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Trunk Mounted or Hitch Mounted Bike Rack

With all these options of bike racks out there, it can be quite the challenging task to select the best one for yourself. It is an investment that takes a lot into consideration.

Today we will be looking into two types of vehicle bike racks in particular: the Trunk-Mounted Bike Rack and the Hitch-Mounted Bike Rack.

Trunk Mounted or Hitch Mounted Bike Rack
Source: YouTube

Both of these are similar in essence, given that they both go on the back of your car and have similar loading and unloading mechanisms for your bikes.

However…

There are a lot of features that sets them apart from each other, for better or worse. Both of them have their own set of advantages and disadvantages for themselves and over the other. For simplicity’s sake, we will be splitting them up into three fundamental categories that we believe heavily influences their current and potential users. They are:

  • Budget
  • Capacity
  • Safety

Before we pit them against each other, let us have a look at and understand some of the elementary features that these bike racks provide.

General Features

As mentioned previously, each of the type bike racks we have in discussion today have their own set of features that make them well worth the purchase.

Trunk Mounted

+ Very budget friendly
+ Easy to store
+ Very lightweight
+ You can easily load and unload your bikes
Might damage the vehicle if not properly installed
Restricts access to the trunk or hatch

Hitch Mounted

+ You can easily load and unload your bikes
+ High carry capacity
+ Great Security
+ Mid to high-end units have folding options to give access to the trunk or hatch
+ Easy to install
+ Does not damage the vehicle
Can be very expensive
A hitch must be installed beforehand
Adds extra space at the back of the vehicle, especially the platform type

With features like these, it is no wonder why either of these bike rack types are well coveted by their users. But the bottom line is that they don’t always work well.

These advantages are only noticeable when used in the correct situations. Otherwise, the negatives would be the only visible aspects of these racks.

Easy load
Both rack types have easy loading and unloading | Souce: YouTube

So, how can I know which type of rack is the best for me?

That is completely dependent on your situation and preference. Let’s look at the three of the said situations of either types of bike racks and how they fare.

Budget

Trunk-MountedHitch-Mounted
Low to MediumMedium to High

Trunk-Mounted

This type has some of the cheapest units currently available in the market.

You can easily find trunk mounted racks for under $100. Most units hover around $50-150, with premium units sometimes costing over $200.

If you want a higher end trunk rack at a budget, you might want to wait for a sale, which is actually quite frequent.

The reason for this low price stems from its build. These are some of the lightest bike racks out there with high-end units being made of aluminum frames.

The price is also cut from the lack of materials used. The main section is the frame that carries the bikes itself, the rest are just straps that hook onto the lips of the trunk or hatch.

Trunk budget

Hitch-Mounted

By contrast, hitch mounted bike racks are some of the most expensive out there. Even the least expensive units can easily cost you over $150, while higher end models can easily go beyond $400. Not to mention the added cost you might have to spend to get a hitch installed if you don’t already have one.

hitch features
Hitch mounted racks come packed with features | Source: YouTube

The most obvious reason for this higher expense is the materials used. The hitch mounted bike rack is naturally more bulky than its trunk mounted counterpart, making it have more material in it.

The material itself can be of aluminum alloy or other high quality materials in both looks and feel, which in itself is decently expensive.

Let us not forget the extra features that come with these racks. Like added locks for security, anti-sway systems to keep your bike safe on rough terrains, added stability the platform style hitch rack provides and not to mention the folding options that allow you to access your trunk whenever necessary.

All of these features add numbers to its base price.

Capacity

Trunk-MountedHitch-Mounted
Low (Max 2)Medium to High (2-4, can be extended)

Trunk Mounted

Trunk mounts are very lightweight. Most lower end models are only made of hard plastic. Even though they claim to be able to carry two bikes at a time, they tend to have a weight limit of 30-40lb at most.

This means that they can’t even carry heavier bikes without somewhat damaging the car, let alone transport multiple bikes or heavier models like e-bikes.

trunk capacity

Hitch Mounted

Out of the box, hitch mounted bike racks can easily carry two bikes. Even the lower end models have a weight capacity of 60lb.

Many manufacturers of these racks claim that they can easily carry up to four bikes at a time, and many models do come with slots to carry four bikes, especially the hanging style racks.

While the hanging style rack naturally comes with space for multiple bikes, the platform style hitch mounted rack is the sturdier one at the end of the day. Some have been known to support around 100lb of bikes on them, all you have to do is add an extension.

But keep in mind that even if the rack can support a higher weight, it may not be true for the vehicle itself.

Safety

Trunk-MountedHitch-Mounted
LowHigh

Trunk Mounted

Due to its lightweight build and somewhat questionable strapping mechanism, the trunk mounted rack vibrates a lot even on smooth roads.

The straps are of synthetic material and somewhat elastic and the frame of the rack is kept in place rubber or foam tubings around the contact points of the frame. This does little to help with the sway the bike might be experiencing on the back of the vehicle due to turns, rough roads or even winds.

When it comes to security, well, it’s kind of a disappointment.

The trunk mounted rack comes with basic straps to hold your bike securely in position. These are by no means weak and do their job pretty well even when you are hitting an upwards of 80mph on the road, but it in no way will stop thieves from unstrapping your bike from the rack while your vehicle is parked.

You will need to invest in extra locks for your bikes for the security it needs.

trunk safety
Just straps for security may not always be enough

Hitch Mounted

The only contact point the hitch mounted bike rack has with your vehicle is the hitch itself. So your vehicle is completely safe from being damaged by the rack itself, just be aware to keep the pedals of your bike far enough away.

Hitch Security
Source: YouTube

As for the swaying problem that we have seen with the trunk mounted rack, the hitch mount has a brilliant answer. Anti-Sway Cradles. These are available in most hitch mounted bike racks, with the exception of the single barred models. This significantly reduces the sway your bike experiences even on the roughest of roads, protecting you vehicle and other bikes in the rack from any damage.

Coming on to the topic of security, these racks have plenty. Most models come with locks and clamps to keep your bikes safe and your mind at ease. While the arduous mechanisms of all the clamps and straps may seem a bit much at first, it is a good thing. It means that thieves will have to go through the same protocols that you do too making theft that much more difficult.

Even then, it never hurts to invest in extra locks for your bikes, especially if you are looking to travel far.

Final Words

With all things considered, the hitch mounted bike rack does take the cake with its overall superior quality, if nothing else.

The trunk mounted rack does have its merits and many will swear by its usefulness (us too), but with a slight increase in investment you are able to get so much more, especially in regards to safety and security.

So if you are a cyclist who travels infrequently or short distances, then sticking to the trunk mounted bike rack should be enough. But if you are an avid cyclist looking for challenges far and wide, investing in the hitch mounted bike rack is more than worth it.

hitch budget
Source: YouTube

F.A.Qs

Q1) How fast can you drive with a bike rack?

Ans.: It really depends on the type of rack you have. Manufacturers usually designate the maximum speed you should be travelling in with their racks.

For rooftop racks the speed limit is usually around 55mph, given that there is little crosswind working on your bikes. It is also similar with trunk and hitch racks, with a speed limit of 60-70mph. You should not travel with speeds over 75mph, especially with rooftop racks.

The number of bikes also come into account. The speeds that we have just discussed are for two bikes. If you are carrying more, consider slowing down by 10-15mph.

Q2) Can a bike fit in a car?

Ans.: Only on specific types of cars. Like hatchbacks, SUVs and all-terrain vehicles. You definitely can’t transport your bike in the trunk of a sedan, unless you remove both wheels and put them on the backseat.

For hatchbacks you will need to remove the front wheel and lay the bike on its side. For SUVs, you will need to remove the front wheel if you want to transport the bike upright (recommended), otherwise just lay it on its side in the cargo area. The same goes for all-terrain vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler.


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Dion Lewis
My name is Dion Lewis.

I’ve been cycling from my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions.

At my college life, I took a part time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally.

Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or a bike gear.

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