Posted by Rack Attack on 12-08-2014 under Bike Racks
Blog Main Image

What bike rack fits my car?

One of the most common questions we get at Rack Attack is “what is the best bike rack for my car?” Luckily for you, finding this answer is relatively easy.

Bike racks are easier to choose because they are more application specific than many other types of racks. Basically you only need to know a few pieces of basic information to find the perfect rack for your needs:

  • Where do you want to carry them: on the back of the car, or on the roof?
  • How many bikes do you need to carry?
  • What kind of bikes are they?

 

The total price and number of extra parts you will require depends on your answers to these questions, but don’t worry: our goal is to get you the right rack. Our number one concern is always safety and usability, we want to sell you a rack you will enjoy for well over a decade. If we can do this with the cheapest rack we sell, we consider that a success. Let’s get started at the beginning:

Should you carry your bikes on the roof or behind your car?

This is the first, and most important question you will have to answer, but the answer is going to depend on what your car can support. 

Bikes on the roof

Pros

 

  • Possible to carry any bike on any vehicle.
  • Just about every car can take at least 4 bikes.
  • Keeps your trunk free, unobstructed.
  • Can reduce the amount of road spray hitting your bike.

 

Cons

 

  • Requires a base roof rack.
  • Can be difficult to load. Can you confidently lift your bike’s wheels higher than the roof of your car?
  • Can be expensive for carrying multiple bikes.
  • Extreme underground parking hazard!

Bikes behind your car

 

Pros

 

  • Easy and loading of your bikes.
  • Can be the most affordable option.
  • One rack can carry from 1-5 bikes.

 

Cons

 

  • Hitch racks require a trailer hitch.
  • Many vehicles (depending on hitch size or trunk mount) are limited to just two bikes.
  • Racks with bikes can cover the rear licence plate. It’s rare, but some customers have reported issues with this. 

 

While you can skip ahead to the section you have chosen now, I suggest you read the full test for each one. Not all racks work with all vehicles. To make sure you get the best bike rack for your car, continue reading.

Putting bikes behind your car

The easiest, often cheapest, and most versatile way to carry bikes is behind your car. But it’s not as simple as it may seem. There are three different styles of rear-mount bike racks.

Rear mount bike rack type 1: Hitch racks

Hitch mounted bike racks are considered by most to be the ideal way to carry bikes on a car. They are sturdy, reliable, easy to load, and carry nearly zero risk to damaging your vehicle. The catch is you need to have a receiver hitch installed on your vehicle. 

There are two common sizes of hitches on passenger vehicles: 1-¼” and 2”. These hitch sizes will almost always be designated as class 1, class 2, class 3, or class 4. While most bike racks come available for both sizes (some other sizes are available, but may require adapters), the important thing to note is your hitch has two separate weight ratings: the tongue weight and the tow weight. 

Since we are not towing anything with a bike rack, we are only interested in the tongue weight. Here is the most important thing you will read all day: due to leverage and physics the actual weight of bikes you can put on your hitch is a fraction of the total tongue weight of your hitch.

While I implore you to use the Thule or Yakima fit guide to type in your specific car and hitch type for a true weight limit rating, the common rule here is as follows:

Class of Hitch Receiver Size Number of Bikes
Class 1 One and one quarter inch 1 - 2
Class 2 One and one quarter inch 1 - 4
Class 3 Two inches 1 - 4
Class 4 Two inches 1 - 5

*Note: This chart is only a guide. Look up the actual class of your hitch, and avoid putting more than two bikes on anything but a class 2 or higher hitch.

If your car does not have a hitch installed on it, it is almost certainly possible to do so. You can use our hitch fit lookup here (US only) to see what is available to you.

Now if you have a hitch, and you know how many bikes you are able to put on it, you’re almost ready to go. The last step is choosing the type of rack suitable to the style of bikes you own. If you have ‘standard’ bikes, you can basically ignore this, but if you own gnarly downhill rigs, or super lightweight road frames, you may want to avoid racks holding the bikes by the frame, and choose a rack that holds your bike by its wheels instead. 

Use the tabs below to find the best bike rack for you. Click for a complete listing of hitch bike racks (including 3 and 5 bike models).

Thule 9027 Apex Swing

Thule 9027 Apex Swing

The Thule 9027 Apex Swing is Thule's new premium swing-away hitch rack that combines security, convenience and revolutionary new cradles with Road Dampening Technology (RDT) making it the most complete hitch rack on the market.

Yakima FullSwing

Yakima FullSwing

Now the family bikes can ride in style. The Yakima FullSwing has all the bells and whistles, from hassle-free ZipStrips to fully padded arms. It also swings away with one touch, for easy access to your car whenever you need.

Yakima Ridgeback 4-Bike

Yakima Ridgeback 4-Bike

The Yakima Ridgeback 4-Bike is a hitch mast bike carrier that goes long on features, including the UpperHand control lever that tilts the mast to make access to your rear hatch a cinch.

Thule 9025 Apex 4-bike

Thule 9025 Apex 4-bike

The Thule 9025 Apex 4-bike is Thule's new premium hitch rack that combines security, convenience and revolutionary new cradles with Road Dampening Technology (RDT) making it the most complete hitch rack on the market.

Thule 9042 Helium Aero 2-Bike

Thule 9042 Helium Aero 2-Bike

The Thule 9042 Helium Aero is nearly half the weight of most hitch racks and is the only ultra-light rack to integrate maximum convenience, bike protection, and security into one sleek aero-design. The Thule 9042 Helium Aero safely carries 2 bikes.

Yakima Ridgeback 2-Bike

Yakima Ridgeback 2-Bike

The Yakima Ridgeback 2-Bike is a hitch mast bike carrier that goes long on features, including the UpperHand control lever that tilts the mast to make access to your rear hatch a cinch.

Thule 916XTR T2 2-Bike Hitch Rack 2 Inch

Thule 916XTR T2 2-Bike Hitch Rack 2 Inch - CLEARANCE SALE

The Thule 916XTR T2 Hitch Bike Rack premier platform hitch rack is the fastest to load and remove bikes with minimal lifting for ultimate convenience. It features wheel only contact fitting the widest range of bike styles with security and stability.

Yakima HoldUp 2-inch Black

Yakima HoldUp 2-inch Black

The Yakima HoldUp 2-inch Black is a premium tray mount hitch bike carrier that allows for easy loading and unloading of bikes. The Yakima HoldUp 2-inch Black attaches to your vehicle's existing 2" hitch receiver.

Thule 917XTR T2 2-Bike Hitch Rack 1-1/4 Inch

Thule 917XTR T2 2-Bike Hitch Rack 1-1/4 Inch

The Thule 917XTR T2 Hitch Bike Rack premier platform hitch rack is the fastest to load and remove bikes with minimal lifting for ultimate convenience. It features wheel only contact fitting the widest range of bike styles with security and stability.

Not Available
Yakima HoldUp 1.25-inch Black

Yakima HoldUp 1.25-inch Black

The Yakima HoldUp 1.25-inch Black is a premium tray mount hitch bike carrier that allows for easy loading and unloading of bikes. The Yakima HoldUp 1.25-inch Black attaches to your vehicle's existing 1.25" hitch receiver.

 

Rear mount bike rack type 2: Spare tire racks

If you do not have a hitch, but you have a spare tire hanging of the rear of your vehicle, it’s possible for you to use a spare tire rack to carry up to two bikes. See your choices below.  

 

Thule 963PRO Spare Me Pro Bike Rack

Thule 963PRO Spare Me Pro Bike Rack

The Thule 963PRO Spare Me heavy-duty bike rack is the perfect solution for any vehicle with a rear mounted spare tire. Now includes Stay-Put cradles for better stability, an integrated locking cable, and a second adapter plate to fit more tire sizes.

Yakima SpareTime

Yakima SpareTime

The Yakima SpareTime carries up to two bikes on your spare tire using a universal mounting plate with extension mounts to most lug patterns. It has a durable powder coated steel construction and two integrated bottle openers.

Not Available

 

 

Rear mount bike rack type 3: Trunk mount racks

The final type of bike racks are trunk mount racks. These racks are often the cheapest rack option available, but they need to be approached with caution. On top of being slightly annoying to mount, these racks mount with hooks and straps to the metal of your vehicles trunk. There is an extremely high possibility of light scuffing or scratching of your vehicle. 

One of the biggest shortfalls of trunk mounted bike racks is how they will loosen as you drive. The looser the fit of the rack, the more the rack may move against your vehicle, increasing the chances of vehicle damage. 

Finally, you will be entirely unable to access your trunk in any way while this rack is mounted. It will need to be removed entirely and re-installed for trunk access. These racks can carry up to three bikes, but it’s very important to adhere to the racks maximum weight limits, typically around 35 lbs per bike. 

 

Thule 9001PRO Raceway Pro 2-Bike

Thule 9001PRO Raceway Pro 2-Bike

The Thule 9001PRO Raceway Pro 2-Bike is Thule's strongest, most secure and easiest to use rear mounted bike carrier. New PRO version features enhanced security covers over the SureTight cables.

Yakima King Joe Pro 2

Yakima King Joe Pro 2

The KingJoe Pro 2 is ideal for riders looking for upscale features, style and performance. Steel construction, foldable arms, excellent vehicle protection, easy installation and great looks make this a great choice for sedans, hatchbacks and SUVs.

Not Available
Thule 9002PRO Raceway Pro 3-Bike

Thule 9002PRO Raceway Pro 3-Bike

The Thule 9002PRO Raceway Pro 3-Bike is Thule's strongest, most secure and easiest to use rear mounted bike carrier. New PRO version features enhanced security covers over the SureTight cables.

Yakima King Joe Pro 3

Yakima King Joe Pro 3

The KingJoe Pro 3 is ideal for riders looking for upscale features, style and performance. Steel construction, foldable arms, excellent vehicle protection, easy installation and great looks make this a great choice for sedans, hatchbacks and SUVs.

Not Available

 

Putting bikes on the roof of your car

Roof mounted bike racks are reliable and solid. If you do other sports, or use your vehicle for carrying just about anything you don’t want to put in the trunk, you can use the same base racks to carry just about anything as well as your bikes. The only real shortfalls of a roof bike rack is the bike’s height (for loading), and the possible total price, depending on your current setup and how many bikes you want to carry. 

To carry bikes on your roof you first need a base roof rack, two cross-bars going door-to-door across your roof. If you do not have these you will have to install them first. Use our base roof rack fit guide to see the options for your vehicle. 

Once you have your cross-bars, you can now mount a bike rack. Remember each rack can carry just one bike, and the typical roof can carry four bikes total, but that number will depend on the length (and load capacity) of your cross-bars. 

Note - If you have factory cross-bars, you may require adapters (Thule Ride-On Adapter, Yakima Universal Mighty-Mounts) to attach the following racks. Please read the product listing to confirm.

 

Yakima FrontLoader

Yakima FrontLoader

The Yakima FrontLoader fits to multiple types of crossbars. FrontLoader is the most versatile bike rack ever. Bikes stay vertical as they roll onto the rack for quick and easy loading. Best-in-class consumer-focused design and security.

Thule 594XT Sidearm

Thule 594XT Sidearm - CLEARANCE SALE

The Thule 594XT Sidearm allows for quick rooftop loading while accommodating most bikes regardless of frame design, suspension, or wheel size. The Sidearm mounts to Thule, Yakima and most factory cross bars. Requires two lock cores, sold separately.

Not Available
Yakima Raptor Aero

Yakima Raptor Aero

The Yakima Raptor Aero shows you really can afford a totally sweet upright bike mount without totally depleting your budget. With universal mounting hardware included, you'll have plenty of cash left over for inner tubes, brewskis and ramen noodles.

Thule 598 Criterium

Thule 598 Criterium

Thule continues to push the bike carrier envelope with the Thule 598 Criterium bike rack. The Thule 598 Criterium is an upright mount bike rack that offers super easy bike loading/unloading and rock solid stability.

Not Available
Yakima ForkLift

Yakima ForkLift

The energies of the universe have collided and created Yakima's first-ever direct to factory crossbar fork-mount bike carrier, the Yakima ForkLift. The Yakima ForkLift is simple as pie to install and fits most forks with disc brakes.

Thule 527 Paceline Fork Mount Carrier

Thule 527 Paceline Fork Mount Carrier

The Thule 527 Paceline Fork Mount Carrier's one handed closure system allows you to load and unload your bike with one hand. The Paceline will fit most racks on the market.

Not Available
Thule 528 Sprint Fork Mount Carrier

Thule 528 Sprint Fork Mount Carrier

The Thule 528 Sprint Fork Mount Carrier combines security and convenience with patented assurance technologies, making it the most complete fork mount carrier on the market. Fits most disc brake and suspension combinations with standard 9mm axles.

Not Available
Yakima Viper

Yakima Viper

With a unique die cast head to accommodate single and dual piston disc brakes and a 9mm stainless steel long-throw skewer the Viper is ready for work after a quick, no-tools installation. Ergonomic design makes this bike rack a pleasure to operate.

Not Available

 

Symantec site seal