Roof Mounted Bike Rack vs. Hitch Mounted Bike Rack: Pros and Cons (2023)

Since 2020 the biking industry has boomed, and it seems like bike accessories and gear lists are never-ending. If you have accumulated multiple bikes and want to safely travel with them, a rack is something you will actually need to get. Whether you are wanting to take bikes around on remote dirt roads, there is a bike rack for you.

Two popular bike rack types are roof-mounted and hitch-mounted bike racks. We’ll break down the pros and cons of each to help you find the bike rack fit for your needs.

Roof-Mounted Bike Rack

Bikes are stored on top of the car with a roof-mounted bike rack. These are fairly versatile and are a good option for carrying one to two bikes.

Roof Mounted Bike Rack vs. Hitch Mounted Bike Rack: Pros and Cons (1)

Roof-mounted racks are a good choice if your car has pre-installed mounting points, which makes for a smooth installation. The cost is fairly cheap, around $200 to $500, depending on how many racks you plan to store and the quality of the rack.

Roof-mounted bike racks are the only option for some cars and leave the interior of the car completely accessible the entire time it’s on the car.


If you’re using roof-mounted bike racks, here are some advantages you can expect:

  • Most brands come with a locking function that prevents the bike from swaying or moving around

  • Transporting your bikes on top of your car frees up your trunk space for the entire trip

  • There are multiple bike mounting options such as securing bikes by the wheels, fork, or frame

  • Most roof-mounted racks work well with a pre-existing roof rack. They’re fairly flexible and can be installed on top of practically any car

  • A good option for cars without a hitch


While they have their benefits, roof-mounted bike racks also have some drawbacks:

Roof Mounted Bike Rack vs. Hitch Mounted Bike Rack: Pros and Cons (2)
  • Lifting bikes on and off the rack (especially on a larger car) can be strenuous

  • You may need to be prepared with tools to secure bikes onto the rack. Additional, securing methods like tying a rope around bikes are common during long drives or preparing for wind

  • Added wind resistance due to vertical addition

  • Can reduce gas mileage by 35% (read here)

  • Calculate vertical clearance when driving under a bridge, through tunnels, and inside parking garages

  • Only one person can load and unload at a time

Hitch Mounted Bike Racks

A great option is the hitch-mounted bike rack, like the VelociRAX 5. The beauty of these bike racks is that they keep your car’s cargo space clear during the drive. These racks also come in different sizes and are built to safely carry multiple bikes. For example, the VelociRAX 7 can carry up to 7 bikes on a single hitch-mounted bike rack without impacting the vehicle. A vertical hitch bike rack is ideal for large families, biking groups, and shuttling.


Hitch-mounted bike racks are a favorite of many cyclists today. Here are just some of the benefits you can look forward to:

  • Hitch-mounted bike racks easily fit a large number of bikes-- a standard family of five can have all of their bikes on one rack

  • Loading and unloading doesn't involve any lifting by rolling bikes in and out. Kids can load and unload bikes!

  • Limited wind resistance, so you won’t have to worry as much about lowering your gas mileage

  • Typically made with high-quality materials, it is easier to find a rack with full steel construction that will last for years down the road

  • Vertical clearance is little to no concern

  • There’s no need to use additional tools to secure bikes in place


While hitch-mounted bike racks are popular among many cyclists, they do have one main drawback: trunk access. Since bikes are attached to the rear, they block the trunk making it difficult to get inside the back of the car. Some racks are more flexible than others, so look for lowering options before making your final decision. For example, VelociRAX comes with a self-lowering hinge that allows you to open SUV, Hatchback, and Minivan trunks completely.

  • Trunk accessibility may be limited

  • Racks are heavy due to the high-quality build

  • Assembly can be complicated depending on the model

  • More expensive than a roof mount rack

  • Awkward to relocate or store when not used on a vehicle

Roof Mounted vs. Hitch Mounted – Which is Better?

While roof-mounted bike racks are always an option, most experienced bikers opt for a hitch-mounted version.

Roof-mounted and hitch-mounted bike racks have perks, but many bikers prefer hitch-mounted bike racks. Hitch-mounted racks let you get your bikes on and off quickly without much lifting. In contrast, roof mounts increase the possibility of damage to both the bike and vehicle and the wind resistance will eat at your gas mileage. For regular bike rack storage, hitch-mounted racks are a great option to increase group size, is safer than roof-mounted racks, and leave time for the important things.

Roof Mounted Bike Rack vs. Hitch Mounted Bike Rack: Pros and Cons (3)

Bottom Line: Hitch-Mounted Bike Racks for the Win

Although we’re biased, we strongly encourage choosing a hitch-mounted bike rack. We find that most bikers love the efficiency and protection offered by VelociRAX. Keep in mind, though, that the effectiveness of hitch-mounted models is only as good as the construction. As avid bikers ourselves, we got tired of searching for the perfect bike rack, so we built it ourselves. Check out our selection of bike racks that can accommodate up to seven bikes!


Which is better roof rack or hitch rack? ›

Hitch racks are easier to load and unload and carry more weight than roof racks. However, hitch racks require an installed trailer hitch and can limit access to a vehicle's trunk area or spare tire. A roof-mounted rack can affect fuel economy and make navigating low ceiling heights more difficult.

Are trailer hitch bike racks better? ›

If you're searching for the best way to transport bikes, hitch-mounted racks are the way to go. Securely attaching to the receiver hitch of your vehicle, they offer unmatched versatility and ease of use.

Are roof racks good for bikes? ›

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. Some roof rack styles let you secure bikes while keeping both wheels on while others require you to take the front wheel off and secure the fork.

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.

What are the disadvantages of loading the roof rack so high? ›

Roof racks increase the wind resistance of a vehicle when its driving with a full load attached to the bars, impacting your fuel economy. This will also result in a noisier journey, especially on high-speed roads.

Are roof racks a good idea? ›

Roof rails and roof racks are the ideal and safe way to transport luggage, bicycles, kayaks, or a range of other items that just won't fit inside your car.

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 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 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.

How do I protect my bike on a roof rack? ›

PROBLEM: You carry your bike on your vehicle's roof and it gets blasted with insects and other airborne stuff. SOLUTION: Use a “bike bra” to keep the front of the bike covered and protected. There are multiple brands available like the SCICON Bike Defender, which has both road and mountain bike options.

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.

Do roof racks affect performance? ›

Even though roof racks are composed of light materials and are designed to sit on car rooftops, they still add weight to your vehicle. This will affect the handling of your car, fuel consumption, and speed limit. We recommend removing your roof rack when not in use.

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 best material for a bike rack? ›

Pipe. Tubing is commonly used for structural purposes, making it the preferred material for manufacturing bike racks. Tubing size is specified by the outside diameter (OD) and the wall thickness and is stated as a gauge. The lower the gauge, the thicker the tubing.

Why should a roof rack be removed when not in use? ›

Remove your roof rack when not in use Despite sleek designs and light weight materials a roof rack adds weight and aerodynamic drag to your car and will have an adverse effect on your fuel economy. Remove it when you're not using it! Wind noise will also be reduced.

Does a roof rack reduce stability? ›

Explanation: A heavy load on your roof rack will reduce the stability of the vehicle because it moves the centre of gravity away from that designed by the manufacturer. Be aware of this when you drive round bends and corners.

Does it matter what kind of roof rack you get? ›

Strong is good, heavy is not. Many racks are clunky and use heavy materials like steel, but you don't have to sacrifice strength to lose weight. A well-engineered, all-aluminum rack will be 30 percent lighter than steel, with more strength and load carrying capacity.

Can I leave a roof rack on all the time? ›

It's okay to leave them on sometimes

If your roof racks are not due a clean, everything is in good working order, and you're not going through a car wash then there is no real harm in keeping on your roof racks.

Is steel or aluminum roof rack better? ›

Aluminum. Usually the best overall option for roof racks, aluminum rack systems are significantly lighter than steel, and aluminum offers a higher load-carrying capacity. As a result, aluminum rack systems will be more expensive than steel or plastic models, but they'll deliver better overall performance.

Why do people get roof racks? ›

Roof racks are a super-easy way to maximize your vehicle's carrying capacity. The most common use for a roof rack is to transport luggage, such as suitcases, backpacks, or camping gear. However, roof racks can also transport other large items, such as kayaks, bicycles, skis, and snowboards.

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.

Do you need a hitch for a bike rack? ›

Do you need a trailer hitch for a bike rack? 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.

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.

Can you lock bikes to hitch rack? ›

The Yakima LockUp solves this by securing your bike to a hitch rack and your rack to your receiver hitch. So simple, yet so effective.

Do bike racks damage wheels? ›

3. Will hanging a bike by it's front wheel damage the wheel? Unlikely. Assuming the hook has a nice rubber coating it shouldn't scratch the rim.

Are hitch haulers safe? ›

Are Hitch-Mounted Motorcycle Carriers Safe to Use? Generally yes, very much so. As long the weight of the bike is lower than the carrier's limit, you should be good to go.

What is the difference between a hitch and tow bar bike rack? ›

Similar in design to the tow ball rack, the hitch mounted versions come in the same variations, with the only difference being that they mount into your car's hitch (the point in which your tow ball inserts).

Where should I store my bike when traveling? ›

Bike racks are best when traveling since they securely hold the bike in place, preventing it from shifting around. But if you'll be traveling without a bike rack, here are a few tips to minimize the risk of damage to your bike or vehicle: Remove the front wheel so the bike is less crowded in the trunk.

Should I cover my bike in the garage? ›

Cover your bike. Even if you're storing your motorcycle in your garage, it's still essential to cover it. Doing this will protect your bike's body from abrasive dirt and debris, as well as direct sunlight.

Can I strap my bike to my roof rack? ›

You generally don't need any special straps or tie-down methods to secure your bike on a bike rack. Simply lift the bike onto the rack, secure it according to the manufacturer's instructions (this will differ depending on which type of bike rack you have), and you're good to go.

What is the best way to carry bikes on a car? ›

Rear door bike racks are among the best ways to carry bikes on your car, and they're becoming a more popular choice. They are easy to use, more comfortable to carry thanks to better accessibility and their installation is relatively simple.

How do you carry groceries on a bike rack? ›

If you have a front or back rack on your bike, strapping a crate or sturdy box to it is a great option for carrying groceries. You can attach it to your rack with zip ties, rope with reliable knots, or bungee cords for a less permanent solution.

What is the safest way to transport bikes on car? ›

The roof rack

With the front wheel removed, there are racks that come with an optional fork grabber that can be locked to avoid possible theft. Pros: The interior of your car remains available for passengers and gear. It is the most stable and secure way to carry bikes.

Do roof racks hurt gas mileage? ›

Driving with loaded roof racks at lower speeds shows a 7,5% to 15% in loss of fuel efficiency. Traveling at highway speeds above 60 mph (100km/h) the average loss in fuel economy is between 20% and 30%.

Do roof racks reduce fuel efficiency? ›

Having those bars hanging out in the airstream increases aerodynamic drag, which increasingly hurts fuel economy the faster the vehicle is traveling.

Do roof racks make a lot of noise? ›

Unfortunately it's nearly impossible to predict whether roof racks will make excessive noise on your vehicle or not. A rack can be quiet on one model of vehicle and whistle like crazy on another. It all depends on air flow.

What class hitch do I need for 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.

What is the difference between a Class 1 and Class 2 hitch for a bike rack? ›

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.

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.

Which is the safest side to bike on? ›

Following the rules of the road is always important to help reduce the chances of an accident. As a bicyclist, following the rules means riding on the right side of the road and with the flow of traffic whenever possible. Remember the easy tip: When on public streets, the right side is the right side.

Is aluminum or steel better for bikes? ›

When it comes to strength, steel-framed bikes are the indisputable winner. Steel is significantly stronger and more durable than its aluminum counterpart, making it an excellent choice for mountain bikes. Steel-framed bikes are able to absorb more blows with suffering damage.

Is steel or aluminum better for fat bike? ›

Undoubtedly, most riders who are shopping for a fatty will purchase an aluminum frame because of the sheer number of companies using it now–and it is a great choice for any bike. However, aluminum can feel more rigid than steel, due in part to the use of larger tube diameters, making the bike stiffer overall.

Do roof racks increase car value? ›

Racks. Car racks are a great way to boost resale value. They don't change the look of the vehicle much but add much needed cargo space. They are completely versatile and can haul anything from snowboards to lumber to the pool you buy your kids each summer.

Do roof racks decrease mileage? ›

In short, yes, roof racks do affect gas mileage. Any accessory attached to your car can compromise its aerodynamics which, by definition, is the motion of air when interacting with a solid object. The more aerodynamic your car is, the less effort your engine needs to keep your vehicle moving.

How much weight can a roof rack support? ›

Overloading a roof rack can cause serious problems. For this reason, the universal cap for a roof rack is roughly 165 pounds.

How bad do roof racks affect gas mileage? ›

Driving with loaded roof racks at lower speeds shows a 7,5% to 15% in loss of fuel efficiency. Traveling at highway speeds above 60 mph (100km/h) the average loss in fuel economy is between 20% and 30%.

Does a roof rack void warranty? ›

Most exterior “dress-up” parts: Bug shields, chrome grille guards, spoilers, or any other part that effects the appearance of your car only should NOT impact your warranty. The same goes for bed liners, tool boxes, roof racks, tonneau covers, and the like.

Should you remove roof racks? ›

When it comes to your roof racks, there is actually no real reason to take them off… except when it comes to maintenance and cleaning. You want to make sure your roof racks stay in good working condition, so this means regular maintenance to ensure it stays sturdy and keeps your equipment in place.

Does a bike rack affect gas mileage? ›

A loaded bike rack affects the aerodynamics and weight of a car negatively, resulting in higher fuel consumption from 5% up to 28%. These negative effects are greater, the smaller, less powerful the car is, and the faster the traveling speed is.

What happens if you put too much weight on a roof rack? ›

This top-heavy effect creates more body roll and raises the risk of a vehicle tipping over. It also increases weight transfer from front to rear when accelerating and rear to front when braking, making it more unstable all round. An overloaded roof can make your vehicle dangerously unsteady on the road.

What is the maximum weight for a Thule roof bike rack? ›

The Thule WingBar Evo, Thule SquareBar Evo, and Thule ProBar have a maximum load capacity of 220 pounds for a pair.

What is the difference between roof rails and roof racks? ›

Basically, the key difference between these two is the direction that they're mounted on the roof of your vehicle. Roof rails run along the length of your car's roof, whilst roof racks are mounted from door to door across your roof.

How much height does a roof rack add? ›

The roof rack will raise the height of the vehicle to some extent. As 4WDs are already larger than most cars this height increase is adding to something that the driver is already aware of. The unloaded roof rack should not be more than 120 mm higher than the vehicle. It will be much higher when loaded.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Dan Stracke

Last Updated: 07/10/2023

Views: 5311

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (43 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Dan Stracke

Birthday: 1992-08-25

Address: 2253 Brown Springs, East Alla, OH 38634-0309

Phone: +398735162064

Job: Investor Government Associate

Hobby: Shopping, LARPing, Scrapbooking, Surfing, Slacklining, Dance, Glassblowing

Introduction: My name is Dan Stracke, I am a homely, gleaming, glamorous, inquisitive, homely, gorgeous, light person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.