What to Look For
If you have a car, truck or SUV with a hitch socket in the rear, a hitch-mounted bike rack is the best way for you to get your bicycle to your next adventure. According to Consumer Reports, hitch-mount bike racks are easy to install and operate with a much lower chance of scratching your paint than other bike rack options. The best hitch bike racks allow for a variety of bicycle sizes and types, a flexibility that make the cost of these racks worthwhile.
If you’re typically carrying more than three bikes, a hitch-mounted bike rack may not be the best fit for you depending on your car. Most cars and small SUVs use Class I hitches, and Consumer Reports shows that few Class I hitch-mounted bike racks are large and strong enough to carry more than three bicycles. If you have a Class III hitch on a larger vehicle, there are larger models that can carry multiple bikes.
Where to Buy
You can find hitch-mounted bike racks at most sporting goods stores. Specialty sporting goods stores such as REI are an even better bet for local shopping. The variety in store will vary, so you may need to go online to find the best hitch bike racks for your car and bikes. Backcountry.com is an online store with a variety of racks available.
The price of hitch-mounted bike racks varies with the hitch size and number of bikes that the rack can hold. At REI in 2010, hitch bike racks start at $140 and go up to $460. If you shop at Backcountry.com, the prices range from $160 to $415.
Make sure that you have a hitch pin that will fit your hitch-mounted bike rack and your car’s hitch socket. Often, bike racks don’t come with these pins in the box and then you’re left without any way to actually fasten the rack to your car.
If you need to get in and out of the back of your car or SUV while the bike rack is mounted, look for a rack that swings at the hitch. These bike racks will swing away from the back of your vehicle and allow you to access the cargo area.