If your current car, truck, minivan, or SUV does not have a hitch, the world of hitch bike racks is still open to you. You can most likely have one set up as an aftermarket part.
On average, the total cost of a complete Class 3 trailer hitch install ranges from $510 to $950. This price includes a minimum of $400 for material for the tow hitch and wiring harness and $180 for a mechanic’s labor. Car repair shops are less expensive than car dealerships while offering the same functionalities.
The total amount varies depending on the type of vehicle and the type of hitch. Since such an installation includes many bigger and smaller parts, with varying amounts of work that comes with those, there is potential to save some money at many corners.
Pro-tip: Hitch racks can be significantly more fuel efficient than roof racks. If you want to do further research, check out the best-rated hitch racks on Amazon or the best hitch rack brands listed in this article.
What a professional tow hitch installation includes
A complete tow hitch installation includes the actual trailer hitch, a wiring harness, and the labor necessary for the installation of both those kits.
In detail, a complete package includes:
- Trailer Hitch Kit
- Hitch Receiver (Class 1-6)
- Ball Mount & Hitch Pin
- Trailer Ball
- Safety Chain
- Wiring Harness Kit
- 4 or 7 pin
- 1 hour max. for each the trailer kit and wiring kit
The following table shows how much you can expect to spend on each on average:
|Car Repair Shop||Car Dealership|
|Trailer Hitch Kit||$ 250||$ 500|
|Wiring Harness Kit||$ 100||$ 250|
|Labor (2 hours max.)||$ 160||$ 200|
|Total||$ 510||$ 950|
These prices are a mix of quotes I got offered from my local shops, are offered online (U-haul etc.), and reported by forum posts.
Note the stark (average) difference between the type of workshops. Don’t expect to get a drastically better hitch for that premium though. Aftermarket parts can carry and tow just as well. This is why you should try to avoid car dealerships in favor of your local mechanic.
With all the shops I sent an inquiry about hitch install prices, there were also some repair shops in the dealership-pricing territory. So, it does not hurt to seek out a couple of different offers.
The best prices came from larger companies, that offer their own branded aftermarket parts and have experience from countless of installations to reduce the time needed.
While car dealerships like using only their first-party parts and usually charge more for labor per hour. Since there are no tangible benefits of going this route, I would advise against it. Trailer hitches are a pretty standardized product, that does not need to be first party.
Not specifically included in this list is a trailer hitch lock, which is very much recommended as an additional layer of security to avoid theft. These locks do exactly what they say: locking the receiver hitch to the vehicle so only you can take it (and everything attached to it) off. They replace the hitch pin and can cost anywhere between $20 and $50.
But back to the parts actually included in a trailer hitch kit. There is a decision to make, that affects the price as well as the number of purposes you can get out of the whole hitch. The question is…
What class of trailer hitch do you need for a bike rack?
This is where your intended use makes a tangible difference in what parts you need and what the price will be. You are generally able to choose between 3 hitch types:
- basic receiver ball
If you are mainly interested in mounting bike racks, the basic receiver ball is what you are looking for. This one is set up at the back of a car and sticks out from below the rear bumper. It is probably the most familiar to you. The fifth-wheel or gooseneck are not relevant in this context. They are set up on truck beds and are usually used to tow big trailers.
Now that we have discussed the part of the hitch, that your future bike rack (or trailer) will actually attach to, we still need the part that attaches it all to the back of your vehicle.
This part is called a hitch and is bolted to the vehicle chassis from below. This is the unseen hero that allows trailer hitches to carry incredible amounts of loads. And it is where there are several classes with varying load capacities and prices to choose from.
While each has its own characteristics and strengths, looking for a hitch to mainly carry bike racks is pretty easy. For this specific purpose the factors to keep in mind are:
- The most common hitch bike racks require a 2″ receiver ball size. They also have more capacity.
- For hitch bike racks a hitch needs to support enough tounge weight capacity – not total weight capacity.
- An average bike weighs 25 lbs, while an average e-bike weighs 65 lbs.
- The actual hitch rack weighs between 40-60 lbs, depending on the number of bikes it can hold.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the normed hitch classes:
|Receiver Size||Tounge capacity||Bike Rack Capacity|
|Class 1||1 1/4″||200 lbs max.||2 – 4 bikes|
|Class 2||1 1/4″||350 lbs max.||5 bikes|
|Class 3||2″||800 lbs max.||5+ bikes|
|Class 4||2″||1.000 lbs max.||Overkill|
|Class 5 XD||2″||2.500 lbs max.||Overkill|
|Class 5 CD||2 1/2″||Overkill|
As you can see, all 6 classes of hitches allow for bike transportation using a hitch-mounted rack.
Just for e-bikers class 1 may not be suitable in most cases as it quickly reaches its limits. Generally, it is advised to go for a 2″ receiver ball size, since most hitch racks are supported and the selection is far greater. The same goes for bike capacity.
At the end of the day, a tow hitch is also able to tow stuff. For classes 1 and 2, the ability to do so just is not that great. If your vehicle allows it and it is at all a possibility that trailer towing is in your future, I would opt for a class 3 hitch. This way you are not limited in what your new hitch can do in the future. And you can carry more than enough (e-)bikes.
How long it takes to install a trailer hitch
With all the variables in the whole process, this one you have no influence over. The amount it takes to mount the hitch to the chassis of a vehicle largely depends on the vehicle rather than the hitch.
On average, a professional mechanic can install a trailer hitch in between half and one hour. Similarly, installing the matching wiring harness generally does not take more than one hour. Actual numbers do vary based on the type of vehicle and type of tow hitch.
Anything over two hours total is already unusual to see if done by a professional. Experienced mechanics should be able to inform you up-front of the time an installation would take on your specific vehicle.
While installing a wiring harness is best done by a pro, there is still an easy way to completely eliminate up to an hour of labor expenses entirely…
Install a tow hitch by yourself
You will not be able to eliminate the material side of the equation. But if you are handy and have the tools, you can save money for a professional mechanic.
Installing a trailer hitch is entirely possible to do on your own. These are standardized parts, often fitted to the specific vehicle. And the installation does not require specialized tools.
All in all, this is a fairly simple process that should not take more than an hour from start to finish. Even if you have never done it before. Most kits come with detailed and easy-to-follow instructions. Besides, the amount of individual parts is limited. This is just not a very extensive procedure for most cars.
So, leave yourself the option to try for yourself, before opting for plan B and calling your local mechanic. Make sure you have access to one that is willing to install parts that are not ordered or bought through them.
U-Haul and Curt both made excellent videos showcasing how it is done by the pros. While the cars shown may not resemble the one in your garage, the general principles still apply. This way you can get a feeling of what it takes and if that is something you are confident in doing.
Do you need wiring for a trailer hitch?
Electrical wiring is probably the most overlooked part of a tow hitch. However, it is just as important because without it other motorists will not be able to see what is going on with your vehicle.
As a general rule, most purposes for a trailer hitch do require wiring as well. By traffic law, a vehicle’s taillights are not allowed to be blocked from view by an object in front of them. Transporting bikes on a hitch rack or towing a trailer are specific applications where this is the case.
These kinds of laws may or may not be enforced overtly in your state or country. In any case, it makes sense to have the corresponding wiring when there is a trailer hitch installed on the vehicle. Having a hitch but not the wiring drastically reduces the many purposes you can (legally) use your hitch for.
Luckily, just as you can do with the actual hitch, the wiring can also be installed as an aftermarket upgrade. So if your vehicle did not come equipped with a factory hitch or trailer wiring, you can install all of that without any compromises.
Just like the hitch, this can be done by yourself. However, it is more complicated to do and often requires partly disassembling the interior in order to get to the existing wiring on board.
Here are some of my favorite resources for mountain bikers:
- How to read MTB tires.
- Best car bike rack manufacturers.
- Bike rack security guide.
- Best action cams for mountain biking.
To see all of my current gear (including action cameras) and up-to-date recommendations, check out this resource I made for you.
You can most likely have one set up as an aftermarket part. On average, the total cost of a complete Class 3 trailer hitch install ranges from $510 to $950. This price includes a minimum of $400 for material for the tow hitch and wiring harness and $180 for a mechanic's labor.Is it worth getting a hitch for bike rack? ›
Although more expensive than trunk-mounted racks ($150 to more than $500), hitch racks are a great option for frequent users—especially for those needing to carry more than three bikes. Hitch racks are typically designed to haul two to five bikes.How much does it cost to add a rack to a bike? ›
That said, you should expect to be paying anywhere from $50 to $200 to have one installed. This generally speaking is more than it is worth for many people, as their bike may not even cost that much.Is it worth it to install trailer hitch? ›
If you tend to strap ladders, paddleboards, lumber, kayaks, and other cargo on the top of your vehicle, a trailer hitch may help with stability. Hitch attachments can help anchor and secure your overhead cargo. This installation can protect your belongings and help give you peace of mind on the road.How hard is it to install a trailer hitch? ›
Installing a trailer hitch is a relatively easy automotive job. A typical tow hitch installation may involve some of the following steps: removing the spare tire, lowering the exhaust, removing existing vehicle hardware, lifting the hitch into position and torqueing the hitch hardware to the correct values.What is the average cost of a trailer hitch? ›
What is the average cost of a trailer hitch? The cost of your trailer hitch will vary depending on your vehicle make and model, and the hitch package itself. Generally, a trailer hitch will cost anywhere from about $200 to $500.What are the disadvantages of bike racks? ›
They can block your view while you're driving, which can be dangerous. If you have a lot of gear, it can be difficult to fit everything on the rack. The weight of your bike and gear can affect how well your bike handles while riding.Do hitch bike racks affect gas mileage? ›
Roof and trailer-hitch racks are great at toting your gear for a weekend adventure, but those mounts can change the aerodynamics as well as the weight of your vehicle—costing you additional gas money.Can you put a bike rack on a car without a hitch? ›
Need to transport your bikes on a car rack but you don't have a hitch on your car? Trunk bike racks to the rescue! Designed to attach to the rear of a vehicle with a strap system, a trunk-mounted bike rack makes using a car rack possible for basically any car – no hitch required!Does a bike rack affect insurance? ›
Most insurance companies will regard the fitting of a bike rack as a vehicle modification and therefore you should contact your insurance provider to inform them that you are going to install a bike rack.
For the most part, class I and class II hitches can only carry two, sometimes three, bikes. If you want to carry 4+ bikes, or have the ability to swing the rack to the side, you're going to need a class III or higher hitch.Why are hitch bike racks so expensive? ›
But this is not a scam, the reasons for prices are mostly economical. Car bike racks are expensive because of manufacturing costs and relatively low sales volume per rack model. Investments in research and development are required to ensure safety, new features and long lifetime values.What is the difference between a tow hitch and a trailer hitch? ›
A tow hitch is simply another name for a trailer hitch. It is a hitch used for towing a trailer. Usually, tow hitch refers specifically to a receiver hitch. However, a 5th wheel hitch, gooseneck hitch and other hitches may be called tow hitches.Is a trailer hitch the same as a bike rack hitch? ›
To use a hitch mount bike rack, you do need a trailer hitch on your vehicle, while roof and trunk racks don't require a trailer hitch. A trailer hitch can be installed on just about any vehicle – from small hatchbacks to minivans to oversized SUVs.What is the difference between a tow package and a trailer hitch? ›
Tow hitch is just that, a hitch and probably a 7 and or 4 pin connector. Tow package varies by manufacturer and they may have levels of tow packages. It usually means a bigger alternator, upgraded transmission, larger radiator,bigger gas tank 🙂 etc. .How fast can you drive with a trailer hitch? ›
California. Maximum speed for any vehicle towing another vehicle is 55 mph.Do I need wiring for my trailer hitch? ›
Any vehicle towing a trailer requires a trailer wiring harness to safely connect the taillights, turn signals, brake lights and other necessary electrical systems. If your vehicle is not equipped with working trailer wiring, there are a number of different solutions to provide the perfect fit for your specific vehicle.What is the most common trailer hitch? ›
What is the most common size trailer hitch ball? The most common size trailer hitch ball is the 2-inch diameter ball. The 2-inch ball is used on a variety of popular trailers, such as boat trailers, utility trailers and campers.What is the most common trailer hitch type? ›
A 2-inch trailer ball is the most common hitch ball size. The 2-inch tow ball is the best fit for most class 3 receiver hitches – which are the most popular trailer hitches.Which is better trunk or hitch bike rack? ›
Overall, a hitch bike rack is a better option than a trunk rack. That's because a hitch rack ensures maximum security, protection, and stability during the transportation of the bikes.
The problem with RVs is the length from the rear axle to the hitch. On passenger cars and trucks, this averages about 32”. On RVs, this can be up to 12 feet. This distance from the rear axle to the hitch is a lever arm and the longer the lever arm, the greater the force on the hitch rack.Are bike rear racks worth it? ›
Rear bike racks are also a great rear gear carrying platform even if the extra capacity of panniers isn't needed. This is especially advantageous when running a long-travel dropper post—on singletrack-heavy bikepacking trips, for example.Do hitch bike racks wobble? ›
Most hitch racks have some degree of wobble or play. This is normal and is no cause for concern. The amount of wobble or play will vary depending on the design of the rack and the type of bike you're carrying. Some hitch racks have more wobble or play than others.Do hitch bike racks get stolen? ›
It isn't common, but bike racks do get stolen, especially if they are easy to steal and will bring in some quick cash. If you have a bike rack, you need to consider locking it to your car to protect it as well as your bikes.How much weight can a trailer hitch bike rack hold? ›
Class II hitches can normally hold up to 4 bikes (120 lbs/55 kg) depending on the rack. Please check instruction sheets for your specific rack for weight and Class restrictions). Class III hitches used as weight carrying are rated up to 6000 lbs.Can you tow a trailer and have a bike rack? ›
Fitted and removed in seconds, the towbar bike rack can carry up to 4 bikes and tow a caravan or trailer at the same time.
Hitch-Mount Bike Racks (Trailer Side)
Great for you if: You want the versatility of carrying your bikes on your trailer or tow vehicle. You have a hitch receiver on your camper (or are okay with purchasing one) You want to carry multiple bikes (up to 4)
There is generally no specific speed limit for using a vehicle bike rack. Bike racks manufactured by reputable brands meet high quality standards to ensure safety under all driving conditions.Is it OK for bike rack to cover license plate? ›
A bike rack isn't allowed to cover your license plate partially or entirely, according to the road rules of the USA. While different states have separate laws regarding this, most states agree that no object may block the view onto a rear license plate, so an extra plate is required.Do I need lights on my bike rack? ›
Make sure the bicycle rack and bicycle/s do not obscure the vehicle lights including the brake lights, centre-mounted brake light and indicators. If any light/s are obscured you must attach an additional set of lights at the rear of the bicycle/s.
Class I hitches typically have 2,000lbs capacity, 200lbs tongue weight. Class II hitches typically have 3,500lbs capacity, 350lbs tongue weight. Class III hitches typically have 3,500lbs - 12,000LBS towing Capacity.Do I need a Class 2 or 3 hitch? ›
Typically any SUV capable of towing more than 3,000 Lbs will have a 2" hitch receiver. Some SUVs older than this will have a smaller 1-1/4" Class 3 receiver. -3/4-ton and 1-ton trucks prior to 2010. This would include Ford F-250s/F-350s, Chevy 2500s/3500s, and Dodge 2500s/3500s.What is the difference between Class 1 and Class 2 hitch? ›
Tow Hitch Receiver Sizes and Classes
The difference between the two is that Class 1 receivers can tow a maximum of 2,000 lbs. whereas the Class 2 receiver can tow up to 3,500 lbs. CLASS 3 & CLASS 4: Class 3 and Class 4 receivers are the most common receivers out there.
While installing a hitch trailer often requires a wrench, most bike racks can be installed without any tools. They tend to be fairly straightforward when it comes to assembly and installation as well, although there can be a lot of variation between brands and models.How safe are tow bar bike racks? ›
Towbar Mounted Cycle Carriers are a safe and secure way of carrying up to 4 cycles on the back of your car. They are much stronger and more secure than carriers that strap to the tailgate of your car, any risk of damage to your car is virtually eliminated.What are the three types of trailer hitches? ›
The three basic types of trailer hitches are receiver hitches, 5th wheel hitches, and gooseneck hitches. Receiver hitches are the most common and broken up into five different classes based on maximum weight. 5th wheel hitches and gooseneck hitches are heavy-duty hitches that attach into the bed of trucks.What are the four types of hitches? ›
- WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION.
- 5TH WHEEL.
2 Bumper hitches (ball mounted directly to bumper) are not permitted.What is the best way to carry bikes on SUV? ›
Hitch-mounted bike racks are a great choice for SUVs and pickup trucks. They are designed to be an add-on for existing tow hitches. These are one of the most popular options because their height makes it easy to load and unload bikes.What type of hitch is best for travel trailer? ›
The best hitch for travel trailers is a class 3, class 4 or class 5. These hitches offer the capacity to safely tow a variety of larger trailers, particularly travel trailers. Most of these receiver hitches are also compatible with a weight distribution hitch, a device typically needed for towing travel trailers.
Trailer hitch installations for the most common tow classes start at around $300, with the highest cost reaching around $850. The average cost to install a trailer hitch is about $575.Is it worth getting a tow hitch? ›
If you tend to strap ladders, paddleboards, lumber, kayaks, and other cargo on the top of your vehicle, a trailer hitch may help with stability. Hitch attachments can help anchor and secure your overhead cargo. This installation can protect your belongings and help give you peace of mind on the road.Is the trailer tow package worth it? ›
Such a package is actually necessary if you want to keep your vehicle in good shape. Heavy-duty towing puts extra strain on certain components of your vehicle, which can lead to major problems that require expensive repairs. Additionally, you have to make sure the tow package you choose comes with the right tow hitch.How do you transport a bike without a hitch? ›
Roof bike racks: You may want to put your bike on the roof because it's more secure, you need access to your rear trunk or you don't want to install a trailer hitch. Roof racks are a good choice if you don't mind lifting the bike onto the roof and low-clearance garages or ceilings aren't an issue.What type of trailer hitch for bike rack? ›
For the most part, class I and class II hitches can only carry two, sometimes three, bikes. If you want to carry 4+ bikes, or have the ability to swing the rack to the side, you're going to need a class III or higher hitch.Can you use a bike rack and tow a trailer? ›
Any bike rack being used on a trailer needs to be engineered to withstand those increased forces to get your bikes to your destination safely. Make sure the bike rack you're using has been designed, tested, and approved for use on a trailer, RV, motorhome or fifth wheel.