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How We Decided
  • 56 Models Considered
  • 36 Hours Spent
  • 2 Experts Interviewed
  • 168 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Best Bike Racks

    Given the variety of vehicles on the road today, finding a great bike rack is not a straightforward process. Nevertheless, there's still plenty of choice, and our research has turned up a number of effective solutions that will work for the vast majority of vans and cars.

    Our ratings don't cover roof-mounted bike racks (largely because of vehicular height restrictions and the inconvenience of having to lift bikes up) or racks for RVs (these tend to be specialist items that are permanently fitted). Those that made our final five are:

    Products we Considered

    • Yakima
      RidgeBack Hitch
    • Hollywood Racks
      Trunk Mounted
    • Allen
      3-Bike Hitch
    • Swagman
      XC Cross-Country 2-Bike Hitch
    • Thule
      Passage Trunk Mount

    Denise has a background in healthcare and physical therapy. She also has the unique experience of raising three boys. Through the years, she has coached her sons and many of their friends through their share of childhood health problems and accidents. When not helping others recover from their injuries, you may find Denise working in her garden or reading.

    Denise  |  Health Care Professional


    Size & Construction

    It's important to consider not just how many bikes a rack will carry, but also the way in which the rack is put together. Does it have the structural strength to carry your bikes safely and last a long time?

    Ease of Fitting

    There are a variety of ways to attach a bike rack to your vehicle, from combinations of straps and rubber feet to clamps and bolts. In this part of the ratings, we examine how easy it is to fit each rack and how secure each one is once attached.

    Cycle Mounting

    It's one thing to get your bike rack attached to the car. It's quite another to mount your bicycles onto the rack. An assortment of fitting options exist; in this section, we review how each option works and how easy it is to execute.


    All of our finalists are competitively priced, but there's certainly a fair spread from our least to most expensive. We look at each package and, with the help of owner feedback, make some important value judgments.

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    Size & Construction

    Hollywood Racks Express Trunk Mounted Bike Rack

    If there's such a thing as an entry-level bike rack, then the Hollywood Racks two-bike version qualifies as such. It's a trunk-mounted model of basic construction. Effectively, it's just two U-shaped, steel tubes clamped together near their centers with foam rubber cushioning to protect your vehicle and clamps to mount your bicycles. It comes fully assembled, and maximum load is a competitive 90 pounds. The general structure seems to hold up, but a few owners have complained of clamps and straps breaking -- not something you want happening when you're on the move.

    Allen Sports Deluxe 3-Bike Hitch Mount Rack

    Like the Hollywood Racks Express, the hitch-mounted Allen Sports bike rack sits at the lower end of our price range. This model will accommodate three bikes and supports up to 105 pounds. Build quality is solid thanks to the Allen's welded main structural parts, and all steel parts are powder coated to resist corrosion. A bit of assembly is required, but it only requires about five minutes and three simple bolts. A couple of owners with heavy, beach cruiser bikes said the upright bent a little under that kind of load, but this doesn't seem to be a common complaint.

    Swagman XC Cross-Country 2-Bike Hitch Mount Rack

    Although the Swagman two-bike rack is a hitch fitting model, its design is not the most common type of hitch fit available. (More on that later.) It doesn't look as sturdy as some of its competitors, but that's not due to an inherent weakness; rather, it's the way it carriers your bicycles. The Swagman is largely steel with a hard-wearing coat and softer surfaces where it clamps to the bike frame. The manufacturer states that maximum load is 35 pounds per bike. This weight limit is less than some other racks on the market, and one or two owners thought that build could be more substantial. However, incidents of actual Swagman failure are very rare. Some assembly is required, and the process can be a bit frustrating for some people.

    Thule Passage Trunk Mount Carrier

    There are few better-known names in vehicle cargo accessories than Thule, and the trunk-mounted Thule Passage Carrier looks like the quality piece of equipment you'd expect from this company. The Thule's basic concept is the same as the Hollywood Racks model; for example, there's similar steel tubing with foam rubber pads to prevent the rack from marking your car. With a load capacity of 70 pounds, the Thule can accommodate two bikes. Several owners criticized the Thule's central 'hub' assembly, saying the plastic casing is flimsy and the internals are not made as well as they could be. However, comments like these are in the minority.

    Yakima RidgeBack 4-Bike Hitch Rack

    We're not exactly sure what the Yakima bike rack is made of, but it certainly represents an impressive feat of engineering. The arms are steel and there are some fairly heavy-duty plastics included as well, but we don't know whether the main upright is aluminum alloy or encased steel. In reality, it doesn't matter; this hitch-mounting bike rack boasts the greatest capacity in our review by some distance. It's capable of carrying up to four bikes at 40 pounds each (or 150 pounds overall). Owners spout occasional complaints, but construction quality is definitely not one of them.

    Owners of the Allen Sports Deluxe Hitch Mount Rack love the convenience of its quick assembly and the sturdiness of its welded structure.

    Ease of Fitting

    Hollywood Racks Express Trunk Mounted Bike Rack

    Attaching the Hollywood Racks bike rack to a car is quite 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 lid. These straps tighten easily by hand, but they can leave quite a lot of material free. The material then must be folded up and held out of the way. Bands are provided for this purpose, but we have our doubts as to how durable these bands are, because you'll often see that they've been replaced by ordinary household rubber bands. On the plus side, the entire rack weighs just 10 pounds, so it's very manageable. It also folds for easy storage.

    By their nature, "hitch" bike racks are usually heavier than "trunk mount" versions. At just over 22 pounds, the Allen Sports bike rack follows this principle. It's not extremely heavy or complicated to mount, but many owners appreciate having another person on hand during installation. The Allen Sports Deluxe fits most 1.25 and 2-inch hitches (Classes II, III and IV) using the supplied adapter, but there have been owner complaints concerning hole sizes and alignment. Hole size and alignment problems are usually a quick fix, but this is a problem consumers wish they didn't have to deal with. Once fitted, removal of a single pin allows the rack to tilt, giving access to the rear of the vehicle. The arms fold down and out of the way when there aren't bikes loaded onto them.

    Like the Allen Sports Deluxe rack, the Swagman fits most 1.25 and 2-inch hitches, though it is only recommended for Class III. Despite its somewhat skeletal appearance, it actually weighs 28 pounds, so although many owners say it's easy to fit, a new owner might appreciate some installation assistance. In most cases, opening a tailgate or hatchback means removing the central column, but that's just a question of removing the locking pin. The Swagman can be stored (more or less) flat. Our research turned up a number of complaints about a fitting problem, but this was a production error that Swagman is aware of. By now, the issue should have been corrected.

    Mounting the Thule bike rack should be as straightforward as the similarly styled Hollywood Racks Express model. The frame rests on the trunk and/or fender in the same way, and there are straps that secure it. However, the Thule has six straps rather than four, giving it more fixing points than the Hollywood model. In addition to sliding clamps, there's also the unique "FitDial" that the manufacturer claims will ensure a perfect fit in short order. At only 12 pounds, mounting the Thule is a task that just about anyone could manage. Another advantage the Thule wields over the Hollywood: the arms can be rotated down and out of the way when not in use. While there are some criticisms of this bike rack, our research turned up no complaints related to fitting.

    Like the Allen Sports Deluxe Rack and the Swagman, the Yakima bike rack fits 1.25 and 2-inch hitches -- this time of Class II or higher. The apparatus attaches to vehicles by way of a very unique and clever "SpeedKnob" which requires no tools. The SpeedKnob adds security by automatically locking the rack in place; owners need a key (supplied) to remove it. This is a fantastic feature, but installation can be rough as the Yakima Hitch Rack weights 36 pounds. While plenty of people had no problem with it, more than one owner suggested that the task is a two-person job. Overall, this rack receives plenty of compliments. Owners love the fact that the arms fold down when not needed and that the Yakima folds very neatly for storage.

    The Yakima's unique and convenient "SpeedKnob" automatically locks the rack to your vehicle.

    Cycle Mounting

    Hollywood Racks Express Trunk Mounted Bike Rack

    Although putting a bike on any of these racks ought to be straightforward, it's worth noting how far apart the arms are before making a purchase. Almost every rack will easily accommodate bikes with top rails (so-called "Men's" bikes), but step-throughs ("Women's" bikes) may be more problematic. Many manufacturers offer an adapter (effectively a temporary top rail) for an extra expense.

    Arms on the Hollywood Racks bike rack are 15 inches apart, so if you have a bike with a top rail longer than this (most will be), you should have no problem with cycle mounting. Owners have mounted a number of other bicycle styles successfully -- from beach cruisers to children's bikes -- but additional bungees are frequently required. Bike frame rails should be protected by the rubber mounts, which have a rubber strap over the top to hold them securely. However, our research turned up a few incidents of the Hollywood's straps failing, which could potentially cause a bike to break free from the rack. The potential problem with all trunk-mounted bike racks is that the lower mount often rests on the car's rear fender. That's OK if the fender is steel, but modern fenders made of plastic composite can suffer considerable flexing or even permanent damage. It's not been cited as a big problem, but it's worth considering. Another problem mentioned by some owners is that pedals can be very close to the trunk or license plate -- close enough to make contact, in some cases.

    Allen Sports Deluxe 3-Bike Hitch Mount Rack

    The Allen Sports Deluxe Hitch Mount Rack's arms are approximately one foot apart. As such, it can accommodate a great range of frame sizes, including small children's bicycles. Clamps are lined with soft plastic to protect your car's finish. While this approach is a little "old school," the Allen's clamps give a greater feeling of security than some of its competitors. Additionally, while some racks are criticized for holding bikes too closely together, owners say there's plenty of room for three cycles on the long (16-inch) arms of the Allen Sports Deluxe. Anti-wobble bolts are supplied with this rack, but owners report that they are not so keen on the Allen rack's lack of rigidity when on the move. Potential buyers should note that all racks -- particularly hitch mount versions -- are prone to some sway. During our research, we encountered no reports of actual damage due to lack of rigidity.

    Swagman XC Cross-Country 2-Bike Hitch Mount Rack

    The Swagman bike rack is often called a "platform" rack because you don't lift bikes up onto hooks; rather, you drop the wheels into the loops provided and then bring the clamps on the central pillar down onto the frames to secure them. On the plus side, this means bikes don't have to be lifted very high. However, there's still the question of needing a top rail (or adapter) to hold some bikes properly. Bungees have been used to tightly adhere some owners' bikes, but we can't really recommend that as a secure method of transport. One of the major benefits of the Swagman, according to some owners, is the ease with which it takes a tandem bike. (If you plan to do attach a tandem bike to the Swagman, you will need to buy additional loops.) On the negative side, some owners have expressed concern about stability. On a few occasions, the wing nuts that hold the top clamps have vibrated loose. Because of this, careful tightening is a necessity.

    Thule Passage Trunk Mount Carrier

    With the Thule bike rack, owners enjoy the ability to transport children's bikes thanks to arms that are under a foot apart. However, some owners complained that this distance was still too far! In most other ways, Thule mounting challenges are very similar to Hollywood Racks mounting challenges. An adapter is recommended if your bike doesn't have a top rail, and the weight of the bikes you carry may put pressure on your fender. In terms of actual clamping, the soft rubber mounts shouldn't harm your frame, and the pull-over straps appear to be even more robust than those of the Hollywood. However, they do have limited size, and people with larger frames may struggle. One or two owners have also complained of breakages. The question of sway is one that Thule is obviously aware of, because they've incorporated "Stay Put" anti-sway cages. These are intended to stop sideways motion and prevent bikes from banging into each other, and according to reports, the cages work very well.

    Yakima RidgeBack 4-Bike Hitch Rack

    Pictures of the Yakima bike rack suggest that the arms are very close together, but they're actually a little over a foot apart. Two of the four frame cradle sets have clamping for down tubes and seat posts, providing greater flexibility when loading. The straps that hold the frames down, called "ZipStrips," are a lot like zip ties in that a ratchet mechanism prevents slippage until a lever is operated. Owner reaction to the ZipStrips is mixed. The strips are definitely secure when used properly, but several customers complained that they are easy to lose. This rack can carry four bikes at a time. Any rack with four bikes should be expected to have a little "give" in transit, and the Yakima is no exception. However, our research turned up no negative consumer comments about sway.

    The Allen Sports Deluxe Hitch Mount Rack can accommodate a great range of frame sizes, including small children's bicycles.

    When mounting your bike racks or loading your bikes on, make sure to lift with your legs (and not your back). This is an easy way to prevent injury.

    Health Care Professional


    Hollywood Racks Express Trunk Mounted Bike Rack

    You'll pay $58 for the Hollywood Racks bike rack, and you'll struggle to find anything of quality that's cheaper. It is a budget model, and it's not without its flaws, but if you're an occasional biker or you travel relatively short distances, it's a perfectly adequate solution. Several owners have had problems with the straps that secure the frame, and there are reports of bikes coming free, but fortunately, that's rare. Some might say once is too often, but you also have to consider the hundreds of satisfied owners who say that it's easy to fit, strong, and secure.

    Allen Sports Deluxe 3-Bike Hitch Mount Rack

    At $89, the Allen Sports bike rack is an excellent deal. Its sturdy construction can carry three bikes securely, yet it's not too heavy. It may not display a lot of modern materials or the clever design of some premium bike racks, but in many ways, its beauty is in its simplicity. That's not to suggest it's short on the features you need; about the only thing it doesn't have that was on some owners' wish lists was a way of locking it to the vehicle. (Then again, the only one of our finalists that offers that facility is the Yakima.) It's no surprise, then, that this is a very popular model. Critics will tell you it wobbles too much, yet there are many who disagree, and we wonder whether the "anti-wobble" bolt -- which some have said is a bit of a pain -- has been fitted properly. In general, owner comments about the Allen Sports Deluxe are very positive, particularly when you consider how comparatively inexpensive it is.

    Swagman XC Cross-Country 2-Bike Hitch Mount Rack

    The Swagman bike rack is what you might call a mid-range option. At $97, it's neither particularly cheap nor particularly expensive. It's a design that doesn't conform to the others in our ratings, and it's fair to say that not everyone likes it. However, a lot of people do like it! Most owners find the Swagman to be a convenient and versatile rack, and many appreciate how little you have to lift your bike to get it on. It appears to be well made, though a couple of owners have experienced component failures (such as the wing nuts vibrating off). Careful preparation should (hopefully) prevent this from happening! For every person who says the Swagman moves too much, there's another who calls it "sturdy."

    Thule Passage Trunk Mount Carrier

    We've already mentioned Thule's reputation for quality products, but this bike rack isn't as expensive as you may imagine. There are cheaper options, of course, but there's a lot of very good engineering in this rack. It follows the same general design as the Hollywood Racks model, and as such, it suffers the potential disadvantage of weight being loaded onto the rear fender. However, it provides a more robust and secure approach than many competitors, with particular attention paid to stopping the swaying that affects some other racks on our shortlist. Some aspects of the Thule rack, such as the plastic elbow cover and connecting pin, did come in for some criticism. Overall, however, people consider the Thule to be a strong and safe way to carry bikes -- if a little lacking in terms of the variety of vehicles it fits.

    Yakima RidgeBack 4-Bike Hitch Rack

    There's no denying the build quality, ingenuity, and useful features of the Yakima bike rack. It will cost you $225 -- which is clearly more than the other competitors on our elite list. However, according to the vast majority of owners, you definitely do get what you pay for. Our research unveiled two criticisms about the Yakima, neither of which is particularly frequent. The first: it's heavy (which we attribute to its high quality and rigid construction). The second: the ZipStrips can be lost easily. Annoying perhaps, but a similar problem could happen with the retaining straps on almost every other bike rack. On the plus side, the Yakima can carry four bikes at a time. It offers a rapid locking attachment and is, overall, very easy to use. And, just for fun, there is a bottle opener built into the end of each arm. Important? Probably not, but a good indicator of Yakima's attention to detail!

    Just for fun, there is a bottle opener built into each arm of the Yakima RidgeBack rack.

    Best of the Best

    While each model in our ratings offers an efficient way to secure bikes to your vehicle, the overall best bike rack is the Yakima RidgeBack. Its competitors are all good, but just about every aspect of the Yakima is superior, from construction quality to fit to cycle mounting.

    The Yakima looks sturdy, and indeed, it is. It's rated to carry up to 150 pounds, and its class-leading strength is backed up by owner comments. It's the only one of our finalists that can accommodate four bikes, and while there are other bike racks on the market that will do the same, few do it so well.

    At 36 pounds, it is heavy, and a few people struggled with its weight. On the other hand, affixing it to a car is easily accomplished via a simple locking mechanism. Other advantages: it fits both popular hitch sizes (1.25 and 2 inch) from Class II on up, there's a neat handle to tilt it forward for access to the rear of your car, and the arms fold down when not required. It also folds down to a remarkably small size for storage.

    Bike mounting is uncomplicated and flexible. Many owners tell us they're able to mount a pair of adult bikes and a pair of children's bikes quickly and easily. Rubber supports prevent frame damage, and unique "ZipStrips" ensure they're held on tight. A few people complained these straps are easy to lose, but the same is true of other models on the market -- and spares are readily available. The manufacturer likes to draw attention to the anti-sway feature, which must work, because owners don't mention it!

    This is one big, strong bike rack, and it's priced as such. The only question is whether its performance meets consumer expectations. According to owners, it does. A few don't like the weight when mounting it, but all are happy with the rack's strength and rigidity once it's on. One or two don't like the ZipStrips, but we've never heard of one breaking or coming undone. Did we mention the integrated bottle openers? You could argue that they're unnecessary, and maybe that's true, but they also underline the exceptional thought and care taken by Yakima's engineers.
    Best of the Best
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    Does the highly regarded Yakima RidgeBack 4-Bike Hitch Rack meet consumer expectations? According to owners, it most certainly does.

    Best Bang for your Buck

    There are several models on our shortlist that offer a superb deal, especially considering how little you pay for them. However, the very best bike rack at an affordable price is the Allen Sports Deluxe rack.

    Most competitors in this price range will carry two bikes, but the Allen carries three. Its maximum load rating of 105 pounds is only bettered by the Yakima, which costs up to three times as much. If the design isn't subtle or particularly pretty, it is at least strong and purposeful. In our opinion (and that of many satisfied owners), that's not a bad thing.

    The Allen Sports Deluxe rack mounts to Class II, III and IV hitches that are sized at either 1.25 or 2 inches. There have been a few complaints about alignment and rigidity, which is disappointing but not difficult to fix. Care does need to be taken here, or the bike rack will sway more than some people would like. However, our research turned up no incidents of breakage or damage. Once fitted, the central pillar can easily be removed for rear access.

    Considering the features, this is a surprisingly low-cost bike rack. Given that the price is only $89, you might expect a fair amount of criticism, but only a small number of the Allen's many buyers have registered complaints. A fair number think it wobbles too much, and some fault the fit of components. However, the overwhelming majority of owner comments are positive. Overall, the Allen SportsDeluxe rack may have a few minor flaws, but they don't stop it from being a very good bike rack for the money.
    Best Bang for your Buck
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    Most competitors in this price range will carry two bikes, but the Allen Sports Deluxe carries three.
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