Car roof bags: is it worth getting a backpack for your car?

CAR looks into car roof bags. Yes they're cheaper than solid roof boxes but are they an actual alternative?

Seat 600 roof bags

by Chris Williams |
Updated on

In the classic road trip scene, you'll imagine a set of roof bags tied on top of an old-school estate car (or wagon if you're from the U.S). Unfortunately, the sights of classic Volvo 245s and Ford County Squires loaded to the brim with luggage is increasingly rare. But the prospect of roof bags and indeed roof boxes is still very much around.

Of course, sturdier roof boxes are unquestionably the best option to extend your vehicle's cargo volume without hooking up a trailer. But roof boxes aren't terribly cheap and since we're absolute suckers for a better deal, we often look to roof bags as a tasty, low-cost alternative.

You may envision images of a roof tent, only for the purpose of storage, but this is far from the case. Roof bags contain all the things you carry in one wrapped package - making things a little easier when travelling.

The best car roof bags at a glance:

Editor's pick: Fischer 126000 Roof Bag - buy from Amazon.
Best for smaller vehicles: Roofbag Rooftop Cargo Carrier - buy from Amazon.
Best budget roof bag: Salinovo Car Roof Bag - buy from Amazon.

But should we consider them? Are roof bags truly a viable alternative to sleek and streamlined roof boxes? We've been investigating the topic. The things considered in our choices include dimensions, the requirement for roof racks, and manufacturer quality. Towards the bottom, you can also be advised on how to protect your bag from UV rays.

The best car roof bags:

On sale

Fischer 126000Via Fischer
Price: £99.18 was £127.59


The Fischer 126000 needs to be the first roof bag option you consider. While you will find larger


  • Great quality and design
  • Solid base


  • Not a massive volume

Best volume capacity

Rightline Gear 100R30Via Rightline Gear
Price: £125.94


If it's the size you're after, the Rightline Gear roof bag swallows a massive 509 litres of cargo.


  • Huge volume
  • Well made
  • Good value


  • Sits directly on car roof
  • Not aerodynamic

Best for smaller vehicles

RoofBag USAVia Roofbag
Price: £98.53


This model is similar to the large Range 3 roof bag, but smaller and can therefore be used on


  • Size suitable for a range of vehicles
  • Highly durable


  • Sits directly on roof
  • Not as aerodynamic as others

On sale

HandiHoldall roof bagVia HandiHoldall
Price: £80.75 was £95.00
Alternative retailers
Halfords£95.00View offer


To protect your car roof, this model sits on top of roof racks, rather than over them, thanks to


  • Good value
  • Sits above car roof
  • Good base


  • Not as aerodynamic as others

On sale

Salinovo Car roof bagVia Salinovo
Price: £74.99 was £119.99


This roof bag is best for sticking to a stringent budget. At 430 litres, it's a large roof bag


  • Affordable
  • Large volume


  • Sits directly on car roof
  • Build quality not great

Best UV protectant spray

Aerospace Protectant 303Via Aerospace Protectant

Rrp: £17.80

Price: £17.80


UV rays wear down and degrade all manner of fabrics and materials, leaving them cracked, worn,


  • Effective spray against UV rays


  • Not a great capacity in a single bottle

The best roof tray

M-Way Lockable roof trayVia M-Way
Price: £164.99


If the concept of a roof tray tickles your fancy, see an example below. You can of course use them


  • Means bags don't have to sit directly on your roof
  • Made to a high standard


  • Quite small compared to roof bags

Weighing up car roof bags

Let's begin with a classic pros and cons comparison of roof bags:


Value: The first thing we notice about roof bags is their value for money over roof boxes of an equivalent volume. Especially when considering that unlike bike racks, they are able to carry a plethora of items and have many uses.

Volume: Roof bags come in a range of sizes to fit a range of vehicles and thus cater to 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. This 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.


Accessibility: Roof bags are not as accessible once fitted and filled as roof boxes. 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 fat slab as far as aerodynamics are concerned. They are made from fabric and when compared to the sleek and rigid roof boxes. It's like comparing the drag coefficient of an old sock and a dart. Roof bags will therefore have a bigger effect on fuel economy. Because roof bags also create more wind noise at speed and most have an upper-speed limit recommendation of about 70 or 80mph.

Fitting: Some roof bags sit directly onto the roof of a vehicle. In order to avoid scratches on your car's roof, we recommend you either buy a roof bag that is designed to sit above the roof on roof racks. Alternatively, you can use it in conjunction with a roof tray. The issue with the latter is that it takes away the roof bag’s pro of value for money. At the very least, buy a non-slip protective mat to place between the roof bag and the roof.

What are roof bags best used for?

We recommend roof bags to those who are undertaking a trip which doesn't involve motorway at high speeds. Especially 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. If you're considering taking a couple of bikes as well, we've done a bike rack comparison test finding out which one impressed us.

Roof weight limits

You mustn’t be a womble and go about exceeding your car’s roof load limit. Check your car’s handbook to find out what this is. Remember:

Total payload = weight of the roof racks (if using) + roof bag + roof bag payload.

Chris Williams is a Senior Product Writer for CAR, also working for Live For The Outdoors. An expert in camping and muscle cars, he spends most of his time up a mountain or laying rubber.

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Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us