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Bike Rack Basics

With so many options and styles to choose from, choosing the right bike rack for you can be a difficult process. Here at FastTrackRacks, we've made it simple by providing you with resources to help you select a bike rack that will fit your needs. In the Bike Rack Basics guide, we will review:
  • Bike Rack Categories
  • Top Five Considerations for Selecting a Bike Rack

Bike Rack Categories

Below is a brief review of the main types of bike racks to give you a better understanding of what choices are available. You'll want to decide first whether you want to carry your bikes on the roof or rear of your vehicle.

    • Hitch bike racks are one of the most common ways to carry your bikes. Hitch bike racks are designed to attach to your vehicle's 1.25" or 2" receiver hitch. Keep in mind that some smaller vehicles are not rated for a hitch. Check the manufacturer's guide for your vehicle's maximum tongue weight capacity. For more information on hitches, visit our Trailer Hitches Basics section or the CURT Hitch Finder.
    • Roof bike racks are a great option for smaller cars that are not rated for a hitch. Roof bike racks are designed to attach to the horizontal crossbars (bars that run from the driver's side to the passenger side) of your vehicle's factory or aftermarket roof base rack. Please keep in mind that some roof bike racks will fit factory and aftermarket roof base racks while some are brand-specific.
    • Trunk-mount bike racks are the most affordable way to carry your bikes. Trunk-mount racks are designed to attach to your vehicle's trunk. Some trunk bike racks are designed to fit over spoilers, while some are not. Some trunk racks include adapters so they can be attached to glass trunks, be sure to check the manufacturer's fit guide for an accurate fit.  Our trunk mount category also includes spare tire mounted racks.

    Top Five Considerations for Selecting a Bike Rack

    • Capacity: Your first consideration is how many bikes do I need to carry? Hitch bike racks provide the most capacity at 5 bikes per rack, while trunk-mount biker racks are limited to 4 bikes per rack. Roof bike racks carry 1 bike per rack, but depending on the capacity of your roof, you may carry up to 4 bikes with 4 roof bike racks. Specialty bike racks vary in capacity, but some models can carry up to 4 bikes with one rack.
    • Mounting: Next, decide which bike rack is best suited to fit my vehicle? The answer to this question depends on what type of vehicle you have, what it is currently equipped with, and/or the cost of equipping it with the correct mounting pieces. If you are considering a hitch bike rack but you do not have a hitch, you will be looking at an additional $140 to $200 for an aftermarket hitch. If you are considering a roof bike rack but you do not already have crossbars, a roof base rack is required, which will cost between $250 to $400. Trunk bike racks simply require a clear trunk (as mentioned above, some models can fit to spare tires or glass trunks). Specialty bike rack designs vary, but they are generally mounted to a spare tire, RV ladder, or tow bar.
    • Ease-of-loading: Another factor to consider is how easy will it be to load and unload my bikes? Trunk-mounted bike racks, hitch bike racks, and specialty bike racks all offer easy, waist-level loading and unloading. Roof bike racks are more difficult, especially on taller vehicles, because the bikes must be lifted onto the roof.
    • Rear vehicle access: Also consider, do I need to access the rear of my vehicle? Easy access to the rear of your vehicle (e.g., for luggage or other gear) is provided with a roof bike rack, most hitch bike racks (swing-away or tilt-down), and some specialty bike racks such spare-tire bike racks. You will not be able to access the rear of your vehicle when using a trunk-moutned bike rack without removing the bikes and rack from your vehicle.
    • Price: As with any purchase, price is an important consideration. In general, trunk-mount bike racks are the most affordable bike rack, following by hitch bike racks, and then roof bike racks. Specialty bike racks vary in price depending on the application. The bike rack price comparison chart below gives the average cost of each type of rack as well as the average cost per bike carried. Bike racks are compared based on a 3-bike capacity.
    Price Comparison Chart
     Bike Rack Type (3-bike capacity)
    Average Rack Cost 
    Average Cost per Bike
     Trunk Bike Rack
     $113.04 $37.68
     Hitch Bike Rack
     $245.43 $81.80
     Roof Bike Rack
     $384.15 $128.05

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