We spent 43 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices. Take your cycling to some more adventurous locations with one of these handy bike racks, which attach easily to your car’s trunk, roof, or trailer hitch and offer a safe way to transport your ride (or rides) during solo trips or family outings.
1) Hollywood Racks Over-The-Top Trunk Mounted Bike Rack | 2) Thule T2 Pro XT 2 Bike Rack | 3) Saris Solo 1-Bike Trunk Mounted Rack | 4) Kuat Racks Dirtbag Thru Axle Bike Rack | 5) Saris Solo Single Bike Rack | 6) Allen Sports Wall Mounted 2-Bike Storage Rack | 7) Thule DoubleTrack Pro Bike Rack | 8) Hollywood Racks Express Trunk Mounted Bike Rack | 9) Allen Sports Deluxe 4-Bike Trunk Mount Rack | 10) Thule Vertex XT Hitch Mount Bike Carrier | 11) Allen Sports Deluxe 5-Bike Hitch Mount Rack | 12) Thule Gateway Bike Carrier |
What’s the right rack for your vehicle? If you’re transporting bikes only, then lots of car rack options await you.
Add a snowboard, kayak or paddleboard to the mix and you’re more likely a roof-rack shopper. Roof racks are often recommended because they are the most stable and versatile method for transporting outdoor gear.
This article provides a chart with a quick overview of your gear-hauling choices, followed by a more detailed look at each option.
If you drive a car (sedan or hatchback) or a sports utility vehicle and 2-3 bikes are all you’re transporting, trunk racks are a lightweight, economical choice. They fasten to rear decks via a system of straps and paint-friendly hooks. With a little practice they can be installed and removed with minimal fuss.
Bikes rest on support arms (usually equipped with cradles) and are secured by straps (typically made from neoprene rubber).
Most vehicles equipped with a hitch receiver can accept a hitch mount. A hitch receiver usually can be installed on a vehicle not originally equipped with one.
Hitches are divided into classes according to towing capacity, from Class I (which fit any vehicle and tow up to 2,000 lbs.) through Class V (which fit only heavy-duty trucks and vans and tow up to 18,000 lbs.).
Hitch racks are usually compatible with Class II – Class IV hitches. Class I hitches often do not work with hitch racks. Why? Because the “tongues” of Class I hitches cannot support heavy loads.
The section of a hitch that extends away from a vehicle is known as its tongue. Hitch tongues have a maximum tongue weight, which is 10% of its towing capacity. So while a Class I hitch can tow up to 2,000 lbs., its max tongue weight is 200 lbs. Thus the collective weight of a heavily loaded hitch rack could cause a Class I hitch to bend or possibly snap off.
How can you know the classification of the hitch on your vehicle? It might be identified in the owner’s manual if your vehicle has a factory-installed hitch.
For aftermarket hitches, check the hitch itself. Either you will find a notation somewhere on the hitch that identifies its classification, or sometimes a sticker or stamp. If the classification cannot be determined, contact the hitch maker directly and ask for help.
Be aware that hitch-makers may insert a “stop” in any hitch, from Class I through Class V, that prevents full insertion of recreational racks. Such stops tend to be found more often in Class I and II hitches. What purpose does a stop serve? It acts as an extra brace, or “stop,” in case the towing vehicle stops abruptly or gets rear-ended. It keeps the item in tow from ramming into the vehicle.
If you encounter problems when inserting a hitch rack, inspect the hitch’s interior to see if a stop is an issue. Ordinarily, you need about 2.5″ between the bolt hole and the hitch opening in order for a recreational rack to fit correctly.
Most hitch receivers come in 2 sizes, 1-1/4″ and 2″. Class V hitch receivers measure 2-1/2″. Mounts for hitch racks simply slide into these receivers. Smaller hitch racks (the type suitable for cars) usually can carry only 2 or 3 bikes; larger mounts can handle up to 4, sometimes even 5 bikes.
Hitch mounts rise in cost as they offer more sophisticated features and materials. To keep SUV rear doors accessible, for instance, some hitch mounts swing away, tilt or fold up to stay out of the way. Bikes may be held in place by straps on a vertical staff or in trays (as roof rack systems do).
Platform-style hitch racks anchor bikes in place on trays, which resist bike sway and minimize the risk of bike-to-bike contact during transport. Ordinarily platform racks can transport just 2 bikes, but with the use of extensions can be adapted to carry up to 4 bikes. Platform-style hitch racks offer a higher weight limit than standard hitch racks.