Best car roof boxes to boost your storage space on long trips

·8-min read
 (Pexels)
(Pexels)

Packing the car and space a bit tight for all your stuff? Whether you’re packing the kids off to uni, or just going on a road trip, car roof boxes are the solution to your car space issues.

What is a roof box?

A car roof box is a purpose-built box that’s designed to sit on top of your car. They are lockable and offer extra space to store and transport items if you don’t have space in your car boot.

When not in use, you can remove them, so you don’t need to be driving around with them as a permanent fixture. Although you wouldn’t want to be putting them on and taking them off on a daily basis. They are – or should be – weather proof so they are fine to stay on your car as long as you need.

Can a roof box be fitted to any car?

Almost. You will need a roof rack to fit a roof box to. Some cars have roof rails, but you still need a roof rack (which attaches to these rails). If you don’t have roof rails, you can still fit roof racks and then your roof box. There are very few roof boxes that aren’t compatible with every roof rack, but it’s best to check before you buy.

What are the different types of roof boxes?

There aren’t a huge amount of different types roof boxes, but you will find there are some definite dimension types. There are narrow, medium-width or full-width roof boxes, as well as long roof boxes. Narrow roof boxes will allow you to put other things on your roof rack at the same time. This is very useful if you want to carry other bulky items such as bikes or kayaks on your roof rack.

Full-width roof boxes will of course give you more space. They should also leave just enough space for a single bike on your roof rack, but no more.

Medium-width roof boxes, as you might expect, offers a compromise between the two. These provide plenty of space – enough for a medium to large family – while still leaving space for other kit on your roof bars.

Long roof boxes are quite cumbersome, but useful if you need to carry items that are more than 2 meters in length – skis, perhaps.

What else do I need to think about when buying a roof box?

It’s a wise move to check the locks on your roof box. Do they feel durable and solid? And can you lock them easily without needing two other people to hold the lid down? Chances are you won’t have loads of people around every time you need to shut it.

We’ve covered how you should check the box is going to be suitable for your needs. But you also need to check you’ve got enough space for it when you’re not using it. It’s not the best idea to drive around with one year round, as they do create drag and use up extra fuel.

All roof boxes should be weather proof, so your kit stays dry even in howling gales. The thing to look for is a big overhang on the roof box between the lid and the bottom. This will help keep water out.

Other nice-to-haves is a dual-sided opening. This means you won’t need to open the box in oncoming traffic, even if you’re driving on the other side of the road while you’re abroad.

Shop the best below

Atera Casar L roof box

We were thoroughly impressed by this Atera box. It’s medium length, medium width and fitted nicely on our MPV without being too intrusive. It also leaves space to add a bike or other bulky items to your roof if you so wish. The claw-style fittings take a matter of moments to attach to the roof bars on our cars.

We loved the opening – a lever slightly lifts the lid on the box, meaning you don’t have to heave it open. Remember that when the box is on top of the car, lifting the lid is not always a tricky manoeuvre. The three-point central lock slams shut when the box is properly closed, meaning you know when it’s properly locked. The internal size is generous – 187cm x 76cm x 41cm – that’s 420L. We can fit in three soft bags without breaking a sweat. And it can take skis too, if that’s your jam. The Atera Casar itself looks smart so it won’t bring down your stock if you care about the aesthetics of your vehicle.

Also available at RoofBox

Buy now £530.34, Autodoc

Hapro Traxer 4.6 roof box

We found this box foolproof to fit – the fixings simply screw to tighten a clamp underneath the box and then lock tight. The fixings take up a minimal amount of space inside the box, leaving most of the 143 x 92 cm (370L) internal space for you to use.

The central locking system means it’s easy for one person to shut. Plus it’s dual sided opening, which means you won’t have to load or unload in on-coming traffic. We found this short, wide box great for a few soft bags, plus a duvet over the top. The max load capacity is 75kg, so it offers a decent amount in the box. The moulding on the underneath help it to sit low on your car to minimise drag.

Also available at RoofBox

Buy now £287.30, Amazon

Von Haus 320L car roof box

Despite a lower price tag, this roof box actually feels pretty premium. The lid is a smart herringbone design, and as solid as any we tried. OK, it doesn’t have quite the overhang for weather proofing as some of the big hitters on this roundup, but it’s a lot more affordable for it. The lock is decent, and has central locking. Again, the mechanism here is decent and easy to use.

The box is on the small side (122 x 69 x 33.5cm) – good for a few bags and coats, but you won’t fit, say, a pram, in here. But the profile is low, which created minimal drag when on the road. A downside is this box only opens on one side – the right side, which might mean standing in on-coming traffic in the UK to access it. The fittings are probably the most fiddly of all the boxes we tested – initially it involves a drill. Once you’ve got over that, it’s a great affordable option.

Buy now £189.99, VonHaus

KAMEI Husky 510

The quality of this roof box is evident right from the off. It’s solid, with a very good lock. There’s central locking, and a pull-to-close mechanism that made shutting it and locking very easy even when we were without an extra pair of hands.

There’s loads of space inside this box – the internal dimensions are 188cm x 80cm x 39cm. The 510 in the name denotes the litre capacity here. Despite this generous size – enough to fit in a large family’s luggage for holiday – it maintains a low profile. However, it is a full length and full width box, so you won’t be fitting on any kayaks or bikes on the rack here. During our road tests we did feel drag on this box, but it’s no way as bad as it could be for the amount of space it affords you.

Buy now £439.95, Roof Box

Thule Motion XT XL roof box

Glossy and huge, this roof box makes a sleek impression. It’s 500L, and 200 x 80 x 38 cm of internal space. You can carry skis in this – although you will need a ski adaptor that’s sold separately. If you’re not hitting the slopes, you can fit everything you could possibly need in this box and then some.

We liked the locking mechanism on this roof box – you have a key, of course, but there’s a red or green window to let you know for definite when the box is locked. Despite the size, this box maintains a low profile creating minimal drag. Dual side opening makes loading easier no matter where you’re parked.

Buy now £610.00, Halfords

Halfords Advanced 360L roof box

This roof box is a great middle man if you don’t want a huge thing on the top of your vehicle. Remember: always consider how you’re going to store these things when not in use! It’s big enough to fit in a few soft bags, while not dominating your whole car-roof space. There will be plenty of space left up top for a bike or two.

The mechanisms are all good quality – the central lock is easy to use and feels durable. A decent overhang between lid and bottom helps make it weatherproof. It doesn’t have the lowest of profiles, but the drag wasn’t too bad at all and no hint of a whistle when we picked up speed. The dual side opening is handy for flexible loading. While perhaps not as sexy as some other roof boxes (if sexy roof boxes exist), this little number gets the job done with minimal fuss.

Buy now £322.00, Halfords

Verdict

We don’t have a bad word to say about the Atera roof box. It’s easy to use, easy to fit, creates minimal drag and looks smart. It’s a medium box, so should be good for even a relatively large family. If you want something even bigger, look to the Thule Motion XT. This premium box is spacious, well made and looks pretty swish too.