Why Are Bike Racks So Expensive?

One thing that you notice when shopping for bike racks is their high price. Let’s face it, spending $250-$450 or even up to $1000 on a bike rack raises some eyebrows. It compels one to ask, ‘why are bike racks so expensive?’

The complexity of the designs, the material quality, special features, and the research that goes into their manufacturing make the production cost of bike racks expensive, translating to high market prices.

the true cost of bike racks

I’ll explain all these price determinants to help you understand why you pay so much for a bike rack.

I’ll also explain the various types of bike racks and how much a decent option goes for. Even better, I’ll recommend a reasonably-priced bike rack for each category.

Let’s start!

Why Are Bike Racks So Expensive? (Going Into Details)

A bike rack is supposed to hold your bike firmly on the car to allow you to transport it safely. For that to happen, the rack’s material should be solid and reliable.

Manufacturers understand that. So, they invest a lot in material sourcing like steel and composite plastic.

They, however, don’t stop there. They also take these materials through rigorous testing and research to guarantee their integrity.

Manufacturers also employ intricate engineering designs to guarantee unique but highly quality bike racks.

Additionally, most bike racks feature special innovative features like locking systems, swag control, adjustable padding, and long adjustable arms.

So, all these costs improve the production cost of bike racks. And when the production cost is high, the market price shoots up, and that’s why you pay more.

How Much Do Car Bike Racks Cost?

I’ve been talking about how expensive bike racks are but, how much do they really cost? To answer that, let’s look at the cost of various types of bike racks.

1. Trunk-Mount Bike Racks

Trunk-mount bike racks are among the strongest bike racks as they hold the bike on the car’s trunk. They hold the bicycle with secure straps and cushions your car using foam material.

The bike racks are among the most affordable. You can spend as little as $25 or as much as $300, depending on the material quality.

While it’s tempting to go cheaper, you shouldn’t. For one, most trunk racks are less stable and less secure. Your bike could easily damage your car’s painting.

Also, budget trunk racks come with a lower holding capacity.

If you want a robust and high-capacity trunk bike rack, prepare to spend $200-$300. That’s the case with the Saris Bones EX Trunk Bike Rack Carrier (View on Amazon).

Saris Bones EX Trunk Bike Rack Carrier

This composite plastic rack has a 3-bike capacity, and it comes in a robust and rust-free construction. So, it promises to transport your three bikes safely and serve you longer.

2. Roof-Mount Bike Racks

Roof-mounted racks are attached to the car’s crossbars to hold the bike securely. The good news about these bike racks is that they can carry virtually any bike and are more secure and stable.

Also, you don’t leave your bike rack on the car when not in use, and the bike rack doesn’t obstruct trunk access like most. The only issue is that they require some extra muscles to fit on the roof and mount your bike.

Furthermore, they raise the clearance of your car and make it less aerodynamic (slower). But other than that, roof racks are worth what you pay.

With a roof-mount bike rack, you can get a decent budget option for under $100. That’s the case with Mr. Hardware AO1 Kayak Roof Rack.(View on Amazon).

Mr. Hardware AO1 Kayak Roof Rack

3. Hitch-Mount Bike Racks

A hitch-mount rack is fitted onto the car’s hitch, as the name suggests. This rack comes in two styles; platform and hanging.

Hanging hitch racks suspends your bike by its frame and employs additional straps to hold it from swaying. Women’s bikes generally require an additional adapter (top tube) to fit on a hitch rack.

Overall, hanging hitch racks are cheaper, averaging $75-$150.

On the other hand, platform hitch racks cost much more because they are more secure and safer. They support the bicycle from the base to prevent its swaying.

What’s more, these racks can hold more bikes than their hanging siblings.

You can expect to spend more than $300 on a quality hitch rack. One option that fits the description is the  KAC Overdrive Sports K2, (View on Amazon) which costs under $450.

KAC Overdrive Sports K2

This two-bike capacity hitch rack can hold up to 60 pounds, thus best for heavy bike types like e-bikes and fat bikes. It’s easy to install and fit and very stable.

4. Spare-Tire Bike Racks

If your vehicle has a spare tire on its rare end, you can mount a bike rack there. It’s essential, however, that the spare tire rack is compatible with your vehicle as they come in different designs.

Overall, your bike hangs from a strong support arm, and it’s typically strapped in. For maximum sturdiness, it’s advisable to bolt the rack onto the car.

The advantage of these racks is that they don’t require a hitch and fit most bicycles. Still, you can tow with your car while the bicycle rack is still intact.

And when you bolt it, these racks are very stable.

Their major downside is that they are low-capacity options and require you to strap down your bike. The other downside is that it’s not easy to find a compatible spare tire rack.

These bike racks are generally reasonably priced, averaging $85-$200.

One spare tire that falls just under $100 is the Allen Sports Deluxe 2-Bike Spare Tire Rack (View on Amazon).

Allen Sports Deluxe 2-Bike Spare Tire Rack

The two-bike rack is super-strong, thanks to its long steel arm that can hold up to 70 pounds. So, it’s a good choice for heavy bikes.

5. Truck Bed Bike Racks

Truck bed bike racks are designed explicitly for carrying bicycles on a pick-up bed.

These bike racks come in different styles, depending on the manufacturer. Overall, the bike racks are easier to install, highly secure, and have huge capacities.

Some can hold up to 7 bikes, which is remarkable. That, however, comes at a cost since the bikes will take most of your pick-up bed space.

Overall, you can expect to spend $80-$150 on a decent truck bed bike rack. One bike rack that falls within the budget is the INNO RT201 Truck Bed Bike Racks (View on Amazon).

INNO RT201 Truck Bed Bike Racks

Should I Get A Cheap Bike Rack? Are They Worth It?

From our discussion, it’s clear that a decent bike rack doesn’t come cheap. You may have to spend $100 or more to get a quality bike rack.

Now, what about those bike racks that cost under $50?

In my view, cheaper bicycle racks are not worth it. For one, they come in inferior designs and constructions that cannot guarantee safe bike transportation.

There is always the danger of your bike detaching and falling or damaging your car. Others rust easily, and so they have a short lifespan.

So, while you may think you are saving, the risks are much more, and they aren’t worth it.


1. How Much Do Bike Racks Cost?

A budget bike rack cost about $80-$150. Expect, however, to spend $250-$800 on the safest and most reliable options.

2. Do I Really Need A Bike Rack?

A bike is a considerable investment that you should safely transport with your car. For that reason, you should invest in a car bike rack.

In addition to safe bike transportation, it protects your vehicle from getting scratched by the bike.

3. Why Are Thule Bike Racks So Expensive?

Thule bike racks come in high-quality frame constructions to support huge bike weights and safely transport the bike. So, much money goes into the materials, design, and testing, contributing to their high production costs.

4. Are Thule Bike Racks Worth It?

Thule bike racks are pretty firm. They are known to hold heavy bikes and prevent them from swaying and scratching your car’s painting. More importantly, Thule bike racks are rust-proof, easy to use, and fit an array of bikes, thus worth it.

5. How Much Is A Thule Bike Rack?

Thule bike racks are costlier than most bike racks, thanks to their high-strength, corrosion-proof, and firm hold. On average, you can spend $150 on a budget Thule rack and up to $850-$1,000 on a high-end option.


Why Are Bike Racks So Expensive? Closing Thought

So much money goes into the production of bike racks, and it’s not just the high material cost and the engineering. You also have to factor in the research and the design.

Collectively, all these costs improve the production cost, and when the production cost is high, the market price goes up.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are bike rear racks really worth investing in?

Rear bike racks undeniably prove their worth when you look at their utility and versatility. Even if you don’t necessarily need the extra space offered by panniers, rear bike racks serve as an efficient platform for carrying gear. They really shine during prolonged bikepacking trips that require a significant chunk of your journey to be spent on singletrack routes. To put it into personal context, I recall my days of singletrack-heavy bikepacking and I relied heavily on my rear rack to secure my long-travel dropper post. The convenience was unparalleled. Rear bike racks are certainly a worthy investment in my book.

What’s the average cost to construct a bike rack?

The cost of building your very own bike rack can vary, but on average, a 5-loop bike rack can cost around $500, which is approximately $100 per loop, and this estimate includes the installation charges. Consider also the additional cost of a cement pad to keep the rack secure. For a smaller 84 sq/ft size near the building installation, this could set you back around $840. If you opt for a larger cement pad of about 120 sq/ft, this cost escalates to around $1200. It might seem like a substantial investment at first glance, but reminiscing my days of assembling my bike rack, the benefits outweighed the initial expenditure. Providing a secure and efficient place for multiple bikes, in the long run, the bike rack pays for itself.

Is investing in a car bike rack a wise move?

Absolute! In my own personal experience, as well as countless others who frequently travel with their bikes, car bike racks are more than worth the investment. Most significantly, they are a huge time saver. Instead of trying to fit your bike into your car trunk and risking potential damage to both your bicycle and the car interior, a car bike rack allows for easy, damage-free transport. Picture this: instead of fussing with loading and unloading your bike, you can sit back, relax, and look forward to the adventure that awaits. Speaking from my own time on the road, a car bike rack is definitely a smart purchase for anyone planning to travel frequently with their bicycle.

Why should we consider bike racks as a key amenity?

From a security point of view, bike racks play a huge role in deterring bike theft. The lack of secure parking facilities was a huge contributing factor to bike theft incidences in the past. I remember an instance when a friend’s bike was stolen due to leaving it unsecured. This unfortunate event could’ve been prevented by the presence of a bike rack – a place known to offer safe and secure storage for bicycles. Installing a single bike rack can significantly reduce these unfortunate events and encourage more people to use bikes, knowing they have a secure place to store them.