10 Best Hitch Bike Racks

Finding a hitch bike rack that accommodates your bikes, as well as your budget, can be a challenge. But not to worry, we’ve spent hundreds of hours testing and researching for you! Over the past five years, we’ve personally tested hitch racks of all styles – hanging racks, platform racks, and vertical racks – to learn the ins and outs of each style and brand.

From kids bikes to road bikes and mountain bikes, we’ve loaded all sizes and styles of bikes onto each of these hitch racks. We know what makes them great, and we also know their limitations. Which hitch bike rack is best for you will depend in large part on what size and type of bikes you’ll be carrying, and how much you want to spend.

saris super clamp ex 4 hitch bike rack loaded up on the back of a family car

Best Hitch Bike Racks

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
PLATFORM: 2, 3, and 4 Bike
Thule T2 Pro XTBest Overall$1,1482 or 4
Saris SuperClamp EXBest for Rear Window Visibility$1,0002 or 4
Yakima HoldUpBest Value$8582 or 4
Kuat NV Base 2.0Best Bullet-Proof$1,3472 or 4
1UP Super DutyBest for 16" Kids' Bikes$1,1532, 3, or 4
HANGING - HORIZONTAL: Up to 5 bike capacity
Thule Apex XTBest Overall Hanging Rack$4492, 4, 5
Allen Deluxe Hitch RackBest 5 Bike on a Budget$1592, 3, 4, or 5
HANGING - VERTICAL: High capacity, 5-bike and 6-bike
Alta RackMost Customizable$9853 - 6
Totem Bike RackBest High Capacity on a Budget$4496
Lolo RacksBest for 12", 14", 16" bikes$7504 or 6
VelociraxOnly 7 Bike Option$7753 - 7

PLATFORM HITCH BIKE RACKS

On platform bike racks, the bike’s front and rear wheels rest in wheel trays, and are strapped down across the wheel’s rim. Shepherd’s hooks ratchet down onto the top of the front tire, holding the bike firmly in place and allowing for minimal frame/rack contact. Platform racks max out at 4-capacity.

BEST FOR

With minimal (if any!) frame contact, platforms racks are great for bikes with carbon frames, carbon wheels, as well as full-suspension mountain bikes with non-traditional frame designs.

A PASS FOR

Four-bike capacity platform racks are typically very heavy! Don’t count on easily taking them on and off your car. Kids bikes under 24″ also do not fit on most platform racks, although some do accommodate 20″ bikes without a problem. Platform racks also aren’t the best for large families, unless you also want to carry a bike or two on a roof rack.

While almost all racks block your license plate when in use, platform racks can be problematic as they also block your plates when folded up on your car when not in use. If blocking your license plate in an issue in your state, a hanging or vertical rack is your best bet.

Thule T2 Pro XT

Best Overall – Platform Hitch Rack

thule t2 pro bike platform bike rack

MSRP (4 bike): $1,148

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

The Thule T2 Pro XT is our favorite platform hitch rack – thoughtfully designed to handle everything from 20″ kids bikes to road bikes, 29ers, and fat bikes.  With 12″ of space between each tray, the T2 Pro XT offers ample spacing to prevent bikes from making contact with each other.

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. We’ve used this rack for years and have no plans to give it up!

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

Saris SuperClamp EX 4

Best for Rear Window Visibility

Saris SuperClamp EX platform hitch bike rack

MSRP (4 bike): $1,000

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

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

COMPLETE REVIEW: Saris SuperClamp EX

After years of hauling our bikes on the Saris SuperClamp EX, we still have conversations about how much we love this rack! With 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. (In the picture above, that’s a 4 bike rack that doesn’t block our rear window!)

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. We basically keep it on our car all summer because it doesn’t block our rear view!

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.

If you’ll be hauling mountain bikes, there’s a caveat. The Superclamp worked great for us when we were carrying two 29ers, a 27.5″ and a 26″, but became pretty difficult to load without scratching bikes if we had three 29ers to transport.

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
  • Can’t accommodate 3 29er bikes easily

Yakima HoldUp or EVO+2

Best Value Platform Hitch Bike Rack

Yakima Hold Up EVO platform bike rack

MSRP (4 bike): $858

CAPACITY: 2 or 4 bikes; 20″ wheels +; max tire width 4.8″ for EVO (original Hold Up doesn’t accommodate fat tires)

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

COMPLETE REVIEW: Yakima Hold Up EVO

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. 

While the Hold-Up is a solid quality rack, there was nothing about it that really stood out to us during our testing process. If you love Yakima, go for it! If you’re on a budget, definitely go for it! But if you’re open to considering any brand, check out one of the other racks on this list.

Kuat NV Base 2.0

Best Bullet-Proof Platform Rack

Man standing next to the Kuat NV 2.0 platform bike rack installed on the back of his SUV

MSRP (4 bike): $1,347

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

Sturdy and solid, the Kuat 2.0 is one tough rack that is certainly built to last.  From its overall rugged 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 gauge 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 snug 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

1up Super Duty

Best for 16″ Kids Bikes

1UP platform bike rack mounted to the back of a truck

MSRP: $1,153 (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 platform rack system that can accommodate a kid’s bike as small as 16″! 1up racks feature a unique system where both the rear and front wheel are secured in place by tilting rack arms. (They were the first although others have now followed suit!)

While we haven’t used the platform hitch rack, we do have a 1-up roof rack that is designed with the same functionality. We were even able to get it to securely carry some of our 14″ kids bikes!

HANGING HITCH BIKE RACKS

Unlike platform racks, hanging hitch bike racks carry bikes via their frame rather than their tires. Bikes typically hang via their frame’s top tube on the rack’s two support bars.

Hanging racks are available in capacities ranging from 2 to 5 and can often accommodate bikes with wheel sizes 16″ and up.

BEST FOR

If you are on a tighter budget, especially if you need to haul 3 or 4 bikes, hanging racks are your best bet.

Compared to platform and vertical hitch bike racks, hanging bike racks are significantly lighter, making them much easier to install and remove. As a result, if you don’t want to leave your rack on your car for an extended period of time, a hanging rack is a solid choice.

A PASS FOR

Bikes on hanging hitch racks are spaced much closer together and make significantly more contact with each other compared to platform and vertical racks. Scratches are common and should be expected.

If you are hauling higher-quality bikes (especially larger adult bikes), we’d advise you to skip a hanging rack. But if you can only afford a hanging rack, be sure to buy a rack with more capacity than you need you so can leave extra space between the bikes when loaded.

Bikes with carbon frames should never be carried on a hanging rack! If you have a carbon frame, platform and vertical are your only options.

Thule Apex XT

Best Overall Hanging Hitch Bike Rack

thule apex XT hitch bike rack loaded up with bikes

MSRP (4 bike): $449

CAPACITY: 2, 4, or 5 bikes

FEATURES: Lightweight, tilts for hatch access, low profile, integrated bike lock, anti-wobble hitch system, more spacing between bikes than other hanging racks

COMPLETE REVIEW: Thule Apex XT

For families that don’t want to deal with the weight or price of a platform rack, hanging racks are the best alternative. Much lighter weight and much less expensive, hanging hitch racks are easier to take on and off the car, and are easier on the pocketbook.

The Thule Apex XT stands out from the crowd of hanging racks for its sleek design and ample spacing between bikes. Hanging racks place bikes much closer to each other than platform racks. This causes interference between the bikes, making it harder to load a full rack and also potentially causing damage to the bikes.

With 7″ of spacing between bikes, the Apex kills the competition – most of which have only 5″ to 6″ of spacing between bikes. This is the rack of choice for one of our mom testers, who especially loves that she can get the rack on and off her van in just seconds – no help needed!

PROS:

  • More spacing between bikes than other hanging rack brands
  • Ratcheting straps and anti-sway cradles are easy to use
  • Lightweight – easy to take on and off the car
  • Integrated locking cable to secure bikes while on the go
  • Lightweight
  • Accommodates 20″ bikes, and even some 16″ bikes
  • No tools needed to install!

CONS:

  • Potential for bike contact and damage
  • Most women’s and kid’s bikes need a top tube adapter, which increases the cost of the rack

Allen Deluxe Locking Hitch Rack

Best 5 Bike Capacity on a Budget

Allen hitch bike rack with 4 bikes hanging from it

MSRP (4 bike): $159

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 Hitch Rack is an incredible deal for families on a budget. While not as “high-end” as other racks we normally use, we were quite impressed with the quality this rack offers for the price, and how easy it was to use.

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.

While we didn’t test the 5 capacity rack, we’ve heard from several of our readers that its the only hanging 5 bike hitch rack that can actually accommodate 5 bikes!

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

VERTICAL HITCH BIKE RACKS

Vertical hitch bike racks position bikes perpendicular to the ground with the front tire pointed up and the rear tire pointed down. Bikes on vertical racks can either hang via their front tire or the headset of the bike and make no contact with the frame of the bike.

Capacities range from 3 to 7, and between all the brands available, vertical hitch racks can accommodate all types and sizes of bikes. Fit does vary between brands, especially in regards to kids bikes 20″ and smaller, so be sure to double check compatibility before purchasing.

BEST FOR

Those who need to haul more than 4 bikes. While all vertical hitch racks typically do a great job with mountain and hybrid bikes, some brands fit road and gravel bikes with dropper bars better than others.

Unlike the other hitch rack styles, vertical racks don’t obstruct a car’s tail lights and rear blinkers nearly as much as platform and hanging racks. In addition to being safer, in many areas blocking tail lights is a legal issue as well.

A PASS FOR

While not as heavy as some platform racks, most vertical bike racks are not easy to get on and off, so once it’s on, plan on having it stay there for a while.

Due to ground clearance issues, not all vertical hitch racks are suitable for cars with low-set hitches. Either the rack itself will bottom out when driving up steep inclines (especially in and out of parking lots), or the rear tires of longer wheelbase bikes will be too low to the ground to be safe.

Alta Racks

Most Customizable

alta vertical bike rack tilted down to show access to rear hatch

MSRP (4 bike): $1,185

BIKE CAPACITY: 3 to 6

WHEEL SIZES: 20″ to 29″ standard wheels, 24″ to 29″ mid to fat-tire bikes

FEATURES: Angled hitch to prevent bottoming out, height-adjustable top bar to allow for additional clearance on low vehicles or to prevent difficult loading and unloading on tall vehicles, tool-free wheel tray spacing, 4 different swappable wheel trays to accommodate a wide range of wheel sizes, tilt-away feature for rear hatch access

Out of all the vertical racks on our list, the Alta is by far the most customizable. Whether your car’s hitch receiver is low to the ground or high to the ground, the Alta can easily be adjusted to make loading and unloading easy. If you need to carry your kids’ and their friends’ mountain bikes one day and your bike and your friends’ fat bikes the next, Alta’s various sized wheel trays are quickly and easily swapped out.

Around town, the Alta is exceptional as its angled hitch arm design provides plenty of much-needed vertical clearance. From steep driveways to dips and bumps in roads around town, you never have to worry about bottoming out with the Alta. Whether loaded or unloaded, the Alta also easily tilts down for rear hatch access.

Beyond the bikes, Alta offers a wide range of accessories including a rolling base for garage storage, retractable straps for extra stabilization on off-road trails, adapter bars for use with a ski and snowboard carrier, a hammock stand, a table, and a work stand.

PROS:

  • Exceptionally well built with clean, quality welds
  • Made in the USA!
  • Tilts to allow for easier loading and unloading as well as access to rear hatch
  • Fits a wide range of wheel sizes, everything from 20″ to fat bikes
  • Angles up from hitch to provide plenty of ground clearance when not loaded
  • Top bar on rack has three height settings to prevent rack from riding high on taller vehicles
  • Space between wheel trays is adjustable
  • Easy to use Voile tie-down wheel straps
  • Green-footprint – entire Alta production and distribution is within a 10-mile radius
  • Optional side straps to prevent swaying and bouncing during longer off-road trips
  • Can hold up to 4 road bikes on a 6 bike capacity

CONS:

  • High cost compared to other racks
  • No built-in locking mechanism – but includes loops for use with cable lock
  • No internal hitch stabilizer (has an external kit)

Totem Bike Rack

Best High-Capacity Bike Rack on a Budget

Totem hitch bike rack loaded with 6 bikes, shown from the side

MSRP (one size): $449

CAPACITY: 6 capacity

WHEEL SIZES: All wheel sizes (although some 12″ don’t fit). Additionally, if you plan on carrying very short and very long wheelbase bikes, you will have come up with a make-shift solution to secure the smaller bike’s rear wheel.

FEATURES: Tilt-away mast for rear hatch access (loaded or unloaded), bottom horizontal bar (with rear wheel cradles) shifts up or down to accommodate different wheelbase lengths, optional 6″ vertical extension for low hitch vehicles carrying long bikes (to create enough ground clearance), optional floor stand to convert car rack to a garage storage rack

While the Totem Bike Rack is pretty basic compared to other vertical hitch racks, it’s quite thoughtfully designed and offers solid functionality at a fair price.

Bikes hang by the rim on the rack’s rubberized top arm. While there’s no basket or strap to keep those wheels in place, we were surprised with just how well they stayed put! The lower tire is strapped into a wheel cradle, and each bike’s frame is secured to the rack with a yellow bungee cord to prevent bikes from swaying into each other.

The bikes are packed pretty tightly (up to three on each side), so you will need to be careful of pedal placement, or handlebars getting caught in another bike’s brake cables. As a result, this rack is a phenomenal solution for your average biking family’s fleet of bikes, but not a great solve for expensive mountain bikes. If you’re worried about your bikes getting scratched, sorry, but you’ll need to spend quite a bit more money!

Overall, if you need to carry five or six bikes but spending almost (or over!) $1,000 on a car bike rack makes you cringe, the Totem is absolutely your best bang for your buck.

PROS:

  • Very cost effective
  • Fits all wheel sizes, even small kids bikes! (some 12″ bikes won’t fit)
  • Incredibly lightweight – almost any adult could install or take it off by themselves
  • Initial installation is a breeze
  • Vertical mast extension is a great solve for low hitch vehicles and long bikes

CONS:

  • Bikes sit much closer together than other vertical racks and are more likely to get scratched
  • The vertical mast is wobbly and the rack will bounce more when going over bumps
  • Wheel trays are narrow and aren’t the best fit for tires over 2″ (but can still work)

Lolo Rack

Best Rack for Small Kids Bikes

LOLO vertical hitch bike rack loaded with two adults bikes and two kids bikes

MSRP (6 bike): $809

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 few car racks we know of that can carry up to SIX bikes (including kids’ bikes), Lolo Racks are the solution we’ve been looking 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 throwing small bikes in the car or into a car topper to get your whole crew where they need to go! If you need to haul SEVEN bikes, check out our review on the Velocirax.

PROS:

  • Holds all wheel sizes and frame sizes, from balance bikes to 29″ fat bikes!
  • Tilt-away feature for access to rear hatch
  • Made in the USA!
  • Accomodates bikes with front fenders (rear fenders will require a pad)
  • Can hold up to 4 road bikes on a 6 bike capacity

CONS:

  • Can scratch a bike’s handlebars with extended use
  • Requires more lifting to load bikes as compared to other vertical racks

Velocirax

Best Hitch Rack for 7 Bikes

Shown from side, loaded Velocirax vertical hitch bike rack

MSRP (6 bike): $849

CAPACITY: 3 to 7

WHEEL SIZES: 24″ to 29″, fat bike tray upgrade available. **Works with 20″ BMX bikes, but not 20″ kids bikes**

FEATURES: Tilt-down damper-assisted hinge for lowering bikes, can hold up to 7 bikes, converts to a wall-mounted garage bike rack (necessary accessory parts included)

Velocirax in that “Goldilocks” vertical bike rack – not too basic, but not so luxurious that it’s out of your price range. It’s also the only car bike rack that we know of that can carry 7 bikes. So if you’ve got lots of friends or lots of kids, the Velocirax may just be your perfect solution.

If you only need to carry 3, 4, 5, or 6 bikes, the Velocirax is still a high-quality and rugged option. Its primary selling point is the damper-assisted hinge that lowers a fully loaded rack slowly to the ground for unloading, or for accessing the rear hatch of your car.

While this certainly is a very cool feature, unfortunately, it makes it more difficult to push the fully loaded rack back up to vertical position because the damper works against you. This is really only an issue if you have 5 or 6 bikes loaded and you don’t have another person to help push.

Based on Velocirax’s design, you need to consider the height of your car’s hitch. Really low and really high hitches can be problematic. With really low hitch vehicles (like mini vans), it’s quite easy to bottom-out on steep driveways and scrape the bottom of the rack. With really high hitch vehicles, it’s hard to push a fully-loaded rack back up to vertical position unless you have a lot of upper body strength.

We’ve seen Velocirax racks successfully used with vehicles of all hitch heights. However, if you have the extra money, Alta Racks’ design is easier to use for both low and high hitch vehicles. All of this is explained in great detail in our full review.

PROS:

  • Available in a wide variety of bike capacities (3 – 7), currently the only rack to fit 7 bikes
  • Hydraulic dampening system lowers a loaded rack slowly
  • Rear hatch access, even with a fully loaded rack
  • Low profile – can see out the rear window when loaded or unloaded
  • Can convert to an on-wall garage storage rack

CONS:

  • Doesn’t easily fit 20″ kids bikes
  • 90 degree angle between hitch arm and vertical post make bottoming out in steep driveways more likely for low-hitch cars (vans, smaller SUVs)
  • Lower total weight capacity than other vertical racks (will only matter if you have ebikes)
  • Rack lowering lever is hard to engage

HONORABLE MENTION BIKE RACKS

While these hitch bike racks didn’t make our top 10, we’ve tested and thoroughly vetted them. We are happy to recommend them if they fit your situation and budget better.

RockyMounts SplitRail LS

Most Flexible Capacity: 3 Bike Hitch Rack

Rockymounts Splitrail platform hitch bike rack  tilted down

MSRP (4 bike): $1,179

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’s one of just two tray racks on our list that offer 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, each tray on the RockyMounts can be adjusted up to 4″ to the left or right to allow for plenty of offset between handlebars and saddles.  While the trays do take some time to adjust, we didn’t find it challenging or complicated.

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
  • Includes wall hook for easy storage of rack when not in use

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

Thule T2 Classic

T2 classic platform bike rack in action

MSRP (4 bike): $949

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

While not as fine-tuned and finessed as the Thule 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

What to Look for in a Hitch Bike Rack

RockyMounts SplitRail LS platform 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 car or fleet of bikes. Here are a few key factors you need to consider when determining which hitch bike rack is best for your car, your bikes, and your family’s needs.

Hitch Rack Style: Hanging, Platform, and Vertical Car Racks

There are three main types of hitch racks: (1) hanging, (2) platform, and (3) vertical.  Each rack type has its pros and cons.  Platform and hanging racks are much more common than vertical, but vertical racks are quickly gaining in popularity (and for good reasons!).

Types of Hitch Bike Racks

examples of hanging, tray-based and vertical hitch bike racks

Platform Hitch Bike Racks

Platform racks rest the tires of the bikes in their own individual tray, which is why they are often called tray bike racks. The top of the tire is secured 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 cradles and straps 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 platform racks.  Examples of hanging racks include the Yakima Ridgeback, 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 hang bikes vertically on the rack versus horizontally.  Because the front and rear wheels are secured, the bikes don’t sway and there’s little risk of damage to your bike.

Vertical hanging racks 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 7 bikes.  While there are several brands that make vertical racks, Lolo and Alta Racks are the best for use with small 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″ hitch 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 horizontal 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, vertical 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″, 14″, or 16″ bike, they are not compatible with a tray-based system (except 1-UP), but may 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 Capacity

RockyMounts 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

Almost all racks can carry 24″ bikes and larger, but smaller kids bikes, fat bikes, and ebikes aren’t as universally compatible.

Platform Hitch Racks: Generally a best fit for 24″ bikes and larger, although some racks have 20″ bike adapters. The 1-up is the only platform rack that can carry a 16″ bike.

Most platform racks either come with trays that can accommodate fat tires, or have optional fat tire trays.

Horizontal Hanging Racks: With a lower weight limit, you’ll need to be more careful about carrying heavy bikes – kids or adult! So while those fat tires won’t come into play because you’re hanging the bike by the frame, make sure that fat bike isn’t too heavy!

While most hanging racks can accommodate 20″ kids bikes and larger, Allen racks are really the best option if you need to carry a 16″ bike.

Vertical Hitch Racks: Wheel size compatibility is really dependent on brand. Some brands can carry 12″ bikes, while others can only go as small as 24″.

Ground Clearance Issues

One huge advantage of platform racks is that they carry the bikes at a set distance from the ground – no matter the size of your bike. With a platform rack, you won’t have issues with ground clearance.

Hanging and vertical hitch racks hang your bikes, meaning that larger or longer bikes will hang lower to the ground than small bikes. As a result, you could have issues with the bikes hanging too low to the ground – there should always be at least 12″ of space between the lowest rear tire and the ground.

Two cars side by side with Velocirax and Alta Rack vertical bike racks fully loaded. Shown from side, with two cars backed up.

You are much more likely to have ground clearance issues with a horizontal hanging hitch rack than a vertical rack if you have a vehicle with a low hitch (like sedans or mini vans). Be sure to read our full reviews on individual racks for more information on these issues.

Ease of Install 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.  Platform hitch racks and vertical hitch racks are significantly heavier than hanging hitch racks.  If you plan on installing or removing the rack on a regular basis, a hanging rack is likely a better option for you.

Access to the Trunk or Rear Hatch

The ability to access the rear hatch of your car while the rack is fully loaded is another great feature available on most 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 platform or vertical racks.

Many platform, 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 racks

Rack Folding

Almost all platform 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

Platform 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 Rack Locks

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

Not all racks have locks. And quite candidly, the cables provided could easily be cut by a thief who is intent on stealing your unguarded bikes.

Dealer Rack Fit Guides

Concerned about properly fitting a hitch bike 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, Saris, Thule, Yakima

Hitch Bike Racks Comparison

MSRP and weights (lb.) provided are for 4-rack capacity

ModelMSRP (4 bike)Fit 1.25" HitchMax Cap.Min Wheel SizeMax Tire WidthFat Tire Tray?WeightBike LockMax Load
Thule T2 Pro XT$1,148Yes420"5"No96Yes160
RockyMounts SplitRail LS$1,179No420"3"No76Yes160
SuperClamp EX 4$1,000No4 24"4"Yes63Yes190
SuperClamp EX 2$550Yes224"4"Yes35Yes120
Thule Apex XT$449Yes520"N/AN/A35Yes150
Kuat NV Base 2.0$1,347Yes420"3"Yes100Yes200
Thule T2 Classic$949Yes420"5"No85No160
Allen Deluxe Locking Hitch$159No520"N/AN/A26.6No140
Yakima HoldUp EVO$858Yes420"4.8"No87Yes
LOLO Racks$745No612"N/AN/A
1 UP Super Duty$1,153No416"3.1"Yes84275
Velocirax$775No724"3.1"Yes96No230
Alta Racks$985No620"5"YesNo300

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