New To Ski

Are Ski Racks & Cargo Boxes Really Worth The Cost? (4 Reasons To Get One)

by Travis McCullough | Published: November 8th, 2022
Ski rack

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You have to get your skis to the mountain one way or another, seeing as how they are the most essential piece of equipment, but since they are so important, you want to ensure that they are being taken care of.  Ski racks are handy ways to free up space in your car and simultaneously get your skis to the mountain, but are they worth the price?

There are many different versions of ski racks and cargo boxes on the market, but they are almost always worth it, no matter the situation.  Not everyone will need ski racks but they certainly add an extra layer of convenience when traveling to your favorite resorts.

Different Types Of Ski Racks

Ski rack on BMW
Photo by Eric Rayner under CC BY 2.0

Each particular rack is going to have its own specifications, but there are two main types of ski rack out there, racks and cargo boxes

Key Takeaway: Racks simply hold the skis on top of your vehicle, while boxes encapsulate the skis, both of which free up space inside of your cabin for other ski gear or skiers.

Either way, you go, your vehicle will need rails or crossbars for the rack to attach to.  Many 4WD/AWD sedans, wagons, and SUVs come stock with them already installed, but plenty of cars don’t.  This is considered an extra part for most racks and won’t come with the rack itself, so anticipate paying an additional cost.

This cost varies pretty widely, you can find cheaper options online for around $50 and OEM parts from your car manufacturer can be upwards of $500. 

Tip: Most cheaper options will work just as well as the manufacturer’s specific part but may void your car’s warranty so be sure to check before installing.

Racks

Evo Ski Racks

Most racks will attach to the roof of your car or the top of your truck bed, but each rack is nuanced in particular ways making them more or less practical for your certain situation. 

Some racks will only hold skis, some hold only snowboards, and some hold both, be sure to consider your needs before pulling the trigger on a particular rack.

Boxes

cargo box
Photo by Casey Fleser licensed under CC BY 2.0

Cargo boxes are considered the cream of the crop when it comes to roof racks because they can hold absolutely anything and offer an extra layer of protection to your expensive equipment. 

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Cargo boxes come in many different shapes and sizes, so you will want to make sure that the box you purchase fits your vehicle beforehand. They even make boxes for pickup trucks that sit on top of the bed rails, this size box is obviously going to be different than a small sedan or large SUV.

See Also:  5 Smart Ways To Protect Your Skis From Theft

Average Cost Of Ski Racks

No matter how you look at it, a ski rack is an investment, but anyone who actually owns one will tell you it’s worth the cost. 

It is more money upfront, but you will end up saving money, not damaging the interior of your car, and having peace of mind while you enjoy your extra space.

Racks

Check Price on REI.com

Regular racks start pretty cheaply with used ones being well under $100, mid-range models around $150, and top-of-the-line models around $250 to $300. They are considerably cheaper than cargo boxes because they don’t offer extra storage or protection than a box does.

Boxes

Find The Best Cargo Boxes on Backcountry.com

You can definitely find old beat-up cargo boxes on Craigslist for around $150, but these things have definitely been put through the wringer. If you want to buy a brand new model don’t expect to pay any less than $300, with top-of-the-line oversized or low-profile models topping out around $700 or $800.

Pros Of Ski Racks

The benefits of a ski rack far outweigh its drawbacks, even if they seem like a steep initial financial investment.

Key Takeaway: The added room, protection, and safety you will gain by putting your skis on top of the car in a roof rack are well worth justifying a couple of hundred dollars upfront.

1. Extra Room In The Car

Simple Ski Rack
Photo by Smudge 9000 licensed under
CC BY-SA 2.0

This is most people’s primary reason for considering a roof rack for their skis, and rightfully so.  Skis can render even the largest sedan or SUV useless, taking up precious room that you can use for boots, clothing, helmets, or friends. 

Skiing fun alone, but exponentially better when done with friends and family, so its nice to have extra room for them!

Ski traffic is real and it can turn even the best powder day into a tedious nightmare.  If you are going to spend hours on end in the car you are going to want at least some room to stretch your legs.

2. Protection From Thieves

Let’s face it, if someone wants something from inside your vehicle bad enough, they are going to get it.  If they steal skis from inside your vehicle, you are going to have to fork over cash for new skis and likely a new window.

See Also:  How Often Should I Wax My Skis? (More Than You Think)

All racks will have some sort of locking mechanism, but nothing is truly unbreakable, so save yourself the cost of a window and the cold and wet drive home and store your skis in a rack. 

I’m not saying to make it easy on a thief, but having a bunch of ski/board bags in the back of an SUV or truck is just as conspicuous as a roof rack, so skip the extra headache.

3. Avoiding Upholstery Damage

While carrying your skis in the car may seem convenient in larger vehicles, it really puts more wear and tear on the interior.  Sharp edges and binding parts that pinch are the worst enemy of leather seats and upholstery.

It may feel like sinking the money into a roof rack is an unnecessary investment, but you are really investing in the well-being of your car’s interior.  Reupholstering a cloth interior can easily cost $2,500, this should be more than enough to convince you to purchase a roof rack.

4. Driving Safety

Arizona

Whether you have considered it or not, having loose equipment in your car is dangerous in a fender bender or rollover accident.  You can’t really put a price on safety, especially when it comes to protecting yourself so that you can partake in the greatest sport on earth.  

Hopefully, you won’t ever have to find this out firsthand, but like Isaac Newton said, “An object in motion will stay in motion until acted upon by an outside force”.  You don’t want skis with sharp edges bouncing around in your vehicle because someone else on the highway wasn’t paying attention. 

Cons Of Ski Racks

Skis Are Exposed To Elements

skis
Photo by Theo under CC BY-SA 2.0

Whether you choose an exposed rack or a cargo box, your precious skis are still going to be exposed to the elements more so than if they were nice and toasty with you inside the vehicle.  They are also prone to taking damage from high-speed debris like rocks that get kicked up by passing cars.

In theory, cargo boxes can hold all of your ski gear inside of them, but it’s not a good idea to put clothing, helmets, or boots in them because they will be very cold and stiff by the time you make it to the mountain.  Regular racks will only hold skis or snowboards but ice can build up in your bindings and on your edges, which can be a pain to deal with in white-out conditions at the base of the lift.

Cost

I know that I have been harping on the cost of a roof rack being worth the benefits, but some people just can’t afford to drop a couple of hundred dollars at the drop of a hat, I mean that’s the same price as a season pass at some mountains.

On top of this, it can be hard to justify putting a $500 accessory on a vehicle that isn’t worth much, especially if you plan to sell your vehicle in the near future. 

On top of this, unless you are planning on buying the same model of car, there is no guarantee that the ski rack will fit, even if the vehicles are the same dimensions. Some people are perfectly fine cramming their skis inside of the cabin of the car, especially if they normally ski solo or live within close proximity to your local mountain.

Alpe DHuez
Photo by Ian Gratton under CC BY 2.0

My Final Thoughts

It’s pretty easy to see that the benefits of a ski rack far outway the initial financial investment. Depending on your needs and your current vehicle you can gain comfort, safety, and protection for your skis for as little as $50 if you are on a budget, or upwards of $700 if you want to invest in something that will last for many seasons to come.

They do expose your equipment to some level of outdoor abuse, but the chance of a rock bouncing up off the highway and connecting perfectly with your edge, base, or binding is slim to none. 

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