How to Find the Best Ski Rack or Cargo Box for Your Needs

Surprising exactly no one, snows ports have exploded in popularity this year. It’s easy to see why, with so many other activities being off-limits due to COVID-19.

At least it’s a good thing! Exercising in the great outdoors, cleansing your lungs, breathing in that crisp air and rekindling your love of winter... Tempting, isn’t it?

And you’ll need some car racks to transport all that snow gear. It’s true that many people put their skis and snowboards directly in their vehicle. If you’re guilty of this, be aware that it could pose a safety risk: if you’re in an accident or brake too abruptly, your skis or snowboards could cause serious injuries to you and your family.

We recommend getting the right set-up so that you can hit the road with peace of mind. To help you do so, we’ve created a beginner’s guide to shopping for ski racks or cargo boxes. We’ll explain the difference between the two.

And we’ll have a look at what features to compare when looking at the different models on the market. Before you know it, you’ll be a roof rack expert!

Interested? Let’s start with the basics.


Ski rack or rooftop cargo box?

Ski racks

Ski racks are in fact horizontal racks that are installed on the roof of your car. They’re a common option for carrying skis and snowboards. Here are the pros and cons for ski racks:

  • Pros:
    • Less expensive
    • Easy to store
    • Ski or snowboard length is never an issue
    • Easy to load and unload
  • Cons
    • Can only carry skis and snowboards
    • Equipment is exposed to the elements
    • Useful for skiing and snowboarding only
    • Less aerodynamic: increases wind resistance and fuel consumption


Rooftop cargo box

A rooftop cargo box is a large, closed plastic container that protects your equipment. Once again, here are some things to consider to make sure you’re making the right choice:

  • Pros:
    • Carries more cargo (poles, boots, clothing, etc.)
    • Protects equipment from salt, snow, slush, etc.
    • Useful for other activities (camping, moving, etc.)
    • More aerodynamic: doesn’t affect gas mileage as much
  • Cons
    • More expensive
    • Takes up more space in storage
    • Loading and unloading can be more arduous
    • Length can sometimes be an issue (fewer options for taller people – check to make sure your skis fit and your car can handle the weight)


What features should I be looking for?

Magnetic, hitch-mounted, crossbar-mounted or track-mounted ski racks?

If you’ve decided to get ski racks, you have several options. Here are some to avoid:

Not recommended:

    • Magnetic: Don’t require roof bars (since the magnets are installed directly on the car body), but they aren’t reliable and could scratch the paint.
    • Hitch-mounted: Some ski racks are mounted to the hitch, at the back of the car. But that’s a terrible spot to carry your gear in winter as it will get damaged.
    • Bike rack conversion: There are some products that you can use to convert your bike rack to a ski rack. It may seem like a good idea to make do with what you already have, but again, it’s not a great spot in winter.

Recommended:

    • Crossbar-mounted: The ski rack is mounted onto your crossbars.
    • Track-mounted: The ski racks slide directly onto the raised rails or crossbars on your car, making it easy to load your skis and snowboards.
    • Suction cup rack: If you don’t have roof bars, you can mount a rack with suction cups directly onto the body of your car. It can be an interesting option, although it’s often more expensive.


Price

Budget between $75 to $600 for a ski rack, depending on the brand, system, quality and load capacity (number of skis and/or snowboards it can carry).

For rooftop cargo boxes, you’re looking at $300-$1,000, based on the same factors as above.


Load capacity

Is it just for you or for the family? The number of skis or snowboards you need to carry will narrow down your options and make a big difference budget-wise. For a single person, you can find a ski rack under $100, with the price increasing based on the number of skis and snowboards.

Very important: remember that a snowboard takes up the same space as two pairs of skis. So for four snowboards, you need to be able to carry eight pairs of skis. If you’re a couple that loves to cross-country ski (or downhill ski!) you’ll need to be able to carry two pairs of skis.


Compatibility and roof bars

Start by checking if the model you want is compatible with your car. For example, many rooftop ski racks require crossbars (across the width of the car). If you don’t already have them, they’ll cost you a few hundred dollars extra.

Crossbars are usually mounted on the side rails (along the length of the vehicle – they are often factory-installed). If you don’t have them, you’ll have to mount your crossbars to the door frames.

Somerooftop cargo boxes, however,only require the side rails. You can also, as mentioned above, get a suction cup rack, in which case you won’t need any type of roof bars.

Don’t forget: before buying anything, check your vehicle’s weight-bearing capacity in the user manual.


Installation

Roof racks and boxes are mounted differently depending on the model, but most of them are compatible with the different bars available on the market.

That said, if you want peace of mind, certain manufacturers offer special tools and accessories that will work perfectly with your car.


Adjustable height

With some models, you can adjust the height between the rack and roof, to accommodate the height of your ski or snowboard bindings. That way your skis and snowboards will fit properly.


Security

Make sure your ski rack or cargo box can be locked securely. Remember that the locks aren’t that strong (especially on ski racks): they’re OK if you’re making a pit stop on the road or stopping for a bite to eat, but you’ll want to bring all your equipment in when you get home.

For ski racks, there may be two different locks: one to lock the skis in the rack and another, sometimes, to lock the rack to the roof.

The cargo box is mounted from the inside, making it much less appealing to thieves... There is sometimes a single key for several locking points, for increased security.


That’s it! You’re now ready for your next mountain getaway. We hope these tips were useful and... Until next time!


Psst, if you need other products or services for your car, book an appointment at any one of our 220 Point S branches.

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