Most vehicles these days will have a tough time trying to accommodate a bike without an aftermarket accessory. Thankfully, there are now plenty of bike racks available at a wide range of prices so you can easily transport your bike with your vehicle. From single bike carriers to racks that hold multiple bikes, options are plentiful if you’re needing a solution. Before we dig into some recommended bike racks however, it’s worth learning about the three main types you’ll find in the marketplace.

Trunk-mounted racks

If you own a sedan or compact car, trunk-mounted racks are probably on the top of your shopping list. Designed to be compact, these racks are the most popular choices for conventional vehicles, although they’ll limit how easily you an access your trunk.

Roof racks

If you need an accessible trunk, roof racks are more ideal. Roof racks are popular for compact cars, such as sedans and hatchbacks, and are often recommended for vehicles with a low center of gravity. That’s because they typically increase wind resistance, resulting in increased fuel consumption.

Hitch-mounted racks

For SUV and truck owners, hitch-mounted racks are most ideal. These racks sit your bike further away from your vehicle, reducing the chance of possible scratches to your car. But like trunk-mounted racks, they’ll limit access to the trunk while they’re mounted. Some racks however, feature a tilt-away design that makes it more convenient to use, allowing you to access your trunk without a whole lot of work.

We’ll now take a look at the top 10 bike racks currently available, with a mix across the three types. For more information about bike racks, refer to our table of contents.

1. Editor's Pick: Allen Sports Deluxe Hitch-Mounted Bike Rack

allen sports deluxe locking quick release 4-bike carrier

Our Editor’s Pick comes from Allen Sports, with its Deluxe Hitch-Mounted Bike Rack. Relatively affordable, this bike rack has a wide lineup to accommodate up to 5 bikes and different sized hitches. For 2- and 3-bike options, this rack will work with 1.25″ and 2″ hitches, while 4- and 5-bike racks are compatible with 2″ hitches only.

Allen Sports’ Deluxe Hitch-Mounted Bike Rack uses a quick install hitch that secure and tightens the rack inside the receiver hitch and includes two keys. The arms also fold out of the way when they’re not being used, and the rack itself can be tilted back when necessary. Individual tie-downs are used to secure and protect the bikes.

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Minor assembly is required with this product, which can have up to a 175 lb weight capacity, depending on which product you need. Since the main mast can be tilted away, you can still access your trunk with the rack installed. Each rack comes with a black powdercoated finish and can be used with a wide range of bicycle frame designs.

2. Best for Trunk Mount: Allen Sports Deluxe Trunk-Mounted Bike Rack

allen sports deluxe trunk mount 3-bike carrier

If you’re shopping for a trunk-mounted option, we also recommend a product from Allen Sports. The company’s Deluxe Truck-Mounted Bike Rack is extremely affordable and is available to carry 2, 3, or 4 bikes. Sporting a patented design, this bike rack is designed to fit sedans, hatchbacks, minivans, and SUVs, although it’s recommended to check to make sure it fits your specific vehicle.

Using individual tie-downs to secure and protect bicycles, this rack also has side straps for increased lateral stability. A padded lower frame helps keep your bikes away from the vehicle. It uses a narrow set of carrying arms to fit a wide range of bike sizes and styles and is backed by Allen’s lifetime warranty.

This product comes fully assembled, so you can set it up on your vehicle and get going within minutes.

3. Best for Roof Mount: Yakima Frontloader Rooftop Bike Rack

yakima frontloader rooftop bike rack

When it comes to roof mounts, our recommended option comes from none other than Yakima. A well-known brand among cyclists, the company’s FrontLoader Rooftop Bike Rack is a simple, yet elegant option, to getting a bike on your car’s roof. This product will fit Yakima round, square, factory, and aerodynamic crossbars right out of the box and comes fully assembled for easy and quick installation.

Designed to accommodate a single bike, it promises to deliver zero contact with the bike frame and fits 20″ to 29″ wheels, mountain, and road bike wheels.

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This is a versatile and aerodynamic roof mount that can carry your entire bike, so you don’t have to remove the wheels. No tools or assembly is required, so long as you already have crossbars installed. This product is compatible with SKS Locks, which are sold separately.

4. Saris Bones 3-Bike Trunk Mount Rack (801)

saris bones 3-bike trunk rack

Another simple, trunk-mounted solution is the Saris Bones 3-Bike Trunk Mount, which is available in a variety of colors. Able to accommodate 3 bikes up to 35 lbs each, this mount uses an arc-based design so that it can fit over most spoilers. This design also allows each bike to set on a different level, helping space them apart from one another.

This product features injection-molded arms and legs, making it one of the strongest on the market. Helping protect the paint on your vehicle are vinyl-coated hooks and articulated rubber feet, while spring buckle straps and ratcheting anti-sway straps keeps everything nice and secure. Weighing just 11 lbs, this is also one of the lightest trunk-mounted bike racks you can buy. Best of all, it comes with a limited lifetime warranty.

5. Hollywood Racks HR1400 Sport Rider SE4

hollywood racks hr1400 sport rider se 4 bike rack

Although it’s one of the most expensive options, the Hollywood Racks HR1400 Sport Rider SE is a heavy-duty platform-style hitch rack that can accommodate 4 bikes up to 50 lbs each. This rack features a patented, “No Wobble/No Tools” hitch tightening system, along with a keyed-alike locking hitch pin with 8′ security cable. It will fit most types of bikes, including mountain, road, cruisers, ladies frames, and kids bikes.

With a fat tire kit, this rack can carry bikes with tires up to 5″ wide. The rack can also be modified to carry an adult trike and an adult bike with a trike adapter kit. For added versatility, this rack can also take advantage of an available cargo basket that plugs into the base rack, allowing owners to carry 2 bikes and up to 100 lbs of gear.

The Sport Rider SE4 only works on 2″ hitches and should not be used with a 1-1/4″ to 2″ hitch adapter. It can also fold flat against the vehicle when it’s not being used and tilts down for easy access to the trunk. Like all products from Hollywood Racks, this bike rack is built with high-strength steel, aircraft-quality fasteners, and has a thick powdercoat finish to hold up against the elements.

6. CyclingDeal Bike Car Roof Carrier Rack with Lock

cyclingdeal bike rack

Another affordable roof rack option comes from CyclingDeal. It’s a fairly basic and straight forward roof rack that fits 1 bike and comes with a lock to keep your bike nice and secure. Manufactured from quality steel with a powdercoat finish, this rack will fit a bike without having to remove the front wheel and includes tie down straps to secure the bike to the rack.

Designed to fit most bicycles, it’s worth noting this product is manufactured in Taiwan and only comes with a 1-year warranty. Still, it’s an extremely affordable option for those looking for a simple to install and use bike rack.

7. Yakima Products Hold-Up Tray-Style Bike Rack

yakima holdup tray-style bike rack

Another Yakima product landing on our list is the Hold Up, a tray-style bike rack. Designed to be a fast and easy way to load up your bikes, this product boasts a strengthened arm pivot and side-to-side adjustability to reduce the chance of bike-to-bike interference. This product has no contact with the bike frame and can accommodate carbon road bikes, as well as disc brakes, thru axles, and full suspension bikes.

The standard Hold Up can carry 2 bikes, but it can be expanded to accommodate 4 bikes so long as you have a 2″ hitch. Otherwise, the standard unit is compatible with 1.25″ hitches. This rack will work with nearly any tire and includes the SKS Cable Lock System so you can lock the rock and the bikes.

This product weighs 49 lbs and has a maximum load capacity of 60 lbs maximum per bike.

8. Critical Cycles / Retrospec Lenox Hitch Mount Bike Rack

critical cycles lenox hitch mount rack

The Critical Cycles / Retrospec Lenox Hitch Mount is an affordable bike rack that can accommodate 2, 3, or 4 bikes. This hitch mount rack will fit 2″ hitches, but the vehicle must have either a Class III or Class IV hitch. The spacing for the carrying arms on this rack is designed to accommodate a variety of frame styles and sizes, while tie down cradles and straps keeps your bikes nice and secure when they’re being transported.

This rack folds easily for storage when it’s not being used, and features an overall compact design. The Lenox also includes a tilting main mast, allowing convenient access to the liftgate without having to remove the entire rack. This product has a weight limit up to 140 lbs (for 4 bikes) and minor assembly is required.

9. Tyger Auto Deluxe

tyger auto deluxe 3-bike trunk mount rack

The Tyger Auto Deluxe is a trunk-mount option and is available for either 2 or 3 bikes. This rack comes fully assembled and will fit most sedans, hatchbacks, minivans, and SUVs, but isn’t recommended for vehicles with spoilers. A padded lower frame helps keep bikes away from your vehicle, while individual soft cradles are designed to protect your bike frame while keeping them secure to the rack. The arms are foldable when the rack isn’t being used, and a safety strap is included.

To help prevent against the elements and rusting, the Tyger Auto Deluxe rack has an OE standard black e-coating, while the manufacturer itself offers a no hassle limited lifetime warranty.

10. Thule T2 Pro XT 2 Bike Rack

thule t2 pro-xt 2 bike rack

If you’re shopping for a premium bike rack, you may want to take a look at Thule’s lineup of products. The company has plenty of offerings, but they tend to be much more expensive than many of the products on our list. But we’d be negligent if we didn’t include at least one Thule product, given its expertise in the industry.

The Theul T2 Pro XT is a premium platform hitch bike rack, designed to offer maximum strength, security, and user friendliness. It fits 1-1/4″ and 2″ receivers and accommodates up to 2 bikes. Included with each package are receiver locks and bike locks, which holds value if you were to purchase them separately with another rack.

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The compact rack folds up when it’s not being used and can tilt down for access to the rear of the vehicle. It boasts a tool-free AutoAttach knob, which makes it easier to install or remove than other comparable products. The HitchSwitch lever tilts the rack up and down easily, while a frame-free ratcheting arm secure your bikes quickly without frame contacts. It can fit 20″ to 29″ wheels and up to 5″ tires.

This rack also offers side-to-side adjustability to minimize interference, while the integrated 24″ cable lock secures the bike to the rack. It also retracts into the ratcheting arm when it’s not being used. With the Thule T2 Pro XT add-on, which is sold separately and only compatible with 2″ receivers, owners can make this rack accommodate up to 4 bikes.

Everything You Need to Know About Bike Racks

Bike Racks Everything You Need to Know

Photo credit: Alexei Zatevakhin via Shutterstock

In the simplest sense, a bike rack is an accessory that is attacked to your vehicle solely for the purpose of transporting a bicycle. Also known as bike carriers, a bike rack can be mounted on all sizes of vehicles, from small to large. As we mentioned before, there are three main types of bike racks: roof, trunk mounted, and hitch mounted.

Most bikes can be mounted on any of these types of racks, but we’ll go further into detail on what to look for when shopping for a bike rack. Typically, these racks clamp both wheels of the bike, but depending on the design, some racks will clamp the wheels, the front dropouts, or even the top bar of the frame.

Naturally, not all bikes are the same, so there are a few things you need to consider when shopping for the right bike rack. For example, children’s bikes with smaller wheels likely won’t fit on most racks. If you’re also looking to haul 2 or more bikes, or even a recumbent bike, you’ll need a different type of rack.

What do I look for in a bike rack?

When shopping for a bike rack, there are a few things you need to consider based on your bike and vehicle type. Here are some general questions you should be asking during your shopping experience:

How often do you plan on using it?

If you’re just a casual enthusiast that needs a bike rack once a week, then you may not need something extremely expensive and versatile. If you’re planning to use the rack multiple times per week however, make sure to invest into a product that has a more solid construction.

How many bikes do you need to transport?

There are several types of bike racks, and typically hitch-mounted options are the best if you need to transport more than 2 bikes. You’ll find most roof options will accommodate a single bike, while some trunk-mounted carriers will carry 2 or 3. If you’re needing to carry 4 or even 5 bikes however, best to shop for a hitch-mounted rack.

Do you park your vehicle in a garage?

Adding a bike rack to your vehicle will increase its overall length, so if you park in a garage every night, you’ll want to make sure it can accommodate the entire vehicle with the bike rack installed.

If you park your car outside, how safe is the area?

Leaving a bike on your rack at night while parking your car outside may not be the safest thing to do. But if you have no other option, you’ll want to make sure your bike rack comes with a safety lock of some sort to deter thieves.

Does your vehicle have a rear-mounted spare tire?

While it isn’t common on most modern vehicles, some do come equipped from the factory with a rear-mounted spare tire. Keep that in mind as it could interfere with hitch-mounted bike racks.

How heavy is the rack you’re looking at?

Depending on how many bikes you need to transport, you’ll want to keep in mind how heavy the rack is. The heavier the rack, the more difficult it will be to remove it from your vehicle. At the same time, you’ll want one a rack that is sturdy and can accommodate all the bikes you plan on transporting.

This isn’t as big of a deal if you don’t plan on removing your rack frequently, but it’s something to consider, even during the assembly and installation process.

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Do you own a specialized bike?

If your bike is on the heavier side, you may not want to use a roof rack to carry it, since it could require a lot of effort to strap it to the roof of your car. Typically, tray-style racks are recommended for heavier bikes.

Trunk-mounted or hitch-mounted bike racks?

While roof racks may seem most convenient, especially if your vehicle came from the factory with cross bars, they may not be the most practical. Height clearance becomes an issue when carrying a bike on your roof, and getting your bike onto the roof of your car may not always be easy. If you’ve managed to rule out a roof-mounted bike rack, you’re likely left with either a truck- or hitch-mounted option. So how do you choose?

An easy answer to this question is how often you plan on using our bike rack. If you’re a casual enthusiast, a trunk-mounted rack may be your better bet, since they’re easier to install, uninstall, and use. But if you plan on frequently transporting bikes around town, there’s a good chance you’re better off with a hitch-mounted bike rack.

Trunk-Mounted Bike Racks

Bike Rack

Credit: HiddenCatch via Shutterstock

Generally, trunk-mounted bike racks are quicker and easier to install and can be used on multiple cars, since you don’t need a hitch carrier. Before you decide on a product, make sure it’s compatible with your vehicle. Not surprisingly, trunk-mounted racks aren’t as sturdy as a hitch-mounted rack, so they’re a better option if you’re only needing to transport 1 or 2 bikes at most. These racks tend to be more affordable and do come with safety straps that are used to secure the rack to the vehicle.

Keep in mind however, depending on how the rack is designed and the components it uses, they have a higher chance of coming in contact with your vehicle and potentially scratching the paint. You’ll also need to pay closer attention when loading and unloading your bike. Here are the main advantages and disadvantages to trunk-mounted racks:

Best Affordable Bike Racks

Advantages

  • Versatile since they can fit many different types of vehicles
  • Generally lighter, so they’re easier to lift and install
  • Affordable compared to most hitch-mounted racks
  • Compact so they can even be stored in the trunk when not in use
  • Most trunk-mounted racks do not require tools for installation
  • Ideal for the casual user

Disadvantages

  • Closer proximity to the vehicle means a higher chance of damaging the paint or even the bike
  • Straps could become loose over time
  • Potentially obstructs your rear view
  • Could interfere with trunk access, especially when a bike is mounted
  • Minimal theft protection
  • Not ideal for transporting multiple bikes, since they could come in contact with one another
  • Not designed for specialty bikes
  • Some trunk-mounted racks block the rear license plate or tail lights

Hitch-Mounted Bike Racks

Hitch Mounted bike Rack

If your vehicle can accommodate a hitch-mounted rack, they are the widely considered the sturdiest option. Installed on a hitch or receiver, these racks are often found on crossovers and SUVs that come from the factory with a hitch or receiver. But hitches can be mounted on some cars, so long as it can accommodate the additional weight. One of the biggest benefits of hitch-mounted bike racks is that they keep the bikes away from the vehicle, preventing possible scratches to the car’s paint.

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When shopping for a hitch-mounted rack, you’ll want to make sure it’s compatible with the hitch or receiver on your vehicle. Generally, you’ll need a 2″ hitch if you plan on transporting multiple bikes, while a 1.25″ hitch will be adequate for 1 or 2 bikes. Make sure your vehicle is equipped with the correct Class hitch for the bike rack you’re shopping for.

Keep in mind that hitch-mounted racks will add to your vehicle’s overall length, so parking may become an issue. Some racks are foldable and can be tilted, allowing you access to rear cargo.

Advantages

  • Installation isn’t too difficult, so long as you already have a hitch
  • More variety of safety/anti-theft options
  • Different style racks are available
  • Easier to load/unload a bike with tray-style racks
  • Keeps bikes further away from the vehicle
  • Can easily hold multiple bikes
  • Some options can be folded/tilted

Disadvantages

  • These racks tend to be heavier
  • Increased overall length of the vehicle may make it more difficult to park
  • Not all vehicles come with a hitch
  • Adding a hitch requires additional cost and installation
  • Rear visibility could be affected
  • Can restrict access to rear cargo area
  • Loaded bikes could block rear license plate/tail lights

How do I install a trunk-mounted bike rack?

When it comes to installing any type of bike rack, we highly recommend referring to the included instruction manual. But here are some general steps to install either a trunk- or hitch-mounted bike rack.

  1. Ensure your car is clean and car of debris
  2. Generally most racks will come with 6 straps, which are used to secure the bike rack to the vehicle
  3. Begin by placing the bottom part of the rack on the rear bumper, and the upper part of the rack either on the trunk or rear window, depending on your vehicle
  4. Install and secure the top straps first by pulling the traps into a tight position
  5. Install and secure the side straps, ensuring every strap is pulled into position once your rack is installed
  6. Check and re-tighten the straps as necessary from time to time

How do I install a hitch-mounted rack?

Although they may seem complicated, installing a hitch-mounted rack is a fairly straightforward affair. Again, it’s highly recommended to follow the supplied instructions, as some racks will be different to install compared to other products.

  1. Verify that the rack will fit your hitch or receiver
  2. Use any supplied hardware to mount the bike rack to your hitch or receiver
  3. There is likely a securing bolt or pin that will be installed to lock the rack into place
  4. Ensure the rack is tightly fitted so that it’s sturdy and doesn’t wobble
  5. Install any locking accessories or mechanisms that may have come with your rack
  6. Check for any clearance issues, and test the rack if it folds or tilts

What About Roof Racks?

bike roof rack

But what if you have decided to rule out trunk- and hitch-mounted bike racks and want to get a roof rack? If your vehicle came standard with crossbars, installing one of these types of racks is much easier. Some roof-mounted racks will require you to remove the front wheel of your bike, while most will be able to accommodate your entire bike—depending on its overall size and tire size. If you haven’t worried about having to lift your back onto the roof of your car, these racks are generally affordable and easy to use.

Advantages

  • Roof racks generally can be adjusted for specialized bikes
  • Can be used for other outdoor activities, such as skiing
  • Added versatility if you want to use a cargo carrier
  • Can easily be installed at home

Disadvantages

  • Installation process may be more time consuming than trunk- or hitch-mounted racks
  • Not all vehicles come with crossbars from the factory
  • Increased height may make it difficult to park in some garages
  • Heavy bikes are cumbersome to lift and load onto the rack
  • Increased wind resistance and noise
  • Increased fuel consumption due to aerodynamics

How do I install a roof rack?

bike roof rack

If your vehicle didn’t come with crossbars, you’ll have to start by installing crossbars onto your vehicle. If your car does have crossbars however, installing a roof rack is generally fairly simple.

  1. Typical roof racks will have four installation points: two at the front, two at the rear
  2. Keep in mind each vehicle is different and the distance between the front and rear installation points can vary
  3. Clean the area where you plan to mount the rack, you can also install any sort of paint protectant film if you like
  4. Your rack likely came with rubber pads that will need to be installed on the feet of the crossbars
  5. Once you mount the rack onto the crossbars, tighten all four clamps

Do I keep on the bike rack when I'm not using it?

This question really comes down to personal preference and how often you plan on needing your bike rack. Most bike racks can be left on your vehicle when not being used, so long as they’re not interfering with your day-to-day activities, such as parking or accessing your trunk or rear cargo area. Roof racks however, need a bit more attention, especially if you keep your bike loaded. This affects your vehicle’s aerodynamics and will affect your gas mileage. Increased height also affects clearance when entering parking garages or other areas.

If you don’t plan on using your bike rack for an extended period of time, it may be worth uninstalling if it interferes with your daily driving experience. Roof racks can generally be left on your vehicle, so long as you don’t have a bike loaded all the time.


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