Choosing a Bike Rack for Your Car
There are several types of bicycle racks for cars.
Trunk mount, Roof mount, Spare Tire mount or Receiver Hitch mount bicycle car racks. Trunk mount bicycle racks for cars are the most common.
“I have been fitting bicycle racks to cars in my bicycle shop since 1980. I have built this site and I will be leaving comments on the different racks. I have an opinion about most racks that I will state. Rick Kern Bicycle Hangar Missoula.”
Here is a quick summary of the different types of Racks available.
Advantages To Trunk Mount Bicycle Car Rack
- Trunk Mount are usually cheaper than other types of racks.
- Simple installation. Easy to store when not in use.
Disadvantages to trunk mount bike racks
- If your car is dirty and you put a trunk mount on, the dirt under the rack feet will act like sandpaper and ruin the paint.
- Some Trunk Racks do not get the bike far enough from the car so the bike can rub on the car.
- You cannot attach the upper rack straps to a glass window. If your car’s back window opens and there is not an attachment point above that that is metal you cannot attach a trunk rack. Some of the older Camaros, Firebirds, Toyota 4 Runners can not have a trunk rack attached.
- If your exhaust pipe points directly at the tires on your bike it can burn the tire and ruin it.
- Many racks do not separate the bikes well and the bikes will rub the paint off of each other.
- You cannot access the back of the vehicle when you have bicycles on the rack.
Bumper Mount Racks
I consider most Bumper Mount Racks a subdivision of Trunk racks. The difference between a Trunk mount and a Bumper mount is the Bumper mount rack will extend down low enough to use the bumper to help support the load. They are usually a little more expensive than the pure trunk mount racks.
Advantages to Roof Racks
- The bikes are well separated so they do not rub on each other or the car.
- You can pull a trailer and the bikes will not be in the way.
- The roof racks protect the finish on your car really well.
- Often there are a lot of other accessories to carry canoes, skiis, snowboards etc. to fit the roof rack.
Disadvantages to Roof Racks
- People have been known to forget the bikes are on the roof and run into the garage. This is really hard on the car, bike and sometimes the garage.
- Usually Roof Racks are quite expensive. Often it will cost over $400 for a two bike roof rack.
- Putting the bike on the roof can be a chore.
- The extra wind drag from the bikes above the car will significantly affect your gas mileage.
- Installing a roof rack can be a chore.
Advantages to Spare Tire Racks
- Sometimes they are the only rack that will fit the vehicle.
- Usually the rack will not contact the car’s paint at all.
Disadvantages to Spare tire racks
- They do not fit many cars normally only the smaller SUVs.
- The metal covers on some of the newer SUV’s spare tires make it hard to fit some vehicles. Be sure to check to make sure the rack you buy will fit your vehicle.
Advantages to Receiver Hitch Racks
- Easy to install.
- Less wind drag than Roof Racks.
- The bikes are kept away from the car so they don’t rub on the paint of the car.
- The rack only touches the car by slipping into the Receiver and either bolted or pinned to the receiver.
- Receiver racks are easy to move from vehicle to vehicle as long as the vehicle has the right size receiver. Check out my Receiver Hitch Tips page.
The Hollywood HR1000 Sport Rider Rack which will fit either 1 1/4″ or 2″ Receivers.
Disadvantages to Receiver Hitch Racks
- If your vehicle does not have a receiver it usually costs around $200 to have a receiver put on.
- You cannot haul a trailer when your rack is on your car, there are some specialty racks available that do allow you to do both.
- Like the Trunk rack and the Spare Tire Rack when your bikes are on the rack it is often hard to get into the back of the car.
The Hollywood Tow and Go is a unique Trailer Pulling Bicycle Hauling rack.
The Hollywood Tow and Go is a really unique car rack. It allows you to both pull a trailer and carry bicycles at the same time. It does not come with the Stinger that goes into your receiver on your car and hold the trailer ball. Stingers are available at any U-Haul, trailer accessory store, or trailer store.
The best selling Bicycle car racks are the trunk racks mainly because of the price. The Receiver hitch racks have become really popular in the last few years because they protect the vehicle, the bikes, are easy to install, and will fit a lot of different vehicles.