A great hitch cargo box holds your gear safely and securely behind your vehicle.

Unlike roof boxes, hitch cargo boxes don’t destroy your fuel economy. They also tend to be much easier to load and unload. They’re also less expensive than most trailers and less of a hassle to install.

In place of the annoying Tetris game of cramming people, dogs, assorted gear, and emergency supplies into your vehicle, cargo boxes offer a quick, relatively inexpensive solution.

There are a number of configurations. They range from simple platforms through wire cage-style boxes through completely enclosed plastic containers available.

In short, you should be able to fit whatever you need to transport. That could be emergency water or fuel, firewood, an extra cooler, or assorted adventuring gear.

However, there are some factors to consider before making the leap and purchasing a cargo box. Here are a few ideas to help narrow down your search:

Top 6 Hitch Cargo Boxes

RankingProduct NameTypeWeight (lbs.)CapacityReviewPrice
#1stowaway standard cargo carrier with swingaway frameStowAway Standard Cargo Carrier with SwingAway FrameEnclosed box94 lbs200 lbs. Read Review
See Price on Amazon
#2thule transporter combination hitch cargo carrierThule Transporter Combination Hitch Cargo CarrierEnclosed box75 lbs.150 lbs. Read Review
See Price on Amazon
#3carpod cargo carrier cage m2200Carpod Cargo Carrier Cage M2200 Open basket 48 lbs. 450 lbs. Read Review
See Price on Amazon
#4rola 59109 adventure system with swing awayROLA 59109 Adventure System with Swing AwayPlatform & box110 lbs.250 lbs. Read Review
See Price on Amazon
#5erickson 07496 load securing hardwareErickson 07496 Load Securing Hardware Open basket 55 lbs.500 lbs. Read Review
See Price on Amazon
#6mockins hitch mount cargo carrier with cargo bag and netMockins Hitch Mount Cargo Carrier with Cargo Bag and NetPlatofmr & bag60 lbs. 500 lbs. Read Review
See Price on Amazon

What kind of gear will you need to transport? Is waterproofing important?

The first and most obvious way to narrow down your options is to decide what type of cargo box will work the best for what you’ll be carrying around.

The most versatile option is a simple metal platform. You can configure these options from wheelchair or motorcycle carrying options, Then, strap down the largest hard-sided gear.

There are also open wire enclosures. They often come with heavy-duty removable soft-sided bags to protect smaller gear and keep your stuff dry.

The most waterproof options are typically sealed hard plastic containers. High-quality plastic boxes will stay bone dry even in torrential downpours. If you plan to carry clothing, sleeping bags, or other stuff that you really don’t want to get wet, this is the best option.

Some boxes are also hybrid – built as a removable box on a platform, for maximum flexibility, though these also tend to be more expensive.

What kind of car do you have? What size hitch?

All of the options in this guide are suspended from your vehicle’s rear hitch. They aren’t generally vehicle-specific, but you will need a car that’s sturdy enough to take the tongue weight of the combined load of the gear and rack. This typically means you’ll need a 2” hitch receiver.

Almost all SUVs and trucks will have no problem, but if you have a smaller vehicle, double check that the size of your hitch is big enough to accommodate a box. You may see your vehicle riding visibly lower with the box fully loaded.

There are options available to fit smaller 11/4” hitches, but keep in mind that these options will likely not be able to hold more than 150-200 pounds.

How is your car’s exhaust positioned?

One of the main drawbacks of a box is that it can interfere with features on the rear of your vehicle, most notably the exhaust, which is hot enough to melt plastic boxes or damage the gear you’re carrying, depending on the configuration of your rear exhaust.

Some boxes ride higher than others, and there’s a great deal of variation in how a cargo box will fit with a specific vehicle make and model.

It’s worth taking the time to measure the height of a box against the location of your exhaust to make sure it will work with your vehicle.

On the other hand, if you purchase a cargo box and discover that it’s getting too hot, it’s possible to purchase relatively inexpensive heat shielding materials to prevent damage.

Will you be off-roading?

Hitch cargo boxes aren’t great for off-roading. At a minimum, keep in mind that a hitch box affects things like:

  • Approach/departure angles
  • Chassis height
  • Drag
  • Impact force

While it’s great to have the extra room to take with you when mudding or off-roading, having a box on the rear of your vehicle will dramatically decrease your approach and departure angles, affecting the kind of terrain you can cover.

You may also find that putting heavy stuff in your cargo box will make the whole vehicle ride lower, which can drag when going over obstacles. Rough bouncing can also cause serious damage to your hitch, the cargo, and/or your car.

Hitch cargo boxes are usually OK for long road-trips and travel on unpaved roads or other slightly rough terrain. If you do plan to do these things with your hitch box, the sturdiness of your cargo box is definitely something to keep in mind.

Most hitch-mounted products will move slightly during transit due to the torsional force applied to the hitch. However, some models offer redundant sway-prevention, which can be a valuable feature if you plan to hit a lot of windy mountain roads. You can also always DIY an extra strap to minimize side-to-side motion.

Is security important to you?

Many cargo boxes include built-in locking mechanisms to prevent theft. However, these locks vary in terms of actual security – many are more of a flimsy deterrent than an effective security mechanism.

Since all of these options also need to attach to your vehicle at the hitch, this can be another point of weakness. Depending on the design of the box, it may be possible to take the entire thing, locked box and all, off the vehicle.

Some models offer more security at the hitch attachment than others, but this can be a trade-off, since theft-prevention mechanisms also tend to make it harder to install and uninstall the rack.

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Should I get a hitch box or a roof rack?

Both a roof rack and a hitch box offer the chance to store gear or supplies away from the passengers of your vehicle, and both can be convenient ways to expand the storage capacity of your vehicle. Some additional factors to consider include:

  • Profile (length vs. height)
  • Turning radius
  • The type of terrain you’re traveling on
  • The weight and size of your gear
  • Fuel economy
  • Loading difficulty & trunk access
  • Price

On top of the obvious profile differences (cargo boxes may make it harder to park and expand your turning radius, while roof racks may make it impossible to park in a garage while the box is in place), roof racks and cargo boxes impact your vehicle differently.

Roof racks, for example, cause significant wind drag: over long distances, you’ll see much worse fuel economy with a roof rack than with a hitch box loaded with the same weight.

Roof racks also tend to be more expensive, but can hold bigger gear. Most roof racks have relatively low weight allowances, but also have a bigger footprint thanks simply to the dimensions of your roof vs. the back of your vehicle.

It’s usually less annoying to load gear into a hitch box than to heave it overhead, but you may have to load and unload heavy items more often if you have a box model that doesn’t enable trunk access.

Is a cargo box noisy?

Anything in a hitch will rattle a little due to the movement of the vehicle. It’s next to impossible to design a hitch-mounted product which doesn’t move at all during travel.

The degree of movement and noise are affected by things like the security of the box and how well it’s mounted. Of course, some models are louder than others.

If noise bothers you, it’s often possible to attach an additional rope or tether to the side of your cargo box to reduce both movement and noise.

Will a hitch cargo box interfere with my license plate/lights/rear wipers/backup cameras?

Yes, possibly. Some cargo boxes sit very close to the trunk and may interfere with automatic rear-wipers. They can also obscure your view, and almost certainly will interfere with visibility from a backup camera.

If the cargo box conceals your license plate or rear light, you legally will need to rig a solution. Making sure your vehicle is compliant is definitely something to figure out before you load up and hit the road.

Luckily, many models have built-in locations to reinstall your license place on the back of the carrier box. You may also need to rig wires for additional lights on the plate and/or in place of concealed rear taillights.

Does a hitch cargo box require tools or hardware to install?

Usually not – most models include everything needed to assemble and install your cargo box, and generally won’t require special tools beyond the hitch hardware.

However, cargo boxes can be heavy and cumbersome to get onto the back of your vehicle by yourself. They also require varied effort and expertise when installing.

Depending on whether you have an SUV or car, and the shape of your trunk, you may have a harder or easier time adding your hitch cargo box.  If you plan to DIY any modifications or lighting schemes, this can also add to the time and challenge of getting everything in place.

Regardless, it’s generally much easier if you have more than one set of hands.

Will I be able to open the trunk with the rack attached?

Probably not. Especially if you plan to tote very heavy gear, plan to not be able to access your trunk while you have a cargo box in place.

This is definitely something to keep in mind when considering how you’ll use your cargo box and how often you’ll need to take it on and off of your car; especially on long trips, it gets annoying very quickly to have to repack your box every time you need to let the dogs out of the back door, for example.

Some models will swing or tilt out of the way, but this is the exception rather than the norm, and these models tend to be less sturdy and more expensive due to the added mechanism.

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Selection Criteria: How We Ranked Our Top Picks

In sorting through our list of top picks, we used as many factors as possible to look for versatile options which could perform well in many scenarios.

Of course, intended uses for cargo boxes do vary, as do the specifications of vehicles and uses. Some factors, such as available space, installation difficulty, durability, or price might be essential to you but deal-breakers for someone else.

In creating this list, we used the court of popular opinion to find the top picks. We looked at value, dependability, and other selling points to find crowd favorites and underrated options.

More specifically, we evaluated and ranked our list based on the following criteria:

Capacity

Capacity is the most common deciding factor; we considered capacity in terms of both volume and weight. The right cargo box should accommodate the maximum weight or biggest objects possible.

Versatility

Some racks work well on multiple types of car or have flexible configurations, while others are geared to transport specific gear items. In general, we looked for models with wide applicability which could theoretically appeal to people carrying the widest possible range of stuff.

Ease of Installation

While ease of installation is somewhat subjective and will vary depending on the specific combination of car make/model and box, we looked for models which users reported having little difficulty assembling and installing.

Price Point

Cargo boxes are typically more cost-effective than other options, but not very many manufacturers make them, and they can still be a hefty investment. Factors such as security and durability can increase the ultimate value you’ll get from the rack over its entire lifetime.

We looked for deals which offered the best value possible without sacrificing quality or reliability.

After researching the long list of options out there, we came up with this list of six top hitch-mounted cargo boxes. Based on the criteria outlined above, we think these options offer the best combination of features and value for a variety of cargo-toting needs.

Without further ado, here’s a quick breakdown of our top 6 picks, along with some info on each product’s price, weight, special features and what the experts have to say.

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Our Number 1 Pick: StowAway Standard Cargo Carrier with SwingAway Frame

stowaway standard cargo carrier with swingaway frame
  • Type: Enclosed Box
  • Weight: 94 lbs.
  • Capacity: 200 lbs.
  • Security? Yes
  • Rainproof? Yes
  • High points: Swings away from trunk to allow access, security features built in, highly durable
  • Low points: Heavy and expensive
Why it’s a Top Pick:

Unlike many models, this version swings away from your vehicle, enabling easy access to the trunk even when the box is fully loaded. It also has a surprisingly generous capacity, with ample room for gear. It’s also waterproof and includes built-in theft prevention locks.

There’s also a U-bolt style clam to secure the box to the hitch pin, which prevents rattling and makes the entire construction more solid and harder to steal.

What the Experts Think:

This is a very popular option known for durability and reliability. There are three redundant mechanisms acting to keep the unit from swinging while en route.

It is on the heavier side due to the construction, making it difficult to install with only one person. On top of the weight, it’s logistically challenging to line up with only one person. Once in place, it looks great and lasts for a long time.

Even though this is one of the most expensive models, it provides a good value for the price in reliability and solid construction.

Features and Considerations:

Exhaust is usually far enough away to avoid damaging the box itself, but can melt the built-in light wiring on some vehicles.

The heavy-duty black plastic can also cause issues if left in direct sunlight, as it tends to heat up the contents of the box dramatically. The model does come in a white plastic version, however.

Overall, this is a dependable and solid bet for most cargo-carrying needs, and an especially good choice if you need a waterproof way to carry luggage or other gear.

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The Next-Best: Thule Transporter Combination Hitch Cargo Carrier

thule transporter combination hitch cargo carrier
  • Type: Enclosed Box
  • Weight: 75 lbs.
  • Capacity: 150 lbs.
  • Security? Yes
  • Rainproof? Yes
  • High points: Tilts away from trunk to allow access, durable construction, sturdy and waterproof, pre-wired lights and license plate adaptor
  • Low points: Locking mechanism can be fragile, box tapered which reduces capacity space
Why it’s a Top Pick:

Like the StowAway model, this Thule model offers a mechanism to tilt away from the trunk to enable access even when the car is loaded. It also comes with pre-wired tail lights which draw power from your 4-pin wire harness plug, and a license plate adapter on the read side of the box.

It will work with a 1.25- or 2-inch hitch receiver, though it’s worth noting that a smaller hitch receiver with an adapter also means much less weight tolerance.

There’s also a built-in locking mechanism to prevent the lid from opening.

What the Experts Think:

This box doesn’t move and is almost completely waterproof even in big downpours, making it another fan favorite.

Some reviewers report being surprised that the dimensions of the outside of the box don’t quite line up with the actual inner capacity due to the way the box tapers; large items might not fit as expected in the inside of this box.

The pre-wired lights are convenient, as is the license plate holder. This model rides a little lower than other options, so that it is often invisible below the vehicle’s rear window. You’ll likely need to reinstall your plate on the box to make it fully visible.

This is also a popular option due to its high-quality construction, design, and Thule’s superior reputation across an array of travel gear (including cargo box lifts for your garage).

Features and Considerations:

Though there’s a built-in lock, there’s no built-in hitch lock, meaning that the whole thing could conceivably be removed from the vehicle. If theft is a concern, it’s worth looking into secondary theft-prevention methods.

This is generally available at a slightly lower price point than our number 1 pick, but still offers highly reliable and durable cargo transport despite some minor design flaws.

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3. Carpod Cargo Carrier Cage M2200

carpod cargo carrier cage m2200
  • Type: Steel basket
  • Weight: 48 lbs.
  • Capacity: 450 lbs.
  • Security? No
  • Rainproof? No
  • High points: Sturdy welded 1-piece construction
  • Low points: Pins on sides can get lost or wear out over time
Why it’s a Top Pick:

If you have very heavy gear, or just aren’t worried about waterproofing, a metal-based cage design like this model can be an excellent choice.

Compared to other options on this list, the carpod cargo carrier has a very high weight capacity. The sturdy metal construction also lasts a long time.

The metal basket is big enough to fit most coolers as well as other gear, luggage, or whatever else you need to carry. Its sides fold down to make loading easier and to reduce its footprint when in garage storage or attached to the car but not in use.

What the Experts Think:

Despite the simplicity of this model, it functions very well and feels well-designed and reliable. It’s a bit more expensive than other similar options on this list, and construction quality can be variable. The height is a little low for some items, and there is no built-in security mechanism.

However, it’s still a popular choice, as it’s easy to install, lasts a long time, and offers a straight-forward no-frills option.

Features and Considerations:

While the wire mesh of this basket is open, your license plate may be obscured if you fill the basket entirely. There’s also no built-in license plate attachment.

While the walls fold down when it’s not in use, the entire rack doesn’t fold, and it’s impossible to access your trunk while there is stuff loaded in the basket.

Still, this is a heavy-duty, reliable method of transporting a wide range of cargo from firewood through bikes.

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4. ROLA 59109 Adventure System with Swing Away

rola 59109 adventure system with swing away
  • Type: Enclosed Plastic
  • Weight: 110 lbs.
  • Capacity: 250 lbs.
  • Security? Yes
  • Rainproof? Yes
  • High points: Swings away to allow trunk access, box is removable (can be used as a tray), includes key and taillights
  • Low points: Very heavy, plastic is too thin, doesn’t come with light for license plate, exhaust can affect wiring
Why it’s a Top Pick:

This is one of the most versatile options out there. The main cargo box has a large carrying capacity, and the rack can hold significant weight.

If you have bulky gear that won’t fit in the box or that you don’t need to keep locked away and dry, you can remove the box and use the platform to tie down gear instead. Larger coolers, firewood, and other bulky gear can also be transported with the platform.

What the Experts Think:

The built-in components are key selling points for this rack. While it does block the rear of your vehicle, you shouldn’t have to purchase additional kits to make sure your taillights or license plate are visible behind the rack.

The built-in locks are also a nice touch, though they aren’t as sturdy as the Thule option or other locking boxes on the market. The body of the container is relatively thin plastic.

While it’s sturdy enough not to break during use, someone could conceivably cut through it with a box cutter to take valuable contents. If security is a major concern for you, this likely isn’t the best option.

It’s relatively easy to install, but also quite heavy, making installation a two-person job. However, it can tip away from the vehicle to enable access during transit.

Overall, the 13 cubic ft.+ cargo space is convenient, and this is a relatively cost-effective and durable option, making it a fan-favorite.

Features and Considerations:

While the box is far enough away to avoid most exhaust pipes, the wiring to the taillights can melt or become damaged over time. If you have a non-centered exhaust close to the wiring, it’s worth looking into another option or investing in heat-protecting materials.

There’s a built-in holder for a license plate and wiring for taillights, but no wiring for a license plate light, which may be illegal depending on your state.

The swinging mechanism moves the load further from the back of your vehicle, slightly lowering the weight capacity. It will also only work with a 2” hitch receiver.

Still, if you need to access your trunk with the box in place or want a combination waterproof box and open platform-style cargo carrier, this is one of your best options.

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5. Erickson 07496 Load Securing Hardware

erickson 07496 load securing hardware
  • Type: Steel basket
  • Weight: 55 lbs.
  • Capacity: 500 lbs.
  • Security? No
  • Rainproof? Yes
  • High points: Folds away when not in use, heavy-duty, flexible uses, high weight capacity, and easy to install
  • Low points: Can rust over time, no built-in tie-down or security mechanisms, not waterproof
Why it’s a Top Pick:

Like the Carpod cargo carrier, the Erickson wire cage model is a similar no-frills method of toting waterproof or other gear that doesn’t need to be protected.

Its main selling feature is its high weight tolerance – this model has a higher weight capacity than virtually any other option on the list.

Tackle boxes, coolers, firewood, bikes, or virtually anything else can be easily loaded into the basket, which has roughly 2’ high walls and an open metal construction.

What the Experts Think:

This is another reliable, straightforward option available at a lower price point than similar options.

The only places where reviewers find it falters against competitors like Carpod is the quality of the paint job. Over time, the metal starts to rust.

If you go for this option, make sure to store it out of the elements instead of leaving the rack attached to your vehicle and exposed to the elements for significant amounts of time.

Features and Considerations:

While the rack itself can hold an impressive 500 lbs., your vehicle may scrape or bottom out under that limit; test-drive the way your vehicle handles the combined weight of your cargo and this rack before embarking on an extended journey.

The metal withstands heat from exhaust, but doesn’t protect contents, which can scorch or melt. The company also offers an extra pin to secure the basket more firmly to the hitch and reduce movement.

You can also buy a net to cover the top of the basket from the same manufacturer for added piece of mind or to help keep smaller pieces of gear in place.

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6. Mockins Hitch Mount Cargo Carrier with Cargo Bag and Net

mockins hitch mount cargo carrier with cargo bag and net
  • Type: Platform and Bag
  • Weight: 60 lbs.
  • Capacity: 500 lbs.
  • Security? No
  • Rainproof? Yes
  • High points: Folds up and down, highly versatile, hitch stabilizer included, inexpensive
  • Low points: Not as durable as hard-sided options, no security features, can rust
Why it’s a Top Pick:

The bag-platform combination offers the best of platform and hard-sided boxes in one versatile product – you can use just the platform alone with straps to tie down gear or firewood.

There’s also a bungee-cord net which can secure items to the platform and a heavy-duty rainproof bag, which protects gear from the elements and keeps everything dry.

Even odd-sized things fit well in the bag, since it’s more flexible than hard-sided options without sacrificing weatherproofing.

Built-in hitch stabilizers serve to reduce noise and keep the load more secure.

What the Experts Think:

Despite the relatively soft construction of a bag compared to a hard-sided plastic box, this cargo carrier holds up remarkably well to rough use.

The bag closes with both zipper and Velcro which is durable and holds up to stress. They can leak a little under extended use in heavy rain, especially if you don’t double-check the closure, but its otherwise mostly weatherproof.

The bag doesn’t hold any shape on its own, so it will take the form of whatever gear is loaded – this means that you’ll have to load gear evenly. It can be annoying to deal with soft-sided bag when packing gear, though the added flexibility is nice.

In addition to a solid product, the company is widely known for good and responsive customer service. Compared to similar options, this bag and platform combo is also inexpensive.

Features and Considerations:

Like other budget-friendly options, the metal components of the rack start to show rust through paint after staying outside for extended periods of time.

The model does folds out of the way when not in use, but the construction of this feature can be variable, and the pins don’t perfectly line up when it is folded. While the fabric is heavy-duty, it can’t be as durable as a hard-sided option.

Still, this is a cost-effective, user-friendly option to tote a number of gear types.

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