Roof Racks vs Hitch Cargo Carriers

Is the best place for your gear on top of your vehicle or behind it? People all over America are taking more and more equipment on trips big and small. When space is a premium, which is the best setup? Well, here are a few things to consider before buying a roof rack or a hitch cargo carrier.


During your trip, what kind of access will you need to your cargo? Items mounted on a roof rack are more difficult to access than items on a hitch carrier. Hitch carriers are more universal as well; meaning if you change cars, your cargo carrier will still fit any vehicle (even ATVs or RVs) that have a standard 2" hitch receiver.

Also, loading and unloading a roof cargo solution can be difficult for shorter people, or those with shoulder/arm injuries. 

Winner? Hitch Cargo Carriers

Cargo Weight and Versatility

Bulkier and heavier cargo (like coolers and generators) are perfect on a hitch cargo carrier, and nearly impossible on roof racks. Cargo Carriers also provide more adaptability if your cargo needs change overtime. Mesa Carriers even have removable rails, so overhanging items aren't an issue. 

Roof racks work best for taking long, lightweight objects like skis, canoes, or light camping equipment. Hitch cargo carriers are typically rated to hold up to 500 lbs, as to where roof boxes are rated around 150-165 lbs. 

Winner? Hitch Cargo Carriers

Weather Protection

This is where roof boxes excel. Rooftop cargo boxes are typically water proof, where cargo carriers are open air. You can weather protect items on a cargo carrier with tarps or other waterproof bags, but it's one extra step not required on roof boxes.

Winner? Roof Rack Boxes

Ease of Use 

Typically, neither hitch cargo carriers or roof cargo boxes are things we use in our day-to-day lives. So you want something that's easy to store and quick to setup when your next trip comes. 

There's quite a bit of variety when it comes to weight. The lightest solutions are aluminum cargo carriers. The medium-sized Original Mesa Cargo Carrier weighs only 30 pounds, whereas a medium Yakima Roof Box weighs 57 pounds (nearly twice as much!). 

Hitch cargo carriers are lighter and faster to install. They also typically have a smaller footprint, making them easier to store in your garage. However, if you plan on leaving the roof box on your vehicle at all times, then a roof box may be best for you. 


Winner: Depends, but probably hitch cargo carriers.


The two items listed above are similar in cost, with the Yakima being slightly more expensive ($979 vs $949). You can shop around and find a variety of price points and sizes, but beware of the cheap stuff. With cargo solutions, you really do get what you pay for. Anything under $500 is probably something that won't last, and will just end up rusting in your garage. The lowest cost Mesa Carrier is the Ranger, that sales for $549.

Winner: Draw. 


It comes down to what kind of cargo and travel you are anticipating. When we started Mesa Carriers, we set out to make something that was endlessly versatile and would last you a lifetime. In the end, either roof racks or hitch cargo carriers will get your stuff from point A to point B, but which is more fun to use? For us, it's cargo carriers.

You can see all of Mesa's Carriers systems here. 

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