Last updated: August 6, 2021

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Welcome to our big bike carrier test 2021 Here you can find out all the important information about bike carriers and find the perfect carrier for your car and your needs. Choose between hitch carriers, rear carriers, roof carriers or interior carriers and pay attention not only to the design, but also to the handling, weight and installation.

With lots of helpful information, practical tips and important quality features on the subject of bike carriers, mounting and material, you will find the best bike carrier. This makes trips with your bike, whether with family, friends or all by yourself, much more fun again. You can discover new landscapes and routes and get fit and healthy while cycling.




Summary

  • Bike racks allow you to take your bikes with you on trips or holidays. With most models, you are able to stow up to five bicycles.
  • A basic distinction is made between hitch racks, rear racks, roof racks and interior racks. Various models are available on the market for all these types.
  • Roof racks are suitable for you if your vehicle does not have a trailer coupling or if you need a clear view through the rear window. Coupling or rear racks are easy and quick to mount and load.

The Best Bicycle Carrier: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a bike carrier

A bicycle carrier is extremely useful if you want to take your bike with you on longer trips, such as on holiday. In our guide, we want to answer all the questions you might have about bike racks.

What do I need a bicycle carrier for?

If you like to cycle regularly, you often don't want to do without it on holiday. However, it is not always possible to book a bike on site and in the long run this can also become quite expensive. A bicycle carrier allows you to take your bike with you wherever you go.

A bicycle carrier is simply mounted on your car. This makes it easy to take one or more bicycles with you wherever you go.

A bicycle carrier helps you to attach your bicycles to your car and take them with you wherever you go. (Image source: 123rf.com / Roman Milert)

Where can I attach a bicycle rack?

There are different ways to attach bicycles to your car. You can find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of each type in our decision section below. In this section, we will first show you the main differences between the various bicycle carriers.

Bicycle carrier Type of use
Roof rack A roof rack is mounted on the car roof. The bicycles can then be placed on the roof of the car.
Coupling carrier Here the bicycle carrier is mounted on the trailer coupling. This is possible for all cars with a trailer coupling.
Rear carrier The carrier is mounted directly on the tailgate of the car. No trailer coupling is necessary. However, the carrier must fit the car model exactly.
Interior carrier mounting the carrier in the boot of the car. This bicycle carrier is only possible with larger luggage compartments, as the bicycle must fit upright.

What is the load capacity of the bicycle carrier?

When using a roof rack, always observe the maximum permissible roof load and that your vehicle, including the wheels, does not exceed the maximum height of four metres. You can find out what weight the bicycle carrier itself can carry in the owner's manual.

Do I need a trailer coupling?

You only need a trailer coupling if you want to purchase a hitch carrier. All other carrier systems can be used without a trailer coupling.

If you want to take your bicycle with you very often, it can be advantageous to retrofit a trailer coupling. This is because hitch carriers are usually easier to fit than other bicycle carriers. Loading is also generally easier with a bike carrier that sits on the trailer coupling. This is because you do not have to lift the bicycles so far upwards.

However, retrofitting is associated with higher costs. Depending on the vehicle model, this can cost several hundred euros, including installation.

How high must the drawbar load of my trailer coupling be?

Most trailer couplings have a drawbar load of between 50 and 100 kg. This is the total load that your trailer coupling can withstand and carry.

The total weight of the bicycle carrier and all bicycles together must not exceed this limit. If you want to transport heavy bicycles or e-bikes, it is worth taking a closer look. In most cases, however, a normal AHK is more than sufficient and does not cause any problems.

What types of bicycles can I transport?

In general, you can transport all types of bikes, from children's bikes to mountain bikes, with bike racks. However, especially with e-bikes, you must pay attention to the maximum load of your bike carrier and your car due to the higher weight of about 20 kg.

Did you know that when transporting e-bikes, only transport on the trailer coupling is permitted?

This transport method is considered appropriate for e-bikes because it is usually more stable and can carry more weight.

For bikes with narrow frames or particularly thin tyres, you have to look carefully before buying the carrier. In some cases, there are special adapters or separate gripper arms for such cases, with which you can upgrade the bicycle carrier.

How many bicycles can be transported with a bicycle carrier?

In principle, you can take up to five bicycles at a time with a bicycle carrier. However, this depends on the type of carrier and, of course, on your vehicle.

A roof rack theoretically holds up to four bicycles. However, you also have to pay attention to the maximum roof load. This is usually not too high and therefore only suitable for very light bicycles. With rear carriers and hitch carriers, you can even transport up to five bikes at once with the appropriate additional rails.

In any case, however, you must observe the maximum permissible gross weight of the vehicle, the load capacity of the bicycle carrier and the drawbar load of the car or trailer coupling.

What do I have to bear in mind when driving with a bicycle carrier?

If you are transporting bicycles, it is important to know that you cannot drive in the same way as you are used to. Of course, you have more weight with you and the air resistance is also increased due to the additional mass. You can find out what you should pay particular attention to in the following list.

  • Maximum speed: The maximum speed limit for most bicycle carriers is 120 km/h, although there are also some models with a maximum speed of 130 km/h. There are no clear legal regulations. There are no clear legal regulations. However, if you have an accident because you are driving too fast, you will have to pay a heavy fine. Don't take any risks and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Fuel consumption: No matter where you place a foreign object on your vehicle, it will increase air resistance. This also increases fuel consumption. However, this value varies depending on the type and mounting. With a bicycle rack for the roof, fuel consumption increases by up to 35%. With tailgate carriers, fuel consumption rises by up to 20%. Hitch carriers, on the other hand, only consume about 10% more fuel.
  • Driving behaviour: When you transport bicycles with your car, not only does the resistance increase, but also the weight of your vehicle. Therefore, you should expect your car to react differently and, above all, slower than you are used to. This is especially the case with a roof rack. You should therefore never drive too fast and always keep the right distance from the car in front.

How safe is it to drive with a bike carrier?

Fast cornering, sudden swerving, bad roads or even sharp braking manoeuvres can put bike racks to the test. Unfortunately, roof racks in particular repeatedly score poorly in official product tests by the ADAC or ÖAMTC. It is therefore worthwhile to opt for good quality and not just go by price.

In comparisons, the hitch carrier is often the safest solution. Even in serious accidents, the wheels usually stay where they belong and do not fall off the vehicle. Here too, however, the quality speaks for greater safety.

What does a bicycle carrier cost?

The prices for reasonable bicycle roof racks start at about 50 euros. Inexpensive interior carriers start at around 100 euros. These two types only hold one bicycle at a time, but they can be individually extended. Good tailgate bike racks start at about 150 euros. For hitch racks, you have to reckon with prices starting at about 200 euros.

What alternatives are there to bicycle racks?

As an alternative to a bike rack, you can of course just put your bikes in the boot. However, as this is often very tight, it is necessary to remove the front wheel of the bicycle or fold down the rear seat.

Another alternative is the normal trailer. You can simply put or lay your bicycles in it. However, you should take great care to secure the bicycles firmly so that they do not slide around or even fall out of the trailer during the journey.

Both of these alternatives are only worthwhile if you do not want to transport your bike regularly by car.

Decision: What types of bicycle racks are there and which is the right one for you?

In general, there are four types of bicycle racks, depending on the type and how they are attached to the vehicle:

  • Coupling carrier
  • Rear carrier
  • Roof rack
  • Interior carrier

Depending on the vehicle on which the bike carrier is to be mounted, one or the other carrier system may be more or less suitable for you. In the following section, we would like to introduce you to the individual types of wheel carriers in more detail and help you make your choice by going into more detail about the advantages and disadvantages of the individual types.

What distinguishes a hitch carrier and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Coupling carriers are easy to install. If a trailer coupling is available on the vehicle, you can use almost all models of this type.

The hitch carrier is a framework of several rails on which you place the bicycles. As the name suggests, this type of bicycle carrier is attached to the trailer coupling (AHK) at the rear of the vehicle. You can usually transport two to four bicycles with your car using a hitch carrier.

Advantages
  • Easy, quick installation
  • Suitable for various vehicle models
  • Easy loading
  • Little or no impact on fuel consumption
Disadvantages
  • Rear view is obstructed
  • Difficult access to the boot
  • Increased footprint of the vehicle
  • Additional lights and signs required

Probably the biggest advantage of towbar bike racks is that you can use them for many different vehicle models. If your vehicle has a towbar, you can use almost any rack of this type.

This is why the towbar carrier is also often called a universal carrier. This carrier system is also easy to handle and quick to fit. You usually only have to clamp the carrier onto the coupling head. Many hitch carriers are already assembled in one piece. All you have to do is unfold them.

Since the carrier is not high up on the roof of the vehicle, but at most at waist height, loading is very easy. This means you don't have to lift the bike far and the physical effort is limited.

Unlike a roof rack, the wheels hang directly behind the car and thus change the length of the vehicle. Furthermore, the wheels block the free view to the rear through the rear window. This can make parking considerably more difficult and may also cause problems when driving.

Because they are attached to the rear, the bicycle carrier and the wheels usually cover important lights or the number plate. These must then be retrofitted on the carrier itself. In addition, it is difficult to open the tailgate of the car with a normal hitch carrier. To do this, you need a tiltable carrier, which is more expensive to buy.

If you attach the wheels to the back of the car, however, this also has a great advantage. Most of the wheels hang in the slipstream of the vehicle. This means that fuel consumption is hardly any higher than when you drive completely without a bicycle carrier.

What is a rear bicycle rack and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The rear carrier is basically very similar to the hitch carrier in terms of its advantages and disadvantages. The big difference between these two types is that the tailgate carrier goes directly on the tailgate and does not need a trailer hitch.

The rear carrier, like the hitch carrier, is mounted on the rear of the vehicle. However, it does not require a trailer coupling. The carrier is placed directly on the boot door.

This bicycle carrier is also very easy to use. Loading is almost the same as with a towbar carrier. However, you have to lift the wheels up to about half the height of the car.

Advantages
  • Low impact on fuel consumption
  • Easy loading
  • No trailer coupling necessary
Disadvantages
  • Obstructed view to the rear
  • Difficult access to the boot
  • Increased footprint of the car
  • Must fit the car model

However, not every model can be used for this. Since every car has different shapes and curvatures, the rear rack must fit your car model exactly. In addition, the hinges of the tailgate are not actually designed for this additional weight and can be damaged by the additional load.

What distinguishes a bicycle roof rack and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The big advantage of roof racks is that the view to the rear remains unobstructed. This means that you are not obstructed when parking and manoeuvring. However, the air resistance and fuel consumption are higher than with other mounts.

The roof rack is a sub-type of the roof rack that is specially designed for transporting bicycles. It usually consists of two rails that are mounted parallel to each other on the car roof.

Normally, bicycles are transported with a roof rack standing upright in or against the direction of travel. However, there are also foldable models where the bikes lie on the side of the car roof.

Advantages
  • Unrestricted view to the rear
  • Uniform footprint
  • Suitable for cars without trailer coupling
  • Tailgate remains accessible
Disadvantages
  • Increased fuel consumption
  • Increased fuel consumption
  • More difficult to load
  • Observe clearance height

The advantages of the roof rack are obvious. The wheels are on the roof, so there is still enough space inside the vehicle for passengers and luggage. The view through the rear window also remains unobstructed and is not impaired by the bicycle rack.

Mounting is quite easy with many models and sometimes even possible without tools. However, when buying, you must make sure that the carrier fits your car model. The width differs from car to car, and so does the distance between the railing bars or the mounting points for the roof rack.

Making the roof rack more difficult to load is definitely a negative point. If you don't have enough strength to lift the wheels and place them in the roof rack, you also need a so-called lifting aid. The alternative would be a folding roof rack with a lift. However, these models are among the more expensive ones.

Another disadvantage is the air resistance caused by the wheels when they are transported on the roof. This can lead to a noise that disturbs or irritates the driver. It also increases fuel consumption by up to 35%.

What is an interior carrier and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The bicycle carrier for the car interior protects your beloved bicycle safely from wind, weather and theft. However, you have to be satisfied with less storage space inside the car.

With an interior carrier, you attach your bike to the floor of the boot. Your vehicle must be large enough for this. Otherwise you have to remove the front wheel of the bike for most vehicles and interior carriers. There won't be much room left for luggage. But it is enough for a weekend trip with two people.

Advantages
  • Protection from wind and weather
  • Easy to load
  • Less risk of theft
  • No effect on fuel consumption
Disadvantages
  • Rear view is obstructed
  • Takes up space
  • Only suitable for large vehicles
  • Interior gets dirty

Interior carriers are now quite rare to find on the internet and in shops. We have not presented any product of this type in our comparison either.

Buying criteria: You can compare and evaluate bicycle carriers based on these factors

Here we would like to show you which important factors you can use to evaluate and compare bicycle carriers. In the end, it will be easier for you to decide whether a carrier is suitable for you or not.

In summary, these are:

  • The way it is attached to the vehicle
  • Functions
  • Number of bicycles and expandability
  • Distance between the bicycles
  • Load capacity of the bicycle carrier
  • Dead weight
  • Access to luggage compartment
  • Security against theft

In the following paragraphs you can read about the individual purchase criteria and how you can classify them.

Type of mounting on the vehicle

We have already presented the different types of wheel carriers and where they are attached to the vehicle in detail. Nevertheless, we would like to emphasise once again that the type of bicycle carrier is an important purchase criterion. It does matter whether your carrier is mounted on the roof, the rear or on the tow bar of your vehicle.

First of all, you should ask yourself how often you want to take your bike with you in the car. The ease with which the carrier can be mounted and dismounted plays a decisive role here. You should remove the bike carrier from your car when you don't need it. This will save you a lot of fuel in the long run.

The same applies if you are not tall or strong enough to lift your bike onto the roof of the car and need help. You should consider whether the effort is worth it if you want to take your bike with you by car more often in the year.

Did you know that bike racks made specifically for e-bikes have retractable troughs?

These make it easier to lift the average heavier e-bike up and down.

For frequent cyclists who regularly want to travel with their bike, a bicycle carrier for the trailer coupling is recommended. This carrier system is quick and easy to attach and can be quickly removed when not in use.

Functions

Another purchase criterion is the various functions and extensions that a bicycle carrier can have. These include, for example, a lock that can be locked, extendable rails and whether the bicycle carrier can be lowered manually or electronically. The latter is an advantage, for example, for high vehicles such as a camper van.

Number of bicycles and expandability

Another important factor is how many bicycles you can transport with the carrier. Most carriers are limited to 2 to 4 bicycles. However, some carriers can be extended by one. You can then take another bicycle with you. If you want to be able to take more bikes with you at some point, you should check whether the bicycle carrier can be extended.

But you have to be careful here: Due to their design, rear carriers cannot be extended. They are ready-made frames that cannot accommodate additional bicycles. On the other hand, many models of roof and hitch carriers can be extended by one or sometimes even several seats.

In general, however, you should make sure that you do not exceed the maximum permissible drawbar load of your car roof or trailer coupling. You have to add up the weight of all the bicycles and the bicycle carrier. This is especially important for heavy bicycles, such as e-bikes.

Distance between the bicycles

Whether your bicycles fit into the bicycle carrier also depends on the distance between them. On average, this distance is between 15 and 20 cm for most car bike racks.

To ensure that your bicycles and carrier take up as little space as possible, it is important that the distance between the bicycles is small. However, the distance should not be too small either. If, for example, the forks of your bicycles are extremely wide, you may have problems loading them.

Fahrradträger für Montainbike

Mountain bikes in particular often have rather thick tyres. When buying a bicycle carrier, you should therefore make sure that your mountain bikes have room next to each other. (Image source: unsplash.com / David Hellmann)

To ensure that the bikes can be placed as close together as possible, they are mounted offset. This means that a front tyre is next to a rear tyre and vice versa. This prevents the steering forks of the wheels from blocking each other.

As a rule, however, all normal bicycles fit on all common carriers. If you want to be on the safe side, measure the widest parts of your bicycles.

Load capacity of the bicycle carrier

The load capacity is the maximum weight that your carrier system can carry. In other words, it is the combined load of all the bicycles that are to be transported with the carrier. However, it is not only the total weight that is important, but also the individual weight of the respective bicycles.

The load capacity indicates how much weight you can load onto the bicycle carrier. However, this does not automatically mean that you can transport a heavy e-bike together with two light road bikes. Not even if all the bikes are lighter than the specified load capacity of the bike carrier.

You must also pay attention to the maximum weight per bike. Each individual frame on your bike carrier is itself designed for a certain maximum weight, which you should not exceed under any circumstances.

It is best to weigh your bicycles individually and add their weight before you start looking for your bike carrier. This will help you avoid making a mistake and being upset afterwards.

If you disregard this information, accidents can sometimes occur. In the event of emergency braking or a strong evasive manoeuvre, it is essential that the wheels remain in place. If the load is too heavy for the carrier, the wheels could come loose and be thrown around. Please pay attention to this for your own safety and the safety of others.

Dead weight

The bikes and the bike carrier together must not weigh more than the maximum drawbar load of your car.

The tare weight of a bicycle carrier, i.e. what the carrier itself weighs, plays a major role. Together with the weight of all the bicycles, it must not exceed the maximum draw bar load of your car. If you don't pay close attention to this information, serious accidents can occur. The roof, the tailgate or the trailer coupling of your car can only support a certain weight.

On the roof, the maximum load is usually relatively low. As mentioned earlier, the hinges of the tailgate also suffer greatly from the additional load. The trailer coupling bears the most load. That is why the hitch carrier is a very popular alternative, especially for heavier wheels.

When buying a bike carrier, make sure that it is sturdy but not too heavy. Otherwise you won't be able to load enough weight for the bikes.

Access to the boot

Once you have mounted the bikes on the rear or trailer hitch, you often can't open the tailgate. The carrier and the bikes block the boot door. But if you want to access your luggage in the luggage compartment, you have to climb very awkwardly over the rear seats or remove the bike carrier from the car first.

There are now many bicycle racks that can be folded to the side or to the rear together with the wheels. This allows you to open the tailgate and access the boot. However, some folding carrier systems are much more expensive. You should weigh up whether this investment is worth it in the long run.

This criterion is not important for a roof rack. Here, access to the boot is free anyway, because the wheels are on the car roof.

Securing against theft

If you have your bikes on the outside of the car, it is easier for thieves to steal them from the car. Most racks have attachments to the vehicle and to the bike with simple locks. They thus offer only limited protection against theft.

The higher the quality of the bicycle carrier, the higher the quality and security of the built-in anti-theft device. In principle, however, you should make it as difficult as possible for a thief to steal your bicycles from your car. You should secure your bicycles conspicuously with additional chains and locks. However, it is best not to leave your car with your bicycles unattended.

Facts worth knowing about bikes and bike racks

Now that you have decided on a special bicycle carrier, we would like to give you a few important tips and advice in the last sections.

Which number plate do I need?

Your rear number plate must not be completely or partially covered. If your bike carrier protrudes over the number plate, you have several options. You can either transfer your number plate from the car to the bike carrier. You can also get an additional number plate.

In Austria, for example, it is permitted to attach a red number plate with the car's number plates to the bicycle rack. But be careful: this red plate is prohibited in Germany or Hungary! In addition, for Italy, for example, you need a separate plate to indicate a load that overhangs to the rear.

Before you go on holiday, you should inform yourself about such particularities and react accordingly.

Can I rent a bicycle carrier for my holiday?

Bicycle racks for rent are still rather rare these days. However, you may be lucky now and then, especially in big cities. However, a search on the Internet is always a good idea. We found some offers on eBay during our research. Private individuals rent out their bike racks for days when they don't need them themselves.

Are there also bicycle racks for caravans?

In general, there are many different bicycle racks for caravans and campers. Since these vehicles are usually very high and may not exceed the maximum height of 4 metres. For this reason, roof racks are not used for caravans. Therefore, rear and coupling carriers are best suited.

Picture credits: 123rf.com / warrengoldswain

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