There’s no doubt that traveling and camping are good for you. But like everything else, both of the activities also come with their cons, the major one being hauling all of the cargo you need with you from one place to another. It’s especially difficult if you’re transporting things that either cannot fit inside the vehicle or shouldn’t be placed there, such as bags of soil for gardening, charcoal for barbeque or firewood for camping. But with a quality hitch mounted cargo carrier? Transporting anything is a piece of cake.
To help you find the best hitch cargo carrier, we’ve spent hours on research and editing, and the result is the following Top 10 list of quality hitch racks. We’ve also prepared a comprehensive buying guide and answered some of the frequently asked questions which should further help you in selecting the right hitch carrier for your needs.
The Best Hitch Cargo Carrier
Sturdy, large and easy to install, the Pro Series Reese is the perfect cargo carrier for campers and outdoor enthusiasts. This two-design piece is highly robust, with 500 pounds capacity and a 60” x 24” platform, making it ideal for road trips, fishing adventures, traveling or anything else that requires transporting heavy gear and equipment.
This cargo hitch is made from steel and has a durable powder coat finish which ensures durability and proper protection against the elements, scratches and dust. The floor is rugged mesh, so there won’t be any water buildup, keeping your luggage safe and sound. Plus, it’s super-easy to clean it too.
60” x 24” platform, 500 pounds weight capacity
2-piece design, rounded edges, easy to install
Durable steel, scratch-resistant coat finish
Mesh floor, prevents water buidup, easy to clean
- BrandPro Series
- Weight62.6 pounds
Curt Manufacturing Basket-Style Cargo Carrier
Simple but fantastically safe and durable, the Curt cargo carrier is a good choice when you need extra storage space for your vehicle. Hardy, with 500 pounds carrying capacity and a 60” x 24” platform with tall sides for keeping the cargo safe during travel, this basket-style cargo carrier will become your car’s best friend in no time.
The Curt luggage carrier is constructed from heavy-duty tubular steel for long-lasting durability, while the mesh floors make for easy cleaning. This model can also be folded up for easy storage when it’s not in use, which is a big plus for occasional users.
60” x 24” platform, 500 pounds capacity
Foldable design, easy to store
Tubular steel ensures durability
Mesh floor prevents water build up
- BrandCurt Manufacturing
- Weight70.7 pounds
Sporty and strong, the Rola cargo carrier is a great addition to any type of SUV, truck or van. Highly durable and sturdy, this 600 pound carrying capacity system is ideal for transporting extra cargo, whether it’s heavy bags and luggage, camping gear, fishing equipment or anything else – this tow hitch rack won’t disappoint.
The Rola hitch rack is made of heavy-duty steel and has a durable black powder finish, ensuring protection against the elements and long-term quality. This 2-piece model is easy to install and it fits 2” square receivers on various vehicles, including cars, SUVs, trucks and other larger vehicles.
56” x 23” platform, 600 pounds weight capacity
2-piece assembly with attachment points, easy to install
Made of steel with black powder coating, great protection against the elements
Mesh floors, easy cleanup, no water buildup
- Weight73.2 pounds
Sleek and sturdy, the MaxxHaul cargo carrier is probably the best carrier for transporting wheelchairs and other bulky devices and gear, including scooters, lawn equipment and other small and big wheeled tools and devices. This is because this convenient 500 pound in capacity hitch carrier has a folding ramp that can accommodate all kinds of small-wheeled equipment.
The MaxxHaul is built from quality aluminum which makes the carrier corrosion-resistant as well as rust-resistant. The platform’s size is 53.5” x 29.75” while the folding ramp’s size is 60” – perfect for various cargo, including bags, garden equipment and smaller wheelchairs.
53.5”x 29.75” platform, 500 pounds weight capacity
60” folding ramp for wheeled devices
Heavy-duty aluminum and steel, rust and corrosion-resistant
8” side rails provide stability and safety
- Weight79.4 pounds
The Tow Tuff has a rather unique design – there are pins which you can remove to turn the bike carrier into a regular cargo carrier, meaning this 2-in-1 piece can function as either bike rack or a cargo hitch – whatever is more convenient at the moment. There are also adjustable wheel cradles and tie-down holes that secure the bikes in place. As for how many you can transport, the rack fits up to four regular sized bikes. The Tow Tuff is made of heavy-duty steel, so long-term durability is guaranteed.
62” x 27” platform, 500 pounds carrying capacity
Durable steel, 2-in-1 bike and cargo carrier
Adjustable wheel cradles
Mesh floor prevents water buildup and is easy to clean
- BrandTow Tuff
- Weight62 pounds
If you’re looking for an ultra-affordable hitch cargo carrier, look no further than the Highland’s 1042000 model. This well-constructed piece is much lighter than most cargo carriers but the manufacturer states it carries up to 500 pounds anyway. To be safe, we wouldn’t go over 400 pounds though, which is more than enough for larger bags and medium sized sport and camping equipment.
The Highland is constructed from steel and has a durable powder coat finish, which should protect the hitch carrier from the elements, dirt and dust. The platform has a pretty standard size although it is a little more narrow than usual – 60” x 20”. This model has mesh floors which prevent water buildup and make cleaning a piece of cake.
60” x 20” platform, 500 pounds weight capacity
Durable steel with powder coat finish
Mesh floor prevents water build up
- Weight2.06 pounds
Perfect for traveling, camping or fishing, the Vault Cargo Management hitch rack is built with a rugged steel frame that can withstand the outdoor elements. This trailer hitch storage is universaliy designed so it can be mounted onto various vehicles, including trucks, vans, SUVs, RVs and of course cars.
The Vault cargo carrier has a platform of standard size, 60” x 24”, meaning it can fit pretty much anything you need to transport, from luggage and boxes to camping tents and sleeping bags. However, although the manufacturer states this trailer hitch rack can carry up to 500 pounds of cargo, considering its relatively light weight design (a little over 50 pounds), we’d say it’s best not to push and stay at or below 400 pounds.
60” x 24” platform and 7” railing, 500 pounds weight capacity
Rugged steel frame but not rust-resistant
2-piece design makes for easy storage
- BrandVault Cargo Management
- Weight52.8 pounds
Durable, compact and highly convenient, the Arksen cargo hitch is the best cargo carrier if you’re on a tight budget. The rack features a basket of 50” x 24” dimensions that can be folded while still on the car but not in use or when you need to store it in the garage. Importantly, the rack fits any 2″ trailer hitch opening so it’s a good choice no matter the vehicle.
The Arksen trailer hitch cargo carrier is constructed with heavy-duty steel and has a black epoxy powder coating, ensuring proper protection against the elements. The manufacturer states the rack can carry up to 500 pounds of cargo, but considering its weight, which is 56 pounds, our advice is not to go above 400 pounds.
58” x 24” platform, 500 pounds carrying capacity
Steel and black powder coating
Foldable basket, easy to store
Mesh floor prevents smaller objects from falling through
- Weight56 pounds
Whether you ride a scooter, an electric bike or an off-road dirt bike, the Motorcycle Hauler Rack Ramp can help you transport your vehicle of choice from point A to point B quickly and easily. With an anti-tilt locking device and a ramp, this hauler hitch rack will keep your bike safely locked in one place during the entire ride.
The Motorcycle hitch mount rack is built from heavy-duty steel, so it should be strong and reliable for a good few years. As for it’s carrying capacity, it’s up to 500 pounds of cargo, which is more than enough for most bikes and scooters. The carrier is 76” long and 7” wide in total and can fit 2” square receivers.
76” x 7” in total, 500 pounds weight capacity
Multi-loading (load from either side) ramp
- BrandBest Choice Products
- Weight51 pounds
Cheap but well-constructed, the Goplus cargo carrier is a good choice for folks on a budget. With a smaller platform than usual, this hitch rack is great for occasional transporting of bags and boxes and even smaller camping equipment.
The Goplus hitch rack is made from steel tubing and has black powder coated finish which ensures long-term quality and good protection against corrosion. Although the manufacturer says the rack can carry up to 500 pounds of cargo, because this is a lightweight product (22 pounds!), we’d advise against loading up to the maximum. To be safe, it’s a good idea to stay below 400 pounds.
53” x 19” basket, up to 500 pounds weight capacity
Steel tubing with durable powder finish
One piece design, easy to install
- Weight22.7 pounds
Best Hitch Cargo Carrier Buying Guide & FAQ
If you travel or camp a lot, you probably already know that a good cargo carrier is nothing short of a life saver. By giving you much needed extra storage space for luggage and camp equipment, a quality hitch rack also keeps your car interior neat and clean. Not to mention, many tow hitch racks can also carry bikes and scooters which can otherwise be difficult to transport.
But shopping for a cargo carrier is not an easy task – with so many options available, the search for the right one may seem never-ending. However, you can simplify your decision-making process by answering one simple question: How do you plan to use a cargo hitch? Once you know some of the general uses, you can begin to consider other factors; factors that we will cover in the following pages.
What Makes a Good Hitch Cargo Carrier
When looking for the best cargo carrier, it’s important to pay attention to the following features.
The Build Material
The type of the material that the hitch carrier is made of is one of the most important things to consider when shopping for a quality cargo hitch. This is because the material can give you a very good indication of how durable and sturdy the carrier will actually be. There are three common materials that cargo carries are made of:
As you may have guessed, the best option is, of course, steel or stainless steel because it’s a heavy-duty material that won’t bend or break under pressure. The second best option is aluminum, which has similar characteristics, only it’s more lightweight. As for polypropylene, although it’s not the most durable material out there, it’s a perfectly fine choice for those transporting lighter cargo. In any case, what’s important here is to consider your own needs – if you plan to use your hitch rack frequently and for heavy transport, definitely go for steel or aluminum. But if you’re only going to use it occasionally for transporting your fishing equipment or light camping gear, durable plastic like polypropylene is a good choice.
Another important feature to consider is the size of the cargo carrier platform. Naturally, the bigger the basket, the more things you can carry, the smaller the basket, the less cargo you can take. Generally speaking, inside dimensions are usually between 58-60 inches in length and 20-24 inches in width because platforms this big can fit various items with no issues. That is not to say you need this large cargo carriers if you plan to transport smaller and less heavy things – to pick the right size, just go back to that original question. How are you going to use your hitch rack? If you plan to carry a few small items while traveling, pick smaller carriers as they take up less space, plus are cheaper. If you plan to transport your bike, camping gear and a luggage, pick larger cargo carrier platforms.
Of course, we can’t talk about cargo carriers without mentioning their weight capacities. Most hitch racks have a maximum carrying capacity of 500 pounds, although some go even higher than that. Normally, if you’re going to transport heavy cargo, you want not only durable and sturdy racks but also high weight capacity, meaning carriers able to hold between 400-600 pounds. However, it’s important to note that although some manufacturers state that their luggage carriers can carry up to 500 pounds, not all of them actually can. The way to tell if a hitch rack will actually be able to hold heavy cargo, is to look at its build material and its weight – usually, very lightweight carriers are not able to hold very heavy items (unless they’re made of aluminum).
Type of the Platform
Besides the dimensions of the carrier platform, you should also consider its type. Generally, there are two main types of baskets: solid and mesh. Although solid platforms tend to provide a very good support and can protect the cargo from debris that can kick up from the road, they’re not ideal when it comes to the protection against the elements. If it’s raining or snowing, it’s better to have a mesh platform that will allow the water to leave on its own as quickly as possible. Another huge plus of mesh platforms is that they provide easy openings for cargo straps, which make securing your items a piece of cake. Plus, they’re much easier to clean. For these three simple reasons, we believe mesh platforms are a better option than solid ones, although of course, the choice is ultimately yours!
Why You Should Use a Hitch Cargo Carrier
Like a roof cargo carrier, a hitch cargo carrier can help you transport lots of extra items that either cannot fit inside your vehicle, or shouldn’t be placed there. Think extra luggage, camping gear, sleeping tents, lawn equipment, bags of soil, bags of salt or maybe a scooter or even a couple of bikes. The biggest advantage of using a quality hitch cargo carrier is the ease of use – whether you’re carrying a huge travel luggage or coolers for the beach, you can load and unload your cargo easily and in a matter of a few minutes. Let’s also not forget about big weight capacity hitch mounted cargo carriers provide. Most hitch racks are rated at 500 pounds which is a lot even for over-packers.
To sum it up, here are the main reasons you should give hitch cargo carriers a try:
- They are incredibly easy to use
- They can carry various items, including bags, camping gear, lawn equipment, and many, many more things
- They can safely store very heavy things
- They help you keep your car interior clean and neat.
Roof Cargo Carrier vs. Hitch Cargo Carrier
Rooftop carriers are similar to hitch cargo carriers in that they too can provide you with extra space for traveling/camping. However, the hitch carriers offer a number of advantages over their rooftop counterparts as they’re much easier to access, are safer to use and offer more space.
- Easy access
Unlike a rooftop cargo carrier, a hitch rack keeps all your important items at waist-level so you can access anything you need in a few seconds. No climbing or fumbling necessary – you can load and unload your cargo quickly and easily.
- Safe travel
If you’re transporting valuable items, it’s crucial to secure them properly so they stay in place during the entire trip. A car luggage carrier only requires a trailer hitch to keep your cargo safe and sound, plus most carriers have mesh floors which allow you to easily tighten whatever needs to be tightened. If you’re using a rooftop carrier, there’s no way you can go around using various additional securing measures such as mounting brackets.
- Plenty of storage space
When it comes to storage space, hitch cargo carriers are definitely king. Depending on the size of the platform you get, you can use your hitch carrier to transport things from extra luggage and boxes to camping equipment and bikes. Rooftop carriers, on the other hand, are limited in space by the roof of your vehicle, which is often narrower than the hitch carrier’s basket.
How to Install a Hitch Cargo Carrier?
Installing a hitch cargo carrier is usually quick and simple, although the exact installation steps will slightly vary from model to model. In any case, what’s important to know is that all hitch carriers make use of a trailer hitch, which is usually already a part of a vehicle. If not, you’ll have to install an interchangeable hitch. You’ll need the correct size of the hitch receiver (usually 2”), but if your trailer hitch is smaller or larger than the cargo carrier model you bought, don’t fret – this is easily fixed with an adapter.
Once you locate/install the trailer hitch, all you’ll have to do is slide the cargo carrier into the interchangeable hitch. Now, most models will slide right in, making the job easy for you; however, if for some reason your cargo carrier doesn’t slide in easily, try wiggling it a little to find that sweet spot. You should also take a look at the installation manual that comes with the carrier. Some models may require a little bit of a different approach, but the basics should remain the same.
Best Hitch Cargo Carrier FAQ:
Q: What is a cargo carrier?
A: A hitch cargo carrier is a rack that installs either on the rear end or front end of your vehicle. By providing extra storage space, this simple but ingenious device is invaluable when moving, traveling or camping. Because most hitch cargo carriers are rated at a few hundred pound capacity, they’re highly convenient and versatile as you can use them for transporting anything from extra luggage to gardening equipment to camping gear and even bikes.
Q: How much weight can a hitch cargo carrier hold?
A: Most hitch racks can hold cargo weighing several hundred pounds with no problem. Up to 500 pounds is the norm, although there are carriers that hold more or less than that. In any case, to be sure you’re not overloading your hitch rack, and as a result, bending and ruining it, check your model’s specifications and instructions.
Q: Are hitch cargo carriers safe?
A: Using a hitch cargo carrier is one of the easiest and safest way to transport extra cargo – if you exercise safety properly. Whatever cargo you’re transporting, it’s important to place it properly on the platform, meaning to distribute the weight evenly across the basket. Another important tip is to tighten the items with straps whenever possible. If you choose a hitch rack with mesh floors, this will be a piece of cake. Finally, many cargo carriers come with reflectors on so they can alert other drivers not to hit you by mistake. If your particular model doesn’t come with reflectors, simply buy them separately and install them before actually using the carrier.
Q: Do I need lights on a cargo carrier?
A: To stay safe on the road, you should purchase a brake light kit and mount it onto your hitch cargo carrier. The lights will alert other motorists not to hit your cargo by mistake, and of course, will help ensure you’re following the law.
Our Top Pick
While each hitch cargo carrier featured on our Top 10 list is a quality product, our very own pick goes to the Pro Series, Reese Carrier. There are a few reasons for that, but the following three are the most important ones:
- It’s sturdy, durable and safe
Made of steel, with black powder coat finish, this carrier is strong and won’t bend under pressure. Also, the floor is mesh, meaning it will prevent water buildup and will be easy to clean.
- It has a good carrying capacity and standard size platform
With plenty of space and 500 pound weight capacity, the Reese carrier will transport pretty much anything you need it to. From extra luggage and bags, to camping gear and lawn equipment, anything can fit in this basket.
- It’s affordable
Finally, let’s quickly talk about the price of cargo carriers, which for some customers is the deciding factor. With just a little over $100, this is one of the best budget hitch cargo carriers you can get. Granted, there are cheaper carriers out there, but this one pretty much covers all the basics: strong, durable, easy to install and big enough to hold various items and then some, this hitch rack easily tops all other budget carriers.