Bicycle carrier racks come in three main types: rooftop, hitch and trunk mounted racks. Each type has advantages and disadvantages. The right type of carrier rack for you will depend on many factors, such as your upper body strength, the type of vehicle you drive and the type of bicycles you plan to transport:
Trunk Mounted Racks
Lightweight and easy to install, trunk mounted racks fit onto the back of the car with relative ease. These racks are limited in the amount of weight they can handle per bike, and prevent the user from opening the trunk while the rack is on the car.
Trunk mounted racks are great for bikers who carry only one or two bikes at a time and who don’t take their bikes on trips wherein they need frequent access to their trunk.
Rooftop racks fit on the roof of the car in a way that is unobtrusive when the rack is empty. However, loading bikes onto rooftop racks can be very difficult—and sometimes impossible on taller vehicles like SUVs and vans. While rooftop racks are designed to fit four bikes in a row, the inner spaces are often left empty on taller vehicles because access to those spots is inhibited by the height of the car.
People lacking upper body strength may also find rooftop racks to be difficult to maneuver. In addition, wind resistance can decrease gas mileage on vehicles carrying bikes long distances.
The greatest advantage of rooftop racks may be that they don’t inhibit the user’s ability to get into the trunk at all. This makes rooftop racks the preference for families going on long car trips and vacations.
Hitch mounts extend off the rear of the car by quite a distance, holding bikes in a row behind the vehicle. Larger vehicles like SUVs can often handle this weight well, but smaller vehicles may struggle. Hitch mounts extend the length of the vehicle by several feet, a factor that must be taken into consideration when driving and also parking. Like trunk mounted racks, hitch racks can inhibit access to the trunk of the vehicle.
These carrier racks can carry more weight and may carry more bicycles than a trunk mounted rack. That said, hitch mounts are themselves heavy and can put a lot of pressure on the rear suspension of some vehicles. Hitch mount racks are good for groups carrying several bikes at once, as long as the car can handle the weight.
Different types of carrier racks are suitable for different purposes and circumstances. Serious bikers may have multiple types of carrier racks for different needs, but if you’re planning to have only one type of carrier rack for your car, give it careful consideration before purchasing the best one for you.