Using Car Top Carrier Without A Roof Rack: Tips And Advice

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If you don’t have a rack on your car’s roof but need additional storage space, don’t worry. The solution is a car-top carrier without a roof rack. 

But, even though the solution is something you can purchase, you are probably not sure which ones are best, how to attach them, and how to load them. 

Let’s look at some tips and the best options for using a soft car top carrier without a roof rack. 

Read: Why Are Roof Racks So Expensive?

Using a Car Top Carrier Without a Roof Rack: General Tips and Advice

Before we get into specific features, a few tips might make using a car-top carrier without a roof rack easier.

  • Don’t over-tighten straps, or you could tear the carrier
  • Install the carrier following the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Install the carrier with the opening away from the wind to the rear of the vehicle
  • Always follow the roof capacity guidelines from your vehicle’s manufacturer
  • Use a step stool to make it easier to reach the top of your vehicle
  • Load the carrier after it’s on the roof
  • Unload the carrier while it’s on the roof
  • Use a helper if you can

A Video: How To Attach A Car Top Carrier Without A Roof Rack

See the Rightline cargo bag from the video on Amazon

Top Five Soft Car Top Carriers 

Here are five recommendations for soft car cargo bags that you can use without a roof rack.

#1. RoofBag Rooftop Cargo Carrier

RoofBag Rooftop Cargo Carrier
  • VERSATILE: Our vehicle cargo carriers offer more versatility than any other car roof cargo carrier. At the size of 48" L, 38" W, 11"-18" H and with 15 cubic feet of car roof storage, large enough to hold the contents of 5 medium-sized suitcases, you'll never run out of space. The RoofBag cargo bag is designed and made in the USA to fit any car roof 58" or longer (SUVs, vans, large sedans). Plus, our Large Set option includes Liner Bags for easier packing and upacking your car luggage carrier.
  • MOST SECURE DESIGN: Your roof cargo is safe with our roof cargo carrier offering the strongest seat-belt style straps. They are 1.5” wide and made of nylon for unsurpassed strength, and are not stitched to the roof top car cargo carrier for additional safety. Our straps secure your car carrier at any highway speed. The included protective and non-slip mat keeps the roof bag waterproof carrier in place and prevents scratching the roof of your car, SUV, van or truck
  • TRULY WATERPROOF: RoofBag car carrier keeps your rooftop cargo dry, offering the benefits of a rigid luggage carrier for car rooftop and the efficiency and economy of a cargo bag for top of car. Our roof bag waterproof carrier is made from a single piece of waterproof material to ensure total waterproofness. It also includes waterproof zippers, waterproof flaps, water-repellent straps, and no exposed stitching to optimally protect your car topper against water penetration

Last update on 2022-05-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Perhaps nothing is more quintessentially American than a road trip in the family car. With the RoofBag cargo carrier, you can travel with the equivalent of up to five suitcases full of stuff on the roof in a safe and secure cargo bag. And, it’s made in the USA. 

Constructed from heavy-duty and waterproof fabric, this bag is peel- and tear-resistant, so your stuff will stay dry and safe inside.

The set of two wide seat-belt style straps will keep your cargo secured to the roof even at highway speeds. And the included mat will keep your roof free of scratches.

Installation is a breeze, thanks to clear instructions and a simple design. Set out the mat on your roof, put the logo-end of the carrier toward the rear of the car, pass the 1.5” wide straps through the open doors of your vehicle, and close the doors. 

Instead of being sewn onto it directly, the straps loop through the cargo carrier, adding an extra degree of strength. 

With customer service based in San Diego, California, and a two-year warranty against defects, you can’t go wrong with this cargo carrier.


  • Multiple size options
  • Secure, simple fastening system for almost all passenger vehicles
  • Made in the USA, USA-based support
  • Waterproof
  • Protective mat and storage bag included
  • Works with or without roof racks
  • Quiet at highway speed when installed properly


  • Slightly more expensive than some other models
  • Not all sizes/styles are 100% waterproof

#2. Sailnovo Car Roof Bag and Cargo Carrier

Sailnovo Car Roof Bag and Cargo Carrier
  • Tearproof & Waterproof: Features triple-layer 1000D PVC waterproof tarpaulin which is 2 times stronger than other brand 500D fabric.We discovery that other brand easily rip from the seam, so we doubly strong our roof bag's seam and widen waterproof zipper flaps.
  • Large Carrying Capacity : This premium roof rack cargo carrier 51” (L) X 39” (W) X 17” (H) with 20 cubic foot storage capacity can hold 5-7 suitcases, travel boxes, camping tents, sleeping bags and more. Made of soft shell material, it can be folded into the storage bag to save space while not in use!
  • More Security: Alongside carrying capacity, stability is arguably the most important factor in a vehicle top carrier. Our car roof cargo carrier is design with 6 built in reinforced straps, extra 6 short tie straps & 2 long door straps. For security reasons, the more straps used to fasten the carrier to the roof the better!

Last update on 2022-05-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This cargo carrier from Sailnovo will allow you to store between four and six suitcases worth of stuff on the roof of your vehicle. It works without a roof rack or with one.

The six adjustable straps sew right to the softshell fabric, and the zippers are all covered by flaps to keep things secure and as water-tight as possible. 

Two additional straps come with the cargo carrier for additional fastening as needed. Just open the doors, loop the straps through the car, pull them tight, and click the seat-belt style connectors. Close the door and hit the road. 

Though designed to be very sturdy and resistant to water, this bag is not 100% waterproof, especially in crazy weather at highway speeds. It also doesn’t come with a roof mat to protect against slipping and scratching.

And, the sewn-in straps potentially create a stress point that could lead to tears down the road.


  • Competitive pricing
  • Works with almost any passenger vehicle
  • Simple installation
  • Extra straps


  • Sewn-in straps create stress points and may lead to rips
  • Not waterproof
  • No anti-slip mat included

#3. Whistler Roof Top Cargo Carrier

Whistler Roof Top Cargo Carrier
  • 100% WATERPROOF – Built from Heavy-Duty TARPAULIN for Ultra-Durability & Full Waterproofing So Your Possessions Stay Dry, Come Rain, Sleet, Snow or Hail
  • UPGRADED STRAPS - 2 Commercial Grade WATERPROOF Straps that have a breaking strength of 800 lbs.
  • PROTECTIVE MAT - Includes a High Quality Protective Non Slip Mat to keep your car roof protected and to hold the bag in place
  • STORAGE BAG INCLUDED – When You Aren’t Travelling or Camping, Stow the Roof Bag Securely in the Included Storage Bag; Just Fold, Slide, and Zip
  • 100% SATISFACTION GUARANTEED - We back all our products with a no questions money back 2 Year Warranty.

Last update on 2022-05-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This cargo carrier from Whistler is very affordable, making it a decent choice for budget shoppers. Unfortunately, its straps aren’t as well integrated as with some other models, and it doesn’t hold up to claims that it is 100% waterproof.

Instead of looping through the carrier, which is the best option, or being sewn to the carrier, these straps simply tighten over the bag after looping through the doors of the car, just like the other bags. But, it never gets as tight as some premium models do. 

This cargo carrier doesn’t stand up to hard use in extreme weather. The included anti-slip mat is kind of flimsy as well, but there is also a storage bag included. It also has the capacity for the equivalent of four to five suitcases full of stuff. 

The very affordable price might be its best trait, but if you’re going on a short trip in an older car and need to carry some additional gear, this might be a decent solution.  


  • Very affordable
  • Simple fastening system
  • Ample capacity


  • Not waterproof
  • Not as secure as some other options
  • Moves around a bit even when lashed tightly
  • Forcing straps to make them tighter may damage the vehicle 

#4. Fruno Rooftop Cargo Carrier

Fruno Rooftop Cargo Carrier
  • WATERPROOF – Made of 100% waterproof heavy duty tarpaulin. And the high-frequency technology (melt the fabric and rebond) makes all seams also waterproof. Meanwhile, we use water-resistant zippers and 4" wide zipper flap to keep the water out.
  • UNIVERSAL FIT - No matter if the car is equiped with roof racks or not, it's easy to use the 8 straps on the cargo bag and the 6 door hooks to easily fit it on the car roof. NOTE: It can't work on the rackless cars of which weather-strips are glued to the door frame or doors are sliding-doors.
  • FOLDABLE - 15 CUFT (44"×34"×17") of storage space can easily accommodate two 24"H suitcases, two 20" suitcases and other items. But after folding, this car roof cargo carrier is only 0.8 CUFT space required.
  • SECURITY - Compared with others,we add a reinforced patch between each strap and the bag to prevent straps being ripped off the bag. And you can use the 2 separate lashing straps and the anti-slip mat included to further fix the roof rack cargo carrier to prevent it from falling off the car.
  • GUARANTEE - 1 year warranty for the cargo bag if it doesn't do its job. Please contact us through order page to get the after-sales and we will make it right by refunding or replacing your car top carrier (You don't even have to send back the product).

Last update on 2022-05-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This Fruno cargo carrier is a bit smaller than the others. Instead of having a capacity of four to six suitcases, it can only hold about two suitcases worth of stuff. While it is down on capacity, it is completely waterproof. 

When installed properly with the zipper facing away from the front of the vehicle, water won’t be able to penetrate the plastic-lined tarpaulin carrier. There are eight straps with reinforced patches to make their connection to the carrier stronger.

An anti-slip mat comes with the cargo carrier, as well as two additional extra straps for lashing loads to the roof.

But, this carrier uses a hook system to secure itself to the roof. Sliding doors which are common on minivans, won’t work with this setup. And, if you have rubber gaskets around your door frames, those will need to be removed or the hook attachments to work. If the gaskets are glued in place, this carrier won’t work. 

The price is fairly competitive, and the customer support is pretty responsive if an issue does pop up. They have a one-year guarantee against rips or failure of the waterproofing. And, if you want more capacity, they also offer a larger version


  • Guaranteed for one year
  • Waterproof
  • Competitive pricing
  • Two sizes available


  • Hook fasteners don’t work with some cars
  • The buckles and straps are fairly thin

#5. KING BIRD Aerodynamic Rooftop Cargo Carrier

KING BIRD Aerodynamic Rooftop Cargo Carrier
  • 【Large Storage Space】20 cubic feet - 52"L x 38"W x 18"H, KING BIRD roof cargo bag will give you more space for your travels, Allow folding when not in use, and pack it into the high quality Oxford storage bag.
  • 【100% Waterproof】The roof cargo carrier are made of heavy PVC fabric + waterproof coating to ensure no surface leakage. 5 "wide zip cover + 5" long Velcro cover the zipper completely and keep it close to the zipper. Finally, double coat the zipper with a waterproof coating. It can do 100% to prevent water from entering the bag.
  • 【Fuel Consumption Reduce】This rooftop cargo carrier is aerodynamic design that significantly reduces wind resistance, compared with other rooftop cargo bag, it consumes less fuel, saving you fuel costs, It also reduces the risk of being torn by the wind and improves durability.

Last update on 2022-05-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This cargo carrier from King Bird uses a hook system to attach to your car’s roof. Sliding doors and doors with permanently mounted weatherstripping gaskets won’t work with this system. So, make sure it is compatible with your vehicle’s design. 

The carrier features an aerodynamically enhanced design to reduce wind noise, resistance, and noise. The design may even help with fuel mileage thanks to increased aerodynamics. 

It features a heavy-duty zipper covered with additional velcro closures and a large flap to keep the elements out and your gear inside dry. When installed and sealed properly, this carrier is waterproof. 

It has lots of capacity, with space for four to six large suitcases or the equivalent. Plus, it comes with a roof protection pad and a TSA-approved combination lock. It’s also available in a smaller capacity model.

This might be a good solution to your cargo carrying needs with competitive pricing. But, it may not last as long as some of the other models. It seems that the attachment points for the straps tend to wear out or tear over time or under very hard use. 


  • Waterproof 
  • Competitive pricing
  • Two sizes on offer
  • Very aerodynamic


  • Less durable
  • Sometimes prone to tearing
  • Hook fasteners don’t work with some vehicles

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Frequently Ask Questions

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about using a car-top carrier without a roof rack.

Can you use a roof bag without rails?

Yes, it can go on the roof, you do not require a roof rack. Your car does require side roof rails for securing the straps of the roof bag.

Are rooftop cargo bags safe?

Cargo bags are safe to use as long as they are not overloaded. They should be snuggly strapped to the car. A loosely secured cargo bag may slide or let the wind get under the bag.  

How fast can you drive with a roof bag?

Whenever you drive with a roof bag, it is important to follow the speed limit and never exceed 90 MPH. 


You now have all the facts you need to make the right choice for a car-top carrier for your vehicle without a roof rack. You understand the features that differentiate carriers from one another and how they might best be used for you and your vehicle’s cargo needs. 

If you have a trip coming up, you can cross this shopping item off your list today with any of the top models.  

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