Type of Car Bike Rack

6 Types of Car Bike Racks Explained

I still remember being sad about buying a bike rack and then finding out there were other types available which would have been a much better choice for my car.

Had I known and understood the different types of car bike racks back then, the scenario would have been different.

Well, at least you get to be the lucky one as you’ll be able to make an informed decision by the end of this article.

It’s challenging to choose the best bike rack for your car as it depends on several key factors. You have to consider things like– car model, bike model, bike size, rack capacity, key features, security, and of course, your budget.

After using and testing several bike racks, today, I’m here to summarize all my learning experiences (most of them learned through trial and error).

I’m going to group all the variants of bike racks and categorize them into six different types – Hitch-Mounted Bike Racks, Strap-on Trunk Bike Racks, Roof Bike Racks, Spare Tire Bike Racks, Truck Bed Bike Racks, and Suction Cup Bike Racks.

NOTE: Each type of these bike racks may have sub-categories.

So, carefully read through this article to find out different bike racks, including a clear-cut buying guide and some pro tips from a veteran rider.

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Type 1- Hitch-Mounted Bike Racks For Cars

The first one on our list is the most convenient and famous bike rack of all time – The Hitch Mounted Bike Racks.

Hitch-mounted bike racks are very easy to use. To install this rack – simply connect the rack carrier with your car’s hitch receiver. That’s it. Easy and straightforward.

But what if your car doesn’t have a hitch receiver? In that case, you need to install one by yourself. Now, installing a hitch receiver can get quite hefty in terms of expense.

Nonetheless, it’s worth spending the extra buck for the receiver (if you don’t have one). It will make the bike mounting process much easier and convenient.

Note: Hitches also come in class sizes, so you need to look into that too for the right fit. Four standard hitch sizes are: 1-1/4″, 2″, 2-1/2″ and 3″ inches. You can add an additional hitch adapter or extender in case you need access to multiple hitch sizes.

The best hitch bike racks can simultaneously carry up to four or more bikes. Also, mounting the bikes on the hitch rack is very simple and convenient. It only takes a minute or two to set the bikes on the rack. 

Hitch-mounted bike racks come in two different styles- platform and hanging. And, the key difference is in how they carry the bikes.

Both the types might come with additional tilt away and swing away features (it allows you to swing the bike rack away and makes opening the trunk of the car easier).

You can even add an extra hitch rack swing adapter if your bike rack doesn’t come with one already.

Note: some bike racks will have an extension feature. With an extra add-on, you can put on more bikes on your bike rack.

Platform/Tray Style Hitch Bike Rack

The bikes stand upright on the tray-style hitch rack. It is one of the most convenient types of bike racks available on the market. If you have an E-bike, or fat tire bikes, then this style is very convenient.

This hitch rack is compatible with a wide range of wheel sizes. The build quality is also very solid and sturdy.

My top choice for the platform-style hitch-mounted bike racks is the Thule T2 Pro XT/XTR, and Kuat Sherpta 2.0 as they offer the best features and premium quality.

Among them, my favorite is the tilt away feature – which allows you to access the car’s trunk even when the bikes are mounted on the rack.

One drawback of this style is that the tray doesn’t suit all wheel sizes. So, don’t forget to check if the tray size fits with your bike tire.

Hanging Style Hitch Bike Rack

If the platform style doesn’t work for you, switch to the hanging hitch-mounted racks. We LOVE this style because of its high convenience and low-price tag.

The name makes it self-explanatory. The bike’s top tube hangs on the rack base with the help of tightening straps. The straps provide ample safety and security for the bike. 

Attaching and detaching the hanging style hitch rack is also very simple and easy– thanks to the lightweight body

Different hanging style bike racks will allow you to attach the bike horizontally or vertically. Different people like different aesthetics and functionality.

My top 4 Hanging Style Hitch Bike Racks are:

  1. Yakima RidgeBack
  2. YAKIMA – FullSwing
  3. Kuat Beta
  4. Yakima Hangover Vertical

Who is it for?

  • Those who want a sturdy carrier that doesn’t trade-off the security of the bikes
  • If you’re looking for super easy installation, then this is the one you should go for
  • You don’t even need to remove the front wheels of your bikes to stack up
  • The easy loading and unloading on this bike rack also makes it a top pick
  • As the bikes are racked separately, there is ample space in between them, so there’s no need to worry about paint chipping off from your vehicle.
  • If you want more bike capacity and no damage to your car

Keep note

  • Might not be within everyone’s budget
  • Requires a trailer hitch
  • Lengthens the back length of the car (be careful when parking)
  • Bikes may swing or sway

Type 2 – Strap-on Trunk Bike Racks For Cars

Next up, we have one of the most inexpensive bike racks type – The strap-on trunk bike rack. As the name suggests, the rack uses straps (mostly Nylon) to hold and carry the bikes.

The straps, hooks, and rack arms set the bike frame in place. You only need a couple of minutes to install the rack and mount the bikes.

This rack is easy and convenient to store in your garage as well. You can shrink it down by folding the rack frame.

Strap-on trunk racks offer to carry up to four bikes. However, I would never suggest mounting all four bikes at once because the bikes clash with one another and damage the frame and damage the car paint.

The low cost of this bike rack comes with disadvantages. For example– the rack doesn’t provide ample security for the mounted bikes. And, the straps also get worn out with time.

Furthermore, you can’t access the trunk when the rack is mounted on the vehicle. Not impressed. Check out this video for a visual understanding of how the strap-on bike rack works.

https://youtu.be/qv-NwlFeDpI

My top 2 Strap on Trunk Bike racks are

  • YAKIMA Fullback
  • Saris Bones 2-Bike Trunk Rack

Who is it for?

  • Those looking for an affordable option that works just fine
  • If you’re unsure about the fit, then we recommend this, as it can fit most cars
  • No need for additional components to fit the rack on your vehicle, so if you’re looking for versatility, opt for it
  • If you want easy storage, then you’ll be glad that some of them come with the option of folding away feature

Keep note

  • This is one of the least secure ways of carrying bikes (if you don’t get a decent one)
  • Prone to cause paint damage on your car
  • No access to the trunk while bikes are loaded.

Type 3 – Roof Bike Racks For Cars

If you don’t want to spend on a hitch and trunk racks are not safe enough for you, we think roof-mounted bike racks are the perfect pick.

Roof racks are a lot more stable than trunk racks and lets you use the trunk without any hassle.

The most exciting feature of roof racks is their versatility to carry anything on them and not just bikes. So, you can carry kayaks, boats, pedalboards, surfboards, snowboards, and even cargo boxes.

The roof rack attaches to the existing rack or the crossbars of the hatchback. However, if you don’t have it installed, you can use mounting clips to the rain gutter or upper door frame to install the roof rack.

Although four bikes can be stacked on roof racks, most models offer to carry a single bike. So, if you are looking for a bike rack where you can take all your family’s bikes, make sure you get the 3 or 4 bike options.

The main hassle with the roof rack is how you have to carry your bike up to your car. If your bike is heavy, you will have a hard time mounting them on the rack.

My top 2 Roof Bike racks are:

  • Best Premium Roof Bike Racks: Thule UpRide
  • Best Budget Roof Bike Racks: Swagman Standard

Who is it for?

  • Those looking for the most versatile type of bike rack for car
  • If you have a large van, then some of the roof racks will let you carry seven bikes
  • No hindrance in reaching the trunk or any door of your vehicle- this is something that most people traveling with a big family want
  • Security of bikes seems to be one of the biggest concerns that this type of rack doesn’t undermine at all
  • If you have recumbent, tandem, or any rare framed bikes, then roof racks will easily accommodate them too.

Keep note

  • You have to cautious while driving through a bridge, garage, or parking lot
  • Complex installing process
  • Increases fuel consumption because of aero-drag
  • need to drive carefully since the heavy load can cause the shift of the center of gravity

Type 4 – Spare Tire Bike Racks For Cars

This one works perfectly with any vehicle that has an extra tire attached to the trunk. It’s the best bike rack for all jeep lovers.

Spare tire racks directly attach to the tire using straps and add no additional weight to the tire.

The lightweight body makes them convenient to attach and detach from the vehicle. With some additional tweaking, you can adapt it to carry skis or skateboards as well.

Moreover, the high portability makes it even more functional. This type of racks also come in a hanging style – which offers you access to the trunk even when the rack is attached to it.

Coming to the security concerns, I don’t claim this to be the most secure and safest, but given the price range, they are worth giving a shot!

My top 2 Roof Bike racks are

  • Best Heavy-duty Spare Tire Bike Rack: Thule SpareMe 2
  • Best Easy To Install Spare Tire Bike Rack: Yakima SpareRide

Who is it for?

  • Those who have a Jeep or a spare tire on their trunk
  • If you want your bikes to load quickly on the rack, that wouldn’t be much of a hurdle to the spare tire
  • If you want clear access to the trunk while your bikes are loaded, then the hanging style spare tire racks are something to consider
  • Locking system is quite good on the spare tire racks if security is one of your prime issues
  • -Those looking for a lightweight, compact, and portable rack, then this is the one to choose.

Keep note

  • Can’t carry more than two bikes
  • Bikes may sway on bumpy roads
  • Not compatible with all types of wheel sizes.

Type 5 – Truck Bed Bike Racks For Cars

Now that we are almost at the end of our list of types of bicycle carriers for cars, you must be wondering which are the best types of bike racks for trucks.

Although trucks or vans are self-sufficient to carry bikes on them without the use of any racks, however, it doesn’t hurt to carry your bikes more safely and conveniently using a truck bed rack.

Not only do they offer you more security for the bikes, but they also save your time and energy while transporting your bike.

You can get a tailgate or pickup pad to rest the bikes so that the truck’s surface isn’t scratched up.

NOTE: If you have a fat bike, you can get different bike mounts to keep it securely stowed.

Truck bed bike racks can accommodate seven or more bikes on a truck with or without forking mounts.

My top 4 Truck Bed Bike Racks are:

1 – Quick release fork mount (fork mount)
2 – Yakima Gate Keeper (Tailgate Pad)
3 – Thule Bed Rider Bike rack
4 – Thule Insta-Gater Pro (Easiest to install)

Who is it for?

  • Those that have a pickup, truck, or a minivan with ample truck bed space
  • If you’re someone who’s looking for a rack that can swiftly hold multiple cycles
    -Those who want to carry a heavier load of bikes that don’t properly sit on regular cars
  • If you’re looking for an all-purpose rack that is not limited to just carrying around bikes.
  • If you have recumbent, tandem, or any rare framed bikes, then roof racks will easily accommodate them too.

Keep note

  • Takes up the storage space of your truck
  • Might limit how many bikes or other vehicles you can take
  • Can be stolen if not locked properly

Type 6 – Suction Cup Bike Racks For Cars

As our last type of bike rack, we have an extended version of the roof bike racks.

Even though we have separated into another type, they work almost as same as the roof racks. However, instead of a dedicated base bar set up, suctions cups are attached to your roof or backside of the car.

Suction cups might seem very unsafe and less secure, but the pull of the suction cups is powerful and they work pretty well.

They are almost rock-solid and vacuum seal to practically any surface. Whether you want to carry them with or without the front is totally up to you.

Security is one of the biggest advantages of suction bike racks, as they let you lock up almost every component. You can use it on the rear hatch glass, trunk, and also on the roof.

For me, when it comes to the suction cup bike rack, their minimalistic look and final aesthetic are what attract me the most. It looks super cool to hang your bike using them.

My top 3 Suction Cup Bike Racks are:

  • Seasucker Talon
  • SeaSucker Mini Bomber
  • Kupper Mounts

Who is it for?

  • Those that have an unconventional or racing car where regular racks don’t fit nicely
  • If you want a small rack that can be stashed away when not in use
  • Those that are willing to trust vacuum pull more than straps can go for this type of rack
  • A versatile bike rack that will attach to the most common places of the vehicle based on need
    -Those looking for ‘one rack for every vehicle’ product, then we don’t think there’s anything better than the suction racks.
  • If you love minimalistic outlook and simplicity then it will impress you

Keep note

  • Can be comparatively expensive
  • Might not stay appropriately if your vehicle’s roof is too curved
  • Unable to carry more than two bikes.

Car bike rack Buying Guide

So far, we have discussed different bike racks, the advantages and disadvantages they come with.

Now, let’s talk about a few crucial points that you MUST consider while choosing the bike rack for your car.

Fit of the rack

You must consider the fit before buying your bike rack. Because what’s a bike rack if it doesn’t fit your vehicle properly?

Make sure to do a trial on your vehicle whether the rack fits on your car or not. You also need to check if the rack supports your particular bike model.

Pro Tip: You can always check the compatibility from the manufacturer’s website.

Safety of bike and car

For the safety of your car, make sure the rack doesn’t obstruct your rearview mirror and taillights.

Be careful that the bike carrier should not hide your car’s license plate, as it’s illegal in some states.

Have a closer look if the rack is firmly holding your bikes. Check if the frame has strong hooks/locks for the wheel and bike frame. Another essential part of the Bike Rack is the lock system. The lock secures the bike with the rack and eliminates any chance of theft.

The security of the bike is a significant component for any bike rack. Sadly, many bike racks don’t have ample protection for the bikes.

Confirm these two things while selecting your bike rack:

  1. Is there a general lock and a cable lock to secure the bike with the rack?
  2. Does the rack have a lock system to attach the rack with the vehicle?

Weight of the rack

Bike racks are an extra weight to your car, especially when the bikes are mounted on the rack. The added weight can disrupt the stability and balance of your vehicle.

Therefore, it’s best not to overload your rack with too many bikes on it. If you’re thinking of carrying multiple bikes, make sure both the rack and car are suitable to lift the load.

Installation of the bike rack

We live in a fast-paced world, and we want everything to get done quickly. So why should your bike rack be any different?

When you’re choosing your new bike rack, select one that doesn’t require extra tools to be assembled and is easily accessible out of the box.

In this regard, the hitch bike rack is unparalleled to any other bike rack. A good hitch rack requires only a minute to attach and detach from the vehicle.

Rack Durability

A bike rack is considered a long-term investment. Surely you want a bike rack to serve you at least a couple of years. That will only happen if the bike rack is durable enough to survive the inevitable overuse.

Steel or aluminum body is highly preferable when it comes to bike racks. Especially the aluminum-made body, which makes a carrier lightweight and easy to attach to the car. In addition, rest resistance and good paint coating make a bike rack more durable and trustworthy.

It’s always suggested to go with a well-known brand as their product has won the consumers’ trust by providing long-term service.

Multi-purpose use case

A bike rack can be versatile in many ways. If it fits with different cars and models, well, that’s versatility. If the rack allows you to carry different types of bikes at once, that’s versatility as well.

Finally, suppose the carrier can offer to carry other sports items such as skis, snowboards, paddleboards, etc. In that case, that’s a highly versatile bike rack in our estimation.

So, look for a multipurpose bike rack in case you have more things going on. Of course, you have to pay a little higher for a more functional and versatile rack; however, the investment is worth it.

Budget for bike rack

Just because some bike rack prices are a bit high doesn’t mean spending on it is not worth it.

If the product costs a lot but is made of excellent quality, you should invest in it as it will last you a pretty long time.

The bike security and safety are also ensured because the high-end racks come with additional locking features.

So, first, ask yourself your budget and how much you can stretch it if you find an excellent product. This will help you sort out what kind of bike racks you browse for and save you a lot of time.

How to Install Women’s and kids Bike On A Bike Rack

Well, the simple answer to this question mainly depends on the model of your rack. But most racks don’t have the option to fit woman and kid bikes directly.

Most people don’t realize that women’s bikes are a lot different than regular cycles. For example, they don’t have the usual top tube. Instead of the usual top tube, a women’s bike has a slanted tube located slightly lower than the top tube but higher than the down tube.

So, if you try to hang your bike on that slanted tube, the bike doesn’t remain in a balanced or stable position.

This section of the article will show you how to install a Woman’s Bike On a Bike Rack easily.

1. Using Bike Adapter

A bike adapter lets you transport bikes with the slanted top tube by creating an artificial top tube on the bike.

We recommend checking out the Sparehand Adjustable Bike Adapter or the Thule Cross Bar Bicycle Frame Adapter. These are the best options we could find for you as the best bike rack adapters.

Important: Don’t forget to properly check whether the adapter fits in your bike rack or not.

2. Arranging the bikes

The most efficient way to arrange your bikes is to sort them in ascending order where the larger bikes stay close to your SUV.

If you can get creative with the arrangement of women’s bikes, you should hang the bike properly if you calculate the center of gravity right.

3. Getting a rack that can fit

This is the most general solution which is to buy the rack that fits women’s bikes. It will save your time trying to be clever and creative with the arrangement and help you choose an adapter that works well. Check out the Yakima HoldUp EVO that lets you carry kids’ and womens’ bikes easily.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the different types of car-bike racks?

There are 6 types of bike in a broader sense- hitch mount, strap-on trunk, spare tire, roof racks, suction cup racks, and truck bed bike racks.  

Under these types, there are different styles based on how you keep the bike and how you access them.

Which type of bike rack is best?

Hitch-mounted bike racks are the best bike racks. The convenience and security aspects of this bike rack make it worth the investment. You can install the rack and mount the racks within a minute or two. 

What types of bike racks for sedans are the best?

Trunk-mounted bike racks are the best types of racks for a sedan car. Sedans are three box configured cars with no bulge on their back, making trunk-mount racks best suitable for them.

Which is the best bike rack for hatchback cars?

The Thule T2 Pro XT is the best bike rack for hatchbacks. You can tilt the rack downwards and easily access the trunk of your car while bikes are loaded on it.

This bike rack also gives ample space between the bikes so that they don’t clasp together.

Do bike racks fit all cars?

No, unfortunately, not all bike racks fit all cars. While you can still mount them, there is no guarantee that the bikes will remain safe if it’s not the right fit.

Can bike racks damage your car?

When you don’t secure the rack to your vehicle, there is a high chance of mishaps happening that will damage your car.

Which is the best bike rack for SUVs?

Kuat Sherpa 2.0 is the best bike rack for SUVs. Read our article on Best bike racks for SUV to find the 20 best bike racks (all types) for SUV.  

Final Words

Bike racks elevate the fun and joy of riding your bike. They have a high utility and promise to deliver reliable service at all times.

Before buying your first rack, you must consider a few things like usage, compatibility, the number of bikes it can carry, and most importantly, your budget.

Thule T2 Pro XT/XTR  is a great one to start if your car has a trailer hitch pre-installed. And if you don’t have one, then you can either install a hitch or maybe go for Thule UpRide, which is the best roof rack that we have found.

One tip that we think is necessary is the maintenance of your bike rack. With proper care, you’ll make the most out of your bike rack, and it will serve you long enough.

So, get yours today, implementing all that you’ve learned from this article, and don’t forget to share your experience that might help others.

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Arbin Hank

The joy of riding bike has captivated me since the first time i rode a bike when I was 8. Since then, the passion for biking is all I've known. Hello, I'm Arbin Hank, the founder of california secret green-road bike team. Me and my team have decided to dedicate our time and effort you help out fellow bikers learn and choose the best products without losing themselves to confusing choices. Ride Bike, Stay green.

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