Is It Illegal To Drive With A Bike Rack?

It’s every motorist’s nightmare to be pulled over for a traffic offense. It’s even more annoying when it’s something to do with a bike rack. So, is it illegal to drive with a bike rack?

Most states don’t allow you to obscure your license plate with a bike rack, and that’s not all. You may also be liable for breaking traffic rules if you drive an empty or unsecured bike rack. 

Overall, such offenses could cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and you don’t want that.

Now, how about I enlighten you on some of these rack-related traffic laws?

I’ll also help you understand how you can legally drive with a bike rack.

Here we go!

is it illegal to drive with a bike rack

So, Is It Illegal To Drive With A Bike Rack?

Laws about driving with bike racks differ from state to state and even country to country. What most of them settle on, however, is that the license plate should be visible.

In that case, obstructing the license plate is a punishable offense in most places. And since we are talking about the license plate, it affects rear-mounted bike racks.

1. Rear Bike Racks and U.S State Laws

Note that two types of rear-mounted racks can obstruct your license plate.

First, we’ve trunk-mount racks that can partially or entirely block your car’s plate number.

You may be allowed (in some places) to drive with a trunk rack that partially obstructs the license plate but not the one that completely obscures it.

The other type of rear rack is the hitch-mounted rear rack.

Unlike the trunk rack, a hinged bike rack sits centrally in front of the car’s license plate, blocking its view completely. So, this is where you are likely to be pulled over by the traffic marshals.

Now, let’s look at the various laws on driving with a rear rack in different states in the U.S

  • Virginia – According to the VA Code 462-716, it’s illegal to obscure the car’s plate number with anything when driving, and that includes a rear rack.
  • Colorado – Colorado just revised its traffic rules, and now, they no longer allow motorists to fix anything on the rear side that obstructs the license plate either partially or entirely.
  • Florida – In Florida, cyclists can attach a color copy of the car’s license plate to the back window when using the rear rack.
  • Michigan – After amending the traffic rules, it’s no longer illegal to obstruct the license plate with a rear rack in Michigan.
  • Utah – Provided that the bike rack is appropriately installed, it’s not illegal to obstruct your license in Utah. The rule applies to bike racks, trailers, trailer hitches, wheelchairs, and other attachments.

How About Other Countries? Is Driving with a Bike Rack Illegal?

The laws in other countries are just as strict as those in most states in the U.S. In Australia, for example, it’s illegal to drive with a rear rack if it obstructs the license plate.

You are, however, allowed to use an accessory license plate, which is a small license plate you strap to the bike.

And when it comes to the U.K, the law states that you shouldn’t block the license plate with anything. Also, you are not allowed to fix a rear rack onto a caravan.

More importantly, you’ve to ensure the rack is secured, and you shouldn’t exceed its weight limit.

Are Car Bike Racks Legal

2. Loosely Fitted Bike Racks or Unsecured Bike and the Law

You may also break the law if you drive with an unsecured bike rack. The law sees such as a safety risk, which is understandable.

If the rack accidentally detaches, the bike will fall on the road and potentially damage your car or other people’s or injure someone.

You may also be liable for an offense if you do not secure the bike on the rack. Such an offense attracts a fine of up to $5,000 or jail term in most states in the U.S.

3. Empty Bike Racks and the Law

You are expected to remove the bike rack when not in use. Failure to do so translates to an offense that you can be fined for.

That means you cannot fit the bike rack at home before you can go to collect your new bike from the shop.

So, you may have to carry the bike rack to fit it at the bike shop before loading the bike.

Ina place like New South Wales, you may be fined up to $112 or more for driving with an empty bike rack.

3 Ways to Legally Drive With a Bike Rack

Now, here are innovative ways to legally drive with a bike rack.

1. Get a Bike Rack That Allows Visibility of the License Plate

It’s worth noting that while rear racks are likely to obscure your license plate, roof-mounted racks won’t. They are the perfect way to avoid blocking your license plate.

The problem with rooftop racks is that they can only carry one or two bikes. So, they don’t suit you if you plan to transport more than two bikes.

In that case, how about you go for a trunk rack that allows you to see the license plate?

One such bike rack is the Saris Bones Car Trunk Bike Rack. (Link On Amazon)

The contact point of this three-bike rack rests outside your car’s license plate, allowing you to view the plate number easily.

Is It Illegal To Have A Bike Rack

2. Change the Location of the License Plate

If your license is not visible on the car’s rear end, you can also change its position. That’s if your state laws allow you to do so.

The process of changing the plate’s location can be a complicated one. So, seek a mechanic help if you cannot do it.

While at it, remember that most states expect your plate to be visible at night. Therefore, you’ll need to fix a light next to it for night illumination.

3. Get a Temporary License Plate

In some states, you can obtain a temporary license plate that you attach to the bike or any other visible part of the car when the original license plate is obscured.

You’ll pay a small fee to get this temporary plate. With it, the traffic police will understand that the rack is blocking your license plate.

But since the paper plate is only temporary, you should remove it when not transporting your bike on the rack.


1. Is It Illegal To Have A Bike Rack?

It’s not illegal to have a bike rack on a car unless it’s obstructing the license plate. Even so, it’s not everywhere that it’s a crime to block the car’s plate number.

Note, however, that it’s illegal in most places to drive with an unsecured bike rack.

2. Are Car Bike Racks Legal?

Car bike racks are only legal when they don’t obstruct the view of the license plate and are not unsecured on the car. If your bike rack blocks the plate number or wobbles, you could be fined or face some time in jail in some states.

3. Is It Okay For Bike Rack To Cover License Plate?

In most places, it’s not okay for bike racks to cover license plates. It’s actually illegal to do so.

You may face hefty fines if you do. That’s unless you obtain a temporary plate number that you attach somewhere visible on the car.

4. But Do You Leave Your Bike Rack On Your Car?

It’s illegal to leave your bike rack on your car in some places. That’s the case in New South Wales and many states in the U.S.

In such places, your bike rack should only remain on your car when using it. If not, you should dismount it.

5. Do I Need Lights on A Bike Rack?

Your license plate must be visible at night in most states. If it’s not, then you should fit some light there for illumination.

6. Can You Drive With A Bike Rack?

Provided that the rack is installed correctly and doesn’t obstruct the vehicle’s number plate, you can drive with it legally.

So, before you can leave for the road trip, double-check the rack to ensure it is firm and doesn’t block the plate.

7. Can You Drive On A Highway With Bike Rack?

While bike racks allow you to drive almost everywhere, some are not a good choice when driving on a highway. For example, rooftop racks are likelier to become shaky if you ride faster and long-distance, making them unsuitable for the highway.

8.How Fast Can One Drive With A Bike Rack?

Usually, factors like the rod condition, type of rack, driving experience, and type of car determine how fast you can ride with a bike rack. Under perfect conditions, most experienced drivers hit at least 70mph with a bike rack.

Concluding Thought: Is It Illegal To Drive With A Bike Rack?

Note that laws differ from state to state when it comes to driving with a bike rack. To avoid risking getting penalized, you should familiarize yourself with your state laws.

Or better, don’t obstruct the license plate and ensure your bike rack is firmly fitted.

Relevant Post:

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it plausible to have a bike rack mounted on my car?

Indeed, installing a bike rack on your vehicle is entirely plausible and, in most cases, rather straightforward. The majority of boot-mounted racks are designed to be effortlessly hooked onto various types of vehicles, which makes them extremely accessible and user-friendly. If your rack ends up covering the rear lights or license plate, you will require a lighting board to remain road-legal. It is always wise to remember these potential accessories when calculating the total cost of your bike rack setup. Regardless of the type of car you have, you can very likely secure a bike rack onto it.

Are highway commutes safe with a firm bike rack?

Speed limitations for vehicles with bike racks are typically not different from normal speed constraints. Trustworthy bike rack manufacturers prioritize user safety, designing their products to bear up under a broad spectrum of driving circumstances. Given that a bicycle’s weight is practically inconsequential in comparison to the entire system’s weight, you can rest assured of the secure fastening of your bike on your car’s rack. Essentially, highway trips are generally safe with a highly-rated bike rack carrying your bike.

Is it considered unlawful in Florida to have a car-mounted bike rack?

Florida state law does not ban the usage of bike racks on cars. You are perfectly within your rights to have a bike rack attached to your vehicle, even when it isn’t transporting a bicycle. There’s nothing illegal about having a bike-less bike rack mounted on your car.

Is it feasible to use a bike rack without the aid of a tow bar?

Although the presence of a tow bar simplifies the installation process for a rear bike rack, it’s far from being a necessary component. Brands such as Thule have in their product range detachable, sturdy racks that lean against the rear end of vehicles like sedans or hatchbacks. These racks hold the capacity to handle the weight of up to three bikes. However, choosing to transport more than two tends to place extreme pressure on the rack, and thus, isn’t typically recommended. In conclusion, a tow bar isn’t a requirement for a rear bike rack installation.