questionscar roof-top carrier - soft sided? hard sided…

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I'd go with a soft one.

There are some well-rated cheap-ish ones on Amazon like this:
http://www.amazon.com/Keeper-07203-Waterproof-Cargo-Cubic/dp/B000H6P55W/

In college my buddy used one like this, with his sedan, and he didn't need a roof rack. He just used a set of straps (you can pick some good ones up for around 15 to 20 bucks), and secured it through the cab, and around the loops on the carrier :)

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@dmaz: That's what I was thinking, Before I go that route I wanted to verify if anyone had a horror story with the soft sided.
My brother bought one from Sears (less than $50) and everything inside got soaked during a rain storm.

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When I was a young teenager, the family used a soft rooftop carrier on our car for a roadtrip on the east coast. We visited one of those animal parks where you get to drive through the preserve in your car amongst the wild animals. A lioness took an interest in our carrier and jumped onto our car and proceeded to shred the carrier. All of us in the car were quite startled. I understand the animal park banned rooftop carriers after our experience. I guess based on that, I would suggest a hard top.

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have you considered the option of putting a tow hitch on the sedan and getting a rental trailer to tow? better for you airodynamics (sp) and makes it so the vehicle is less likely to roll over.

if you go with a hard sided rooftop carrier you either need to plan on repainting the roof or buying the roof rack because it will scratch your car up no matter how well you think you have it tied down and padded.

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Consider that when you place a honking great luggage carrier on the roof (hard or soft) you are going to mess with the aerodynamics of the car significantly. You gas mileage will go WAY down. It may not be as bad as taking the SUV, but it will be a fair sized hit.

Have you considered why you need all that room? Can you get by with less? Maybe shipping your luggage via UPS may be more cost effective?

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@nortonsark: Oh wow. That is an excellent story. Bet you have a good laugh on that from time to time. Did you get a refund for admission?

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@wilfbrim: Shipping. Now that is something I didn't think about. One bulky item, a pack-n-play will be needed en route for one night stay in a hotel. We could probably ship the stroller though. I suppose we could ship our luggage there and back but we arrive on a Saturday (condo Sat to Sat rental). It would all depend if UPS/Fed Ex would just leave the boxes on the porch? Waiting until Monday would defeat the purpose.

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My family did a month long trip up and down the California coast with suitcases on top of the rental van, no carrier. We used a large tarp that folded up around the suitcases and was tied (well) with rope to the roof rack. It worked well and we had no problems with water leaking, even during a couple of strong rain storms.

I wouldn't recommend a trailer for a sedan. It might make the car less likely to roll over, but it would kill the gas mileage at least as much as a carrier and might require some extra equipment to keep the transmission cool (towing things with vehicles not designed for towing is tough on a transmission).
Are you sure you can't pack it all in a sedan? The toddler will be stuck in a car seat at all times, that means you can pack things in the area where people's feet normally go. If it's just the three of you, can you fold half the back seat down? That would give you more room than just what's in the trunk. Can you borrow/buy what you need when you arrive?

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@gt0163c: We made this trip last year as well. And I was very surprised as to how much stuff there was crammed into my car. We did the cram into foot space and used alot of the available seat space in the back. When our daughter started to melt down in the Mountains of WV and my wife had to climb back there to comfort her (the rest stops are spaced a painful distance from one and other) I realized the error of our ways. That resulted in us having to stop only a few hours into the trip and spend the night. This year we are going to leave room for one of us to ride in the back with some relative level of comfort because it could be for a few hours.

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Nine replies already and not a single Romney joke?

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Does your SUV have room for everything inside? Let's say it's a 1,000 mile trip; your sedan gets 30 MPG and the SUV gets 20. It would take about 33 gallons of gas in the sedan and 50 in the SUV. If the rooftop carrier cuts the sedan's mileage to 27 then it would use 37 gallons. At $4/gallon it would cost around $100 more to take the SUV. You wouldn't have to buy a carrier and accessories or risk damage to your paint job. Your stuff should remain dry. IMHO the SUV wins.

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If you are going to buy a carrier, check craigslist.

The other option is to put a receiver hitch on and get on the the cargo carriers that goes into it. Then you could wrap your stuff in a tarp and tie it down, not have to worry about the roll over, not have to worry as much about aerodynamics and your gas mileage should stay close to the same.