The right bike rack for your SUV is a lifelong piece of dependable adventure gear.

On any cross-country, off-road, or mountainous adventure, SUVs make great travel companions. And they can hold a lot of stuff – from people and pets to cargo and gear.

A high-quality bike rack adds even more storage capacity, and is probably a necessity if you have more than one bike or just aren’t willing to go through the hassle of taking your bike apart and shoving it in the back seat.

There are plenty of bike racks on the market, but not all models will work with your vehicle or meet your specific needs. Price, weight capacity, shape, type of mount, etc. will all affect what you can carry and how it will affect your vehicle’s mileage and other features.

If you’re just starting your search or are looking for something to fit a specific situation, like lots of kids’ bikes or a small hitch receiver, it can be tough to sort through all the options out there.

Here’s our quick guide to what features to look for when searching for the perfect SUV bike rack:

Rankings

RankingRackTypeWeightCapacityReviewPrice
#1yakima swing daddyYakima Swing DaddyHitch (swing)50.06 lbs. 4Read Review
See Price on Amazon
#2yakima front loaderYakima Front-LoaderRoof13 lbs. 1 (can install multiple)Read Review
See Price on Amazon
#3thule 963 spare me 2Thule 963 Spare Me 2Spare Tire15.6 lbs. 2Read Review
See Price on Amazon
#4thule raceway proThule Raceway ProTrunk/Strap22.4 lbs. 3Read Review
See Price on Amazon
#5yakima light riderYakima Light-RiderHitch (hanging)20 lbs. 3 or 2 Read Review
See Price on Amazon
#6tyger auto tg rk1b204bTyger Auto TG-RK1B204BTrunk/Strap8.8 lbs. 1Read Review
See Price on Amazon

Matching Gear to Your Needs: Things to Consider

When looking for the right bike rack for your SUV, it’s helpful to start with thinking about what type of rack will work best.

Generally speaking, there are four types of bike racks which work with typical SUVs:

  • Hitch-mounted racks (which attach to your vehicle’s rear hitch)
  • Trunk-mounted racks (which attach to the rear of your vehicle with straps and hooks)
  • Tire-mounted racks (which attach to a rear-mounted spare tire)
  • Roof racks (which attach to the roof of your vehicle)

The option that is best for you will depend on the specifics of your vehicle and what kinds of bikes you need to transport. Here are some ways to narrow it down:

Do you have a standard hitch receiver?

Most SUVs come with standard factory-installed hitch receivers.

Even if you don’t have one, or your vehicle has a non-standard size hitch, you can still use a hitch rack by buying an add-on towing package after buying their ride through your local mechanic or hardware supply store.

If you don’t want to do that, a hitch rack isn’t your best bet. A hitch rack also likely won’t be an option if you need to use your existing hitch receiver to tow something else like an RV or trailer.

Does your vehicle have a rear-mounted tire? Are there other interfering features?

If your SUV rides low to the ground, some trunk, hitch, and tire racks may not have enough clearance for safe transport. When loaded with bikes, they might drag on the ground when you go over bumps.

Other vehicle specifics can make a difference as well:

Tire-racks, unsurprisingly, require a rear-mounted spare tire to attach to. If you have a rear-mounted tire, many trunk and hitch racks won’t work.

Other features on the back of your vehicle – like an after-market spoiler, unusually shaped bumpers, or even lights and plates – can also be obstructed by bike racks.

If you’re looking for a rack which attaches to the back of your vehicle, double-check to make sure it has enough clearance before you buy. In particular, make sure to measure the angles and the distance between the bike rack and any unusual features on the back of your vehicle (like spoilers, after-market bumpers, etc.). This distance will be listed in most rack descriptions.

Roof racks tend to be more versatile than rear-mounted racks. A few SUVs have curved roofs or sunroof panels which may cause issues for roof racks, but generally speaking, roof racks are an option for most SUVs.

Can you lift bikes over your head?

All racks will require you to lift bike frames to about chest height or above depending on the height of your vehicle. If this is difficult for you, some hitch-mounted racks which “swing” out are slightly lower and are likely a better fit for you.

Roof racks, though this may go without saying, will require you to lift all your bikes onto the roof of your vehicle every time you need to transport them. It’s worth considering how much of an inconvenience this will be before throwing down cash and spending time and effort on installing a roof rack which you won’t like using down the road.

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

Many trunk, tire, and hitch-mounted bike racks will not allow the rear door of your vehicle to open when carrying bikes.

Lots of people don’t need to access their trunks while bikes are in place, so this might not be an issue for you.

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.

Since trunk-racks typically use multiple straps, it can be tedious to take them on and off every time you need to load or unload your trunk. Some higher-end hitch and strap-mounted racks can tilt or swing out of the way of the trunk, or accommodate the door opening when not loaded with bikes – these can be features worth paying extra for.

Roof racks, of course, don’t impede trunk access at all, and can generally stay attached to the vehicle when not in use without causing any issues.

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

In terms of simple physics, the farther a rack sticks out from the back of your vehicle, the less weight it can hold. Tire racks, since they are already farther from the back of your vehicle, can hold the least weight – usually, this means 1-2 bikes, though some tire racks can accommodate 3 smaller bikes.

Trunk racks also have weight and size limits, and can typically hold 1-4 bikes. Hitch racks, since they attach to the hitch instead of more fragile points on the rear of the car, can have slightly higher weight capacities.

Roof racks can often hold 5+ bikes, making them the best option for those with a whole family’s worth of bikes. They can also be better choices for weirdly shaped bikes; if you have child-size, tandem, recumbent, a-frame, fat-tire, or otherwise unconventionally shaped frames, your rack’s capacity and shape will definitely factor into your decision.

Hitch racks which are “platform style” (supporting bikes by the tires instead of by the frame) can accommodate a broader range of frame types. Trunk, tire, and hanging hitch racks may need adapter bars to fit uncommon frame shapes and sizes.

Where will you need to park? Is storage or clearance an issue?

All bike racks will alter the profile of your vehicle. Rear-mounted racks can get in the way of tight parking spots and increase your turning radius.

Roof racks can stick up almost four feet above the roof of your car, making enclosed parking garages a no-go.

Most racks can be removed, but how easy this is to do depends on both the type of rack and specific model.

Trunk racks are, generally, the least permanent option. Many trunk racks can fold, making it easier to store them out of sight when not in use. They also typically attach using multiple straps, which are tedious, though straightforward, to install and remove.

Hitch and tire racks are similar when it comes to adding and removing – many of them are as simple as pulling out a hitch key and removing the rack, while others are more difficult and have more points of contact. Some roofs racks pop on and off, while others require making permanent alterations to your roof rails.

How much are you willing to invest?

Typically, strap-mounting racks are both the least expensive and least durable option. If you are looking for an entry-level, “starter” rack which will work with multiple vehicles, a simple, lightweight trunk rack is probably your best option.

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

Roof racks tend to be pricier, while hitch and tire racks range widely in price and quality.

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. However, it’s likely that you won’t need all the high-end features. 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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Will a bike rack damage my SUV or my bikes?

Possibly. All racks carry some chance of damage to paint or bikes themselves through rubbing against the car, other bikes, or from the rack’s hardware.

If you’re worried about this, try to find a rack which minimizes contact with the vehicle and is very secure and stable, so that bike movement is kept to a minimum during transit. Roof racks, though they sometimes require alterations to you car’s roof hardware, are usually a safe bet once installation is complete, as bike movement is minimal and there are few points of contact.

Hitch racks vary – this is one area where paying extra for a heftier rack can help avoid damage to bikes or your vehicle.

Strap-attaching racks are the most likely to damage your car. They usually rely on plastic or metal clips or hooks to hold on to gaps in your car’s doors, windows, or frames, which can cause nicks or distortions over time. You can minimize the chances of this happening by buying a higher quality rack and looking for one with cushioned hooks.

How do SUV bike racks affect fuel economy?

SUVs can typically handle extra weight. However, 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.

Roof racks add significant drag since they increase the vertical profile of your vehicle and make it less aerodynamic. This adds up quickly on long trips. This profile also adds a lot of wind resistance which can be noisy and annoying.

For all rack types, choosing a lighter rack can also improve gas mileage. 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 brand name matter?

Yes and no. There are plenty of good bike racks out there, and it’s not always worth shelling out for a Thule or Yakima brand rack.

The best-known brands also tend to have the best and broadest warranties and customer support, but it’s still possible to find a good deal with a lesser-known brand.

If you do go for an off-brand, look for models with extensive user reviews and a good industry reputation to avoid getting stuck with a knock-off cheap rack (which can be dangerous on the open road).

How long should a bike rack last?

This varies, but at least as long as your bikes, if not longer. Factory warranties typically last for 5 years, but most racks will last considerably longer than this.

Non-metallic parts can break and wear out, and some racks will start to rust or degrade if left out in the elements or intense sunlight over time.

If you’re willing to invest in a high-quality rack and replace any buckles or small pieces that may wear out or break over time, you can expect your rack to last through decades of general use.

How can I keep bikes secure while they’re on my rack?

With some exceptions, strap-attaching trunk racks tend to be the least secure. Even when they offer built-in locking mechanisms attaching bikes to the rack, the straps themselves are often vulnerable, as someone could feasibly cut through them to take both the bikes and the racks in one fell swoop.

Hitch, roof, and tire racks are more variable; many offer locking mechanisms which attach the rack to your vehicle and your bikes to your rack.

If you need to store your bikes on your rack unsupervised or in a risky area, it’s always a good idea to look into a rack which offers built-in security features.

These options also tend to offer more stability during transport – you may find that strap racks need to be regularly readjusted and tightened during long trips.

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

Clearly, not all racks are created equal. On the other hand, the features which matter to you will be very different from the next person. Some factors – price, trunk access, fuel economy, and weight capacity, for example – may be important to you but irrelevant to someone else.

In this guide, we’ll outline the best racks, including some from each of the four major categories outline above. More specifically, here are the criteria we used in establishing our ranking:

Weight

Weight, as mentioned above, is important both for fuel economy and for ease of installation.

Some models vary in weight because they come in customizable sizes. For the sake of this ranking, we’ll include the base weight of each model to help you gauge how much the rack will impact your vehicle.

Value

While everyone’s ideal price range varies, some models just offer more bang for your buck. Some features are worth paying for in terms of durability, convenience, gas mileage, ease of installation, and versatility.

In our ranking, we’ll include a variety of price ranges, but also highlight models which we think provide the best value for their price.

Durability & Stability

Bike racks can and should be long-term investment.

Durability is also a safety concern – if there’s one thing you definitely don’t want, it’s for one of your bikes to come loose while you’re going 70 mph down the highway.

We’ve also considered the stability of each rack, or how it feels while moving. This has an impact on mileage, noise, and also how likely the rack is to cause damage.

Capacity

More capacity isn’t always better, but we did consider how many bikes a rack could hold when making this ranking.

Security

While only some of the models come with a built-in locking mechanism, it is worth nothing that most can be customized with add-on security features after installation, though this may add to the total price.

If you’re concerned about security from theft, look for a model which include a built-in locking mechanism.

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Research and Reviews

Even with all of that information, there are still hundreds of racks to sort through in each category.

To help further narrow down your search with some concrete recommendations, 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. Yakima Front-Loader
  3. Thule 963 Spare Me 2
  4. Thule Raceway Pro
  5. Yakima Light-Rider
  6. Tyger Auto TG-RK1B204B

Our #1 Pick: Yakima Swing Daddy

yakima swing daddy
  • Type: Swinging Hitch Rack
  • Weight: 50.06 lbs.
  • Capacity: 4 Bikes
  • Security: No

High Points:
Relatively inexpensive, allows trunk access when in-use, holds up to 4 bikes securely, and is easy to install.
Low Points:
Can obscure vehicle features. Swinging mechanism is stiff when carrying more than two bikes, and the rack is relatively heavy and hard to take on and off the vehicle.

Why this is the Top Pick

If you like the security and flexibility of a hitch rack, but still need to access the back of your car with the rack attached, a swinging hitch rack like this one might be your best bet.

This rack is modeled off of one of Yakima’s best-selling racks as an “upgraded” model with hardware allowing it to swing away from the trunk. It’s a bit pricier than other options, but it’s still at a relatively affordable price point compared to other hitch racks in this quality bracket.

There’s a built-in, tool-free knob which lets you instantaneously adjust how tightly the rack is secured to your vehicle, and it will fit most SUVs well.

The rack attaches to bike frames using a zip-strip fastener, and also includes Yakima’s classic “anti-sway cradles” which help cushion bikes and prevent them from moving and damaging each other or your vehicle during transit.

What Reviewers Say

Yakima in general has a solid reputation for well-made and hearty racks with good customer support and an extended warranty. This model is no exception, and is known to perform well even over off-road and otherwise bumpy road conditions.

It’s not the lightest model out there, but mostly makes up for this in terms of dependability and aerodynamics; it’s also aesthetically pleasing and feels durable and sturdy.

Overall, this is considered a reliable high-end choice which should fit most people’s needs.

Features & Considerations

While it can carry up to four bikes, the performance of this model tends to decrease when it’s fully loaded. It doesn’t swing as well when full of bikes. There is a bigger model, which is more expensive, but may be worth it if you’re regularly transporting more than 2-3 bikes.

It also doesn’t have any built-in theft prevention. Though you can always purchase additional locks to secure the rack to your bikes, there’s always still a chance that someone could figure out how to remove the entire rack.

Instead of the typical pin-mount, this model uses a cinching mechanism to attach to your hitch, which still works well and securely, but can be tricky to figure out at first.

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Our Next Favorite: Yakima Frontloader Bike Mount

yakima front loader
  • Type: Roof rack
  • Weight: 13 lbs.
  • Capacity: 1 (can install multiple racks on same vehicle)
  • Security: Optional

High Points:
Zero contact with bike frame, don’t need to remove wheels, works with most frame types, aerodynamic minimal profile, comes with optional locking mechanism. Secure, high-quality, lifetime warranty.
Low Points:
Expensive, only holds one bike. Needs roof bars to work, have to buy specific locks as they aren’t standard.

Why It’s a Top Pick:

This roof rack locks into your roof bars and holds bikes securely through an adjustable wheel-cradle. It only holds one bike, but it’s possible to install more than one of these racks to tote multiple bikes on top of your vehicle.

Unlike some roof racks, it doesn’t require disassembly, making the loading and unloading process a little easier.

Because there is no contact with the bike frame, it’s also more versatile and can accommodate most bike types. This design also minimizes damage to your vehicle from bike-car contact. Overall, if you’re looking for a roof rack, this is a convenient, lightweight and dependable option.

What Reviewers Say:

This is a great minimalist model which has worked well for many SUV drivers. It stays secure even on long journeys, and causes minimal noise and motion.

It will hold pretty much any type of bike, though larger sand tires may start to become an issue.

Users also appreciate the built-in security lock, which attaches the bike to the rack and the rack to the roof of your vehicle. However, the lock is custom to Yakima, and requires specific hardware, making it difficult to replace except with more expensive Yakima parts. The lock itself doesn’t feel that secure, making it more of a deterrent than absolute security feature.

It’s well-built, comparatively lightweight, and comes in at a reasonable price tag.

Features & Considerations

If you have a smaller SUV, you may need to flip the rack 180 degrees and load it backwards so that your trunk can still open. You’ll also need to have some variety of cross or roof bars on your vehicle to install this rack.

Since the rack primarily uses your bike’s tire, it can become less secure if your tire isn’t fully attached or your tube is flat or loses air during transit. There is an additional fail-safe security cable in the event this happens, but you’ll need to remember to install it before each use.

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The Next Best: Thule 963 Spare Me 2

thule 963 spare me 2
  • Type: Spare Tire
  • Weight: 15.6 lbs.
  • Capacity: 2 (75 lbs.)
  • Security: Yes

High Points:
Folds when not in use. Fits most spare tires. Lets you keep using your trailer hitch. Feels strong. Allows trunk to open on many vehicles. Comes with locking system. Doesn’t require a hitch.
Low Points:
Relatively expensive, and installation can be challenging on some vehicles.

Why It’s a Top Pick:

As far as spare-tire racks go, this is a compact, safe option. Thule includes a thick padded cradle and cushion in its bike racks which help keep bikes from moving and from touching the car or each other.

Compared to other options, this specific model is also very sturdy and durable, even with significant use and wear-and-tear, and the built-in locking mechanism is a great add-on.

What Reviewers Say:

While this is among the most popular spare-tire models, users do occasionally report difficulty with installation on some spare tire types.

This Thule bike rack offers a complete hardware pack for installation, but some unusually-sized tires or covers may require additional hardware purchases to install the rack effectively.

Once it is installed properly, this is a convenient and easy-to-use rack which can fold into compact storage and which enables the trunk to still open on many models. It feels sturdy and dependable – once it’s on your car, it’s not going anywhere.

Features & Considerations:

Like most other spare-tire racks, this model can only carry two bikes. It also has a low weight limit if you have e-bikes or bikes with particularly heavy frames. If you have any unusually shaped frames, you’ll need to purchase an additional adapter.

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4. Thule Raceway Pro

thule raceway pro
  • Type: Trunk (strap) rack
  • Weight: 22.4 lbs.
  • Capacity: 3
  • Security: Yes

High Points:
Comes with security cables, cradles prevent bike damage, feels secure. Adjustable to securely fit most vehicles.
Low points:
Can damage vehicle if rear is flimsy. Anti-sway attachments are flimsy in extreme weather or when bikes aren’t loaded.

Why It’s A Top Pick:

As far as trunk-racks go, this is among the most dependable and easy to use options.

It has thick padding, solid construction which enables adjustment to fit most SUV and hatchback models, and keeps up to three bikes securely fastened at a time.

In short, if you’re going for a trunk rack, this is one of the safest bets.

What Reviewers Say:

Most users agree that you get what you pay for in this rack and then some; it’s a great value investment which lasts for a long time and works across multiple vehicle types for added versatility; you can take it off of your SUV and put it on your sedan and vice versa.

It has an adjustable wheel which enables tighter fit on differently angled trunks, and has built-in locking anti-theft features which seem to work well and feel secure.

Features & Considerations:

This model is heavier than some other options, which can cause vehicle damage when the rack is overloaded or used extensively with the clips in the same places.

Your mileage will vary based on the specifics of your vehicle’s construction; it does have padding, but the weight of the rack combined with bikes can start to cause denting over time.

The anti-sway mechanism works well but can become unattached when bikes aren’t loaded on the rack, and can degrade when exposed to very high temperature.

However, this is still a great, affordable, and dependable option for many people.

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5. Yakima Lite Rider

yakima light rider
  • Type: Hitch
  • Weight: 24.1 lbs.
  • Capacity: 3 (also available in 2)
  • Security: Yes

High Points:
Built-in security, lightweight. Will fit 1.25 or 2” hitch out of the box. Zip-strip fasteners like other Yakima models, can tilt away to provide trunk access when unloaded.
Low Points:
Limited weight capacity. Can’t accommodate some bike types.

Why It’s a Top Pick:

This is among the best options for maximizing fuel economy. It’s lightweight, but still feels durable and secure even when traveling at high speeds.

Like other Yakima options, this rack uses zip-strips to attach frames to the rack. Depending on your specific bikes, you may have more or less luck fitting the cross-bars to your frame size.

Compared to similar hitch racks, this is a much smaller investment and doesn’t require much in the way of installation. It’s easy to put on and remove as needed and doesn’t take that much storage space.

What Reviewers Say:

This is also among the best “value” purchases – it’s a solid rack for the price and lasts a long time. It also has a comparatively small, minimal footprint with few moving parts to break.

It also comes with a built-in reinforced security cable to conveniently lock bikes down and deter theft.

Most reviewers appreciate the out-of-the-box use and security of this option.

Features & Considerations:

In practice, it can be difficult to actually use this rack to carry three bikes at once, even though the hardware technically exists.

The light weight does mean that this rack can’t hold quite the same weight as other options. While it has brackets for three bikes, it can hold <90 lbs., and tends to start wobbling when loaded to near this limit; if you have three heavy or large bikes, this rack might not be the sturdiest option.

It also won’t work on alternative frames without additional extender and/or strap purchases.

As a basic plug and play option, though, this is a solid choice and good investment.

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6. Tyger Auto TG-RK1B204B

tyger auto tg rk1b204b
  • Type: Trunk
  • Weight: 8.9 lbs.
  • Capacity: 1
  • Security: No

High Points:
Easy to install, inexpensive, lightweight, compact, well-padded to prevent damage.
Low points:
Buckles aren’t that secure (plastic). No security features and can obscure rear window. Only holds one bike.

Why It’s a Top Pick:

This is a middle-range, effective and inexpensive trunk wrap which is designed with rubber protectors on the strap hooks which provide a cushion for the rack over bumps, preventing nicks to the paint or to your bikes.

It only holds one bike (Tyger does make slightly larger models which can accommodate 2-3 bikes), and is lightweight and simply designed to fit most SUVs.

Essentially, this is a bare bones option which works well to transport most bike types and is compatible with most SUVs.

What Reviewers Say:

Tyger is a less well-known brand than Yakima or Thule, but still a popular choice. Reviews report consistent quality and durability, as well as the aesthetic appeal of this rack.

It sticks out a few feet from the back of the car, which can become a clearance issue, but is generally a useful feature to keep the bike from damaging the car.

Some people report that the plastic buckles can be unreliable or fragile; there are replacement parts available, but this seems to be the weakest point on the rack as a whole.

On the other hand, it’s quite affordable, and feels very well-made and high quality, particularly considering the smaller price tag.

Features & Considerations:

This is one situation in which a cheaper rack can still provide virtually all the functionality of a more expensive model.

You will sacrifice some durability in exchange for the lower price tag. However, it does come with a lifetime warranty for equipment defects.

Finally, on some cars, this rack can block license plates or obscure part of your SUV’s rear window. That can be a concern. But for the vast majority of driving situations, this is a great, sturdy, and versatile choice.

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