Much like the Canon-vs.-Nikon world of pro cameras, the car rack and roof box arena is dominated by Sweden’s Thule and Washington’s Yakima. And just as with camera gear, once you choose a system, the accessories work best if you stick with that brand. Here’s some guidance for making a decision.
The rack systems from Thule (pronounced too-lee) are characterized by stylish design and a host of features that make you wonder, why didn’t I think of that? Like most flashy things, though, it’s gonna cost you. In this case it’s in both time and money—the cargo box and bike rack cost nearly twice as much and take about double the time to install as their Yakima counterparts. But if you’re willing to shell out the dough, it’s easy to see where your money’s going. The aesthetics showcased in the sleek, rocket- coffin-looking 611 Boxter cargo box and bright blue highlights on the Apex Swing 4 hitch rack make them look more like vehicle upgrades than accessories, while details like the Boxter’s super-stiff lid, the Swing’s, er, swing-away design, and the Universal Pull Top snowsport rack’s ability to slide away from the roof for easy board access are welcome features.
While Yakima’s gear lacks fancy looks and bells and whistles, it’s generally more wallet-friendly and easier to install than Thule’s. And it still gets the job done. Setting up the DoubleDown Ace 4 bike rack and Skybox Pro Titanium cargo box took just 10 minutes apiece. The DoubleDown held four bikes steady on test drives, with an added bonus: Integrated bottle openers on the arms help you celebrate your ride with a cold one. The Skybox Pro boasts 16 cubic feet of storage space—plenty of room for a tent and three 65-liter backpacks, but its lid has too much flex for our taste. The WB300 snowsport rack from Yakima’s new Whispbar line boosts the flash factor with a streamlined profile, making it sit lower, look sharper, and ride much more quietly on the road than most ski rigs.
AeroBlade Load Bar and Rapid Traverse Foot Pack
get-gadget Vehicle-specific feet ensure seamless roof fit and grab load bars securely—solid foundation for mounting your cargo box or ski rack. Teardrop-shaped bars reduce wind noise.
TIRED Tall profile looks blocky. $340 for both
Whispbar Flush Mounting Bars and Fit Kit
611 Boxter Cargo Box
get-gadget Aerodynamic. Opens on both sides for convenient access. Lid doesn’t flex when opening and closing. Solid interior handles.
TIRED Expensive. Doesn’t mount directly onto some larger factory-installed racks. $940
SkyBox Pro 16 Titanium
get-gadget Cargo pad protects gear. Easy install. Fits directly on wide range of factory bars.
TIRED Lid flexes when opening and closing. Stretchy cord handles may not last long. $589
Universal Pull Top Snowsport Rack
get-gadget Slide-out feature lets you access boards without climbing on roof. Simple installation.
TIRED Noticeable wind noise at speeds over 20 mph. $230
Whispbar WB300 Snowsport Rack
get-gadget Sits low on roof. Integrated locks protect your gear from evildoers. Aerodynamic. 10-minute installation.
TIRED Mild wind noise from 30 to 35 mph. $250
Apex Swing 4 Bike Rack
get-gadget Pivots to the side for obstruction-free trunk/hatch access. Integrated cable lock. Gel-dampened cradles for a less rigid ride.
TIRED Complicated install. Minor bike sway. $500
DoubleDown Ace Boke Rack
get-gadget Tool-free installation. Minimal bike sway. Integrated bottle openers in the arms.
TIRED Tilt-down design not as convenient for loading car as Thule’s swing-out. No built-in bike lock. $269