Disclosure: I may receive referral fees from purchases made through links on BicycleVolt. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. But I always stand by my opinions and recommendations.
Best cycle carriers for cars
Look up “Bike Rack For Car” on Google and you get over 89 million results.
Now, I’m fairly sure that there are some people out there who will have the patience and time (and lack of anything better to do) to wade through that long list and hunt out the cycle carrier that’s best for their situation.
If you’re like me though and have other, more important things to do (watch paint dry, wait for pans to boil, etc), then what you’re probably looking for is a shortlist of the best racks plus a recommendation for the best of the best bike racks for your car.
Armed with that shortlist, you can then buy a great rack, attach it to your car, fit the bikes, and then head out for your next big cycling adventure.
So, I’ve done some extensive research for you to track down the top bicycle carriers on the market today. These have been chosen for their key features and also with a nod to feedback from real users. Shall we take a look?
What are the best rack options for your car?
When it comes to stashing bikes on cars, there are really three main places you can put them:
- On the trunk
- On the hitch
- On the roof
Yes, you can also put bikes in the trunk, but it never goes well. Either you’re left with no space for your luggage or you end up damaging the bike or car. Read to the end and I’ve included a YouTube video showing how best to fit bikes in cars. But I’ve put this in more as a warning to avoid it as I think there’s just too many problems with this approach. Better to invest in a good quality rack that does the job properly.
So, let’s go through each of the main bike rack positions and I’ll give you a recommended cycle carrier for each. You can then decide which is the best one for you.
Best rear bike rack
I’m a big believer in trunk-mounted bike racks as I think they’re such a practical option for the majority of cars. Take a look at the reviews of this rack on Amazon and you’ll see that I’m not on my own in being a fan of these.
Why are they so good?
Well, first up, they’re super easy to fit. The straps hook into position simply and quickly, although bear in mind that two pairs of hands can often make fitting racks a much easier task. Because the racks are so easy to fit they can be quickly fitted and removed, so they’re easy to take off the car when you don’t need them. That’s a big bonus because I’ve seen too many crumpled trunks where drivers have reversed without realizing that they’ve still got the rack attached.
The straps can be tightened firmly which makes the rack very strong and firmly locked to the car. That’s an advantage because any wobbliness would otherwise lead to bikes knocking against each other or against the car. That’s not an issue with the Allen rack.
The rack shown in the photo is Allen Sports two-bike carrier. Take a look at the Amazon page and you’ll see that there are also three and four bike carriers available – enough for your entire fleet of bikes.
One common question with hanging bike racks like this and women’s bikes (or low-step or step-through bikes) is how to fit the bikes on when they either don’t have a crossbar or it’s a sloped crossbar. Thankfully there’s a really simple solution to this – a crossbar adaptor. These are a bar that takes the place of the crossbar for this and they’re easy to use and simple to install. Allen Sports make a great crossbar adaptor.
This rack will fit the majority of car body types and you can check your car model compatibility with the special Rack Finder tool on Allen’s website. Put in your make, model, and year and you can check it’s suitable. You’ll see the webpage here. The company has been designing and manufacturing cycle carriers since 1967 so they’ve got plenty of experience in producing great racks. As a result, they certify all their carriers with a lifetime warranty…Read more+
Hitch receiver bike rack
Got a hitch fitted to your car? Then I believe that this carrier is the best style available for you and your bikes. Let’s see why.
We’ll go through the top-level features first.
This rack is available in a two-bike or four-bike size. Interesting to note that, when compared to roof-mounted carriers, a hitch rack is a much more fuel-efficient method of transporting bikes due to the aerodynamics. A hitch rack will only have a marginal impact on the shape of a car head-on versus roof-mounted bikes, which will effectively double the size of the car smashing into the headwind. Multiply this by the miles you travel and you can see what a difference it will make to your fuel consumption.
The BV carrier fits on securely to your car’s hitch and can be used with hitch receivers of 1.25” and 2” for the twin bike rack, and 2” for the 4-bike carrier.
In terms of weight limits, the rack will comfortably take bicycles up to 35 lbs (15kg) each and keeps them securely in position with the padded arm on the crossbar and the tray loops beneath the wheels. For women’s bikes and step-through bikes, you’ll also need a crossbar adaptor like the one I mentioned above from Allen Sports. Very easy to fit and will hold the bikes firmly.
Now on to the features that I really appreciate about this carrier: (1) the tilting capability and (2) the low height.
It might not be obvious at first why you need a tilt feature on a rack (it wasn’t to me until I got one). But think about the situation when you’ve just packed everything in the trunk and fitted the bikes onto the rack. It’s inevitable that you’ll then discover that you either need to put something additional in the trunk or take something out.
With a non-tilting rack, you’re in trouble. Either you need to take all the bikes off to open the trunk….or…. Unfortunately, there is no ‘or’ here. Taking the bikes off is the only option you have. However, with the BV hitch rack, you can easily pivot it downwards to give you easy access and swing it back up when you’re done. Having used this feature time and time again, I can guarantee that you will appreciate this!
The second great feature is the carrier’s low height. It’s much less effort to load bikes a short way off the ground than to hoist them way over your head height and onto a roof-mounted rack. A bike weighing 35 lbs may not seem like much but, when it’s dangling over your skull and your arms are getting tired, then it can start to feel like quite a heavy weight indeed.
There are so many features on the BV hitch mount, but for these two alone, I would recommend it for most cars where you have a hitch…Read more+
Best roof-mounted bike rack
I mention this style of bike carrier because it’s one that you commonly see on cars and because it’s made by Thule (one of the top-quality manufacturers).
Unfortunately, it’s not an option that I’d recommend you go with.
On one hand, that Thule badge means it will be an excellent product. Sturdy and, I’m sure, will keep your bicycles safe and secure.
But, I think that there are intrinsic problems with this style of rack. Not just Thule ones.
First up, bear in mind that this is just the component that holds your bike. You also need to buy roof bars to make the connection between car – roof bars – bike rack – bike. That’s another expense.
Plus, this is also only a rack for one bike. Got two bikes? You’ll need to buy a second one of these. Got three bikes? Four? You get the picture, more and more money spent and the cost of carrying your bikes is climbing quickly.
And speaking of climbing there’s a further disadvantage to roof bike carriers. That’s that they fit onto the roof. I mentioned this in passing earlier, but it’s not easy to lift bikes on or off a car roof without causing damage to either you or the bikes or your car.
A final nail in the coffin for roof racks is that they dramatically increase the height of your car. That’s an issue for aerodynamics, as we’ve already seen. It’s also a problem because you’ll forget that they’re there. That is until you enter a low-ceilinged parking lot. It really doesn’t bear thinking about. Does it…Read more+
Just for fun…How do you fit a bike in a car
Need a bit of convincing that you’re doing the right thing investing in a bike carrier? As opposed to just chucking your ride in the car? Well, take a look at this YouTube video. It’s a quick guide showing how to fit bikes in cars.
What’s my takeaway from this video? Well, yes, it’s possible to do it. And would I recommend it? Certainly not. I can see so many chances of damaging either your bike or your car, and you could even misplace quite important bits of your bike (watch till the end of the video to see what I’m talking about!)
The best bike racks for cars
Thanks for joining me today. I sincerely hope that this quick shortlist has given you a better appreciation of what options are open to you for carrying your bikes on the car. It can really expand your horizons when you take your bike away for day trips or vacations. But only when you have the right equipment to carry it. Low-quality cycle carriers may sometimes be okay but really, if you want to get the most value from your rack, then these are tough to beat.
Pick the best rack for your car and get out there and ride!