Get Started with Car Top Carrier Bags
Car Top Carrier Basics

Get Started With Car Top Carrier Bags

Car Top Carrier Bags are a great way to make more room in the car for people during a road trip. These luggage carriers are a good choice because they hold lots of gear, are easy to pack, and fold up to store in a small space when not in use. With so many choices available we wanted to give you some guidance on how to find the perfect car top carrier bag for your needs.

1. Determine What Size Car Top Carrier Bag Will Fit On Your Car’s Roof.

a. Our Car Top Carrier Bag Fit Guide shows which bags fit on a wide variety of vehicles.

b. You may also measure the available space on your vehicle’s roof and compare it to the footprint for each bag.

  • Vehicles WITHOUT Roof Racks
    Measure the flattest part of the roof where the car luggage carrier will sit most securely. It is ok to go over sunroofs; we would not recommend going over antennae.
  • Vehicles WITH Roof Racks
    Measure the distance between the cross bars, or the side rails, or both. The roof top carrier needs to fit just inside these boundaries. It is ok for the roof bag to extend a couple of inches over the bars or rails if space is of a premium.

2. Decide What Size Bag You Require.

Selecting the right size Car Top Carrier Bag for what you need to transport is important. Bags must be packed completely full so they do not flap in the wind, potentially damaging their material. Having a car top carrier bag that is too big for your needs can be as much trouble as having one that is too small.

Utilize our Car Top Carrier Bag Capacity Guide as a quick reference to see how many suitcases will fit in different size bags. If you have odd sized or larger items, it may help to visualize how they will fit into one of the luggage carriers. Get out a tape measure and mark out an area on the floor the size of the car top carrier. Lay your gear over this area, checking the height as you go. You can visually gain a good feel for the capacity of the cargo bags using this method.

3. Choose Your Attachment Method.

Some car luggage carriers can attach to vehicle without a roof rack and some need a roof rack to be mounted. For an overview of bag attachment methods, take a look at our Fit Guide.

Vehicles WITHOUT Roof Racks

PackRight Car Clips
PackRight Car Clips On Vehicle
  • Car ClipsRightline Gear Car Clips can be added to a Rightlie Gear Car Top Carrier's straps. These straps attach to any available ledge on the inside door frame of your vehicle. On most vehicles, the best ledge can be found under the weather molding around the door frame. The strap tension from one car clip to the other over the top of the car carrier secures the load. Take a look at our Car Clip Instructions for more details. The Car Clips come standard with the Sport Jr Car Top Carrier and are sold separately for the other Rightline Gear Carriers.
StrapRight Strap Set
Straps Attached Through Body Of Vehicle
  • Through The Vehicle - Run the standard straps of a Rightline Gear Car Top Carrier through the open door(s) of the vehicle. The straps run over the car carrier, through the open vehicle door, across the inside roof and around to the other side. Our Car Top Carrier Set Up Guide provides complete instructions. Note: The "D" rings should act as a guide for the straps not as a way to secure the roof top carrier to the roof. Straps should go OVER the top of the roof bag.

Vehicles WITH Roof Racks

PackRight Sport 3 Car Top CarrierStraps Attached To Roof Rack
  • Attaching two straps front to back between the cross bars or two straps side to side between the side rails will sufficiently secure the carrier, however, using all four straps provides the most secure method of attachment. In the different scenarios, 2, 3 or 4 straps can be used.
Vehicle With Narrow Side Rail Opening

  • To attach the straps to the vehicle’s side rails, an open space of approximately 20 inches is needed. With today’s side rail designs, some vehicles may not have this large of an opening. If your vehicle falls into this category, your options are to:
    • Attach (2) straps between the cross bars only
    • Attach (1) strap between the side rails (in the available opening) and (1) strap through the vehicle
    • Attach (1) strap between the side rails (in the available opening) & (2) straps between the cross bars

4. Choose Your Level Of Weather Protection.

Car Top Carrier Bags can be categorized into (3) levels of protection: Waterproof, Weatherproof, and Water Resistant.

Urethane Coated Zipper
In Flap Zipper
Dual Seam Technology
Welded Seams
  • 100% Waterproof
    • Waterproof Material
    • Welded Seams
    • Urethane Coated Zipper (coated so that water cannot enter the bag through the zipper)
    • Velcro Zipper Flap
  • Weatherproof
    • Waterproof Material
    • Welded Seams
    • Regular Zipper (water may enter through the zipper)
    • Velcro Zipper Flap
  • Water Resistant
    • Waterproof Material
    • Sewn Seams
    • Regular Zipper (water may enter through the zipper)
    • Velcro or Non-Velcro Zipper Flap

Normally, the higher the level of weather protection, the higher the cost of the car top carrier bag. We recommend considering the items that you will be placing in the car top carrier and deciding how important it is that they remain dry.


What Kind Of Luggage Can I Put In The Car Carrier Bag?

Luggage Bags are flexible so they can carry oddly shaped or large size objects. Items with sharp or pointed edges should be packed in the middle with softer items placed around them.

How Much Weight Can The Car Top Carrier Bag Carry?

A car carrier’s weight limit is generally determined by your vehicle’s luggage rack rating. We recommend around 100 lbs for most vehicles.

Can A Car Top Carrier Bag Be Used On A Vehicle With A Sunroof?

Yes. Check with your vehicle’s manufacturer to determine weight limits. Distribute the weight evenly across the sunroof. Make sure to clean the glass before installing the bag as debris can scratch the glass. A Non Skid Roof Protection Pad is great for additional protection.

Is How A Bag Opens Important?

Yes. Car Top Bags can open on 2 or 3 sides. A larger opening makes for an easier loading experience. Check our Fit Guide to compare how each car luggage carrier opens.

What About Security?

All Car Top Carrier Bags are vulnerable to theft since only straps hold them in place on the roof top. The addition of a Car Top Carrier Cable Lock will ensure that your gear stays on the vehicle. The Rightline Gear Cable Lock can adjust to the length that you need. Run the cable through the plastic d-rings, zipper pulls and then through the luggage rack. If the vehicle doesn’t have a roof rack, consider adding a Window Cable Anchor.

Will A Car Top Carrier Bag Affect My Gas Mileage?

Car Luggage Bags will reduce your gas mileage, sometimes up to 5 mpg. Some roof top bags are designed with an aerodynamic shape to slice the wind, reducing their effect on gas mileage. If you want a solution that doesn’t affect your mileage at all, consider the Rightline Gear Cargo Saddlebag.

What Is The Best Way To Load The Car Top Carrier Bag?

It easiest to load the car luggage carrier on the vehicle roof top with the closed edge facing forward. Make sure to clean the roof of the vehicle first. Pack the cargo bag full so that the sides are pulled tight to prevent excess material from flapping in the wind which can damage the roof top carrier and cause the load to shift, loosening the straps. A Rightline Gear Non-Skid Roof Pad under the roof top carrier will help to protect your roof top from scratches and will prevent the car carrier from moving. In most cases you can stand on the door frame, the tailgate, the bumper or even on the spare tire and have people hand your gear up to you if necessary. Light weight wheel steps are available to assist with roof top loading as well.

Remember You Are Driving With Something On Your Roof!

Remember to consider the height of your garage or any place that you regularly travel. If you drive a taller vehicle it is helpful to make note of the height of your vehicle with the car top carrier bag attached. A good reminder while on the road is to put a sticky note with the height on the dashboard. Also, remember to check the straps of the carrier regularly throughout your trip.