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When you need to use your car to transport your bike to the perfect spot, you need a bike rack. With a rack, you can easily take your bike to a scenic trail that’s too far away to ride to, or pack it with you to take on vacation. Choosing the right bike rack is key. You want to be sure that your bicycle is secure when you take it on the road. Shopping for a rack can be tricky, though. How do you know which type of rack is best for your bike and car?
At BestReviews, our goal is to simplify shopping for you. We do the research, buy the products, grill the experts, and survey real-life owners, so we can pass along all the info to you. And because we never accept free products or perks from manufacturers you can trust that our reviews are honest and unbiased.
If you’re ready to shop for a bike rack, take a look at the matrix above for our top five favorites. For more info on how to select the best bike rack for you, just keep reading.
Roof bike racks attach to the top of your car. Your car must have a base roof rack for the bike rack to attach to. There are two types of roof bike racks.
A fork mount rack requires that you remove your bike’s front wheel, so you can clamp its front-wheel fork to the rack.
An upright mount rack allows you to leave the bike’s front wheel in place. It holds the bike completely upright in the rack.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Yakima RidgeBack Hitch
Sturdy and Superior
Every aspect of the Yakima RidgeBack Hitch is superior, from construction quality to fit to cycle mounting. The Yakima looks sturdy, and it is. It's rated to carry up to 150 pounds, and its class-leading strength is backed up by owners. It's capable of carrying up to four bikes at 40 pounds each (or 150 pounds overall).
Trunk bike racks are the most common type. They attach to the trunk of your car with rubber-tipped metal hooks. Foam or rubber pads sit against the trunk, bumper, and back window for support.
A hitch mount bike rack requires that your car have a trailer hitch. You attach the rack behind your car. There are two types of hitch mount racks.
A hanging hitch rack attaches to the bike’s frame and uses Velcro or rubber straps to hold it in place.
A platform hitch has a platform to place the bike on, which is then held in place by an arm that hooks over the bike’s frame or front tire.
Before you hit the road for a cycling vacation, test out the rack on your car. Make sure you know how to put bikes in the rack. Drive around with them in place for a bit to get used to the feel and sound.
In order to choose the best bike rack for you, consider the pros and cons of each different type.
Trunk bike racks are typically the most inexpensive. They usually aren’t designed for specific vehicles, so one rack can fit multiple car models. That makes it easy to move the rack from one vehicle to another. Trunk bike racks are easy to store. In some cases, the rack can even fit in the car’s trunk. It’s easy to lift and attach bikes to the rack, too.
A trunk bike rack can obstruct a vehicle’s rear view. The weight of the rack and bikes can sometimes do damage to the car’s sheet metal or paint finish. The rack may not work with a car that has a rear spoiler. A trunk bike rack isn’t always the most secure option, and straps can wear out or snap over time. Bikes can be damaged in the rack if you back your car into something or are struck from behind. You can’t access your trunk when the rack is in place. The rack may block the taillights and license plate, which can mean a ticket in some areas. A trunk rack doesn’t work well for tandem bikes, and other bikes with unique frames may require extra attachments.
Check the straps regularly on trunk bike racks to ensure that they’re tight enough to keep your bike safe.
A roof bike rack doesn’t obstruct your view of the road, and it still allows access to your trunk or hatchback. Depending on the size and design of your vehicle, you may be able to fit more bikes in a rack on the roof than in a rear rack. In fact, many roof racks can fit up to four bikes. A roof rack can often fit tandem, recumbent, or other bikes with unusual frames. It’s easy to switch out a bike roof rack for a ski or watersport rack based upon the season.
Roof bike racks can be tricky to install. Getting bikes up into a roof rack can be difficult and may cause scratches on the car’s exterior. You can’t drive into a parking garage, through a restaurant or bank drive-thru, or anywhere with low overhead clearance with a roof rack. Trees with low-hanging branches can also be an issue. A roof rack increases a car’s wind resistance, which can lead to poorer gas mileage. Roof racks don’t fit all vehicles, such as convertibles or those with curved roofs. If you own an SUV, you shouldn’t use a roof bike rack because the extra weight on top may cause the vehicle to roll over more easily.
Always check your vehicle’s rooftop weight allowance before installing a roof bike rack.
Because the bike’s front wheel is removed, there’s less weight on the car’s roof and the bike has a lower profile. A fork mount rack isn’t as large and heavy as an upright mount rack. The locking forks used to attach the bike are very secure.
A fork mount rack doesn’t work with all bike fenders. The rack isn’t compatible with all bike forks either.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Hollywood Racks Trunk Mounted
Attaching the Hollywood Racks Express 3-Bike Rack to a car is easy. There’s little more to do than adjust the U-shaped tubes that rest on the trunk and/or fender, tighten the hubs, and secure the four straps to different parts of the trunk. The entire rack weighs just 10 pounds, and it also folds for easy storage.
An upright mount rack fits a wide range of bike tire sizes. You don’t have to spend time removing the bike’s front wheels to attach the bike to the rack.
An upright mount rack is larger and heavier than a fork mount rack. There will be more weight on the car’s roof, and the bike will have a higher profile, too. You have to lift the entire bike, including the front wheel, to attach it to the rack.
When mounting your bike rack or loading bikes on, make sure to lift with your legs (not your back). This is an easy way to prevent injury.
It’s easy to load a bike in a hitch mount rack because you don’t have to lift it up to the roof. You’re less likely to scratch the car’s exterior when you mount the bike than you are with a roof rack. You usually don’t need to remove the bike’s front wheel to place it in the rack. Your roof will be free to carry other items, such as skis or watersport equipment. You don’t have to worry about your vehicle’s overhead clearance.
A hitch mount rack requires a vehicle hitch. Not all cars are rated for towing, so adding a hitch can void the vehicle’s warranty. A hitch mount rack may limit your access to the trunk or hatchback. The rack and bikes may obstruct rear visibility. Your bikes may be damaged if you back into an object or are struck from behind. You usually can’t place tandem bikes and other styles with unusual frames in a hitch mount rack.
On a long road trip, check the rack each time you stop to be certain that your bike is still secure.
A hanging hitch mount rack can fit multiple bikes. In many cases, it can carry up to five if the hitch and car are approved for the weight. Most hanging hitch mount racks hit at chest level, so you don’t need to lift the bike high to secure it. It’s easy to take the rack off the hitch, and the rack is compact for convenient storage.
Not all bike frames are compatible with hanging hitch mount racks. Bikes can sometimes bang up against one another in the rack. Bikes can get dirty when transported at the back of the vehicle. If your vehicle is low to the ground, bike tires can be damaged if they come in contact with the ground.
Some hanging hitch mount racks swivel or tilt for easy access to your car’s trunk or hatchback.
It’s easy to attach and remove bikes from a platform hitch mount rack. Platform hitch mount racks can often fit up to four bikes if the hitch and car are approved for the weight. The racks can usually fit any type of bike. The platform design does a better job of keeping the bikes separated, so there’s less chance of them banging up against one another.
Platform hitch mount racks are heavier than hanging hitch mounts. A platform hitch mount limits access to the trunk or hatchback, though it’s easy to remove the bikes and get into the back of the car. If the rack is a lightweight style, it may only be able to hold two bikes.
When you’re not using your bike rack, take it off your car. Store it in your garage or another secure spot where it won’t be exposed to weather that might corrode or break it down.
If you have a roof mount bike rack, it can be easy to forget your bike is on top of the car before pulling into the garage.
To avoid damaging your bike, try keeping your garage remote inside a cycling glove in your car to remind yourself to take the bike off the roof.
When you’re using a trunk or hitch mount rack at the rear of your car, make sure that it’s installed so the bikes are high enough that their tires won’t hit ground when you go over rough road.
The tires should also be positioned high enough above the exhaust system to avoid melting or popping the tubes.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Allen 3-Bike Hitch
The Allen Sports 3-Bike Hitch Mount Rack features Allen’s patented individual tie-down system, which effectively secures your bike in place. The tie-downs are fixed to the rack’s arm, but they rotate, which allows the rack to accommodate a wide variety of bike frames and sizes. The Allen can also hold up to 100 pounds, making it very versatile.
If you’re taking a long trip with a rear mount rack, it’s a good idea to use bungee cords or straps to keep the bike wheels from spinning the entire time. This can save wear and tear on the hubs’ bearings.
Ensure that your bikes are always secure by checking your rack installation often. A rack may loosen over time, which can cause your bike to go flying off when you hit the road.
Check that all the attachments and bolts are snug, and make sure the pads are still in place on rear racks.
When you’re installing a trunk mount bike rack, position it so the lower feet rest against the horizontal surface of the bumper. This ensures that the bumper supports most of the weight of the rack and bikes, instead of the straps and hooks.
Bike racks vary in price based on the type, quality, and how many bikes they hold, but you can typically expect to pay between $25 and $300.
For a trunk mount rack, you’ll pay between $29 and $149.
For a roof mount rack, you’ll pay between $39 and $180.
For a hitch mount rack, you’ll pay between $90 and $275.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.