Ski Rack Vs Cargo Box: Why You Should Be Using A Cargo Box Instead Of A Ski Rack

Do you love hitting the slopes every winter? Like me, you love spending a winter weekend skiing or snowboarding with your family or friends. But what do you do when you need to bring your gear? 

A ski rack is a perfect option for carrying all your equipment, but a cargo box is also a great choice. So, which one should you choose? 

In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of ski racks and cargo boxes to decide which is right for you.

Let’s get into it!

Ski Rack Vs. Cargo Box: A Quick Summary

Ski RackCargo Box
They Are Way CheaperExcellent Protection
Easier To Load And UnloadMore Versatile
Easy To Install And RemoveMore Secure
Better Gas Mileage
Does Not Block The Car Panoramic Roof
Exposed To ElementsExpensive
Prone To TheftPoor Gas Mileage
Lack Of Space For Anything ElseBlock The Car Sunroof View
The Installation Takes Time
Difficult To Store When Not In Use

What Is A Ski Rack?

A ski rack is a carrier attached to the rooftop of a car designed to hold skis and snowboards. They are usually made of aluminum, rubber, and plastic and come in different sizes and mounting types. 

FRT - Ski Rack

You’ll need to install your roof rack to install the ski rack. Most ski racks can fit the factory crossbars or the aftermarket crossbars. 

Depending on the size of the ski rack, the small-size ski rack typically can hold up to 2 pairs of skis and one snowboard. A large ski rack can easily carry up to 6 pairs of skis and four snowboards.

When you place your skis or snowboards on the ski rack, they are clamped with padded arms that ensure a safe and secure grip. Additionally, most ski racks include security locks to deter theft.

The Pros Of A Ski Rack

The ski rack is meant to carry skis and snowboards. The following are the advantages of utilizing a ski rack rather than a cargo box to transport them.

They Are Way Cheaper

The ski rack is the most cost-effective option for transporting skis and snowboards without breaking the bank. A typical ski rack will cost anywhere from $40 to $400. 

The prices vary depending on the brand, size, capacity, and whether it is an extended version.

Easier To Load And Unload

The ski racks are easier to load and unload skis than cargo boxes. The reason is that with a cargo box, you need more height to reach its top. 

Ski racks provide wider access points, so loading and unloading them won’t be as difficult as a cargo box.

Easy To Install And Remove

The ski rack is quick and simple to install, with no required drilling. It also implies that it is simple to remove when you’re not using it. Plus, they don’t take up a lot of space when stored in the garage.

Better Gas Mileage

Both the ski rack and cargo box hurt the car’s gas mileage. However, because of its aerodynamic design and lightweight, the ski rack has a small impact on the mpg.

Does Not Block The Car Panoramic Roof

If your vehicle has a beautiful panoramic roof, you would certainly want to enjoy the view when driving. With a cargo box installed on top of it, there is no way to do so. 

While with ski racks, you can keep the panoramic roof unobstructed and enjoy the view anytime during long drives on snowy days.

The Cons Of A Ski Rack

Despite all the advantages mentioned above, a ski rack has some disadvantages. The following are the cons of using it.

Exposed To Elements

One of the major disadvantages of ski racks is that your skis and snowboards will be exposed to road salt and all sorts of grimy stuff from winter weather. With a ski rack, your gears are left open and exposed to road salt and all that nasty stuff.

They will become dirty and deteriorate over time. Sooner, your winter gear will get damaged. You might want to wrap them with something like a blanket to keep them safe from the winter elements.

Prone To Theft

Since your skis or snowboards are out in the open on the ski rack, anyone can see them. It makes the ski racks easier to steal. Although many ski racks are equipped with secure locks, it doesn’t deter theft.

Moreover, you can’t leave your gear overnight; you must bring it inside every night before someone will rip you off.

Lack Of Space For Anything Else

Another drawback of using a ski rack is that you can only load something thin and long items like skis or snowboards on it. Some ski racks can carry gears like fishing rods, paddles, poles, and water skis.

But you can’t use the ski rack to carry your camping equipment, luggage, or other cargo.

What Is A Cargo Box?

Cargo boxes are a popular option that gives extra room to store more items, especially if your vehicle storage is limited. Read our article about how to pack a roof box here.


The box must be mounted to the roof of your vehicle, which means it must have a roof rack setup that can use it. They are usually made from hard and durable plastic and tend to last longer. 

Cargo boxes come in different shapes and sizes, and most have built-in locks to keep your belongings safe. The box can be opened from both sides or one side (or rear side) for easy loading and unloading.

The Pros Of Cargo Box

Let’s look at some benefits of using a cargo box instead of a ski rack.

Excellent Protection

The cargo box’s major benefit is that it is more protective. Unlike a ski rack, where your winter gear is left open and exposed, a cargo box keeps your skis and snowboards safe and dry inside the hard-shell box.

No worry about dust, road grime, rocks, or winter elements damaging your equipment. A cargo box will shield and keep your skis and snowboards clean.

More Versatile

The cargo box is more versatile and can also be used for more cargo space.  Many cargo boxes can hold a few pairs of skis or snowboards with room to spare, for instance, Thule cargo boxes.

It’s always nice to have an extra storage solution to keep some extra stuff like luggage when needed. You can also put beer in your cargo box during the winter, and it stays cold.

More Secure

Cargo boxes are also more secure than ski racks. As you place your gear in the box, it will be kept safe from prying eyes. The cargo box has built-in locks, making it harder for thieves to break into.

If you stay overnight during the winter trip, you can leave your skis or snowboards in the cargo box without worrying about them being stolen.

The Cons Of Cargo Box

Here are a few drawbacks of using a cargo box.


One downside to cargo boxes is that they can be quite expensive. Especially if you are looking for a high-quality and durable box, the price tags often reach over $600.  This may not be an issue for some people, but it is something to consider.

Related: Why Are Roof Racks So Expensive?

Poor Gas Mileage

A cargo box is heavier and bulkier than a ski rack. It adds to your vehicle’s weight and wind resistance, which may lower fuel efficiency and mileage. 

Whereas the ski racks are slimmer and lightweight, they will impact your car’s mpg less.

For most drivers, this is not a significant drop in the gasoline economy, but it might add up over time if you drive long distances frequently.

Related: How To Stop Wind Noise From Roof Rack.

Block The Car Sunroof View

When your car’s cargo box is attached, it will partially or completely obstruct your sunroof view. You won’t be able to see through the whole roof (if your car has one). 

Another disadvantage of a cargo container, especially the huge one, is that it will overhang a lot.

The Installation Takes Time

Another downside to cargo boxes is that they take time to install. It’s not as easy as just putting on a ski rack. 

You might want extra hands to lift it onto the car rooftop for a bigger cargo box. The installation process can take up to 30 minutes for some people.

Difficult To Store When Not In Use

A cargo box is also difficult to store when it’s not in use. Unlike a ski rack, which can be easily folded and put away, a cargo box takes up a lot of space. It might be difficult to find somewhere to keep it in your garage or home when you’re not using it.

Ski Rack Or Cargo Box: Which Should You Choose?

So, what is the verdict? Ski rack vs. cargo box – which one should you choose for your vehicle? Well, it depends on your needs and budget.

A cargo box is the best option if you want a long-term solution to keep your skis and snowboards safe and secure.

In addition, you can also put bags up there for longer endeavors. It’s more expensive than a ski rack, but it offers many benefits that the latter does not.

However, a ski rack might be the better option if you are on a tight budget or do not need extra cargo space.

It is less expensive, lighter, and easier to install. It’s a simple way to transport your skis or snowboards without extra bells and whistles.

If you’re looking for all different cargo solutions, you may also want to check out our comparison guides:

Now the only question left is which winter wonderland will you head to for your next family ski trip?

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