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How to Choose a Trunk-Mounted Bike Rack

Trunk Mounted Bike Rack on a Vehicle

A trunk-mounted bike rack rests on the trunk or back of your vehicle, held in place by straps that connect to the trunk, hatch, or bumper. A trunk-mounted rack is a good choice if:

Consider the following when choosing a trunk-mounted bike rack:

Do you just want to look for a bike rack?

Trunk mounted bicycle carrier Use our fitguide to shop for a bike rack that fits your vehicle


Trunk mounted bicycle carrier Shop all of our trunk-mounted bike racks

Bike Compatibility

Trunk-mounted bike racks work with most types of bikes. To make sure that a rack will work with your bikes, consider the following:

Number of Bikes

Bike racks are available with maximum capacities from 1 to 3 bikes

Single bike trunk-mounted bicycle carrier 2-bike trunk-mounted bicycle carrier 3-bike trunk-mounted bicycle carrier
1-Bike rack 2-Bike rack 3-Bike rack

Standard Frames

Bicycle with standard frame

Trunk-mounted bike racks work best with bikes that have a large frame and a horizontal crossbar. The rack's arms will easily fit inside the frame and the horizontal crossbar will ensure that the bike rides level. Remember that your bikes should ride as level as possible, and they should have adequate ground clearance so that they won't contact the ground while you're transporting them.

Alternative Frames

Bicycle with step through frame Bicycle with children's frame Bicycle with suspension

Bikes that don't have standard frames - step through frames, women's bikes, children's bikes, bikes with small frames - may not fit well on a trunk-mounted bike rack. But you can usually carry these types of bikes if you remember the following:

Arm Spacing

Arm spacing varies among different brands and models of bike racks. If your bike has a small frame, consider racks that have narrow arm spacing so that the arms fit. (But remember that wider arms will provide a more stable ride for larger bikes.)

Popular racks with wide arm spacing

Thule Passage 2-bike trunk-mounted bicycle carrier Hollywood Racks Express 2-bike carrier Pro-Series Duette 2-bike trunk-mounted bicycle carrier
Thule Passage 2-bike carrier Hollywood Racks Express 2-bike carrier Pro Series Duette 2-bike carrier

Popular racks with narrow arm spacing

Thule Archway XT trunk-mounted bicycle carrier Saris Bones trunk-mounted bicycle carrier Thule Raceway PRO 2-bike trunk-mounted bicycle carrier
Thule Archway XT 2-bike carrier Saris Bones 3-bike carrier - adjustable width Thule Raceway PRO 2-bike carrier - adjustable width

Adapter Bars

Bicycle with adapter bar mounted on trunk-mounted bicycle carrier Trunk-mounted bike rack adapter bar

If you can't mount your bike on a trunk-mounted bike rack because its frame is too small or it lacks a horizontal crossbar, you may still be able to take your bike by using an adapter bar. An adapter bar clamps onto the seatpost and head tube of your bike and provides a support that rests on the bike rack's arms. Most adapter bars adjust in length to allow them to fit a range of bike sizes. To ensure that a specific adapter bar will work for you, measure between the seatpost and head tube of your bike and then check the dimensions of the adapter bar.

Vehicle Compatibility

Trunk-mounted bike racks work on many different kinds of vehicles. In fact, most racks adjust so they can adapt to fit different vehicles.

Vehicle Fit

Trunk-mounted bicycle carrier with bike on a car Trunk-mounted bicycle carrier with 3 bikes on a minivan Trunk-mounted bicycle carrier with 2 bikes mounted on an SUV

Trunk-mounted bike racks fit most cars, vans, and SUVs.

Use our fitguide to shop for racks that fit your vehicle

Trunk mounted bicycle carrier Shop for a trunk-mounted bike rack that fits your vehicle

Vehicles with Spoilers

Trunk-mounted bicycle carrier mounted on SUV with a spoiler Trunk-mounted bicycle carrier on car with spoiler

Don't let a spoiler spoil your fun. A vehicle spoiler can get in the way of a bike rack, resulting in the rack's mounting straps pushing against it, which can cause damage. But some racks are designed to be mounted on vehicles that have spoilers. These racks are usually designed to clear the spoiler on a taller vehicle - like a van or SUV - or to clear the spoiler on a sedan.

Trunk mounted bicycle carrier that clears a spoiler Shop for a rack that clears a spoiler


Trunk-Mounted Bike Rack Features

Some racks have extra features that make them more useful and convenient. Check out some of these features, below, to help narrow down your choices of bike racks.

Read more about the following topics:


Most racks are made of steel. Some manufacturers make racks of injection molded plastic or nylon. These racks are light, rust resistant, and available in a variety of colors that are molded into the plastic.

Popular Steel Bike Racks

Thule Passage trunk-mounted bicycle carrier Yakima HalfBack trunk-mounted bicycle carrier Hollywood Racks Over-the-Top trunk-mounted bicycle carrier
Thule Passage 2-bike rack Yakima HalfBack 2-bike rack Hollywood Racks Over-the-Top 3-bike rack

Gas-Injected NylonInjection Molded Plastic
Thule Raceway PRO trunk-mounted bicycle carrier Saris Bones trunk-mounted bicycle carrier Saris Bones trunk-mounted bicycle carrier Saris Bones trunk-mounted bicycle carrier Saris Bones trunk-mounted bicycle carrier
Thule Raceway PRO premium bike rack Saris Racks - Many Saris racks are made of molded plastic and available in many different colors

Protect Your Bikes and Rack from Theft

Unsecured bikes and racks can be an easy target for thieves. If you want to leave your bikes on your rack unattended or even leave your rack on while you go riding, you might want to consider locking your rack and bikes. Cables are available to lock your bikes to your rack. And straps are available to lock your rack to your vehicle. These straps usually have a steel core to resist cutting and a puck- or tube-shaped anchor on one end. The anchor is placed inside your trunk or hatch, and when the trunk or hatch is closed, the anchor can't be pulled out.

Cable bike lock Thule passive security strap for trunk-mounted bicycle carrier Yakima security strap for trunk-mounted bicycle carrier
Cable locks secure bikes to rack Thule security strap Yakima security strap

Some racks have built-in locks, which can make locking your rack and bikes more convenient.

Locking trunk-mounted bicycle carrier Shop for a locking trunk-mounted bike rack

Anti-Sway Cradles

Closeup of anti-sway cradle

The motion of your vehicle accelerating, slowing, and turning can cause bikes that are mounted on a rack to rock back and forth, possibly scratching each other or your car. To help keep bikes from swaying, some racks are made with built-in anti-sway cradles. These cradles usually have extra mounting straps that grasp a downward bar of your bike to hold it securely.

trunk-mounted bicycle carrier with anti-sway cradles Shop for a bike rack that has built-in anti-sway

Ease of Installation

Some racks are easier to adjust to your vehicle and to install than others. The following information can help point you to racks that are easier to install.

Fit Adjustment

Thule FitDial system for trunk-mounted bicycle carrier Yakima HUB system for trunk-mounted bicycle carrrier
Thule FitDial systemYakima HUB system

Bike racks have to be adjustable so that they can fit the many different shapes and sizes of vehicles out there. When you install a bike rack, you must adjust it to fit your vehicle. In most cases, you have to work with the adjustments until the rack fits correctly. To make installation easier, some manufacturers design their racks with vehicle-specific settings to make it easy to fit your exact vehicle. You can adjust these racks to the correct position (just follow the manufacturer's instructions), and you'll know that you have the best fit without any guesswork.

Popular Racks That Have Built-in Vehicle-Specific Settings

Thule Passage 2-bike trunk-mounted bicycle carrier Thule Archway XT 2-bike trunk-mounted bicycle carrier Yakima HalfBack 2-bike trunk-mounted bicycle carier Thule Raceway PRO trunk-mounted bicycle carrier
Thule Passage 2-bike rack Thule Archway XT 2-bike rack Yakima HalfBack 2-bike rack Thule Raceway PRO 2-bike rack

Number of Straps

Most racks use 6 straps to hold the rack to your vehicle. Some racks, however, have only 4, which can make installation of a rack simpler and easier.

4-Strap trunk-mounted bicycle carrier 6-Strap trunk-mounted bicycle carrier
4-Strap bike racks 6-Strap bike racks

Adjustable and Folding Arms

The support arms on some racks can be adjusted. This useful feature lets you position the arms to hold bikes level. And some racks allow you to fold the arms down out of the way when you don't have bikes loaded.

Independently adjustable arms of trunk-mounted bicycle carrier Trunk-mounted bicycle carrier with arms up Trunk-mounted bicycle carrier with arms folded down
Racks with adjustable arms Racks with folding arms

Updated by: Raymond P.

Last updated: 6/26/18

Questions and Comments about this Article

Terri W.

We have a 2016 Rav 4. We have an upright walker that we would like to set on the back hatch lift. Is there something you recommend that would adjust for an upright walker? It is approximately 36” front to back, 12” wide folded, and 48” tall.

Etrailer Expert
Reply from David B.

Do you have a hitch receiver. We don't have any trunk mounted racks that are designed for anything but bikes. We could get you a hitch mounted cargo basket that could hold it and other things. Would you like me to look into that for you?

Carely G.

After doing research for a few days, I'm still completely overwhelmed because of all the different options.. I'm hoping I can get a little bit of help finding a reliable bike rack for two bikes, mine is a Trek Marlin 6 (Medium 29" wheels) and the other would be a L-XL Men's Mountain bike. I'm hoping to find something that won't scratch up my 2012 Hyundai Accent GLS (Sedan) or the bikes, won't sway/move (as I'll be spending most of my time driving on highways or gravel, with lots of potholes), and won't make me anxiously check the rear view mirror every few seconds to make sure the bikes are okay and not hitting the road while I'm driving. Any recommendations?

Etrailer Expert
Reply from Victoria B.

I have linked all of our trunk mount bike racks for your 2012 Accent Sedan that have an anti-sway cradle. These cradles will help keep the bikes from swaying and knocking into each other or your vehicle. I think my favorite option is the Thule Gateway Pro # TH88VR . This rack will carry 2 bikes weighing up to 35lbs each. The best way to try and keep the rack from scratching your car is to make sure the surface is clean before installing the rack. This will remove the small dirt particles that can get trapped between the rack feet and the car's paint causing scratches.

Sheri C.

Are there trunk bike racks that can used for 2 E-Bikes - one step through and one mens? Must fit 2020 Volvo XC60

Etrailer Expert
Reply from Jon G.

Unfortunately not. Pretty much every trunk mount rack is only able to hold up to 35 lb bikes so you'll want to install a hitch and use a hitch mount rack which would be able to handle heavier bikes. Attached are links to our selection of hitches that fit your vehicle as well as bike racks that are compatible with the heavier bikes.


When you have a trunk mount on an SUV you cannot open it? So, these bike racks have to be taken off after using if you want to utilize the back of your suv? If that is the case, can you open the hatch if you have the hitch mount? thanks.

Etrailer Expert
Reply from Jon G.

Correct, if you left the trunk mount rack on and opened the hatch you can damage the rack, your car, and the hatch could close expectantly due to the extra weight of the rack.You can leave a hitch mount rack on as long as it is able to tilt out of the way. If you use a hanging style you'll need to remove the bikes prior to tilting the rack, but if you go with a platform style you can tilt the rack away while the bikes are still loaded up. Here is a link to our FAQ about hitch mount bike racks.


the article suggests most racks can be used on such without a hitch, yet the manufacturers page will say they have no hitch for the vehicles I need. Confusing.

Etrailer Expert
Reply from Chris R.

I'm not quite sure what you mean. The article is showing the different trunk-mount options (which don't require a trailer hitch) for various vehicle and bike styles. Are you looking for a trailer hitch to mount to your vehicle? If so, can you tell me the make and model?



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