Yakima is one of the USA’s biggest producers of cargo carriers. Over the past 30 years, they have built up a good reputation and you see their roof top carriers on autos everywhere.
SkyBox are Yakima’s top cargo boxes and the best-seller by far is the SkyBox/Pro 16 – I guess because it’s a good all-rounder. There are three ranges in the Yakima SkyBox series: SkyBox, SkyBox Pro and SkyBox LoPro, and a total of five different sizes – so there should be something to suit every requirement.
1 Construction & Color Options
Yakima SkyBox cargo boxes are constructed from up to 80% recycled ABS plastic, which is hard-wearing, weather resistant, and lightweight.
SkyBox comes in matte black only. Users say that this textured finish masks any scratches. Skybox Pro and LoPro have a glossy “automotive” finish, in two colors: titanium or onyx. In regular English, that translates as a smart metallic gray or black.
The Pro boxes have a scratch resistant protective coating, though a few users report that their Pro boxes do show scratch marks. Others say no marks, and easy to keep clean.
Until sometime in 2013 there was also a silver option. This has now been discontinued (though I guess there might be old stocks available somewhere if you really like this color.)
2 Appearance & Design
SkyBox/Pro/LoPro cargo boxes have a smooth, streamlined shape, which Yakima say has been aerodynamically designed to minimize wind drag. Most customer feedback on this is positive (see On the Road section below).
The rear of the SkyBox is angled inwards from top to bottom, which looks elegant and, more importantly, makes hatch interference less likely.
The lid is more rigid than earlier Yakima boxes. It is stiffened with reinforcing ribs, making it easier to open and close, and more secure when shut.
The lid has a wide lip, making it easier to open and close with one hand and in all kinds of weather. There is also a pull cord attached to the lid, which makes closing the box even easier.
One or two reviewers have commented that the hinges that prop the lid open are made of plastic and not metal. I’ve come across only one instance of this causing a problem: one person found that it softened in very hot weather and came off. If this was a major issue, I imagine there would be more feedback about it, so I can only assume (and hope) that this was an isolated incident.
3 Box Access & Security
The lid of the SkyBox series is dual-opening, so you can get to your stuff from both the passenger side and driver side of your vehicle (as opposed to just one side), which has obvious benefits.
- I think it’s worth mentioning here that only ONE side should be opened at a time!
This may also seem obvious, but if both sides are unlocked, apparently it can be quite tricky to get back into position. So just be sure to leave the “hinge” side locked before opening the other side.
LOCK & KEY
SkyBoxes are equipped with Yakima SKS locks (Same Key System). This means if you have other Yakima products (such as a bike rack), you can change the lock cores and have them all match, so you need just the one key. Better than a bunch of clanking metal and bulging pockets.
I’ve seen one or two reports that the key is soft and easy to bend, and in one instance,snapped in two while in the lock. That obviously isn’t ideal- but it doesn’t seem to be a common complaint. But bear it in mind.
Some people suggest putting the SkyBox key on the keyring with their car key. This means you can’t drive away with the box still open. It also means you’d have to leave your car key on the box. I’m not sure I’d be too happy to do this – not in a public place. I guess it all depends on where your vehicle is parked.
Until the box is locked, you cannot remove the key. One or two users dislike this because they want to be able to remove the key without locking the box. But this safety feature means you can’t inadvertently lock the key inside the box.
To open the box, you turn the key and push the lever handle down. Users like having this proper handle – instead of a button, or just the key, as often found on other cargo boxes.
There are three latch points on each side of the box – the lock itself and two latches – so when they are all engaged the box is securely shut. You know the box is properly closed when the handle clicks back up to its horizontal position.
A few users have found that they need to apply some pressure to the handle before it moves down to open the box. So don’t force anything, but be aware that you might have to press down a bit more firmly than you might otherwise expect.
- When you’re closing the lid, make sure you hear distinct clicks from the two latches so you KNOW the box is securely shut before you try to turn the key. Some people have reported that the key can turn even though the latches haven’t engaged. A little care will ensure that doesn’t happen.
One customer said that occasionally the rear latch did not release when trying to open the box. They solved this by pressing down on the back of the box to allow the latch to release.
When you’re loading up, keep items clear of the hinges and the three latches, as this can prevent the box from closing securely. It’s only common sense! If the lid doesn’t close or lock, don’t force it (more common sense…). Just reposition your stuff so it’s no longer in the way.
4 SkyBox Installation
All three SkyBox ranges use Quick-Installation mounting hardware. This will fit onto any car rack system with round, square, and most factory crossbars. So you probably won’t need to buy a new rack if your car already has one.
Can fit onto crossbars as short as 24in, and up to 42in.
People generally say that installing the box is pretty simple. No assembly or tools are needed. The first time takes a bit longer, as you have to get your cross bars in the right position as well as the clamps on the SkyBox. Once you’ve done that, future installations should only take a few minutes.
Given the sheer bulk of a cargo box, lifting it onto the roof of your auto is ideally a two-person operation. It’s possible with one (depending on height and muscle power – and the size of the box) but obviously much easier with two.
5 On the Road (and Off)
The SkyBox/Pro/LoPro seems to keep everything nice and dry in all kinds of weather. In all the tests and customer feedback I’ve researched for this review, I haven’t seen any mention of leaking.
Wind drag seems to be minimal. Although one or two users report that cross winds and wind noise have affected their drive, most users don’t notice much until traveling at higher speeds – say 70mph plus. The only time it’s really noticeable is in a strong cross wind, or when a large vehicle passes at speed on a highway.
With noise too, most SkyBox/Pro users say that any concerns they had about annoying road noise were unfounded. Some people can’t even tell when the box is on the roof.
Fuel economy is not as badly affected as you might think. Most users report their fuel consumption going up by an average of only 5% or around 1-2 mpg. Some people even note an Increase in mpg with a loaded box. Go figure!
Storage can be a bit of an issue if you don’t want to leave the box permanently in situ. Perhaps you have space in the garage to prop it up somewhere. One user gets it out of the way in the garage rafters! Another suspends it from the ceiling on a pulley system meant for bicycles.
There are pulley systems designed for cargo boxes – I’m not sure how they compare with the bike pulley. When I get a chance, I’ll do some checking and report back.
6 Versions & Dimensions
Initially I found the names of the series, ranges and models a bit muddling. I’ve sorted it out now, and have explained all below. (It’s the repetition of “skybox” that taxed my simple brain… but it’s actually not complicated…)
Yakima SkyBox and Yakima SkyBox Pro are exactly the same design (in the same four sizes ) but they come in different color finishes.
Yakima SkyBox LoPro is the same as the SkyBox Pro 18 and 21, but with a height of only 11.5in The SkyBox Pro and LoPro have cargo net and base mat included.
SkyBox 12 & SkyBox Pro 12
Capacity: 12cu ft
External dimensions: (LxWxH) 92in x 24in x 16in
Weight of box: 41lb
Long, slim shape, leaving plenty of space on your roof
for bikes or other stuff. Good for snowboards and skis
up to 215cm (84.5in)
SkyBox 16 & SkyBox Pro 16
Capacity: 16cu ft
External dimensions: (LxWxH) 81in x 36in x 15in
Weight of box: 47lb
Ideal for cars with shorter roofs. Will take skis up to 170cm (66.75in)
NOTE FOR SKIERS: if you want to carry your skis up top, the SkyBox/Pro 16 is probably not ideal. This is because the angled shaping at the rear means that the SkyBox/Pro 16 has a usable length of only 70in (though the external length is 81in). Some people do put skis in it, though. Up to 170cm (66.75in) is no problem, they say. And longer skis go in diagonally.
SkyBox 18 & SkyBox Pro 18
Capacity: 18cu ft
External dimensions: (LxWxH) 92in x 36in x 16in
Weight of box: 52lb
You’ll get most things in here. Will take skis up to 215cm (84.5in)
SkyBox 21 & SkyBox Pro 21
Capacity: 21cu ft
External dimensions: (LxWxH) 92in x 36in x 18in
Weight of box: 62lb
This one is cavernous – just be careful not to exceed the
weight load limit.
Capacity: 15cu ft
External dimensions: (LxWxH) 92in x 36in x 11.5in
Weight of box: 52lb
The best bet for getting into low garages without a scrape
(but not your best option if you want to carry very bulky items). Holds up to 8 pairs of skis or 6 snowboards.
- Remember, the maximum weight of stuff you can put into each box will vary depending on the vehicle, and the roof rack used. Be sure to check your owner’s manuals for the weight limits of your roof and your rack system.
The box weight plus the load weight must not exceed the lowest limit.
♦ SkyBox Pro and LoPro come with a cargo net and cargo pad. The net is available as an optional extra if you get the SkyBox (nonPro).
At the time of writing, the mat is unavailable. But there are plenty of alternatives, see below.
The net is useful as it will stop things from rattling around inside if the box isn’t full. There are eight attachment points inside the box for it to hook onto. The net (unstretched) measures 32in x 20in – divided into 4in squares. Bungee cords are an alternative, and some people are happy with those, but the net gives a larger area of security.
The cargo pad covers the central space (though the mounting hardware on either side is still exposed), provides some protection and, most importantly, helps to stop things from sliding about. Some users say that a yoga mat works well instead, or some carpet padding.
The LoPro used to come with an internal solar powered light. This has now been discontinued by Yakima.
- Amazon.com still feature the integrated solar light on the LoPro. Be aware that it may not actually be in your box. If it’s important to you, best check before ordering.
♦ All versions of SkyBox/Pro come with two keys but you can purchase more.
- It’s worth making a note of your key serial number (which will probably be letter A followed by three digits), because you’ll need it if you want to order extra keys.
♦ All Yakima products come with a Limited Lifetime Warranty.
8 Summary of Pros
- Sleek styling – looks good
- Tapered rear reduces hatch interference
- Easy to install and remove
- Dual-sided opening SKS (Same Key System) locks
- Until the box is locked, you can’t remove the key
- Lever handle Lock has 3 latch points on each side
- Stiffened lid for easy of opening/closing and security
- Closes tightly to keep stuff dry in all weathers
- Lanyard attached to lid – facilitates closing
- Minimal wind drag
- Minimal road noise
- Minimal increase in fuel consumption – around 5%
9 Summary of Cons
- The gloss surface can show scratch marks
- Key is easy to bend
- Lid hinges are made of plastic
- Until the box is locked, you can’t remove the key (this is generally seen as a pro!)
10 Consumer Ratings
Ratings are much the same for all sizes and variations of SkyBox/Pro – and they’re all consistently high. On Amazon, ratings range from 4.2 to 4.7, which is extremely good – and pretty accurate, I think, having spent some time studying the reviews.
The SkyBox in all its variations has been around for a good few years, but I focused on the more recent ratings. Expectations change and reviews from several years ago aren’t necessarily relevant today.
A Yakima SkyBox/Pro cargo box at the time of writing can cost anything from about $420 up to around $700, depending on the size and finish. Then there can be shipping costs on top.
Amazon and Walmart prices are usually fairly similar, but Walmart only offers a free store pickup; shipping to the door costs extra. Amazon offers free shipping to the door, so if you want your box delivered to your home, Amazon is probably the best option.(It’s certainly cheaper than buying from Yakima direct, where you’ll pay over $100 shipping costs.)
12 Summing Up
There are a few niggles (see above) but I don’t think they’re deal-breakers and some apply to the roof cargo box in general, not specifically to Yakima SkyBox/Pro.
If you want a good quality cargo box without extras, and are happy with matte black, go for the standard SkyBox. If it’s the high gloss finish you like, then it has to be Pro or LoPro.
To reduce heat absorption under a hot sun, go for the titanium SkyBox Pro or LoPro. Remember, black absorbs the heat more than any other color. If that’s not important to you, it may not be worth forking out the extra money. You do get accessories (cargo net and mat) thrown in – but you can always buy those separately.
If you’re after a good-looking car top luggage carrier with a hard shell that combines style and function, a Yakima SkyBox/Pro cargo box could be the one. The feedback is generally positive and most users are happy with their choice.