Written By
Published Jul. 31, 2021

Whether you like tearing up the asphalt on a sleek road bike, hitting the trails or just leisurely taking in the sights, bike riding can be a fun, rewarding and healthy hobby. It’s great to just grab your bike out of your garage and ride your local streets or trails, but sometimes you want to seek adventures further afield. When a change of scenery is in order, having a high-quality bike rack for your car can come in handy. 

When it comes to bike racks for cars, it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all selection. We’ve put together a comprehensive list and buying guide that highlights the best features and options to look for when searching out the perfect bike rack for your car. 

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Our Methodology

Bike racks for cars are not all created equally, so the top picks for the best bike racks were selected by taking an in-depth look at their construction, design, functionality, and price. Overall reliability and performance, as well as manufacturer reputation and trustworthiness, were also big factors in selecting the best bike racks for cars. Only companies with a solid track record of delivering reliable and durable products were chosen for this list. For more information on selection criteria and methods, check out this link, which explains our methodology further.

The Best Bike Racks For Cars

When it comes to the ideal combination of functionality, practicality, durability, and price, the Allen Sports Deluxe Hitch Mounted Bike Rack is our best choice overall. It’s a sturdy, relatively lightweight, and user-friendly bike rack that’s capable of transporting up to four bikes at once. It mounts directly into any standard 2-inch hitch and secures with a heavy-duty bolt in seconds, making it also one of the easiest bike racks to install on our list.

This bike rack is constructed from heavy-duty steel with a black powder coat to prevent rust and corrosion. The carry arms extend out 22 inches in length and are capable of holding heavier bikes with ease. That said, the mounts for the bikes are close together, and bikes can rub or bump each other during transit. Anti-wobble ties help minimize movement while under way.

Specs
  • Brand Allen Sports
  • Model 542RR
  • Weight 22.8 lbs
PROS

No-wobble hitch installation

Easy installation

Solid and secure

Excellent value

CONS

Questionable customer support

Bikes may rub during transit

The Saris Bones Two-Bike Trunk Rack gets high marks for being a lightweight, compact trunk-mounted rack that’s also offered at a refreshingly low price point. Injection-molded construction is what keeps this rig tough and light. You’ll be surprised that this bike rack is not made of steel. Spring buckles and ratchet tie-downs ensure that this rack stays put, although it’s not the best for highway travel.

This rack has a 70-pound capacity, so this rack can easily handle most road or mountain bikes, including your kids’ bikes. The swing arms fold down quickly and easily for compact storage and out-of-the-way use when you’re not carrying a bike. The upper trunk hooks could be made with a little more cushion, as they can tend to damage your car’s paint over time if left on the trunk.

Specs
  • Brand Saris
  • Model 805BL
  • Weight 10.2 pounds
PROS

Injection-molded construction

All recycled material

Rust proof

Easy to install

CONS

Not the best at higher speeds

Upper hooks can damage car over time

If you’re looking for next-level construction, durability, and functionality that won’t let you down at the worst time, check out the Thule T2 Pro XT/XTR Hitch Bike Rack. Thule has long been recognized as an industry leader when it comes to heavy-duty roof and trunk mounted equipment for your vehicle. This rack offers a simple and tool-free 1.25- or 2-inch hitch-mount attachment.

Since it’s low to the ground, it’s easy for shorter riders to load their bikes without too much lifting. Its clever hinged joint also allows this rack to give you trunk access while it’s still attached to your car and can quickly fold up and out of the way when not in use. The drawback: the agonizing price tag. This is the most expensive rig on our list. However, if you’re a diehard cyclist, Thule is tough to beat.

Specs
  • Brand Thule
  • Model 9034XTR
  • Weight 52.04 pounds
PROS

Tool-free installation

Easy trunk access

Easy to load

Heavy-duty construction

CONS

Super pricey

Bulky and not compact

If you liked the look of the Thule Bike Carrier but winced at the price tag, this bike rack from Swagman could be worth a look. It is essentially a simpler version at a lower cost. It’s intuitive and simple to use and actually offers a slightly higher load capacity than the comparable Thule bike rack. It can hold two bikes up to 35 pounds, making it a very versatile option.

However, this model is missing a lot of the high-end features that you will find on the Thule offering. There is no hinge to allow for trunk access, and it does not fold up on itself for ease of storage. A locking cable is available to securely lock down your bikes, but it’s sold separately.

Specs
  • Brand Swagman Bicycle Carrier
  • Model 64650
  • Weight 29.3 lbs
PROS

Simple to use

Universal hitch mount

Adjustable ratchet arms

CONS

No wheel straps

Corrosion can hit bolt points and joints

Best to Control Sway

Another hitch-mounted style of bike rack for cars, the Yakima RidgeBack Hitch Bike Rack is designed slightly differently than others on the market. Instead of being a base-mounted carrying rack via the bike wheels, this model has an extended arm to which the bike tubes are attached. It offers quick and easy installation as well as an easy mount configuration for up to four bikes. The simple SpeedKnob style hitch attachment fits into any standard 1.25- or 2-inch hitch receiver.

While this bike rack is capable of holding up to four bikes, it has fixed mounting brackets that can make configuring your load frustrating. The tilting rack arm has also been known to fail at higher speeds, so it might not be the best option for cross-country road trips.

Specs
  • Brand Yakima
  • Model 8002458
  • Weight 45.9 lbs
PROS

Tool-free installation

Allows trunk access

Anti-sway cradles

CONS

Somewhat pricey

Not best for highway travel

If you’re looking for a super affordable portable bike rack that’s great for occasional bike hauling, consider the Allen Sports Deluxe Trunk Mounted Bike Rack. It’s a lightweight, versatile bike rack that can be used interchangeably on everything from sedans to hatchbacks, SUVs, and minivans. This is a two-bike model in which your bike is loaded into the individual tie-down points that lock down onto the top tube to hold bikes securely in place during transport. It’s also worth noting there is a range of sizes available, with racks suitable for two, three, or four bikes.

This isn’t the most durable or strongest bike rack on our list, but it is rated to carry two bikes up to 35 pounds each, so it’s a great option for those who are ultra budget conscious and want to transport their bikes shorter distances. It loses points for being difficult to install due to all the straps. Be careful not to scratch the paint on your trunk when trying to untangle everything and place them properly.

Specs
  • Brand Allen Sports
  • Model 102DN
  • Weight 8.9 lbs
PROS

Suitable for many vehicles

Padded lower frame

Delivered fully assembled

CONS

Not as sturdy

A pain to install

The Tyger Auto Deluxe Carrier Rack gets points for being an affordable hitch-mounted carrier that can handle up to four bikes. Like some of its higher-priced counterparts, it fits easily into any standard 1.25- or 2-inch hitch receiver, with a few exceptions. This rack also gets points for being quick and easy to install, although with two separate pivot points, it has a higher possibility of rig failure than some other models.

This unit also comes with a free bike lock, which is a nice added perk. Carrying arms fold down, and the hitch arm tilts out of the way for quick trunk access. Drawbacks for this unit come in the form of cheaply made tie-down straps for the bikes as well as less heavy-duty plastic knobs and anchor points that have the potential to come loose at high speeds.

Specs
  • Brand Tyger Auto
  • Model TG-RK4B102B
  • Weight 28.2 pounds
PROS

Tilt-down feature

Foldable arms

Soft lining on cradle and arms

CONS

Anchor points not as strong

Tie-downs are cheaply made

Our Verdict on Bike Racks for Cars

The racks on this list are well-designed and manufactured by some of the leading companies in this field, but we think we got it right by choosing the Allen Sports Deluxe Hitch Mounted Bike Rack as our top pick.

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option that doesn’t sacrifice quality for cost, check out the Saris Bones Two-Bike Trunk Rack. It’s not the cheapest bike rack, but it offers stellar value in terms of durability and functionality.

What to Consider When Buying a Bike Rack for a Car

In our buying guide, we go through some of the features to look out for when selecting your model of the bike rack. We take a look at the pros and cons of each design and help you to decide which is best for your needs.

Types of Bike Racks for Cars

Hitch-Mounted Rack 

Hitch racks are connected up to the receiver hitch at the back of the vehicle. They tend to be strong and stable and often pack in more features than you may find on 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. However, they can affect your rear view 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. They are typically easier to mount than other styles, making them perfect for occasional use. They are also usually cheaper than other styles. However, since they lack a 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 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, bear in mind the extra height you now have when driving.

Key Features of Bike Racks for Cars

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 combine the strength to hold your bike while being gentle enough to not damage the frame, wheels, or paint. 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.

Padded Securing Points

If you are choosing a rack that holds the bike via the top tube, you should keep an eye out for padding on the securing points. This can really help to protect your paint when 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. 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 going 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, and it 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. At all points where the rack touches your car, it should be padded or coated in plastic. This is going to protect your car paint from damage.

Tray Racks or Hanging Racks

Depending on the 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.

Bike Rack Pricing 

The price range for bike racks is vast. For less than $50, you can get a bargain, budget-friendly bike rack that usually mounts to your trunk via adjustable straps and buckles. These racks are great for traveling shorter distances. They’re definitely not the most rugged or heavy duty, but they get points for being lightweight and compact. For $50-$200, you can get a good mid-level bike rack that either mounts to your trunk or your trailer hitch. These racks are the most popular, and they can go far distances with up to four bikes. They’re usually constructed from heavy-duty powder-coated steel. Racks for more than $200 are the top of the bike rack pile. These are ultra durable and reliable and used by diehard cyclists. They’re a solid investment that will last you for years.

Tips and Tricks

As with anything you do for years, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product and using it. That’s the case with us and bike racks for cars. To bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.

  • Thoroughly review your installation instructions for any bike rack you buy. For safety and secure carrying, it’s important to install and use any bike rack correctly.
  • Once loaded, spin your bicycle pedal so it rests snugly against your license plate and minimizes free movement of the pedals (and damage to your car’s paint) while driving.
  • Consider using extra cords or padding between bikes when mounting multiple bikes on your rack to limit bumping and jarring of bikes while moving.
  • When setting up your trunk-mounted rack, put the lower feet of the rack on your car’s bumper, not the trunk, in order to ensure greater stability and support. 
  • If you leave your bike rack on your vehicle for extended periods, always double check attachment points before mounting bicycles to be sure nothing has come loose or been damaged while you haven’t been using it.

FAQs

You’ve got questions. Car Bibles has answers!

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

A: No. The models we listed don’t require any drilling. They attach via straps, to the roof rack, or directly onto the hitch receiver.

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

A: You can. This guide has several racks that can be attached to vehicles that lack gutters.

Q: What if I change vehicles?

A: If you’re moving vehicles, look for ones with the same attaching points. So, if you buy a hitch-mounted rack today, you might want your next car to also have a hitch receiver.

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 a limited warranty that should cover parts, at least for a short period. After that, you may need to contact the company to inquire about replacement parts.

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

A: No.

Sources:

  1. Bicycle Rack – Wikipedia

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