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Bikes on rack tilted away from SUV
By: Amber S.
Read time: 10 minutes
Updated: August 24, 2023

Rolling on a Budget: Top Wallet-Friendly Platform Bike Racks

If you've looked into bike racks at all, you've probably been sticker-shocked by their sky-high price tags. And while there's no doubt that $1k Thule rack you saw on the back of that one guy's car was pretty sweet, not everyone is prepared to drop that kind of dough. Maybe you only ride occasionally, or your bike didn't cost much to begin with, or you're just not into the idea of spending a month's rent on a rack to haul your bike to the trail on the odd Saturday afternoon. Fortunately, you don't have to break the bank to get the right bike rack for the job. We've put together a list of our top favorite budget-friendly bike racks all around the $300 mark or less. Check them out below!

Best Budget-Friendly Platform Bike Racks

Hollywood Racks Destination Bike Rack for 2 Bikes
Hollywood Racks Destination 2-Bike Rack
  • Easiest adjustment with dual center posts
  • Ratcheting wheel straps for added security
  • Hitch lock included
Curt 2 Bike Platform Rack
Curt 2-Bike Platform Rack
  • 45-lb weight capacity for heavier bikes
  • Tilt-away feature for rear cargo access
  • Integrated bike locks for extra security
  • Fat bike adapter available
Swagman XTC2 TILT Bike Rack
Swagman XTC2 TILT 2-Bike Rack
  • Tilt-away feature for rear cargo access
  • Fat bike adapter available
Hollywood Racks Destination Bike Rack for 4 Bikes
Hollywood Racks Destination 4-Bike Rack
  • 4-bike capacity is great for family & friends
  • Easy adjustment with dual center posts
  • Ratcheting wheel straps for added security

Hollywood Racks Destination 2-Bike Rack

  • Capacity: 2 bike (35 lbs per bike)
  • Tilts for Trunk/Cargo Access: No
  • Carrier Weight: 20 lbs
  • Max Tire Width: 3.0"
  • Locks Included: Hitch lock
  • Makes Frame Contact: Yes
  • RV Rated: Motorhome only (no travel trailers or 5th wheels)
  • Warranty: Limited lifetime
What I like:This is probably my favorite budget bike rack on the market. Why? The main draw for me is the dual center posts and padded cradles—a notable difference from the "single center post and frame hook" style you typically see at this price point. This goes a long way in making sure your bikes don't get in each other's way when you load up.
Hollywood Racks Destination Center Posts
The dual center posts let you secure each bike independently, without the posts getting in each other's way.
Hollywood Racks Destination Dual Center Posts - Bike Loaded
Each frame cradle can be moved and attached independently, so you won't have to worry about frame hooks butting into each other when you go to secure your bikes.
As someone who rides a bike with a step-through frame, I'm always on the lookout for racks that play nice with this style. Because the frame cushions are adjustable, I found it pretty easy to clamp them onto the different styles of bike frames we tested. Even though the wheel cradles are not adjustable, this wasn't an issue on any bike we threw on the Destination. (One of our teammates even said this rack works great with his five-year-old son's bike.)Another thing that might seem small: I appreciate this rack's ratcheting wheel straps. Many budget racks feature rubber straps, which in my experience are harder to pull on and off, and there's always a worry of them stretching out over time. Plus, snugging down that ratchet strap and hearing that "click" always gives me a little extra peace of mind.
A win for step-through bikes: I could easily adjust the frame cushions to accommodate different bike frame styles
Hollywood Racks Destination Ratcheting Wheel Strap
I much prefer these ratcheting wheel straps to the rubber type seen on many budget bike racks
This rack comes in at just 20 lbs, which is basically featherweight for a bike rack. You won't find a rack easier to lift than this one. But despite its lightweight design, it held steady throughout our bumpy test course. After other budget racks failed to impress, I was pleased by the Destination's sturdiness.There is also a 4-bike model that's a great budget option for families (which I discuss in detail below).
Bike Rack on SUV
This bike rack is sturdy and easy to use, but it does NOT tilt away from your rear hatch for easy gear access.
What I don't like:Although I think this bike rack will make most budget shoppers happy, there are a few drawbacks. The big one is that this rack does NOT tilt away from your vehicle. Depending on how often you are in and out of the back of your car grabbing coolers or gear, this may or may not be a deal breaker. It's also not fat-bike friendly, and unlike the Swagman and Curt racks on this list, there are no fat-tire adapters available. Another gripe (it's petty, but in the interest of full disclosure I'll share)—the center mast only tilts down if you loosen it first via a knob. It would be quicker and if it moved with just a latch release, but Hollywood Racks is always a fan of using half a dozen thingamabobs. Still, in the overall scheme of things, unscrewing a knob when you want to use the rack is a small price to pay when you consider how much money you're saving.

Check out the Destination in action with this video review.

Skip (Destination 2-Bike Rack owner) says:"I did a lot of research and decided I didn’t want to spend $300 or more. This Hollywood Destination bike rack had such high reviews that I decided to make the purchase. I figured I could return it if it didn’t meet my specifications. But I am very happy I have it. It’s so easy to put on and take off of my Outback and the bike is very solid with no swaying when I maneuver Illinois roads. This was a great decision and thank you etrailer for your part in this purchase!"

Curt 2-Bike Platform Rack

  • Capacity: 2 bike (45 lbs per bike)
  • Tilts for Trunk/Cargo Access: Yes
  • Carrier Weight: 46 lbs
  • Max Tire Width: 3"
  • Add-Ons: Fat Bike Adapter Kit
  • Locks Included: Yes - bike lock
  • Makes Frame Contact: Yes
  • RV Rated: No
  • Warranty: 1-Year limited warranty
What I like: First off, if you need a bike rack with a heftier weight capacity than the 30-ish lb range provided by the other racks on this list, you'll want to take a look at the Curt 2-Bike Platform Rack. The 45-lb weight capacity opens up budget-friendly transportation options for those of us with heavier bikes, and there's even a fat bike adapter kit available (do note however that it's still not e-bike friendly, since most e-bikes come in at around 60+ lbs). However, if you've got a full-suspension mountain bike weighing in at 34 lbs, you're going to want a rack like the Curt rack so that you're not maxing out your capacity with a 30- or 35-lb rack. The Curt Platform Rack features adjustable wheel hoops and a tilting mechanism to let you access your car's rear cargo area—much like the Swagman rack discussed below. One point in favor of the Curt, however, is the integrated bike locks on the padded hooks. This means if you need to stop at the store for extra Gatorade before a ride, you can simply lock the cradles in place and no one can make off with your bikes while you're shopping. Sure, you can also achieve this with a cable lock on the Swagman or Hollywood Rack, but it's always nice when these things are included.
Curt Platform Rack Holding Mountain Bikes
Load up those mountain bikes. The Curt Platform Rack can handle them.
Locks on Frame Hooks for Curt Platform Rack
Loosen the knobs to adjust the wheel cradles as you need to.
Another feature that may be a pro or con, depending on personal preference—Curt's wheel hoops don't require straps. The wheel hoops simply cradle your wheels and hold them in place. This is one less step you have to worry about when loading up, so in that regard it's great. But if you're someone who likes the little bonus peace of mind that comes with strapping your wheels snugly to a bike rack, you might miss that option with this rack. Personally, even though I know the bike isn't going anywhere, I'm the person who feels just a little more comfy going down the highway if I know there's extra security holding my bike in place.
What I don't like:Does anyone actually like the single-center-mast design on bike racks? I don't think so, but it's a less expensive design than two masts, so that's the style you see on most budget racks, including this one. This mostly just makes it annoying (though sometimes impossible) to adjust for two bikes. You generally want to load the larger bike in back, but if you do it that way, the top hook blocks the bottom hook meant for the shorter bike in front. You can usually just remove the hooks and swap them, and if you load the same bikes all the time you'll probably be able to leave the hooks in place after the first time. But if you ever get new bikes or load friends' bikes, just be aware that this is the major drawback of this style rack. This is where the Hollywood Racks Destination comes out on top for me, with its separate center posts and independent frame cradles.
Single center mast on Curt Bike Rack
Frame hooks are like that one couple we all know who start butting heads whenever they share a space for too long—better off with a little distance between them.

Curt-curious? Check out this video review.

Christopher (Curt Bike Rack owner) says:"So after one year of use, I have to say that this bike rack is worth every penny. It is the most thought trough design possible. Clearly the designers use their own product themselves. This is so easy to use, stores in a small space, makes bringing our bikes a fun easy add on to any weekend. I am glad I picked this bike rack, I would order again, but don't think I ever will need to, as it seems to be well made. I highly recommend it to people who want an easy, quality, bike rack. I have had cheaper bike racks, and again I am so glad I picked this one. Worth every penny."

Swagman XTC2 TILT Bike Rack

  • Capacity: 2 bikes (35 lbs per bike)
  • Tilts for Trunk/Cargo Access: Yes
  • Carrier Weight: 30 lbs
  • Max Tire Width: 2.5"
  • Add-Ons: Fat Bike Adapter Kit
  • Locks Included: No
  • Makes Frame Contact: Yes
  • RV Rated: Motorhome only (no travel trailers or 5th wheels)
  • Warranty: Limited lifetime
What I like: I admit I was hesitant about the TILT rack, given its similarities to Swagman's XTC2 base (which I'm not the biggest fan of). But I was pleasantly surprised by this rack, and it certainly stands on its own. One of the best features is the tilt-away lever, which is something that stands out at this price point. If you think you'll access your rear hatch at all with your bike rack loaded up, it's worth considering a tilt-away rack to make that task a million times easier. As I mentioned, I'm also a big fan of adjustable wheel cradles (this is one feature I really miss on the Destination). If you know your bikes will fit on a static rack like the Destination and you never need to carry anything else, this can work just fine. But if you're like me and you end up carrying bikes for your friends (who all of course have different-sized bikes), you might prefer something with adjustable wheel slots. This is doubly true if you plan on taking kids' bikes, which will have a much smaller wheelbase and need cradles that sit closer together. There are even fat tire adapters available.The TILT is most similar in style to the Curt Platform Rack. So why go with Swagman over Curt? Two main reasons. One, the Swagman rack is a whopping 16 lbs lighter, which may not seem like much, but can make a big difference if you're hauling it on and off your car often. Bike racks are awkward as heck to carry, so a lighter rack is going to be way easier even if you normally don't have an issue lifting heavier weights. Two, the Swagman comes with wheel straps for extra security. Sure, it's just a little strip of rubber, but I always feel much better knowing it's holding my bikes back there.
Swagman XTC2 Tilt-away feature
The best thing about the TILT? The fact that it, well, tilts.
Swagman XTC2 TILT Adjustable Wheel Cradles
Gravity is great and all, but I always feel better knowing a strap is holding my bike to the rack.
What I don't like:Like the Curt rack and most budget racks, we have a case of the single center mast here. As I mentioned above, this might not be a big issue if you're loading up the same bikes all the time and those bikes require the cradles to sit at different spots. But if your bikes need cradles around the same height, the hooks can quickly get in each other's way.Also, the wheel strap. Love the fact that the strap exists—don't love that it's rubber. (I much prefer the Destination's ratchet-style straps).
Dual Hooks on Swagman XTC2 TILT
You can get the frame cradles super close to the same height, but they will get in each other's way if you move them too close together.

Put some swagger in your step with the Swagman TILT.

Melanie (Swagman TILT owner) says:"VERY easy to use and set up. I can place the rack and load two bikes in five minutes (I timed myself). Even less time to reload bikes after our ride. The bikes don't swing or move about even on gravel roads, which protects the car finish from dings. Price is great, and I like the Swagman website for this Canadian company. The tilt ability to get into hatch of our station wagon only takes seconds. It's balanced, so it's easy to move the rack even when loaded with bikes."

Hollywood Racks Destination 4-Bike Rack

  • Capacity: 4 bikes (35 lbs per bike)
  • Tilts for Trunk/Cargo Access: No
  • Carrier Weight: 42 lbs
  • Max Tire Width: 3.0"
  • Locks Included: Hitch lock
  • Makes Frame Contact: Yes
  • RV Rated: Motorhome only (no travel trailers or 5th wheels)
  • Warranty: Limited lifetime
What I like: It's almost impossible to find a 4-bike rack around the $300 price range. Almost. That's why the Hollywood Racks Destination 4-Bike Rack is so noteworthy, and why I included it on this list. Sometimes you want to bring more than just one friend or your partner along on a bike trip. For those that ride in groups or with their family, getting to the trail doesn't have to be crazy expensive. The 4-bike Destination model has all the same features and benefits of the 2-bike version. That is, it's got the dual center posts and independent frame cradles for easy adjustment. It's got those satisfying ratcheting straps to hold your bikes snugly in place. And it comes with a hitch lock, so you won't have to buy that separately. All in all, if you're looking for a budget-friendly way to carry more than 2 bikes, you won't find better than this bike rack.
Hollywood Racks Destination 4-Bike Rack on SUV with Four Bikes Loaded
Four bikes. Four friends/family. F yeah.
Hollywood Racks bike rack folded up to vehicle
When you're not using it, fold this bad boy up so it's nice and compact.
What I don't like:As mentioned, this is basically the same bike rack as the 2-Bike Destination, so it has the same drawbacks. There's no tilting feature, so once the bikes are loaded up, there's no easy way to grab gear from your trunk. It's not compatible with fat bikes. There are also a number of little pins and levers to adjust. The only other major inconvenience with the 4-bike rack is universal for almost all 4-bike racks: it can be pretty tough to load up the bikes closest to the vehicle. But again, this is always going to be rough no matter what rack you go with. The one bike rack I've seen that actually resolves this issue is the Kuat Transfer 4-Bike Rack, which actually provides space in the middle for loading those back bikes. However, this rack comes in at over double the price of the Destination.
Hollywood Racks 4-Bike Destination with kid's bike loaded up
Once your bikes are loaded up, you won't be able to access your rear hatch easily.
Levers and Knobs on Hollywood Rack Destination 4-Bike Rack
Hollywood Racks loves their levers, buttons, and knobs.

It's about the journey...and the Destination. Check out our video review here.

Susan (Destination 4-Bike Rack owner) says:"Bought this bike rack a year ago and it has held up amazingly well, transporting 4 bicycles several thousand miles over multiple trips. The quality of this bike rack is about 200 times better than anything from Thule or Yakima (I've used those and they never lasted for more than a few years). This bike rack is so solid and so well-made that I am sure that it will last 20 years or more -- definitely longer than my car will last."
So...which bike rack would I pick?Personally, for my own needs, I'd go with the Hollywood Destination 2-Bike Rack. Why? I like the adjustable frame cradles (they're great for step-through and alternative-frame bikes, which I have); they're easy to use and feel super secure. The ratcheting wheel straps also just feel much higher in quality than the rubber alternatives. Sure, the tilting feature would be nice to have, but it's not a necessity for me, so I'm willing to forgo it for an otherwise solid bike rack.
Amber S.
About Amber S.As a content writer for etrailer, I might spend my morning loading and unloading a bike on five different bike racks to figure out which is easiest to use. I might be in the parking lot, taking pictures of an impressive RV battery setup our techs came across in the shop and discussing the benefits of the setup with the owner. I might spend an afternoon in a manufacturer training class for some hands-on experience with new products, and then sit down to assemble all this information into a coherent article.At etrailer, one of our core values is that we are always learning, and I learn something new every day. I start each morning with the goal in mind of taking all of this information and figuring out the best way to answer the questions people ask us (and the ones they don’t know to ask yet), and helping people get the solutions they need to make their lives easier, safer, and more fun. I’m a DIYer at heart, so it brings me great joy to help a fellow DIYer find what they’re looking for, whether that’s a product, an answer, or a community.
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