By on May 30, 2019

best hitch cargo carriers

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.

There’s a theory that the amount of stuff parents need to carry with them is inversely proportional to the age of their kids. Newborns generally require at least 500 diapers and wipes plus a mandatory assortment of toys and attention grabbers. Toss in an ergonomically correct jogging stroller and a pediatrician-approved collapsible play pen and you’ve suddenly no room left in the car for humans.

Fortunately, there’s an answer. It arrives in the form of exterior cargo bags. After all, these types of storage solutions have been around for ages in some form or another. Fun fact: the shape we know as the modern sedan was created when an enterprising person bolted a rectangular chest to the back of their pre-war rig for extra storage.

Who says TTAC isn’t educational?

We’ve covered rooftop carriers in a previous installment of this series. Today, we have scoured the web for hitch-mounted carriers for those people who need extra storage space but don’t want to lose sunroof functionality. Here’s our picks.

(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: Ultra-Tow Aluminum Cargo Carrierultra-tow aluminum cargo carrier

Measuring a solid five feet wide by about two feet deep, this unit is made of aluminium meaning it is one of the lightest hitch-mounted cargo carriers on this list. Thanks to the strength properties of this metal, it can bear up to 500 lbs of weight – nearly equal to the amount of diapers required for the average newborn on a single weekend.

Rear safety reflectors provide increased night visibility for added safety so the dunderheads tailgating you are less likely to rear end the thing. Side rails measuring seven inches in height provide an added barrier to help you securely contain the cargo.

Pros: Lightweight, well sized, solid construction

Cons: Not cheap, bag sold separately

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2. Budget Choice: Best Choice Products Heavy Duty Steel Cargo Storage Carrierbest choice products heavy duty steel cargo carrier

The basic form of this carrier is identical than the one above but is smaller in width and made of heavier steel. A hitch pin securely connects the carrier onto a 2″ hitch receiver, while a clip keeps the works of it from coming loose. This is the same method of attachment as the other cargo carriers on this list.

As with most things in life, its description includes two of the most terrifying words in the English language: assembly required. Customers report that the fit is a bit sloppy, with installation holes not lining up properly. A quick hit with a power drill allegedly fixed the problem. Hey, what do you expect? It’s the cheapest one here.

Pros: Very affordable, includes a hitch pin

Cons: Dimensions are smaller than most

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3. Best Reviews: Mockins Hitch Mount Cargo Carrier with Cargo Bagmockins hitch mount cargo carrier with cargo bag

An absolutely infuriating life experience is when one buys a product only to find it does not include all the tools or parts required in order to enjoy your new purchase. This set from a company called Mockins includes not only the hitch mounted cargo basket but also a water-resistant bag and ratchet straps. There’s also cargo netting for good measure.

The rack’s mesh style floor is better than a unit with widely spaced bars as there is less chance stuff will, quite literally, fall between the cracks. Its 60-inch width affords lots of space and its hitch shank smartly rises a couple of inches to help with ground clearance. In fact, if this unit were made of aluminium and not heavy steel, it would have been the Editor’s Pick

Pros: Includes everything you need to store stuff out of the wet

Cons: Only 20 inches wide

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4. Cascade Folding Basket Style Cargo Rackretrospec cascade folding basket style cargo rack

Here’s a cargo carrier that does its part to stay out of the way by incorporating a folding angle shank, giving owners the ability to fold their cargo rack upwards for storage when not in use. It also allows for tilting of cargo, if needed. This cargo rack was constructed to easily mount to any Class III or IV 2-inch receiver hitches.

Real-world customers report trips in excess of 400 miles with 400 pounds of gear loaded onto the thing. Some complaints are lodged of shoddy paint and welding work, something which is sadly often found in mass production units like these. Weighing in at an astonishing 52 pounds, this thing needs to eat a few Lean Cuisines.

Pros: Good size, folding capabilities

Cons: Too heavy

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5. CargoLoc 32500 Hitch Mounted Cargo Carriercargoloc hitch-mounted cargo carrier 32500

Sometimes, all you need is a small addition to the cargo area of your rig. Sure, rooftop cargo boxes are fine but they’re hard to get at and do you even remember what happened the last time we drove under that low bridge on South Gregson Street? Exactly. A hitch mounted cargo carrier might be just the ticket to storage bliss.

Able to bear up to 500 pounds, this type of carrier will easily accommodate square and rectangle items like Rubbermaid totes or moving boxes (don’t place the latter on there in rainy weather). The platform provided measures 4 feet by 19.5 inches, bigger than your author’s first apartment. A retaining rail stands 4 inches high and can be used to tie stuff down and help prevent the shifting of loads.

Pros: Frees up beaucoup space inside your vehicle, large platform

Cons: Hitch pin seems to be sold separately

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6. Reese Explore Rainproof Cargo Tray Bagreese explore rainproof cargo tray bag 63604

Featuring a good 15 feet of dry storage, this cargo carrier from Reese takes on a rectangular shape when fully packed with gear. Rainproof construction keeps your stuff dry and the works of it folds flat when not in use. Note well: This thing is designed to be secured to one of those hitch-mounted cargo trays, which is not included in the bag’s selling price. Here’s a good example of what you’ll need to pair with this item.

Some users had the idea to frame the unit with PVC piping, allowing the bag to retain a rectangular shape even when empty. Detailed, community sourced instructions for that are found in the ad listing and is a great idea. The whole bag measures about 6 feet long by a foot and a half wide. It is 2 feet tall when fully extended.

Pros: Recognized brand name, good community support, rainproof

Cons: Not cheap, requires a separate mounting tray (like the ones listed here)

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7. CURT Cargo Basket Trailer Hitch Cargo Carriercurt basket trailer hitch cargo carrier 18150

Another cargo carrier touting its six-inch sidewall height and angled shank, this basket from a company called CURT boasts of ‘carbide black powder coat’ being used in manufacturing. Like most others on this list, it can bear up to 500 lbs and is made of steel, meaning it will add over 50 lbs to the rear of your car.

Several options of this model are available, ranging from small units meant for a 1 ¼ inch hitch to a king-sized unit meant for adventure. Keep in mind that the angled shank, while handy, will cause the carrier to block access to your car’s rear hatch door when folded up and out of the way.

Pros: Plays well with carrier bags from the same company, 6-inch side wall, angled shank

Cons: You may give yourself a hernia lifting this heavy thing

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8. AmazonBasics Hitch Cargo Carrieramazonbasics hitch cargo carrier

Marketed by the very company hosting the website, this cargo carrier bearing the Amazon name finds middle ground in terms of weight an price. Those who have bought this unit report that it sits out from the back of the car a bit further than some other carriers, an attribute that actually ends up being helpful as it is possible to open a rear hatch door with this thing in place. Of course, if it is piled high like Mount Rushmore, your attempts to summon the hatch may be scuppered.

Those strange ovoid cutouts are allegedly there to help other drivers see your taillights but most vehicles have lamps mounted much higher than that location. Besides, such a feature becomes useless when you stack the carrier full of decidedly non-transparent cargo.

Pros: Decent weight, good positioning to open the back hatch

Cons: Haven’t you given Jeff Bezos enough of your money already?

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Ideas, Thoughts, General Musings: As with all these items one attaches to the rear of their vehicle, a solid dollop of extra care needs to be taken when driving. Simple reversing of the car takes a bit more planning, given that there’s at least 2 extra feet of metal jutting out from your rig’s rear bumper. Given their propensity to freak out when covered with a light dusting of snow, keep in mind there’s a very good chance these things will cause your reverse sensing systems to provide false alarms.

Folded up, they make a heckuva guard against parking lot dings to your car’s rear bumper, though that is not their intended purpose. It is important not to overload these carriers, so be sure to follow whatever instructions that come with the one you buy. Lashing down your cargo so it doesn’t spill onto the roadway is also important. Be safe, be sensible, and you’ll have no trouble packing all that baby gear into one of these accessories.

[Images provided by the manufacturers]

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8 Comments on “Buyer’s Guide: The Best Hitch-Mounted Cargo Carriers...”

  • avatar

    All of these are virtually guaranteed to be wobbly and/or list to either left or right. Can’t believe TTAC promotes these safety hazards.

    • 0 avatar

      I have a homemade version that uses a solid aluminum receiver(or male version that is) that continues to the end of the basket – solid to the end, the entire construction is heavy gauge aluminum minus the steel fishing rod holders. The sides are about 12 inches high all the way around and fits our largest cooler with ease.

      Zero hollow aluminum bars – read shintzy cheap crap they sell at the store.

      The store bought ones are universally crap from what I’ve seen.

  • avatar

    I’m amused that the truck pictured here is from a local dealer. You can tell by the distinctly phallic nature of the dealer sticker.

  • avatar

    Most important question and perhaps the reason for getting one of these:

    How well does each one block your rear license plate from the view of red light cameras?

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t want to use one of these things without some kind of stabilizers – the single point attachment has never made sense to me.

  • avatar

    Lot of conjecture here, mostly from folks who probably never used or owned these. We have a Curt aluminum folding one and it’s been awesome. Especially since we don’t own a pickup truck. The one we have attaches to the back of our Subaru Outback which has a Class III hitch. It’s been super useful for hauling soil, sod, camping gear, or anything that will fit. Max load is supposedly 500lb, but I wouldn’t want to test that. The most we’ve hauled was an above ground pool from Costco that was about 260lbs and we had no issues. I use an anti-rattle/shake clamp and it eliminates any shake or wobble. And yes, if you’re hauling something high enough, like plastic totes, it will block off the license plate. But you can mount your plate on the carrier itself, unless of course you don’t want to…

  • avatar

    I’m holding out for TTAC’s deep dive into hitch-mounted toilet seats.

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