Home Cycling Best bike racks for cars: Roof, towbar and boot racks reviewed

Best bike racks for cars: Roof, towbar and boot racks reviewed

What type of rack is the best for your car? Roof racks, tow bars, undercarriage, boot racks, what’s the best? We’ve tested many of these types of racks over the years and have found that some are significantly better than others.

If you are a cyclist, chances are you will be more than once a year stuck in morning rush hour traffic on a busy road, or stuck in the middle of nowhere with a flat tyre. The best way to avoid being caught in a jam is to carry as much gear as you can, but if you do have a vehicle and the space to carry bikes, then the best bike rack for your car may depend on how you plan to use it.

If you are like me, then you have several bikes hanging around the house, and you need somewhere to store them. While in the past you could use your roof rack, this is now very unsafe, as it could result in you damaging your car, and it also puts the rack in a vulnerable position, where you could steal bikes. I have had a number of roof racks over the years, but the one I like the most is the ones that can be used on the boot of your car.. Read more about best rear mounted bike rack uk and let us know what you think.

The finest bike racks for automobiles make moving your bike easier, and they’re a must if you can’t fit everything inside your vehicle.

There are a variety of bike rack designs available at various price points, and this guide will tell you all you need to know when choosing which one is right for you.

Continue reading for a detailed description of roof racks, boot or trunk-mounted racks, and hitch or towbar-mounted racks, as well as evaluations of the racks that our professional team of testers deemed the best.

Our professional testers have chosen the finest bike racks for automobiles in 2023.

In our testing, the following racks received four or more stars out of five:

  • £117.50 / $199.95 / $299 Australian dollars ProRide 598 by Thule
  • The TomaHawk roof rack from RockyMounts costs $169.95.
  • Roof rack SeaSucker Mini Bomber: £424.99 / $489 / $739 Australian dollars
  • £299 / £329.99 / AU$499 for the Talon of the Seasucker
  • £175.00 / $249 / $349 AUD Yakima Highroad is a highway in Yakima, Washington.
  • RaceWay 3 992 / RaceWay PRO 3: £559 (£350 / $399.95 / AU$399.95)
  • £100 for Thule FreeWay 3 is the third installment in the Thule FreeWay series.
  • $599.95 for the Thule Raceway Platform Pro 2 is a 2nd generation of the Thule Raceway Platform (North America only).
  • $449.95 SplitRail hitch rack by RockyMounts
  • Towbar rack Thule VeloCompact 927: £480
  • Towbar bike rack Thule VeloSpace XT 3: £575 / $N/A / AU$1,249 / EU: From €709 — area dependant

I’m not sure what kind of bike rack I’ll need.

The first question is how far and how often you need to transport bicycles. Then you’ll need to figure out what kind of bikes you’ll need and how many you’ll need. What kind of vehicle – or vehicles – do you have, and will you be riding a combination of bikes? Is it hefty, do they have through-axles, and will they become dirty?

The next question is how you intend to transport the bicycles. On the vehicle’s roof? Is it possible to get anything off the back? Is your vehicle equipped with a receiver hitch? Is the front wheel of the bike on or off? Another factor to consider is whether or not you want or need to transport additional sports equipment.

Bikes come in a broad range of prices, styles, sizes, and weights, all of which should be considered while choosing a mode of transportation. You won’t want to risk your pricey superbike being carried on a rack that costs less than one of its ultra-light tyres.

Consider practicality, such as whether the rack will meet your needs now and in the future; ease of use, such as how easy it is to fit to the vehicle and load; security, such as whether the rack securely holds the bikes and locks them to the rack and the vehicle; and how much storage space it will take up when not in use.

Roof mounted bike racks, boot or trunk mounted bike racks, and towbar or hitch mounted bike racks are the most common. For specific circumstances, there are also alternatives for truck beds and specialty racks.

Bike racks on the roof

Roof-mounted bike racks

A factory roof rack or an aftermarket base bar system are required for traditional roof-mounted bike racks. Immediate Media / Matthew Loveridge

The majority of roof racks are made up of feet that connect to the roof of your car and cross bars to which the accessories are attached. Roof rack bike racks come in two types: those that need the front wheel to be removed and those that enable both wheels to stay on the bike.

Removing the front wheel lowers the bike (ideal for tall SUVs), makes loading simpler and lighter, and is the traditional method of carrying bikes on top.

Bike racks that retain both wheels on the bike are higher, cost more, and are less sturdy, but they eliminate the need for repeated wheel removal and re-installation.

Integrated locks are typically included with any choice to secure your bike to the rack. The rack is, of course, secured to the bars, which are secured to your car.

Simpler roof-mounted bike racks that don’t need a separate base bar setup, such as the Sea Sucker rack (pictured below), which attaches to your car using suction cups, and roof-mounted bike racks that connect to your vehicle’s factory-installed roof rack, are available.

Roof-mounted bike racks

Roof-mounted bike racks may also be quite basic and straightforward. Sucker of the Sea

Roof racks are very flexible, and the ability to add and remove sport-specific attachments allows you to transport bikes, kayaks, skis, SUP boards, luggage boxes, and other items while they are not permanently attached to your vehicle.

Any large, cumbersome object, including ladders, timber, and other non-sports goods, is fair game for a roof rack.

Roof-mounted bike racks

Roof racks may be utilized for a wide range of cargo transport tasks. Yakima

  • Pros: Extremely flexible for carrying all types of goods; one of the safest racks available; doesn’t obstruct access to any doors, boot, hatch, or tailgate
  • Cons: If you forget about your bikes, you risk wrecking them all and damaging your car; you’re also introducing aero-drag to your vehicle, which means your fuel consumption will certainly rise.

Roof bike racks that are the best

Thule ProRide 598

Best roof bike racks

If you don’t mind attaching straight to the frame, the Thule ProRide 598 is a fantastic roof rack. Immediate Media / David Rome

  • £117.50 / $199.95 / AU$299
  • One bike may be stored here.
  • The maximum load is 20 kilograms.
  • Clamps down tube with big, soft jaws while holding bike by its wheels.
  • Roof bars are required.

As long as you’re okay with clamping straight onto your bike’s down tube, the Thule ProRide 598 is a fantastic all-around option for roof racks (the jaws are designed in such a way as to minimise the risk of damage).

The 598 is excellent for transporting bikes with mudguards or fenders because, unlike racks that simply support the bike by its wheels, the 598 does not interfere with them.

TomaHawk roof rack by RockyMounts

Best roof bike racks

The TomaHawk from RockyMounts is one of the most flexible roof-mounted bike racks we’ve tested. Immediate Media / Russell Eich

  • $169.95
  • One bike is hauled
  • A base bar system or factory roof rails are required.

RockyMounts’ flexible TomaHawk upright bike rack is remarkable whether you have a Thule, Yakima, or other base bar system, or if your car is equipped with factory crossbars.

The TomaHawk’s most notable feature is its capacity to transport a wide range of bicycles, from road bikes to 20-inch kids’ bikes, fat bikes to 29ers.

Because RockyMounts incorporates tabs to keep the rack’s wheel straps out of the way, loading a bike is very simple.

The rack may lock to the base rack, and despite the fact that the rack includes a lock for the bike, it isn’t the safest option.

It folds down to a reasonable size when not laden with a bike.

This is a fantastic option if your bike-hauling responsibilities range from time-trial aero machines to full-squish fatties, with all stops in between, and you only have one bike rack on your car’s roof.

Roof rack for SeaSucker Mini Bomber

Best roof bike racks

Suction cup strength! SeaSucker’s Mini Bomber is one-of-a-kind in every aspect. Courtesy SeaSucker

  • £424.99 / $489 / AU$739
  • Transports up to two bicycles
  • Bike attachment for the forks

The Mini Bomber from SeaSucker is unlike any other bike rack since it connects with suction cups. It may seem implausible, but each 15.24cm / 6in suction cup has a draw power of up to 210lbs, and there are six of them – it’s rock solid.

The Mini Bomber rack, like other roof rack bike carriers, holds bikes via the front fork. SeaSucker has a variety of attachments to fit whichever axle your front wheel is equipped with.

Returning to the suction cups, the SeaSucker may be placed on the top, half on the rear hatch glass, and half on the trunk of a variety of cars. There are many choices available.

The Mini Bomber’s tiny size is another feature. It can easily be stored in most vehicles while not in use.

While SeaSucker provides a lock and cable for security, it isn’t as attractive as some of the other racks’ built-in options.

Seasucker Talon

Best roof bike racks

The Talon roof from Seasucker carries a single bike and connects to your vehicle with suction cups. Burton, Russell

  • £329.99 / $299 / AU$499
  • One bike may be stored here.
  • Maximum load is 45 pounds / 20 kg.
  • Bike attachment for the forks

The Talon, like the Mini Bomber, clings to your vehicle using suction cups. Adaptors for all major axle types are available to handle one bike with its front wheel removed.

The Talon is pricey for a single rack, but if you’re determined to transport a bike in a sports car or other vehicle that isn’t equipped with standard racks, it’s a viable option.

Yakima Highroad

Best roof bike racks

The Yakima Highroad is a highly elegant design that just touches the bike’s wheels, protecting your frame. Immediate Media / Matthew Allen

  • £175 / $249 / AU$349
  • One bike is held solely by its wheels, with no touch with the frame.
  • Accepts 26in to 29in wheels.
  • The maximum bike weight is 20 kg.
  • Full front mudguards are not suitable.

Because it simply supports your bike by its wheels, the Yakima Highroad attaches on almost any roof bar and is an excellent option if you’re concerned about damaging your frame.

The Highroad is especially simple to mount a bike on since the front wheel hoops do not need to be adjusted for various sized rims and tyres. A built-in cable lock provides a layer of protection, but the lock barrel is an additional cost.

When folded flat, it has a sleek appearance that is quite inconspicuous. The only significant disadvantage is that such racks are incompatible with full-length front mudguards.

Take into account…

Read our review of the Atera Giro AF+ (3 stars).

Bike racks placed in the boot, hatch, or trunk

Trunk-mounted racks are usually the cheapest and least secure choice. The primary item that keeps them attached to your car is a set of straps that loop around the trunk/hatchback/bumper lip.

Typically, such racks are extremely adaptable, allowing them to be fitted to the back of virtually any vehicle. The car is gripped by rubber or foam ‘feet,’ with the whole assembly pulled taut and fastened by the straps.

This is the most cost-effective rack, but it depends significantly on correct installation, and the hooks that secure the straps to the car may scratch paintwork.

Low-cost trunk racks usually don’t include a lock for your bike or a means to secure it to your car, making them simple to steal.

Boot, hatch or trunk-mounted bike racks

The quality of trunk racks varies considerably, therefore investing a little extra is worthwhile. Yakima

  • Pros: Simple to install and generally the cheapest choice; simple to uninstall, compact and fold for convenient storage
  • Cons: It’s the least secure method to transport bikes; it’s prone to scratching paintwork; if you don’t install it properly, you’ll loose the bunch while driving, and the bikes are simple to steal.

Bike boot/trunk racks that are the best

RaceWay 3 992 / RaceWay PRO 3 by Thule

Best boot/trunk racks for bikes

The Thule RaceWay 3 is a basic, well-executed idea. Thule

  • £350 / $399.95 / AU$559
  • Three bicycles may be stored (a two-bike RaceWay 2 is also available, product code: 991)
  • Maximum load is 45kg.

Thule’s take on the ubiquitous boot/trunk rack is expensive but effective.

It has a soft covering on its arms to preserve your paint, and unlike most other racks, it can be secured to the vehicle (and the bikes to the rack), but how secure this is is disputed.

Thule FreeWay 3

Best bike racks for cars

The FreeWay 3 is simple yet efficient, and it won’t break the bank at £100. Alex Evans is a writer who lives in the United

  • £100
  • It can fit up to three bicycles.
  • 45kg maximum load capacity
  • Most hatchbacks and saloons/sedans are compatible.

Thule’s cheapest bike rack, the FreeWay 3, fits most saloons/sedans and hatchbacks. It connects to your vehicle using soft plastic-coated straps and hooks, and four rubber feet rest against the car to reduce the danger of damage to your paint.

The FreeWay 3 is a good choice if you want a rear-mounted rack but can’t afford a towbar-mounted one (or don’t have the option of installing one). Just make sure the straps are snug.

Thule Raceway Platform Pro 2 (North America only)

Best bike racks for cars

Thule’s Raceway Platform Pro 2 is a trunk rack that does a good job at imitating a hitch rack. Immediate Media / Russell Eich

  • $599.95
  • Transports up to two bicycles
  • Fits a wide range of wheel diameters and tyre widths.

Despite the fact that Thule’s Raceway Platform Pro 2 mounts like a trunk rack, it considers itself to be a hitch rack. This is a good thing.

The Raceway holds both the bike wheels and the frame, unlike other strap-on racks that hang bikes on their top tubes with the wheels swinging back and forth.

Instead of the typical nylon webbing, steel braided wires are used to attach to the vehicle. It has ratchets for securing the rack to the car, as well as the ability to lock the rack to the vehicle and the bikes to the rack.

Loading bikes may be difficult, owing to the fact that the outer bike clip must pass over or through the inner bike’s frame. As with almost every rack, seat to handlebar contact must be taken into account.

The bikes glide down the road as solidly, quietly, and steadily as a top-tier hitch rack once loaded.

The Raceway, like its hitch-mount counterparts, is pricey, particularly for a trunk rack. It also isn’t as compact as other trunk racks, despite the fact that it folds up.

Take into account…

Bike racks that attach to the hitch or to the towbar

Hitch or towbar mounted bike racks

Bike racks that attach to your car’s towbar or hitch aren’t inexpensive, but if they work with your vehicle, they may be a fantastic choice. Future Publishing / James Huang

Bike racks attached to a towbar or hitch connect to a 1 1/4in or 2in receiver hitch on your car. They’re typically more costly than other bike rack designs, but the simplicity with which they can load and unload bikes, as well as the fact that they don’t need lifting bikes onto the vehicle’s roof, make them a popular choice.

The majority of them include locks that attach the bike to the rack as well as the rack to the car. Innovative designs allow for virtually one-handed installation, and movable load portions provide access to the vehicle’s boot/tailgate without having to remove the bikes.

The more features a rack has, such as built-in locks, repair stands, lightweight materials, and so on, the more expensive it is. You’ll also need a towbar/hitch on your car, which may be costly if you don’t already have one, and some vehicles are only compatible with 1 1/4in hitches, which restrict the rack to two bikes instead of the four or five that a 2in hitch allows.

Bikes are typically held by hitch-mounted racks by their wheels, with an arm holding the front wheel (as seen above), or by hanging from their top tubes (image below).

Hitch or towbar mounted bike racks

Racks that attach to the hitch may hold one to five bikes. Yakima

  • Pros: They’re sturdy, and since they’re behind the car and out of the path of the main airflow, they don’t significantly reduce fuel economy; Bike loading and unloading is a breeze. Security may be excellent.
  • Cons: You’ll need a towbar or hitch; reversing with the bikes off may result in some pretty terrifying consequences if you forget about the rack; certain areas may need an additional number plate.

For our Australian readers, an illuminated auxiliary number plate is required if your hitch mount rack obscures the view of your number plate. While the name differs by state, you’ll require an official road authority plate and may be penalized if you use a cardboard, photocopy, or handwritten copy.

Bike rack number plates vary in price depending on where you reside, but they are often less than AU$50 and may be obtained from your local RTA office.

Most hitch mount racks come with accessory light boards that may be used to illuminate the bike rack plates so they can be seen from a distance of 20 meters while driving in low light or at night. Finally, if you drive about with an empty hitch rack on your vehicle, you may be penalized.

Best bike towbar or hitch racks

RockyMounts SplitRail hitch rack

Best towbar or hitch racks for bikes

The SplitRail hitch rack from RockyMounts is sturdy, easy to load, and simple to live with, which are all characteristics of an excellent bike rack. Immediate Media / Russell Eich

  • $449.95
  • Transports up to three bicycles (with additional tray)
  • Fits up to 3in tyres on 20 to 29in wheels.

The majority of hitch racks have a lot in common. The front wheel is secured by a bar that clamps up and over it, while the rear wheel is secured by a ratcheting strap.

The RockyMounts’ SplitRail is distinguished by its little and not-so-small features.

Raising and lowering the rack to load bikes or just access the back of the car happens on a regular basis, thus having an easy-to-use lever for tilting the rack is critical. The SplitRail features one of the finest, and it’s simple to use and effective.

Bike loading is, of course, another major issue. By utilizing tabs to keep the rear tire straps out of the way, the SplitRail makes this job easier. It may seem little, yet it is very useful.

According to RockyMounts, the rack can accommodate almost any wheel size, from tiny to big, thin to mid-fat, but full-on fat bikes aren’t suitable.

Even off-vehicle storage is handled with care. The SplitRail has a wall-mounted rack holder that keeps the rack off the floor and close to the wall.

Towbar rack Thule VeloCompact 927

Best towbar or hitch racks for bikes

The Thule VeloCompact 927 is a three-bike trailer that fits on a regular towball. Immediate Media / David Rome

  • £480
  • Holds three bikes, or four with the addition of an extra holder.
  • Bikes are connected to each other by wheel straps and arms that keep them upright.
  • Tilt the foot pedal for easier boot/trunk access
  • 60 kg maximum load

Thule’s premium towbar mount rear rack holds three bikes and may be upgraded with a fourth bike holder. It’s pricey, but it comes with a complete set of tail lights and a number plate holder, so it’s legal.

You can tilt the bikes out of the way with a smart foot pedal-controlled mechanism to enable access to your boot/trunk.

Towbar bike rack Thule VeloSpace XT 3

Best towbar or hitch racks for bikes

The VeloSpace XT 3 from Thule is a tough rack with a big load capacity. Andy Lloyd is a writer who lives in the United

  • £575 / $N/A / AU$N/A$N/A$N/A$N/A$N/ $1249 / EU: From €709 – depending on location
  • Up to four motorcycles may be loaded.
  • Extra-long wheel trays for motorcycles with a wheelbase of up to 1,300mm
  • Wheel ratchets can accommodate tyres up to 4.7 inches in diameter.
  • AcuTight torque limiters on detachable bike arms
  • adjustment for towbar coupling tightness
  • Tilt mechanism controlled by foot pedals
  • Combine with a Thule BackSpace XT to create a storage carrier with a capacity of 300 litres.

The VeloSpace XT 3 bike rack is a high-capacity rack that can hold up to 60kg of bikes in three loading positions.

It’s well-made and very simple to use, and it’s extremely durable even on the bumpiest roads — the bikes hardly move and are securely fastened.

The main drawbacks are its size, which makes storage difficult, and its heavy weight, which makes it difficult to move about. It also includes untested locking capabilities that should only be used in an emergency. Because of these flaws, it falls short of a perfect five-star rating.

Don’t let it deter you; the steadiness provided by your motorcycles is unparalleled.

Racks for specialized items

There are bike racks for almost every kind of vehicle, from pickup truck beds to SUVs with a spare tyre on the back door: there’s a method to transport your bike securely and easily.

Speciality racks

A bike rack of some kind may be installed on almost any vehicle. Saris

The tailgate pad is a solution you’ve undoubtedly seen on vehicles at your local trailhead/trail centre.

Hook and loop tie downs keep bikes separated and secure in fancy versions, but homemade alternatives, such as old blankets or a pair of folded bike crates, are a little less sophisticated.

Speciality racks

Simple tailgate cushions are extremely popular among mountain biking vehicle owners. Dakine

The racks intended to transport your bikes on your vehicle have gone through the same amount of thinking and engineering as the bikes you ride. So, decide out what you need and what style best fits your lifestyle, and have your bikes transported simpler and faster than ever before.

For those who don’t live in a city, having a bike rack is a good way to get around town. There are several styles to choose from, and each one comes with its own benefits. For example, roof racks are the best way to transport bikes if you’re planning to go on vacation or camp with them. Our pick for the best roof rack for cars is the Thule Rapid Aero XT. This rack fits most cars, including hatchbacks, sedans, and trucks.. Read more about best bike rack for suv and let us know what you think.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best roof mounted bike rack?

The best roof mounted bike rack is the Yakima Skybox.

Which cycle rack is best?

Cycle racks are not a thing.

Are roof bike racks better?

Roof bike racks are better than regular bike racks because they allow you to store your bikes in a safe and secure place.

Related Tags

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • best bike rack for suv
  • best bike rack
  • best bike racks for cars
  • best trunk bike rack
  • best bike rack for hatchback