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10 Best Bike Racks [Buying Guide]

Load up Your Bike And Explore Trails Near You

Best Overall Choice

Yakima Holdup 2-Bike Hitch Rack

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Best Premium Choice

Thule T2 Pro XT 2-Bike Hitch Rack

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Best Budget Choice

Allen Sports Deluxe 2-Bike Trunk Mount

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best bike racks

Cycling has become increasingly popular over the years. New bike trails open up regularly, and you can easily find awesome locations to take your bike for a spin. However, if you’ve ever tried taking your bicycle on a road trip, you know how hard it can be to transport a bike if you don’t have the proper equipment. That’s why getting one of the best bike racks on the market is well worth the investment.

From hitch and trunk mounts to roof racks, bike racks make loading up your bike a piece of cake. Not only that, but you can also rest assured that your bike will get to your destination in one piece, without damaging your vehicle. Below we’ve outlined a handful of the best bike racks on the market and included a few features and considerations you will want to take into account when buying your next bike rack.

Types of Car Bike Racks

There are a few different kinds of bike racks out there. Knowing what type of bike rack will work best for you (and that will fit your vehicle) will help you narrow down the options.

Hitch Mount Bike Rack

These may be the most popular rack style for bikes. Hitch mount bike racks, as you might guess, attach to the hitch at the back of your vehicle. Most hitch racks are compatible with 1.25 or 2-inch receivers. You can then load up the bikes on top of the tray-like bicycle carrier attachment and secure them in place.

The most recent hitch mount racks can be folded up or tilted out of the way when you’re not using them. This is particularly handy if you don’t want to frequently take the rack on and off of your hitch. Their only disadvantage is that they elongate your vehicle. Thus, when you’re parking, you have to be mindful of the added cargo at the back.

Roof Bike Rack

Roof mount racks are also very popular and come in three types. The first is known as a complete rack system, meaning that you attach it to the bare roof of your vehicle. The second looks like a tray and mounts on your vehicle’s factory roof crossbars (assuming your vehicle has crossbars). The third and last type has suction cups to hold it in place.

There are only two downsides to roof racks, in our expert opinion. The first is that you’ll need some muscle to load your bike on top of your vehicle’s roof (and some height if you have an SUV or truck). The second is that when you’re driving into a garage, under trees, or in any other area with low-clearance, you will need to remember you have the bikes up top.

Trunk Mounted Rack

Trunk-mounted racks attach to your vehicle using a system of straps and hooks. Together, they create enough tension to hold the rack (and the bikes) safely in place. These are typically the cheapest and most hassle-free options.

Since they’re the most temporary racks, they come with a fair amount of disadvantages. For starters, they don’t lock to the vehicle, which puts your bikes more at risk of being stolen. Secondly, with bikes on the mounted rack, you lose access to your vehicle’s trunk. It will also be harder to see through your rear-view mirror (a backup camera might solve that problem).

Lastly, if the bike shifts around while you’re driving, there’s a chance the rack can scratch your vehicle. All that said, trunk mount racks are still a great low-investment alternative to carrying your bikes inside your car.

Tailgate Pads

If you have a pickup, carrying your bike in your truck bed is an option. But if you want to keep that brand-new, expensive bike intact, you would do well to get a tailgate pad.

Installing these pads is a piece of cake: you simply drape it over the tailgate and place your bicycle in the truck bed with the front wheel hanging out. Then, you loop the security straps around the bike’s frame.

The clear disadvantage is that tailgate pads don’t offer as much protection and support as other bike racks. They also put your bike at a higher risk of being stolen, although it is pretty easy to lock them to the tie downs in the truck bed with a cable lock. Yet, these pads are a solid and convenient way of driving several bikes around if you have a truck.

Features to Consider When Buying a Bike Rack

Similar to what type of bike is best for you, what type of bike rack will be best for you depends on your particular use case. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you’re shopping.

Type of Installation

Firstly, ask yourself, “Will a bike rack fit my vehicle?” With all the different types that exist (hitch, roof, trunk, and pad), you need to find the one that works with your vehicle’s design. This is the first step in finding the best bike rack for you.

For example, if you drive a hatchback without a hitch, hitch mount racks and tailgate pads are out of the question for you. You’ll have to narrow down your search to roof or trunk racks.

Number of Bike Slots

Most bicycle rack companies make products that accommodate anywhere between two and four bikes at a time. If you plan on taking your whole family cycling, you should look for a spacious rack. Tailgate pads are the roomiest and can hold up to seven bikes.

Ease of Use

It’s also important to think of how easy it will be to use the rack you get. You don’t want one that’ll give you a headache every time you try to mount your bike on it. Simplicity always rules.

Convenience

Some racks are more convenient to use and install than others. For example, getting to your vehicle’s trunk with a trunk-mounted rack can be inconvenient. That isn’t a problem with a hitch rack which allows you to angle down the bikes, freeing up your trunk. Think about how often you’ll be using your bike rack, and pick the type that will be the easiest to use.

Sturdiness and Stability

This is one of the most important things to look out for. You want a rack that’s stable and holds the bikes in place. The last thing you want is a swaying bike on a highway! Sturdiness is another thing to take into consideration. You want a rack that will last for years. Thus, look for one made from heavy-duty materials for added durability.

Padded Security Points

In order to keep your bike pristine, you’ll want a rack with padded security points. This will ensure you won’t scratch or damage your bike.

Locking Cables

The locking cables are usually built into the rack or come as a separate attachment. They can either be made from fabric, plastic, or metal. Invest in durable, sturdy locking cables to lower the chances of a stolen bike.

Best Overall Choice

1. Yakima Holdup 2-Bike Hitch Rack

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Yakima is well-known for making some of the best car racks on the market, and this sturdy hitch-mount bike rack is no exception. Designed to securely haul two bikes (or four if you purchase the Yakima Holdup Plus 2 add on) wherever your travels take you.

While it does come with a heftier price tag, it’s well worth every penny. The frame is strong and durable and won’t rust. Plus mounting the bikes is a breeze. Simply place the front tire in the tray and close the carry arm around it. Then secure the rear tire with the lock. A wide variety of bikes will fit on the rack, including full-suspension mountain bikes.

Additionally, this item comes with a locking mechanism to prevent your bicycles from getting stolen. You can unlock all slots with the same key. On top of that, there’s also a sturdy locking mechanism that keeps the rack and the hitch together, again so no one can easily make off with your bikes.

(This is the rack I use on my personal SUV, which I trust to carry my expensive bicycles. It has gone on many adventures on and off-road and has held up remarkably well to the abuse that I’ve thrown at it. Worth the money and will list. –Bryon Dorr, AutoWise Editor-in-Chief)

Best Premium Choice

2. Thule T2 Pro XT 2-Bike Hitch Rack

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The Thule T2 Pro XT comes with a host of features that are well worth the premium price tag. This hitch-mounted rack is incredibly versatile and easy to use. The bike tray can accommodate tires up to 5 inches wide as well as 29-inch wheels. It can also fit small children’s bikes, so no matter what bikes you are hauling, they will be secure.

The Thule T2 Pro rack comes with a HitchSwitch lever. This allows you to angle the rack up or down. When you aren’t hauling bikes, you can fold the rack up and out of the way. And with the bikes on the rack, you can angle the tray down to access the trunk of your car without having to unload the bikes.

Lastly, we love how easy it is to install this rack on your vehicle’s hitch. The auto attach knob system allows you to put the rack in place without ever needing to fumble around with tools. It is compatible with 1.25 and 2-inch hitch receivers. The hitch also has a built-in lock so you can secure your bikes worry free.

Best Budget Choice

3. Allen Sports Deluxe 2-Bike Trunk Mount

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This fantastic trunk-mounted bike rack is easy to set up, affordable, and can securely hold two bikes. The Allen Sports Trunk Mount rack fits a wide selection of vehicles including most sedans, hatchbacks, minivans, and SUVs. Since it is fixed in place using fabric straps, your vehicle doesn’t need to have a hitch for it to work.

The fabric straps are very sturdy, offering good support. The rack has additional side straps that provide extra stability. The individual carry arms rotate to accommodate pretty much any bike model out there including children’s bikes. This patented technology guarantees your bike stays in place thanks to its extra secure adjustable straps.

You will have to unload your bikes to access the trunk while this rack is mounted so keep this in mind. Generally, if don’t mind doing a little bit of legwork to install the rack or only need a bike rack occasionally, this high-quality trunk-mount rack is a good option.

4. CyclingDeal 1-Bike Roof Rack

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The CyclingDeal roof bike rack is a no-frills approach to taking your bicycle with you on the go. It’s great for solo adventurers who don’t want to spend a fortune on a bulky item.

The first thing you’ll notice is that it can only carry one bike at a time. If you want to carry additional bikes, you can always add on another single rack later. These CyclingDeal roof racks can be mounted side-by-side on the vehicle’s roof bars.

Unlike some other roof-mounted racks, the CyclingDeal doesn’t require you to remove the bicycle’s front wheel. You can mount it as is on the sliding tray. Then, use the clamp to lock around your bike’s down tube to hold it in place and attached the two fabric straps around your front and rear wheel.

5. Thule Vertex XT 5-Bike Hitch Rack

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When you need to carry up to five bikes, the Thule Vertex hitch-mount rack will do the trick. This hitch bike rack has a new-and-improved mounting mechanism and it holds the bicycles by the crossbar, instead of by the wheels, like other hitch mount racks. The individual carry arms are padded to prevent any potential damage to the bikes, even when driving at high speeds.

Another great feature is the integrated lock cable. The built-in heavy-duty cable lock ensure your bikes will never be stolen by securing them to the rack itself. When it’s not being used, the cable can be stored inside the rack.

Lastly, when the rack isn’t being used, it can be folded up against your trunk without needing to uninstall it from the hitch. This saves you a ton of rear space. On top of that, if you want to reach into the trunk, you can also angle the hitch adaptor down and out of your way.

6. Allen Sports 4-Bike Hitch Rack

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The Allen Sports 4-bike hitch mount is great for anyone on a budget. And even with the affordable price, you get features that make it worth a lot more. For starters, along with the rack, you also get the hardware you need to install it. There’s a no-wobble knob to easily attach the rack to your vehicle’s 2-inch hitch.

When the carrier arm isn’t in use, you can fold it up to save room so you can leave the bike rack mounted on your car the majority of the time. If you need access to the rear of your vehicle, the rack has a tilt feature that allows you to drop it out of the way.

Designed for up to four bikes, this bike rack is a great choice for biking-loving families. Each bicycle is held in place by an individual tie-down system. Allen Sports designed the rack so it can fit a wide variety of frame sizes and styles including women’s and children’s bikes.

7. BV 2-Bike Hitch Rack

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The BV hitch rack is designed to carry two bikes and can be easily mounted off the hitch of your vehicle. Like other hitch mount carriers, the BV model can be folded up when not in use. You can also angle it down when the bikes are mounted on it so that you can access the trunk.

A key feature is its two-way no-wobble installation kit. You can use the included screw to secure the rack to the hitch of your vehicle. This, along with the tray-style loops and padded arms mean you can rest assured, ensures your mounted bikes won’t move even when driving at highway speeds.

The max bike load is 35 pounds per bike and the trays can accommodate up to a 3-inch tire (which is not wide enough for fat bike tires). The BV bike rack also comes in a 4-bike version.

8. Tyger Auto Deluxe 4-Bike Hitch Rack

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The Tyger hitch mount is built out of durable, heavy-weight, sturdy materials and accommodates up to four bikes. The hooks that secure the bike in place are made from hardened plastic and can be tightened as needed. It is designed to fit a wide variety of bikes from mountain bikes to children’s bikes.

The mount has foldable carry arms and a tilt-feature that allows you to access the trunk. The individual bike cradles are designed with a protection pad so they should not damage or search the bike frame.

This hitch-mounted rack is easy to install and includes safety straps to help stabilize the bikes while on the road. It also comes with a Tyger hitch lock and cable lock so you can securely lock the hitch to your vehicle and your bikes to the hitch.

9. Demon United Tailgate Pad

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If you own a truck, a tailgate pad is a convenient and easy way to transport your bike without having to mess around with more traditional bike racks.

This reinforced waterproof fabric drapes over the back of your tailgate to hold your mountain bikes in place. Instead of having to mount your bicycle on a separate rack, simply place it on the truck bed, and the tailgate pad will keep it secure.

The Demon United pad has seven separate loops. A velcro loop goes around the stem of the bike and prevents the bike from shifting around while on the road. There is an access handle that allows you to open and close the tailgate while the pad is in place.

10. Saris Bones 2-Bike Trunk Rack

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If your vehicle doesn’t have a hitch (and you don’t want to install one), this trunk rack is a great option that can carry two bikes. It’s easy to install and easy to use.

The rack is held in place by six fabric straps that you lace around the inside of your trunk so that the tension holds the rack in place. It may not seem like a lot, but the strong plastic arms help hold the rack in place.

Weighing in at 9 pounds, this bike rack is lightweight and portable, making it easy to swap between vehicles or put on and off frequently. Lastly, mounting each bike is a breeze. Simply place the frame in the individual slots and fasten the adjustable straps.



Get The Best Bike Rack And Get Out Exploring

Different people use their bike racks for different things. Whether you plan to go cycle through wine country on your road biking, hit the trails on your mountain bike, or cruise your local rail-trail, the best bike rack for you will be the one that works on your vehicle, with your bikes, and generally caters to your needs, including your budget.



Frequently Asked Questions

Do bike racks fit all cars?

Bike racks are not universal. Depending on what kind of vehicle you have, you’ll need a specific rack. For instance, if you have a pickup truck, you can’t expect a trunk-mounted rack to work.

Does your car have a hitch? What about roof crossbars? Before purchasing a bike rack, think about your vehicle’s design and what style rack will work best for you.

Can bike racks damage cars?

If you aren’t careful when installing the rack, yes, your bike rack may damage your car.

Putting too much cargo on a hitch-mount rack can damage the hitch. Not mounting a roof rack correctly can result in your bike slipping off and falling on your vehicle’s roof. An though rare, your bike can swing forward and break the rearview window if you don’t ensure there is enough tension in the straps on a trunk-mounted rack.

As with all add-ons, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how to securely and safely install your bike mount and secure your bike to the rack.

Can bike racks be stolen?

Technically, thieves can steal any bike rack if they have the right tools. Some racks do come with a locking mechanism that attaches the rack to your vehicle. Look for this added security feature if you are concerned about your bike being stolen.

Can a bike rack rest on glass?

This is usually a question that comes up when talking about trunk-mounted racks. If you have installed the rack correctly and ensure the tension on the straps is adequate, then you should not have to worry about the top part of the rack resting on the glass. In these cases, the weight of the bike rests mostly on the lower portion of the rack, meaning the glass barely has any pressure on it.

How much weight can a bike rack hold?

Refer to your instruction manual or the product description from the manufacturer to see how much weight your bike rack can hold. Each rack is different, and the weight capacity will largely depend on how many bikes your rack is designed to carry.

Can you put a bike rack on a rental car?

Yes, you can. None of the bike racks we have reviewed require you to drill any holes or install any permanent mounting hardware. They’re all installed using simple tools that should cause no damage to a vehicle.





About Kristen Arendt

Kristen is a writer and editor based in Colorado. She came to motorsports by way of her husband's passion for track days, autocross, and fast cars and is now the proud co-driver of two E36 325s and an overland-in-the-making Lexus GX470. She is a volunteer driving instructor with the BMW CCA Rocky Mountain Chapter and enjoys any event that involves getting behind the wheel or navigating from the passenger's seat.

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