Review: Yakima Skybox


Just as our parents did with us, every summer my wife and I shoehorn a week’s worth of clothing and gear into the family car, buckle the kids in, and hit the road. This year on our trip we’d clock over 1,500 miles before our vehicle came to rest back home again in the driveway. With a small vehicle, chosen partly for its fuel economy, we have limited room for all the items we need to take. Our solution has been to use a roof-mounted luggage box. It functions as a removable trunk that we can use only when we travel and need the extra space.

Yakima’s Skybox 18

During our recent trip, the Yakima Skybox 18, which retails for $475, easily held three suitcases and an assortment of smaller bags and boxes, leaving the interior of the car free of clutter and crowding. The “18” stands for the number of cubic feet of capacity in the box. It equals to about 92 × 36 × 16 inches of space inside.

Aesthetically, the Skybox does not stand out from the crowd — it looks good, but not much different from other large roof-top boxes. (If you want a box with more glitz, Yakima offers its Pro model in either a slick “Silver” or “Titanium” finish. They retail for $609.)

As compared to a more luxurious roof box like the Thule Boxster that I tested last summer, I believe the Yakima 18 is a solid value. The Thule Boxster is among the best looking boxes I’ve seen. But personally, I would not pay the extra $225 for looks alone. I prefer the rack mounting system on the Thule, but then prefer the closure and latch system on the Yakima.

Attaching the Yakima box was not as easy as some systems I have used. It was a little difficult to get leverage on the clamp system while also trying to reach up and inside the large box. But once secured down, it rides solidly in place, and it is not able to be removed unless you can access the inside.

Profile of the Skybox 18

A keyed lever opens the box from either side. You’ll never wonder if you remembered to lock it, because to remove the key you have to lock the latch. The box’s hinges keep the lid open until you pull the cord to close it again. Closure is smooth and does not require any futzing with realignment to lock the lid shut.

On our recent road trip, somewhere south of Rockford, Ill., a violent thunderstorm overtook the highway. The 60+mph crosswinds tossed construction barrels into the ditch, forced some drivers to pull over, and blew the tarps off semi trucks. I worried that the luggage box might be ripped right off the roof of our car. But it held fast and stayed water tight in the gusher. This was the most serious field testing I ever hope to do with a box!

For those who appreciate a well made, easy-to-use box — and don’t mind (or might like!) the svelte, utilitarian appearance of black plastic on the roof — this box deserves a look.

—T.C. Worley