Thule vs Yakima Cargo Box of 2021 (Review) Which is Best?

Every aspiring outdoorsman could use a good cargo box. If you’ve ever looked into a cargo box you’ve probably seen the two top names in the cargo box arena, Thule and Yakima. You may have even seen some other comparisons of Thule vs Yakima cargo box containers. Our guide is here to answer your most pressing questions about cargo boxes including which one is better, Thule or Yakima and to provide you with the best cargo box suggestions for each.

Yakima Versus Thule

Quick Review – Our Winner (Before We Go In-Depth)

For this review we picked four products. Two from each manufacturer. We pitted each of them against each and compared them based on a number of criteria we looked at the design of the cargo boxes, the load capacity of each, the weight of the boxes themselves, the opening and closing mechanism, construction materials, locking mechanism, price, and warranty.

After all our comparisons and tests, our winner is: Thule. Each Thule box came with a lifetime warranty, many of the boxes were lighter and yet had a larger storage space. Each of the four had dual side opening function and locks included. Only the Thule products had a Lifetime Warranty as well as a sleek design made to fit your vehicle . Our favorite rooftop box was the Thule Motion Xt Xl. This one has a larger amount of space than its little brother the Motion Xt and is our top pick out of the four.


Comparison Table

IMAGEPRODUCTDETAILS
  • Weight: 67.8 lbs
  • Load Capacity: 110 lbs
  • Volume: 17 cubic feet
  • Material: Five-Layer ABS Plastic
  • Integrated Light: Yes
  • Locking Mechanism: Yes
  • Box Opening: Dual Sided
  • Warranty: Lifetime
Check Latest Price
  • Weight: 46 lbs
  • Load Capacity: 165 lbs
  • Volume: 18 cubic feet
  • Material: Thermoformed ABS Plastic
  • Integrated Light: No
  • Locking Mechanism: Yes
  • Box Opening: Dual Sided
  • Warranty: Lifetime
Check Latest Price
  • Weight: 75 lbs
  • Load Capacity: 120 lbs
  • Volume: 16 cubic feet
  • Material: Textured Carbonite
  • Integrated Light: No
  • Locking Mechanism: Yes
  • Box Opening: Dual Sided
  • Warranty: Lifetime
Check Latest Price
  • Weight: 60 lbs
  • Load Capacity: 120 lbs
  • Volume: 12 cubic feet
  • Material: Recycled ABS Plastic
  • Integrated Light: No
  • Locking Mechanism: Yes
  • Box Opening: Dual Sided
  • Warranty: Lifetime
Check Latest Price

We compared each of these 4 products based on all of their benefits and features to come up with a winner. Before we dive into the specifics we’ll answer a few of the questions that you may have about cargo boxes

Are Cargo Boxes Worth The Money?

If you’re an avid skier, outdoorsman, or just someone with a lot of gear, then the products we’ve highlighted here are a great option. When comparing Yakima versus Thule, the two most well known makers of cargo carriers, you’re getting two distinct quality products from each one. Thule is known around the world for quality construction, sleek design, and function. Each cargo box Thule makes is guaranteed a mix of quality and style. Yakima cargo boxes sacrifice a bit of that style for functionality and a lower price point. If you need the extra storage space either of our contenders have great options to give you extra cargo space and the money will be well spent.

Are Thule Cargo Boxes Waterproof?

The short answer is yes, all Thule and Yakima cargo boxes are completely waterproof. This means that you don’t have to worry about rain or snow on your vehicle or that the rooftop cargo or gear will be ruined. They also attach securely to your vehicle roof rack system so there is no fear of slippage and each cargo box has its own locking mechanism to ensure the safety of the gear inside, even during bad weather.

Now we will break down our comparison into categories and describe each product in detail.


Thule vs. Yakima: Cargo Box Materials

Both manufacturers use up to 80% recycled plastic in their boxes making them environment friendly. We judged the materials of each cargo box on the durability and longevity of the make as well as look and feel.

Thule

The Thule Hyper XL is the most durable of the bunch due to the 5 layer ABS plastic that it is constructed from. This makes it great for long wear as a cargo carrier. It also has a great two toned design look that makes it unique among the choices we have here today. Other options have a more traditional look and the Hyper XL is a standout.

The Motion Xt XL by Thule is made of regular thermoformed ABS plastic which is the standard mold choice for roof cargo boxes. thermoformed ABS plastic is very impact resistant and durable making it the standard material for rooftop cargo boxes for your car or sport utility vehicle.

Yakima

The Yakima Skybox is made of textured carbonite which is also a nice choice for style and durability. The design adds an extra element to the box making it standout a bit more. The Yakima Skybox carbonite plastic is also a polymer making it very durable and resilient

The Yakima Rocket Box Pro Cargo Box is made of recycled ABS plastic which is an excellent environmentally friendly option with the same durability of thermoformed plastic so it allows for great durability from a Yakima cargo box with the added benefit of being good for the environment.

All the cargo boxes are lightweight thanks to the plastic mold design and each one is geared to allow one person to handle them. They are also waterproof wear and impact resistant making for a better user experience.

Category Winner: Tie

Here’s Why: While Thule added some nice touches, the product materials were so similar that there were no distinct advantages to either one.


Mounting System

Thankfully, most modern rooftop cargo carriers are much simpler to install than they used to be. Thule and Yakima both offer mounting system options that are easy to install. It is important to match up your cargo box with your roof rack. Usually it’s a good idea to stick with the same manufacturer for both cargo box and rack systems.

Yakima

Yakima cargo boxes generally have an easier to install mounting system with slide on clamps that click into place. They come preassembled and simply snap into place. This allows for quick tool free installation of your roof cargo box. Simply tighten down the thumb wheels after the clamps engage and you’re good to go.

Thule

Thule boxes use a ratchet lock mounting system that is somewhat more difficult to install. You tighten down the locking clamps with a ratchet until each one lets out an audible click. This is one advantage that allows you to be sure the cargo box is securely mounted.

Category Winner: Tie

Here’s Why: Both brands had unique advantages, that left us with no outstanding factors to pick one over the other.

Next we have…


Aerodynamics

This category is an important design element for a cargo box, not only for the aesthetic, but for the purposes of wind resistance and fuel consumption. Having rooftop cargo generally increases the drag on your vehicle so having an aerodynamic design to the cargo box is import. In terms of Thule vs. Yakima boxes, they both strive to streamline their designs to ensure that the boxes produce as little drag on the vehicle as possible.

User estimates suggest that fuel consumption increases on average between 2-4 miles per gallon with any of the cargo boxes we have selected. Over long trips this difference is negligible. Some users of Yakima products claim there is a bit of wind noise, but only at speeds in excess of 75 mph.

Always make sure your rooftop cargo box is secure before travelling and there should be no issue when driving at high speeds using any of these boxes. Again, based on these features, we have a tie.

Category Winner: Tie

Here’s Why: Both brands have made great efforts to make their boxes as aerodynamic as possible. This made it impossible to pick a winner in this category.

Moving on…


Thule vs. Yakima: The Open and Close Mechanism

The design of the cargo box has come a long way since days of old. It used to be that you had to remove the entire lid off of your cargo box in order to access the gear inside. Today’s cargo box is much easier to use. Car boxes are mounted onto the roof so easier access was needed to avoid having to have a step ladder or some other elevation enhancer to reach your roof boxes.

Not only was it difficult to reach the latch on your car boxes back in the day, roof boxes were also notoriously difficult to muscle open. Thule and Yakima both make their boxes easy to use with advanced hinges and opening mechanisms that make them easy to open and close. The only issue with the easy to use hinges is that they also hold the lid of the boxes in place. This can make storing bulkier items a bit more difficult.

Thule and Yakima cargo boxes both offer dual side opening mechanisms making it possible to open the cargo box from either the driver or passenger side of your car. The dual side system allows for quick side access to your roof box. In some cases a roof box will have a push button feature to open the rooftop cargo box while another roof box may use traditional handles. The push button makes opening a snap.

For taller vehicles or for shorter users, one convenient feature for your rooftop cargo box to have is a strap inside the lid. This allows the box to be closed easier from a distance rather than having to climb onto the roof of your car or other vehicle. All Thule cargo boxes come with the pull chord closing system, while some Yakima cargo boxes do not. For the addition of this helpful design feature for closing their cargo box, the win in this category goes to Thule.

Category Winner: Thule

Here’s Why: Both makers use the same types of mechanism, however, only Thule includes pull cords to help make closing their boxes easier. This is a major convenience factor that gave them the win in this category.


Looks

It might not seem like much but looks are important, especially for big giant cargo boxes you’re going to stick on top of your car or sport utility vehicle. In ages past, a cargo box was nothing more than an ugly hunk of metal or plastic strapped to the roof of your car. Nowadays, Thule and Yakima have worked hard to improve the look and finish of their products.

Yakima

The aesthetic for Yakima cargo boxes is all about function and feeling outdoorsy, there’s no extra flash or frills here, each cargo box looks like exactly what it is, a box to carry all your gear. The Yakima Skybox carbonite plastic finish in particular has a great almost carbon fiber, rugged sleek design to it.

The Yakima RocketBox Pro Cargo Box has a normal plastic finish, but form still gives it a sleek design that makes it look at home in the outdoors or on any car or sport utility vehicle roof rack.

Thule

For more of a striking appeal you can look no further than the Thule Hyper xl. The two tone finish looks more like an addition attached to your vehicle than a cargo box. This gives your car an almost futuristic look that will standout from the crowd.

One thing to consider with any cargo carrier is how it reacts to dirt and scuffs. Some of the gloss finishes can show dirt easily and will scuff when brush against. This can ruin the look of your rooftop cargo box.

For the rugged outdoor look and the carbon fiber finish of the Skybox, we give the win in this category to Yakima.

Category Winner: Yakima

Here’s Why: Even though the Thule boxes might be more stylish to some, Yakima developed their boxes to be rugged looking and perfect for the outdoors, including the carbon fiber finish of the Skybox which has its owner unique look.

Up next we’ve got


Carrying Capacity: Thule vs. Yakima

When comparing size for both our manufacturers, Thule vs. Yakima cargo boxes, there aren’t that many differences. Cargo boxes come in factory standard sizes measured in cubic feet. These sizes are 13, 16,17, and 21 cubic feet.

What sets each manufacturer apart are the specific designs.

Thule Hyper XL

For Thule, the Hyper XL is in the extra large category with 17 feet of space. This makes it a great choice for packing loads of gear. The tradeoff is that the actual weight capacity is low compared to the weight of the actual cargo carrier.


Thule Motion Xt XL

The Motion Xt XL is special with its 18 feet of space. It also features the lightest weight and the highest load capacity. It also holds up to 5-7 sets of skis for those that love to ski and need several sets. This one is a special design that does not fit one of the factory standards


Yakima Skybox

The Yakima Skybox is our heaviest option weighing 75 lbs. It has a load capacity of 120 lbs. It is in the large category with its 16 cu. ft. space capacity. The tradeoff of product weight versus carrying capacity is a little off for this option


Yakima RocketBox Pro Cargo Box

The Yakima RocketBox Pro Cargo Box is our lightest option at 60 lbs. It also has the smallest space at 12 cu. ft. The weight limit is just 110 pounds. This is a good option for someone with just a bit of rooftop cargo or gear.

With only a tiny amount of difference between the sizes of the boxes, our judgement on which manufacturer had the better cargo box came down the factors of load capacity, weight of the box, and the ratio of space to weight.

By these measures, both Yakima and Thule had a heavier and a lighter weight option. The difference came down to how much weight each box could hold relative to the space it contained. The Yakima RocketBox had the most weight capacity for its smaller cubic footage but the product weight to carrying capacity was over 50%. This means the box was weighed more than half as much as it could carry when full. This would make it difficult to use in some cases.

Similarly the Thule Hyper XL and Yakima Skybox were heavy compared to the amount of weight they could hold when fully loaded with gear. The standout in this category was the Motion Xt XL. Weighing only 46 lbs while being able to carry 165 lbs and having 18 cubic feet of storage makes it the best cargo carrier for its size. Thanks to the Motion Xt XL rooftop cargo box, the win in this category goes to Thule.

Category Winner: Thule

Here’s Why: Thule boxes had substantially more space for storage in comparison to the weight of the box. Not only that, the sheer amount of storage was vastly superior to the other offerings on our list


Yakima Versus Thule: Security Features

each cargo box from Thule and Yakima come with a security system in the form of secure locks that hold the cargo box shut. This category has a few factors to it. We will discuss each manufacturer’s approach and how they differ and which one we feel is superior.

Yakima

every Yakima cargo box locks with the unique patented SKS lock system that Yakima uses with several of its other items. SKS is the Same Key System, this means that all locks can be locked and unlocked with the same key. This makes locking and unlocking your box relatively simple as lock as you have your key.

The main feature of the durable lock system is that it securely locks the lid of the box and the built in lid stiffeners tighten the lid down. Lid stiffeners essentially harden the lid so that the lockdown is secure. This ensures that the gear in the box stays there on top of your car. Some users do worry about losing the single key, but apart from the possibility of losing the key, the system works flawlessly with any Yakima cargo box.

Thule

Thule uses a very similar single key mechanism as that of Yakima. One key which unlocks and locks all of the durable locks on the box. The lock is almost the same as the Yakima’s though with one notable difference. The Thule lock has a design that only allows the key to be removed once the lid is closed. The purpose of this feature is to ensure that keys are not lost.

One thing of note is that while all of the boxes we have chosen are secure, users should make sure to keep an eye on their car to prevent property theft. No box is completely theft proof so it is important to always monitor your belongings.

One standout in the list is the Thule Hyper XL which features an LED light that switches on when the box is opened. This helps for examining the contents of the box. This adds to the ease of use of the box.

For the additional features that prevent key loss and the LED light, the win in this category goes to Thule.

Category Winner: Thule

Here’s Why: Both makers use a single key system to lock and unlock their boxes, but only Thule has the safety measures in place to help prevent losing your single key. Also, only the Thule option had a built in LED light that makes finding your belongings easier.


Durability

Without a doubt one of the biggest factors to consider when choosing the best cargo holder is how durable it is. You don’t want an expensive box on top of your car to fail or break while going down the highway at 75 mph.

In terms of product make, Thule and Yakima boxes are of such similar make that reviews saw little to no differences in the quality of the boxes. Each one also held up to wind and rain while attached to a car. Not only that, each product performed exceedingly well at keeping gear dry during these conditions. This means that regardless of which one you buy, you’re guaranteed not to have soggy gear should you encounter a little rain on your way to your destination.

Wear and discoloration tests were also the same. Each product held up and remained durable throughout use and they also showed no signs of discoloration due to UV exposure. This is excellent in terms of the quality of the plastic used to make the boxes.

The only noticeable difference between the two brands was that Yakima’s users report the box felt a bit “wobbly”, though this was only noticeable when the lid of the box was open and not during transit. As such this should pose no issues to normal operation, nor should it prevent proper storage of gear during transport or when idle.

In this category there were virtually no differences between the two products in terms of durability that would inhibit function. As such, we were forced to rule this category a tie as well.

Category Winner: Tie

Here’s Why: All the items on our list were equally well made and passed all of our durability tests with the same standards. Therefore, we had no clear means of deciding the winner.


The Final Word – Which is Better? Thule or Yakima Cargo Boxes?

We painstakingly looked at each product and made a wide variety of comparisons in determining which product is better.

In terms of materials, both makers used virtually the same types of plastic and produced high quality items which makes the construction of the boxes a tie. For mounting systems there was no difference that would give either brand an edge which led to that category also being a tie. Aerodynamics again was a tie as both manufacturers made great efforts in this category. Durability was also incredibly similar and resulted in a tie.

In the opening and closing mechanism category, the win went to Thule. Thule gets the win for both the carrying capacity and security categories as well.

Yakima gets the win in the looks category for the rugged outdoors look of their boxes.

Those are our results and that means that Thule is the better cargo box. Our pick for the best cargo box is the Thule Motion Xt XL. The great features that Thule builds into its boxes combined with this box’s light weight and tremendous space and weight capacity make it our top pick out of the four and our best cargo box overall.

IMAGEPRODUCTDETAILS
  • Weight: 67.8 lbs
  • Load Capacity: 110 lbs
  • Volume: 17 cubic feet
  • Material: Five-Layer ABS Plastic
  • Integrated Light: Yes
  • Locking Mechanism: Yes
  • Box Opening: Dual Sided
  • Warranty: Lifetime
Check Latest Price
  • Weight: 46 lbs
  • Load Capacity: 165 lbs
  • Volume: 18 cubic feet
  • Material: Thermoformed ABS Plastic
  • Integrated Light: No
  • Locking Mechanism: Yes
  • Box Opening: Dual Sided
  • Warranty: Lifetime
Check Latest Price
  • Weight: 75 lbs
  • Load Capacity: 120 lbs
  • Volume: 16 cubic feet
  • Material: Textured Carbonite
  • Integrated Light: No
  • Locking Mechanism: Yes
  • Box Opening: Dual Sided
  • Warranty: Lifetime
Check Latest Price
  • Weight: 60 lbs
  • Load Capacity: 120 lbs
  • Volume: 12 cubic feet
  • Material: Recycled ABS Plastic
  • Integrated Light: No
  • Locking Mechanism: Yes
  • Box Opening: Dual Sided
  • Warranty: Lifetime
Check Latest Price
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Austin Mills

Austin Mills in an outdoor enthusiast. He's been featured on some of the top outdoor & fitness blogs sharing his expertise in order to help others. In his free time, he likes spending time with his dogs enjoying the outdoors.

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