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Top18 Hitch Bike Racks of 2018-2019-Top rated Tray and Roof 2020 Reviews

Top18 Hitch Bike Racks of 2018-2019-Top rated Tray and Roof 2020 Reviews

Hitch Bike Racks of 2018-2019 A bicycle is a useful training tool, while going on vacation you should not forget it. However, carrying a bike can create inconveniences due to limited space in your vehicle. For the avoidance of this, a carrier is important.it guarantees the safety of your bike as well as that of the vehicle. These carriers are designed to carry one bike to several depending on the size of the rack. Also, they are engineered to so as to protect your car from scratches. Hitch racks as compared to types they are considered secure safe and convenient.

Having the right car bike rack can help free up space and make transporting your bike much easier. While there are a number of different bike rack options on the market, roof, trunk, and hitch racks are some of the most popular choices. Roof racks allow quick access to rear trunks and hatches, while trunk racks are generally more affordable and can fit a wide range of vehicles. Hitch racks make it easy to load and unload bikes, and are optimal for frequent use. Here’s a look at some of the top bike racks for cars on the market today. For even more options, check out the best Thule bike racks and best bike roof racks.

Hitch Bike Racks of 2018-2019

1. Hollywood Racks HR1400 Sport Rider SE 4-Bike Platform Style Hitch Mount Rack

Hollywood Racks HR1400 Sport Rider SE 4-Bike Platform Style Hitch Mount Rack, hitch mount rack

If you want to carry several bikes at once, this hitch mount bike rack is a top choice. You can safely carry two to four bikes as the rack securely mounts onto the two-inch hitch. A security cable keeps this rack safe and steady on the go without the need for extra tools. There’s also a locking pin to ensure bikes don’t wobble or move on the go. Velco wheel straps add an extra element of security. The bikes conveniently drop into the wheel holders, while padded clamps slide down onto the bike frames for extra security. As an added bonus, the mount folds up flat against the vehicle when it’s not in use. If you’re looking for something smaller, consider the Hollywood Racks Sportrider Se Hitch Rack.

Price: $399.59 (10 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Hollywood Racks HR1400 Sport Rider SE 4-Bike Platform Style Hitch Mount Rack here.



Pros:

  • Carries 2-4 bikes
  • Durable security cable
  • No-wobble design

Cons:

  • Have to mount an extension to carry four bikes
  • Heavy when fully assembled
  • Has several pins for mounting

Find more Hollywood Racks HR1400 Sport Rider SE 4-Bike Platform Style Hitch Mount Rack information and reviews here.


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2. Allen Sports Deluxe 4-Bike Hitch Mount Rack with 2-Inch Receiver

Allen Sports Deluxe 4-Bike Hitch Mount Rack with 2-Inch Receiver, 4 bike rack, hitch mount rack

It’s hard to beat the stability and durability of this bike rack, especially for such an affordable price. There’s enough space to carry up to four bikes at a time. Customers praise the long carry arms, which help to individually secure your bikes and easily fold out of the way when necessary. Allen’s dependable tie-down system adds an extra element of convenience and stability. The rack features a sturdy steel construction with a stylish and hardy black powder coat finish. For easy lift gate access when the rack is already set up, simply tilt the main mast back. Another option is the Allen Sports 2-Bike Trunk Mount Rack, which fits sedans, hatchbacks, minivans, and SUVs and comes with tie-downs for added security.

Price: $88.92

Buy the Allen Sports Deluxe 4-Bike Hitch Mount Rack with 2-Inch Receiver here.



Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Long carry arms
  • Sturdy tie-down system

Cons:

  • Small bike cradles
  • Can be tough to replace pin after lowering rack
  • Tight fit with multiple full-sized bikes

Find more Allen Sports Deluxe 4-Bike Hitch Mount Rack with 2-Inch Receiver information and reviews here.


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3. Thule 2 Bike Platform Hitch Rack

Thule 2 Bike Platform Hitch Rack, thule platform hitch rack, thule hitch rack

This bike rack is ideal for bikes with wheels 20 to 29 inches in diameter and 3-inch wide tires. A reinforced tray promotes extra strength and stability, along with rust-free protection. While it’s designed to fit two bikes at once, you can upgrade this Thule rack to carry four bikes at a time. If you need to tilt or angle the carrier away from the vehicle, simply use the convenient hitch switch lever. A 2-inch receiver version is also available. You can also check out the Thule T2 Pro Bike Rack and Thule T2 Classic Bike Rack.

Price: $359.93 (20 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Thule 2 Bike Platform Hitch Rack here.



Pros:

  • Can fit four bikes
  • Tilts away from trunk
  • Rust-free protection

Cons:

  • Platform bolts can loosen over time
  • When folded, rack can interfered with backup cameras and SUV tail gates
  • Requires specific tool for mounting/removing rack from car

Find more Thule 2 Bike Platform Hitch Rack information and reviews here.


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4. Swagman XC Cross-Country 2-Bike Hitch Mount Rack

Swagman XC Cross-Country 2-Bike Hitch Mount Rack (1/1/4 and 2-Inch Receiver), swagman hitch mount rack, hitch mount rack

You can carry up to two bikes at once with this rack, which fits 1 1/4-inch and 2-inch hitch receivers. Adjustable quick-release tire hoops accommodate a wider range of bikes. If you detest spending lots of time and effort setting up bike racks, you’ll appreciate the minimal amount of assembly required for this one. The frame grips feature a soft-frame coating to help keep your bike’s finish free from blemishes and scratches. There is a maximum load capacity of 35 pounds per bike. The ratchet arms can be easily adjusted to fit bike frames of different sizes up to 59 centimeters.

Price: $178.00

Buy the Swagman XC Cross-Country 2-Bike Hitch Mount Rack here.



Pros:

  • Carries 2 bikes
  • Soft-frame coating on bike grips
  • Minimal assembly required

Cons:

  • Flimsy plastic adapter
  • Included screw-in pin is tough to remove
  • Ratcheting top clamps can pinch fingers

Find more Swagman XC Cross-Country 2-Bike Hitch Mount Rack information and reviews here.


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5. Saris Super Bones 3 Bike Trunk Rack

 

saris-super-bones-3-bike-trunk-rack

The Saris Super Bones 3 Bike Trunk Rack is an updated version of the Saris Bones bike rack series. Some of what you’ll get with this latest version is better security, compatibility, and a user-friendly design. Highlights include injection-molded arms and legs for added stability along with rubberized feet. The feet also pivot to adjust to the shape and design of your vehicle. In addition, the straps are coated to protect each bike. Retractable straps can be adjusted with a single touch, allowing a more personalized fit.

Price: $319.99 (20 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Saris Super Bones 3 Bike Trunk Rack here.



Pros:

  • Injection-molded arms and legs
  • Arc-based design fits over spoilers
  • Coated straps

Cons:

  • Feet can leave marks
  • Some find it difficult to use with step-through bike frames
  • Can be tough to get a third bike on

Find more Saris Super Bones 3 Bike Trunk Rack information and reviews here.


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6. Thule Helium Aero Hitch Carrier

 

thule-helium-aero-hitch-carrier

If you’re tired of struggling to mount heavy bike racks onto the back of your car, you’ll appreciate the lightweight aluminum construction that this Thule bike rack offers. A lighter weight rack is easier to install, handle, and remove as needed. Each cradle is made with road-dampening technology to minimize road shock on the go. There are also anti-sway cages to prevent any extra movement. Safety features include an integrated locking cable and knob to secure the bikes to the rack and the bike carrier to the car. A 3-bike Thule Helium Aero Hitch Carrier is also available.

Price: $369.95

Buy the Thule Helium Aero Hitch Carrier here.



Pros:

  • Lightweight aluminum construction
  • Cradles made with road-dampening technology
  • Integrated locking cable and knob

Cons:

  • Some complain that the rubber mounts move at highway speeds
  • Not ideal for bikes without a standard frame
  • Rubber straps seem flimsy

Find more Thule Helium Aero Hitch Carrier information and reviews here.


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7. Yakima RidgeBack 4-Bike Hitch Rack

Yakima RidgeBack 4-Bike Hitch Rack, 4 bike rack, four bike rack, hitch rack

Tool-free locking, thanks to a convenient knob for adjustments, ensures fast installation and a stress-free setup. This allows you to securely lock the rack to your car in just minutes. A handy control lever tilts the rack down so that you can easily access your vehicle or fold the rack flat for storage if necessary. This Yakima rack is compatible with 1.5 and 2-inch receivers. Customers appreciate the anti-sway cradles, which keep bikes from hitting or rubbing into each other along the way.

Price: $288.30

Buy the Yakima RidgeBack 4-Bike Hitch Rack here.



Pros:

  • Fits 1.5 and 2-inch receiver
  • Anti-sway cables
  • Tilt lever

Cons:

  • A bit heavy
  • Bike mounts don’t move
  • Rack arms spaced widely apart

Find more Yakima RidgeBack 4-Bike Hitch Rack information and reviews here.


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8. Allen Sports Premier Hitch Mounted Carrier

allen-sports-premier-hitch-mounted-carrier

 

This budget-friendly hitch mounted carrier fits up to four bikes and fits 2-inch receiver hitches. Strategically placed bolts on the inside of the hitch help to minimize wobbles and swaying as you drive. The rack comes with tie-down cradles and quick set straps for extra security and protection. The carry arms are designed to snap into place for easier setup. A tilt-away release allows you to access your vehicle’s lift gate without a hassle.

Price: $162.79

Buy the Allen Sports Premier Hitch Mounted Carrier here.



Pros:

  • Internal bolts minimize wobbles and swaying
  • Fits up to four bikes
  • Carry arms snap into place

Cons:

  • Rubber straps may tear or break
  • Locking pin can rattle or come loose
  • Can be challenge to fit kids bikes

10.Thule 2 Bike Platform Hitch Rack

  • Brand: Thule
  • Weight: 59.8 pounds
  • Dimensions: 12 x 15 x 54 inches

Thule 2 bike rack features highly engineered feature to offer convenient and secure carrying. The frame is constructed from a strong a durable rust proof steel. The rack is safe and provides enough distance between bikes and vehicle preventing scratches. Also, the security wire firmly holds bicycle in position preventing movement and theft. Receivers are compatible with 1.25 inches and 2 inches. It can carry bikes with 20-29’’ tires and 3’’ wide. Once mounted on the vehicle it usually leans backward allowing accessibility to the tailgate.

9.Kuat 2 Bike NV Rack

  • Brand: Kuat
  • Weight: 59.4 pounds
  • Dimensions: 36 x 18 x 15 inches

This rack is crafted to offer the best quality regarding bike carrying. When you want to load the bike into the rack, it offers both front and rear tire ratchets. It comes with an integrated lock cable that holds your bike in position preventing unwanted movements. The built in repair stand that ensures efficient mounting. Fastening the bike into position is facilitated by Kuat hand cam. It has ample space for bikes with each being 13 inches apart. It is available in 1.25 and 2 inches receiver configurations.

8.Hollywood Racks HR1400 Sports Rider SE 4-Bike Hitch Mount Rack-2-Inch Receiver

  • Brand: Hollywood Racks
  • Weight: 97.8 pounds
  • Dimensions: 36 x 27 x 10 inches

If carrying multiple bikes has been bothering you, you need to relax. The Hollywood HR1400 id built to offer you solace. If you are going out with your family or friend, everyone can carry their bikes. It is designed to carry four bicycles. The Rack comes pre-assembled and easy to adjust. You don’t need to worry as it cannot cause damage to your vehicle and when not in use it folds against the car. It comes with 9 feet fastening cable for firmly securing bikes against wobbling. Lifetime limited warranty is guaranteed when you purchase.

7.Allen Sports 3-Bike Hitch Mount Rack- 1.25/2’’ Receiver

  • Brand: Allen Sports
  • Weight: 22.1 pounds
  • Dimensions: 26 x 14 x 4 inches

This hitch rack is designed with a capacity to accommodate three bicycles. It can be attached to trailers slots with 1.25or 2 inches. The frame offers enough space whereby, each bike is 16 inches apart. This is achieved through Allen tie-down mechanism. Instead of removing the rack when not in use, the arm allows it to be foldable. It is very simple to assemble the whole frame as it takes a few minutes. Your bikes are secure and safe as the frame high tensile steel made with a black powder finish.

6.Swagman XTC Cross-Country 2-Bike Hitch Rack

  • Brand: Swagman
  • Weight: 34 pounds
  • Dimensions: 6.5 x 40 x 11.5 inches

This rack I meant for carrying two bicycles. With 1.25’’ and 2’’ receivers you can comfortably mount it at the rear of your vehicle. Its perfect fitting avoids wobbling and unnecessary movements. The sturdy steel frame can support up to 70 lbs. For the vehicle with spare tires, the rack can still be mounted. Center folding arms facilitate this. Any bike with a wheel diameter of between 20 and 29 inches can be comfortably carried through this equipment. Adjustment is a simple task though the rack push button. The presence of both wheel trays allows taking the whole bicycle without removing the front wheel.

5.Allen Sports Deluxe 4-Bike Hitch Rack-2Inch Receiver

  • Brand: Allen Sports
  • Weight: 23.9 pounds
  • Dimensions: 25.7 x 16.6 x 3.8 inches

If your vehicle has 2 inches hitch, the Allen Deluxe is suitable when going for adventures. The rack is specially crafted to accommodate four bikes. For efficient use of the rack, the vehicle will also need class III or IV hitch. The arm is long enough, providing 22 inches for individual bike attachment. When you are not using the rack, it is easily foldable and possible to tilt it for accessibility of back door. Bikes are safe as tie-down system secures them.

4.Yakima RidgeBack Hitch Bike Rack

  • Brand: Yakima
  • Weight: 33.07 pounds
  • Dimensions: 44.09 x 16.14 x 12.2 inches

Unlike other bike racks that require tools for the assembling and hitching, the Yakima Ridgeback is self-mounting. It is equipped with speedknob that facilitates faster attachment. It can tilt downwards for the purpose of accessing the tailgate and still can fold flat to enhance storage. Bikes are held firmly to prevent any contact, by anti-sway cradle combined with zipstrips. It is ideal for the vehicle with 1.25’’-2’’receivers. This smartly crafted rack is all you need for secure and convenient bike carrying.

3.Allen Sports Deluxe 2-Bike Hitch Mount Rack

  • Brand: Allen Sports
  • Weight: 20 pounds
  • Dimensions: 24.3 x 13.8 x 3.7 inches

When going for vocational events do not leave your bikes behind, this Allen Deluxe 2 is the all you need, and your bikes are safe. It is crafted to house two bikes. Operating the rack is simple as assembling is a one minute job. After connecting with the vehicle, bikes are attached each individually. The carrying arm is capable of handling all kinds of bicycle frames. The tie-down cradle secures your bike from damages that can arise due to road impacts. Back side is accessible easily through tilting the rack and complete folding when not is operation.

2.Swagman XC Cross-Country 2-Bike Hitch Rack

  • Brand: Swagman
  • Weight: 28 pounds
  • Dimensions: 11 x 34 x 5 inches

If you have been encountering problems when transporting bikes, there is a solution now. Swagman XC2 is going to mount perfectly on a vehicle with 2 inches hitch while designed to carry two bicycles. It will not inconvenience you as you drive; it has an anti-wobble device. The most encouraging fact is you can take different sized bikes as it is possible to adjust ratchet arms. Your bikes are securely held and protected against abrasions that can cause scratches. It can support a maximum weight of 35 pounds per bike. The material of construction is steel.

1.Allen Sports Deluxe 3-Bike Hitch Rack

  • Brand: Allen Sports
  • Weight: 22.6 pounds
  • Dimensions: 16.6 x 4 x 25.9 inches

This hitch rack is among top best on the market today. It is designed to accommodate tree bicycles each attached independently. The carrying arm is 16 inches, offering enough space for each bike. With any vehicle having a hitch of 1.25i2 inches it can perfectly fit. Security of bikes I highly enhance through tie down which prevents bumps and keeps off thieves. It features hardened steel that is rust resistance while assembly takes just 5 minutes.

Trunk Racks

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).

Why do some racks that carry the same number of bikes differ so much in price? Key reasons:

  • The versatility to fit more vehicles.
  • Overall ease of use.
  • Anti-sway cradles (better at keeping bikes separated during transport).
  • Locking mechanisms.
  • Better materials (stainless steel rather than standard steel, for example)
  • Fold-away compactness for space-efficient storage.

Transports:

  • Bikes (2 or 3).

Pros:

  • Lower cost.
  • Lighter; easy portability.
  • Bikes attach with only a moderate amount of lifting.
  • Fairly simple to exchange between cars (if both cars share compatibility with the rack).
  • Is not permanently attached to your vehicle.
  • Handy for shorter trips or occasional use.

Cons:

  • Trunk access is blocked.
  • Rack’s stability relies on skillfulness of person attaching the straps.
  • Bikes may sway a little during transport and are thus prone to bumping into each other.
  • May be difficult to lock bikes to rack; rack itself can be detached from car by cutting straps.
  • May not attach correctly if trunk or tailgate includes a spoiler. You made need to contact a rack manufacturer directly if this is an issue with your vehicle.
  • Care must be taken while attaching hooks to avoid scratching car’s finish.
  • Bikes may partially obstruct taillights, rear license plate or driver’s view out of rear window.
  • Driver must remain aware of vehicle’s extended length while backing up or maneuvering in tight spaces.
  • Require some maintenance; during transit, occasionally check straps when stopped to ensure rack has not loosened or shifted.

Shop REI’s selection of trunk racks.

Hitch Racks

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.

Transports:

  • Bikes (2-5).
  • With the addition of adapters: Skis, snowboards.

Pros:

  • Some lower-cost options exist.
  • Generally simple installation (mounts just slide into receivers).
  • Bikes attach with only a moderate amount of lifting (unlike roof racks).
  • Bikes are positioned further from vehicle than with trunk hitches, making vehicle’s finish less vulnerable to contact with bikes.
  • Is not permanently attached to your vehicle.
  • Some fold flat against vehicle to provide clearance for parking or storage.
  • Locks are available for all hitch racks.

Cons:

  • Trunk or rear-door access may be blocked.
  • Swing-away models, which offer the easiest access, are also the most expensive.
  • Some 4- and 5-bike models can be heavy.
  • Bikes not transported in trays may sway a little during transport and thus are more prone to bumping into each other.
  • May be difficult to lock strapped-in bikes to mount.
  • Bikes may partially obstruct taillights, rear license plate or driver’s view out of rear window.
  • Driver must remain aware of vehicle’s extended length while backing up or maneuvering in tight spaces.
  • Women’s, kids’ or full-suspension bikes may require frame adapters. (Yakima offers an accessory called a Tube Top that may be helpful.)
  • May not fit perfectly with spare tires on vehicle.

Shop REI’s selection of hitch racks.

Spare-tire Racks

A few racks can be fitted on vehicles equipped with rear-mounted exterior spare tires, usually sports utility or off-road vehicles. On the plus side, such racks are comparatively light and compact and, when bikes are removed, they do not inhibit rear-door access. Chief negatives: They can carry only 2 bikes, and tire covers must be removed.

Ask an REI rack-fitting specialist any vehicle-specific questions.

Transports:

  • Bikes (2 max)

Pros:

  • Moderate cost.
  • Usually simple installation.
  • Bikes attach with only a moderate amount of lifting.
  • Vehicle’s finish less vulnerable to contact with bikes.
  • Does not have to remain permanently attached to vehicle (though many people leave spare-tire racks in place once installed).

Cons:

  • 2-bike limit.
  • Tire covers must be removed.
  • Bikes may sway a little during transport and are thus prone to bumping into each other.
  • May be difficult to lock strapped-in bikes to mount.
  • Bikes may obstruct taillights, rear license plate or driver’s view out of rear window.
  • Driver must remain aware of vehicle’s extended length while backing up or maneuvering in tight spaces.

Shop REI’s selection of spare-tire racks.

Truck Racks

A few specialized products—some specifically for bikes, others for boats and cargo boxes—are designed to transform the bed of a truck into an efficient toy-toter. For bikes, these systems involve internal rails or support bars that can be temporarily installed in a truck bed to anchor bikes in place.

Transports:

  • Bikes (2-4) or boats and cargo boxes. (Note: REI rarely carries truck racks that transport boats or cargo boxes.)

Pros:

  • Moderate cost.
  • Generally simple installation.
  • Bikes can be positioned with only a moderate amount of lifting.
  • When stabilized in the truck bed, vehicle’s finish less vulnerable to contact with bikes.
  • Is not permanently attached to your vehicle.
  • When transporting bikes, size of vehicle is not altered.
  • Increased weight limit.
  • Select models can be mounted above bed to provide clearance for storage below.
  • Bike mounts can be mounted to standard bed rails or to tool boxes in bed.

Cons:

  • Bikes dominate truck bed during transport.

Roof Racks

Roof racks are prized for their versatility. With the right accessories, a roof rack can be adapted to transport just about any outdoor toy in your inventory, from kayak to bike to cargo box. People appreciate their stability and their out-of-sight unobtrusiveness while driving. The key tradeoff: Needing to lift gear overhead in order to secure it.

Vehicles’ roofs may come equipped with some combination of factory-installed towers, siderails, crossbars or mounting points. Or, with a plain roof, you will need to build your own rack system. Either way, first check your vehicle’s manual or contact the manufacturer directly to determine the maximum allowable weight the roof can accommodate. (Yakima’s fit list can be used to determine the weight limit for vehicles.)

Transports:

  • Bikes.
  • Boats.
  • Skis.
  • Snowboards.
  • Paddleboards.
  • Cargo boxes.

Pros:

  • Generally moderate cost.
  • Versatility—rack adapts with the seasons.
  • Lockable mounts are available.
  • Bikes do not sway.
  • No visual obstructions to driver’s view.
  • Vehicle’s finish less vulnerable to contact with bikes.
  • Products that assist the loading process are available.

Cons:

  • Must reach overhead to secure gear on top of vehicle.
  • Wind resistance reduces aerodynamics of vehicle, likely impacting gas mileage.
  • Noise caused by wind resistance may be noticeable.
  • Driver must be cognizant of height restrictions (parking structures, garages, carports, toll booths, low-hanging branches) that are not a factor when roof is not loaded.
  • May be hard to load some items atop a tall vehicle.
  • Gear atop a tall vehicle could make such a vehicle unstable in high cross winds.
  • Permanently attached to vehicle.

Shop REI’s selection of roof racks.

Cargo Boxes

Cargo boxes are hard-sided transport systems ideal for skis, snowboards, paddles and large amounts of gear (excluding bikes or boats). People love ’em because they provide lots of bonus storage space for loose gear and keep all of it outside of a vehicle’s passenger cabin.

While the support system (such as siderails) for a box will likely remain permanently attached to your vehicle, boxes can be removed and installed with only moderate effort.

On the down side, cargo boxes may generate wind resistance and noise during travel. You must double-check that latches are correctly closed every time you shut the box. You need to ensure a box is a good fit for your vehicle and for the gear you intend to carry. Some SUV hatches, for instance, might bump into the back of a long box, and some boxes cannot contain skis that exceed 180cm.

Boxes have a wide price range. Prices vary due to the quality of materials and feature sets, such as the ability to open the box on either side of the vehicle. How do you know if a box is sized right for your needs? Likely you’ll have to check box capacity specifications individually. As of this writing, Thule offered a handy comparison chart that shows box dimensions and ski capacity.

Also available: cargo baskets (open-air containers where all contents must be lashed in place or covered by a cargo net) and soft-sided cargo bags. Accessories can be added to some baskets to making them more versatile.

As with roof racks, check your vehicle’s manual or contact the manufacturer directly to determine the maximum allowable weight the roof can accommodate.

Transports:

  • Skis.
  • Snowboards.
  • Loose gear.

Pros:

  • Enclosed, lockable safe zone for gear.
  • Keeps wet, dirty or smelly gear out of passenger cabin.
  • No visual obstructions to driver’s view.
  • Does not have to remain permanently attached to vehicle.
  • Can be used year round (camping in summer, skiing/snowboarding in winter).
  • Useful for family trips.
  • Great place to let kids affix stickers.

Cons:

  • Cost.
  • Wind resistance.
  • Noise.
  • Driver must be aware of height restrictions in garages, et al.
  • A box-equipped tall vehicle could become unstable in high cross-winds.

Shop REI’s selection of cargo boxes.

Car Rack Tips

  • Reminder: Before installing a roof system, first check your vehicle’s manual or contact the manufacturer directly to determine the maximum allowable weight the roof can accommodate. If installing a hitch mount, verify your vehicle’s towing capacity.
  • If you plan to load your rig with 5 or 6 adults and toss on a rack and/or hitch, check your vehicle’s payload limits. All that extra weight can burden suspension, tires, transmission and engine.
  • Here’s a common question: Which brand is better, Thule or Yakima? This may sound like a cop-out, but at REI we rate this a tossup. Both are well-established, high-integrity brands. How to decide? Try entering your vehicle information on both Dealer Fit Guides mentioned at the start of this article. Compare the options, features and prices that both offer. Ask friends or an REI salesperson for their views or experiences. Our belief is in nearly every instance you will be choosing between 2 high-quality equals.
  • Not every bike is a perfect fit on every trunk rack or hitch rack (or the cradles they use). It’s rare, but on occasion some bikes (particularly women’s or kids’ models) do not fit perfectly on some cradles. Test-fit your bike on your trunk or hitch rack before you plan a trip. A Yakima Tube Top may help some challenging fitting situations.
  • Extra space/size is usually not a bad thing. A rack built to carry 4 bikes is a nice luxury to have, space-wise, even if you’re just transporting 2 or 3 bikes.
  • On trunk and hitch racks, it’s often wise to secure the tires of 2 bikes with a strap or bungee cord to prevent sway-induced bumping. Securing a towel around contact-prone frame sections is another good precaution.
  • Own a tandem or other bike with an unusual shape? Roof racks usually do the best job of accommodating such situations.
  • Planning to transport kayaks? Buy loadbars that are one size longer than what is recommended in the fit guide. This way you can fit the boats more easily and can always cut the bars if they are a bit too long. Trailers are another option for transporting boats, though maneuverability becomes an issue to consider.
  • Does cargo box color matter? You’ll pay more for lighter tones. Theoretically they absorb a little less heat than black boxes when exposed to direct sunlight. Is it worth it? That’s up to you.

 

How to choose a bike rack

The first question is how far and how frequently do you need to carry bikes? Then what type of bikes, and how many bikes you need to carry. Which vehicle — or vehicles — do you have, and will you be taking a mixture of bikes? Are they heavy, do they have thru-axles, and will they be getting dirty?

The main types of bike rack are hitch-mounted, roof-mounted and strap-mounted

The next question is how do you want to carry the bikes? On top of the vehicle? Off the back? Does your vehicle have a receiver hitch? Bike’s front wheel on or off? Another thing to consider is if you want or need to carry other sporting equipment.

Bikes vary widely in cost, style, size and weight too, all of which should be factors when looking for a means of transporting them. You probably won’t want to risk carrying your expensive super bike on a rack that costs less than one of its ultra-light tires.

Also consider practicality: whether the rack will suit your needs now and in the future; ease of use — how easy it is to fit to the vehicle and load; security — whether it holds the bikes safely and locks the bikes and to the vehicle; and how much storage space it will take up when not in use.

Types of bike rack

The main types of bike rack are hitch-mounted, roof-mounted and strap-mounted (to your trunk/hatchback/tailgate). Plus there are options for truck beds and speciality racks for unique situations.

Hitch-mounted

Hitch-mounted bike racks connect to a 1 1/4in or 2in receiver hitch that is mounted to your vehicle. They’re usually more expensive than other bike rack styles, but the ease of loading and unloading bikes, and not having to lift bikes onto the vehicle’s roof, make them a popular option.

Most feature locks that lock the bike to the rack and the rack to the vehicle. Clever designs enable almost one-handed fitting, while hinged load sections provide access to the boot/tailgate of the vehicle without having to remove the bikes.

As a basic rule, the more features a rack has such as built-in locks, repair stands, lightweight materials, etc., the more it costs. You also need a hitch on your vehicle, which can be an extra expense if you don’t already have one, and some vehicles are only compatible with 1 1/4in hitches, which typically limit the rack to two bikes instead of four or five bikes as with a 2in hitch.

Hitch-mounted racks most commonly hold bikes by their wheels with an arm securing the front wheel (as shown above) or by hanging from their top tubes (image below).

Hitch-mounted racks can carry from one to five bikes
Hitch-mounted racks can carry from one to five bikes
  • Pros: Good ones are strong, and, as they’re behind the vehicle and out of the way of the main airflow, fuel consumption doesn’t suffer too much. Loading and unloading bikes is super simple. Security can be very good.
  • Cons: You need a receiver hitch. With the bikes off, reversing can yield some rather horrifying results if you forget about the rack.

For our Australian readers, if your hitch mount rack obscures the view of your number plate you’ll also need an illuminated accessory number plate. While the name varies from state to state, you’ll need an official road authorities plate and can be fined for a cardboard, photocopied or handwritten version. The cost of bike rack number plates varies depending on where you live but cost less that AU$50 and can be purchased from your local RTA office.

If you plan to drive in poor light conditions or at night, the bike rack plates will also need to be illuminated so they are visible from a distance of 20-metres, accessory light boards are available for most hitch mount racks. Finally, you may also be fined for driving around with an empty hitch rack on your car.

Roof-mounted

Most roof racks consist of feet that attach to your vehicle’s roof, and cross bars that the accessories attach to. Bike racks for roof racks vary between ones that require front wheel removal and racks that allow both wheels to remain on the bike.

Front wheel removal keeps the bike lower (great for tall SUVs), can be easier and lighter to load, and is the classic way of hauling bikes up top. Bike racks that keep both wheels on the bike are taller, generally cost more, and can be less stable. Either option likely uses integrated locks to lock your bike to the rack. And of course the rack is locked to the bars, and the bars are locked to your vehicle.

Roof-mounted bike racks require a factory roof rack or aftermarket base bar system
Roof-mounted bike racks require a factory roof rack or aftermarket base bar system

There are more simple roof-mounted bike racks available that don’t require a dedicated base bar set up, such as the Sea Sucker rack (shown below) that uses suction cups to attach to your car, and roof-mounted bike racks that attach to your vehicle’s factory installed roof rack.

Roof-mounted bike racks can also be simple and much less involved
Roof-mounted bike racks can also be simple and much less involved

While not permanent, roof racks generally stay on your vehicle all the time as they are hugely versatile. Being able to add and remove sport-specific accessories lets you carry bikes, kayaks, skis, SUP boards, cargo boxes, etc. Basically any big, bulky item is fair game for a roof rack, even ladders, lumber, and other non-sports items.

Roof racks can be used for a huge variety of gear-hauling duties
Roof racks can be used for a huge variety of gear-hauling duties
  • Pros: Super versatile for all kinds of gear hauling. One of the most secure racks available. Doesn’t hinder access to any doors/boot/hatch/tailgate.
  • Cons: Drive under something low if you’ve forgotten about your bikes and you could wreck all your bikes and damage your vehicle. You’re also adding aero-drag to your vehicle, so fuel consumption will likely increase.

Trunk-mounted

Trunk-mounted racks tend to be the least expensive option, and the least secure. The main thing holding them to your vehicle is a bunch of straps that hook around the lip of your vehicle’s trunk/hatchback/bumper.

Such racks are usually highly adjustable, so you can fit them to the rear of almost any vehicle. Rubber or foam ‘feet’ grip the vehicle, with the whole unit pulled taught and secured by the straps. This is the most affordable style of rack, but relies heavily on it being fitted properly and the hooks that hold the straps to the vehicle can sometimes damage paintwork.

Low-end trunk racks typically don’t have a way to lock your bike, or a way to be locked to your vehicle, so they’re also relatively easy to steal.

Trunk racks vary greatly in quality, spending a bit more is worth it
Trunk racks vary greatly in quality, spending a bit more is worth it
  • Pros: Easy to fit and usually the least expensive option. Easy to remove, small and fold for easy storage.
  • Cons: Least secure way to haul bikes. If you don’t fit it right you can lose the lot when driving, and the bikes are easy to steal.

Speciality racks

Companies make bike racks for virtually every type of vehicle. From pickup truck beds to SUVs with a spare tire on the back door, there’s a way to safely and conveniently carry your bike.

Almost every vehicle can be fitted with a bike rack
Almost every vehicle can be fitted with a bike rack

One solution you’ve probably seen on trucks at the local trailhead is the tailgate pad. Fancy versions have hook and loop tie downs to keep bikes separated and secure, while homemade versions, such as old blankets or a couple of bike boxes folded over, are quite a bit less sophisticated.

Tailgate pads are simple and very popular with mountain biking truck owners
Tailgate pads are simple and very popular with mountain biking truck owners

Just like the bike you ride, lots of thought and engineering have gone into the racks designed to carry your bikes on your vehicle. So figure out what your needs are and what style best suits your lifestyle, and transport your bikes easier and faster than ever.

 

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