Outfitting your car with the right equipment to transport your bike can be a frustrating. Transporting your bike is a necessary evil when you want to bike somewhere other than home. In your search for the right product, you’re likely to start researching roof racks, bike racks, hitch racks, trunk racks, bike attachments, locks… It’s a lot. While manufacturers like Yakima and Thule have built web applications to help you determine what equipment can be fitted to your car, you may not get the best guidance on which option is best for you, your budget and your vehicle body style. In some cases, there are other products they don’t offer or cheaper alternatives. In this guide, we’ll cover a variety of different solutions for your car body styles and go over the pros and cons of each and what we’ve seen work the best.

Roof Mounted Bike Racks
Roof Mounted Bike Rack

Roof Mounted bike rack solutions offer a safe a secure way to carry your bikes. These racks install two main ways. Many cars come from the factory with hidden threaded holes in or near the rain rails allowing your roof rack to be bolted to the body of the car. The other style attaches between the door jamb and the door itself. The door jams are designed with a slight gap at the top of the door opening allowing arms to be affixed in a vise-like position pulling the rack tight from both the driver’s side and passenger side door opening. Roof-mounted solutions normally require two purchases. You’ll first need to buy your base rack or bars and feet packages. This will attach the system to your car.  Secondly, you’ll need to buy your bike attachments that secure to the base rack and bars.


  • Safe and secure mode of transport
  • Doesn’t impede the access to your trunk space
  • Base roof rack bars can be used for other attachments like ski boxes, and surfboard attachments
  • Keeps bikes free and clear of your car’s paint


  • Generally, an expensive option for and may require expensive parts to fit your exact roof
  • Usually accompanied by wind noise and lower miles per gallon from the extra drag
  • Bikes likely to be covered in bug guts at the end of your trip

Ideal for:

  • Sedans and Coupes – sedans and coupes are great candidates for a roof base system. The commonly low height of these cars makes it ergonomic for install the rack itself and using without needing a step ladder. Keep in mind some sedans and coupes will require the roof rack to be mounted using arms that drop into your door jambs. Depending on your car this can deform your weather stripping which can cause unwanted wind noise.
  • Station Wagons and Hatchbacks – perhaps the best type of car for any bike carrying needs, station wagons and hatchbacks nearly always come with strong roof rails and a relatively high load capacity. Roof rails on these cars were designed for this and enable you to choose from many different options and benefit from adjustability forward and aft depending what you’re carrying. Some wagons and hatchbacks come from the factory with crossbars spanning the rails. Keep in mind, if they are curved it may be difficult to safely mount bike attachments since the bike will be leaning on an angle and not perpendicular to the ground. Some factory crossbars are focused more on complimenting the design of the car vs maximising utility.
  • Small SUVs and Crossovers and Minivans – similar to wagons and hatchbacks small SUVs and crossovers often come with roof rails. However, it is very important to consider the height. Make sure you are tall enough to safely remove your bike from the roof height without damaging your car or straining your back.

Not ideal for:

  • Trucks – while some trucks can come with roof rails above the cab (Toyota Tacoma for example) most do not. For those that do, the height of your truck still reduces the utility quite a lot unless you’re an extremely tall individual. Otherwise, you’ll need to bring a step ladder along with you. Also, mounting a bike rack on the roof of an already tall vehicle can present some issues with rural bridges, Bank ATMs, drive through restaurants and parking garages.
  • Large SUVs, Crossovers and Full-Size Vans – Similar to reasons for Trucks, Large SUVs crossovers and full-size vans have become so large and tall it really is quite prohibitive to use a roof rack for biking. There are many other cheaper solutions that offer great utility and practicality.
  • Convertibles – This goes without saying but having a soft or hard top convertible roof eliminates a roof mounted system from the equation… There are better options.

Trunk Mounted Bike Racks

Easily one of the most popular options due to its simplicity and affordability are trunk mounted racks. These racks are adjustable and form to the contour of almost trunk lid or lift gate. There are many different designs but they all use adjustable straps with metal hooks at the end that drop into the gaps between your trunk lid and the body of the car. When tightened these straps pull the bike rack tight to the vehicle enabling you to load your bikes. Depending on your car and how the rack was installed you still may be able to open your trunk with the rack installed.


  • Affordable – many great options can be found around the $100 to $150 mark.
  • Can be adjusted and installed on a variety of body styles
  • Bikes protected from bug guts
  • Less wind noise than a roof mounted rack


  • Installation isn’t cut and dry. You will need to determine if the rack is installed correctly and safe to use for your bikes
  • Bikes are often in very close proximity to each other and your car’s paint. Most of the time it is hard to come away without scratches on your bike or car unless you take extra care.
  • Bikes with non-traditional frame designs aren’t easy to load up and may require some creativity to mount. Full suspension, traditional women’s bikes or kids bikes may be more challenging with a trunk rack.
  • Depending on your trunk the straps may apply significant force to your trunk lid and hinges – keep a close eye on the lid lifting up from the rear due to the tension

Ideal for:

Sedans and Coupes and Convertibles – Trunk mounted bike racks were originally designed for a traditional trunk of a car. If you have a sedan or coupe this really is one of your best options for carrying a bike.

Wagons, Hatchbacks, Crossovers, and Vans with Sloped Rear lift gates– Trunk mounted bike racks offer a lot of flexibility to conform to the shape of the car but they work the best on body styles that feature a sloped rear liftgate. Having this shape enables the bike rack to be more rigid offering you more piece of mind when transporting your bikes.

Not Ideal for:

Trucks – Trunk mounted bike racks were never really designed to work on the rear of a truck. The top straps wouldn’t have a place to grab, leaving the installation weak.

Large SUVs and Vans – Large SUVs and Vans often feature a box-like shape and a rear decklid perpendicular to the ground. While a trunk rack can be installed on a flat surface they will never be as rigid as the same rack installed on a trunk of a sedan for example.

Hitch Mounted Bike Racks

Using your car’s hitch and installing a hitch bike rack is a great solution. Depending on your hitch size some racks enable you to carry up to 4 adult bikes or more. There are two main styles of hitch-based bike racks. The traditional style forms an S shape with the bottom of the S installing in the hitch and the top of the s acting as the platform to mount your bike by its head tube. The other option gaining more popularity is the platform style bike rack. The rack extends straight out from the hitch opening and forms a T. Bikes are usually mounted by the wheels with a vertical bar to stabilize the of the top bikes. Many options allow the rack to tilt away from your car so you can access the trunk.


  • Bikes are at ergonomic height to mount and remove
  • Installation is very simple requiring only simple tools
  • Bikes mounted behind your car while in motion don’t create a lot of drag and lost MPGs compared to roof mounted bike racks
  • Due to the mounting location, you won’t have bug guts all over your bike
  • Platform design ensures your bike and car are protected from scrapes and damage
  • Platform design is agnostic to the frame style or size of your bike and are great for anything from downhill racing bikes to cross country hardtails or road bikes
  • Platform design offers nice organized look
  • Fitting a hitch to your vehicle can be affordable and rarely expensive
  • Hitch enables the use of a trailer or other towing needs


  • Often requires you buy and install a hitch (sedans, coupes, convertibles etc…)
  • Traditional design is notorious for scraping paint on your bike’s head tubes
  • Bikes with non-traditional frame designs aren’t easy to load up and may require some creativity to mount. Full suspension, traditional women’s bikes or kids bikes may be more challenging with a trunk rack.
  • Some hitch based racks do not tilt, preventing you from accessing your trunk.
  • Small diameter hitches don’t offer much stability and your bikes may move around more while your car is in motion.

Ideal for:

Any vehicle that can be easily and affordability fitted with a hitch – a vast majority of body styles out there can be fitted with either a factory or aftermarket hitches. Even when weighing the cost of buying the hitch and bike it is common to be under $200. If your car comes with a hitch from the factory we highly recommend taking advantage of it due to the cost savings.

Not Ideal for:

Vehicles that need to be modified or require professional hitch installation – Some vehicles were never designed to have a hitch. Even if aftermarket solutions are available you should be wary of what is required to install it. Often drilling into your car’s frame or trimming of bumpers and plastic is needed for the install. If your car can be easily fitted with a hitch consider the other options in this guide.

Suction Cup Bike Racks

In response to the complexity of many bike rack systems, a few companies have emerged to solve the problem with suction cups. Originating from the marine industry, heavy duty suction cups are commonly used on fiberglass fishing boats to attach equipment to smooth interior surfaces and glass. These aren’t the suction cups you use to hang your Christmas wreath in a window either, these are large high-quality cups with a small hand operated air pump to ensure a strong seal. Suction cup bike racks take the thinking out of the equation too with almost any rack working on almost any vehicle. The simplicity of these bike racks is a refreshing alternative to a commonly frustrating consumer product.


  • Don’t worry, it fits (as long as your car has body panels and glass that is) This is a great feature and enables you to use it on any and all of the cars your family or friends own.
  • Easy to mount and remove the rack from your car. Pulling up the edge of the cups releases the suction allowing removal. No tools required
  • Rack can be installed in an accessible position for mounting and removal


  • Expensive compared to hitch and trunk bike racks but still comparable to roof racks
  • Many options require the removal of the front tire
  • For the suction cups to perform they need to be properly stored in a clean area free of dirt and dust. It is also important that they do not dry out.
  • For long trips, you may need to stop a pump out additional air to ensure maximum suction.
  • The rack you buy is specific to biking and doesn’t offer much or any utility for other sports.
  • Mounting surface needs to be clean for installation

Ideal For:

Sedans, Coupes, and Hatchbacks – the rear window and trunk lid as well as the roof are great places to mount a suction cup bike rack.

Wagons, Vans and SUVs – the rear liftgate window makes a for a good place to mount a suction cup bike rack since the roof of wagons, SUVs, and vans are rarely smooth creating some challenges with mounting the suction cups.

Trucks: The rear window of the cab is an ideal place to mount your bike using a suction cup rack. With the fork mounted on the rack, the rear tire lays in the bed of your truck and doesn’t need to be secured. It is a simple setup.

Convertibles – While there are some limitations with places to attach your bike, even a convertible can be fitted with a suction cup bike rack for at least one bike.