While the Subaru Outback is both spacious, rugged, and a great car for all of my outdoor adventures, there are times I need more storage. That’s what started me on the search for the Best Cargo Box for Subaru Outback. With all the options out there it’s easy to get lost in the comparison game and trying to determine the best value so I broke down my process for you.
My Favorite Cargo Boxes for Subaru Outback
Subaru Outback Cargo Box Buying Guide:
Price, Value, and Brand Reliability of Cargo Boxes and Roof Racks
Starting simply, you need to first analyze your budget because you can spend as little as $200 or as much as $1200 on roof box options. There’s a wide range of options when it comes to price and value, sometimes you get what you pay for but sometimes there are competitive options out there to consider.
While they are the most popular brands, Thule and Yakima are not the only brands that make a Subaru cargo box. In this review, I include ROLA, SportRack, and Jegs in addition to Thule. You’ll see that I’ve found some of these competing brands to make up for in value what they lack in reputation.
Can you access the box and not be standing in traffic if you’re on the side of the road? Can you lock your gear if you need to leave your vehicle? You’ll want to take a look at the boxes build, design, price, value, waterproof, security, access, and installation.
Should I get a cargo basket or box?
The main difference between the cargo basket and the box is that the box is more secure and protected from the elements. A cargo basket might be sufficient for your needs if you want something simple and versatile, it can also be combined with a cargo bag for additional versatility. However, if you want to be able to lock and protect your gear, a box is the tried and true option.
I’ve included a cargo basket in my review below because I do think it’s a great option for a handful of reasons. For one, they look pretty cool, empty or full. They also impact your gas mileage less than a full-on box so might it be a good alternative to putting the box on and off whenever you don’t need it.
However, you can’t lock your gear up in a basket-like you can in a box. That means it’s open to the elements such as rain and snow and not great for leaving your vehicle unattended. On the other hand, with a basket, you aren’t restricted to the size and shape of a box.
How to Choose the Right Size of Roof Box
The main goal of a Cargo Box is to extend the amount of space that you have for storing and transporting your gear. However, maybe you’re wondering “can a roof box be too big?” To answer your question you’ll want to consider if the box dimensions fit your car and if what you plan to fill it with exceeds your vehicle weight limits.
For example, you’ll want to look at the dimensions of the box to make sure you’ll be able to open your trunk. Then you’ll want to ensure it has enough storage space for your needs. Finally, you will want to consider the weight capacity of the box and any weight limits of your vehicle or rails.
On that note, when packing the box you’ll want to be aware of the load capacity and place the majority of the weight centered in your box. However, consider keeping heavy items in the car instead and using the box for lightweight items such as camp chairs. Longer boxes will carry things like skis whereas taller boxes can handle bulk items.
Taking Gas Mileage into Consideration
With increasing gas prices, you may want to take into account that a cargo box can reduce your gas mileage. A roof box can affect your mpg by up to 13-20% according to Consumer Reports. The crossbars alone can lower your mpg by 2-11%.
The variation in the gas mileage numbers is based on the size of the vehicle with the lower number being a sedan and the larger being a small SUV. The recommendation is to remove the cargo box rather than driving around with an empty roof box impacting your mpg. Due to this, you might consider the aerodynamic shape of the roof box you select or it might be a reason to go with the basket.
Another factor to be aware of in having a big box on top of your car is wind noise. Roof cargo boxes are bound to make noise while traveling at highway speeds.
Do you need crossbars for Cargo Box?
If you’re looking to purchase a roof cargo box you’ll first need crossbars installed on your vehicle. There are soft top carriers that are designed to be used without a roof rack similar to these options for kayak racks without rails. But for the most part, cargo boxes require rails and crossbars.
However, don’t assume that a roof box will fit into any bars. It’s important to confirm that the box design is compatible with your crossbar location or that your bars are adjustable to fit the box.
Review of 4 Cargo Boxes for the Subaru Outback
The JEGS Rooftop Cargo Carrier is around $250 and packs high value for a low price. Slightly more expensive than the ROLA Cargo Basket that I’ll discuss next, the JEGS Rooftop Cargo Carrier provides security that a basket doesn’t. The four-corner locking system takes into account that you might not want to have to worry about your gear.
The box has a dual-side opening so you can access your gear from either side. It’s also both durable and waterproof. In my opinion, the value of this box can’t be beaten and it’s impressive to get a box at this price.
Installation isn’t as easy as some of the other options out there but it’s fairly simple to follow the instructions and won’t be a problem once you get the hang of it. After all, you won’t be installing the box every day. One important thing to note is that you’ll need crossbars placed 24” apart.
- Lower quality
- Harder to install
If you don’t need to be able to lock up your stuff or protect it from the elements, you might look at a cargo basket instead of a box. Instead of $500+ you can get the ROLA 59504 V-Tex Rooftop Cargo Basket for under $200. This is a great option for me when I consider that I already have some waterproof duffels and am looking to save some money.
As any good consumer knows, you get what you pay for so as an inexpensive cargo basket there are bound to be a few issues with quality. It seems like a must to use caulking at the seams to protect the basket from rust. However, that seems like a small compromise for the value of this cargo basket.
One of my favorite things about this basket is that it looks sleek, sporty, and modern. If you decide later that you want to add a cargo bag, that’s one way you could increase the protection of your stuff from the elements or expand the versatility of the basket for different uses.
However, when I compare this to the JEGS Rooftop Cargo carrier, the JEGS box is only slightly more expensive than this basket. If you found yourself in the basket over box category above though this would be a great option.
- Looks cool
- Steel construction
- Not Waterproof or Secure
- Rusting Potential
The SportRack Vista XL is the best option if you’re packing bulky items. It does not accommodate skis but with 19” of height you can pack those large bags more easily. At around $500, this box provides 18 cubic feet of space.
As it says in the name, this cargo box opens from the rear which may be a pro or con depending on how you like to pack your box. This is useful if you want a rear opening but can be awkward to access all the gear. I think it fits nicely and is usable on a Subaru Outback but might be more difficult on a taller car.
The rear access seems to be a way to avoid being in traffic or struggling in a parking lot while standing next to other cars. It really comes down to personal preference as to if this is something you’re looking for or if it’s a deal-breaker for you. The JEGS Cargo Carrier reviewed above, for example, has a rear access option if that’s really important to you.
- Opens from the back
- Smooth open, close, and locking design
- Opens from the back
- Thin lid
The Thule Force Rooftop Cargo box is the best for the brand-conscious consumers. Thule has been making products since 1942 and it’s a trusted brand for roof racks and rooftop boxes. The company has a test center and high standards for their products.
The Thule Force Cargo box comes in multiple size options but they are all spacious and capable of carrying skis. Thule classifies them as large, x-large, and xx-large. The x-large is 18 cubic feet with dimensions of 82.68 x 33.86 x 17.32 inches. Essentially, the Thule Force is spacious for carrying multiple pairs of skis, snowboards, and more.
The Thule Force is a well-made rooftop carrier and durable for any extreme weather conditions. What I love about this box is both the spaciousness, ease of installation, and high quality that I expect from a brand like Thule.
The x-l is around $800 so it’s the most expensive option in the line-up but there’s not much to complain about.
- Simple installation
- Large and spacious
- Dual-side opening
- Positioning doesn’t interfere with trunk
- So spacious that it’s easy to exceed weight limit
What is the best cargo box for Subaru Outback?
After reviewing my options, the best cargo box for Subaru Outback is the JEGS Rooftop Cargo Carrier for Car Storage. While you may be swayed by the known reliability of a brand like Thule, the JEGS Rooftop Cargo Carrier packs huge value for less than half the price. If budget isn’t a concern you might check out the Thule Force Rooftop Cargo Box but otherwise, JEGS is the clear winner of my roundup.
The box is secure and waterproof, unlike the slightly less expensive cargo basket. It fits 18 cubic feet of additional gear including long items such as skis and provides dual-side access. While the installation is a little trickier than some other options it’s still fairly simple and you only have to install it once at the beginning of your road trip anyways.