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A black vehicle with a Thule cargo box mounted to the rear is parked next to a dirt road while two people wearing Thule hiking backpacks approach.

Pros and cons: why choose a towbar cargo carrier?

Why choose a towbar cargo carrier? Here are some towbar cargo carrier pros and cons so that you can choose the best cargo carrier solution for you.

Towbar cargo carriers are a great way to bring the gear you need for fun outdoor adventures, they’re also a smart way to add more storage space to a compact city car. Towbar cargo carriers are a great way to bring all the gear you need for fun outdoor adventures, they’re also a smart way to add more storage space to a compact city car.

But what exactly is the difference between a roof box and a towbar cargo carrier, and which one will fit your lifestyle the best?

In this guide we’ll dig into the pros and cons of towbar cargo carriers, and compare them to traditional rooftop cargo carriers.

A world of possibilities at the back of your car

Rear-of-car solutions take you and your gear farther...

Towbar cargo boxes are the most aerodynamic solution thanks to their position at the back of the car. Here are just some of many benefits:

  • Heavy gear is easy to load into a rear cargo box since they are lower to the ground.
  • Rear cargo boxes save space on your roof for even more gear!
  • Rear cargo carriers include boxes, bike racks, and even hybrid solutions that do both.

Certain electric vehicles have restrictions on roof load capacity. With a rear-of-car cargo carrier solution, you don’t have to worry about this. Simply attach your bike rack or cargo carrier to your towbar or trunk, and get ready for the adventure.

Rear cargo box versus roof box

Roof boxes are designed to be as streamlined as possible to decrease wind resistance. Thule designs some of the most streamlined boxes on the market. Rooftop cargo carriers are also the best option to transport your skis or snowboards. Keep reading below to see more differences!

A black SUV with a Thule roofbox on top and bikes attached to the back drives on a mountain road.

Towbar cargo carrier pros

  • Super aerodynamic. Thanks to the towbar cargo box’s location at the back of the car, it’s naturally an aerodynamic spot that causes no impact on your fuel consumption or the range of your electric vehicle*
  • Less wind drag means you use less fuel and electricity while driving with your gear packed
  • The boxes’ aerodynamic nature also makes them super quiet when you’re driving
  • They give you the option to store gear even if your vehicle – like certain e-vehicles – doesn’t let you put anything on the roof
  • Great if you want to leave space on the roof racks for other sports carriers
  • The towbar cargo carrier is closer to the ground which makes it easy to pack heavy items. If you’re a parent in a rush, for example, you’ll appreciate being able to throw your stroller in the rear cargo box without having to do any high lifting
  • Certain towbar cargo carriers can be combined with a bike rack
A white vehicle with 2 bikes attached to the roof and a cargo box attached to the rear drives next to a lake with mountains in the background.

Towbar cargo carrier cons

  • You take up more space at the rear compared to a roof box, which might make it harder to parallel park
  • Since towbar cargo carriers can’t carry skis – a roof box or a ski rack is a better option for a ski holiday


Roof boxes are designed to be as streamlined as possible and Thule designs some of the most aerodynamic boxes on the market. They are a great option for vehicles that can carry something on the roof.

Towbar cargo carriers, on the other hand, have the advantage of being at the back of the car in a place that barely affects wind resistance at all.

Towbar trailer cargo carriers like the Thule Arcos generate little to no wind drag. This means that, with a Thule Arcos towbar cargo carrier, you’ll be using the same amount of gas or electricity as a vehicle without anything on it.

They’re a great option for those who do not want to carry anything on their roof.

Position on the vehicle

Towbar cargo carriers are installed at the back of your vehicle. This makes them ideal for e-vehicles or other cars that cannot handle a heavy load on the roof.

Roof boxes, on the other hand, are positioned on the roof (pretty obvious considering their name!) and this can be handy, too. All roof boxes let you use the trunk as normal, and Thule roof boxes are specifically designed to not interfere with the trunk door.

If you want access to the trunk with a towbar cargo carrier you have to specifically choose a box that swings away, tilts down, or sits low enough so that you still have access to the trunk. Thule Arcos has a curved design and sits low down so that you can access the trunk whenever you need to.

An advantage with the positioning of the rear cargo carrier is that it’s lower down to the ground. This makes it really easy to pack all your stuff, since you don’t have to strain or stretch to reach your box.

When carrying skis

If you need a box to transport your skis, a roof box is the best option.

Roof boxes are a great option for transporting your skis. Especially the alpine-sized Thule roof cargo boxes, which are specifically designed for long skis up to 200cm. The largest Thule roof boxes fit skis up to 215cm. To find the right size for your skis, check out our guide on roof box sizes.