If you need to transport your bicycles on your car or truck, you have some options—in fact, you may think you have too many options. While there are many types of bicycle rack out there, they fall into three main categories: trunk, hitch, and roof racks. The exact options available to you will depend on your vehicle, but it's good to have a sense of the pros and cons of these types in general when making your choice.
Trunk racks are the simplest and cheapest option. If you don't think you're going to be carrying bicycles very often and your main concern is saving money, this might be the right choice for you. And since they can be moved between vehicles, they are also an option if you don't own your own vehicle and want to attach your bicycles to rented or borrowed cars. It's also much easier to lift bicycles onto a trunk rack than onto a roof rack, especially if you have heavier bikes.
Trunk racks do come with some downsides, too. Once you've attached your bike, you won't be able to access your trunk until you remove it. You will only be able to carry a couple of bikes on a trunk rack, and the heavier the bicycles, the more likely they are to stress the panels of your vehicle's body. Larger bikes may block your rear window as well.
Hitch racks attach to the trailer hitch of your vehicle, so they are a great option if your vehicle comes with a hitch; even if it doesn't, a hitch can be installed, but at added expense. While they are more expensive than trunk racks, they have a number of convenience factors. For example, Burnaby Hitch has bike racks that are very easy to install, and like trunk racks, it is easy to lift even heavy bicycles into the rack. Whether you can access your trunk while your bicycles are loaded will depend on the model of rack you purchase. They can carry more bicycles than a trunk rack—some models up to five.
If you have a small car that doesn't come with a trailer hitch, however, the added expense may make a different rack into a better choice. And like trunk racks, it's important to check whether your bicycles will obscure your rear window while driving.
Roof racks are available for vehicles with existing crossbars as well as with removable crossbars for cars with bare roofs; getting removable crossbars will add to the cost. Roof racks are great if you do many different outdoor activities, as they can often be adapted to also carry canoes, kayaks, skis, and other objects. A roof rack shouldn't block access to any of the doors of your vehicle, which is a big plus for long trips. For carrying multiple bikes, roof racks are king—depending on the size of your vehicle, you may be able to carry up to seven bicycles on your roof.
While bicycles are very secure on the roof, lifting them up there can be difficult depending on your strength and the height of your car. And once they are up there, you have to watch out for clearance issues like drive-through restaurants, garages, or trails with low branches. And you must be careful not to exceed the weight allowance of your roof.
Your vehicle, bicycles and habits will determine which rack is the best choice for you, so consider what you need and make sure you end up with the right fit.