I’ve had a couple of reader questions about crossbars and rooftop cargo boxes so I thought I’d write something up. I’ll mostly be focusing on the crossbar question, though I’ll also touch on cargo boxes below.
As a reminder, we have a 2014 Toyota Highlander XLE, which comes with the integrated side rails. The LE and LE Plus apparently don’t have the side rails, but the installation process appears to be very similar.
Ordering and installation
For starters, you’ll need the crossbars. You can get them from your dealer if you want, but keep a close eye on their pricing. The MSRP is $325 (this does not include installation). For reference, here are the Amazon listings:
- Crossbars for XLE and Limited (Part # PT278-48140)
- Crossbars for LE and LE Plus (Part # PT278-48141)
Though you can pay to have them installed, it’s really not worth the added cost. Seriously. The installation process takes less than half an hour and pretty much involves popping four little panels off your side rails, lining up the bars, and attaching them with four bolts (total).
A couple of installation tips: Lay a nice, thick blanket across the roof of your Highlander to protect it and have someone help you line up the bars with the installation holes on the other side. It’s definitely possible to do this alone, but it’s a lot easier with a helper.
You can download the installation instructions here:
Note that they recommend a plastic trim tool for removing the covers over the anchor points and a torque wrench for tightening the bolts. That being said, I was able to get by with a small, flathead screwdriver and a standard socket set. I’ll leave the details up to you…
Here is a snapshot of our Highlander with the crossbars installed.
As for details, the crossbars are 27.5 inches apart (center to center) and 37 inches wide (between the plastic caps on either side). The bars themselves are just a bit over 2.5 inches front-to-back. Maybe 2-5/8? It’s hard to be precise because there’s a slight curve.
And yes, they’re a little tall. In fact, that seems to be the main (only) complaint that I’ve heard from other owners. I like the look, but some don’t. But that height is for good reason…
The tops of the bars are not quite 4 inches off the top of the roof and the antenna fin to the rear of the roof is just under 2.5 inches tall. The end results is that you have about 1.5 inches of clearance between whatever you put on the bars and the antenna fin.
Just keep in mind that the various aspects of the crossbars are somewhat curved, and so is the roofline. Thus, some of these measurement are approximations — but they should be quite close.
What about a cargo box?
Finally… What about putting your crossbars to use with a nice cargo box? We actually own the largest Yakima SkyBox and have used it a ton with our Honda Odyssey. We love it. It holds 21 cu ft of stuff and has been a lifesaver on past trips, especially when we hit the beach.
Yakima’s official stance on the SkyBox is that it isn’t compatible with the new Highlander. But guess what? I tried it out myself and it seems to work just fine. It clamps on nice and tight and wouldn’t budge when I rocked it.
My success isn’t particularly surprising since the clamps are supposed to work with virtually any bar shape — round, square, factory, or “WhispBar.” And they can adjust down to a bar spread of just 24 inches, which means the that 27.5 inch spread of the OEM crossbars shouldn’t be a problem.
Not only does it clamp on securely, but there is also plenty of clearance vs. the liftgate as well as the antenna fin at the rear edge of the roof.
It’s also worth noting that a reader has reported success mounting the Thule XL on the new Highlander, so that gives you a second option.