9 Great Car Bike Racks for Families: 2019

Our Favorite Bike Racks that Fit Kids’ Bikes

Finding the best car bike rack can get complicated very quickly, and when you’re looking for racks that also accommodate 20″ or 24″ kids’ bikes, it can be even trickier. We’ve sorted through all the major brands and can confidently recommend these racks for families.

While there are certainly other options out there, we’ve personally used these car bike racks ourselves. We’ve loaded our bikes on them. We’ve loaded our kids’ bikes on them. We know what makes them great, and we know their limitations.

For a detailed explanation of all the features to consider when buying a car bike rack, be sure to check out our “What to Look For When Buying a Car Bike Rack” section below.

Best Car Bike Racks to Use with Kids’ Bikes

All racks listed will fit 20″ bikes on the rack and hold at least four bikes.  There are very few racks that will accommodate a bike smaller than 20″. Balance bikes and 12″ to 16″ bikes typically fit just fine in the trunk of the car. Also to note: when transporting four bikes, a 2″ hitch is usually required.

ModelWhy We Love ItMSRP (4-bike)Capacity Options
Thule T2 Pro XTBest Overall$1,0302 or 4
RockyMounts SplitRail LSMost Flexible Capacity$1,0402, 3 or 4
Saris SuperClamp EXBest for Rear Window Visibility$8804
Kuat NV Base 2.0Best Bullet-Proof$1,0082 or 4
Thule T2 ClassicBest Bang for Your Buck$8302 or 4
Allen Deluxe Locking Hitch RackBest Super Budget$1402, 3, 4, or 5
Yakima HoldUp EVO Honorable Mention$9482 or 4
Lolo RacksBest for 6 Bikes$7504 or 6
1UP Super DutyBest for 16" Kids' Bikes$1,0772, 3, or 4

 


Thule T2 Pro XT

Best Overall


Thule T2 Pro XT 2 bike rack mounted on Audi

MSRP (4 bike): $1,030

HITCH SIZE: 2″

CAPACITY: 2 or 4 bikes; 20″ wheels +; max tire width 5″

FEATURES: Easy, no-reach folding mechanism, individual bike locking cables, easy ratcheting shepherd’s arm design, top-quality construction, tilt-down for hatch access, anti-wobble hitch system

COMPLETE REVIEW: Thule T2 Pro XT

From top to bottom, the Thule T2 Pro XT is thoughtfully designed to handle everything from 20″ road bikes to 29ers and fat bikes.  With 12″ of space between each tray, the T2 Pro XT offers plenty of space to prevent bikes from making contact.

Even if your handlebars hit each other upon initial loading, with your toolkit handy, the tire trays can be adjusted left to right up to 4″ to help offset the bikes.  What you won’t need your toolkit for is essentially doing anything else with this rack.  Even installation is tool-free!

Our favorite feature of the Thule T2 Pro XT is its easy-to-use and even easier-to-reach folding handle.  Located at the tail end of the rack, the rack is a breeze to fold up when not in use as well as tilt-down to allow for hatch access while fully loaded.

PROS
  • With the add-on kit, can easily switch from 2 or 4 capacity as needed
  • Folding lever is located at the end of the rack (even with the extension kit)
  • Accommodates 20″ bikes without any adapters
  • Can accommodate bike tires up to 5″ wide without adapters
  • Provides 12″ of space between each bike!
  • Trays shift up to 4″ side to side to help offset bikes
  • Tool-free installation and integrated hitch locking system (no separate bolt that can get lost)

CONS
  • Heavy
  • Does not fit with 27.5″ fat bikes


RockyMounts SplitRail LS

Most Flexible Capacity


Rockymounts SplitRail LS bike rack mounted on Acura

MSRP (4 bike): $1,040

CAPACITY: 2, 3 or 4 bikes; 20″ wheels +; max tire width 3″

FEATURES: Slim, sleek design, 3-bike option, integrated bike locks, tilts for hatch access, anti-wobble hitch system

COMPLETE REVIEW: RockyMounts SplitRail LS

Clean, sleek and easy to use, the RockyMounts is very adjustable and versatile to fit a wide range of bikes. This high-quality rack  (same quality level as the Thule T2) comes standard as a 2-tray rack and can be upgraded to a 3 or a 4-tray rack.  In fact, it is the only tray rack on our list that offers a 3-bike option. Swapping between 2, 3 or 4 trays is also pretty easy, so there’s no need to keep extra trays on if you aren’t going to use them regularly.

As an added perk, the trays on the RockyMounts can be adjusted left to right to allow for plenty of offset between handlebars.  If you’ve never used a bike rack before, the handlebars often create problems, but the SplitRail has the option of repositioning each tray independently from the others.

PROS
  • Can be used as a 2, 3 or 4 bike capacity
  • Ample spacing between bikes
  • Trays can be offset left to right to prevent handlebars from rubbing together
  • Low and sleek profile when folded up
  • Can accommodate 20″ bikes without an adapter
  • 20 lbs. lighter than the Thule and Kuat

CONS
  • Does not hold tires wider than 3″
  • Not compatible with 1.25″ hitch (even the 2-tray rack)
  • Tools needed to tighten/loosen hitch pin when installing and uninstalling

 


Saris SuperClamp EX 4

Best for Rear Window Visibility


Saris SuperClam EX 4 bike car rack without bikes loaded

MSRP (4 bike): $880

CAPACITY: 4 bikes (or separate 2 bike option); 24″+ wheels; max tire width 4″ (or buy the Fat Tire Tray)

FEATURES: Most lightweight tray rack (just 63 lbs!), tilts for hatch access, super low profile, integrated bike locks, anti-wobble hitch system

COMPLETE REVIEW: Saris SuperClamp EX

Made in Wisconsin, Saris racks are an All-American, rugged way to get you on your next adventure. After months of use, we love the SuperClamp’s easy-to-adjust shepherds hooks and tire trays. Loading and unloading is about as simple as it gets – even our 8-year-old can do it!

With a shorter profile than most hitch racks, the SuperClamp is less bulky and makes keeping your rack on the car unobtrusive. We’ve found that when we already have the rack in place, we’re much more likely to go on those spur of the moment rides.

The SuperClamp accommodates any number of 24″ bikes with ease. However, you can only load up a 20″ bike if it’s alone on the rail. Because you have to line up a bike’s wheels with the bike sharing the shepherd’s hooks, a 20″ bike is a bit too small and too short to match up with another bike.

PROS
  • When folded up without bikes, you don’t see it out the back window
  • Dual shepherds hooks = extra secure ride
  • Two bikes per horizontal bar makes the rack very low profile when loaded and unloaded
  • Folding up and down is a breeze
  • Lightweight compared to other tray racks
  • Accommodates 24″ bikes without an adapter

CONS
  • With two bikes on each rail, can only accommodate a 20″ bike securely when carrying a max of 3 bikes
  • Always a 4-bike rack, cannot remove rails for 2-bike option (unless you purchase the 2-bike rack)
  • Bikes are spaced more closely together – handlebars can touch
  • Tools needed to tighten/loosen hitch pin when installing and uninstalling

 


Kuat NV Base 2.0

Best Bullet-Proof


Kuat NV Base 2.0 2-bike capacity rack on back of a truck

MSRP (4 bike): $1,008

CAPACITY: 2 or 4 bikes; 20″+ wheels with separate adapter; max tire width 3″ (or optional Phat Bike Kit)

FEATURES: Rock solid construction, integrated locks, fits essentially any wheel/tire size, optional bike stand attachment, anti-wobble hitch system

COMPLETE REVIEW: In progress

Sturdy and solid, the Kuat 2.0 is one tough rack that is certainly built to last.  From its overall rigid build to its powder coat finish, the Kuat will still look new after years of abuse!  With an optional bike stand attachment for on-the-go tune-ups and a wide gage cable lock system, the Kuat is a great choice for adventurous riders on the go.

The one downside to the Kuat is it needs an adaptor to fit 20″ and 24″ bikes.  The adapter is free (even if you bought the rack through a 3rd party retailer), but even with the adapter, 20″ and 24″ bikes don’t fit quite as sung as they do on other racks.

PROS
  • Rock solid construction and stability
  • Optional “Trail Doc” bike stand attachments for easy tune-ups while on the trail
  • Ample 11.5″ spacing between bikes
  • Accommodates tires up to 4.5″ wide (fat bike kit available for wider tires)
  • Front wheel trays have three height positions to help prevent handlebar/saddle conflicts
  • Front wheel tray is lower than back tray wheel to keep bikes sturdy and secure in the shepherd’s hook
  • Easy foot pedal to lower rack when folded
  • Cable on integrated bike lock is notably thicker than on other racks

CONS
  • Wheel trays do not move side to side to offset bikes (front moves up and down), so less flexibility in bike placement than other racks
  • Accommodating 20″ and 24″ bikes requires a separate (but free!) adapter
  • Bikes with adapter hold strong, but not as strong as other racks
  • Adapter rubs off paint on the fork of kid’s bike over time
  • While installation is tool-less, locking hitch pin is still required

 


Thule T2 Classic

Best Bang for Your Buck


Thule T2 Classic 2 bike rack mounted on Audi

MSRP (4 bike): $830

CAPACITY: 2 or 4 bikes; 20″+ wheels; max tire width 5″

FEATURES: Easy ratcheting shepherd’s arm design, tilt down access, top-quality Thule design

COMPLETE REVIEW: In progress

While not as fine-tuned and finessed as the T2 Pro XT, the Classic provides the same basic functionality while saving you a few dollars.  Like the Pro, the Classic has 11″ of space between the trays as well as the ability to shift the trays from left to right if needed.  Each tray comes with its own ratcheting shepherd’s hook that easily clamps down on the front tire and releases by a click of a button.

The Classic, however, does not come with individual locking cables. And while it still folds up and tilts down, the folding lever is located near the receiver, so it’s more challenging to reach.

PROS
  • With the add-on kit, can easily switch from 2 or 4 capacity as needed
  • Accommodates 20″ bikes without an adapter
  • Separate tray and hook for each bike makes loading any configuration of bikes a breeze
  • Can accommodate bikes with tires up to 5″ wide
  • Provides 11″ of space between each bike

CONS
  • Heavy
  • Folding lever is above the hitch and requires you to reach across the entire rack to pull
  • Does not fit with 27.5″ fat bikes
  • Tools needed to tighten/loosen hitch pin when installing and uninstalling

 


Allen Deluxe Locking Hitch Rack

Best Super Budget


Allen Deluxe Locking Hitch Rack without bikes loaded

MSRP (4 bike): $140

CAPACITY: 4 bikes (2, 3 or 5 bike options as well); 20″ wheels +

FEATURES: Super lightweight, locking hitch, quick installation & removal, tilts for hatch access, anti-wobble hitch system

COMPLETE REVIEW: Allen Bike Racks

At under $150, the Allen Deluxe 4-Bike Hitch Rack is an incredible deal for families on a budget. Not only is it affordable, but this lightweight rack can be installed or removed from the hitch without breaking a sweat and in less than three minutes.  This makes impromptu trips to the trails a no-brainer.

Because the bikes are stored very closely to one another, it can be a bit of a Tetris game to get them all to fit initially. However, once you figure out the best configuration for your family’s bikes, just stick to your plan and it’s a much quicker process. We’ve also found that if you need to transport four bikes, it’s much easier if you get the 5-bike capacity rack.

The arms of the rack can fold down when not in use, and the vertical post easily tilts back for hatch access.  Its slim design adds just 7.75” of length to your vehicle so you can likely still park in your garage if you want to leave it installed. If you remove it for storage, it takes up less space than one of our toddler’s bikes! 

PROS
  • A fraction of the cost of higher-end brands, but good-quality build
  • Lightweight (just 26.6 lbs.) – one person can easily install it
  • When unloaded, it doesn’t obscure your view out the back window
  • No additional tools needed to secure into the receiver, and tightening knob eliminates any wobble

CONS
  • Bikes are spaced pretty close together, so initially figuring out the best configuration can be a challenge
  • Bikes are easily scratched or damaged due to their closeness, and they bang into each other during the drive
  • Adaptors needed for sloping top tubes (as with all hanging racks)
  • Bikes look “messy” when mounted

 


Lolo Rack

Best for Big Families


LOLO Racks 6 capacity vertical bike rack

MSRP (4 bike): $750

CAPACITY: 4 or 6 bikes; 12″ wheels +

FEATURES: Tilt-away feature to access hatch, lockable anti-rattle hitch bolt

Lolo Racks are top on our list to get our hands on to test! One of only two racks we know of that can carry up to SIX bikes (including kids’ bikes), Lolo Racks are the solution we’ve been looking for for larger families. Because the rack holds the bikes by the handlebars, rather than the frame or wheel like every other rack, wheel size does not matter! Lolo Racks can hold everything from 12″ kids’ bikes to BMX bikes and fat bikes! No more taking two cars and two racks just to get your whole crew where they need to go!

 


Yakima HoldUp EVO+2

Honorable Mention


Yakima Hold Up Evo + 2 bike car rack

MSRP (4 bike): $948

CAPACITY: 2 or 4 bikes; 20″ wheels +; max tire width 4.8″

FEATURES: Expandable from 2 to 4 bikes, integrated locks, easy tilting mechanism with Kick Start foot lever, works with 27.5″ fat bikes

No list of car bike racks would be complete without a Yakima rack! While Yakima is a top-notch brand with lots of different car rack options, if you’re looking for a Yakima rack that can easily accommodate kids’ bikes, the HoldUp EVO is their rack of choice.  We’re scheduled to get one soon and will update this list with more information. If you’ve tried one yourself, comment below and let us know how you like it!

 


1up Super Duty

Best for Carrying 16″ Bikes


1UP tray car bike rack mounted to the back of a truck

MSRP: $1077 (base rack + 2 extension trays)

CAPACITY: 2, 3 or 4 bikes; 16″ wheels +; max tire width 3.1″ or use spacer kit

FEATURES:  Anti wobble, rapid tilt & folding, only tray rack to fit 16″ wheels

We’ve had several readers recommend 1up bike racks to us, and even our local bike shop uses a 1up rack. They’ve specifically made our list because they’re the only tray rack system that can accommodate a kid’s bike as small as 16″! 1up racks feature a unique system not found on any other car bike rack where both the rear and front wheel are secured in place by tilting rack arms.

 


What to Look for in a Family Bike Rack


RockyMounts SplitRail LS 4-bike rack mounted to the back of Land Cruiser with family's bikes

Like any product, not every car bike rack will work for every family. Here are a few key factors you need to consider when determining which rack is best for your car, your bikes, and your family’s needs.

Car Mounting Style

First and foremost you need to determine where you want the rack placed on the car.  For this list, we only highlighted racks that fit on the hitch of a car, but racks can also be placed on the roof of a car, over the trunk, or in the bed of a truck.

We focused only on hitch racks, because quite honestly hauling 4 or more bikes (with two or more being kid’s sized) with a roof or trunk-mounted rack is quite the challenge.  From loading all the bikes on the roof, to squeezing them all onto a trunk rack, it’s not fun or easy to do.

As a result, if at all possible, we highly recommend getting a hitch installed on your car. If that’s not an option, Thule’s or Yakima’s fit guides should help you find a roof or trunk rack that works with your car.

If you have a truck, finding a suitable rack should be a breeze (take a look at Thule’s and Yakima truck bed options), as fitting four or more bikes in the bed shouldn’t be a problem.

Tray-based, Hanging, and Vertical Racks

There are three main types of hitch racks: (1) hanging, (2) tray-based, and (3) vertical.  Each rack type has its pros and cons.  Tray-based and hanging racks are much more common than vertical, so we are mainly focusing on those two types.

Types of Hitch Bike Racksexamples of hanging, tray-based and vertical bike racks

Tray-Based Racks

Tray-based racks rest the tires of the bikes in their own individual tray, and usually secure the tire in place with a shepherd’s hook.  The main benefit of tray-based systems is that they provide ample room between bikes to prevent bikes from banging into each other and being damaged while on the rack.  Examples include, the Thule T2 Pro and Classic, the Yakima HoldUp EVO, the Saris SuperClamp, and the RockyMounts SplitRail LS.

Yakima HoldUp EVO, RockyMounts SplitRail, and Saris SuperClamp EX

Side by side images of three different tray hitch racks mounted to cars - Yakima, RockyMounts, and Saris.

Hanging Racks

Hanging racks “hang” the bikes by their frames.  While bikes have individual clamps holding them in place, the bikes are placed much closer together and can be more difficult to load as a result. Because they are hanging, the bikes tend to swing and bang against each other while on the rack. Hanging racks, however are much cheaper and lighter than tray-based racks.  Examples include the Allen Deluxe Locking, Thule Apex XT and Yakima DoubleDown.

Allen Deluxe Locking, Yakima DoubleDown and Thule XT

Three examples of hanging racks mounted to cars - Allen, Yakima, and Thule

Vertical Racks

Vertical racks place bikes vertically on the rack versus horizontally.  They do require lifting your bike up much higher to load as compared to the other styles, but they are the ONLY system able to hold up to 6 bikes while still protecting the bikes from being damaged.  While there are several brands that make vertical racks, Lolo and North Shore racks are the only ones we have found that are compatible with kids’ bikes.  Other racks, like the Yakima Hangover, require bikes to have a suspension fork to mount.

Lolo Racks and North Shore Racks

lolo bike rack and north shore bike vertical rack

Hitch Size

Knowing your car’s hitch size is essential before you select a bike rack.  Most smaller cars will have a 1.25″ htich while larger cars will have a 2″ hitch.  2″ hitches are beneficial over 1.25″ as it opens you up to a lot more rack options.

If you do have a 1.25″ hitch and you want to haul more than two bikes, just be aware that a tray system (versus a hanging system) will not be an option for you. 1.25″ hitches don’t have the strength to hold 3+ capacity tray-based systems versus much lighter and smaller 3+ hanging systems.

Capacity and Expandability

How many bikes do you need to transport now?  How many bikes will you need to haul in a couple years?  Growing families should consider purchasing a rack that will accommodate their future needs or a rack that is expandable.

Also be aware that regardless of your receiver size, most hitch racks max out at four bikes.  If you need to haul more than four bikes, the Lolo or North Shore hanging racks are your best bet as they are the only 5+ racks we’ve found that work with kids’ bikes.

If you plan on hauling a 12″ to 16″ bikes, you need to be aware that they are not compatible with a tray-based system (except 1-UP), but can be compatible with hanging systems.  Luckily, 12″ and 16″ bikes are usually pretty easy to throw into the trunk for those who prefer the ease of a tray-based system.  Some tray-based systems are also not compatible with 20″ bikes.

RockyMounts 2 and 4-bike CapacityRockyMounts Splitrail bike rack mounted on a car as a 2 capacity and then as a 4 capacity. Can't really see out the back window with the 4 capacity.

Most tray-based systems, however, are expandable, coming standard as a 2-bike capacity that can be expanded to hold up to four bikes.  These racks are ideal for growing families who don’t need to invest in a full 4-bike system now, but likely will in the near future.  Expandable racks can also be switched back to a 2-bike capacity if needed.

Wheel Size and Tire Size

As mentioned previously, tray-based systems have limitations on wheel sizes, while hanging racks typically have none. As long as the bike has a frame, you can attach almost any bike to a hanging rack (as long as it is within the rack’s weight limit).  Tray-based systems typically hold bikes with 20″ wheels and up.

The width of the tire is also a limitation with tray-based systems.  All standard kid’s bike tires will fit on any tray-based rack. Tire width is only an issue with “fat bikes”. If mom or dad (or a really ambitious young grom) has a fat bike with tires more than 4″ wide, a rack compatible with fat tires or that offers a fat tire adapter will be required.

Installation and Removal – Total Weight of Rack

Installing and removing a bike rack is challenging.  With many of the racks weighing more than 80 lbs., they typically require more than one person to install or remove.  Tray-based racks are significantly heavier than hanging racks.  If you plan on installing or removing the rack on a regular basis, a hanging rack is likely a better option for you.

Hatch Access

The ability to access the rear hatch of your car while the rack is fully loaded is another great feature available on higher-end racks.  To allow access without removing bikes, several hanging racks have a 180-degree swing out as shown in the first picture below. The swing-out access is not available on tray-based or vertical racks.

Many tray-based, hanging, and vertical racks have the ability to tilt down about 30-degrees below upright (as shown in the second picture below).  This tilt typically provides plenty of room for a rear hatch to open.

Swinging and tilting features of car hitch racksFolding

Almost all tray-based and hanging racks fold up against the rear of the car when not in use.  Hanging racks, however, take up much less “window” space as compared to tray-based racks, which are much longer and wider.

hanging versus tray-based bike rack folded up

Tray-based racks also almost always block your car’s license plate when folded up.  Be sure to know your local laws to ensure blocking a plate with a car rack isn’t an issue.

Integrated Locks

A great feature often overlooked with bike racks is integrated locks.  These locks help keep your bikes secure, especially while traveling.  The styles of locks vary from rack to rack, but most tray-based systems have a cable that wraps around the frame while hanging racks have clamps that adhere to the frame.

Dealer Rack Fit Guides

Concerned about properly fitting a rack to your car?  All of the major brands have easy-to-use “rack fit” guides that allow you to input your car and bike information to make sure that the rack you’re eyeing will actually fit your car and bikes. Check out these guides below:

Allen, Kuat, RockyMounts, Saris, Thule, Yakima

 

Car Bike Racks for Families

ModelMSRP (4-bike)Receiver SizeBike CapacityMinimum Wheel SizeMax Tire WidthOptional Fat Tire TrayWeight (4-bike)Integrated Bike LockFolds When Not In UseMax Load
Thule T2 Pro XT$1,0301.25" or 2"2 or 420"5"No96 lbs.YesYes160 lbs.
RockyMounts SplitRail LS$1,0402"2, 3, or 420"3"No76 lbs.YesYes160 lbs.
Saris SuperClamp EX 4-Bike$8802" only4 24"4"Yes63 lb.YesYes190 lb.
Saris SuperClamp EX 2$4991.25" and 2"224"4"Yes35 lb.YesYes120 lb.
Kuat NV Base 2.0$1,0081.25" and 2"2 or 420"3"Yes100 lb.YesYes200 lb.
Thule T2 Classic$8301.25" or 2"2 or 420"5"No85 lb.NoYes160 lb.
Allen Deluxe Locking Hitch Rack$1402"2, 3, 4, or 520"N/AN/A26.6 lb.NoYes140 lb.
Yakima HoldUp EVO$9481.25" or 2"2 or 420"4.8"No87 lb.YesYes
LOLO Racks$7502"4 or 612"N/AN/A
1 UP Super Duty$1,0772"2, 3, or 416"3.1"Yes84 lb.Yes275 lb.

 


Related Articles


10 Best Bike Storage Ideas

Disclosure: The majority of links provided are affiliate links we receive a small commission on sales made through them (including Amazon).
+
Two Wheeling Tots
Login/Register access is temporary disabled
Compare items
  • Total (0)
Compare