Best car racks

Our top picks to haul your bike safely

Car racks are a necessity for a lot of riders. Luckily there's an endless array of choices and prices for hauling your two wheeler on your four wheeler.

Racks are categorized by where they mount on the vehicle. There are three main spots: roof, trunk and receiver hitch.

Roof racks

Roof-mounted racks typically consist of a base system that attaches to the roof of your vehicle. Vehicles with factory roof racks and crossbars can forego the base system.

Roof racks are ideal for riders who drive vehicles that won't work with a receiver hitch and/or want something more secure and permanent than a trunk rack. 

A big benefit is the versatility of a roof rack, there are loads of sports hauling accessories for skis, kayaks, fishing, surfboards, SUPs, etc. made for the top of vehicles. 

However, since your bike is on top of the vehicle, it'll hurt your car's MPGs and your bike is susceptible to low garages and parking structures. 

Trunk racks

Trunk racks are the best option for cyclists who want a low-cost, easy to remove bike hauler. Trunk racks attach via straps and can be adjusted to work with most vehicles. 

The negatives are that they are typically the most prone to theft, for both the bikes and the rack itself. Trunk racks are also the least stable way to haul your bike. 

Hitch racks

Racks that attach to a receiver hitch have gained popularity due to their low loading height, secure bike transport and overall ease of use. 

Like the other racks, they do have some tradeoffs, one being they're typically the highest priced and two, getting in a rear-end accident, whether with another car or by reversing into something, can quickly destroy your precious steed. 

Another notable necessity is that your vehicle needs to have a receiver hitch mounted to it, which adds even more cost.

Best hitch rack

RockyMounts SplitRail hitch rack

BikeRadar score4.5/5

RockyMounts' SplitRail hitch rack is solid, easy to load and simple to live with, all hallmarks of a great bike rack
RockyMounts' SplitRail hitch rack is solid, easy to load and simple to live with, all hallmarks of a great bike rack

  • $499.95 / UK and AU$ not available
  • Hauls up to three bikes (with additional tray)
  • Fits 20–29in wheels up to 3.0in tires

Most hitch racks share a lot in common with one another. A bar clamps up and over the front wheel and a ratcheting strap secures the rear wheel. 

It's the little and not-so-little details that set the RockyMounts' SplitRail apart.

Raising and lowering the rack to load bikes, or to simply access the rear of the vehicle, occurs almost daily, which means having an easy-to-use handle for tilting the rack can be a make or break deal. The SplitRail has one of the best and it's easy to access and works well too. 

Loading bikes is, of course, another primary concern. The SplitRail helps with this task by using tabs that keep the rear wheel straps out of the way. It sounds minor, but in use it's brilliant. 

The rack hauls nearly every wheel size, from small to large, skinny to mid-fat, but full-on fat bikes aren't compatible, says RockyMounts. 

Even storage off the vehicle is handled smartly. The SplitRail comes with a wall-mounted rack holder that keeps the rack off the floor and tucked closely against the wall.  

RockyMounts SplitRail alternatives

Best roof racks

RockyMounts TomaHawk roof rack

BikeRadar score4.5/5

RockyMounts' TomaHawk is one of the most versatile roof-mounted bike racks we've used
RockyMounts' TomaHawk is one of the most versatile roof-mounted bike racks we've used

  • £149.99 / $159.99 / AU$183.49
  • Hauls one bike
  • Requires a base bar system or factory roof rails

If you have a Thule, Yakima or other base bar system, or if your vehicle is equipped with factory crossbars, RockyMounts' versatile TomaHawk upright bike rack is impressive. 

The TomaHawk's biggest attribute is its ability to haul all sorts of bikes, from road bikes to 20in kids' bikes, to fat bikes to 29ers.

Loading a bike is relatively easy since RockyMounts includes tabs to keep the rack's wheel straps out of the way. 

The rack itself can lock to the base rack, and even though the rack has a lock for the bike, it's not a top scorer in security. 

Without a bike loaded, it folds down decently small. 

If your bike hauling duties run the gamut from time trial aero machines to full-squish fatties with all stops in between, but there's only one bike rack on your car's roof, this is the right choice.

RockyMounts TomaHawk alternatives

SeaSucker Mini Bomber roof rack

BikeRadar score4/5

Suction cup power! SeaSucker's Mini Bomber is unique in all the right ways
Suction cup power! SeaSucker's Mini Bomber is unique in all the right ways

  • £349 / $440 / AU$639
  • Hauls up to two bikes
  • Fork mount bike attachment

SeaSucker's Mini Bomber is unlike any other bike rack and attaches by way of suction cups. It may sound kooky, but each 15.24cm / 6in suction cup produces up to 210lbs of pull strength, and there are six cups — it's rock solid.

Like other roof rack bike carriers, the Mini Bomber rack holds bikes through the bike's front fork. SeaSucker offers a range of accessories to work with whatever axle your front wheel uses. 

Back to the suction cups, the SeaSucker can be mounted to all sorts of vehicles and in a variety of ways: on the roof, half on the rear hatch glass, half on the trunk. The options are numerous. 

Another highlight of the Mini Bomber is its small size. When it's not needed, it can easily be stashed in most cars. 

While SeaSucker does offer a lock and cable for security, it's not as elegant as some of the other racks' built-in solutions. 

Best trunk racks

Thule Raceway Platform Pro 2 trunk rack

BikeRadar score4/5

Thule's Raceway Platform Pro 2 is a trunk rack doing its best impersonation of a hitch rack
Thule's Raceway Platform Pro 2 is a trunk rack doing its best impersonation of a hitch rack

  • $449.95 / UK and AU$ not available
  • Hauls up to two bikes
  • Fits most wheel sizes and tire widths

Even though Thule's Raceway Platform Pro 2 attaches like a trunk rack, it thinks it's a hitch rack. And that's a good thing.

Unlike other strap-on racks that dangle bikes from their top tubes with the wheels wobbling to and fro, the Raceway secures bike wheels as well as the frame.

Attachment to the vehicle is by steel braided cables instead of the usual nylon webbing, it features ratchets for snugging the rack to the car, and the rack can be locked to the vehicle, and the bikes locked to the rack. 

Loading bikes can be a bit tricky mainly because the outer bike clamp has to pass either over or through the inner bike's frame. Seat to handlebar contact must also be considered, as it is on nearly every rack.

Once loaded, the bikes roll down the road as solid, quiet and stable as a top-tier hitch rack. 

But like its hitch-mount idols, the Raceway is expensive, especially for a trunk rack. And even though it folds up, it's not nearly as small as other trunk racks.  

Thule Raceway Platform 2 alternatives

Russell Eich

Tech Writer, US
Russell fell head over heels in love with bikes in the '90s, and has been involved in the bike industry ever since. Between wrenching in bike shops, guiding professionally, and writing about bikes, Russell has honed an appreciation for what works, gained knowledge of what doesn't, and can barely contain his enthusiasm for what comes next. His two-wheeled passion continues in the Rocky Mountains high above Boulder, Colorado.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: High altitudes, forgotten singletracks, bike parks, roads without cars
  • Current Bikes: Custom Meriwether steel hardtail, Specialized S-Works Enduro 29, Kona Jake the Snake, Trek 69er, and a bunch more
  • Dream Bike: Yeti SB5c, Intense Tracer 275C, Black Cat custom road
  • Beer of Choice: Gin + Tonic
  • Location: Rollinsville, CO, USA

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