Types of Bike Racks for Cars and Trucks: Guide to Choose Right Bike Rack

It has been almost ages since bikes are used for multiple outdoor activities including road bike, gravel cycling, mountain biking and other adventures. But when it comes to riding a bike either on the mountains or in some off-road area especially downhill rides, you may need to carry the bike to that area from where you will start your adventure.

High chances are you will need a bike rack for the transportation of your bike for your adventures. And this is where you will need a good and the right type of bike rack for your vehicle for easy and quick transportation, without affecting the efficiency of the car or damaging the bike.

But have you ever thought about which bike rack would be the best for your vehicle, how to choose the right bike rack for your vehicle, different types of bike racks available in the market OR how to transport a bike without a rack?

It’s quite complicated to get the best bike rack because you have so many options in front of you but now the case isn’t the same. This is because I have done some research for you and have elaborated on the factors that should be considered while purchasing the right bike rack here in this article.

How To Choose The Right Bike Rack - Featured Image
Featured Image

Let us look into the details of those factors and types of bike racks so that the final selection is easier and quicker.

Factors to Consider While Choosing a Bike Rack

Certain factors are of utmost importance when selecting the right bike rack for transportation of the bike from one place to another. I am going to enlist some of those factors to make sure you understand each of them.

Factors To Consider While Choosing A Bike Rack
Factors To Consider While Choosing A Bike Rack

1. Capacity of a Bike Rack

Before finalizing the bike rack, ask yourself how many bikes you are going to transport on it. The pressure that the rack can tolerate will tell you about how many bikes you can carry and load on it. No matter which model of the rack you select, there are cradles located on it. And each cradle can transport one bike at a time.

Capacity of a bike rack

This is why you need to check how many bikes you are going to load on it. The count of bikes tells you about the count of cradles you will need and this is how you can select the rack with the most appropriate and adequate capacity.

Moreover, also focus on the weight of the bike and check whether the weight is in compatibility with the tolerance of the bike rack or not. If you own mini cooper, have a look at mini cooper bike racks.

2. Level of Security Bike Rack Offers

Security is the second most important thing that you should focus on while purchasing adequate bike racks. Of course, you don’t want to compromise the security of the bike, to have an adventure cycling. Are you looking for features in your bike rack that protect your bike, in addition to, transporting it from one place to another? Yes, there are companies that are constructing bike racks with anti-theft features.

Level of Security Bike Rack Offers

In addition to anti-theft features, there are certain locking features that are also present in the bike racks. Both of them provide additional security and make sure that your bike is in proper safety.

I personally recommend selecting the bike rack with security features, so that you can enjoy your biking and riding adventures, without the fear of theft.

3. Type of Car and its Compatibility

Compatibility is an important thing that should be considered before looking for the bike carrier racks. Of course, if you’re purchasing a bike rack that is not compatible with the type of car model you have, it is not worth purchasing instead, it is a waste of money. To avoid this wastage, always focus on what is the model of your car and what type of rack it will support.

Type of Car and its Compatibility

In case you don’t know about the model of your car, check the manual, ask the owner and check for the compatibility of the bike racks, before purchasing them.

Moreover, there are vehicle fit guides that normally come with vehicles and let you know about the bike racks that are compatible with your car. In this way, you can check whether the one which you are selecting is good and compatible with your car or not. If you are planning to transport e-bike, have a look at bike racks for electric bikes.

4. Frequency of Traveling

Check for the frequency of traveling and how often you will need to transfer your bike from one place to another on that bike rack you’re purchasing. This is important because if the bike rack is not durable and long-lasting, it will not serve you more than two to three times.

In case you want a bike rack for long-lasting service of transportation, you need to select the one that is constructed in the most durable manner. It should not be weak and should be sturdy enough to tolerate the pressure again and again.

Never compromise on the quality of the bike rack construction and try to get the bike rack with the most durable and long-lasting service.

5. Effortless Bike Rack Installation

Bike Rack Installation

Select a bike rack that is easy to install and does not require professional help. Otherwise, you have to wait for some professional person to get it installed. The rack that is effortless to install is preferable compared to the one that demands expert support.

In case the bike rack is easy to install, you can do it on your own. That is why it is highly recommended to buy an effortless installation bike, to make the bike rack easy and simple to use.

6. Easy Loading and Unloading of the Bike

Effortless loading and unloading is another aspect of the bike rack that you should focus on before finalizing the one. If the rack you have selected supports easy loading and unloading of the bike, you can use it multiple times, without any hustle and complications.

Otherwise, it would be hectic for you to load the bike and unload it every single time if it is a difficult and complex process.

7. Weight of Bike Rack to Avoid Extra Fuel Consumption

Surprised to read “Fuel Consumption“? Yes, you read it right because most of us look into the fuel consumption of the vehicle and monitor it in order to maintain fuel expenses. But do you know that a heavyweight bike rack can exceed your fuel consumption?

Of course, you cannot buy a bike rack that will consume a lot of fuel due to its heavy weight or resistance to air. So, if you are one who always focuses on fuel consumption while driving then choose the rear-mounted and lightweight bike rack because it will not consume extra fuel and makes bike transportation budget-friendly for you.

Recommended Bike Rack Type to Avoid Extra Fuel Consumption

If you ask for my recommendation, I will recommend that you select the rear bike rack. This is because it’s away from the air and consume less fuel, as compared to the roof mounted bike racks.

Moreover, it has been noticed that roof mounted bike racks consume around 30% more fuel than others. Read a detailed guide to fix roof rack wind noise.

6 Types of Bike Racks for Cars and Trucks

As we have learned everything about the features that you should focus on while selecting the best bike rack, now is the time to concentrate mainly on the types of bike racks available in the market.

There are multiple types of bike racks that make it confusing for you to select the best one.

6 Type Of Bike Racks

Here I am going to elaborate in further detail on the six basic types of bike racks, their advantages, and disadvantages, to make sure you know everything about all the types. This will help you in selecting the best one out of all these types to give you the best performance and serve you in the best possible way.

1. Roof Mount Bike Rack

Such a type of bike rack uses suction cups to use the vacuum, to hold glass, fiberglass, and metal items right on top of it. These roof-mount bike racks are effortless to install and very easy to use. You do not have complicated mounting as it only involves slight lifting of the bike overhead for its placement.

Roof Mount Bike Rack - Types of Bike Racks

This bike rack carries dual bikes at once, and at times 5 bikes or more than 5 but it totally depends upon the weight of the bikes and the width of the crossbars. Moreover because of easy mounting and unmounting, this bike rack is ideal for daily usage purposes.

2. Hitch Bike Rack

A hitch bike rack is a type of rack that is attached to the back side of the vehicle. For its attachment, you need to have a compatible trailer hitch receiver. This trailer hitch receiver should be appropriate and adequate according to the vehicle you have.

Moreover, hitch bike racks are the easiest to install racks that are effortless to set up and also offer easy and quick loading and unloading of the bike on the rack.

Hitch Bike Rack - Types of Bike Racks

You only need to lift the bike to a moderate level for its mounting, and that’s it. Further, this type of bike rack allows you to load up to 5 bikes at a time. In addition to all of that, the rack offers enough flexibility in case you have to access the tailgate or rear door of the vehicle. You can also read comparison of tailgate pad vs bike rack.

Before selecting the hitch style bike rack for transportation of the bike, make sure you are selecting the one that is the most compatible with the hitch size you have. If you’re looking for a bike rack for Subaru Forester then have a look at my bike rack recommendations for Subaru Forester.

If you have found the compatible size then it’s okay, otherwise, you have to buy an extra adaptor, which obviously charges you extra, and of course, you don’t want to spend extra money. That is why you must select and keep in mind the hitch size before finalizing the hitch bike rack.

Moreover, there are two types of hitch bike racks which have I have explained below:

  • Hanging Style
  • Platform/Tray Style

2.1. Hanging Style Hitch Bike Rack

Hanging Style Hitch Bike Rack - Type of Bike Racks

A hanging Style hitch bike rack is a compact and lightweight bike rack that uses arms to provide the base for the bike and straps to lock it in place. It, at times, comes with arms to make sure you can fold it when there is no need.

Moreover, this hanging-style bike rack at times comes with the ability to move and tilt here and there for easy and quick access to the rear area of the vehicle.

Do you own a minivan and planning to carry your bikes on it? If yes, you can read my guide about bike racks for minivan.

2.2. Platform/Tray Style Hitch Bike Rack

There are hooks for securing the bike’s frame and a tray for anchoring the bike from the base. The hooks are used to tighten the bike from the area of the wheel. Although this bike carrier rack is heavy and bulkier to manage but offers the most security than all other types of bike racks.

Platform Style Hitch Bike Rack - Type of Bike Racks

Moreover, they are able to tilt and move away, in case you have to reach the rear area of the vehicle. You can carry multiple bikes at a time in the presence of this rack and can also increase the capacity if there is a need by adding add-ons. Also have a look at bike racks for SUV no hitch.

Watch a detailed comparison of Platform vs Hanging Bike Rack

3. Fork Mount Roof Rack

Fork-Mount Roof Rack demands you to remove the front wheel of the bike. After the removal of the wheels, the front fork is tightened with a pin and the wheel at the back, both with the rack setup.

Fork Mount Roof Rack for Bikes - Type of Bike Racks

Keep in mind what bike fork type you have. This is because there may be a need for an adapter for the safe mounting of the bike. Moreover, this is the most affordable and expensive option available, when compared with other types of bike racks.

If you want to transport your bikes on Toyota Sienna, read my review about Toyota Sienna Bike Racks

4. Wheel Mount Roof Rack

The wheel mount roof rack comes with adjustable straps that are used for the safety and tying of the both front and back wheels with the tray. This is done without the removal of the front wheels of the bike. Also have a look at front pannier bike racks.

Wheel Mount Roof Bike Rack - Type of Bike Racks

Moreover, it is slightly more expensive than the above-mentioned fork mount roof rack. I personally will recommend you to select this rack, specifically, when you are looking for an inexpensive and budget-friendly roof bike rack option. If you own a Sedan, go through my review about best bike racks for sedans.

5. Trunk Bike Rack

Trunk bike rack comes with buckle straps and hooks that are adjustable and are used for the strong anchoring of the bike rack, to the trunk of the vehicle.

Moreover, it also comes with padded rubber arms that are specifically made for the anchoring of the bike, to the frame, to give it the safest transportation possible.

Trunk Bike Rack

Trunk bike racks are the racks that are designed as the most adjustable and compatible racks. They are easy to fit on most cars, vehicles, trucks, and SUVs. Although this bike rack is ideal for the general bike frames when it comes to women’s bikes, children’s bikes, and small-size bikes, you need to have an extra adaptor or a type of horizontal crossbar for easy loading, unloading, tying, and transportation of the bike.

Additionally, this bike rack comes with some premium models that offer three levels of holding the bike. This minimizes the free swing movement that ultimately results in safer and more secure transportation of the bike.

Moreover, there are other extras that you can purchase if you want to secure your bike more. Lastly, I want to mention that the trunk bike racks are effortless to install and very easy to use, without any complications and complexities.

If you own Nissan Rogue, have a look at best bike racks for Nissan Rogue

6. Spare Tire Bike Rack

As the name suggests, this type of bike rack is attached and joined with the spare tire. This tire is the one that is located on the tailgate and is mounted there. The method of mounting the bike on the spare tire bike rack is almost the same as the method of mounting in a hanging style hitch rack.

Spare Tire Bike Rack - Types of Bike Racks

This involves the use of a mast with an arm, clamps, and straps for the security and safety of the bike’s frame. Have a look at Jeep Wrangler bike racks and choose the right spare tire bike rack.

Moreover, this type of bike rack can hold up to 3 bikes at a time but it also depends upon the type of bike you are going to mount. You will find the two models of the spare tire bike rack. Also, you can read about bike racks for Jeep Grand Cherokee.

6.1. Dual-Arm Spare Tire Bike Rack

This type of spare tire bike rack comes with two cradles for support and holding the bike mounted on it. It is ideal for road bikes, mountain bikes, and other specific bikes, used for adventuring purposes.

6.2. Single-Arm Spare Tire Bike Rack

A single-arm spare tire bike rack comes with a single cradle. It can be used for multiple types of bikes, no matter what size and dimensions it has.

Read a detailed guide on how to stop bikes from swaying on bike rack

FAQs of Bike Racks

Do all bikes fit on bike racks?

Since there are multiple types of bike racks, we cannot say that all bikes can fit on all those types of bike racks. But the racks that come under vertical hitch racks can conveniently adjust all types of bikes on them. The bike mounting on the bike racks varies based on the models and brands they belong to. And most of the time the difference exists either in the kid’s bike or the women’s bike. This is important for you to know because you must have to check the compatibility of the bike rack both with your vehicle and the bike you are going to mount on them.

What kind of bike rack is easiest to use?

The tray-style hitch bike rack is the easiest and the most effortless to use. It is very easy to install and does not involve any kinds of complications and complexities. Moreover, since it is light in weight, it is very easy to manage. This type of bike rack is also the safest of all those racks that transport the bike from one place to another, in the most secure manner. Furthermore, it also allows you to reach the vehicle, even when the bike is mounted on the rack.

How do I know if a bike rack will fit my car?

For this purpose, you first need to concentrate mainly on the compatibility and adequacy of the rack with the vehicle you own. This is a very very important step before finalizing the bike rack because in case the bike rack is not in compatibility with your vehicle, it is not good for the purchase. To check whether the bike rack will fit your car or not, you can either go with the car’s manual or can search online because manufacturers often tell you about their products and their product’s compatibility with other items, whether in the manual or via online advertisement.

Can you leave your bike rack in your car?

Yes, you can easily leave your bike rack in the car, without any worries. You can leave the rack even when the bike is not placed on it. It will not harm the car in any way. But I will recommend you remove the rack when there is no need. This is because it may consume more fuel, demand more maintenance from the owner of the vehicle, and may make it harder for you to reach the trunk, in case there is a need.

You may also have a question in mind i.e. Can I go through a carwash with a bike rack

Final Thoughts about Bike Racks

Here are the details about how you can choose the right bike rack for you and what types of bike racks are available in the market for cars and trucks. There are around 6 types of bike racks that are available and reliable when it comes to the mounting of the bike on your vehicle.

All of these 6 types of bike racks are almost effortless to use and easy to install. They do not require a lot of maintenance, instead give your bike the safest and most secure transportation, from one place to another. Read a guide about bike rack maintenance.

Moreover, the above-mentioned article also tells you about the features that you should focus on before finalizing the bike rakes for you. This involves security, compatibility, affordability, check on the fuel economy, capacity of the rack, frequency, its installation techniques, and whether it is easy to mount the rack or not.

Make sure you concentrate on each and everything mentioned in this article so the bike rack you will purchase will be the best and the most adequate one.

Related Bike Rack Guides

Do Bike Racks Damage Your Car?

How to Keep Bikes from Hitting Each Other on Rack?

Kuat Sherpa vs NV Bike Rack

Best Bike Racks for Honda CRV

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