The Best Bike Rack for your Car: Covering Roof, Back & Towbar

Choosing a Bike Rack for your Car - A Thule Rear Mounted Rack

Choosing a Bike Rack for your Car – A Thule Rear Mounted Rack

Maybe you’re gearing up for your first biking road trip with a few buddies. Or maybe you found a sweet trail a little further afield from your own backyard. Or perhaps you just want to bring the family bikes on the next vacation to see the sights & give the kids something to do. Whatever the case is, you’ll need a bike rack for your car to haul everything.

This is an important task, because finding the best bike rack for your car can make the difference between an easy, fun trip and a complete nightmare. Bad bike racks squeak, they wobble, they scratch your car, and they make you stop every 10 minutes to make sure the bikes aren’t liable to end up scrap metal after the fall off at 100 kph.

But which kind of bike carrier do you need? There are so many types of bike racks to fit the thousands of bicycle shapes and vehicles out there, it’s tough to make a quick, informed decision.

Because I couldn’t make the decision on my own, I consulted James, an seasoned cyclist at Bicycle Garage Indy (thanks James, you the man!) on what, today, are the best bike rack carriers for cars. Between the two of us, here are the best places to start when picking a bike rack for your car, the pluses and minuses of each type, and a few top recommendations based on what people voted best bike rack from the selection available.

Choosing the Best Bike Rack for Your Car: Where to Start

The most important thing, before deciding on the best bike rack, is finding a bicycle rack that fits your car (or cars if you’re sharing). Talking to an expert like James at your local bike shop is the best bet for making sure the rack will fit your car, but you can get a good idea of what’s required by each type in our info below. Many manufacturers also provide fitting guides, such as that provided here by Thule. There are so many different types of vehicle and corresponding bike rack that it’s worth putting a bit of research in before purchasing.

Next, make sure your bike fits the rack. If you have a low-frame women’s bike or oddly shaped soft-tail bike frame, you’ll need a bike beam to replace the absence of an appropriate frame bar (see below).

Next, think about what’s most important to you in a bike rack:

  • Can a lock the bike and the rack to the car to prevent theft?
  • How many bikes will you need to put on?
  • Will the bikes scratch or dent my car?
  • Will you use the rack on different vehicles?
  • Will I need a bike beam with certain racks and not others?
  • Can I open the trunk with the rack still attached?

Then among the bike racks that fit your car, you must choose which type you want:

Best Bike Roof Racks for your Car

These bike racks attach to your car’s cargo racks or roof bars (if you have them) on top of your car. These are a very stable, secure type of bike rack, and they stay out of the way while driving or loading the car.

Pros of a Bike Roof Rack

+ won’t warp trunk or scratch vehicle

+ can lock bike to rack and rack to car for best theft prevention

+ no bike beam necessary

+clear rear window view

Cons of a Bike Roof Rack

– could be a tough reach on vans and trucks for heavy bikes

– may not work for multiple vehicles, they’re not easy to change

RECOMMENDED: Thule ProRide 591 (£89.99) for its versatility and good lookin’ appeal (via James). Thule make their living out of quality car racks, and this one isn’t any different – you’ll see it on cars everywhere because it’s one of the best bike racks on the market.

The Yamika Fork Lift - A Roof Rack Bike Carrier

The Yamika Fork Lift – A Roof Rack Bike Carrier

Hitch or Towbar Bike Racks

If your car has a towbar or a hitch, this bike rack attaches to that towbar. These racks are often considered the best bang for your buck between security, stability, and carrying capacity.

Pros of a Hitch Bike Rack

+most stable option

+won’t warp your trunk

+works for multiple cars with a hitch size adapter (usually included)

+some like the Swing Daddy swing away from split-door SUV trunks

+carry many bikes

Cons of a Towbar bike Rack

-mechanically more complicated than a trunk rack

RECOMMENDED: Thule 2-Bike Towball Carrier (£130) for the rock-solid Thule stamp of quality and reliability. You can find it and variants at: Thule 2-Bike Towball Carrier UK . Or if nothing but the best will do, go for the Thule 929 Euroclassic G6 3-Bike Towball Carrier. You’ll never leave home without your bikes again!

Boot or Trunk Bike Racks

These racks attach to the boot or trunk lid of your car. These are pretty versatile, and fit to just about any car. As a consequence, they’re best for people using the bike rack on multiple vehicles.

Rear Mounted Bike Rack

A sturdy looking Rear Mounted Bike Rack

Pros for Boot Bike Racks

+most versatile – works for many different cars

+most affordable

+easy installation

Cons for Boot Bike Racks

-bikes less stable than in other options IF no seat straps

-more scratch and dent prone from bikes swinging

-may not be able to open your trunk while attached

-more prone to warping trunk lid if attached incorrectly and too much bike weight

-easily stolen if not reinforced with wire cable

RECOMMENDED: Saris Bones III (£139) for its capacity, seat stabilization, and versatility. James said he’s used it on 10 different cars, including a 1970s Chrysler Newport. Check out the current prices: Saris Bones III

For a cheaper alternative, check out the number 3’s little brother, the Saris Bones II (~£100).

Author Bio: Before tearing up the trails to bike and run in central Indiana, Nate Schrader writes for TravelProducts.com about anything from travel adapters to the best travel accessories for your next biking road trip.

Image credits: Yamika.com, saris.com

Colin

Colin started mountain biking in the early 2000s and has haphazardly, and with barely increasing skill, dragged his bike around the majority of Scotland's trail centres since then. Colin has oodles of hard earned experience in how NOT to do things - listen, be warned and don't repeat his mistakes...   More about Colin... Google+ Colin

12 Responses

  1. Sally Brown says:

    Hi Colin,

    I’ve always enjoyed biking, but after my hip replacement (I know, I’m too young for one. That’s what the dr’s said, but I was bone on bone,), I have to use a recumbent bike at the gym. I would like to find a recumbent bike to use on paths.

    You have a very nice site. Sally

  2. Peter Astle says:

    Re Pros of Bike Roof Rack
    “+can lock bike to rack and rack to car for best theft prevention”
    Left my bike for less than 5 mins locked on Thule 591 – bike stolen that quickly.
    Wheel straps cut and lock left intact and closed but no bike!

  3. Jack says:

    Hi, I am looking at the Thule ProRide 591. Me and the family love doing basically everything outdoors and we usually have a lot of things we take with for outdoor activities like kayaking. Will the Thule ProRide 591 carry more than just bikes? Or can you only transport bikes with this rack?

    • Colin says:

      Hi Jack,

      Yep, the Proride 591 will only take bikes I’m afraid – it’s custom designed to attach to a bike frame. Saying that, they fit pretty well alongside other types of bike racks. I’ve seen cars carrying a couple of bikes on a pair of Thule Prorides on one side of the car, and then a kayak in a Kayak rack on the other side. They seem to fit easily enough!

      Hope that helps!
      Colin

  4. Jack says:

    Thanks Colin! I will see what I can do. Maybe I will go for the Proride and later on see what I can do for the rest. Maybe I can get the Proride for my car and one that carries other outdoor gear for my wife’s car.

  5. Dee says:

    Looking to purchase a bike rack for my Jeep Patriot for 2 Beach Cruisers. Not sure what would be best, rack on top or on the back of the SUV. Keep in mind, one of the bikes is very heavy. What do you recommend?

  6. Jonathan says:

    I’m a new RVer, preparing to enjoy a travel within this motorhome. BUT, kids have two bicycles what I have to carry with my Class C RV. At this situation, I’m really confused that “What type of bike rack will be best choice for my RV? Is that bumper mount? or ladder mount? or hitch mount?” I got some articles online but want to confirm from an expert. Can you suggest me the best way?

    Here, I’m waiting to get a better answer from you… Thanks!

  7. Andrew Rasel says:

    there are a lot of good advice in this post but I am not sure are those advices all fit in 2019 or not.? I have a Forest River, Class C, Model 2016 27′ Sunseeker, Sleeping spaces 6, Permissible total weight Up to 3,500kg (3.8 T),
    I’m in need for a bike rack but not sure which will be fit for me.

    Thank you

  8. blog says:

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  9. Hop over says:

    Impressive pieces of advice in the post. Thanks dude!!!

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