These rooftop carrier bags are the answer to a cramped trunk — and some work without a cargo rack

ByCliché Wynter

Although there's nothing like the freedom of hitting the open road, it does come with its fair share of challenges, chief among them trying to find a way to cram all your essentials into your trunk. For extra space, the best rooftop car carrier bags fasten securely to your car and add as much as 20 cubic feet of storage. There are a few key factors to consider when shopping around:

  • Durability and water-resistance: Rugged materials like 1,000-denier polyester and tarpaulin will ensure durability and tear-resistance, and heavy-duty zippers can help upgrade the protection factor. You'll also want to make sure your carrier bag is waterproof to keep your belongings safe and dry.
  • Attachment: Most rooftop cargo carriers can work with or without a cargo rack, thanks to hooks and straps that can be secured to the frame of the car door, just underneath the weatherstrips. However, cargo carriers that only work with roof racks tend to cost less, so keep that in mind if your budget is tight. Either way, the attachment mechanisms on all of the options below are hardy enough to withstand a few bumps when you're flying down the highway at 65 miles per hour.
  • Size: The majority of car roof storage bags come in 15- and 20-cubic foot sizes, but if you have a compact car — or are packing less — you may want to opt for an option that's closer to 10 cubic feet.

You may also want to consider a built-in combination lock to keep items secure when you're at rest stops, a carrier with a protective mat that protects the finish of your car, or even an extra-large option that secures to the back of your vehicle, instead of on top.

With all that in mind, read on for the best rooftop car carrier bags on Amazon.

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The versatile one

For ultimate versatility and compatibility, this rooftop cargo carrier is a great all-around option that's available in two sizes. This carrier comes with four straps to attach it to side rails, cross rails, and basket racks, but if you don't have an existing rack on your car, you can use the four included door hook straps to secure it to the door frames. The carrier bag itself is made from heavy-duty, waterproof tarpaulin and features waterproof zippers and an extra flap to prevent rain from getting through. Each purchase comes with a rooftop protection mat to prevent scratching.

One reviewer says: “This thing saved my trip. It held all (ALL) of my family of 4's stuff for a week long trip (think bags, pillows, blankets, bedding and dog stuff...). Not only did it hold everything (EVERYTHING), it did so at 80mph in the pouring rain for 30 hours.”

  • Available sizes: 15 cubic feet, 20 cubic feet


The one with a combination lock

For extra peace of mind at rest stops and during lunch breaks, this rooftop luggage carrier comes with a combination lock that keeps your items secure when you're away from your car. Made from rugged 1,680-denier PVC fabric, it features dual seams and heavy-duty waterproof zippers. However, some reviewers noted that it isn't fully waterproof, so you may want to treat it with an affordable waterproofing spray if the forecast calls for rain.

Like the previous option, this carrier bag can be attached to vehicles with and without cargo racks, thanks to the included hooks. It's outfitted with 10 straps and also has a built-in protective mat on the bottom to prevent any scratching.

One reviewer says: “We bought this for a snowbird stay in Florida and packed it with more "stuff" than I thought it would hold. It allowed us to travel with our dog in a lightly loaded car interior. It was simple and intuitive to attach to the roof and even though I checked its connections at most stops along the way, it never needed adjusting.”

  • Available sizes: 15 cubic feet


The budget one

If you've already got a cargo rack or cross bars installed on your vehicle, you can take advantage of this wallet-friendly roof rack cargo carrier. Designed to travel through all weather, it's made from waterproof 1,000-denier polyester and features waterproof zippers concealed under an extended rain flap for even more protection from inclement weather. The bag's eight built-in straps keep it secured, and it comes with a protective mat to prevent your roof from getting scratched.

One reviewer says: “I NEVER write reviews but told myself if all my stuff stayed dry, I would, so here I am. I drove 3,000 miles across the US coast to coast, drove through snow, sleet, rain, and even wind storms. This thing did not even budge once the whole trip.”

  • Available sizes: 15 cubic feet


The one for compact cars

If you have a compact car (or you simply don't need that much extra packing space), this smaller car carrier bag is good bet. Offering 10 cubic feet of space, it's constructed with durable vinyl and features coated zippers concealed by a flap for extra weather protection. And while the bag's water-resistance isn't listed, several reviewers reported that it stands up well to rain. It comes with four straps to attach it to a cargo rack, but you can also use the four car door clips to adapt it to rack-less vehicles. However, it doesn't come with a protective mat, so you might want to buy your own.

One reviewer says: “This is a great bag and very versatile! I loved the fact you can use this bag with or without roof rails. [The] quality is top notch and very durable.”

  • Available sizes: 10 cubic feet, 18 cubic feet


A great alternative: the trailer hitch carrier bag

If you want an option that gives you easy access to your belongings during your road trip, consider this car cargo carrier, which attaches to the back of your ride. It offers a full 22 cubic feet of storage, making it the most spacious option on the list by far. Made from 100% waterproof tarpaulin, it features a waterproof zipper with a rain flap for extra protection, along with six durable straps and side handles for easy mounting and dismounting. The only downside is that you'll have to shell out a little extra for a rear cargo rack if you don't have one already.

One reviewer says: “We used this cargo bag to travel from PA to SC. It worked like a charm. We drove through some rain both to and from and everything stayed dry. The straps were sturdy enough to keep the bag to the cargo hitch. I used two ratchet straps as insurance.”

  • Available sizes: 22 cubic feet