How To Choose The Best Bike Rack For Your Car

Do you know the best solution to haul a bike? A Bike Rack!

If you ask me, bike racks are great for carrying your bike around. I always use one when I have to travel interstate. If you know me, you know I don’t like to be without my bicycle for long. Besides, a bike rack is much better than having to disassemble your bike again and again. Don’t you agree?

I mean you can invest in a trailer too but that isn’t as convenient as a rack. Yes, you are right! It can get confusing. But the good part is that I will guide you through the process. It will make choosing a rack according to your needs easy. Or who knows, you won’t even want one!

There are some options that you can explore towards the end too! Do check them out.

Car bike rack with a lot of bikes

How To Choose A Bike Rack- Buying Rack 

To choose a bike rack, there are a few things that you will have to consider:

1. Begin By Deciding On The Type Of Bike Rack

Ask yourself, what type of bike rack do you need? Do you want a trunk-mounted, hitch-mounted, or a roof rack? I prefer a trunk-mounted rack but only go for it if you are not conscious of your car’s paint. It can leave a few scratches. 

2. Does The Rack Offer Weather Protection?

Since the rack will be installed on your car, you have to look for weather-resistant options. It’s not practical to unmount the rack whenever the weather is not suitable. You have to be mindful of your parking conditions when you are buying a rack. 

Tired of tripping over your bike? Check out our guide to find the perfect bike storage solution for your home!

3. Check The Durability 

I mean, it’s not like you can buy a new rack every month. Can you?

4. Measure The Height 

Measure the height of the rack. There is no sense in dragging half the bike on the road. Or even an inch of it! This is more applicable when you are driving on a climb. 

5. Check The Accessibility 

This is especially applicable if you are going for a roof rack. It should be accessible enough for you to secure the bike while mounting and un-mounting it. 

6. The Rack Has To Be Secure 

Well, what’s the use of a rack if it is not stable and secure? If your bike rattles too much while on a bike rack, it can cause damage to the bike as well as your car. Be mindful of this while making a buying decision. 

Say goodbye to wobbling bike racks and hello to a comfortable ride with our expert tips!

7. Don’t Forget To Check Vehicle Compatibility 

Your bike rack has to be compatible with your vehicle. Check the tongue class, the load- capacity, as well as the length of your car, and how the rack might affect the maneuverability before buying a rack. 

Why Do You Need A Bike Rack 

I recently picked up a book titled “The 50 Best Rides Around Portland,” that way I don’t have to rent a car every time I just want to get a quick 50 miles in. This also begs the question, “Do I need a rack at all?” You might already have ample space in your car, truck, or SUV and a rack might just be another expensive accessory.

All of this being said; there are so many beautiful places to ride and you do not live close enough to all of them, especially you mountain bikers out there. It is not feasible to ride your bike 50 miles to a trailhead, ride another 100 on trails all day, and then ride back. That would take all the fun out of it.

Also Read: Best Mountain Bikes Under $500

Maybe you want more space in your car for camping supplies or your whole roadie gang, as you drive on down to Zion with your bikes in tow. These are legitimate reasons to consider buying a rack, and not that you even need so much of a reason as it just might make your life a little easier. So, here we go. I am going to discuss and review some of your options that are carried out by major retailers and online marketplaces.

Of course, feel free to do your research and consider your needs before jumping in. In-store professionals can help with all questions about weight, length, and mounting positions. They get paid to know the ins and outs of their products and will have a better relationship with the manufacturer than I do. Ask plenty of questions.

Loading bikes on a bike rack

Find the perfect bike rack for your SUV and hit the road with confidence!

Hitch And Trunk Bike Racks Options 

1. Kuat NV 2

Kuat NV 2-Bike Hitch Rack

If I had the $549.00 I would go with the Kuat NV 2. It is a hitch mounting rack that fits 1.25 in or 2 in receivers and can hold up to 120lbs. Its telescoping arms come up over the front wheel and retract down to lock the bike in place. I can hold up to 2 bikes with clearance for 3 in. tires and that isn’t even the coolest part. When in the up position this rack has a built-in bike stand for quick adjustments or easy cleanup. It has integrated cable locks as well so you don’t have to worry when you go out for burgers on the way home.

You can also increase the capacity to 4 bikes with this add-on feature. My only problem would be buying something that cost altogether around $900. You can get a decent mountain bike for that.

Available from: REI

2. Thule Doubletrack

Thule Doubletrack

Clocking in at $300, this trusted Thule option is a 2 bike, hitch mounting rack as well. It holds bikes using a rubber dish for the wheels, same tire clearance of 3in but also accommodates a 48in wheelbase. This option is a little lighter than the previous one at around 47 lbs. It comes with locks as well. It has an adjustable hook that presses down on the top tube.

If you don’t like that and are worried about some paint scuffing, use some water pipe foam to protect any parts where it would touch the frame. Lastly, because of the hook presses on the top tube, bikes without a traditional top tube design might require a little more creativity.

Available from: REI

3. Saris Bones 2

Saris Bones 2 Bike Trunk Rack
The Saris Bones 2 is a plastic trunk mounting rack that uses straps and rubber feet to reliably hold 2 bikes to the rear of your vehicle. At $150 it is far cheaper than the other models as well as much considering it is made of plastic. The product spec says it will fit most bike designs but again I would be worried about step bikes or even mountain bikes that have a much more compressed frame.

It uses ratcheting straps to keep the bike stable and unfortunately does not come with integrated locks like the previous 2. However, I am sure it works just fine plus it comes with a lifetime warranty. It is a great option for the non-truck owners out there and I think you will find the same.

Available from: REI

4. Thule T2 XTR2

Thule T2 XTR 2-Bike Hitch Rack

The Thule T2 XTR2 is very similar to the Kuat NV 2 but a whole $100 cheaper at $449. They both come with lifetime warranties but after doing some research I think Kuat might have better customer support, at least easier with an online claim support center so you don’t have to call some office somewhere. T

he XTR2 has an integrated cable lock and room for tires of 3 inches. It uses the same telescoping arm feature that locks down on the front tire so you don’t have any frame contact. The rack stores upright while still attached to your hitch. It can fit 1.25 and 2 in hitches.

Available from: REI

5. Kuat Beta 2

Kuat Beta 2-Bike Hitch Rack
The Kuat Beta 2 is the lightest rack at 11 lbs and is relatively cheap at $195. It screws into the rear hitch receiver and tightens into place without requiring tools. It can hold 2 bikes and uses rubber straps to keep them from moving around. It does not include locks and I imagine bikes can move around with only a strap on the top tube. You will have to find some solution to keep your tires from knocking into the back of your car/truck.

Available from: REI

6. Saris Freedom 2

Saris Freedom 2 Bike Hitch Rack

The Saris Freedom 2 is the 2nd lightweight option coming in at 21 lbs. It costs $260 and you get a lot of the same features as some of the other tray-style hitch racks. Your bike’s wheels fit into trays on the bottom and strap to a vertical post using ratcheting straps. This rack fits both 1.25 and 2-inch hitch receivers.

I think it is a good mid-level option giving you a lot of the same features as the more expensive tire hook-style racks. You can purchase hitch cable locks separately at most retail locations.

Available from: REI

Roof bike rack

Roof Racks

Up until now, I have only talked about hitch racks except the one trunk mounting rack. For people who already have roof mounts, it might just be easier to set up a roof rack. Or if you think you’ll be using a roof rack storage system more than a hitch mount storage system then maybe it is a smarter investment.

For instance, if you kayak, surf, or store your luggage on your roof then consider a roof rack because the accessories will be cheaper and easier when it comes to your multiple hobbies. Watch out for those overpasses.

1. Thule Sidearm

Thule Sidearm Universal Upright Bike Mount

The Thule Sidearm roof rack can store one bike on your roof. Using the same wheel locking technology as some of the hitch racks it is stable and pretty versatile in the types of bikes it can accommodate. At only $200 it isn’t super expensive and it attaches to existing roof mounting features.

You can purchase Thule’s locking system separately. Users have reported stability even at high freeway speeds and the only problem seems to be confusing mounting instructions. There are plenty of online and in-store resources to get you loaded up and out on the road.

Available from: REI

2. Seasucker Talon

SeaSucker Talon Bike Rack

I figured I would include the Seasucker Talon kind of out of novelty. You may find that it is exactly what you have been looking for but upon first glance, I am not sure it would be my go-to. The Seasucker uses vacuum suction cups to attach to metal or glass surfaces. I would just be a little worried it might come unstuck and I would see my Pinarello go bouncing down the highway in my rearview mirror.

The advantages I see are that it can accommodate any length of wheelbase as long as your bike isn’t longer than your roof. The mounting cups for the front and rear are separate so you can have them as far apart as you would like. It is light and seemingly very durable however at $270 I am not sure it wins out over some others on this list. You also have to remove your front wheel in order to mount it.

Available from: REI

3. Yakima Highroller

Yakima HighRoller Bike Mount
A brand first on this list is the Yakima Highroller. I am not sure why they don’t have different styles of bike racks because this one looks like a pretty solid construction with a great warranty. Moderately priced at $200 it is similar to the Thule sidearm but has three points of frame contact instead of two; one on the front of the front wheel, one on the back of the front wheel and downtube, and one strap to hold the rear tire in its tray. It accommodates 29 x 2.5 tires and it has an integrated lock. If I had a roof rack this would be my first choice.

Available from: REI

4. Rocky Mounts Pitchfork

Rocky Mounts PitchFork Bike Mount
A cheaper and lighter option from Rocky Mounts, this roof rack mounts to existing Thule or Yakima crossbars and tightens into place. The front tire of your bike must be removed and the fork is then locked into place using a quick-release lock on the front rack. The rack can accommodate wheelbases of up to 45 in and tires as wide as 2.7 in.

It comes in many stylish colors and is only $110 dollars. Locks are sold separately. The only complaint is the quick release does not do so well with carbon forks. Keep that in mind when you are doing your search.

Available from: REI

5. Yakima Raptor Aero

Yakima Raptor Aero Bike Mount
I thought I would give one last Yakima option. This one’s unique “Raptor Aero” claws (branding) compress on the downtube for a reliable hold without damaging the finish. I thought this particular model was cool because it can fit a variety of downtube styles or models.

Your fancy tri bike or those mid-80s Colnagos with the square downtube will fit just fine. It can fit all different kinds of bikes from downhill to kid’s bikes. Be sure to do your research as some people don’t like how it mounts.

Available from: REI

Road bikes on a bike rack


What are the disadvantages of bike racks?

Some disadvantages of bike racks are that they are vulnerable to theft, can affect the maneuverability of your car, and sometimes have limited accessibility. 

Do all bike racks fit all cars?

No, not all bike racks fit all cars. 

Is it OK to leave bike rack on car?

Yes, you can leave your bike rack on car if there are no security concerns. 

Can I open trunk with bike rack?

There are some bike racks that allow you to open the trunk of your car. 

Do car bike racks lock?

Yes, there are some car bike racks that come with built-in locks.


So that does it for all my choices, of course there is an abundance of perfectly fine racks out there that will fit your needs. Be sure to ask plenty of questions if you are picking something in-store or read plenty of reviews if you are thinking of finding one online.

Most retail locations will price match so if you find one online that you like don’t hesitate to take it into someplace to get a better customer service experience. Most places will also mount your new rack for free.

Also Read

Should you have any questions or require further clarification on the topic, please feel free to connect with our expert author Ryan Ross by leaving a comment below. We value your engagement and are here to assist you.

For the latest content and updates please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.


3 thoughts on “How To Choose The Best Bike Rack For Your Car”

  1. Bicycle racks are the most important thing you can buy if you are an avid biker. I remember when I was a big mountain biker in North Carolina I had a bike rack that was my best friend. Roof racks seem like good investments as well especially if your car is lower to the ground like mine and you can’t afford to have them hanging off the back of your car.

  2. Good article! But tell me if you choose a roof mounted which I am thinking about, how do you deal with the height of the vehicle. I drive a Land Rover a UK SUV which is over 6 feet above the ground, and though I have a lightweight road bike I am already thinking do I need to carry some kind of step as well, to get me to the right level to stow the bike?

    • David, a roof mounted bike rack on an SUV almost always presents that same issue – how to actually get the bikes up there! I had a roof rack for a while on a Fortuner and ended up buying a hitch-mount instead. I have a sizable family and hauling 4 bikes onto the roof simple became too tiresome. Your other options are spare tyre and trunk mounts. I picked a foldaway hitch mount but my next choice would be a spare tyre mount for an SUV. The article below deals with the pros and cons of each mounting option specifically as it pertains to SUVs. Have a look.


Leave a Comment