How to Choose the Right Bike Rack for Your Car?


Find out what features a good bike rack should have, what you should watch out for, and what you should steer clear of.

Look at your requirements.

The key to finding the right car bike rack for you is to carefully evaluate both your current vehicle and your requirements before making a purchase. When choosing a bike rack for your vehicle, you should keep the following considerations in mind:

  • How frequently are you going to use it?
  • How many bicycles will you be transporting?
  • Will you have to switch cars for example between your and your partner’s cars?
  • Is the car owned by you, on lease or is it being rented?
  • What is your budget?
  • How critical is bike security?
  • How strong are you, do you have the strength to comfortably lift a bicycle alone and secure it with one hand while attaching it to the bike rack?
  • Do you own a distinctive bicycle like a tandem or a uniquely-shaped frame?
  • Does your car currently have a hitch or roof bars? If yes what’s the load capacity?
  • Is your car fitted with a rear-mounted spare tire and will it restrict some rear-mounted bike racks?
  • If you participate in different activities or sports, will one bike rack design be more practical or better valuable than another?

Different kinds of bike racks for cars

Racks for bicycles often come in three separate varieties: those that connect to the trunk of a vehicle using straps, those that attach to the hitch of a vehicle, and roof racks. Every kind has both good and bad characteristics, but not all of them are made to work with every make and model of automobile. The roof mount rack may be the most useful, but it is also the most cumbersome and difficult to use. Finally, there is the hitch mount rack, which is more costly than the other two options but is simpler to use. In addition to regular racks, there are other racks that are of a specialist design. These racks are built for certain applications, such as mounting bicycles inside pick-up trucks, vans, or SUVs. Some types of bike racks come with unique mounting hardware that allows the rack to be attached to the spare tire on the trunk of a vehicle or to the rear ladder of a van.

Let’s take a close look at the advantages and disadvantages of the three most common types of bicycle racks:

The strap on trunk mounted bike racks for cars:

The more affordable strap-on trunk-mounted rack with vinyl straps may be purchased for anywhere from $50 and $130 in most cases. Straps made of vinyl are attached to the frame, and then they are used to fasten the trunk, hatch, tailgate, or rear fender. In today’s more advanced designs, floppy straps have been replaced by cables, which result in designs that are not only more secure but also more user pleasant.

The bike’s frame rests on plastic or rubber-coated supporting arms; higher-grade carriers include well-padded cradles to support and retain the frame in a safe and secure manner, hence minimizing the risk of any frame damage occurring during transport. Before you begin loading up the bikes, you first make sure the bike carrier is balanced correctly and then securely fasten it to the roof of your vehicle. A bike rack that is attached to the trunk is the most convenient way to transport up to three bicycles. Even though racks of this type can be purchased for a lower price, there is a greater risk of damage to both your vehicle and your bicycles when compared to other types of bicycle carriers. This risk can be mitigated by purchasing a high-quality brand, such as the Saris Boes RS 3 Bike Trunk Mount Rack.

Trunk Mount Rack Advantageous Points

  • Because the fitting is not car specific, this option is a sensible alternative for cars that are rented or leased.
  • It is faster and less difficult to raise your bikes and place them on the rack.
  • Extremely simple to put away, even inside the car’s trunk.
  • Racks with fewer features are less costly.

Trunk Mount Rack Disadvantageous Points

  • The weight of the bicycles, in addition to the weight of the rack, exerts a pulling force on the panels of the vehicle, which, in the absence of a rack with high-quality construction, makes it more likely that the paintwork and bodywork will be damaged.
  • Vinyl straps have the potential to become loose and worn with time, both of which might result in injury if the straps give way.
  • It’s possible that trunk spoilers will create an issue.
  • Vinyl straps are easily cut, so they don’t provide much of a deterrent to would-be burglars.
  • Unless the truck-mounted rack you have is a top brand, it might be difficult to properly lock your bicycles to the rack or to your vehicle.
  • In order to facilitate reverse and parking, the length of the vehicle has been extended.
  • In the event that the rack does not have an anti-sway design, the bikes may get dented or damaged.
  • When the rack is placed using less costly racks, it is impossible to reach the trunk of the vehicle.
  • Check to see that the license plate and the taillights are not blocked in any way.
  • Some of the cheaper racks might have issues supporting oddly shaped frames. There is often a need for further attachments.
  • It is not recommended to attach tandem bicycles to racks that are installed on trunks.
  • It’s possible that your view in the rearview mirror via the window will be blocked.

The roof-mounted bike racks for cars:

Roof-mounted racks can be attached to a vehicle by either using the vehicle’s pre-existing roof bars and crossbars, which can be found on a variety of station wagons, minivans, and sports utility vehicles or by using mounting feet that have clips that attach to the top section of the door frame or the vehicle’s storm gutters. If the vehicle was manufactured with crossbars that are capable of securing the bicycle mount, then the price will be reduced. The most basic roof-mount racks may be purchased for less than $60 per bicycle, although the more popular carriers, which are of higher quality and more dependable, start at approximately $125. If you need to purchase crossbars in addition to the basic roof bars, the additional cost will be somewhere in the range of $120 to $220. You need to decide how the bicycles will be secured to the rack before you can pick a roof rack to purchase. A number of racks are designed to function in conjunction with a fork-mount carrier system that clamps the front wheel fork. The drawback is that you have to remove the front wheel, and you will need to find another place to store it. However, the bike will be much simpler to transport onto the roof if the front wheel is removed.

A bicycle is held in place by its frame, pedal crank, and wheels when it is mounted on an upright bike roof rack. The front wheel does not need to be removed, which is a distinct advantage, but the bike will need to be hoisted to an even higher position.

Roof Mounted Rack Advantageous Points

  • This technology enables increased cargo storage via the use of roof storage boxes.
  • When combined with additional equipment, this kind of rack makes it possible to engage in a variety of sports, such as skiing and canoeing.
  • Racks often take advantage of the factory roof bars that are already installed.
  • On versions of greater quality, there is the option of providing adequate security by locking the racks and the bicycles together.
  • A regular sedan can possibly store four bicycles, while a larger van has the capacity to transport up to seven bicycles.
  • Depending on the design of the support tray, this system will be able to accommodate tandem as well as odd-shaped frames.

Roof Mounted Rack Disadvantageous Point

  • Installation on the vehicle is often difficult and labor-intensive.
  • Because of height restrictions, a vehicle is unable to access parking garages or pass beneath low clearance overhead structures, such as those seen in many drive-through restaurants serving fast food.
  • When compared to the many other kinds of racks, they do increase the amount of gas that is used due to the increased wind resistance.
  • They make greater noise because of the wind.
  • Because the bikes are taller, it is unquestionably more difficult to raise them onto the rack, which might result in an increased risk of scratching your car. Because of this, the rack is more likely to scratch your vehicle.
  • There is a potential for issues with curved roofs.
  • Because the roof bars rub on the bodywork, there is a chance that they may damage the paint, especially if the car was unclean when the roof bars were placed.
  • We do not recommend hauling big goods on the roof of an SUV since doing so may lead to handling issues, as well as an increased risk of rollover accidents and the need for emergency braking.
  • It is very crucial not to exceed the roof weight limit specified by either the rack manufacturer or the car manufacturer.

The Hitch mounted bike racks for cars:

Bike racks that attach to a hitch come in two different sizes, each of which corresponds to a different type of hitch that may be installed on a vehicle. Class I and Class II trailer hitches both feature opening receivers measuring 1.25 inches and are intended for use with trailer weights of up to 2,000 pounds gross combined weight on automobiles and smaller SUVs that are based on vehicles. Class III trailer hitches typically have a 2-inch receiver and are used on SUVs and trucks because they are able to support heavier trailer loads. In most cases, a Class I hitch can safely hold up to three bicycles, whereas a Class III hitch may carry three, four, or even five bicycles.

Less expensively and of poorer quality Hitch mounts for one or two bicycles may be purchased for less than $120, although mounts of a decent quality start at $140, and swing-away hitch types that are more functional can cost more than $400.

You will discover that certain hitch-mounted bike racks load bikes onto trays in a manner that is similar to that of roof-mounted ones, so eliminating any possibility of bike wobble. The bikes of other varieties are secured to the carrier by being placed on arms that extend from the carrier. When using this approach, loading must be done with extreme care in order to guarantee that there is sufficient space between bikes and anti-sway to prevent the bikes from rubbing against one another.

Hitch-Mounted Rack Advantageous Points

  • Very easy to put on the vehicle in a short amount of time, it just slots into the hitch.
  • It is not necessary to remove the front wheels.
  • The easiest and most convenient way to load and unload bicycles into and off the carrier.
  • When placing the bikes onto the rack and fastening them, you must take care not to damage either the vehicle or the bicycles.

Roof Mounted Rack Disadvantageous Points

  • If the vehicle doesn’t already have a trailer hitch, you’ll have to pay additional money to have one installed, and you’ll have to pay that cost again for each new vehicle you buy.
  • In order to properly install the hitch, it may sometimes be necessary to drill holes in the chassis or in the rear fender.
  • Check to see if attaching a hitch to a trailer won’t void the warranty on your vehicle or create any other complications for you when you take it in for servicing.
  • There are some hitch mounts that do not allow access via the vehicle’s hatch or tailgate. Swing-away variants are able to solve this issue, despite the fact that their prices are higher.
  • When it comes to some models, extra caution is required to ensure that the bicycles do not swing about and collide with one another when they are being transported.
  • The addition of the bike rack to the back of the car extends the length of the vehicle, which makes parking and maneuvering in reverse more difficult.
  • Take precautions to ensure that the license plate and the taillights are not obscured.
  • To accommodate uniquely shaped bike frames, additional attachments like a crossbar adapter, for example, will be required.
  • Inappropriate for use with tandems
  • Have the potential to obstruct one’s view in the rearview mirror

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