If you enjoy going on longer trips with your Subaru Outback and you are thinking of expanding the storage space, so you and your family can enjoy a more comfortable vacation, with all the gear and baggage you need neatly tucked away, you probably need to consider buying a roof cargo box.
Purchasing a roof cargo box for your Subaru Outback will prevent the passengers from feeling cramped and will allow you and your family members to pack everything you need for the trip, sparing your loved ones the trouble of having to hold some of the baggage on their lap during a long drive.
This Subaru Outback roof cargo box guide will allow you to read about, compare and quickly find the best Subaru Outback Roof Cargo Box available on the market. If you are familiar with roof boxes manufacturers, you will surely incline towards either Thule or Yakima roof cargo boxes, but rest assured that there are other brands that you can consider, such as SportRack or INNO, depending on your needs and budget.
Before reading our reviews of the best roof cargo boxes for Subaru Outback, you might want to find out exactly what type of roof bars you have on your vehicle and replace them, if needed, with Subaru official roof bars.
Even if you know a thing or two about car roof boxes, it is still a difficult task to choose a suitable roof cargo box for your Subaru Outback from the many options available on the market.
Even choosing between the brands we reviewed in this Subaru Outback roof cargo boxes buying guide can turn out to be quite a challenge, since there are many aspects and features to consider.
The main things that you have to consider when picking a new roof box are related to the dimensions of the box and the manufacturing process and materials, aerodynamics, waterproofing and other security features, as well as the mounting and removal process of the roof box.
There are many models of roof cargo boxes that can accommodate quite a lot of outdoor gear and luggage, but usually, their maximum capacity will vary based on their size and shape, so keep that in mind and make sure the dimensions and volume of the box you choose do not exceed the specifications of your Subaru Outback.
If you need an extra-large capacity box, you can choose a box such as Thule’s Motion XT Rooftop Cargo Carrier or Thule 615 Pulse Rack Large Box, while for a smaller baggage load you can easily opt for a box with a lower capacity, such as Yakima Skybox Carbonite Cargo Box or Thule Sidekick.
Choosing the right shape can go a long way since it can make a difference when you need more space on the roof rack for things like a bike carrier or skis. If you pick a narrow roof box, you will benefit from extra space on the roof to mount a kayak or other similar gear.
If you are a biker and need extra space on the roof rack, you can mount a medium width roof box or a long box, that offers excellent capacity, is easy to manoeuvre and leaves enough room alongside them.
If you just need extra storing room and are willing to occupy the whole roof rack, you can go for a full-width and extra-long roof box, that will accommodate most of the gear and baggage you need for your trips, be it outdoor equipment or winter sports gear.
When it comes to the dimensions and capacity of a roof cargo box, you should check the volume and the design. The most useful models are those that feature at least a 14-cu ft. capacity, but another thing to keep in mind is the design of the front edge.
A roof box with a narrow front edge and tricky angles will certainly cost you precious storing room. Instead of judging by the manufacturer’s specifications regarding the volume, you should just look at the design and try to imagine what you will be able to carry in it, based on its width, length, height and overall shape.
Make sure to check that your new roof box is equipped for a safe and convenient installation and removal process.
Before mounting the roof box, you should carefully calculate it’s position on the vehicle’s roof so that it is far enough towards the front of the vehicle to avoid obstructing the roof antennas, but also to ensure that it does not block the opening to the trunk of your vehicle. It should not, however, sit beyond the top of the windshield, for obvious safety reasons.
While most vehicles come with their own roof bars or roof racks, you might want to check and see if those can support the weight of your roof box. If you are inclined to buy a larger capacity roof cargo box, you should also opt for a roof rack rated for that specific weight range.
Another aspect to keep in mind when mounting a roof box is the fact that they should be close to silent when driving the vehicle, so make sure that the roof rack lifts the box high enough. This way, you will prevent any whistling beneath the roof box when you are on the road.
Mounting a roof box that comes equipped with U-bolts is easy, but models with a sliding roof mount system are even better, due to the claw-like clamps that are positioned along the roof-rack, which you can control by a tightening knob placed inside the roof box.
The same aspects are applicable when removing a roof box since it depends on the fastening system of the chosen models. For example, with Thule’s AcuTight clamping mechanism, removing the cargo box requires loosening the knobs situated in the interior of the storage unit, until the clamping mechanism is fully open, in order to detach the box from the roof rack. When dealing with U-bolts and plates, you should first loosen the knobs and then remove the bolts, to disengage the fastening mechanism before detaching and removing the roof box from the rack.
Both the mounting and removal processes usually require two people for the job, unless you are dealing with a smaller capacity roof box.
First, you must ask yourself if you really need it to be 100% waterproof since this is just a technicality. While most roof boxes are designed in such a way so that they keep your belongings safe from moisture and other humid weather conditions, they are not entirely waterproof. That would mean that they would protect your luggage and keep the interior completely dry even if they went underwater, which does not happen. A roof cargo box can protect your belongings from rain or snow, but water will penetrate if submerged.
Simply put, most hard-shelled roof cargo boxes offer protection during humid weather conditions, but they cannot be classified as textbook waterproof. So, the real question that you should be asking is this: Is my roof cargo box water-repellent?
What you should look for instead is a roof box with impermeable shell materials and seal protection systems that keep the moisture away from your gear and luggage during the trip, even in the harshest weather conditions. And since it is better to be safe than sorry, you should aim to not overfill the box. Even if the specifications mention a guaranteed maximum capacity, you should try to always carry fewer things than it can accommodate, to avoid forcing the locking system.
It is important to choose the most accessible roof box in terms of ease of loading and unloading your baggage. Besides ensuring that your roof box comes equipped with supporting lid lifters or stiffeners so that the lid does not collapse when you try to get something from the box, you should also consider which type of opening is best for your Subaru Outback.
Your roof box should also leave enough room for easy trunk access, so keep that in mind when considering what model to buy. Dual-side openings, with grip-friendly handles and lid-lifters, are the most appreciated, as they ensure wider and faster access to the stored baggage. Some users prefer the passenger side opening, as is the case of the SportRack Skyline XL Cargo Box since it offers a higher level of safety when accessing the contents of the roof box.
Selecting a roof cargo box with rear access also keeps the user safe, since it does not require you to expose yourself to traffic when trying to access it.
One of the aspects you should not treat lightly when buying a roof cargo box for your Subaru Outback or any other type of vehicle for that matter, is the security feature, since picking a box with built-in defence mechanisms to prevent inopportune closing and locking of your roof box can spare you a lot of nuisance. Also, you should make sure that the locking system, the keys, and other closing features are fit for your needs before spending your budget.
For example, when dealing with a dual-side opening roof box, you should ask if you can access the locks with the same key. Another popular security system, usually found in Thule boxes, is the SlideLock, that provides distinct locking and shutting functions. For this type of security system, all you have to do is move a tab to close the roof box lid and then make sure that the storing unit is correctly fastened and locked by checking the built-in indicator.
Boxes that have central locking sound like a good idea, but if you look closely, you will see that this type of system can bring a lot of hassle when the box is full. After loading the roof box to its full capacity, you might struggle to engage one of the locks and it could require another pair of hands to secure the roof box properly.
You should also keep in mind that some of the most effective security systems do not let you remove the key from the lock until everything is correctly shut and locked securely.
In order to provide optimal security, strength and resistance, cargo boxes are made from multiple layers of combined materials such as aluminium, steel, fibreglass-reinforced polyester with embedded metal reinforcements or even automotive-grade acrylic. Thule roof boxes, for example, are made with five layers of automotive-grade acrylic, and the manufacturer chose this material because it is lightweight and provides high impact resistance.
Since roof cargo boxes are constantly exposed to various weather conditions, you should consider buying a cargo box that is manufactured taking into account factors such as the sun. When the shell material goes through an ultraviolet protection treatment during the manufacturing process, you can rest assured that your product will be resistant to sun damage and fading caused by sun exposure.
Remember to check for sturdiness and strong fittings if the box you choose is made of plastic. Thin plastic can flex, and you will also have a hard time manoeuvring the roof box when loading it. If the plastic warps too much, you will start to hear a rattling sound while driving.
The surface texture of a roof cargo box is also important, as it improves features such as aerodynamics in the case of dimpled top finish, and the water-repellent properties in the case of a diamond texture finish.
When it comes to endurance, you should enquire if the manufacturing process includes extensive testing, so that you can rest assured that the materials were exposed to various scenarios before ending up on a shelf. If your new roof box passed wear-and-tear simulations, that means it is fit to withstand all sorts of incidents, from being crashed into a wall or a garage door, to being dropped or smashed. This comes as proof that the materials have high resilience and flexible strength and allows you to confidently take your roof box with you almost anywhere in the world since you know that it can keep your gear and luggage protected even during violent storms or scorching heat or freezing winter cold.
One of the biggest roof boxes from Thule, that comes with a dual side opening and an optimised design for excellent storage space efficiency, Thule Motion XT Rooftop Cargo Carrier is most likely the best roof cargo box for your Subaru Outback. It had a 16-cu ft capacity and given its dimensions of L:90.5" x W:35" x H:15”, it can easily store winter sports gear and equipment.
Thule Motion XT has a high level of vehicle compatibility and offers full trunk access, limiting the chances of contact with the cargo box. Some of the vehicle owners noticed that even though the roof box sits in a forward position to allow easy access to the trunk, it does not pose any threat by hanging out too much in front of the car.
It is very easy to mount, which is excellent when you don’t want to arrive late to your destination, and the loading and unloading processes are simple and safe because it comes with supporting lid lifters, that keep it from collapsing while you are trying to get something from the roof box.
This box is manufactured using a high-density material, resistant to striking, moisture and UV rays, that contributes to its stability and security levels so that your belongings are properly protected. Another element that contributes to the overall safety feature of this cargo box consists of the locking cylinders situated along the box’s edge, that keep it firmly attached to the roof rack of your Subaru Outback even in extreme weather conditions.
For safety reasons, this model has a passenger-side opening, and it comes equipped with a U-bolt mounting hardware kit that allows you to mount it properly, avoiding the risk of shifting positions while you are driving the vehicle. You may notice some ridges along the bottom of the cargo box, which are destined to ensure a perfect fit against your vehicle’s load bars. This means you do not have to worry about rocking or shifting when the car is in motion.
If you are interested in the capacity of this cargo box, you will be pleased to find out that it has an 18 cubic feet capacity, that can hold up to 100 pounds. Therefore, the SportRack Skyline XL Cargo Box is ideal for longer trips, that require a lot of storage space.
If you are looking for a roof box that is easy to mount on your Subaru Outback, you should probably consider the INNO Shadow box, as it comes equipped with a memory mount system. It has a unique base construction, and therefore you might notice that it is much lighter and stronger than other standard roof box models.
Since it has universal crossbar compatibility, this INNO Shadow rooftop cargo box is probably one of the best choices of roof cargo boxes for the Subaru Outback. Also, it provides a sleek aerodynamic design, which allows you to also benefit from the best MPG while keeping your gear and baggage conveniently tucked away for the comfort and safety of the passengers.
In terms of storage space, it has an 11-cu ft. capacity, with dimensions of L: 83" W: 36" H: 14", and dual-side opening, that can accommodate up to six snowboards or eight skis, or up to 42 pounds of luggage.
Worrying about your gear and baggage is not an issue with this model since it comes with a safety lock system.
If you and your family are winter sports aficionados, the Thule 615 Pulse is an ideal roof cargo box for Subaru Outback owners, since it allows carrying multiple snowboards, skis and other gear and equipment.
Clients who have purchased this roof cargo box for Subaru Outback reported that it can easily accommodate between three and five pair of skis or up to six snowboards. Imagine not having to rent equipment for some of the members of your crew just because you did not have enough storage space to carry everyone’s baggage when travelling with a bigger crowd.
The passenger side opening contributes to the safety of the passengers, as it allows you to access your baggage without standing too close to traffic.
Thule 615 Pulse offers you the best value for your money, with features such as the FastGrip quick-mount system that allows you to install it in no time, as well as the central locking system, that does not allow the user to remove the key unless all the locking points have been securely closed.
In terms of manufacturing, this roof cargo box is made from a durable textured ABS material that provides a high level of security for your baggage.
This is an excellent aerodynamic Yakima box model, that exhibits a tapered design conceived to favour long drives, by sustaining gas efficiency. Also, keep in mind that the tapered tail design allows easy access to the trunk of the vehicle, while the slim dimensions of the front of this roof box were designed so that the storage unit does not block the driver’s view.
Yakima Showcase will look amazing on your Subaru Outback, as it displays a high-gloss automotive quality finish which gives the storage unit a sleek and modern look and feel.
This rooftop cargo box features a dual-sided opening, for easy access to your luggage, which is also sustained by the internal lid lifters that allow passengers to load and unload baggage without any hindrance.
If you worry about it fitting your vehicle roof rack, Yakima Showcase fits round, aerodynamic, factory and square crossbars, and it comes with SKS locks included for added security.
If you are not sure that a dual-side or passenger side opening roof box will suit your needs, you might want to check out one model that opens from the rear.
The SportRack Vista XL Cargo Box can accommodate up to 100 pounds of luggage, gear, and equipment, and it has an aerodynamic design with angled lines, which sustain gas efficiency, so you can attain the best fuel economy.
Mounting it can be done very easily to most types of racks, so updating will probably not be necessary. As for removing the box when you do not need it, it comes equipped with quick-release hardware, that makes your job easier.
Security aspects should also be considered when choosing a roof cargo box, and just like other models in this category, the SportRack Vista XL Cargo Box has an integrated lock cylinder into the rear opening, that keeps your gear and baggage secure, while also ensuring that the storage unit is properly and securely attached to the roof rack.
If you have a small family and need just a small extension for the available storage space in your car, you should consider buying a Yakima Skybox, as it is a sturdy and light cargo box, ideal for those who want to upgrade their Subaru Outback.
It weighs only 75 pounds, which makes it easy to mount and remove by yourself, while other models require at least one extra pair of hands.
Vehicle owners that bought the Yakima Skybox reported that it has a clever design that reduces the noise that you usually expect to hear on the road when you have a roof box attached. This aerodynamic rooftop cargo box also comes equipped with a fully integrated same key lock system (SKS), that allows you to lock all your Yakima products with just one key. The cargo box also comes with internal lid stiffeners, that maintain the lid in place and keep you safe while handling your luggage.
Subaru Outback owners recommend the Thule Sidekick roof box for those who are looking to attach a compact roof box to their vehicle. It has a capacity of 8-cu ft. and dimensions of L:54 x W:25 x H:15.5", and it has a space-saving design which allows for you to place other items on the roof rack since there is plenty of room left after mounting it on your vehicle.
Owners that mounted the Thule Sidekick roof box on a Subaru Outback were pleasantly surprised by the amount of room in the interior, as well as the wide opening when loading, and they recommended it for short to mid-range vacations. Some suggest that you may want to check if extra holes are needed so that the rear clamp to work for the bar spread, while others checked with Thule and confirmed that this roof box is a fit for a Subaru Outback Wagon with factory crossbars.
The mounting process of the roof box is amazingly fast and easy, owing to Thule’s U-Bolt mounting system. The U-Bolt hardware is incorporated, but in order to avoid mishaps, you may need to read the installation manual for information on how to install the roof box properly.
Before buying a new cargo box, you should consider a couple of alternatives for storing it. If your home does not have enough space in the basement or garage to store the roof box on a flat surface, there’s no need to panic, as manufacturers such as Thule provide you with excellent storing solutions.
One of them is the Thule Multilift, a pulley system that you can mount onto the ceiling of your basement or storage shed, allowing you to properly store your roof cargo box without it interfering with your day-to-day activities and occupying vital storage space that you can use for other items.
And when the roof box is mounted on the vehicle for a trip, you can use the storage system to keep other types of gear and equipment out of your way.
Before storing away your roof box, most manufacturers recommend placing a thick piece of soft fabric underneath the box if you are going to place it on a solid surface. Also, you should consider cleaning it beforehand with a light soap-based liquid. Products that contain alcohol, bleach or ammonia are not recommended, as they might damage the finish of your roof box.
It rarely happens, as it takes a lot of wear and tear to cause damage to a roof box, but it does, and when you are faced with a situation where you need to quickly fix a crack or a dent that appeared on the surface of your roof cargo box so you can hit the road, you should know that there are various solutions available.
Minor damages, that happen because the plastic becomes more rigid when the temperatures drop, such as cracks or dents, can be fixed by the owner, using products such as epoxies, liquid rubber, resins, or patches. Only use these after you stabilized the crack first, and make sure that you cure it, sand it, and refinish it after filling the broken section with the right product. Bigger issues should be fixed by sending the roof box to a professional plastic repair service.
As for broken mechanisms and parts, you should make sure that the manufacturer provides the clients with replacement parts and kits, such as lid lifters, lock mechanisms, tightening knobs or other elements that are essential for safely storing and carrying your belongings.
If you require more information, please check these references
Subaru Rooftop Cargo Carriers , article, "www.autoanything.com", retrieved on, Sat 03-October-2020
Subaru Outback Roof Rack Accessories , article, "www.subaru.com", retrieved on, Sat 03-October-2020
Subaru , article, "www.thule.com", retrieved on, Sat 03-October-2020
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