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Hitch Cargo Carrier Basics
A hitch cargo carrier combines large
storage capacity with easy, waist-level loading — an alternative to roof
carriers that's worth considering. We've put together some useful
resources to help you select a cargo carrier that fits your needs and
Hitch Cargo Carrier Categories
Below is a brief description of the major types of hitch cargo carriers available.
- Hitch cargo boxes
are durable, weatherproof "boxes" that are mounted to a fixed, tilt, or
swingaway frame that slides easily into a 1.25" or a 2" hitch receiver.
Hitch cargo boxes range in capacity from 12 cubic feet of storage up to
16 cubic feet of storage. They offer easy access to your gear and
complete protection from the elements. Wondering how much 16 cubic feet
of storage is? Check out our StowAway Max Cargo Carrier capacity to find out.
- Hitch racks or hitch "baskets"
are open racks that slide into a 1.25" or a 2" hitch receiver. Hitch
racks are ideal for carrying bulky items that will not fit into a
confined space. Hitch racks range in size from 53" x 25" up to 60" x
24". They offer convenient waist-level access to gear and come in fixed,
tilt, fold-up, and swingaway models. Gear can be protected from the
weather and road debris with the use of hitch cargo bags or secured with tie-down nets.
Top Five Key Considerations of Selecting a Hitch Carrier
- Capacity: Your first consideration is whether or not your vehicle is equipped to handle a hitch carrier. Hitch
racks and cargo boxes 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, so be sure to check the manufacturer's guide for your
tongue weight capacity
Most hitch carriers and hitch racks will support up to a 200 lb. load capacity. For more information on hitches, visit the Trailer Hitches Resources on this site or the CURT Hitch Finder.
- Weather protection:
Do you want or need your gear to be protected from the weather? A cargo
box an enclosed, weatherproof space for your gear, while a hitch rack
is open and subject to weather. Weatherproof hitch cargo bags can be used in combination with a hitch cargo rack to protect your gear.
- Rear vehicle access: Also consider, do I need to access the rear of my vehicle? Each hitch carrier is attached to either a fixed, tilt-down, or swingaway
frame. If the hitch carrier is attached to a fixed frame, you will not
be able to access the rear of your vehicle without removing your gear
and the carrier. You will be able to access the rear of you vehicle if
the hitch carrier has a tilt-down or swingaway frame.
When carrying gear outside of your vehicle, you may be concerned about
the security of your items. Hitch cargo boxes offer excellent security
with lockable boxes hitch locks.
(The hitch lock locks the frame of the carrier to your vehicle's hitch.
Hitch locks can be used on cargo boxes as well as cargo racks.
As with any purchase, price is usually an important consideration.
Hitch cargo racks are the most affordable hitch carrier, starting at
about $120.00. Hitch cargo boxes start at about $299 for a basic, fixed
Hitch Cargo Carrier Comparison Chart
The comparison below will assist you in deciding whether a hitch cargo box or a hitch rack is best for you.
| Hitch Cargo Carrier Comparison Chart|
| Key Considerations||Hitch Cargo Boxes ||Hitch Cargo Racks |
| Capacity||Up to 200 lb. gear capacity||Up to 350 lb. gear capacity|
| Weather protection||Enclosed, weatherproof||Unprotected, open rack. Hitch cargo bags available|
| Rear vehicle access||Yes, with tilt down or swingaway models||Improved access with swingaway models|
| Security||Gear is protected inside a lockable box; frame can be secured with a hitch lock||Frame can be secured with hitch lock|
| Price||$299-$829||$119-$279 |
|Ease of installation||Initial setup and installation required; simply slide into your hitch receiver, insert hitch pin, tighten; may be easier with two people ||Minimal setup; simply slide into your hitch receiver, insert hitch pin, tighten; only one person required|
|Accessories / options||Various sizes available; most come with taillights and locking hatch. Lid racks, wheels, cutting boards, custom color details (e.g., team colors)||Folding racks to improve clearance when not loaded; side rails, cargo net, cargo bag, bike rack, or rod rack can be added to some models|
|Items to carry||Items that need protection from weather and road debris, such as soft luggage, tools, sporting, tailgating supplies ||Good for bulky items such as lawn mowers; items that don't need protection from the weather and road debris such as coolers ||