Roof top bike carrier - Thule ProRide with bikes in a beautiful mountain view
Guide - Bike Rack

How to choose the best bike rack for your car

A guide on how to choose the best bike rack for your car, number of bikes and bike styles.

If you want to be free, explore the unknown, and bike on distant roads, you need a bike rack to get you there. We know that everyone's needs are unique, and that different bike styles and different car models require different bike rack solutions. That’s why we have written this guide – to help you choose a bike carrier that fits your needs without compromise.

Choosing the best bike rack for your car

The first thing you should think about when choosing a bike rack for your vehicle is what type of vehicle you have and how many bikes you would like to carry.
Hitch bike carriers tow bar bike carrier Thule EasyFold XT with mountain bikes

Why you should choose a towbar bike rack

This category of bike carriers is perfect for families or a group of friends with e-bikes, if you want to spend time on the forest trail or experience downhill racing. If you have an e-vehicle that can’t handle a lot of weight on the roof, or if you want a super aerodynamic solution to save on fuel consumption, a towbar bike rack is an excellent choice.

Towbar-mounted bike racks are the most common style of bike carriers and are a great option if you already have a towbar on your vehicle, or plan on installing one. These bike racks can carry 1 to 4 bikes, are easy to mount, and limit heavy and high lifting. Some can tilt even with the bikes loaded for complete trunk access.

They are designed to make loading and unloading of bikes quick and easy, they can also accommodate to fit a variety of frame styles.

If you need a foldable towbar-mounted bike carrier for all kind of bikes that you can easily store in the trunk of your car and bring with you wherever you go, the best option Thule EasyFold XT which carries up to 3 bikes.

If you need a versatile towbar bike rack for all kind of bikes, with a load capacity up to 4 bikes, that is easy to mount and store, the best option is Thule VeloSpace XT. This bike rack can even be used together with the Thule BackSpace XT (sold separately) to become a towbar mounted cargo box.

You should choose a towbar bike rack if...

  • You need to easily load and unload bikes
  • You need to carry different bike frame styles
  • You are transporting heavy bikes or e-bikes
  • You want a super aerodynamic bike carrier solution
  • You have an e-vehicle that can’t handle weight on the roof

A man and child walk towards a woman unloading her bikes from a Thule towbar bike rack.
A man and child walk towards a woman unloading her bikes from a Thule towbar bike rack.

You should choose a towbar bike rack if...

  • You need to easily load and unload bikes
  • You need to carry different bike frame styles
  • You are transporting heavy bikes or e-bikes
  • You want a super aerodynamic bike carrier solution
  • You have an e-vehicle that can’t handle weight on the roof


Why you should choose a roof bike rack:

This category of bike rack is perfect for the cycling enthusiasts who are heading for the road, MTB trails or the gravel path, with a road bike or a cross country bike. 

While these styles require that you have roof racks on your car, fork-mounted or upright roof bike racks are great for sedans and smaller SUVs with a lower loading height or car models that do not have a towbar installed. If you choose a fork or wheel-mounted roof bike rack, you ensure that the rack will make absolutely zero contact with your precious carbon fiber frame.

Rooftop bike racks have a stylish, sporty design and fit almost all bike dimensions. They can be fork-mounted, wheel-mounted and frame-mounted:

Fork-mounted roof bike racks

An iconic, sporty bike rack solution that attaches to the dropout or thru-axle of your fork when you remove the front wheel. This attachment method ensures secure transport and zero frame contact for carbon fiber frames.

Frame-mounted roof bike racks:

These upright roof bike racks attach to the frame so that you don’t have to remove the front wheel.

Wheel-mounted roof bike racks:

These bike racks attach to the wheel of your bike which ensures zero-frame contact if you have a carbon fiber bike, for example.

You should choose a roof bike rack if...

  • You have roof racks on your vehicle
  • Your vehicle has a lower roof height
  • You need full access to the rear of the vehicle
  • You want a sporty, classic look

On a mountainous country road two cyclists have brought their bikes on a Thule roof bike rack.
On a mountainous country road two cyclists have brought their bikes on a Thule roof bike rack.

You should choose a roof bike rack if...

  • You have roof racks on your vehicle
  • Your vehicle has a lower roof height
  • You need full access to the rear of the vehicle
  • You want a sporty, classic look


Why you should choose a trunk bike rack

This category of bike racks is perfect for cyclists who ride less often, who don’t have a towbar on their car or don’t want to lift the bike up on the car roof.

This style of racks can transport 1 to 3 bikes, are foldable, and store easily when not in use, which makes them a great option for cyclists who ride infrequently or have limited storage space in their garage or home.

Thule OutWay Platform is a great option, this robust and secure trunk bike rack can be installed in seconds with no assembly required. The raised platform design makes sure that the rear lights and license plate is visible at all times.

You should choose a trunk bike rack if...

  • You do not have a towbar or hitch receiver
  • You are a casual rider that does not ride often
  • You don’t want to lift the bikes up onto the roof
  • You want a more economical option

On a country trail a cyclists unloads bike from a Thule trunk bike rack as a man starts biking.
On a country trail a cyclists unloads bike from a Thule trunk bike rack as a man starts biking.

You should choose a trunk bike rack if...

  • You do not have a towbar or hitch receiver
  • You are a casual rider that does not ride often
  • You don’t want to lift the bikes up onto the roof
  • You want a more economical option


Bike rack sizes

The type of bike rack you want to choose also varies depending on how many bikes you plan on carrying. For example, since roof bike racks carry bikes on the roof of your car, you are limited on how many you can bring with you.

2 bike rack

All of the bike rack types are perfect for 2 bikes. If they’re light and easy to lift, you can even use two roof bike racks. For heavier bikes, you might appreciate a bike rack on the trunk of your car so that you don’t have to lift the bikes so high.

3 bike rack

If you’re carrying three bikes, there are hitch or towbar bike racks that can carry all three, or even trunk bike racks that can handle the weight.


Some bike racks also have the ability to be extended. Thule VeloCompact for 3 bikes, for example, can be extended to a 4 bike carrier. This leaves open the possibility to add yet another bike, if needed.

4 bike rack

If you want to carry four bikes, a 4 bike hitch rack or towbar bike rack is the best option. These bike racks can take a lot of weight, and can sometimes carry up to 5 bikes as well. If you have a tiltable bike rack, or a rack with swingaway technology, then you can have access to your trunk even with the bikes loaded.

Whatever your car or however many bikes you’re bringing, there is a bike rack for you. Before you select your bike rack, take a look at the different options to find the best model for your car and your needs.

All Thule bike racks have been tested extensively both in real life and in the Thule Test Center, a state-of-the-art facility for testing Thule products to the extreme. That way you know our bike carriers will carry your bikes safely and securely, wherever you are going.


What bike rack solution are you looking for?

A car with a Thule towbar bike rack installed and two bikes loaded.

Towbar bike racks

If you’re transporting lots of heavy bikes or ebikes on your next family vacation, look no further than a towbar bike rack. These sturdy bike racks take mere minutes to install on your towbar and carry up to 4 bikes.
A car with a Thule roof bike rack installed and one bike loaded.

Roof bike racks

Stylish, sporty bike racks that are easy to use and fit almost all bike dimensions. All our fork, frame and wheel-mounted racks are designed to keep your favorite bike secure and protected. Perfect for road bikes, gravel bikes, MTB bikes and more!
A car with a Thule trunk bike rack installed and two bikes loaded.

Trunk bike racks

If you don’t have a towbar and prefer not to load your bike(s) on the roof of the car, then trunk bike racks are a perfect fit for you. These bike racks are easy to install – no preassembly required. Perfect for family bike trips or road biking.

Explore

Thule bike racks

Bike racks

With a car bike rack, take your bikes anywhere you want – quickly, easily, and safely. Let us help you find the ideal one.
Roof racks

What can I use my Thule roof rack for?

With a Thule roof rack, you are all set to head off on your adventures and make sure you have everything you want.
Cycling

Cycling

Get geared up for your bike adventure
When form follows function – designing a bike rack the Thule way

When form follows function – designing a bike rack the Thule way

What makes a product a Thule product? Henrik Ericsson, Global Design Director, explains how design is central to product development.