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.
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.
Pros for Boot Bike Racks
+most versatile – works for many different cars
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).
Image credits: Yamika.com, saris.com