The 9 Best Bike Racks for Cars and Trucks, According to Cyclists

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Inno RacksTire Hold Hitch
Saris Bones 2-Bike Trunk Rack
Thule Upride
Thule 501501 Insta-Gater
Kuat Piston Pro X
Yakima FullSwing
Yakima FrontLoader
RockyMounts WestSlope 3-Bike Hitch Rack
Kuat NV 2.0 2-Bike Hitch Rack
Transport your bike safely with one of the nine best bike racks of 2021.
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com Creative

Ever try to shove your bike into the trunk of your car? Generally, the process isn't pretty. Even after you put all the back seats down and move everything that's rattling around your trunk, there's a lot of pulling and wiggling involved. It's a damaged bike or scratched car just waiting to happen.

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But bike racks take all the struggle out of transporting your bicycle. And although they may seem daunting to install, many are actually pretty simple once you know what kind of rack you need. (Don't worry, we'll guide you there.)

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We chatted with a cycling expert and cycling coach to gather all you need to know on the most reliable racks for your bicycle. Browse our nine best bike racks and learn how to find your perfect pick.

1. Best 4-Bike Hitch Rack: Inno RacksTire Hold Hitch

  • Compatibility:​ 2-inch receiver
  • Max Weight:​ 60 pounds per bike
  • Material:​ lightweight aluminum
  • Lock:​ locking hitch knob and security cables included
  • Feature:​ suitable for some e-bikes

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Taking your friends or family on a bike trip? This hitch rack can hold four bicycles all at once with a total weight of 240 pounds. And you can rest assured your car stays scratch-free because this hitch holds your bikes off the vehicle.

When you're parked, you can also tilt the rack down to get full access to your trunk, which is a big priority when looking for the best bike rack hitch, according to Jake Harcoff, CSCS, cyclist and founder of AIM Athletic.

Buy it:Backcountry.com; ​Price:​ $899.95

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2. Best Trunk Rack: Saris Bones 2-Bike Trunk Rack

  • Compatibility:​ fits on most sedans, hatchbacks, SUVs and minivans
  • Max Weight:​ 35 pounds per bike
  • Material:​ metal and water-resistant plastic
  • Lock:​ not included
  • Feature:​ best compatibility of all Saris trunk racks

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"If you want a trunk rack, there is no better option than the Saris Bones collection," says Garret Seacat, CSCS, a triathlon and cycling coach at Absolute Endurance.

This simple, cost-effective bike trunk rack can hold three bikes at once and is compatible with most bicycle frames and is made with a rust-resistant metal. This rack wraps around the outside of your trunk and fits most any vehicle. Plus, it can even fit over spoilers.

Buy it:REI.com; ​Price:​ $250

3. Best Bike Roof Rack: Thule Upride

  • Compatibility:​ mounts on the roof of nearly all cars
  • Max Weight:​ 44 pounds
  • Material:​ carbon and alloy steel
  • Lock:​ key lock included
  • Feature:​ compatible with bike tires up to 5 inches thick

The beauty of a roof rack is that it take some of the worry out of transporting your bike. Because your bike sits on top of your car, you don't have to worry about difficulty parallel parking in a tight spot. The positioning also makes navigating through traffic a little easier, Harcoff says.

Thule's Fastride roof rack mounts easily on the top of your car and is compatible with most 20- to 29-inch bike frames.

Buy it:REI.com; ​Price:​ $249.95

4. Best for Pickup Truck Beds: Thule 501501 Insta-Gater

  • Compatibility:​ fits in the bed of nearly all pickup trucks
  • Max Weight:​ 50 pounds
  • Material:​ steel and plastic
  • Lock:​ lock and key security included
  • Feature:​ no contact with truck

Sure, you can lay your bike down sideways in your truck, but you risk movement and scratches. The biggest benefits of a truck bed rack is keeping your bike and vehicle damage-free, according to Harcoff. They also require few tools, hardware or time to install.

Usually, security is a major issue with these racks, but Thule's truck bed rack comes with a lock and keys to keep your bike safe. Most racks take up a lot of space in the bed, he says. But this rack is small, leaving plenty of space for any other gear you're driving around.

Buy it:Backcountry.com; ​Price:​ $249.95

5. Best 2-Bike Hitch Rack: Kuat Piston Pro X

  • Compatibility:​ 2-inch receiver
  • Max Weight:​ 67 pounds per bike
  • Material:​ all-metal stainless steel
  • Lock:​ built-in security lock
  • Feature:​ rear LED lights

"There's no other 2-bike hitch rack out there that comes close to the Kusat Priston Pro X," Seacat says. This rack is built to last and has some high-end touches, like LED lights and security locks, which totally justify the price tag.

This rack also has a lifetime warranty, so you're covered if you happen to have any issues. If something goes wrong, Kuat's customer service team can help you out.

Buy it:Kuat.com; ​Price:​ $,1389

6. Best Swing-Away Rack: Yakima FullSwing

  • Compatibility:​ 2-inch receiver
  • Max Weight:​ 40 pounds per bike
  • Material:​ steel and plastic
  • Lock:​ built-in security locks
  • Feature:​ built-in bottle opener

Like hitch racks, swing-away racks hold your bike on the back of your car. But these give you the ability to swing them away from the trunk of your car, according to Harcoff. That can make accessing your bikes and your trunk a whole lot easier.

For the most part, swing racks have a tough installation process, he says. But Yakima's four-bike swing-away rack installs with zero tools. Your bike fastens to the rack with Yakima's easy-to-use ZipStrips and all you need to do is pull them down to fasten your tires. In other words: This swing rack is as hassle-free as it gets.

Buy it:REI.com; ​Price:​ $599

7. Best Budget-Friendly Rack: Yakima FrontLoader

  • Compatibility:​ 18-inch crossbar spread
  • Max Weight:​ 40 pounds
  • Material:​ metal and plastic
  • Lock:​ sold separately
  • Feature:​ compatible with many kids' bikes

The best part about roof racks? They eliminate the risk of your bike being damaged if you back into something or get hit by a driver behind you, Harcoff says.

Yakima's FrontLoader is a price-friendly roof rack that's easy to install and is at a great price point.

This rack doesn't come in direct contact with any painted parts of your bike (only the tires do), so your bicycle stays scratch-free. And it's compatible with a variety of bike lengths.

Buy it:REI.com; ​Price:​ $219

8. Best 3-Bike Hitch Rack: RockyMounts WestSlope 3-Bike Hitch Rack

  • Compatibility:​ 2-inch receiver
  • Max Weight:​ 40 pounds per bike
  • Material:​ metal
  • Lock:​ built in
  • Feature:​ lifetime warranty

Unlike most hitch racks, the RockyMounts mount vertically stacks your bikes to prevent your handlebars from bumping and scratching against one another. It also takes up less horizontal space on the road, making it easier to drive in traffic.

Some hitch racks don't provide enough tilt, so you can't access your trunk while the rack is installed, according to Harcoff. Luckily, this rack tilts about 30 degrees, which is enough to give you plenty of access to the back of your car.

Buy it:Backcountry.com; ​Price:​ $429.95

9. Best for Electric Bikes: Kuat NV 2.0 2-Bike Hitch Rack

  • Compatibility:​ 2-inch receiver
  • Max Weight:​ 60 pounds per bike
  • Material:​ metal with gloss metallic powder finish
  • Lock:​ hitch lock included
  • Feature:​ no-tool installation

Typically, electric bikes are heavier and have wider tires than typical road or hybrid bikes. So, you need to buy an electric-bike-specific hitch rack to transport your bicycle.

"The Kuat NV2 is one of the best choices for your e-bike," Seacat says. This rack comes with a hitch lock included to keep your bikes safe and it doesn't require any tools, making installation a breeze. Plus, the glossy metallic powder finish is a nice touch.

Buy it:REI.com; ​Price:​ $849

5 Things to Consider When Buying Your Bike Rack

1. How You Want to Mount It

The biggest determining factor when picking a bike rack is how you want it to attach to your car, according to Seacat. Use the chart below to learn a little more about the different types of racks and how they mount.

Guide to Bike Racks

Attachment

Considerations

Roof Rack

Sits on the top of your car and attaches to cross bars.

Read the product info to make sure the dimensions are compatible with your car's cross bars. If your car doesn't have cross bars, you'll need to install those first.

Hitch Rack

Sits on the back of your car over the trunk. Connects to the square-shaped tube (receiver) at the bottom of your back bumper.

Read the product info to make sure the dimensions are compatible with your car's receiver. Most, but not all cars have a 2-inch receiver, which works with most hitch racks.

Trunk Rack

Attaches to the top and bottom part of your trunk.

Read the product info to make sure the rack size works with the make and model of your car. (These usually aren't the best for an SUV.)

Swing-Away Rack

Attaches to the receiver at the bottom of your back bumper. These swing away from your car for easy trunk access.

Read the product info to make sure the dimensions are compatible with your car's receiver. Most, but not all cars have a 2-inch receiver, which works with most hitch racks.

Pickup Truck Rack

Sits on the trunk bed; doesn't attach.

Read the product info to make sure rack is compatible with your bike's weight and tire size.

Source: Seacat

2. Your Bike's Size and Weight

All bike racks are compatible with a specific bike weight and frame size and tire size. Unfortunately, this can vary pretty drastically from rack to rack, so it's important that you read the product info.

Some racks also fit kids' bikes, so if you plan to go on a family trip, opt for a rack that properly fits your child's bike.

Also, electric bikes are usually heavier and larger than standard bicycles. So if you've got an e-bike, choose an e-bike-specific rack.

3. Your Locking Needs

Locking up your bike when you cycle to the store is second nature. But you also need to lock it up on your car, Seacat says.

Many bike racks come with built-in bike locks that secure your bike to the rack. Others include cables or other external locks. In some cases, these come separately.

4. How Much the Bike and Car Touch

The best bike racks keep your bike and car from touching.

After all, when you load your bike in a hurry, the last thing you want is your bike to leave scratches on your vehicle. Or, if another driver bumps your car from behind, you want to prevent your bike from slamming into your car, according to Harcoff. After all, a bike is usually cheaper to fix than a car.

All of the above picks reduce bike-car contact. But if you're shopping solo, check out product info to keep your bike and car safe.

5. The Rack's Materials

Look for strong, corrosion-resistant materials like aluminum. It's strong, light and won't rust in the rain.

But another way to know if you're getting a quality rack is to check it after installation, Seacat says. After you install your rack, it shouldn't rattle or move. A little wiggle is normal but you shouldn't see your rack shift from side to side at any point (unless it's a swing-away rack). If you do, it's best to exchange your product.

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