How-To Guide

How to Choose the Best Cargo Carrier for Your Car or SUV

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For those times when you need more storage room than the space inside your vehicle for a trip or to haul a load, cargo carriers are the best way to go. Here’s an overview of some of the factors to consider when shopping for the best cargo carrier to suit your car or SUV.

Type of Cargo
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Type of Cargo

Are you trying to squeeze in an extra cooler before you drive the wife and kids up to your favorite camping spot? We’re got a hitch-mounted stack rack with your name on it. Do you want a better way to transport your Cannondale road bike than in the trunk of your car? Bike racks take the stress out of going for a ride. Or maybe you don’t have a good way to get your lawnmower over to your parent’s house so you can start mowing their lawn for them now that they’re getting up there in years – you need a hitch-mounted carrier. Identifying what you want to haul is an important first step in starting on the path to your ideal cargo carrier, because it allows you to get as specific or as multi-purpose as you want.


Where to Mount Your Carrier
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Where to Mount Your Carrier

Not all vehicles are created equal, and it’s important to know where you do and don’t have room to play. Larger cars, crossovers and SUVs have the easiest time and the most mounting options, as many come with a hitch and crossbars so that hitch or roof-mounted carriers are easy to install and use. Smaller cars might have a harder time as its often not recommended by the manufacturer to install a hitch bar as a rear load might destabilize the vehicle. Always do your research and check your vehicle’s gross weight rating before you purchase a carrier that might not be a good fit for your vehicle. For smaller vehicles, rooftop bags and cargo carriers are probably a smarter choice.


Weight Capacity
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Weight Capacity

This ties in well with knowing your vehicle. Read your owner’s manual, or look at the sticker on the inside of the driver’s side door to identify the maximum weight your vehicle can support. Also be aware of how much weight you intend to haul in one trip. Will you be taking a cross-country trip soon with all your worldly possessions and want to strap as much as you in a rooftop cargo box? There’s a chance your ’05 Buick LaSabre might not be up to the challenge.


Hauling Frequency
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Hauling Frequency

While some carriers can be left on your vehicle for long periods of time, others may need to be removed and reinstalled between each use to avoid becoming a hazard. If your teenager wants to drive your 2018 Ford Explorer to Chicago for a concert the day after you’ve taken Grandma to the mall with her power scooter strapped to your hitch-mounted carrier, you best believe that carrier needs to be easily removable, or fold up compactly.


Make Sure You’ve Got Appropriate Tie-Downs
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Make Sure You’ve Got Appropriate Tie-Downs

Contrary to popular belief, you should never use bungee cords to secure cargo to your vehicle during transportation. Most bungee cords are not designed for more than a light load, and almost none of them will have a weight rating anywhere on them. They can be prone to snapping after repeated use. Ratchet straps, however, are designed to repeatedly handle heavy loads. Keep a few on hand, and it doesn’t hurt to travel with a spare in case you want some additional security while en route. For more detailed information on ratchet straps, please read The Basics of Tie-Down Straps.

By taking these factors into account as you start your search for a cargo carrier, you can rest assured that you will find a carrier that is suitable for your hauling needs, for your vehicle, and for your hobbies.