Car roof bags: Parker’s buyer’s guide

Car roof bags offer value compared to roof boxes. But are there any other upsides? Parkers investigates car roof bags.

Luggage on the roof of a red car

by Chris Williams |

The ability to extend your car’s cargo capacity can be achieved in several ways. This can be in the form of a bike rack; it could also be in the form of a roof box or roof bag. Purely in terms of value, roof bags looks like a very tempting alternative to roof boxes. But the question is, are they worth the saving? Parkers takes a look at car roof bags.

Weighing up car roof bags

Pros:

Value: The first thing we notice about roof bags is their value for money over roof boxes of an equivalent volume.

Volume: Roof bags come in a range of sizes to fit a range of vehicles and to cater for a variety of needs. Although the largest roof bags cannot match the largest roof boxes for volume, they can still get up to about 500 litres, which is larger than the boot size of a mid-size hatchback (with back seats up).

Hardy: Roof bags are made from heavy duty waterproof and UV-resistant fabrics. Those designed and produced by reputable manufacturers are able to cope with both sunny and wintery conditions for a long time.

Cons:

Accessibility: Roof bags are not as accessible as roof boxes once fitted and filled. Roof boxes open easily from one or both sides, whereas roof bags need to be unclipped and unzipped.

Aerodynamics: Try as some might, roof bags are still essentially a large brick as far as aerodynamics are concerned. Roof boxes are much more aerodynamic and therefore don’t have as much of a detrimental effect on fuel economy. Roof bags also create more wind noise at speed.

Fitting: Some roof bags sit directly onto the roof of a vehicle. We recommend you avoid this either by buying a roof bag that is designed to fit roof racks or use in conjunction with a roof tray. The issue with the latter is that it reduces a roof bag's value for money. At the very least, buy a non-slip protective mat to go between the roof bag and roof.

What are roof bags best used for?

We suggest roof bags for those who are undertaking a trip where they will not be driving on a motorway over long distances. They are too noisy and brick-shaped for that, and a sleeker roof box would be better.

A roof bag is a good option to consider if perhaps you’re heading away into the Scottish Highlands or somewhere where you’ll be driving at lower speeds, where the roof bag’s aerodynamic flaws don’t matter quite so much. They’re also a very useful addition to homemade or converted campervans to give you extra storage space.

The best car roof bags:

Fischer 126000 Roof Bag

Editoru2019s pick
Fischer 126000
Amazon

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The Fischer 126000 needs to be the first roof bag option you consider. While you will find larger roof bags, this bears the best design. It makes some effort to be as aerodynamic as possible with a slight wedge shape and taut fabric. The underside has metal railings that both strengthen the bag and allow for an excellent fixing mechanism, where you screw in brackets underneath the bag that fasten it to the roof racks.

Pros Cons
• Great quality and design • Not a massive volume
• Solid base
• Sits above car roof
Specs
Volume 270 litres
Dimensions 100cm (L) x 80cm (W) x 40cm (H)
Max load capacity 50kg
Weight 5.5kg
Needs roof racks? Yes

Thule Ranger 500 Soft Box

Best quality
Thule Ranger 500

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Thuleu2019s roof bag design looks distinctly different to the others. Itu2019s long and low and has a similar and excellent roof rack fitting system to the Fischer roof bag. The shape is a giveaway that the Ranger 500 is designed primarily for skis, capable of taking three or four pairs of skis. However, its 260 litre capacity can be used for carrying other items too. Everything about the Thule Ranger 500 screams u2018built to lastu2019 and in return for the relatively high price, you can expect ease of use and longevity.

Pros Cons
• Perfect for skis/snowboards • Smallest volume here
• Superb quality • Not much cheaper than a roof box
• Relatively sleek
Specs
Volume 260 litres
Dimensions 190cm (L) x 50cm (W) x 30cm (H)
Max load capacity 50kg
Weight 11kg
Needs roof racks? Yes

Rightline Gear Range 3 Roof Bag

Best volume capacity
Rightline Gear Range 3
Amazon

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If itu2019s size youu2019re after, the Rightline Gear roof bag swallows a massive 509 litres of cargo. In return, it is very slab-sided and not aerodynamic at all, and of course is only suitable for bigger vehicles, such as a Toyota Land Cruiser or Jeep. However, in addition to capacious volume, another plus point with this roof bag is that it can be used without a roof rack if you wish. But the downside of the Range 3u2019s design is that it sits directly on the roof regardless of whether you use roof racks or not. It's tit-for-tat here with design versus volume, so it depends very much on your specific needs.

Pros Cons
• Huge volume • Sits directly on car roof
• Well made • Not aerodynamic at all
• Good value
Specs
Volume 509 litres
Dimensions 122cm (L) x 91cm (W) x 46cm (H)
Max load capacity Not given
Weight 3.7kg
Needs roof racks? No

RoofBag Roof Bag

Best for smaller cars
RoofBag
Amazon

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This popular roof bag is similar to the massive Range 3 roof bag, but it's a bit smaller and can therefore be used on smaller vehicles. Like the Range 3, it too can be used with or without roof racks and sits directly on the roof in either case. Consequently, you may wish to pair it with a roof tray. Its construction is excellent and very durable.

Pros Cons
• Size suitable for a range of vehicles • Sits directly on car roof
• Highly durable • Not as aerodynamic as Fischer 126000
Specs
Volume 311 litres
Dimensions 102cm (L) x 94cm (W) x 43cm (H)
Max load capacity Not given
Weight 3.6kg
Needs roof racks? No

HandiHoldall Roof Bag

Recommended
HandiHoldall Roof Bag
Amazon

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This is an alternative to the RoofBag. The differences are that it's a little larger and fits on top of roof racks, rather than over them, thanks to this bagu2019s rigid base (gained by the use of removable fibreglass poles). We also like the use of additional straps too.

Pros Cons
• Good value • Not as aerodynamic as Fischer 126000
• Sits above car roof
• Rigid base
Specs
Volume 330 litres
Dimensions 110cm (L) x 75cm (W) x 40cm (H)
Max load capacity 50kg
Weight 3.6kg
Needs roof racks? Yes

Salinovo Roof Bag

Best budget option
Salinovo Roof Bag
Amazon

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This roof bag is best for sticking to a very strict budget. It can be used with or without roof racks and sits simply on top of the vehicle. The 600D nylon fabric is waterproof and reasonably durable but you donu2019t get that same levels of build quality as seen on the other bags above.

Pros Cons
• Cheap • Sits directly on car roof
• Large volume • Build quality inferior to competitors
Specs
Volume 425 litres
Dimensions 105cm (L) x 90cm (W) x 45cm (H)
Max load capacity Not given
Weight 2.7kg
Needs roof racks? No

Maintaining a roof bag's UV resistance

UV rays wear down and degrade all manner of fabrics and materials, leaving them cracked, worn, brittle, and broken. To help maintain your roof bag’s UV resistance and therefore its longevity, use a protectant spray. We recommend 303 Aerospace Protectant. It's a water-based solution so it can be used on such a vast array of materials, and it is a very effective UV protectant.

Roof trays

If the concept of a roof tray tickles your fancy, see an example below. You can of course use them for carrying cargo without a roof bag too. The main thing is to make sure whichever tray you go for fits your car and is constructed to a high standard.

Roof weight limits

It’s very important you do not exceed your car’s roof load limit. Check your car’s handbook to find out what this is. Remember, to calculate the total payload that will be on the roof, you need to add the weight of the roof racks (if using), roof bag, and roof bag payload together.

And remember to always follow the roof bag fitting instructions as provided by the manufacturer and not to drive with empty roof bags fitted to car roofs.

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