacious and solidly-built.

Reviewers considered this to be well worth the money and stated that it looks great on their vehicles. They also reported having peace of mind about the security of the mounting. That is due to the power click mounting system that leaves no doubt that unit is installed correctly.

Considerations:

Although it is designed for quiet use, some users have reported a low hum, rattle, or whistle when speeds exceed 80 miles per hour. Other reviewers commented on the height of the unit and reported clearance issues when entering and exiting garages.

This cargo box is long and tall so it takes more than one person to lift it into place and make sure it is installed properly.

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Our #3 Pick: SportRack Vista XL Rear Opening Cargo Box

sportrack vista xl
  • Capacity: 18 cubic feet
  • Dimensions: 19 in. high x 63 in. long x 38 in. wide.  42 lbs.
  • Mounting: Fits SportRack Roof system and most factory racks, U-bolt mounting kit
  • Maximum Weight: 100 lbs.
  • Material: UV-resistant acrylonitrile butadiene rubber (ABS)
  • Features: Lockable box, rear opening for safety in traffic
What We Said:

The size and affordability of the SportRack Vista are why we placed it in the number 3 position. It is long and low so it doesn’t create a burden on the top of the car, but is roomy enough for a lot of gear.

The economical price point makes this a good option for the budget adventurer or someone new to the weekend warrior lifestyle.

The SportRack comes ready to use out of the box, without any required assembly. That is also why we ranked it high. It comes with the mounting kit so you can be ready to roll without a bunch of inconvenient trips to the hardware store.

People seem to have a love-hate relationship with the SportRack’s rear opening. On one hand, the users were safely out of traffic with loading, but unloading could be harder because some stuff may get shoved at the other end.

The design might be better suited for people hauling skis and surf boards and other long items, not people using it for camping gear.

The rear door gets blocked, though, when the vehicle’s hatch was open. Travelers could only load or unload one area at a time.

The SportRack is made from ABS, a type of acrylic rubber compound that is super durable, one of the more durable materials used in roof box construction. The ABS material gave it a high-quality feel. Despite the affordability of the model, this product is solid, durable, and could stand up to wear and tear.

What Reviewers Said:

Most reviewers reported that the SportRack Vista was lightweight and easy to mount. It stayed securely mounted and kept the contents dry.

They were pleased that the roof box came already assembled and ready to use with the accompanying hardware. The long and low style of the car roof box meant that the user could haul skis, golf clubs, and snowboards. However, the box was low enough to reduce drag that would impact gas mileage.

The ABS material resists fading and cracking in the harsh sun and freezing temperatures.  Overall, users of the SportRack Vista praise the affordability of the model, as well as the roominess and durability.

Considerations:

Some reviewers seemed to appreciate the rear facing opening because it potentially keeps the user out of traffic and safe. But others claim the rear access was awkward and cumbersome to use, especially for shorter people.

Other reviewers commented that the roof box was virtually inaccessible when the trunk or hatchback of the vehicle was open, because of the rear opening. Some reviewers reported that the roof box made a whistling sound at high speeds.

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4. Thule Motion XT - XXL

thule motion xt xxl
  • Capacity: 22 cubic feet
  • Dimensions: 91.5 in. long x 37.5 in. wide x 18 in. high.  55 lbs.
  • Mounting: Power Click Mounting system
  • Maximum Weight: 165 lbs.
  • Material: Fiberglass composite
  • Features: Available in two colors, black and gray. Locks to keep the contents safe. Forward mounting to allow for full opening of the trunk or hatch.
What We Said:

This is the big boy of car roof boxes. The sheer volume of this box means it is for the serious camper, sportsman, or traveler…and all his friends. It might be too large, however, for the casual user.

Ideally, three or four people should help with the installation so you don’t damage the vehicle or the box. The Motion XT-XXL is not a product that is easily installed and removed on a whim. It most likely will require extra people to help.

Because it is so long, it may not be ideally suited for every vehicle. You really need a larger SUV to handle this behemoth.

One reason we ranked the Motion XT-XXL so high is that the car roof box sits more forward on the vehicle so that the hatch back opens completely. The trunk or hatch won’t scrap against the roof box, either. So you don’t have to worry about damaging either one.

The forward position means that you could have several people loading or unloading your gear at once. This is because you can access the truck and both side of the rooftop cargo box at the same time.

If fuel efficiency is your number one priority, this car roof box may not be the top choice for you. Although it is designed to be aerodynamic, the size of it does create drag and can eat away at your gas mileage.

What Reviewers Said:

This is a top-line model and the largest model made by Thule. It is roomy enough for skis, surfboards, and snowboards, and easy to install.

Users commented on the ease of opening, closing, and locking the box. The Slidelock system allows users to know that the model is securely locked into place which gave them peace of mind on the highway. Additionally, reviewers appreciated that the box sits forward on the car roof to allow for full access to the trunk or hatch.

Considerations:

Reviewers commented on the high cost of this car roof box. Because it is a large box, two people are needed to lift the box onto the car. The weight of the box, at 55 pounds, makes it a bit more difficult to install. The length of the Motion XT- XXL means that it is not suited for all vehicles.

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5. Thule Motion XT - Alpine

thule motion xt alpine
  • Capacity: 16 cubic feet
  • Dimensions: 90.25 in. long x 37.5 in. wide x 13.25 in. high.  55 lbs.
  • Mounting: Power Click Mounting system
  • Maximum Weight: 165 lbs.
  • Material: Fiberglass composite
  • Features: Available in three colors, black, gray, and white. Locks to keep the contents safe. Low and long, ideal for skis and snowboards.
What We Said:

The Motion XT Alpine is almost as long as the Motion XT-XXL. However, it is nearly five inches shorter.

That means it is still able to accommodate your skis and other sports equipment. But it is lower and more sleekly designed so buffering and rattling may be reduced as air flow over the box is more fluid.

The Motion XT Alpine has an installation system that includes a slide lock so it is easy to users can see that the car roof box is anchored in place. Users report that the box is fairly easy to install, but it may take more than one person to lift it into place.

Motion XT Alpine comes in black, white, and gray. Most of the other models are only available in black or gray so the addition of white a nice feature.

Users praise the access doors because they have solidly-constructed handles and quality locks so the contents were kept dry and dust-free.

The length and size of the Motion XL Alpine is not practical for average users unless they have a large family.

What Reviewers Said:

This Thule model is roomy enough for skis and snowboards, yet low enough to clear garages and overpasses. Users commented on the ease of opening, closing, and locking the box, and the peace of mind from knowing that their contents were safe.

Reviewers also commented that the cartop box was easy to install and the Slidelock system allows users to know that the model is securely locked into place.

Considerations:

The size and weight of the Motion XT – XXL means that it takes two people to install. Some reviewers expressed concern that the fiberglass composite material was less durable than competitors’ material.

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6. Yakima ShowCase 15

yakima showcase 15
  • Capacity: 15 cubic feet
  • Dimensions: 80 in. long x 36 in. wide x 14.5 in. high. 56 lbs.
  • Mounting: Push button latch, fits round and square crossbars
  • Maximum Weight: 165 lbs.
  • Material: High-gloss automotive-quality finish
  • Features: Tapered rear to allow for tailgate clearance. Available in black and gray. SKS locks for security. Made in the USA.
What We Said:

The ShowCase 15 is a cool-looking car roof box, with an exterior finish that looks like a high-quality automobile finish. It comes in gray or black so it really makes a nice accessory for the car.

The ShowCase 15 can be mounted to either square or round crossbars, but some reviewers complained that it didn’t seem as firmly anchored as it could have been. There was some give and play to it. They didn’t feel confident that the car roof box and its contents would stay safely in place while driving, especially when driving fast down the interstate.

The rear end of the ShowCase 15 is sloped so that the trunk or hatch back doesn’t bump it when opened. That was a nice design feature.

One of the biggest drawbacks was the noise and fuel efficiency with the ShowCase 15. Because it isn’t as securely fastened as it could be, there could be some rattling, humming, and buffering.

You might even hear a high-pitched whistle. That may be bothersome and distracting when driving. Also, because the box had some movement to it, it might hamper the wind flow and decreased gas mileage.

One of the cons of this model is the key. Several users have complained that the key to open the cargo box can be tricky and temperamental. It caused some doubts for some users over the security of the contents of the box.

What Reviewers Said:

Reviewers were attracted to the sleek and clean appearance of the ShowCase, but noted that the model is expensive. The mounting system was universal and adaptable, and secure enough to put the user at ease when traveling.

Reviewers appreciated the sloped, tapered rear of the car roof box because it allowed them to fully open their trunk or hatchback without hitting the box and scratching the paint job.

Considerations:

Users observed various degrees of wind noise with the ShowCase, from a low, constant hum to a high-pitched whistle. Reviewers expressed concern that the box created some wind drag that negatively impacted their fuel efficiency.

Some reviewers experienced problems with the keys that lock the box that they found frustrating. This was because they did not have confidence that their contents were secure and protected compared to a Thule box.

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7. Thule Motion XT - L

thule motion xt l
  • Capacity: 16 cubic feet
  • Dimensions: 77 in. long x 36 in. wide x 17 in. high.  42 lbs.
  • Mounting: Power Click Mounting system
  • Maximum Weight: 165 lbs.
  • Material: Fiberglass composite
  • Features: Available in two colors, black and gray. Locks to keep the contents safe.
What We Said:

For a smaller car roof box…only 16 cubic feet…the model is heavy and may be difficult for one person to install it alone. The installation process is foolproof because the cargo box clicks into place so you know that it is installed correctly. Removal can be easy, too, because the unit unclicks.

The manufacturer states that the Motion XT-L can hold up to 165 pounds of cargo. We ranked it lower on our list because several users commented that they did not have peace of mind that the box could easily hold a full 165 pounds worth of gear.

This car roof box is taller and boxier than the long and low models. In addition, the height can cause some concern. That is another reason why we ranked it where we did.

If it is mounted on a larger, taller SUV, it could create a clearance issue. The extra height could also cause wind drag.

There could be some concerns that the contents are not safe and secure. There have been reports of the locks and keys being glitchy.

What Reviewers Said:

It is roomy and durable, said reviewers, and the easy-to-use handles make access a breeze. Users commented that it is simple and quick to mount, and easy to take on and off as needed. The power click mounting system gave them peace of mind that the car roof box would stay securely in place, even when the vehicle reached high speeds.

Considerations:

Some reviewers suggested keeping lock de-icer on hand because the lock on the car roof box is prone to freezing in cold temperature. Even in warmer temperatures, some reviewers reported having trouble opening the locks. This is one of the taller car roof boxes on the market, so users need to be aware of height clearances when using this model.

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8. Yakima SkyBox Carbonite

yakima skybox carbonite
  • Capacity: 16 cubic feet
  • Dimensions: 90 in. long x 36 in. wide x 20 in. high.  75 lbs.
  • Mounting: Latching system
  • Maximum Weight: 165 lbs.
  • Material: Lightweight and 80% recycled material
  • Features: Aerodynamic design. The box can be accessed for either side. Textured, dimples finish helps to reduce drag and improve gas mileage.
What We Said:

We appreciate that the SkyBox is made using recycled material and that the exterior has a dimpled pattern that is supposed to optimize air flow.

The box is long and tall and may be too large for average families. The height of the car roof box is taller than most of the competitors’ models. So it may not be easy for users to load and unload it.

Because the SkyBox is so large and heavy, it may be awkward to handle and require two or more people to install it. Some users commented that it is hard to lift the lengthy box onto the vehicle without bumping or scratching the car.

The large and solid handles are a plus. It is easy to tell when the box with tightly closed. This gives users peace of mind that the gear inside would stay put and not get wet.

We ranked the SkyBox low because of so many customer comments stating that mounting the SkyBox was not a quick and easy task. Users complained that it was heavy and cumbersome and difficult to lock into place. Even then, they weren’t completely sure the SkyBox was secure and there was concern that the box would come loose during travel.

What Reviewers Said:

Lightweight and aerodynamic, reviewers noted that driving with the SkyBox didn’t significantly decrease the gas mileage of the vehicle, which they greatly appreciated.

Users commented on the ease of using the handles to access the contents of the SkyBox. They noted that the access doors on either side of the car box were convenient and made loading and unloading the box much easier.

Considerations:

Reviewers expressed frustration about the installation of the SkyBox, saying it was cumbersome and time-consuming to mount. Once it was mounted, some reviewers said they were not confident that the box was secure.

The weight and dimensions of the SkyBox meant that more than one person was needed to install the roof box. It could be difficult to lift into place, especially for smaller people.

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