By on April 19, 2019

best bike racks for your vehicle

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For as much as a person may try, there does come the realization that we can’t fit everything into our vehicles — even if one did master the ancient arts of Jenga and Tetris as a youngster. Sometimes a person just has to accept reality, break down, and purchase some sort of auxiliary carrier and lash it to the car.

This is especially true if said items that won’t fit are of an odd size, like several bicycles or a taxidermied tiger shark. While we can’t help you with the latter, we have rounded up a few of our picks for the former, all of which are designed to cart your two-wheeled Victorian antiquity to its far-flung destination. It is far-flung, right? Otherwise, you’d be riding the thing there.

Jokes aside, plenty of otherwise normal folks enjoy packing up their bikes and taking to the trails on weekends. Those trails could be on the rocks of Moab, the forests of Vermont, or the shores of California. Either way, not everyone finds themselves on the doorsteps of those locales, so carting bikes on the exterior of one’s vehicle is hardly a far-fetched proposition.

Assembled here are eight bike racks of various size, price, and application. Choose wisely, and the games of Jenga and Tetris won’t even enter your mind.

(Editor’s note: As noted above, this post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)

1. Editor’s Pick: Saris Bones 801 3-Bike Trunk Mount Rack

saris bones 3-bike trunk mount rack

Flying in the face of the unstoppable rising tide of crossovers and SUVs, a few die-hards still choose to drive a sedan (*raises hand*). If the Venn diagram of their interests also includes cycling, then this is a great carrying rack for their bikes. It is a trunk mounted rack that can carry up to three bikes weighing up to 35 pounds each. An arc-based design is said to fit over most spoilers while separating bikes on different levels.

ALSO SEE: Getting Hitched: The Best Hitch Accessories for Your Car

A tilting feature allows easy access to the rear of a vehicle using this rack and the green crowd will appreciate knowing it is built with 100% recyclable, non-rusting materials. Articulated rubber feet protect the car’s paint and the whole thing, not including bicycles, weighs just 11 pounds. As a clincher, a portion of the sale price goes to charity; exactly which one depends on the color chosen — orange is for the MS society, for example.

Pros: Slick styling for a bike rack, available in colors, lightweight, noble philanthropy

Cons: Not cheap, no one drives sedans anymore

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2. Cheap Solution: Swagman Upright Roof Mount Bike Rack

swagman upright roof mount bike rack

If all you seek is a simple way to haul around a single bike, then this could be the rack for you. This lockable upright unit mounts to a vehicle’s existing roof rack, fitting square or round bars up to three inches wide. Unlike some other roof-mounted solutions, this one does not require an annoying removal of the bike’s front wheel during transport.

Cheap and light, the works of it folds flat when not in use, thereby saving drivers the indignity of getting snagged on a low hanging pipe in the condo’s underground parking garage. Brackets and hardware are included for installation, though some buyers reported a difficult install if the car’s factory roof rack rails are mounted close to the top of the vehicle.

Pros: Affordable, lightweight, lockable, it’s called a Swagman

Cons: Only accepts one bike, requires an existing roof rack

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3. Great for Off-Road: Hollywood Racks SR1 2-Bike Spare Tire Mount Rack

hollywood racks sr1 spare tire rack

This option utilizes a rugged strap paired with a couple of metal arms in order to rest itself on a vehicle’s spare tire. It’s a shockingly simple mounting system that uses the forces of gravity and leverage to stay secure. Given that it is directly attached to the spare tire, it will easily swing out of the way without any modifications. It’s a great solution for the adventure crowd who likes to jump in their Wrangler, drive to the trailhead, and hit the trail on bikes instead of a 4×4. That’s not the scene for me but, hey, to each their own.

Said to be fully adjustable to fit most factory spare tire sizes, this rig comes fully assembled and folds flat for storage. Those arms onto which the bikes are mounted can be adjusted in case the weirdo 4×4 you imported from across the pond has its spare tire mounted off-center on its back hatch. Or, y’know, maybe you just have a late-90s CR-V. Keep an eye on door hinges as this unit places a lot of extra weight on the back door when filled with bikes.

Pros: Uses the spare tire as a mount, doesn’t actually touch your vehicle

Cons: Puts a lot more weight directly on the vehicle’s back door

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4. Kuat Racks NV 2.0 Bike Rack

kuat racks nv 2.0 bike rack

Building on the company’s previous efforts in this area, the NV 2.0 hitch rack has a pivot system featuring a foot assist, so a person can lower the rack without having to lean the bike up against anything. An adjustable cradle allows for fat bikes wearing tires measuring about 5 inches. Or, users can accommodate bicycles with longer-then-standard wheel bases. The bike cable locks keep your Victorian antiquity very secure.

ALSO SEE: Turn Down For Watt: Best Portable Car Jump Starters

A workstand makes it easy to perform trail- or roadside repairs without hassle. Its ratchet design for the front tire is said to have an intuitive release which is more than can be said for most other ratchet straps out there. The rear tire strap features a specially designed band to protect wheels. Another bonus? It’s a no-tool install.

Pros: Innovative features, holds 60 lb bikes, excellent online reviews

Cons: Heavy, eye-wateringly expensive

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5. BV Bike Bicycle Hitch Mount Rack Carrier

bv 2-bike bicycle hitch mount rack carrier

Making good use of that towing hitch that’s just loitering on the back of your SUV, this rack holds a couple of bikes by way of a three-point connection system. A pair of tray-style arms on the bottom secure the bicycle wheels while a vertical arm up top loops over the bike’s frame. So designed, this system should prevent the velos from swaying while on the road. That arm is padded to avoid scratching the finish on your bike, by the way, and the whole thing can support 70lbs.

ALSO SEE: Buyer’s Guide: Dent Repair Kits

A tilt-back feature allows the rig to pivot a bit out of the way in case a person wants to access the SUV’s rear cargo area while the rack is full of bikes. This unit is also available as a four-bike carrier, which must stick out in traffic like a spoilt child’s bottom lip. It can, however, fold up when not in use. Be aware that creative ne’er-do-wells can make off with your two-wheeled conveyance unless you buy an extra lock.

Pros: A trio of gripping areas keep bicycles in place, easy-tilt feature

Cons: No locking system for the bikes

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6. Allen Sports Deluxe Trunk Mounted Bike Rack

allen sports deluxe 2-bike trunk mount rack

This is a plain-jane version of the snazzy Editor’s Pick at the top of this post. Mounting to a sedan’s trunklid, this particular unit employs a series of straps and metal hooks in a bid to stay secure and not fly off into traffic behind you. The manufacturer says this thing will work with minivans and SUVs but it may require some creative thinking to mount it on one of those machines. Read the instructions.

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It does come fully assembled and 12-inch long carry arms should easily accommodate a wide range of bicycle styles. Those hooks which secure the side straps onto the trunk lid look as if they’d chew up the paintwork but patient reviewers of this product claim that no such thing happens. As for bike transport, tie-downs are fixed in position on the carry arm but rotate so that they can handle a wide range of bicycle frame sizes.

Pros: Inexpensive, easy to install, featherweight

Cons: Hooks that make direct contact with car body

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7. Leader Accessories Hitch Mounted 2 Bike Rack Bicycle Carrier

leader accessories hitch mounted 2 bike rack

This particular bicycle carrier is designed to carry a pair of pedal bikes on its robust frame. Real-world customers report easy assembly and good quality powder coating. The unit weighs about twenty pounds, not including bicycles, so it is light enough to be manhandled into position by just about anyone with a grain of spatial awareness. Dual-arm carrier rack construction and adjustable mounting saddles allows for bicycles of a wide range of frame sizes and designs.

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When not in use, pivoting carry arms fold down and out of the way so you don’t centerpunch the wall of Whataburger when you’re backing into a parking space. A tilt-down feature means it can be pivoted toward the macadam when you want to open the vehicle’s rear hatch or tailgate without going through the hassle of taking bikes off the racks.

Pros: Easy setup, tilts to provide hatchback access, solid reviews

Cons: Only good for two bikes (sorry, kids)

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8. Kuat Transfer 2 Bike Rack Black

kuat transfer 2 bike rack

This brand appeared earlier in our list but shows up this time as a hitch-mounted two-bike carrier. The Transfer 2 utilizes tray-style mounts and a locking system that doesn’t touch the frame. A rear wheel strap and a front ratcheting arm hold bikes securely in place without needing to put pressure on the frame’s tubes or cable guides while an adjustment system also lets you fine-tune the front wheel cradles to avoid any potential contact between bikes.

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The unit folds cleanly up and out of the way when not in use by way of a spring-mounted foot pedal. It features a third locking position which angles the rack down so you can add a last minute cooler of tasty snacks and beverages to the trunk before embarking on a trail-slaying or pavement-cruising adventure.

Pros: Well-known brand, robust construction, easy-tilt function

Cons: Locking pins for the bikes sold separately

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Ideas and Suggestions

It is an exceptionally good idea to test fit your bikes on whatever rack you’ve chosen before hitting the road. A few minutes spent in the days before your trip learning how your bikes are to be situated will result in a lot less frustration on the day you pack up to go.

Carefully weight your needs (and your bikes!). Are you carrying more than two bicycles? Are they fat bikes? Are they old bikes from your youth which were seemingly made from repurposed bridge girders or are they modern units which weigh less than a sparrow’s feather? Your answer to each of these will dictate the type of rack that’s right for you.

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And don’t forget, some styles (roof, hitch-mounted) require other accessories installed on your vehicle as part of their support system. In this case, that’s an existing roof rack and trailer hitch receiver, respectively.

Whatever you select, be sure to read the manual and take your time – both with the rack install and the securing of the bikes. A rush job can lead to a scratched bike at best and a lost bike at worst. One more thing: Always spring for the extra locks.

[Images provided by the manufacturer]

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19 Comments on “Rack ‘Em: Best Bike Racks for Your Vehicle...”

  • avatar

    You must hate the vehicle paint if your number 1 recommendation stands.

    I’m surprised you didn’t list the cheap swagman products. I’ve been happy with my xc2.

  • avatar

    I used #1, the Saris Bones rack for a couple of years. I tolerated the scratches that it put on the finish of my fifteen year old Lexus SC400 until the day I went over a speed bump and the rack and two bikes flew off of the back of the car, destroying the frame of a $5000 road bike.

  • avatar

    Bike enthusiasts have nearly taken over my town and I am not amused by their clogging up of perfectly good roads. My wife and I refer to them as “bike-holes.” I had to follow one of these people home last night. I had passed him on a road coming up to a 4-way stop, which he did not observe but rather shot past everyone and made the turn. Once I finally made the same turn, he was standing on the pedals trying to get up the hill and I couldn’t pass him because the road is narrow and blind to oncoming traffic. He was also dressed like a clown, with shorts over leggings and a goofy helmet. It’s a good thing that I value my life, my money and my freedom because the urge to tap him off the road with the front of my car was almost irresistable.

    • 0 avatar

      wow, what a grumpy old miserable excuse for a human being. According to the law, the roads are for all to use.

      • 0 avatar

        The roads aren’t even close to being for the use of all in the eyes of the law. There are roads where bicycles and pedestrians are specifically banned, and there are roads where anything unlicensed and motorized is banned. We’re rapidly reaching the point where there are more motorized bicycles than there are non-A-hole ridden bicycles, and I’m seeing them all sorts of places where gas powered vehicles of similar performance would lead to immediate arrest. Perhaps the popularity of E-assisted bicycles and skateboards can be leveraged to do away with bicycles on surface streets once and for all. Considering that the days of seeing kids riding around neighborhoods on bicycles are in the past, maybe its high time for developmentally arrested adults to stop being a burden on people who actually pay for roads.

        • 0 avatar

          “maybe its high time for developmentally arrested adults to stop being a burden on people who actually pay for roads.” Wow. and why don’t you think they pay for roads too? I suspect you’re old and obese.

    • 0 avatar

      The majority of riders are cooperative, and I don’t mind sharing the road with them. Then we have brain-dead f**ks like the guy Saul dealt with, and the idiot I dealt with yesterday, who was trying to ride in rush hour traffic on a six-lane, 55-mph major artery. Going uphill, the best he could do was maybe 15 mph or so, and of course there was no bike lane, so he created his own little traffic jam.

      Not coincidentally, a bus with a nice, big bike rack on the front runs down that street every 10 minutes. But, hey, he fought the f**kin’ power. You go, bro.

      My gut reaction to idiots like that guy is the same as it is with coal-rollers and the idiots on sportbikes trying to re-enact the freeway chase scene from “Matrix Reloaded” – I wish nothing but non-reversible erectile dysfunction on them, if for no other reason than to lessen the chance of them reproducing.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m an avid cyclist and I try to not impede traffic and I try to always follow the same rules of the road as cars. However, you sound exactly like the people around in here in cars that scare me. I don’t have the time or space to list the multitudes of close calls, distracted drivers, aggressive drivers, and just plain jerks I come across every time I ride. I’ve had cars swerve in front of me, and I’ve had cars come so close their mirrors hit my arm. Just yesterday, I literally thought a horn honking SUV behind me was about to push me out of the way with his bumper as I was stopped at a red light waiting for the green to proceed.

      You may call bike riders names, but there are plenty of responsible riders out there and most of us are scared to death at times at what a driver may do, either deliberately, or because they can’t pay attention.

      • 0 avatar
        Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

        “Just yesterday, I literally thought a horn honking SUV behind me was about to push me out of the way with his bumper as I was stopped at a red light waiting for the green to proceed.”

        Just curious, were you in the way of the SUV’s ability to turn right on red?

  • avatar

    God, I hate trunk-mounted racks. But, it’s a necessary evil since I have a sedan. It’s honestly one of the reasons I might get a small (Tuscon or CRV-sized) CUV when my lease is up at the end of August – so I can throw my bike in the back. I’ll probably be buying, not leasing, this time and if I get another sedan I’ll put a trailer hitch on so I can have a non-trunk rack.

    Now that I think about it – can you put hitch on a leased vehicle without having to pay for it at the end? It would be adding a little value (more utility value than economic), but I’d get that the dealership might not want you to alter the vehicle from how you got it.

    • 0 avatar

      I bought a curt hitch for my GTI and there were no permanent modifications to the car to mount it. I think I paid 125$ for it. Definitely worth it for ease of use with my bike rack.

    • 0 avatar

      I bought a curt hitch for my GTI and there were no permanent modifications to the car to mount it. I think I paid 125$ for it. Definitely worth it for ease of use with my bike rack.

      In my case, I could remove it before selling the car and no one would know the wiser.

  • avatar

    2 things. 1) I’m a hitch convert. Did roof top for many years, but the ease of a hitch rack won me over. Despite the cost of a hitch, it’s still probably cheaper, and if you change cars a lot, no pesky mounting clips to track down or replacing or resizing components. 2) If you are a casual user and not picky about the rack you want, used/Craigslist is the way to go. Can get something serviceable for pennies on the dollar VS new.

  • avatar

    For my road bike, I stay away from all types of racks. I use a bike travel case where the wheels are removed and both bike and wheels go into a hard case. Then the case goes inside the trunk or hatch. A road bike without wheels is relatively compact so you don’t need a lot of space.

    It’s probably not the way to go when you’re transporting bikes for your family, but for a high-end road bike, it’s the only way to go. They aren’t cheap, but they keep the bike clean, dry, and out of sight.

  • avatar

    I am a big fan of the hitch mounted Thule XT bike racks. My carbon fiber road bike is held in place only by the wheels and is not moving around while I am travelling. Expensive and heavy but worth every penny.

    Why is it that some people get so upset when a cyclist rolls a stop sign? Why is that any different when a car does it? Where I live, the cyclist is as much liable to a fine as is the offending driver.

    I also find it a little distressing that some drivers get so worked up when they pass me on a roadway. Honking and trying to wing me with their mirror is absolutely inappropriate, not to mention dangerous. Do they get angry and shake their fist out the window every time they pass around a parked car or a slow moving farm tractor on a rural road? I too get pissed on occasion as a result of the actions of drivers and cyclists, but I don’t hunt them down to make them “pay” for their transgressions. If you really think you’re going to change the mind of an assh0le by doing that…..really?

  • avatar

    The one and only bike rack worth buying is a 1up.

    So discouraging to read the antipathy of the ignorant comments

    • 0 avatar

      Came here to log the same two thoughts!

      The 1up is practically designed for the ttac curmudgeon (given that its designed to carry bikes and not a small block V8). Non-wobble hitch mount, all aluminum, made in the USA, every wear item is bolted on with readily available replacements…AND…it can securely fit a BMX, road bike, fat bike, and a downhill bike on the same platform with no modifications.

      As for the animosity, thats what the internet is for I guess.

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