The Ultimate Bike Rack Buying Guide

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The following post will give you a better look at the bike racks’ types and their strengths and limitations. Buying guide questions are also covered. Here we have an excellent bike rack buying guide for you.

Types of Bike Racks

Bike Racks for Cars

Hitch Bike Racks

Hitch bike racks are designed to slide into the receiver of the vehicle. This bike carrier offers a bike secure locking mechanism by clamping your wheels. Hinged load sections make it possible to access the car’s back without unloading the bike.


Hitch Bike Racks

Trunk Mounted Bike Racks

Trunk-mounted racks feature hooks and straps system to carry bikes in the rear of the car. They can carry up to six bikes on the support arms. These racks for cars are an economical option for bike owners looking for lightweight bike carriers.


Truck Bed Bike Racks

Truck bed racks include internal rails or bars mounted inside a pickup to carry bikes. Hooks and straps system features to lock your front wheel in place. A truck rack is a reasonable option to make use of the space in the back of your truck bed.


Truck Bed Bike Racks

Roof Mounted Bike Racks

The roof-mounted racks are built to lock both wheels or a fork to the top of the vehicle. Carrying bikes on the roof leaves your trunk free and is the most protective way for bike secure. They give you free access to your car.


Roof Mounted Bike Racks

Swing Away Bike Racks

Swing away bike racks mounted on the rear of the trailer for transporting bikes comfortably. They offer all of the advantages of most hitch racks. The primary feature that sets them apart is that they swing away from the back of the vehicles.


Swing Away Bike Racks

Spare Tire Bike Racks

A spare tire bike rack is an affordable option for transporting a bike on the spare tire. It keeps both your vehicle and your bike free from a collision.


Spare Tire Bike Racks

Bike Racks for Bikes

Front Bike Racks

The front bike rack is an affordable accessory to transport luggage around comfortably. It can be mounted to the front fork for attaching a pannier bag. This rack is an ideal option for improving storing capacity when commuting or touring.


Front Bike Racks

Rear Bike Racks

The rear bike rack is a stable framework to haul your luggage around. It is attached to the rear wheels of your bicycle. Rear racks can carry loads from 20 to 50 pounds. Some feature rails for panniers and baskets.


Rear Bike Racks

Bike Racks Comparison Charts

Bike Racks for Cars Comparison Chart

Rack StylesInstallation LocationProsCons
Hitch Bike RackAttached to the tow hitch of a car.
  • Easy installation.
  • Tilt feature for easy access to the back.
  • Protect the car’s paint by not touching it.
  • The locking mechanism provides a decent security level.
  • Prevent the bike’s frame from scratching.
  • Suitable for frequent transportation.
  • Gas mileage.
  • Generally expensive.
  • It may sway sometimes.
  • No back access in the old models.
Trunk Mounted Bike RackFastened to car’s trunks or hatches.
  • Friendly-pocket.
  • Lightweight. Portable.
  • Suitable for occasional transportation.
  • Easy adjustment.
  • Fits most vehicles.
  • Easy access to the bike.
  • No locking mechanism.
  • Bike-bike collision.
  • Tends to way while transporting bikes.
  • Causes scratches on car’s paint.
Truck Bed Bike RackInstalled in the truck bed.
  • Easy to load.
  • Quick access to bikes.
  • Handles heavy loads.
  • Inexpensive.
  • Can be used straight out of the box.
  • Lightweight.
  • Can be used to carry boats and cargo boxes.
  • Sways on unpaved surfaces.
  • Capacity depends on the space on the trunk bed.
Roof Mounted Bike RackOn the top of your car.
  • The most versatile car racks.
  • Stable.
  • Bike secure locking mechanism.
  • Trunk free.
  • No interference with access to rear, trunk, or doors.
  • No scratches on the car's paint.
  • Requires lifting overhead.
  • Not suitable for low ceiling spaces.
  • More fuel drops due to aero drag.
Swing Away Bike RackMounted to the rear of the trailer hitch.
  • Simple installation.
  • Swing away for free access to the back.
  • No scratches on car’s paint and bike’s frame.
  • Decent security level.
  • Suitable for regular transportation.
  • Gas mileage.
  • Generally expensive.
  • It may sway sometimes.
Spare Tire Bike RackInstalled on the spare tire of vehicles.
  • Quick loading.
  • Easy access to the bike.
  • Clearance to the car's trunk.
  • Depending on spare tire size.
  • Max capacity: 2 bikes.
  • Sways sometimes.

Bike Racks for Bikes Comparison Chart

Rack StylesInstallation LocationProsCons
Front Bike RackFront wheel
  • More storage capacity.
  • Affordable.
  • Easy to load.
  • Can fit a basket or pannier bag.
  • Increases load on the front wheel.
    May affects steering and balance.
Rear Bike RackRear wheel
  • Provides flat storage on the rear wheels.
  • Simple installation.
  • Easy to load and access.
  • More load on the rear wheel.
  • Requires eyelets.

Bike Rack Buying Guide Questions

What type of bike do you want to transport?

The type of bike is one of the most important factors in choosing bike racks. Review your bike collection based on weight, frame material, and wheel size for a better decision.

For example, E-bike owners will need a bike carrier that can handle a load of 50lbs. If you have a women’s bike, some accessories may be required. Versatility is necessary when searching racks for cars for your family bike.

How many bikes do you want to transport?

The number of bikes will impact your purchase decision. Each rack is designed to fit a certain number of bikes.

You will need to consider whether the carrier can handle the weight of all the bikes you transport. Each manufacturer will give a recommended weight for their racks. This information will help estimate how many pounds your rack can handle.

What type of car do you drive?

The type of vehicle is important for rack selection. Check your car’s equipment to see whether they have integrated trailer hitch, crossbar, spare tire, and dimensions.

If you own a pickup truck, check the space in the truck bed to opt for a suitable bike rack. If you want to buy a roof car rack, check the size of the top of your car before purchasing.

Which included in your must-have list?

Make yourself a list of the elements that you need. Consider from the must-have to the least important. Refer to the list of pros and cons of each bike rack to determine the ideal one for you.

Some factors you can consider are installation, weight, stability, locking mechanism, access, and space.

Do you want to increase your miles per gallon? 

How you choose a type of bike rack can affect the gas mileage of your vehicle. The car’s rack transport bike in the rear is the fuel-friendly one. The roof rack may cost you more fuel drop due to it creating more wind resistance.

How you carry your bike may also affect your gas in a big way. You should limit stops at multiple points and reduce the load for better gas mileage.

What about intangibles?

Warranty policies, customer services, maintenance are intangibles you need to evaluate before purchasing the car racks. Visit the manufacturer’s website to see how they treat their customers and their mission.

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About Jim Felt

Jim Felt, a man with a genuine love of speed. A man who designed his very first triathlon frame for Johnny O’Mara – the star of Motorcross at “The O-Show” – then got big successes in 1990. In 1994, Felt incorporated with Answer Products to launch his brand, starting a 7-year relationship until 2000. In 2001, Jim Felt relaunched the Feltracing brand in conjunction with Michael Müllmann and Bill Duehring. Our product lines were then expanded into a full line of commuter bikes, cruisers, MTBs, MBX, even road and tri bikes. The total number of models were up to 140 distributed in 27 countries.