LAST UPDATED: July 31, 2021

The Best Bike Racks For Cars (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021

Best Choice allen sports Allen Sports Deluxe Hitch Mounted Bike Rack
Premium Pick thule Thule T2 Pro XT2 Bike Rack
Best Value MaxxHaul 70210 Hitch Mount 4-Bike Rack HD Series Ecotric Heavy Duty 2 Bike Bicycle Hitch Mount Carrier

Whether you like tearing up the asphalt on a sleek road bike, hitting the trails on a rugged MTB, or just leisurely taking in the sights, bike riding can be an extremely fun, rewarding, and healthy hobby.

A great way to take your hobby to the next level is to get your car involved. While that may sound a little strange, cars and bikes can have a positive partnership than many people assume — we’re thinking more PB & J rather than Tom and Jerry. A car opens up the horizons for your bike-riding hobby, allowing you to ride in new, fun locations.

To do that you need a bike rack, and luckily there is a wide range on the market. This means no matter your vehicle size or bike type, there is a car bike rack out there for you.

In this guide, we take a look at some of the best bike racks for cars and highlight some of the features you should keep in mind when selecting your new bike carrier.

The Best Bike Racks For Cars

Allen Sports have been designing and making superb Bike racks for over 50 years, ever since Dick Allen founded the company in his garage. The first rack he designed was made of electrical conduit material and old fire hose, but today thankfully they’ve moved on to more modern materials.

This particular rack requires a 2-inch hitch, so it’s likely better-suited for SUV drivers. It’s simply brimming with excellent design features, but the number one most impressive element about it has to be the ease of use. It slots onto your trailer hitch (you need a 2-inch hitch, though that’s pretty standard), you stand the device upright and secure it with a simple but sturdy bolt and… that’s about it, it’s ready to go.

Key Features
  • No Wobble Hitch Installation
  • Very Easy Install
  • Solid & Secure
  • Excellent Value
Specification
  • Brand Allen Sports
  • Model 542RR
  • Weight 22.8 lbs

Another brand with an outstanding pedigree, a Thule Bike Rack has long been recognized as a solid investment by cycling enthusiasts. Notice the use of the word “Investment” there, however – we haven’t used it by accident.

The product carries an eye-watering price tag, that, depending on the options and size you go for will not give you much (if any) change from 500 bucks. That easily makes it the most expensive car bike rack on the list today.

Key Features
  • Tool Free Attachment
  • Rack Tilts for Easy Trunk Access
  • Easy to Load
  • Folds up When Not in Use
  • Built-in Security Lock
Specification
  • Brand Thule
  • Model 9034XTS
  • Weight 63.6 lbs

The Ecotric Heavy Duty 2 Bike Bicycle Hitch Mount Carrier is compatible with cars, trucks, SUVs, and minivans with two-inch hitch receivers. It holds two bicycles and measures 59 by 23.5 by 23.5 inches. The carrier is constructed out of steel, which firmly holds your bikes in place.

This carrier is easy to assemble and includes several straps that securely hold the bikes. It’s designed to keep the bikes 12-inches away from the vehicle to prevent scratches and other types of damage. We like that the rack works with most types of bicycle frames, even those with alternative and large tubes. Users report that it is well built, simple to install, and the straps prevent the bike from bouncing when you drive over bumpy roads. It’s also a great value overall.

Key Features
  • Carries Two Bikes
  • Hitch-Mount Style
  • Keeps Bikes One-Foot Away from Vehicle
Specification
  • Brand Ecotric
  • Model N/A
  • Weight N/A

Saris are one of the premium manufactures of bicycle racks for cars on the market today, and it’s no surprise that has found their way onto our list. They are renowned for cutting edge design when it comes to racks, and this trunk mounted model lives up to the brand’s pedigree.

Easy to install, adjust and load this bike rack is designed with ease of use as one of its most important features. A largely plastic construction keeps weight low (it weighs barely 10 pounds total), whilst a clever injection molded construction keeps the rack rigid and strong – much stronger than you would expect from a plastic rack.

Key Features
  • Injection Molded Construction for High Strength
  • Made of 100% Recycled Material
  • Rust Proof
  • Easy to Install & Adjust
Specification
  • Brand Saris
  • Model 805BL
  • Weight 10.2 lbs

If you liked the look of the Thule Bike Carrier we looked at above but winced at the price tag, then this bike rack from Swagman could be worth a look. It is essentially a far, far simpler version, with a far, far lower price tag.

So on the one hand, this model is missing a lot of the high-end features that you will find on the model above. There is no hinge to allow for trunk access; it does not fold up on itself for ease of storage. A locking cable is available to securely lock down your bikes – but it is sold separately.

Key Features
  • Very Simple To Use
  • Universal Hitch Mount (1-1/4 and 2 Inch)
  • Easily Adjustable Ratchet Arms
  • 2 Bike Capacity, 35 Pounds Max per Bike
Specification
  • Brand Swagman Bicycle Carrier
  • Model 64650
  • Weight 29.3 lbs

Another hitch mounted style of a car-bike rack; this model is slightly different from the previous two models we looked at above from Thule and Swagman. Instead of being a base mounted (i.e. via the bike wheels) carrying rack, this model has an extended arm to which the bike tubes are attached.

It does share some characteristics with the two models above, primarily the ease of installing the rack onto your vehicle. This is achieved with a very simple SpeedKnob style of attaching point that easily inserts into either a 1-1/4 or 2-inch hitch.

Key Features
  • Tool-Free, Easy Installation
  • Rack Tilts for Trunk Access
  • Bikes Secured with ZipStrips
  • Anti-Sway Cradles
Specification
  • Brand Yakima
  • Model 8002458
  • Weight 45.9 lbs

Our second product from Allen Sports to make the list, and this is a remarkably flexible design of bicycle rack. Whilst the last few models we’ve looked at on the list are built for attachment to hitch bars, this model is designed for attaching to vehicles without a hitch.

On top of that, it is a very clever design that makes it suitable for a wide range of vehicles including everything from Sedans and Hatchbacks up to Minivan sized vehicles. This is even a great bike rack for SUV sized vehicles.

Key Features
  • Suitable for Sedans, Hatchbacks, Minivans and SUV’s
  • Padded Lower Frame to Keep Bikes Away from Vehicle Body
  • Delivered Fully Assembled
  • Easy to Install
Specification
  • Brand Allen Sports
  • Model 102DN
  • Weight 8.9 lbs

The Thule Passage Trunk Mount Carrier can carry two bikes weighing a combined 105 pounds, and it is also available in a three-bike carrier option. The rack features soft rubber cradles that securely hold the frames and protect them from damage as well as stay-put, anti-sway cages that minimize contact between bikes as well as between the bikes and the vehicle.

Another desirable feature are the soft cushioned leg pads that protect your car’s trunk and hatch. There is also a patented FitDial to ensure that the rack fits properly on your vehicle, six straps for securing the racks to your car, and narrow cradle arms that can accommodate a variety of bike frames. The rack’s arms also fold down to 22 by 17 by 24 inches when not in use, making it a compact option for storage. Users report that it’s easy to install, and it works well overall as long as you check the fit guide on the Thule website.

Key Features
  • Fits on the Trunk of Your Vehicle
  • Two Bike Capacity
  • Soft Rubber Cradles
  • Six Straps for Security
  • Anti-Sway Cradles
Specification
  • Brand Thule
  • Model 910XT
  • Weight 9.7 lbs

On the one hand, this is something of a basic model, and it certainly does not come with the name brand recognition of some of the other manufacturers on our list like Thule or Yakima.

On the other hand, though, that does mean that the price tag on this model is quite a bit lower than you would see on the big boy’s products. Plus, just because the price is lower, doesn’t mean we’re missing a whole lot of features.

Key Features
  • Tilt Down Feature
  • Foldable Arms
  • Fits Most Hitch Receivers
  • Soft Lining on Cradle & Arms
  • Free Bike Lock!
Specification
  • Brand Tyger Auto
  • Model TG-RK4B102B
  • Weight 28.2 lbs

The MaxxHaul 70210 Hitch Mount 4-Bike Rack HD Series takes just a few minutes to install on sedans, vans, SUVs, and pickup trucks with two-inch receiver hitches. The rack has adjustable hook and loop straps and holds up to four bicycles. It’s made of steel that is powder coated for corrosion and rust-resistance. It also features a swing-down element, so you can access the rear of your vehicle when it’s installed.

The support arms securely hold bicycles in place. Users report that it is very steady over rough roads and stays solidly in place even at high speeds with very little bouncing. The rack is fairly heavy duty, folds up for storage, and works well overall. It’s also a bit less expensive than some competing brands, which makes it even more appealing.

Key Features
  • Hitch Mount Bike Carrier
  • Fits up to Four Bikes
  • Rust-resistant Steel Construction
  • Permits Access to Rear of Vehicle
Specification
  • Brand MaxxHaul
  • Model 70210
  • Weight 25 lbs

Best Car Bike Racks Buying Guide & FAQ

In our buying guide, we’ll go through some of the features to look out for when selecting your model of the bike rack. As you will have seen, there is quite a bit of variety in the styles of the rack on the market today — hitch mounted, strap mounted and upright style designs have all found a place on our list.

We’ll take a look at the pros and cons of each design and help you to decide which is best for your needs.

Related Post: Best Indoor Bike Racks

Why You Need a Bike Rack for Your Car

You’ll only need a bike rack if you already think you need one. No, you haven’t just opened a fortune cookie, what we mean is that only you will truly know if you need a bike rack or not — and if you’ve opened up this article to look for one, then you probably need one.

A bike rack is going to open up the world to your biking hobby. Instead of being restricted to your local area, you can now head off for a two-wheeled adventure anywhere you can drive to — i.e. anywhere in the country!

bike racks on the car

If the thought of bringing your bike or bikes somewhere further away appeals to you, buy a bike rack. If you would like to bring your two-wheeled stead on the next family camping trip or if you are thinking of getting into bike racing then buy a rack.

You will know better than anyone if you can really benefit from picking up one of these extremely useful vehicle additions.

Key Features to Consider When Buying Bike Racks for Cars

Generally speaking, you are going to see an increase in costs with the more features that you want on your rack. Here are some of the key features to keep an eye out for, you’ll find that some will be available on most models, whilst the Thule, as the truly premium item, comes closest to packing them all into one feature-heavy bike rack — albeit with that premium price tag we mentioned!

Locking Cables

These are essentially built-in security devices that wrap a sturdy chain around your bike and lock it into place. This has the obvious advantage of protecting your bike from any opportunistic thieves who could look to steal it straight off the rack. Bear in mind that typically you’re only going to see this feature included as standard on the more premium models. Some of the products we looked at above did have a locking cable as an option to buy separately, so check if the rack comes pre-equipped if you want a cable.

Strong Securing Points

The bike has to be attached to the rack somehow, and this can be one of the most important parts of the design. The securing points have to combine the strength to hold your bike whilst also being gentle enough to not damage the frame, wheels, or paintwork. Don’t underestimate the holding power required either. As your vehicle barrels down the freeway, there can be quite a bit of wind buffeting the bike. It needs to be held securely so you don’t glance into the mirror to see your beloved two-wheel steed flying off the back of the car!

Padded Securing Points

If you are choosing a rack that holds the bike via the top tube, you should then also keep an eye out for padding on the securing points. This can really help to protect your paintwork when you are locking the bike into place.

Anti-Sway Cages

There are a few different ways that racks can be designed to minimize sway, but an anti-sway cage is the most widely used. In particular, you’ll find these on rack designs that hold the top tube, but rear-mounted designs that lock the wheels can also benefit from built-in anti-sway tech. In essence, it’s just going to help to keep the bike stable in the rack as you drive. This has the dual benefit of not allowing the bikes to affect vehicle handling (especially at highway speeds) and also stops the bikes from knocking into each other.

Car Attachment Points

Just as the rack must have a method of attaching to your bike, it has to attach to the car. How it does this will depend on the style of rack that has been used (more on that in a moment). Generally speaking though, you want all the points the rack touches your car to be ideally padded, or at the very least tipped or coated in plastic. This is going to protect your car paintwork from damage.

Tray Racks Versus Hanging Racks

Depending on what kind of bikes you’d like to transport, you will want to consider whether a tray rack or a hanging rack is best for you. The tray-style rack is better for securing fat bike frames, such as mountain bikes because it supports the weight of the bikes via the tray. Hanging racks, on the other hand, secure the bike to the rack via a cable lock over the top of the bike’s frame.

Types of Car Bike Racks

Nothing can ever be simple, can it? All you want to do is carry your bike on your car, and now there are all these features and styles to pick through.

Thankfully, the three main styles of bike carriers out there are all quite different, so there are pretty wide pros and cons between each style – that should at least make it easier to select the right style of the carrier for you.

Hitch Mounted Rack

Hitch racks are connected up to the receiver hitch at the back of the vehicle. They tend to be very strong and stable, and often pack in more features than you may find on the other styles. The main benefit of these types is that they are lower and easier to load than the roof-mounted versions. They also largely keep the bike out of the vehicle airflow, helping minimize the impact on your fuel consumption. The negative is they can affect your rearview when driving, they can make trunk access difficult or even impossible and you must remember you have the rack mounted when you are reversing!

Strap Mounted Rack

Designed primarily for vehicles without a hitch receiver. The plus points for this type is that they are typically easier to mount than the other styles, making them perfect for occasional use as you can get them on and off quickly. They are also typically cheaper than the other styles of the rack. On the negative side, as they lack a truly solid attaching point they are not as secure, and you must ensure that you attach them properly before loading up the bikes.

Upright Roof Rack

As the name suggests, this type of rack will hold the bike upright. This is a very safe and secure method of transporting a bike. On the downside, a roof rack itself can have a negative impact on fuel performance though you can offset that a lot by selecting the best roof rack. It can also be harder to load these types of racks, especially with taller cars or heavier bikes. Speaking of taller cars by the way, if you do have an SUV or Minivan, just bear in mind the extra height you now have when driving!

Best Car Bike Racks FAQ:

Q: Will I have to drill holes in my car?

A: No. None of the models we have listed require any drilling — they attach via straps, to the roof rack, or directly onto the hitch receiver — so leave the kit in the tool chest for this job.

Q: My vehicle doesn’t have rain gutters, can I still put a roof rack on it?

A: You can indeed! Check out our guide to the best roof racks on the market today for a number of products that can be attached to vehicles that lack gutters.

Q: What if I change vehicles?

A: Well, it’s the same as any other accessory really. If you’re moving vehicles, look for ones with the same attaching points, so if you buy a hitch-mounted rack today so you can use it for the next vehicle you buy.

Q: Can I put a hitch on my car while using a bike rack?

A: No, the racks that are mounted to the hitch essentially plug into it, blocking it from being used by any other application.

Q: Can I get replacement parts for my rack?

A: Most will come with at least a limited warranty that should cover parts, at least for a short period. After that, you may need to contact the company, but a well-regarded manufacturer like Thule, Yakima, or Allen Sports will usually be helpful.

Q: Can I go through a car wash with my rack on the car?

A: It’s not recommended that you do, as parts of the car wash can snag on the rack causing damage to the bike carrier, to your car, to the car wash machine itself, or even to all three.

bike racks on a vehicle

Q: Do bike racks damage your car?

A: A car bike rack can damage your vehicle if it is not set up properly. Many car owners are also scared that the bike rack will scratch the car’s paint, so they opt to use bike rack pads to provide a padded barrier in between the rack and the car’s surface.

Q: What is the best bike rack for SUV?

A: Hitch racks are the best option for SUVs and pickup trucks. Unlike a trunk mount, which is secured to the vehicle with straps, a bike hitch rack is secured to the vehicle by attaching to the car’s hitch. Another option for SUVs and other 4-wheel-drives is to use a roof mounted bike rack. If your vehicle has rails on the roof, then you can attach the rack to the vehicle via the rails. Then, attach the bike to the rack for an easy transportation process.

Q: Can any bike rack fit any car?

A: Most trunk racks will fit vehicles with trunks, no matter the make and model of your car. Likewise, any hitch rack will fit your vehicle as long as your car has a trailer hitch. Roof racks will work with any vehicle as long as you have a way to secure the mounted racks to your var’s roof. From there, most racks can hold anywhere from three bikes to four bikes at a time. For specialty vehicles, like RVs, you will need to look for a bike rack specifically designed for RVs.

Q: How fast can you go with a bike rack?

A: If you have securely attached the bike rack to your vehicle, then you should be able to go up to 70 mph and 80 mph with no problems, though you certainly don’t need to. If you are using a trunk mount rack, then make sure to tie up the front wheel, which can move around quite a bit at high speeds. 

Q: Can I open my trunk with a bike rack?

A: While technically you can open your truck with a trunk rack attached, it’s not advisable. Doing so frequently can not only loosen the mountain, but it can also cause damage to your vehicle. If you must access your trunk regularly, then a hitch rack may be better for your needs. Many hitch racks come with the option to fold the rack down, making space for you to easily access the trunk f your car.

Q: Do I need a hitch for a bike rack?

A: You only need a hitch if you intend to use a hitch-mounted bike rack. Otherwise, you can transport your bikes with any other kind of bike rack.

Q: Can I put a bike rack on a leased car?

A: Most lease agreements will outline what you are and are not allowed to do with the vehicle. Permanent modifications are generally not allowed on a lease agreement, but hitch racks, trunk racks, and roof-mounted racks on vehicles that already have rails are generally permitted. Check with your leasor before making any adjustments.

Our Top Pick

There really are some excellent products on this list, all well designed and manufactured by some of the leading companies in this field. That’s made selecting a top pick particularly hard, but we think we’ve got it right by going for the Allen Sports Deluxe Hitch Mounted Bike Rack.

For us, this product just hits the sweet spot between performance and value. Yes, there are models on here that pack more features and yes there are other models with a lower price tag.

But in the end, it is the Allen Sport Rack that manages to straddle the line successfully, by supplying such a well designed, carefully built product that will do everything you need it to but without breaking the bank.

Sources:

  1. Aerodynamics & Fuel Consumption – Haynes
  2. Roof Racks & Fuel Economy – Popular Mechanics