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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 your vehicle.

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 vehicle's maximum 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.
  • Security: 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.
  • Price: 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 frame model.

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
 CapacityUp to 200 lb. gear capacityUp 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
 SecurityGear is protected inside a lockable box; frame can be secured with a hitch lock
Frame can be secured with hitch lock
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 

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