Tech Tips

How to choose the perfect roof rack and transport system for your car and your needs

Bicycle roof racks and transport systems for your car
A good bike rack makes it easy to load up and get out to ride
photo: Porsche

Wouldn't life be grand if you could bike everywhere you wanted to go? Unfortunately, some distances are just too far, which is where bike racks come in handy.

When choosing a bike rack, there are several things to account for. This includes how many bikes you need to transport, how far you're going, and what kind of car you drive. Luckily, there's a bike rack for every type of cyclist out there!

Here are the main types of bike racks you’ll encounter:

Roof Rack Bike Racks

Loaded roof rack on the car of pro cycling's Team Sky
Two bikes on a roof rack is typical, but a pro support car like that of Team Sky's finds a way to cram more. image: Ford

Roof rack bike racks attach to crossbars on the roof of your car. Crossbars attach to your car's existing rails or to mounts / towers (available as part of roof rack systems) you attach to rain gutters or upper door frames. Roof racks typically can only transport one or two bicycles at a time (unless you're a determined pro team), so they’re not the best option if you’re trying to bike with your family.

However, roof racks provide the best rear window visibility out of all other bike racks and are the go-to rack for cyclists transfering tandem bikes with their car to avoid side overhang. Plus, thieves are less likely to try to steal your roof rack and bikes since they're higher out of reach.

In spite of being sleek, flexible, and capable bike transport options that pro teams use, some people avoid roof racks because they can present overhead clearance issues and especially because being out of sight while driving means they're sometimes forgotten until pulling into a garage.


  • Little or no vehicle modification necessary
  • Provide rear window visibility
  • Less likely to be stolen


  • Can only carry 1-2 bikes at a time
  • Reaching up, especially to taller vehicles, can make mounting bikes harder
  • Overhead clearance limited
  • More expensive than other options


Explore roof racks →


Hitch Mount Bike Racks

Hitch mount bike rack carries four bikes in separate cradles
Hitch mount racks can carry more and heavier bikes. image: BuzzRack

Hitch mount bike racks are a great option for cyclists who need to transfer multiple bicycles at a time. Hitch mounts are easy to use – plug them into your hitch receiver, and you're ready to go. Of course, if you don't already have a hitch installed on your vehicle, you'll have to get one, but once you have it, it's plug and play.

For the cyclist who's trying to spend less time fiddling around and more time biking, the hitch mount is a great choice. It can be quickly added or removed from your vehicle at the hitch as needed. Mounting bikes is easier because you don't have to lift and secure them from as far off the ground. It can even carry up to 5 bikes at once!

Be aware, however, that hitch mount bike racks have a reputation for swaying, which may be distracting to the driver and could cause damage to bikes. Most modern-day hitch racks employ anti-sway technology, straps and padding, or trays to combat this, but it may still be a factor when choosing your bike rack system.


  • Easy to set up and use
  • Can carry up to 5 bicycles at once


  • Your vehicle may need a hitch mount installed
  • They take up rear window visibility
  • May block access to rear door or trunk
  • Bikes can sway, which can be distracting or damaging


Explore hitch-mount racks →


Trunk Mount Bike Racks

Truck mount bike racks are simple and less expensive
Trunk mount racks are simple and less expensive. image: Yakima

Trunk mount bike racks are a great option for the cyclist on a budget. They are one of the cheapest, most versatile options available. The mount is attached to the trunk through a series of straps and clips and is held in place while the trunk is closed. Better trunk mount racks do a good job of protecting your vehicle's paint job by firmly holiding bikes at a distance from the trunk.

The trunk mount bike rack is a great alternative to the hitch mount; both are lower to mount and access than roof racks and easier to install and remove. The comparative downfall with the trunk mount bike rack is that it can only carry up to three bicycles, so it may not be a good choice for families.


Explore trunk-mount racks →



  • Affordable
  • Lower to ground for easier mounting
  • Typically folds down into a compact form when not in use


  • Can only carry up to 3 bikes
  • They take up rear window visibility
  • Cheaper racks tend to be made of a less durable material
  • Bikes can sway, which can be distracting or damaging

Truck Bed Bike Racks

For those of you that drive trucks, the truck bed bike rack is specifically designed with you in mind! Truck bed racks mount right onto or into the bed of the truck and can safely carry up to 4 bicycles upright.

If you don’t feel comfortable just tossing your bikes into the bed of your truck – to bounce and bang about, invevitably – then a truck bed bike rack is a great choice.

The Takeaway

When choosing your bike rack, make sure to take into account your needs and driving style. If you don’t feel comfortable not being able to see out of your rearview window while driving, then a roof rack option may be best for you.

However, if you have a family of 5, a hitch mount bike rack is a must. Choosing a bike rack system is all about figuring out what your needs are and then satisfying them in a way that you can afford.

You can find and compare plenty more bike racks in our directory, or check out manufacturer's websites, like Yakima products here, to find the bike rack and accessories you are looking for.


This article is a guest contribution by Emma Orton with review and editing by BikeRoar.


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