Hitch Rack VS. Trunk Bike Rack: Which Is Better And Why

A detailed comparison between hitch bike racks and trunk bike racks

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Confused about whether you need a Hitch or Truck Bike Rack? Then you are in the right place. We take into account various factors like pricing, stability, ease of use, compatibility, and so on to give you the most comprehensive comparison.

Let’s jump straight into it.

Hitch Bike Rack

Hitch Bike Rack

As the name suggests, a hitch bike rack connects directly to the hitch of your car and accommodates your bikes for transportation accordingly.

Getting quite famous recently, one of the reasons bikers utilize a hitch bike rack is that it ensures a simple plug-and-play solution. You have to attach the rack with the receiver end of the trailer hitch, and you can start storing your bikes on it.

There’s no rocket science about the fact that a hitch bike rack needs a hitch mount to get installed and work properly.

While many cars and SUVs have the mount available, you’ll have to install it separately at your own expense if your vehicle does not contain it.

With all being said here, a hitch bike rack ensures stability, the convenience of loading and unloading the bike, and protection at the same time. Meanwhile, installing it on the receiver hitch is child’s play, to be honest.

But with all those perks comes expensiveness that you’ll have to bear with such a bike rack. A hitch-mounted bike rack gets quite costly compared to its counterpart, especially if your vehicle lacks the basic mounting accessory, i.e., a hitch.

That’s all about what a hitch bike rack is and how it works. We will shift our focus towards the different types and styles of hitch racks available in the market:

Platform or Tray Style Hitch Racks

Racks with this mounting mechanism usually contain a locking tray in which you can store around 3 to 4 bikes without any hassle.

The best thing about the platform hitch rack is that it ensures maximum protection to the bike. Once a bike gets attached to the tray, it has no contact with the rack whatsoever, thus ensuring maximum protection and safety.

More than that, platform racks also offer minimal movement. The locking mechanism directly blocks the movement of the bike tires, thus ensuring minimal sway.

One other reason to love the racks with this mounting mechanism is the folding/tilting feature. You can easily fold or tilt the rack away in case you want to access the trunk of your vehicle.

With all that’s being said, platform or tray-style hitch racks are an ideal solution not only for standard frame bikes, but they readily accept the non-standard bike frames (children bikes) as well.

Related: 10 DIY Bike Rack Ideas

Hanging Hitch Racks

Evident from their name, hanging bike racks usually come with a hanging arm connected to the bike frames.

Therefore, the frame of the bikes is in contact with the rack, which is not the case when we compare the hanging mechanism with that of platform one.

Regardless of that, hanging hitch racks are pretty much capable of accommodating around five bikes quite easily. More than that, the installation of the rack is quite convenient and does not require any professional expertise.

One minor downfall is that the movement of the bikes is a bit more than that of platform hitch racks, which is quite understandable since hanging hitch racks do not lock the tires of the bikes.

Trunk Mounted Bike Racks

Also called strap mounted bike racks or hitchless bike racks, a trunk bike rack gets attached to the trunk of a vehicle via straps or hooks.

Trunk racks are one of the most affordable options available for transporting more than one bike. Not to forget, they are compatible with almost all cars.

But with affordability comes some liability, which is pretty much evident in trunk racks.

First things first, such racks are not safe for your bikes. Too much swaying could cause the bikes to loosen and thus fall away.

Other than that, such racks could leave a lot of scratches on the back of your vehicle. Paint-peeling could also happen quite conveniently.

Regardless of all that, bikers with low budget problems can get the advantage of trunk-mounted racks and utilize them for transporting up to 2 bikes without any hassle.

While discussing the trunk bike racks, have a look at how their mounting mechanism works:

Mounting Mechanism of Trunk Mounted Racks

trunk Bike rack

Firstly, one can easily install a rack on a car’s rear bumper, trunk, or even the hatch if you own a vehicle with a hatchback. This means you have the freedom to change the rack’s location when needed.

The mounting mechanism of such racks is quite simple. In many cases, you can mount them behind your car using the straps included within the package.

In some rare cases, you can get design-specific trunk racks and attach them to your vehicle’s trunk with more effectiveness.

Now that we have discussed both types of bike racks in detail, it’s time that we start the comparison and contrast between each type and give our verdict at the end.

Let’s begin, without any further ado:

Hitch vs. Trunk Racks: The Detailed Comparison


Hitch Bike Racks

Hitch bike racks are comparatively more expensive than their counterparts. The racks ensure stability and protection, but they are not as affordable as you might think.

Starting from as low as $200, brands like Allen Sports and MaxxHaul offer sturdy racks to the users.

The price could go as high as $500 depending upon your requirements. The difference is also seen while looking out for either the hanging hitch bike racks or platform hitch racks.

Even though hanging racks are cheaper than platform hitch racks, they are still quite expensive compared to the likes of trunk-mounted bike racks.

Another reason for the overall cost of installing a hitch bike rack is the absence of a hitch mount on the vehicle. If the mount’s not installed on your vehicle, you will need to get it installed at additional expense.

Trunk Mounted Bike Racks

Trunk-mounted bike racks are comparatively cheaper than hitch racks as they require minimal assembly and are universally compatible.

A trunk-mounted rack could help you out in transporting your mountain or road bike to a far-flung trailhead without any hassle. To top that, it costs a mere $50 or lesser.

But, this inexpensiveness of such a rack can cost you in the longer run. That’s because bikes on a trunk rack tend to sway more than usual, and they could even fall. The damage done to the trunk of the car is also concerning.


Hitch Bike Racks

Hitch racks are one of the most stable options available on the market, and that’s one of the reasons they are worth every penny you spend on them.

Be it a hanging type or the platform one; your mind will always remain worry-free regarding the swaying problem of the bikes.

Especially in platform racks, the straps could be used to directly lock the front and rear wheels of the bike, thus ensuring maximum stability and protection.

No matter if you store one, two, or more than two bikes, a hitch bike rack is strong enough to not only accommodate but maintain stability at the same time.

Trunk Bike Racks

Not so impressive, you will have to compromise on the stability factor after installing a trunk rack on your car.

That’s because a trunk rack is already attached to the vehicle through straps. These could add to the sway and movement of the rack itself.

Secondly, the sturdiness is not up to the mark. Hence, once you attach the bike to the rack, it already bears extra pressure, and with some bounces or bumps, the stability situation could quickly worsen.

One other thing to notice here is that the more burden you put on a trunk-mounted rack, the more you jeopardize the integrity of your vehicle’s trunk. In many cases, the trunk will eventually damage due to extra load.

That’s one of the reasons we recommend not transporting more than two bikes on a trunk-mounted rack to be on the safe side.

Related: How To Move Your Bike Without A Rack


Hitch Bike Rack

Hitch racks, first of all, can easily be attached or detached from the receiver hitch as they work with a simple plug-and-play operation.

Apart from that, accessing your vehicle’s trunk or rear part with a hitch bike rack is quite convenient. The latest models from authentic manufacturers fold and move towards the passenger seat.

Thus, you can access the trunk of your car relatively easily.

So, with the fold-down and swing-away designs already available in the market, bikers are now more lenient towards choosing hitch bike racks over their counterparts.

Trunk Mounted Bike Racks

It’s limited. There’s no chance you can open the back of your car while a trunk rack is tucked into it.

Since the straps and hooks are attached to the trunk or hatch of your car, they block the truck. So, until and unless you are okay with accessing the trunk from the inner side, there’s no way you can open the trunk of your vehicle.

Many people would disagree with us in this matter, and they’d say that one can open the trunk from outside, but there’s a good chance you’ll dent or scratch the back of your car.

Compatibility with the Vehicle

Hitch Bike Racks

This is certainly something where a hitch bike rack lags behind the trunk-mounted rack.

How? You might ask!

Well, the compatibility of a hitch rack directly relates to the hitch receiver. If the receiver isn’t compatible with the rack, you cannot install it on your vehicle.

Things get pretty complicated when that’s the case. You have to be quite careful, or you will need to get a separate adapter to make the rack compatible.

Along with that, different mounting positions, availability of multiple brands, and diverse designs could also make the last decision quite tricky for you.

Therefore, it’s suggested that you do your homework while choosing a hitch bike rack, or it will be of no use eventually.

Trunk Mounted Bike Racks

On the other hand, Trunk racks offer universal compatibility compared to their counterparts.

We all know that installing a trunk bike rack mostly depends on how well you strap it. The primary mounting mechanism relies on straps and allows the rack to get attached to multiple vehicles at once.

In many cases, a single model of Thule or Yakima trunk racks can easily fit multiple vehicles, including sedans, SUVs, trucks, and even jeeps, without any hassle.

Hence, from a compatibility point of view, a trunk rack gets ahead of the hitch-mounted racks.

Carrying Capacity and Security

Carrying capacity is defined as the number of bikes a single rack can accommodate at once. Security, in contrast, relates to the protection and whether a rack can keep the bikes away from getting swayed.

Hitch Bike Racks

A hitch rack from a reputed brand can easily accommodate a maximum of five bikes at once.

Not only that, but due to sturdy and durable construction, such racks ensure minimal sway and can keep all the bikes secure enough at the same time.

Trunk Mounted Racks

Trunk racks can accommodate only two bikes (3 if you think your vehicle is quite durable).

There is no guarantee about the bike’s security. A few bumps and the bikes could easily sway and get loosened while getting mounted on a trunk rack.

Bike Rack Hitch vs. Trunk: Our Verdict

If you take the budget problem aside, then a hitch bike rack takes the lead and should be a priority for every biker out there.

However, that does not mean we should completely undermine the importance of trunk-mounted racks. They are still a solid option for low-budget peeps. Plus, the compatibility they offer is second to none.

All in all, if you want your bikes to get transported to different areas with immense security, protection, and stability, then you should give preference to a Hitch Bike Rack.

However, if budget is a problem, then make sure that you invest in a reliable trunk-mounted bike rack to enjoy transporting your bike with convenience.

Frequently Asked Questions:

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. Contrary to that, a trunk bike rack could not only damage the back of your vehicle, but it could not guarantee the protection of the bikes at the same time.

Are trunk bike racks bad?

One cannot call them bad. On the bright side, a trunk rack can cost you as low as $50. Plus, you can use a single rack on multiple vehicles without hassle. As you only have single or two bikes to transport, you can rely on a trunk-mounted rack without any hassle.

Can you open the trunk with a hitch bike rack?

A hitch bike rack does not connect directly to the car’s trunk but with the trailer’s receiver hitch. Plus, in many models, the fold-down or swing-away option is available. Keeping these features in mind, you can easily open the trunk of your car without the need to remove the rack first.

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Written By

From riding to school since the age of 13, attending BMX races and events with his dad to himself conquering 50+ trails across the globe. For Rob, his Giant Stance 29 2 2020 is the friend that makes everything better. He is also a proud member of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

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