Whether you’re an avid bike commuter, a distance cyclist, or a recreational rider, a hitch mounted bike rack is a great upgrade from conventional bike racks.

Hitch mounted racks do away with the upper-body exercise required for roof racks, not to mention the risk of forgetting about it and running into the roof of your garage. They also let you skip the tedious straps of mounted racks and the painful nightmare of stuffing your bike in the car.

Hitch bike racks attach to your vehicle’s receiver hitch, so you won’t need a base rack.

They’re also typically cheaper and easier to install than traditional racks. With a hitch mounted bike rack, you can bring your two-wheeled companion anywhere with ease.

If you’re just starting to look for the right hitch-mounted rack, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options. There are many models and types of hitch racks on the market.

Here’s our guide to finding a hitch rack that’s perfect for your needs.

Rankings

RankingProduct NameTypeWeightHitch SizeCapacitySecurity/Lock Included?ReviewPrice
#1yakima swing dadYakima Swing DaddySwinging50.06 lbs2"4NoRead Review
See Price on Amazon
#2rocky mounts mono rail hitch rackRocky Mounts Mono-Rail Hitch RackPlatform42 lbs2" or 1.25"2NoRead Review
See Price on Amazon
#3thule t2 pro xtThule T2 Pro XTPlatform52 lbs2" or 1.25"2 (4 with add-on)YesRead Review
See Price on Amazon
#4kuat nv 2.0Kuat NV 2.0Platform52 lbs2" or 1.25"2YesRead Review
See Price on Amazon
#5yakima light riderYakima Lite RiderHanging20 lbs2" or 1.25"4NoRead Review
See Price on Amazon
#6yakima ridgebackYakima RidgebackHanging31 lbs2" or 1.25" 2, 4, or 5NoRead Review
See Price on Amazon

What size hitch receiver do you have?

Some hatchbacks, trucks, and SUVs come with factory-installed hitch receivers.

However, many folks will instead add on a towing package after buying their ride through their local mechanic or companies such as U-Haul.  The majority of hitch mounted bike racks require 2” by 2” hitch receivers. It is also possible to find a rack for 1 ¼” by 1 ¼” receivers, though this size can’t hold quite as much weight.

How big are your vehicle and engine?

Even though most vehicles can handle the extra weight of a hitch mounted rack and loaded bikes, you should consider the size of your vehicle and engine when determining what kind of rack to purchase.

Especially on mountain passes or long cross-country road trips, a heavy rack can significantly impact the suspension and gas mileage of a small vehicle.

If you’re driving a compact car, a small hatchback, or an old beater with a heater, it’s worth keeping the weight of the rack and the number of bikes it holds in mind.

On the other hand, if you have multiple heavy bikes, it can make sense to get a sturdier, more durable rack to keep them solidly supported. If you drive a truck or other heavier vehicle, the weight of the rack itself may not be an issue for you.

Does your vehicle have any interfering features?

If your car has very low clearance, low-hanging racks may drag on the ground when you go over bumps.

If you have a removable sun-roof, an after-market spoiler, rear-mounted spare tire, or other features on the back side of your vehicle, it’s also important to double check to make sure the dimensions of the rack won’t interfere with anything already on your vehicle.

In particular, make sure to measure distance between the bike rack and anything mounted on the back of your vehicle. This distance will be listed in most rack descriptions.

If necessary, you can always purchase an extender for your hitch to increase the space between the back of your vehicle and the rack, but keep in mind that this will halve the weight capacity of the hitch.

Do you need to access your trunk while carrying your bikes?

Your vehicle’s trunk access will determine the hitch rack that’s best for you.

Most standard hitch mounted bike racks will not allow hatchback rear doors to open when in standard carrying position.

This might not be a problem for you if you don’t plan on accessing your trunk while carrying your bike. However, if you plan on keeping the rack attached to your vehicle even when you are not carrying bikes, not being able to open your rear hatch can be a huge inconvenience.

For this reason, many manufacturers sell tilting and swinging versions of hitch mounted bike racks for an extra price.  If you are driving a hatchback, SUV, or a minivan, these features might be an add-on that’s well worth the extra investment.

Is the security of the rack or your bikes an issue?

Different rack designs offer different options in terms of security; some offer locking mechanisms or built-in methods of securing the bike to the rack and the rack to your vehicle.

If you need to store your bikes on your rack unsupervised or in a risky area, it may be worth looking into a rack which can be locked to your car or offers a built-in security feature for the bikes themselves.

How many bikes do you need to carry? Do you have unconventionally shaped bikes?

Racks are typically available in 1-5 bike configurations. If you only have one bike, it’s definitely preferable to get a lighter and more convenient small rack.

On the other hand, if you have a whole family’s worth of bikes, or you have child-size, tandem, recumbent, fat-tire, or unconventionally shaped bikes, the capacity of the rack will definitely factor into your decision. Hanging racks may also need adaptor bars to fit uncommon frame shapes and sizes.

How much are you willing to invest?

Hitch mounted bike racks are one product for which you often get what you pay for; the best combination of all these features comes with a hefty price tag

Your rack protects the quality of your bike, and is typically a durable, long-term investment, so it’s usually worth the effort of looking for a good sale or saving up for a high-quality rack.

However, not all of the features mentioned here will be relevant or necessary for you. If you don’t need to access your trunk, lock your rack, or carry more than 1-2 bikes at a time, you may be able to find a budget version of an otherwise high-quality rack.

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Where Should I Purchase my Bike Rack?

Online purchase is enticing, but shipping a bike rack can be incredibly expensive, since most racks are oddly shaped and quite heavy.

We recommend trying to buy your rack locally unless you are able to score free shipping.  Outdoor and bike retail shops like REI and Performance Bikes carry many hitch mounted bike racks, but they might not match sales that can be found on websites such as Amazon and eTrailer.

Should I get a Hanging, Platform, or Swinging Rack?

Hanging Racks:

Hanging racks are the original and most common type of hitch mounted rack on the market. Generally, these racks attach to your hitch and extend upwards to hang your bikes at eye level.

These racks usually grip bikes by their frames. So, if you have suspension or carbon or fiber frame, hanging racks can damage your bike. Step-through frames will also require a special adaptor to be used with a hanging rack.

Hanging racks can accommodate two to five bikes at a time. Some of them do swing down when not loaded with bikes to allow trunk access, but you won’t be able to get at your trunk when it’s loaded up with bikes.

These racks tend to be more affordable and lighter than platform racks.  However, not all bikes fit onto hanging racks without an adaptor bar. In particular, some kids’ bikes and traditional drop-bar bikes will not work on hanging racks.

Platform Rack:

Platform racks are a newer design. They allow both wheels to rest on a platform while another arm extends upwards in order to hold the front wheel of the bike.  These racks are typically heavier and more expensive than hanging racks.

However, they offer more stability and are likely to fit all kinds of bikes without an adaptor.  It’s also slightly easier and faster to load bikes onto platform racks.

The platform design also means that there will be no contact between the rack and the frame of your bike.

This might prevent a few scratches and battle scars on long trips. They are typically heavier and significantly more expensive than hanging racks, but that can be worth it for the protection they offer your bikes and their versatility.

Folding & Swinging Racks:

In order to allow access to rear doors on hatchbacks, some manufacturers have created racks that either fold down or swing out of the way, even while carrying bikes.

Swinging racks allow you to access your trunk even when your rack is loaded with bikes.

However, the swinging option adds to the price tag. In some cases, it can also make racks less sturdy and durable, and swinging racks also take up more space behind your car.

Still, swinging racks can be extremely convenient and easy to operate when in the city, on a road trip, or at the trailhead. If you plan to leave your rack on all the time, or transport bikes very frequently, this feature can be well worth the added cost.

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Criteria for Choosing a Hitch-Mounted Rack: How We Ranked Our Top Picks

The features which are important to you will vary depending on your needs. Some factors such as weight, trunk access, etc., will be deal-breakers for you, but selling points for someone else.

In this guide, we’ll include as many details as possible in our ranking to help you evaluate whether a “no” in a feature column is relevant to you.

Here are the criteria we used in establishing our ranking:

Weight

We’ve included the base weight of each model to help you gauge how much the rack will impact your vehicle’s load. However, this number will vary for customizable products which come in 2, 4, or 5-bike models.

Value

Some features are worth paying for in terms of durability, convenience, gas mileage, ease of installation, and versatility. In our ranking, we include a variety of price ranges, looking for models which provide the best value for their price.

Durability & Stability

We’ve also considered the stability of each rack. For example:

  • How secure does the rack feel when loaded with bikes?
  • What mechanism is used to hold bikes in place?
  • Can it hold multiple bikes without compromising function or ease of use?
  • Do bikes rub against each other during the drive?
  • Does the company offer a lifetime warranty?

Security

If you’re concerned about security from theft, look for a model that includes a built-in locking mechanism. Some of the models come with a built-in locking mechanism.

However, it is worth noting that most can be customized with add-on security features after installation. This may add to the total price, though.

Versatility

Finally, we considered how many and what type of bikes can be stored, what hitch sizes are supported, and the ease of customizing each rack to fit different numbers of bikes.

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Research & Reviews

So, after all of that information and food for thought, what are the top hitch-mounted racks in each category? Here’s a list of our top 6 picks, along with some info on each product’s price, weight, and what the experts have to say.

  1. Yakima Swing Daddy
  2. Rocky Mounts Mono-Rail Hitch Rack
  3. Thule T2 Pro XT
  4. Kuat NV 2.0
  5. Yakima Lite Rider
  6. Yakima Ridgeback

Our Number 1 Pick: Yakima Swing Daddy

yakima swing dad
  • Type: Swinging Rack
  • Weight: 50.06 lbs.
  • Capacity: 4
  • Hitch Type: Only 2 in.

High Points: This rack is inexpensive for a swing rack. It allows trunk access when in use. It is also quite durable and is easy to install.

Low Points: The swinging mechanism can be stiff when carrying more than two bikes, and the rack is relatively heavy.

Why this is the Top Pick

This rack’s design was originally a popular platform rack. Yakima upgraded the original to a swinging model for only about $100 more. It’s hard to find a reliable swinging bike rack at anything close to this price point elsewhere.

It’s easy to install and use. There’s also a built-in, tool-free knob which lets you instantaneously adjust how tightly the rack is secured to your vehicle.

Mounting bikes on the rack is also surprisingly simple, and their newly designed “zip-strip” fasteners are straightforward and high-performing compared to similar models from other manufacturers. Anti-sway cradles held avoid bike-on-bike damage.

The price-point, reliability, and overall functionality of this model make it an easy #1 choice.

What Reviewers Say

This model is known as being well-made and hearty even for extended highway and bumpy off-road trips. It’s also aesthetically pleasing and feels durable and sturdy.

It’s not the lightest model out there. It is a better choice for those with vans or SUVs, but it’s overall considered to be a dependable and high-quality choice.

Features & Considerations

This model uses a cinching mechanism instead of traditional pin-mount to attach to your hitch. It does not come with a built-in lock. If theft-prevention is an issue for you, you’ll need to purchase an additional locking mechanism.

It can also be less reliable when carrying very heavy or multiple bikes. Though this is a 4 bike hitch rack, the swinging mechanism grows a little less smooth when the rack is fully loaded. It can also be more difficult to load multiple bikes.

Yakima also makes a FullSwing model for about $100 more. If you plan on regularly carrying more than two bikes, it might be worth upgrading to the bigger and sturdier version. However, the Swing Daddy overall makes an excellent choice for the majority of bike users.

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The Next Best: Rocky Mounts Mono-Rail Hitch Rack

rocky mounts mono rail hitch rack
  • Type: Platform Rack
  • Weight: 42 lbs.
  • Capacity: Can choose from 1 – 2 bike models
  • Hitch Type: 2 or 1¼ in.

The High Points: Holds any type of bike securely. First platform model which still allows trunk access.

The Low Points: It can be hard to find model locally. Only holds two bikes.

Why It’s a Top Pick:

There are many platform racks on the market, but this is one of the only models that still allows trunk access. In fact, the manufacturer (Rocky Mounts), based out of Boulder, Colorado, was the first to design a tilt-able platform bike rack.

You can choose either a 1-bike or 2-bike model.

Either choice can fit virtually any model securely, whether you own a fat-tire, drop-bar, or child-size bike. The rack can be tiled away from the vehicle to provide access even when the rack is loaded. Overall, it’s a convenient, versatile rack for an awesome value.

What Reviewers Say:

This model is a particular favorite of outdoor enthusiasts and mountain bikers.

It’s well-known as a sturdy, dependable model which will securely hold almost any type of bike. While the larger model only holds two bikes, the rack can support up to 120 pounds total. In other words, no matter what kind of bike you have, this rack can probably hold it.

It visually wobbles a little on the highway, but still feels secure. It’s well-built and comparatively lightweight. It also comes with a reasonable price tag.

Features & Considerations

This model has a relatively small footprint. While this might be great for tight parking spaces, it can sometimes be an issue depending on the shape of the back of your vehicle. It won’t, for example, fit behind a read-attached spare tire without a hitch extender.

It can also be difficult to find models of this rack locally outside of Colorado. If you do run into it, or find a good deal for shipping online, it’s a great, affordable, and easy-to-use choice.

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Our Next Favorite: Thule T2 Pro XT

thule t2 pro xt
  • Type: Platform
  • Weight: 52 lbs.
  • Capacity: 2, or 4 with optional add-on
  • Hitch Type: 2 or 1¼ in.

The High Points: Easy to install and highly durable. Built in 1-foot space cushion between bikes to prevent wear.

The Low Points: Heavy and cumbersome to remove from car when not in use.

Why It’s a Top Pick:

This is a user-friendly option. It is among the least likely to damage your bikes even if you drive over the bumpiest off-road terrain. The 1-foot cushion provides ample space to prevent even the biggest bikes from running into each other.

Compared to other options, it’s also very sturdy and durable, even with significant use and wear-and-tear. The built-in security of the cable lock is a nice add-on.

What Reviewers Say:

This is one of the most sturdy and dependable models out there. Once it’s on your car, it’s not going anywhere. It has a devoted fanbase who all rave about how durable and long-lasting it is.

It’s also easy to install. It comes out of the box and straight onto your hitch without needing any extra tools.

Loading and unloading bikes is also user-friendly. The extra space between bikes is also a great feature. It greatly helps prevent damage to rack or bikes with bumps.

The built-in lock fastens bikes to the rack, providing an additional layer of security.

Features & Considerations:

You won’t be able to access your trunk with bikes on the rack. However, it can fold out of the way when empty.

It’s fairly easy to take on and off, but it’s a workout to move to storage. The rack is quite heavy and awkward to lug around.

Like our #2 pick, the Thule T2 only carries two bikes. However, Thule makes an add-on for an additional price. That lets you carry up to 4 (though this does make the rack even heavier).

Most bikes will fit on this rack, but some frame types might not work well.

The “security” lock feature does help prevent bikes from accidentally falling off of your rack. However, don’t assume your bikes will be totally safe from theft with that lock alone. Only a few screws attach the whole rack (and your bikes) to your car.

A determined thief could conceivably take the whole rack and your bikes with it. If you plan to leave them for an extended amount of time in your motel parking lot, consider getting an additional cable lock to secure the whole rack to your hitch.

This model is also a heftier investment than others on this list, as are Thule’s roof bike racks. However, it is also likely to last a long time.

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4. Kuat NV 2.0

kuat nv 2.0
  • Type: Platform Rack
  • Weight: 52 lbs.
  • Capacity: 2
  • Hitch Type: 2 or 1¼ in.

The High Points: It is the most stable of all the platform racks on this list. Its adjustable ratchet arms further increase stability. Comes with work stand for repairs. Comes with two security cables.

The Low Points: Can be overpriced if not bought not on sale; relatively heavy. Can block license plate when folded up.

Why It’s A Top Pick:

This is as high-end as it gets. Every piece of the rack does what it’s supposed to, and then some. These racks are built to last and last.

While the price tag means this rack isn’t for everyone, it’s still our top pick for fanatics who will be riding and repairing bikes for decades. This is for you if you are willing to make a large investment in exchange for the highest possible quality.

What Reviewers Say:

Most experts agree that you get what you pay for in this rack. It’s a popular choice among gear-hounds.

On top of its functionality, it has a solidly ergonomic, streamlined design – it’s not only a usable rack, but a “piece of art” meant to be used for a long, long time.

It also allows trunk access and easy installation, loading, and unloading. The manufacturers throw in a series of cool accessories, too, including a repair stand, set of keys, and a bottle opener.

Features & Considerations:

This model comes with two built-in locks, including a combination lock and a key-lock (with three keys included). The adjustable cable lock and ratchet arms makes this rack incredibly secure as you are driving down the road.

There’s also a handy repair stand included. That is very helpful to have for repairs at the trailside or in your own garage.

However, the rack can block license plate when empty and folded up out of the way. It’s also very expensive. It is up to 3x the cost of other racks.

For more casual recreational riders, there are likely less expensive options which will fulfill your needs just as well.

If you can find a good sale or pro-deal, or are ready to make a serious investment, this would be a worthwhile purchase.

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5. Yakima Lite Rider

yakima light rider
  • Type: Hanging
  • Weight: 20 lbs.
  • Capacity: 3 (also available in 2)
  • Hitch Type: 2 or 1¼ in.

The High Points: Very lightweight. Zip-strip fasteners like other Yakima models. Can tilt away to provide trunk access when unloaded.

The Low Points: Total weight capacity is only 90 lbs., and the rack won’t accommodate some bike types.

Why It’s a Top Pick:

This is among the best lightweight options. It’s less than a third the weight of some of the other models on the list without significantly sacrificing durability. Bikes still feel sturdily attached to this model even at high speeds.

It’s also a smaller investment and a highly convenient, easy to install model.

If you have a small car, tight parking space, or just don’t want to lift a 60-pound rack on and off your car every time you need to bring your bike somewhere, this is one of your best choices.

What Reviewers Say:

Reviewers appreciate the value of this option; it’s a solid rack for the price and convenient to load and install.

It is a bit more expensive than other hanging racks, but you can quickly make that difference up in vehicle performance and saved gas, especially if you’re driving a smaller or older vehicle. It has a small footprint and is easy to store.

Features & Considerations:

This rack will carry three bikes at a time and is comparatively very easy to use.

In practice, it can be difficult to get all of them onto the rack. The fasteners can be tough to use. It is possible to replace the fastening straps with alternative parts to really cinch bikes down, but that would add to the overall cost.

The main detractor of this rack is that some frame types will not fit. If you have fat tires, unusual frame configurations, or are worried about the straps damaging your bike frame, this model isn’t for you.

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6. Yakima Ridgeback

yakima ridgeback
  • Type: Hanging
  • Weight: 31 lbs.
  • Capacity: 4 (also comes in 2 or 5-bike models)
  • Hitch Type: 2 or 1¼ in.

The High Points: Inexpensive and easy to install; includes anti-sway cradles and tilts away for trunk access when unloaded.

The Low Points: Like other hanging racks, this will not accommodate fat bike tires or unconventional frames. It’s also less durable than other options.

Why It’s a Top Pick:

This is a good choice as a starter, affordable rack if you are on a limited budget, but still need a functional way to tote your bikes around.

It has the bare bones: everything you need to carry your bikes around, without any of the additional bells and whistles.

It is midweight, has durable and easy to use Zip Strip fasteners, and tilts away from your vehicle for access to the trunk.

What Reviewers Say:

Compared to the other picks, this rack has the most mixed reputation. After significant use, some users have reported bending or breaking in some of the mechanisms.

On the other hand, it’s quite affordable. Many reviews also note that this will handle more bikes than other models, so if you’re someone with a big family or a lot of different bikes to tote around, this one’s could be the best for you.

Features & Considerations:

This is a relatively inexpensive model. It is a fully functional choice. However, you do sacrifice some durability in exchange for the lower price tag.

Compared to other models, this will likely not last as long. Whether that’s a sacrifice you’re willing to make depends on your unique circumstances and needs.

It can be difficult to move attachments to accommodate different bike sizes. This means that in practice, it may be difficult to fill this rack to capacity.

However, it does come with a lifetime warranty for equipment defects. So if it breaks, Yakima will replace some parts. However, “normal wear and tear” may not be covered.

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