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How to Pick the Right Car Rack to Transport Your Bikes

Ready to take your bike on an adventure but in need of a way to safely bring it along with you? Sounds like you need a car rack! We can help you find the ideal one for you, your car, and of course, your bikes!

Answer these two questions to help you narrow down your car rack options.

How many bikes are you looking to carry?

There are racks that can hold anywhere from 1 to 5 bikes. The number of bikes you are looking to carry will play a part in which type of rack you need. If you need to carry 3 or fewer bikes, most styles of racks will have options for you. If you are looking to carry 4 or more bikes, then a hitch rack or roof rack will be your best options.

How will you carry the bikes? Hitch, Trunk, or Roof?

Racks come in three basic styles: trunk racks, hitch racks, or roof racks. At ERIK’S we carry Thule and Saris racks. These brands have handy fitting guides on their websites to help you determine which racks will work with your car and needs: Thule Fit Guide and Saris Fit Guide.

Now that you know which kind of rack will work with your vehicle and how many bikes you need to carry, let’s take a deeper look at the different style of racks.

Trunk Racks

Saris trunk rack to carry three bikes

Trunk racks attach with straps to the trunk of your car. They’re an excellent option for many reasons. They fit most vehicles. They don’t require a hitch or roof rails. They are lower to the ground than roof racks, making them easier to load. And they’re often less expensive than hitch or roof racks.

On the other hand, trunk racks can make access to your trunk difficult or impossible while the rack is attached. If you’re carrying a bike with a woman’s or step-through style frame, then you may need to purchase a top tube adapter to create a top tube for the bike to hang from. And they typically can’t hold more than 2 or 3 bikes.

Hitch Racks

The second type rack is a hitch rack. This style attaches to your vehicle at the hitch receiver. They come in two main styles: mast and tray. The mast-style rack, like the trunk rack, holds the bike by the top tube or top bar of the frame.

The other style of hitch rack is the tray-style (shown below). This rack has two trays that the wheels of a bike rest in and there are straps to secure the wheels down. There is also an arm that clamps down on the frame or wheel of the bike to help hold the bike in place.

Hitch racks come in a variety of configurations and can take up to 5 bikes or more. These racks are easy to take on and off your vehicle. Loading bikes onto them can be a breeze, especially if you have the tray style. Hitch racks come in both 1 1/4 inch and 2-inch options, with some even having adapters that allow them to fit both 1-1/4 inch and 2-inch hitches.

There are some things to consider when selecting a hitch rack. First, not all vehicles are designed to accept a hitch, so if your car doesn’t have one already, you’ll need to address that. Second, if accessing the back of your vehicle is necessary with bikes on the rack, you’ll want to select a rack that folds down or swings away. Most racks are designed to at least fold down, but not all are designed to do it with the bikes attached. With the mast style, like the trunk rack, you may need to purchase a top tube adapter if you’re carrying a woman’s or step-through style bike. With the tray style, you might need an adapter to carry a kids’ bike because the wheels are so close together. Lastly, if you’re going to be transporting bikes with fat tires, you’ll want to consider that if you’re looking at tray style racks.

Roof Racks

The third option for carrying your bike is a roof rack. This system mounts to crossbars on the roof of your vehicle. This style usually gives you the most carrying capacity regarding weight and the ability to carry other gear. The rack can be either permanent or removable. They’re very secure when properly loaded. And they don’t limit access to your trunk.

There are a few things to consider if you’re going to look at roof racks. First, consider whether you can lift your bike onto the roof of your vehicle. Second, items mounted to the roof of your car will create more drag and impact your gas mileage. And lastly, bikes on roof racks will tend to get more bug splatter on them.

What about eBikes?

Thule EasyFold XT Car Rack

While electric bikes are becoming lighter, most still weigh upwards of 60 pounds. This can pose a problem when you are shopping for a car rack. Many racks are simply not designed to handle that much weight.

Trunk racks, for instance, typically have a 35 pound per bike weight limit and mast-style hitch racks have around a 40 pound per bike weight limit. Many tray style hitch racks, however, feature a “high load capacity” which means they are designed to carry heavier bikes, like an ebike. The Thule Easyfold XT 2-Bike Hitch Rack (shown above) is an example of this kind of rack.

But even with a “high load capacity” rack, it’s a good idea to still check the per bike capacity and the total capacity to ensure the rack can carry the bikes you intent to transport with it.

Weight limits aside, we recommend this style also because you don’t have to lift your ebike high up off the ground and maneuver it onto a hanging style rack.

Click here for the car racks that we carry that could work for electric bikes.  Again, it is very important to verify the rack is rated for the weight of your ebike(s). If you have any questions, contact us or swing by a store.


Each rack style has its advantages and disadvantages, but it doesn’t need to be a hard decision. When you’re shopping, keep in mind how many bikes and the styles you’ll be carrying, and how you want to carry them. For more information and to talk to one of our experts, roll into any ERIK’S location or shop our racks online. We’d be happy to help you out!