Roof Rack Vs Trailer Hitch For Bikes: What Suits You More?

Roof racks and trailer hitches are among the strongest, easiest to install and most reliable bike racks on the market. So, it’s always a battle for the roof rack vs trailer hitch for bikes.

Overall, roof racks are more preferred for transporting one or two heavy bikes in places where vehicle clearance is not an issue. In contrast, hitch trailer racks are more preferred for transporting more than two lighter bikes in low-traffic areas.

But still, there is more to separate the two bike racks that I’ll cover in detail in this post. I’ll also help you choose between them depending on transport needs.

We can now go straight to the comparison!

trailer hitch bike rack vs roof rack

In a rush? Check out my most recommended roof racks and trailer hitch racks for bikes below:

Best Roof Rack and Trailer Hitch for Bikes

1. Thule ThruRide Roof Rack: Best 35lb Rooftop Rack

2. Thule ProRide  XT Roof Rack: Best 44Lb Rooftop Rack

3. Allen Sports Deluxe Rack: Best Non-Foldable 5-Bike Rack

4. Retrospec Lenox Bike Rack: Best Foldable 5-Bike Rack

Comparing Roof Rack Vs Trailer Hitch For Bikes

a) Roof Racks for Bikes

Roof racks, as their name suggests, are mounted onto the vehicle’s rooftop. Some rooftop racks require you to take off one or both wheels before you can mount the bike, while others accept the cycle as it is.

The advantage of removing the wheels is that it reduces the vehicle’s clearance height making it easy to go through a tunnel or under a bridge.

That’s the case with the Thule ThruRide Roof Bike Rack, which allows you to take off the front wheel and securely transport a bike that weighs up to 35 pounds.

Not only does removing the wheel reduce the height, but it also allows you to secure the bike on your car’s roof firmly.


Rooftop bike racks come with these advantages:

  • Offer you a nearly permanent bike-carrying solution
  • They are pretty versatile, allowing you to transport bikes and non-bike equipment and gears such as kayaks and surfing boards.
  • They can carry heavy bikes. That’s the case with the Thule ProRide XT Roof Bike Rack, which can haul a cycle that weighs up to 44 pounds.
  • Roof racks are safer as they are less accessible by opportunist thieves.
  • They don’t obstruct your view or the number plate when driving

After looking at all the above advantages, does it mean that roof racks are perfect? Are they flawless?

Of course not! Let’s look at the shortcomings below.


  • Rooftop racks improve your vehicle’s clearance height, making it harder to go through a tunnel or under the bridge.
  • Rooftop racks slow you down as they encourage wind drag. And as you go slowly, you consume more fuel on the road.
  • These racks mostly carry just one bike, with only a few capable of hauling two.
  • The racks require you to lift the bike and gently take it down, which is physically involving.
Should You Go For Roof Rack Or Hitch Rack For Bikes

Trailer Hitch Racks for Bikes

Trailer hitch racks are mounted to the vehicle’s hitch receiver.  So, unlike roof racks (which you mount on the vehicle’s rooftop), hitch racks are on the rear end.
These racks pick up from where rooftop racks fall short. In particular, they offer you more bike capacity.

Trailer hitch racks allow you to mount up to 5 bikes, and that’s the case with the Allen Sports Deluxe 5-Bike Hitch Rack.

The other thing they do is allow you to drive through tunnels and under the bridge without worrying that you’ll hit something.

Overall, these racks are easy to install and load bikes.


Trailer hitch racks for bikes come with the following advantages:

  • They are easy to install as you only need to slide them into place, provided that your vehicle has a hitch receiver. If not, then you have to install it first.
  • You don’t lift the bike as much as you do with a rooftop rack.
  • The racks are easy to dismount as they are more temporary.
  • They allow you to carry multiple bikes conveniently.
  • Some hitch racks are foldable to allow you to collapse them flat to avoid obstructing your view when not in use. That’s the case with the Retrospec Lenox Car Hitch Bike Rack, which comes with a 2-5 bike carry capacity.


Trailer hitch racks are not flawless, just like rooftop racks. They also have their fair share of concerns which include:

  • They restrict or can completely block the rear access. That’s unlike roof racks, which don’t interfere with the vehicle’s rear access.
  • Most quality hitch racks, especially swing-away styles, are costlier than most.
  • There is always the risk of the bike swinging on transit, especially when using a swinging or hanging hitch rack.
  • These racks extend your vehicle’s length, making it harder to maneuver in heavy traffic and tighter spaces.
Roof Rack Or Hitch Rack

Should You Go For Roof Rack Or Hitch Rack For Bikes?

Choosing between a roof rack and a trailer hitch rack depends on several factors, which include:

a) Number of bikes and bike capacity

Hitch trailers are better for transporting more than two bikes, especially lighter ones. But if you want to transport one or two heavy bikes, then a rooftop rack is a better choice.

b) Accessibility

Hitch racks allow you to access the bike easier but restrict the vehicle’s rear access. In contrast, rooftop racks do not make the bikes easily accessible, but they also do not restrict the vehicle’s rear access.

c) Versatility

While a hitch rack allows you to carry more bikes, it’s only limited to bikes. You cannot bring anything else.

Contrary, a rooftop rack enables you to transport a bike, kayak, gears, or anything else you prefer, provided you don’t overload it.

d) Maneuverability

Rooftop racks create more wind drag and restrict you when going through tunnels or under bridges. Hitch racks, on the contrary, limit you in tighter and heavy-traffic places.

e) Compatibility

Hitch racks are compatible with vehicles with a hitch receiver and can accommodate a variety of bikes.

On the other hand, roof racks suit vehicles with a sturdy roof system and can accommodate different bikes.

Suitability: Roof Rack Vs Trailer Hitch

A hitch rack is more suited if:

  • You prefer to transport two or more bikes, more so lighter ones
  • The overhead clearance is an issue
  • Your vehicle has a hitch receiver
  • You have a problem lifting the bike high
Is A Roof Bike Rack Or Hitch Rack Better

Roof racks are better suited if:

  • You want to access the rear side of your car
  • Your car lacks a hitch
  • You prefer to leave the bike on the rack
  • The overhead clearance (height) is not an issue
  • You have no problem lifting the bike


1. Is A Roof Bike Rack Or Hitch Rack Better?

Rooftop racks are better for transporting one to two heavy bikes, where the vertical clearance is not an issue.

In contrast, a hitch rack is better for transporting 2-5 lighter bikes, where the vertical clearance is a challenge.

2. Is A Bike Rack Worth It?

A bike rack is worth it because it allows you to quickly and safely transport a bike in a car. It securely holds your bike to enable you to protect it on transit.

3. Do I Need A Trailer Hitch For A Bike Rack?

If you plan to mount a hitch bike rack on your car, you need a trailer hitch. If it’s non-existent, consider installing it first before mounting the bike rack.

4. Are Rooftop Bike Racks Safe?

Rooftop bike racks carry your bike on the vehicle’s roof. As a result, they don’t rub against the car’s body or obstruct its rear access.

More importantly, it allows you to clamp down the bike frame securely. So, these racks are generally safer.

5. What Is The Easiest Bike Rack To Use?

Racks mounted on the vehicle’s rear end usually are the easiest to use as they are more accessible. That includes trunk racks, hitch trailer racks, and spare tire bike racks.

6. Do Bike Racks Get Stolen?

Bike racks get stolen when they are not secured onto the vehicle or are unattended to over a long period.

Overall, bike racks deter thieves from stealing your bike, which means your bike is safer on a bicycle rack than not on it.

7. Do Roof Racks Damage Your Car?

Roof racks that are appropriately mounted onto the car don’t damage it. It’s those bike racks that are improperly secured and loose that are likely to detach.

Furthermore, roof racks are likely to damage the roof when overloaded.

8. Why Are Bike Racks So Expensive?

Bicycle racks employ robust but costly materials in their construction. Their intricate designs and hi-tech engineering also make them expensive.

Moreover, you are likely to pay more for bike racks with more bike carrying capacities.

Concluding Thoughts On Roof Rack Vs Trailer Hitch For Bikes

In general, you should get a rooftop rack if you plan to haul one or two heavy bikes in a place where you don’t have to go through a tunnel or under a bridge.

But if you want to move multiple cycles, up to 5, then get a hitch trailer rack.