Cargo Bag Vs Cargo Box: Which Is Right For You?

Are you looking for a way to carry extra items in your car? If so, you may wonder if a cargo bag or cargo box is the best option. 

While both rooftop cargo carrying options have pros and cons, one may be a better fit for your needs than the other. 

In this post, we’ll explore the differences between cargo bags and cargo boxes, so you can decide which one is right for you.

So, cargo bag vs. cargo box battle, let’s find out!

Related: Ski Rack Vs. Cargo Box: Which One Is Right For You?

What Is A Cargo Bag? 

Cargo bags offer a cost-effective and simple way to transport gear that can work with or without roof racks. They are simple and can be folded flat when not in use, making them super convenient for storing in a tight space or your garage.

FRT - Cargo Bag

They are made from durable, usually waterproof fabric-coated PVC materials. They can be constructed with a few different high-density fabric layers to protect your valuable items from the elements. 

We all have different needs when it comes to storing our belongings. Some people want a small bag with just enough room for the essentials, while others require large amounts of space that can hold everything they want to bring.

Fortunately, like cargo boxes, cargo bags come in sizes from 10 cu ft up to 25 cu ft like this one. It is usually sold together with a protective anti-slip mat to prevent scuffing or scratching on the paint or sliding.

What Is A Cargo Box?

A cargo box is a rigid plastic, hard-shell box that can be mounted on your car’s rooftop. Yes, your car needs a roof rack system, specifically crossbars, to attach securely. That said, a cargo box is an expensive option when you’re on a tight budget.

FRT - Cargo Box

The cargo boxes are made from durable and rugged plastic materials such as ABS or HDPE to protect your belongings against elements or hard impacts. They also tend to be long-lasting, making them a valuable investment in the long run.

Cargo boxes are available in various sizes to suit your needs. The largest capacity is 22 cubic feet, but you can find something that will fit just right for the small items with eight cu ft of storage.

Loading and unloading your stuff with a cargo box is quite easy. Depending on the model of the cargo box, it can be opened and accessed from both sides or passenger sides. Some cargo boxes are designed with rear openings.

Cargo Bags Vs. Cargo Boxes: The Comparison

Choosing between a cargo bag and a cargo box can be tough. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of each to help you decide which is best for you.

Cargo Volume – Both Equal

Both cargo bags and cargo boxes come in different sizes. They start from the smallest eight cu ft and go up to 25 cubic feet for cargo bags and 22 cubic feet for cargo boxes. Many options are available depending on how much you need to transport. 

Roof Rack – Cargo Bag Wins

The major disadvantage of using a cargo box is that it doesn’t work without a roof rack. Your car needs to have the right crossbars set up. The cargo box can easily mount onto these bars with locking clamps.

As for cargo bags, you don’t need to have roof racks to use a cargo bag. It comes fully equipped with straps, and the installation only takes a couple of minutes.

These straps can quickly be attached to side rails, roof racks, crossbars, or door tie-down hooks. 

Then, you’re good to go!

Ease Of Installation – Cargo Bag Wins

A cargo bag is relatively easy and faster to install than a cargo box. The cargo bag can be attached to the roof rack or without a roof rack with straps. You might take a little time to adjust to get the straps right.

Installing a cargo box on top of your vehicle can be very difficult and time-consuming. Sometimes you can get the box up to the rooftop just fine. But if the cargo box is so big and heavy, you could accidentally scratch the roof paint. 

Sometimes help is readily available, and sometimes it’s not. That’s something you have to think about.

Secure Protection – Cargo Box Wins

Cargo boxes are clear winners in this aspect. You can rest assured your valuable items like skis and snowboards are well-protected and secure under a hard plastic shell.

They are made of durable plastic materials that are sturdy and protected against impacts and elements.

Most popular brands like Thule and Yakima cargo boxes are equipped with excellent locking mechanisms that are harder to break into. At least, for the most part, it’s more protected against casual theft.

Cargo bags are less secure because they are made of soft fabric materials. Almost zero protection against any impact. Furthermore, the cargo bag materials are easy to cut with a knife, making them vulnerable to theft. 

Storage – Cargo Bag Wins

One of the major drawbacks of having a cargo box is storing it when not in use for quite some time. How should you store your box when not in the car? That’s something you should ask yourself.

If you have a space in a garage, you might want to hang it up or place it in a corner. However, you can just leave it on the car, but that comes at the cost of aerodynamics and gas mileage.

Unlike cargo boxes, the cargo bag can be quickly removed when not in use. Typically,  cargo bags wear out a bit faster than cargo boxes.

They are susceptible to damage from the elements, so storing them in a dry place when not in use is important.

Cost – Cargo Bag Wins

Cargo bags are generally less expensive by a long shot than cargo boxes, making them a more budget-friendly option. You don’t have to spend more on the required accessory like roof racks to install the cargo bag. 

However, if your car has crossbars ready or you plan to install them, a cargo box might be a better option for you. But expect to spend a lot more on the expensive cargo box.

Cargo Bag Vs. Cargo Box: Quick Summary

To recap, here is the quick summary table of cargo bag versus cargo box:

Cargo Bag


  1. Many cargo-size options are available.
  2. It can be installed with or without a roof rack.
  3. More wiggle room for tall items.
  4. Installation and removal are quick and easy.
  5. Water-resistant.
  6. Lightweight.
  7. Easy to store when not in use.
  8. Inexpensive.


  1. Less protective and less secure.
  2. Wear out faster than cargo boxes.
  3. Flapped in the wind when not fully strapped down.
  4. Sometimes can be difficult to zip and unzip.
  5. Most likely to cause scratch paint to the car rooftop.

Cargo Box


  1. Many cargo-size options are available.
  2. Strong and durable.
  3. Excellent weather protection.
  4. Better protection and security.
  5. Better aerodynamic design.
  6. Looks sleek and blends well with most cars.


  1. It could be very expensive.
  2. Require the right roof rack.
  3. Very tight space for large and long items due to the hard-shell box.
  4. It can be a hassle to store when off the car.
  5. Bulky and slightly heavy.
  6. Installation is time-consuming and needs a learning curve.

Which One Should You Choose?

Cargo bags are the clear winner in this matchup. They are the most affordable option for carrying your extra gear and stuff.

It can be installed with or without a roof rack; this factor alone can save you from spending a lot of money.

A cargo bag is very easy to install by yourself. Moreover, you can remove and collapse it easily when not in use.

One downside is that they’re less secure than cargo boxes since they are not hard-shell.

A cargo box is the best choice if you want something durable and secure. If your car doesn’t have a roof rack system ready, setting up the cargo box can be very expensive, considering that you have to spend more on crossbars.

However, the benefits of having a cargo box will outweigh the cargo bag in the long run. We hope this information was helpful and will help you make the right decision for your needs.

What Are Suitable Rooftop Carriers For Your Cars Make & Model?

Our road trip gear expert Terry has been testing various models of rooftop cargo carriers to find the ideal fit for your exact model. You may like to read next one of our detailed review guides:

AudiQ3 Cargo Boxes
Q5 Roof Boxes
Q7 Roof Boxes
A4 Avant Roof Boxes
HondaOdyssey Cargo Box
CR-V Cargo Box
Pilot Cargo Carriers
JeepWrangler Kayak Racks
Grand Cherokee Roof Racks
Grand Cherokee Cargo Boxes
SubaruOutback Roof Racks
Outback Kayak Racks
Outback Cargo Box
Forester Cargo Box
Crosstrek Cargo Box
TeslaModel Y Cargo Box
ToyotaHighlander Cargo Carriers
Rav4 Cargo Boxes
Prius Roof Racks (C, V, Prime & Hybrid)
VolvoRoof Boxes for XC40
Roof Racks for XC40
Roof Box for XC90

Let us know if your car model is missing – email us at with your suggestions! We are adding to our reviews every month to help you find the best gear transportaion solutions perfect for your next family road trip.

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