Our Tips for Buying Bike Racks for Cars

By Steve George

October 8, 2020Travel

Whether you’re looking to hit up some far-off, exotic trails, or you just want to haul your bike around the city, bike racks make carrying bikes on your vehicle safe and simple. But before you invest your hard-earned money in the first bike rack that the vendor claims is the best quality, you want to do some research to ensure you’re getting the right product for your vehicle, bike, riding style and budget. If you’re new to the world of bike racks, this may seem like too much to take into account. But that’s why you’re here – to learn what it takes to make a well-informed decision when it comes to buying the right bike rack for your specific needs.

Let’s start from the very basics – what exactly is a bike rack? You’ve probably seen bike racks in front of schools, office buildings, even markets. However, the difference between those and specialised vehicle bike racks, such as the Thule bike rack, is that that the Thule bike rack securely attaches to the outside of your vehicle, and safely carries your bicycle(s). Since cars weren’t designed with carrying bicycles in mind, all cyclists rely on these pieces of equipment to conveniently and safely transport their bicycles long-distance.

thule bike rack

There are three types of bike racks – trunk racks, roof racks and hitch racks, and they differ based on the location of which they’re attached onto your vehicle. As their name implies, trunk racks are mounted on the trunk, roof racks are mounted on the roof, and hitch racks are mounted on the trailer hitch of your car.

Hitch bike racks are the most popular type, as they can be fitted on just about any car – from SUVs to minivans to small hatchbacks. Additionally, these racks are extremely easy to install, and in most cases, all you have to do is slide the rack into the hitch receiver. There are a few different types of hitch bike racks – platform, hanging, tailgate, bumper and spare tyre rack. Here are the distinct advantages of each type.


  • Platform bike racks – Feature locking trays to hold your bike upright; Less bike movement and sway; No contact with the bike’s frame; Can hold up to 4 bikes.
  • Hanging bike racks – Feature hanging arm holds that support your bike by the frame; Are compact; Can hold up to 5 bikes; Bikes can sway a bit.
  • Tailgate bike racks – Available as locking bar or tailgate pad in the pickup bed; Store bikes in the truck’s bed conveniently; Easy to use and lightweight; Can hold up to 6 bikes.
  • Bumper bike racks – Can be attached to a square, steel bumper; Compatible with hitch receiver; Locking trays hold the bike upright; Can hold up to 2 bikes.
  • Spare tyre bike racks – Attach to rear-mounted spare tyre; Arm supports and holds your bike by the frame; Easy to install and use; Hold up to 2 bikes.

Now that you know the differences between the available hitch racks, you can select one that’s right for you. The easiest and best way to do this is to answer the following questions.

How Many Bikes Will You Carry?

You can carry up to 6 bikes with a tailgate bike rack. However, not all racks have the same capacity. Generally, you can carry more bikes using a hanging bike rack as opposed to using a spare tyre or platform track. This is essential to keep in mind, especially if you frequently go riding as a group.

6 bikes with a tailgate bike rack

Do You Want the Rack Touching Your Bike’s Frame?

If keeping your bike in pristine condition is a top priority, then you’ll probably want a platform rack that doesn’t come in contact with your bike’s frame whatsoever. These racks carry the bicycle by the wheels as they’re placed upright, keeping the frame from ever coming in contact with the rack. Spare tyre and hanging racks should be thoroughly avoided, as they have more movement and sway.

What Are Your Bike and Hitch Specs?

Every bike rack has distinct specifications about how many bikes it can carry, as well as how much weight, the size of tyres and wheels, as well as a hitch receiver size. Pay attention to your bicycle’s weight and wheel specs, and the receiver size of your hitch before you start looking for a bike rack, in order to avoid getting one that doesn’t fit properly.

Safety Tips

All quality racks are safe, and hitch racks are considered one of the safest options. This is due to the fact that they’re mounted through the hitch receiver rather than straps. This makes them less likely to move or shift while you’re driving. However, keep in mind that platform hitch racks may affect your car’s clearance, and mounting one will extend your car’s length. Luckily, you can easily remove and install them to return your car to its normal size.

You’ll find a wide range of hitch bike racks online from various manufacturers, all of which have their own safety features, weight capacity and bike capacity.