• Save 20% on select items, and get free shipping on rooftop tents and orders over $99. Ends July 5. See details.
How-to-guide

Cargo box fit guide: Find the best rooftop cargo carrier


Find the best rooftop cargo carrier for your vehicle and lifestyle with this Thule cargo box fit guide!


Cargo boxes are a great way to increase the packing capacity of your car. Whether you’re hitting the slopes, going on a family vacation, or just need more space, a cargo box is a super versatile solution.


But with all the different types of cargo boxes and cargo box sizes, how do you know it will fit your car? And how can you make sure it will fit all the things you want to pack?


This Thule cargo box fit guide aims to clear some of this up. We’ll show you how to make sure the cargo box fits your car and how much you can pack inside the different cargo box sizes.


In this article we’ll go through:

Find the best rooftop cargo carrier for your lifestyle

Finding the best rooftop cargo carrier is all about first deciding what you want to do with it. Maybe you only need to pack your skis, or camping gear, or a little bit of both?

Here are some of our picks for the best roof cargo boxes according to the adventure you’re planning:


The best ski cargo boxes and snowboard boxes:

Almost all Thule roof boxes double up as ski boxes or snowboard boxes. The roof boxes that are size L and larger can fit from 3 to 7 skis and from 3 to 5 snowboards.

Thule ski boxes in Alpine size are low-profile boxes that are specifically designed for skis. They sit lower on the car for a sleek style and better aerodynamics. These boxes function best as ski boxes and not bulky cargo.

Cargo boxes for travel:

If you plan on using your roof box for long road trips across state lines or national boarders, the roof box you choose should be higher to hold bulky gear.

For sporty types who want to bring a bike or a kayak along on their trip, opt for a narrow “sport” sized roof box. These will leave more space on your roof rack for a bike or kayak rack.

Cargo boxes for extra space:

It’s a popular option for city-dwellers with small cars to add a roof box to maximize their packing space. If you’re using a roof box for everyday chores like packing your kid’s stroller, groceries, or a suitcase to the airport, a smaller size roof box will do.


Cargo Box Sizes

So, you know you want a cargo box, you’re just not sure how to choose the right size? Cargo box sizes range from S to XXL. But what size is best all depends on what you’re packing.

This cargo box fit guide helps you choose the right cargo box for everything you’re packing. At Thule, sizes include S, M, L, XL and XXL. Packing these boxes can look something like this:


Cargo box S (8 cu ft / 300L):

Fits roughly: 3 people (2-3 60L bags)

Perfect for: A trip with your partner, family or friends for a weekend getaway.


Cargo box M (11-14 cu ft / 360-400L):

Fits roughly: 4 people (3-5 pairs of skis, or 3-4 60L bags)

Perfect for: A camping trip or outdoor adventure with your family or friends


Cargo box L (13-16 cu ft / 380-450L):

Fits roughly: 4 people (5-7 pairs of skis up to 180cm, or 3-4 skis + 4 60L bags)

Perfect for: A family ski trip or outdoor camping trip

(see image below)
Cargo box XL (18 cu ft / 500L):

Fits roughly: 5 people (5-7 pairs of skis up to 200cm, or 3-4 skis + 5 60L bags)

Perfect for: A family ski trip or outdoor camping trip (that needs even more packing space)

(see image below)
Cargo box XXL (22 cu ft / 610L)

Fits roughly: about 6 people (5-7 pairs of skis up to 215cm, or 4-5 skis + 6 60L bags)

Perfect for: A ski trip or outdoor adventure with a large family or friend group

Also, always remember: You can’t pack more than the maximum weight capacity of your car roof or the load capacity of the roof box itself.


Comparing our boxes: Thule Force vs Thule Motion XT vs Thule Vector

Thule Force, Thule Motion XT and Thule Vector are three state-of-the-art roof boxes that are designed for increased aerodynamics and enhanced user-friendliness. So, what exactly are the differences?

What they all have in common:

  • All three boxes have dual-side opening meaning that you can easily open the box from either side of the car.
  • They are designed to be as aerodynamic as possible.
  • They’re all constructed with hardy ABS plastic which is impact resistant.
  • They also use PowerClick mounting hardware, so that you always know you’ve mounted the box to your roof racks correctly.
A car drives in a snowy forest with a Thule Motion XT rooftop cargo carrier.

Thule Vector

These cargo boxes are the most premium of the lot. They have all the features of the Thule Motion, plus more for even smoother usability.

The felt lined interior gives your gear extra protection, and the white lid and LED light helps you see your packing in the dark.

The reinforced lid on the Thule Vector is the strongest and gives the box extra protection from impact (although all Thule cargo boxes are built to withstand lots of force).

A car with a Thule Vector rooftop cargo carrier is parked in a snowy forest.

Thule Motion XT

These boxes can go up to XXL sizes, the largest Thule cargo box size. It has a handlebar which makes the box easier to open.

It also has the SlideLock system, a super handy feature which makes closing your box super simple. It means that the box automatically shuts when closed, so that you can close it with just one hand. The lock indicates when the box has been shut correctly with a red indication button.

A car drives in a snowy forest with a Thule Motion XT rooftop cargo carrier.

Thule Force

Thule Force is a versatile cargo box you can rely on to carry all kinds of cargo.

It’s easy to mount on your roof racks and clicks when it’s properly mounted so that you know you’ve secured it correctly.

It can also be opened on either side (which you’ll be thankful for when you park on different sides of the street).

Large versus small cargo box:

Large cargo boxes are of course great because they can fit tons of gear. But keep in mind that they affect the fuel economy more than smaller boxes.

That said, Thule roof boxes are designed to be some of the most aerodynamic boxes on the market, especially the more low-profile Alpine sizes. So even with a large roof box your ride will be a smooth one.


How to make sure the cargo box fits your car or SUV

When choosing a cargo box, double check that it will fit your vehicle. Here are some things to pay attention to:


Hatch Clearance:

Hatch clearance means that your trunk can be opened completely without interfering with the roof box. Thule roof boxes are designed specifically so that you can open your hatch without a problem.

Unsure if you’ll be able to open your car’s rear door with your new box?

This is how you can calculate the hatch clearance:

1. Hatch Clearance:

  • Open your trunk door completely.
  • Measure from the center of your vehicle's front roof rack to the point where the roof meets the hatch.
  • Compare this number to the "Front Clearance" dimensions that are specified in the roof box’s user manual. If your vehicle measures greater than the number listed, that cargo box will fit your vehicle without contacting your hatch.

2. Bar spread:

  • Also, have a look at the maximum bar spread. This is the distance between your roof racks. If your bar spread is the right size according to the roof box’s user manual, then you’ll have full access to the trunk.

Some roof racks can be moved further forward on your vehicle. If possible, this might also help allow for hatch clearance.

Remember the roof racks!

Thule roof boxes are mounted on the roof racks of your car. If you have roof racks already, make sure they’re compatible. If you don’t have roof racks yet, we have some great options!

How much can you pack in your roof box?

That depends on the maximum roof load of your car or your roof box.

Thule roof boxes have a load capacity of about 75kg/165lbs and most vehicles have the same maximum capacity. Double check with your car manufacturer to see if that’s the case for your car.

In general, when packing your roof box, try to pack lighter, bulkier items like tents, clothes or sleeping bags.



Packing your roof box

For the smoothest possible ride, try to pack your cargo box with the proper weight distribution.

Half of your gear should go in the space between the roof racks. The second half should be organized at either end of the roof box.

Cargo box for an SUV:

Cargo boxes can fit a wide range of vehicles, not just sedans and hatchbacks. Cargo boxes for SUVs are the same as cargo boxes for any other vehicle. If your SUV has the right hatch clearance and bar spread, the cargo box will fit your SUV.

Cargo boxes are also perfect for vans and trucks. They fit securely on Thule truck and van roof racks with the help of an adapter.



Can I use a rooftop cargo carrier with my electric car?


This depends entirely on the electric car itself. Some electric and hybrid cars don’t allow anything to be loaded on the roof. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend your days box-less!

Rear cargo carriers are a great solution for electric or hybrid vehicles that can’t handle anything on the roof. These are cargo carriers that fit on the back of your vehicle either on the towbar or hitch receiver. These can also be packed full of gear for a camping vacation or road trip.

If you have a high car and want a storage solution that is lower down to the ground, rear cargo carriers might also be a good option for you.


Explore

A person unloads a Thule rooftop cargo carrier on a car parked in the snow while two people walk away.

Rooftop cargo carriers

Browse our roof boxes to find the perfect one for your next adventure.
A man unloads gear from his van roof next to a Thule roof basket.

Cargo carriers

Pack your things in a roof box, rear cargo box or roof basket. We have the best solution for you.
Roof racks

What can I use my Thule roof rack for?

With a Thule roof rack, you are all set to head off on your adventures and make sure you have everything you want.