The 10 Best Bike Racks
This wiki has been updated 29 times since it was first published in May of 2015. Take your cycling to some more adventurous locations with one of these handy bike racks, each of which attach easily to your car's trunk, roof, or trailer hitch and offer a safe way to transport your rides for solo trips or family outings. We've included a variety of models priced for any budget that will accommodate most types of bicycles, from road and touring to mountain and BMX. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
March 08, 2021:
After taking some time to review the options selected by the last editor for this page, we determined that this list was still in good shape, with all our existing picks continuing to be great choices for this category, and so we saw no reason to make any new omissions or inclusions during this round of updates. From simpler models like the Swagman XC Cross Country – which can only accommodate two bikes – to larger, family-ready designs like the Yakima Products Ridgeback Hitch – which can accommodate up to five bikes, depending on which version you go with – we felt that our existing rankings presented a nice mix of choices, suitable for a wide variety of people, and so we decided to leave it intact.
Now that you’ve gotten a nice rack picked out, maybe you’ll be interested in acquiring some new toys to load it up with. We maintain several specialized lists of bike rankings, for categories like mountain bikes, folding bikes and electric bikes.
August 13, 2019:
After a series of reports detailing welding issues with the Highland SportWing, we decided it would be best to remove it from the ranking. In its place, we wanted a model that would work on a car's trunk and come from a reputable name. We found that in our new number two option, the Yakima Fullback, which features a rack arm capable of collapsing while it's not in use, so you can take your bikes to your vacation spot, unload them, and drive around town without either having to uninstall the whole rack or having a big, unwieldy protrusion sticking out the back of your car. That addition shook up the top ten in general, as we not only had to adjust the positioning of other options, but we had to reconsider some other models' features in light of this new offering. In our new round of research, we also discovered a pair of boutique companies making very fine products, which we've included in our special honors section.
July 20, 2019:
Newly updated for 2019, our list of best bike racks is sure to help you find the right carrier to get your 2-wheeled ride from point A to point B. We've made sure to include both budget and high-end options, all ranging in style from trailer-hitch to trunk-mounted to, in at least one case, roof-mounted units. The Swagman XC 2-Bike at #3, for example, is perfect for backcountry excursions with the whole family, while the Allen Sports Deluxe at #2 is ideal for Sunday rides with a partner or two. But for a truly ergonomic choice, check out the Thule T2 Pro XT 2 at #1, which offers tons of features that make loading and unloading easier than ever.
Lolo Racks 6 Bike This remarkable model positions your bicycles in a vertical configuration, allowing it to haul up to six of them in roughly the amount of space that others would normally take to carry four. It's a great choice for big families, and it features a reliable hitch bolt that will hold it in place over rough terrain. The one downside is the price, however, which is rather high. loloracks.com
Kickass Carriers K2-RT Sport This simple two-bike options tilts comfortably out of the way of any hatch at the back of an SUV or crossover, so you won't have to remove it or the bicycles to gain access to that compartment. What's particularly impressive is its ability to support bikes weighing up to 60 pounds each. kickasscarriers.com
Transporting Your Ticket To Freedom
Before diving in and breaking down all your options, think about your specific needs.
The trail is absolutely stunning; it’s a labyrinth winding through a lush forest set on mountainous terrain, offering occasional glimpses of the lake and more than a few scenic vistas. Picturesque campsites dot the landscape, which is punctuated by fishing streams, narrow hiking trails, and an endless array of wildlife. It’s the perfect location for a day — or a weekend — of trail biking.
Well, almost perfect, because there's a catch: it’s 200 miles by highway from your home.
If not for the invention of bike racks for cars, this cycling fantasy would likely go unfulfilled. Fortunately for biking adventurers, plenty of quality options are readily available for adhering bicycles to all types of motor vehicles. So many, in fact, that determining which model is ideal for your purposes can be a challenging endeavor in its own right.
Before diving in and breaking down all your options, think about your specific needs. What type of vehicle will you be driving? Will you ever change vehicles? What types of bikes will you transport, and how many? If you’re only looking to transport a single bike, that's one thing; if you need a model equipped to handle a family vacation, you probably won’t want to look at anything smaller than a four-bike car rack.
Performance is always a top priority, but durability, ease of use, and budget will all factor in, as well. In addition, if you frequently transport other types of sporting equipment — such as boats, skis, snowboards, or surfboards — you may want to tailor your search to include racks capable of accommodating some or all of those items at the same time.
Once you’ve assessed your needs and capabilities, narrowing down the potential options becomes a heck of a lot easier.
Securing The Proper Equipment
Bikes racks for cars typically fall into one of four categories. Trunk racks are built to strap to the back of most vehicles; roof racks connect to the top of your car; tray-style hitch racks connect to tow hitches and support bikes from the bottom; and arm support racks also attach to the hitch, but use the bike frame as the point of attachment.
That just about covers your primary styles of vehicle bike racks, though specialty options do exist.
Simple yet effective, a trunk mount is the most basic, lightweight, and economical model. This is a nice choice if you plan on transporting between one and three bikes that aren’t particularly heavy duty. One carrier will usually work on a variety of vehicles, and because of its compact design, it’s easy to break down and store. There are drawbacks, though: access to your trunk will be blocked, there’s a risk it will scratch your car’s finish, and it’s not the most stable option.
Some roof-mounted carriers attach to your vehicle's existing roof rack or crossbars, while others will connect to the door frame or rain gutters. Either way, it’s a cost-effective design that can accommodate essentially any outdoor toy you’re able to lift up there. With a roof mount, the bikes remain stable and out of view, but you must remain cognizant of low-hanging obstructions and the potential for high winds at all times.
Tray hitch racks, capable of carrying virtually any type of bicycle, are simple to load and can usually hold up to four bikes at a time. These are on the pricier side, but they provide reliable stability, will not put your car at risk of damage, and don’t require heavy overhead lifting like a roof rack does.
Arm support hitch racks offer similar advantages, but since they use the frame as the connecting point, the support arms often won’t accommodate full-suspension mountain bikes or models with unusual frame shapes. Both hitch-style racks may obstruct the driver’s view, block rear-door access, and cause problems with small cars that aren’t rated for towing.
That just about covers your primary styles of vehicle bike racks, though specialty options do exist. Racks that adhere to a spare tire, models that transform a truck bed into a bicycle rack, and cargo boxes are a few examples.
Tips, Tricks, And Risk Management
Woohoo! You’ve purchased and installed your bike rack, and now it’s finally time to make that awe-inspiring wilderness cycling trek a reality...right? We hate to dampen your spirits, but before you load up and hit the on-ramp at 60 mph, you should slow down and consider a few safety-related items first.
Don’t become the latest victim of bike-related burglary — invest in the proper tools to ensure your equipment’s security at all times.
Any time you travel at high speeds with expensive equipment in tow, inherent dangers are involved. When using a trunk or a hitch rack, it will never hurt to secure the bikes with an additional strap or a bungee cord for extra security and to prevent swaying. On top of that, if your vehicle is holding multiple people and several bikes, all of that extra weight can put undue stress on your car’s tires, transmission, and engine. Make sure you know what type of weight your vehicle can handle before setting off on your trip.
Since bikes vary in design by brand and type, there are some inconsistencies in how well certain racks can accommodate specific models of bicycles. Before you make your first trip, make sure to test-fit the bikes you plan to strap up for the ride. Worst case scenario, you may need to get some extra attachments for added support.
It would be easy to forget about security once you've reached your destination, but with bikes, you should never let your guard down. I don’t have the statistics handy, but bicycles have to be near the top of the list of the most frequently stolen items in the world. Avid cyclists tell bike theft stories the way fishermen wax poetic about "the one that got away." It’s not a matter of if — bikes that are left unattended and unlocked eventually will get stolen. The same goes for the racks themselves. Don’t become the latest victim of bike-related burglary — invest in the proper tools to ensure your equipment’s security at all times.