Roof Box Vs. Trailer: Which is the Best Way to Transport Your Stuff?


** Road Trip Gears is supported by readers. We may earn a commission when you buy with our links — thank you!

When choosing extra storage for a car rooftop, roof box vs. trailer isn’t very often a topic of conversation. Most people just go for roof boxes (cargo boxes) since they’re the more popular and common option.

But trailers have their advantages too. If you’re wondering whether a roof box or trailer is the best way to transport your stuff, you’ve come to the right place.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss each option’s pros and cons so that you can make the best decision for your needs.

Let’s get into each one of them!

What Is A Roof Box (Or Cargo Box)?

Roof Box

Roof boxes, sometimes called rooftop carriers, are hard-shell containers that you attach directly onto your vehicle’s roof rack with some locking mechanism. 

They are typically made of durable hard plastic materials that withstand all kinds of weather. In addition, they come in various shapes (generally rectangular shapes) and sizes to accommodate different types of vehicles.

Most roof boxes have a capacity of around 8 to 22 cubic feet, enough space to store camping gear, suitcases, or several sets of golf clubs.  Some even come with built-in locks to deter thieves.

Among the popular brands are Thule, Yakima, and SportRack. These cargo boxes are generally expensive, but many cheaper alternative brands cater to budget-conscious buyers.

Pros And Cons Of Roof Boxes

No doubt that a roof box is very convenient and can be installed on almost every car. But, there are several advantages and disadvantages of roof boxes that you should know about.

Let’s take a look at each one:

Pros Of Roof Box

They Are Inexpensive

One of the main benefits of roof boxes is that they are relatively inexpensive compared to trailers. Most models range in price from $220 to $1200, depending on the brands, size, and features.

Easy To Use

Also, roof boxes are easy to use. Typically, a roof box can take from 15 to 30 minutes to install on the car rooftop. However, for smaller roof box sizes, you can easily lift it and attach it to crossbars onto your roof rails by yourself.

But, for the larger roof box size, you might need help from another person to get it up there. Most roof boxes don’t require additional equipment to be installed.

You can simply uninstall it and store it in a garage when you don’t need it.

Low-Maintenance

One of the best things about roof boxes is that they are low-maintenance. Unlike a trailer, you don’t have to worry about checking the tire pressure every few weeks. 

And, since they are made of hard plastic materials, they are less likely to get damaged during transport.

Versatile

Another great thing about roof boxes is that they are versatile and can be used for various purposes. 

For example, you can use them to transport camping gear, fishing rods, suitcases, golf clubs, or even your kids’ sports equipment.

Most roof boxes have a built-in lock system, making it difficult for thieves to steal your belongings.

They Also Come In Various Sizes.

When choosing roof box sizes to fit your needs, you will get overwhelmed as plenty of options suit your vehicle.

The smallest size starts from 8 cu ft and can go up to 22 cu ft. If you have a smaller car, you might want to choose the smaller roof box size so that it doesn’t take up too much space on your roof rack.

Click here to find out the largest roof box.

Easier To Drive Around

A roof box is easier to drive around because it does not take up as much space as the trailer. Driving down a highway during a rod trip is more relaxing with the roof box mounted on top of the roof rack.

If you’re camping in the mountains or on rough terrain, you don’t have to worry about the trailer’s limitations. Of course, you must be cautious not to hit the tree branches with a roof box on the rooftop.

Cons Of Roof Boxes

You Need To Have A Roof Rack

The main disadvantage of roof boxes is that they may be difficult to mount, especially if you don’t have any roof racks ready.

You must buy suitable roof racks for your vehicle before installing a roof box. Click here for the best roof rack for cars without rails.

May Block The Driver’s View

Another disadvantage of roof boxes is that they might block the driver’s view, especially if you choose a large roof box. This can be dangerous, especially when you’re driving on the highway.

It’s Noisy

Another downside of roof boxes is that although they are aerodynamically designed, they still can be noisy, especially at high speeds. It can be a very unpleasant experience for the driver and the passengers.

Learn how to stop wind noise from a roof rack.

It Can Affect MPG

One more thing to consider is that roof boxes can affect your car’s gas mileage. Because they create drag, your engine has to work harder and use more fuel.

So if you’re worried about saving money on gas, a roof box might not be your best option.

They Can Be Troublesome To Install And Remove

Attaching and removing your roof box can be troublesome if your vehicle’s roof is taller than average. It is especially true if you try to do it by yourself.

You might need to ask for help from a friend or family member when loading and unloading your roof box.

They Can’t Hold Large Items.

Roof boxes also have limitations, one of which is that they can’t hold large or bulky items. So if you’re planning on transporting something big, then you might want to consider a trailer instead.

They Can Damage The Roof Of Your Vehicle If Overloaded

Another point to consider is that your car rooftop has weight limitations. Most vehicles’ rooftops can handle up to 165 to 200 pounds – including your cargo box and roof rack system.

It can damage the roof of your vehicle if overloaded and the roof box itself. Therefore, ensure only to fill your roof box to its recommended weight limit to avoid damage.

What Is A Trailer (5th Wheel)?

Trailer

A trailer is a vehicle towed behind another vehicle, such as a car or truck. It is used to transport goods or equipment. Trailers are hitched to the back of your car and used to transport larger items like furniture, snowmobiles, bicycles, or boats.

There are many types of trailers, including open-air and enclosed car trailers. Open-air car trailers are the simplest form of car trailers available in various lengths to hold one or two cars.

Open-air car trailers comprise a flat platform, four trailer wheels, and the requisite hitches and lighting. Enclosed car trailers are fully enclosed and isolate your car from the elements.

Now that we’ve looked at roof boxes let’s look at trailers. Here are some pros and cons:

Pros Of Trailer

Can Carry More Weight

Trailers’ main advantage is that they carry more weight than roof boxes. Most trailers can take more than 600 lbs (300++ kg), depending on the models. You can transport larger items, such as furniture, camping gear, or bicycles.

Some trailers can haul snowmobiles and boats. You have more cargo space for some bulky equipment without worrying about the weight limits.

In addition, you can carry a lot of stuff with you and store them in your driveway until you need it.

Better Security

Another advantage of trailers is that they offer better security for your belongings. Most trailers have better locks, which protect your belongings from thieves.

Somemore, the locks found on the trailer are easy to lock up. Make it easy for you to access your stuff inside. Some roof boxes also come with locks, but they are not as secure as the ones on trailers.

Cons Of Trailer

They’re Expensive

The main downside of trailers is that they are more expensive than roof boxes. It is because trailers are larger and require more materials to construct. They can cause your thousand of dollars.

Even the used one is also pricey for some people. On top of that, in some states or countries, trailers must be registered with the related authorities and often require insurance.

It’s Harder To Maneuver Around

Another con of trailers is that they can be harder to maneuver than roof boxes, especially when you drive around in mountainous areas and challenging terrains.

This is because trailers are larger and heavier than roof boxes. They can also swing side to side when you make turns, making driving more difficult.

You’ll have to travel at slower speeds, around 60 to 70 mph, with a trailer attached to your car if you drive with it fast. It can affect your safety, especially when driving through potholes.

If you’re not used to driving with a trailer, it can take some time to get used to it. Do you want to add unnecessary stress during your trip?

Expensive To Maintain

In addition, trailers are a lot more expensive to maintain than roof boxes. They also have more parts that can break down, i.e., tires, and hitch, which can be costly to fix.

They require frequent servicing and repairs to keep them in the best condition before the road trip. Finding a replacement part in the middle of nowhere can be challenging and even ruin your trip.

You Might Need A Permit To Use It

Depending on where you live, you might need a permit to use a trailer. In some states or countries, trailers over a certain length or weight require a permit.

It can be a hassle for you to get the permit, which takes time and money. In addition, you might need to take a test to obtain the permit.

All these factors can add up, making trailers more costly than roof boxes.

Is Your Car Capable Of Tow?

This seems obvious. Is your car capable of towing the trailer? A trailer is pretty heavy, and driving a smaller car can potentially affect your car’s performance.

If your trailer is too heavy for your car, it can damage your engine and transmission. In addition, it also puts extra wear and tears on your brakes.

If you’re unsure if your car can tow a trailer, you can check with the manufacturer or car dealer.

Many cars come with towing capacity ratings, which will tell you how much weight your car can safely tow.

Roof Box Vs. Trailer: The Comparison

Roof BoxesTrailer
Pros:
Inexpensive
Low-Maintenance
Versatile
Come In Various Sizes
Easier To Drive Around
Pros:
Roof Rack System Is A Must
May Block The Driver’s View
Poor Gas Mileage
Troublesome To Install And Remove
Can’t Hold Large Items.
Cons:
Can Carry More Weight
Better Security
Cons:
Expensive
Harder To Maneuver Around
Expensive To Maintain
You Might Need A Permit To Use It
Your Car Must be Capable To Tow It

Conclusion

Deciding between roof box vs. trailer is not easy as it seems. It depends on many factors, such as your budget, what you’re carrying, how often you’ll use it, and where you’re going.

Overall, roof boxes are cheaper and easier to use than trailers. If you use it once in a while for cross country, you can simply attach it onto the car rooftop and remove and store it when not in use.

You can’t do that with a trailer.

However, trailers offer better security and can be used for larger loads and bulky items. Both have pros and cons.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which option is best for you.

Happy road trip!

Photo of author

Mac

Hi, I'm Mac. I'm a self-proclaimed nerd who loves being curious about automotive and travel. I love sharing what I learned about the industries, hence, starting this site. Hopefully, roadtripgears.com can help provide all the guides you need for your road trips.