Compare Thule's Top Roof Storage Options 2023

vehicle with roof racks and thule cargo box

Thule is one of the most popular brands for cargo boxes and carriers. 

At the time of this writing, Thule currently offers 9 different roof storage options, including both cargo boxes and roof baskets. This also does not include the various sub-types associated with these items!

With so many options to choose from, it can be difficult to compare every item to see which is best for your situation.

For this reason, I’ve written this article in steps to guide you through the process of finding the best Thule roof storage product for your unique situation.

With over 20 years of experience, I've dedicated my life to understanding the ins and outs of car gear.

In the following sections, I'll break down each Thule roof storage option, highlighting their features, benefits, and potential drawbacks.

Whether you're looking for extra space for your camping gear or a stylish way to transport your skis, I've got you covered.

Choosing the Right Thule Storage System for Your Car

The first step is choosing which type of roof storage works best for your situation.

There are two types of roof storage offered by Thule:

  • Cargo baskets
  • Cargo carriers

To decide which is best for you, you should start by asking yourself: “Do I need my items to be protected from the elements?”

If you need your items protected from wind, debris, and rain/snow, you are better off with a cargo box. Otherwise, a roof basket will work just fine!

Of course, you could still protect your items from the elements if you have a roof basket using a tarp or other covering, but you run the risk of the tarp flying off the vehicle. Regardless, if you use a tarp to cover a cargo basket, it will not provide the same level of protection as a cargo box.

Here are some other pros and cons of each type of roof storage:

Cargo baskets pros and cons


Less expensive than cargo boxes

Made with resistant materials for longevity

Holds bulky items and odd-shaped loads (10 to 20 cubic feet or 283 to 566 liters)

Easy to installI

Easy access from all sides


Items must be tied down

No locking mechanism

More wind noise and resistance due to open design

Limited protection from elements


~$50 to $500

Also check out: How to stop rack whistling noise

Cargo carrier boxes pros and cons


Made with premium materials for longevity

Enclosed storage space and high capacity (10 to 30 cubic feet or 283 to 850 liters)

Single or dual opening

Built-in locks

Designed to be aerodynamic

Enclosed and shielded from rain, snow, and dust.


More expenses than cargo basket

A bit more effort to install due to the enclosed structure


Cheaper options start at ~$200 but high-end models cost up to $1,500

Best Thule Cargo Baskets

Thule currently offers 2 different options for cargo baskets: the Canyon XT and Trail XT.

Both of these cargo baskets are great options, but I believe the Canyon XT is the best option for most people.

1. Thule Canyon XT (Best cost & durable)

Thule canyon cargo basket

The biggest benefit of the Thule Canyon XT is the price. It costs nearly half what the Trail XT costs.

Even with such a large difference in price, you are not sacrificing very much. It is not quite as stylish (in my opinion) as the Trail XT and is also a bit smaller.

See Product on Amazon

2. Thule Trail XT (Largest cargo)

Thule trail xt cargo basket

Even though the Trail XT is larger, it can only hold an extra 15 lbs (6.8kg) compared to the Canyon XT.

It also comes in 2 different sizes (medium and large). For such a drastic price difference, the Trail XT is only worth it if you really need the extra space.

See Product on Amazon

Best Thule Cargo Carrier Boxes

If you’ve decided that a cargo carrier is the best option for your roof storage, Thule has plenty of options for you.

Currently, Thule’s selection of cargo carriers includes anything from $100 to $1,500, which is quite a large range! Although the price ranges are so large, it is pretty straightforward to pick the right type of Thule cargo carrier for your situation.

Thule’s lower-priced cargo carriers are smaller, not so visually appealing, less aerodynamic, and may not have a hard shell. Meanwhile, Thule’s more expensive cargo carriers are large, aerodynamic, and stylish.

Choosing the right type of cargo carrier depends on how much space you need for your items and how much you are willing to spend.

Overall, there is one cargo carrier by Thule that stands out from the rest. It is a great balance of affordability, style, and protection.

1. Thule Pulse Cargo Carrier (Best performance & cost)

Our choice for the best Thule cargo carrier is the Thule Pulse.

The Thule Pulse is overall a great choice for a rooftop cargo carrier. It is around $500 or less, which is a great price point for an item like this.

It is stylish and can hold quite a bit of items. It is also available in 2 different sizes so you can choose the perfect size for your vehicle.

See Product on Amazon

How Do You Install a Thule Roof Box?

A Thule Roof Box is one of the most popular Thule storage options, however, some consumers worry that they may be difficult to set up on their vehicle.

Thankfully, installing a Thule roof box is fairly straightforward.

Watch this video for a detailed demonstration or read the steps below for a brief overview of the process.

1. Take the packaging off your roof box and place the product on your vehicle’s roof

If the box is fitted with Thule’s traditional AcuTight bolts, make sure the knobs are rotated to completely open the clamps that extend underneath the box. This will help streamline the setup.

Most box sizes will require the assistance of a second person to hoist the box onto the roof and place it evenly on the cross bars.

If you need a second item on the rack, such as a mountain bike, this will determine exactly where the roof box can sit on the crossbars. If you won’t be storing anything else on your car’s roof, then simply place the roof box in the center.

2. Attach the Thule roof box securely in place using the locking system

The bolts that secure your box to your roof rack are tightened from the inside of the box for more security. To reach the internal fastening mechanism, you will most likely need to open a door and stand on the step-in plate.

Some Thule roof boxes have strong U-bolts that wrap around the roof rack bars and continue into the box’s interior.

Other Thule boxes include a clever sliding roof mount mechanism that makes putting claw-like clamps along the roof rack easier.

3. Load up your Thule roof box

Make sure there isn’t any movement of your roof box by giving it a firm push. After confirming everything is securely in place, it’s time to fill your Thule roof box with your necessities and hit the road.

Do You Need Thule-Branded Crossbars to Use Thule Storage Products?

Thule’s storage baskets and boxes are made to fit a wide variety of crossbars, including some from other brands.

This versatility is just one of the factors that consumers love most about this product.

In a nutshell, most crossbars will fit Thule storage products – regardless of their brand. However, for the best and most reliable fit possible, you can’t beat using Thule’s own crossbars.

Thule also makes it extremely easy for customers to determine which Thule baskets or boxes will fit their model of car, thanks to the Fit My Car feature.

What Sets Thule Apart From Other Brands?

Thule is a Swedish manufacturer whose products have won international praise for their creative engineering and stylish looks.

thule roof box covered in freezing rain
Roof box icicles after freezing rain

There are several parallels between Thule and one of its key rivals, Yakima, for example.

Both companies produce weather-resistant, practical storage cases that will safeguard your equipment while transporting it to its destination. These brands also offer similar ease of installation, focus on safety and security, and lifetime product warranties.

Some customers prefer Yakima’s installation mechanism, however, while others like Thule’s trademark click indicator. This feature minimizes uncertainty when tightening clamps, providing that much-needed peace of mind.

When compared to a Rhino-Rack system, Thule offers other distinct advantages.

The roof storage is said to be a little quieter when driving, while the brand offers more product options.

Rhino-Rack, on the other hand, is often praised for its availability of longer crossbars to accompany its roof storage, as well as its easy-to-use clamping system and more affordable price range.

Finally, many customer reviews indicate that Thule has a small advantage over other brands (including Yakima, Rhino-Rack, MaxxHaul, SportRack, and INNO) because of its stylish, aerodynamic designs, and unique finishes. These benefits, however, come at a higher cost.

All-in-all, Thule is a smart investment if you appreciate style and aesthetics and don’t mind spending a little more.

Tips for Using Your Thule Roof Storage System Safely and Effectively

Although Thule roof storage systems are easy to set up and take down, there are some common mistakes people make that can affect their safety and efficiency.

When installing, using, or storing your Thule product, please keep the following in mind:

  • Each new Thule roof box or carrier will come with two keys, so ensure you don’t misplace these while unwrapping the components. This is a common mistake, and all Thule storage products require a key to open. Otherwise, replacement keys must be ordered.
  • During installation, position the box far enough forward to clear any roof antennas, while still enabling full access to your vehicle’s back compartment.
  • For safety and visibility reasons, the box should not protrude over the top of your windshield.
  • For increased security, the key will not turn until all latching mechanisms are correctly engaged. The key cannot be taken from the lock until the box lid is properly closed and secured.
  • Unless your storage system is quite small, it’s advised that you have another person assist you in carefully lowering the basket or box from the roof. Despite the brand’s extensive crash testing, you don’t want to lose control of the unit and have it fall to the ground.
  • It is not necessarily dangerous to use a Thule box that interferes with the opening of your rear vehicle hatch, but it is inconvenient and may cause damage to the vehicle or the box.
  • When storing your Thule roof storage system, be sure to place it on a steady, level surface – preferably on a towel or blanket to prevent it from scratching underneath. If you have to store your carrier or box outside, it’s advised that you cover it with a tarp to protect it from the elements.
  • When cleaning your roof carrier or box, use a mild, soapy liquid that is free of alcohol, chlorine, and ammonia. You should also only use a gentle microfiber cloth to avoid damage.

Which one should I choose?

You should choose a cargo basket if you are not worried about your items being exposed to the elements or if you cannot afford a cargo box.

A cargo basket will also be necessary if you have tall/large items that could not fit in a cargo box.

On the other hand, you should choose a cargo box if you want better protection for your items and increased gas mileage because of the aerodynamics. Do keep in mind that cargo boxes can be expensive, though.

Summary of Thule's Roof Storage Racks

Thule offers a wide range of roof storage systems for your vehicle; however, cargo boxes and roof baskets are two of their most popular products.

Whether you’re going on vacation, planning fun outdoor activities, or simply looking to free up some space for your passengers, Thule has a roof storage solution to meet your needs.

There are pros and cons to any product, so it’s best that you do your homework and determine what features are most important to you when it comes to car roof storage.

Your choice hinges on whether you need protection from the elements; cargo boxes offer more protection, while baskets are more open but can be covered with a tarp.

Key considerations include installation, size, and cost.

Thule stands out in the market for its engineering, aesthetics, and unique finishes, though it might be pricier than competitors like Yakima or Rhino-Rack.

I hope this guide has given you a great overview of what a cargo box and roof carrier are, as well as the top Thule roof storage products currently on the market.

Ultimately, if you prioritize item protection and aerodynamics, opt for a cargo box; if you're looking for a more affordable or open storage solution, a cargo basket might be your best bet.

Michael Rollins
Cars are my life - 20 years in the fast lane and I'm still hooked. When I'm not under a hood, you'll catch me on a hiking trail, in a coffee shop, or cheering at a baseball game. I'm not just about horsepower and torque, I'm all about life's simple joys. Here to share my car wisdom, making your ride choices a breeze.