Need to transport your bikes on a car rack but you don’t have a hitch on your car? Trunk bike racks to the rescue! Designed to attach to the rear of a vehicle with a strap system, a trunk-mounted bike rack makes using a car rack possible for basically any car – no hitch required!
Whether you have a sedan, hatchback, SUV, or van, there’s a trunk bike rack that should fit your vehicle. But be aware that every trunk rack doesn’t fit every car. While basically any hitch rack will fit your car as long as you have a hitch receiver, trunk racks aren’t as simple. Bike rack manufacturers have “fit guides” to help you determine if your desired rack will fit your vehicle.
Bike racks for car trunks are generally much more affordable than other styles of car racks, which is a huge bonus for families trying to get to the trails without breaking the bank. Here are our 5 favorites, all under $250!
Best Bike Racks for Car Trunks
All trunk racks listed will fit 20″ kids bikes, and some will fit 16″bikes. There are very few racks that will accommodate a bike smaller than 20″. Balance bikes and 12″ to 16″ pedal bikes are usually transported inside the trunk of the car.
Always check rack compatibility with your specific car before purchase. While these racks are called “trunk” racks, many are designed for the rear of any vehicle, whether it has a traditional trunk or not – sedan, van, SUV, hatchback, etc.
|Model||Why We Love It||MSRP (2 Bike)||Capacity|
|Saris Bones (EX)||Most Compatible with Hatchbacks||$179||2 or 3|
|Allen Deluxe Trunk Mount||Easily Fits 16" Bikes||$59||2, 3, 4|
|Allen Sports Premier||Best for Hauling 4 Bikes||$119||2, 3, 4|
|Thule Passage||Great Stability, Less Bike Sway||$159||2 or 3|
|Allen Sports Ultra Compact||Most Compact, Easy to Store||$79||1 or 2|
TRUNK RACK BUYING QUICK TIPS
More in-depth info in Buying Guide below
- GROUND CLEARANCE: Low cars and tall bikes (27.5″+ wheel sizes) are a bad combination. Clearance between large wheels and the ground is minimal when loaded on on a sedan.
- KIDS BIKES: Narrow-set support bars (~11 – 12″) are better for hauling smaller bikes.
- WEIGHT CAPACITY: Not suitable for ebikes or any bike weighing over 35 lb.
- CAR COMPATIBILITY: Always consult a brand’s “rack fit guide” before purchase
Bike Rack for Hatchback
CAPACITY: 2 – 3, not compatible with bikes smaller than 20″
FEATURES: Unique mounting legs fit over most spoilers, arced arms stagger bikes for spacing, easy-to-use ratcheting cradle straps, anti-sway cradles, vinyl-coated car hooks, arms fold down when not in use on car
SUPPORT BAR WIDTH: Variable – 8.5″ to 11″
COMPLETE REVIEW: Saris Bones Review
Exceptional quality, super stable, and fast and easy to load, the Saris Bones has been popular for decades for many great reasons. If you want the best quality trunk rack on the market and you’re hauling 20″ bikes and larger, its hard to get better than the Bones.
The Bones family recently expanded to include the Saris Bones EX. This more expensive model has uniquely-shaped car mounting legs that make it compatible with 20% more cars than the original Bones.
Hatchbacks and their spoilers can be particularly problematic with trunk racks, but the Bones EX was designed with this purpose in mind. Compared to all the other trunk bike racks on this list, the EX is the best bike rack for hatchbacks. Out of 12 top hatchbacks on the car market, the Bones EX was compatible with 11 of them.
A PASS FOR
While some 16″ bikes may fit on the Bones with the use of a top tube adapter, most won’t. If you need to haul 16″ bikes, go for the Allen Deluxe.
Best for 16″ Bikes and Oddly Shaped Frames
MSRP: $59 – $79
CAPACITY: 2 – 4, compatible with most 16″ bikes
SUPPORT BAR WIDTH: 11″
STANDOUT FEATURES: Fits most 16″ and 20″ bikes without an adapter bar, rotating cradles to fit more bikes, great value for a low price
The Allen Sports Deluxe Trunk Mount Rack is a solid choice for those who want to carry kids bikes 16″ and larger. With narrower-set support bars compared to other racks, the Allen Deluxe (as well as the Ultra Compact) were the only trunk racks we tested that could fit a 16″ and 20″ bike without an adaptor bar.
The Deluxe’s narrow support bars, paired with Allen’s unique twisting cradles, allow you to mount small and odd -framed bikes via the top tube, down tube, or even the seat tube of the bike’s frame! This wide range of adjustability also allows bikes to be loaded without adapter bars, saving you time and money.
The Allen Deluxe is also a sought-after option for those on a budget. Although it doesn’t have nicer features like rubber cradle straps (found on the Allen Premier, Thule, and Saris), it easily and securely gets the job done for almost half the price as other racks.
A PASS FOR
Those who want to carry several large, heavy bikes. The narrow bars of the Deluxe do not distribute the bikes’ weight on the trunk as well as racks with wider bars, such as the Thule Passage. The extra stability in the wider base of other racks, will help to minimize sway and bounce, especially with heavier loads.
Best for 4 Bikes
CAPACITY: 2 – 4 bikes
SUPPORT BAR WIDTH: 14.5″
FEATURES: Rotating cradles with rubber straps, durable rubber mounting feet, wider base
Those who want an affordable, easy-to-use trunk rack with time-saving upgrades. As an upgrade from the Allen Deluxe, the Premier features rubber cradle straps (instead of nylon) and a wider profile to better distribute the weight of the bikes on the trunk.
With better weight distribution comes better stability, which is essential for those who want to haul 4 bikes. While the Thule Passage and the Saris Bones also have a wide base, they are not available in a 4-capacity rack. The Allen Premier 4-capacity was specifically engineered to withstand the extra forces present when hauling four bikes on the back of a car.
As additional upgrades, the Premier features a”quick snap” set-up that makes it easier to fold and unfold than the Deluxe. The car-mounting straps also get an upgrade as they are not as stiff as the webbing on the Allen Deluxe.
A PASS FOR
The wider support bars prevent smaller bikes from loading on the bars. We were able to fit a 20″, but not a 16″ bike. The Premier doesn’t fold down as small as the Allen Deluxe, so if storage is a concern, the smaller Deluxe may be a better option.
Great Stability and Less Bike Sway
CAPACITY: 2 – 4 bikes
SUPPORT BAR WIDTH: 15″
FEATURES: No-sway cradles, wide base for hauling heavy loads, rubber cradle straps, vinyl-coated car hooks, support arms can fold down when the rack is empty while on car
With the widest base of the racks we tested, the Thule excels at distributing the weight of the bikes on the rack, which increases its stability on the road.
Taking stability one step further, the Passage also features large, high-wall rubber cradles that provide additional support and protection to the bikes’ frames while loaded. The rubber cradle straps also help keep the bikes snug on the trays while the anti-sway cradles minimize bikes from swaying.
Like the Saris, the Thule allows the support arms to fold down when bikes are not loaded. If you plan on storing your rack on your car for a while, folding arms will prevent you (or someone else) from unexpectedly running into the bars!
A PASS FOR
Due to the large cradle base, bikes with small triangles (on which the top tube is close to the down tube), are very difficult or not compatible to load onto the Passage. We had no problem loading our lower-end adult and kids 20″ and 24″ bikes, but our high-end woom 20″ would not fit over the cradles.
Adult mountain bikes with more “modern geometry” will likely have the same problem but are able to load with the purchase of an adapter bar.
Incredibly Compact, Easy to Store
CAPACITY: 1 or 2
SUPPORT BAR WIDTH: 13 1/4″
FEATURES: Folds down super small for easy storage, rotating cradles
Those who have limited space to store the rack when not in use. While other racks are big and cumbersome to store, the Ultra Compact easily folds down to fit in a small bag for storage in your trunk or even in your backpack!
A PASS FOR
Those who want to haul more than 2 bikes or relatively heavy bikes. The Ultra Compact’s narrow build – especially its smaller foot base (the bottom portion that rests on the car) – make it less ideal for larger, heavier bikes. If you have heavy bikes and room to store a slightly bigger rack, we would recommend moving up to the Allen Deluxe 2 capacity.
Things to Consider When Purchasing a Trunk Bike Rack
Check for Fit for Your Car
Because there are so many variables in car body shape, window angles, spoiler placement, etc., it’s impossible for one trunk bike rack to fit every car. Always always always verify that a trunk rack is compatible with your car make, model, and year before you make a purchase.
Also remember that even within the same rack brand, some trunk rack models may not be compatible with your car. For example, the Allen Premier fits on our 2005 3-series BMW, but the Allen Deluxe won’t.
Most trunk racks will not fit on a car with a spoiler (sedans and SUVs). If you have a spoiler, check out the Saris Bones EX or the Hollywood Racks “Over the Top”, which are specifically designed to be compatible with more cars with spoilers.
Check Bike Compatibility
With a wide variety of bike frame designs and sizes, some bikes simply aren’t a good fit for trunk racks or even any type of hanging bike rack. Kids bikes, cruiser-style bikes, and adult mountain bikes with modern geometry tend to be the most problematic.
All three of these styles of bikes typically do not have a long, flat top tube for the cradles to attach to and usually need an adapter bar to facilitate loading. This adapter bar is often called a “top tube adapter” because it mimics a horizontal top tube for easier loading.
Be aware, however, that using an adapter bar does lower the bike on the rack. This is especially problematic with low cars (such as small sedans) when you are hauling larger bikes with 27.5 or 29″ tires. With an adapter bar, the front wheel of the bike can hang over a foot below the bumper of the car, which puts the wheel at a much greater risk of being damaged.
Purchasing a rack with cradles that swivel (all the Allens on this list swivel), can in some cases prevent the need for an adaptor bar.
The swept-back handlebars on cruiser-style bikes can cause issues as the handlebars often block cradles or the space for a bike to be loaded directly next to it. As a result, we recommend purchasing a rack with a higher capacity than you need. So if you have two cruiser styles bikes, buy at least a 3-capacity rack so you can leave the cradles in between the bikes empty.
Also, most carbon bike manufacturers will not warranty bikes due to damage on hanging racks. Definitely stick to a platform rack if you have a carbon frame!
Weight Capacity of Trunk Bike Racks
The maximum weight capacity of trunk bike racks is much lower than hitch-mounted racks. Most trunk racks are not built to hold bikes weighing more than 35 pounds, while a high-quality hitch platform rack can often carry bikes as heavy as 60 pounds!
As a result, the max weight capacity of a trunk rack can quickly be reached if you aren’t being careful. While most bikes do weigh less than 35 pounds, cruiser-style bikes, e-bikes and “recreational mountain bikes” can easily get close to, and even exceed, that weight limit.
Be sure to check the weight of your bikes before you purchase a rack!
Importance of Support Bars Spacing
The spacing of the support bars of the rack needs to be taken into consideration. The support bars are the two bars that extend out from the rack that the bikes rest on.
Trunk racks with closer-set support bars tend to fit a wider variety of bikes, while wider-set bars can better support larger and heavier bikes.
For example, we were able to fit a 16″ bike on the Allen Sports Deluxe’s bars which are set 11″ apart.
But the same bike did not fit on the Thule Passage, which has support bars that are 15″ apart – the bike’s smaller frame just didn’t work with its wider-set bars.
Racks with wider-set bars allow the weight of the bikes to be more evenly distributed on the car. So if you plan on carrying a lot of heavy bikes, a rack with wider support bars (like the Thule Passage) will likely be more stable, especially going longer distances.
Storage of Bike Rack
If you live in an apartment or have very little storage space, you will want to take the overall size of the rack into consideration. In the image below, you can see the size difference between the Allen Ultra Compact, Allen Deluxe, and Allen Premier. The Compact is by far the smallest and if you only need to haul 1 or 2 bikes, it’s a great option!
One of the major differences between low to mid-range trunk racks and high-end trunk racks is the cradle strap. Lower-end racks have nylon webbing while higher-end racks have flexible rubber straps. The rubber straps are easier and faster to strap in and also help prevent the bike from shifting in the cradles.
After testing both, we much-preferred rubber straps, but the style of straps shouldn’t be a dealbreaker.
Purchase Velcro Straps
If you’re buying a trunk rack, do yourself a favor and buy a pack of Velcro straps. You will need four to secure the extra mounting straps so they’re not flapping all over the place. Some higher-end racks, like the Saris Bones, come with the Velcro straps already!
You’ll also want to have one Velcro strap for each bike, which can be used to hold the front tire in place to prevent it from swinging (like shown below). The Velcro straps can also be used as padding between two bikes in a pinch or even to hold two bikes closely together to prevent them from bouncing into each other while on the road.
You Get What you Paid For
Trunk bike racks are much cheaper than hitch racks, but they are also more problematic. If you are serious about hauling bikes on a regular basis or on longer trips on the freeway, considering investing in a hitch rack.
If your car doesn’t have a hitch, you may be able to add one on aftermarket. Your local U-haul (yes, the same company that rents trunks) is a great resource to help you figure out what you need.
TIPS FOR TRUNK BIKE RACK INSTALLATION
Always read the instructions when installing the rack. While the process is similar for most racks, placement of the mounting straps (especially the bottom strap) vary from rack to rack. As a basic outline, you place the rack on the trunk, attach and tighten the upper hooks and the lower and bottom hooks. Tools are not needed to attach a trunk rack.
Always re-tighten straps once the bikes are loaded and every time you stop. Loading the bikes can pull the rack down, which loosens the straps, especially the lower and side straps.
Be extra mindful of use on long trips at high speeds. Trunk racks are best for use around town.
Allow plenty of time for the initial install
The first time you mount the rack to your car can be very tricky and confusing, but mounting gets easier and faster with subsequent use. Also, be sure NOT to throw away the box when you are done. Every trunk rack has six very long straps with hooks that can be hard to manage. The box helps to keep them contained and will prevent straps from being damaged while being stored.
Buy car scratch protectors
Although hooks on some high-end racks (like the Thule Passage) are vinyl coated, all hooks are likely to scratch your car. As a result, we absolutely recommend purchasing and using car scratch protectors.
There are a wide variety of options out there. They are inexpensive and worked great for us. We used these car protectors.
TIPS FOR LOADING A TRUNK BIKE RACK
Load bikes heaviest to lightest
The closer the heaviest load is to the car, the less strain on the mounting straps, especially on bouncy roads. Always try to load your bikes heaviest to lightest.
Load small bikes differently than larger bikes
With most bikes, both cradles on the rack should be placed under the top tube of the bike (black adult bike shown below).
With smaller or hard-to-fit bikes, oftentimes placing the downtube on the forward-most cradle and the top tube on the rear cradle provides for a much better fit without the need for an adapter bar (green bike shown below).
Remove the saddles when things get tight
If you’re having trouble getting your bikes to all fit on the rack, try taking off the saddles! Saddles are quick and easy to take off and can make it much easier to load bikes. Just remember to put the saddles in the car before you go!
Expect your bikes to get scratched
With trunk racks, bikes are typically spaced much closer together than on a platform rack. As a result, bike pedals and handlebars are notorious for hitting the frames/seat/rims, etc. of the bike next to it.
In the image below, you can see how to add foam padding with Velcro straps between two bikes to prevent scratching. Cut-up pool noodles are also a great option.
Check vertical clearance
Bikes that need to be mounted with adapter bars tend to hang very low when mounted on trunk racks on sedans, especially bikes with large frames or wheels. If your bike is too low, lowering the handlebars as well as the seat post can help raise the bike.
Always try to center larger bikes on the car
Is it really easy to load a bike so that the rear wheel extends over a foot past one side of the car. (Top image below). Not ideal! Bikes, especially larger bikes, should be centered on the rack to protect the bike’s rear wheel from getting hit while on the rack.
To fix an “off-centered” bike, try to slide the bike all the way towards one side until one of the rack’s mounting bars touches the seat tube of the bike. (Bottom image below.)
Even after centered, allow for extra room on both sides of the car, especially sedans. Large adult bikes can extend over a foot past the width of the car, so be sure to allow for plenty of space when navigating tight spaces.
Tie a knot below the sliding adjuster on every strap
Don’t assume the mounting strap adjusters will hold. It’s entirely possible for a trunk rack to fall off the car as a result of straps coming loose from bouncing or vibrations during travel. We found the clove hitch knot to work the best.