You should be able to go through the rest of the process of purchasing a bike rack for your vehicle once you have settled on getting one for your vehicle.
There is one thing, however, that isn’t true.
Rather than allowing myself to focus on our bikes, we are inundated with questions on both their mounting and their functions. How do I mount the bike rack? Should I go with a hitch or a trunk bike rack? Will it work for my bicycle frame? How much would it cost? Can I use it on another vehicle as well?
This article is intended to address one of the most common confusing issues among these bike racks – the choice of using a hitch mounted bike rack vs a trunk mounted bike rack, and I will describe why you should choose each one based on its personal qualities.
How do you use the hitch bike rack and trunk bike rack?
We simply cannot get into the comparison without having a clear understanding of the basics. So, let’s look at the fundamentals first before we get into the actual comparison.
Hitch Bike Racks
A hitch mount rack is basically a device that attaches to the receiver of your vehicle’s trailer hitch. It is similar to what you would call a plug-and-play solution, as it is rather simple to slide the rack into the hitch receiver after you have installed it.
The use of hitch racks is only possible when you have a hitch mount fitted to your vehicle. However, not all automobiles are equipped with a hitch mount. Although you can install one if yours does not come with a hitch mount, it’s best to buy one if possible.
However, one thing to keep in mind when buying these products is that they are referred to as hitch racks, but the way they mount the bikes can vary, though they are all called hitch racks.
Many hitch racks also feature straps as part of the design to further improve the stability that it offers. This year’s hitch racks are a popular choice with frequent users because of their reliability and convenience.
Hitch racks are designed for the mounting of bikes
- Platform hitch bike racks: Platform racks have locking trays to hold the bike upright. As such, the bike frame is not in contact with the rack. This means the rack has no contact with the frame. Platform hitch bike racks allow you to transport three to four bikes (even more in some cases). Their mechanism makes them very stable, so they have minimal sway. If you want to access the trunk, it is possible even to swing out or fold down the rack. Moreover, unless the bike frames are non-standard, they are also able to carry bikes that have other types of frames (e.g. children’s bikes).
- This type of rack comes with a hanging arm, which allows for the bike to be hung by its frame using a hitch. This means the rack will be in contact with the frame, unless it is a wheel-mounted rack, which is extremely rare. It is true that they are less bulky and can hold up to five bikes, whereas platform racks tend to sway a little more, but they are a lot easier to set up. Unlike platform racks, these tend to sway slightly more.
Trunk Bike Racks
It’s a common misconception to believe that trunk-mounted bike racks or hitchless bikes racks do just what their names suggest – they hang from your vehicle’s trunk and carry your bicycles. Well, that’s somewhat of an oversimplification.
As they are known for their cost-effectiveness and compatibility with a wide range of vehicles, trunk racks provide the convenience of being able to use them across a variety of different models without requiring as much modification as you thought was necessary.
It means users do not have to spend extra money on tools to ensure that their projects are compatible with one another, which is a huge advantage.
In order to minimize the chance of swaying with these products, it is important to install the straps properly and get an anti-sway cradle. However, this can still happen if the straps are not installed properly.
Bike Rack Mounting Mechanisms for Carrying Bikes In Trunks
A trunk rack can be attached to the trunk, bumper, or even the hatch of a vehicle, so you can choose the optimal location for the rack, which is different from most other designs, so you get more freedom in deciding where you want it.
This rack also has a critical component to it that encompasses the manner by which it will be attached to a vehicle. Most of these racks rely on straps to attach to the vehicle, but while this can make it easier to install, it’s often better to find a design that is vehicle-specific (should there be such a design available).
It is possible to eliminate such potential risks simply by choosing a rack that’s designed specifically for automobiles with spoilers, for example. It’s also possible to minimize such risks simply by purchasing a rack that’s made specifically for automobiles with spoilers.
As well as this, many of these racks have adjustable arms, which makes it easier for the user to adjust the overall height.
Bike Racking – Hitch vs Trunk
I believe we should be able to properly compare the essential aspects of each of the two bike racks in each category now that we have discussed the basics. In this section, I will compare the essential aspects of the two bike racks in each category.
Despite our best efforts, most of us cannot ignore the question of price, as much as we would like to. Let’s begin by taking a look at this.
How much do Hitch Bike Racks cost?
As mentioned above, you will typically have to spend a decent amount of money to get a good quality hitch rack, which is available in both hanging and platform varieties.
Despite the fact that hanging racks are relatively cheaper than their more expensive counterparts, they have the same level of functionality and stability that platform hitch racks do. Therefore, many quality platform hitch racks will cost you twice as much as hanging racks will.
If you don’t already have a hitch mount on your car, then you are also going to have to shell out some dough to buy it. And it should be noted that the price increases if you are looking at racks that have higher weight capacities.
Pricing for Trunk Racks
Rather than just buying the run-of-the-mill hitch rack, you might consider purchasing a trunk bike rack instead, which are somewhat less expensive. They are becoming increasingly popular among occasional bike users. However, I would not recommend the inexpensive route if you want a quality product.
A good trunk rack can be quite expensive, not only in terms of the price itself, but also in terms of the quality. Therefore, I would suggest going the extra mile to have a great experience. Many cheaper options would even lead to the paint of your car being damaged.
Having these racks is a real advantage since you don’t have to spend a lot of money on them, and they are very practical and easy to set up, meaning they’re more cost-effective than other types. However, they can increase in cost as the capacity increases.
When you are loading your bike on a rack, it’s crucial that you keep the rack stable and prevent it from swaying. As your vehicle moves quickly, it’s essential for the vehicle’s safety as well as your bike’s safety that the rack stays stable.
Hitch Racks’ Stability
The best thing you could do is choose a hitch rack that has a level of stability and reliability that is comparable to that of a hanging hitch rack. Of course, a hitch rack that is platform mounted will not give you the same level of stability.
In the more budget conscious segment of the market, hanging hitch racks, especially those in the mid-range segment, tend to offer a bit more sway than platform hitch racks.
Different combinations of bikes and racks behave differently as a result of the differences in tubing sizes and overall fit, therefore, it depends on the size and fit of the tubing, as well.
In my experience, there is a noticeable difference in the stability of the racks when you use a strap. That is why many manufacturers recommend you do the same for your racks.
Trunk Racks’ Stability
The mounting mechanism itself will make it possible for the trunk rack to sway a tad more than the hitch rack does. In other words, the mounting mechanism itself will make it possible for the trunk rack to sway. Unlike the competitors, these products always rely upon straps to do so.
It does not necessarily mean that you have to be concerned about it, however, it also means that if you use the straps correctly, you can start getting some great results. When you use quality arms and cradles with your trunk rack, you can enjoy a pretty smooth ride with your bike.
Secondly, users should be careful when mounting these racks on their cars, as these racks can hurt the paint job on your car if mounted incorrectly (more on this later). However, for the most part, you should avoid these racks, since the stability can be determined by your ability to mount them correctly.
Interference and Accessibility
Generally speaking, this refers to the ease of access to specific parts of the vehicle when racks are mounted. It is an important aspect for many and the ability to access different parts of the vehicle may differ greatly depending on the rack selected.
Accessibility with Hitch Racks
In terms of providing maximum accessibility, hitch racks often work very well. In the first place, they are very easy to attach and detach, which means they are convenient to remove at any given time. Furthermore, they rarely require the use of any special tools.
A wide variety of hitch racks also come with a swing-away or fold-down design, which is ideal for vehicles with limited storage space.
Almost all folding racks are designed so that they can be folded away when when not in use, which makes it easier for you to get into the trunk. This is especially helpful if your vehicle has a hatchback or liftback door. However, these racks can’t get completely out of the way so there is a limit.
On the other hand, swing away racks bring things to a whole new level of convenience.
If you choose to use this type of rack, you will be able to effortlessly swing the entire rack away in order to gain access to the back of the vehicle. And this is possible even with the bike mounted on the rack.
Compared to fold-down racks, this system does require a bit more work, so it is something you need to consider when choosing a rack.
Trunk Racks Make It Easy to Accessorize Your Car
The trunk racks have a significant limit in terms of accessing the back of the vehicle. As compared to hitch roof racks, these products can make it more difficult for the driver to reach the rear of the vehicle.
If you find that you are unable to open the trunk with the rack on, that is because it will damage the paint of the car, which we do not want to take place. It is recommended that you do not open the trunk with the rack on (unless you are certain that your product supports that function).
For those of us who are looking for an exception, there are now many modern trunk racks that can tilt away in order to offer easy access to the back of the vehicle. There are models made by Thule, for instance, that can tilt a little for better access. You are also able to readily find racks that can be folded away.
In general, trunk racks usually do not offer the same functionality as hitch-mount racks, but they still do offer plenty of great options despite being less impressive than hitch-mount racks. All in all, trunk racks aren’t as impressive as hitch-mount racks, but they still offer plenty of great options.
Do you think this rack will fit my car?
I think this is a common question, especially when it comes to hitch racks, so let’s look into what you should consider when purchasing one.
Compatibility of Hitch Racks with Vehicles
Having a compatible hitch receiver and a rack installed on the vehicle is something that hitch racks can lag behind in. As mentioned, hitch racks connect to the vehicle’s hitch receiver. That is why they must be compatible with each other.
There are many scenarios in which an adapter will have to be bought to make the rack compatible with a different vehicle, so it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to switch between vehicles without one. It’s at that point that things get complicated.
The rack that you purchase will depend on the brand, the hitch mounting position, the design, and the specifics of your vehicle, therefore you should be sure that you consider all these factors before buying a rack.
As a result of the mounting mechanisms on trunk racks, most of these racks are much more compatible than the alternative. Unlike hitch racks, these racks rely primarily on straps to attach to your car. This is why trunk racks are so good.
You do not need to worry as much about getting the right measurements, and you can also make use of the trunk racks on multiple vehicles without having to worry about any problems. This means you do not have to worry about getting the right measurements.
However, the trunk racks also require specific trunk racks to ensure compatibility, since many of them will have interference issues if the car has a spoiler. Consequently, specific trunk racks are required in such cases so that the trunk racks will not interfere with the spoiler.
While there are quite a few trunk racks out there, there are also some that interfere with the rear windshield of the car. Aside from these issues, users have a much easier time transporting bikes without a hitch.
Carrying Capacity and Security
You might find that the capacity of the bag has varying degrees of importance based on the use case that you have. For instance, if you only carry one bike, it’s not a big deal.
There is no doubt that security is an important factor. And that’s something that shouldn’t be compromised. Let’s take a look at both of them in this section.
What is the maximum capacity of a hitch rack
The biggest advantage of hitch racks is that they provide remarkable carrying capacity, especially platform racks, which can carry five bikes without any hiccups or sways. There are a lot of hitch racks available that can carry five bikes with no problems.
Although hanging racks are not as capable as platform hitch racks when it comes to carrying multiple bikes, it is still possible to carry multiple bikes if you own a hanging rack.
It has been proven that these products keep things incredibly secure, so you won’t have to worry about that either. In fact, many of them have built-in locks that work well enough for regular use, so you can have a complete peace of mind. There are also ways to improve security; hitch racks provide a clear path for that as well.
Capacity of trunk racks
In my opinion, trunk racks are not an excellent option in this category, especially if you are looking for an affordable alternative. First and foremost, due to the different mounting mechanism within a trunk rack, trunk racks generally cannot achieve as much capacity as roof racks.
One of the positives and one of the disadvantages of these racks is their dependency on straps, which can be problematic in the case of safekeeping if you are carrying more than two bikes at the same time. Among their strengths are their capacity to carry two to three bikes at a time.
In many cases, you have to make an extra effort if you want to secure your bike since these bike racks are not designed to provide the same level of security that traditional bike racks would provide. Even then, the design can make locking your bike somewhat difficult due to the way it is constructed.
There are a few key differences between hitch bike racks and trunk racks. These are generally the major differences between different types of bike racks that you’ll find. You’ll learn that many of these distinctions are based on what the user needs, so it can be better to know ahead of time what you need and don’t need.
Two cents worth of my opinion
This comparison above should help you get rid of any uncertainty regarding the debate about hitch racks vs trunk racks. And if you’d like my opinion, I would suggest that if your budget allows you so, you should choose a hitch bike rack. Despite the fact that they may cost more, the performance of these racks is definitely worth it. If you’re on a budget, will only use the rack occasionally, or would like something that works with more than one vehicle, then a trunk bike rack is your best option. I hope this article helped you in making a decision, in which case the final decision is yours.