How to choose the best bike carrier for your car
It can be difficult choosing the right car rack, so we've created this simple car rack buying guide to help you discover the best bike rack for your car. If you already know which car rack you want, but you’re unsure it will fit your car, jump down to our car rack compatibility section at the bottom of this guide.
Car Rack Types
Car racks & E Bikes
Extra considerations for E Bikes
An E bike will generally weigh considerably more than a regular bike, especially an E Mtb. Racks will have a maximum weight rating that must not be exceeded. You may find that a rack that can take multiple bikes will only be suitable for one E Bike. There are dedicated E Bike racks available from the likes of Thule and more are being released as the popularity of E bikes grow.
An E Mtb tyre will generally be either a plus tyre or a wider than usual, any rack that uses a system to give support to the wheels must accommodate these wide tyres. Thule again does offer adaptors for larger tyre widths.
What to consider when buying a car rack
Your budget will determine the type of car bike rack you want. Roof racks tend to be the most affordable car racks, starting from around £30, while entry level boot racks begin around £40 and towbar racks from £50.
If you're planning on transporting more than one bike, you'll want a higher budget to buy a more sturdy cycle carrier.
2Bike tyre width
Road bikes use slim tyres and will easily mount to most car racks. However, if you're transporting mountain or some hybrid bikes then you'll want to consider the width of your tyres.
Some MTB's come with very wide tyres (such as 27.5+ MTB’s and fat bikes) that won't fit into the standard wheel holders on roof racks and towbar racks. You can buy specialist bike racks made specifically for these types of cycles, and brands like Thule offer adapters to accommodate wider tyres.
Most car racks with come with a recommended maximum weight per bike, which will depend on the style of rack you’re using and the durability of it. Most roof and boot racks have a max weight of 15kg.
Towbar racks are generally stronger, so can fit bikes up to 20kg. These weights can be found on our product pages. It’s worth remembering that E bikes are heavier than standard bikes, so choosing a rack that can accommodate the extra is essential.
4The number of bikes you’ll transport
Roof racks will carry just one bike, but you can fit two or three racks to your roof, depending on the size of your vehicle. Boot racks often fit three bikes but can go up to four in rare exceptions (check the maximum weight capacity of the rack).
Towbar racks can also fit up to four bikes as weight isn't so much of a problem.
5The length of your bike’s wheelbase
Car racks will fit most standard road, hybrid and mountain bikes. However, bikes with long a wheelbase, such as enduro and downhill MTB’s may struggle to fit the length of the wheel holders.
You can buy extenders and adaptors to help with this, although you can get adaptor beams which fit to your seatpost and headset for easier mounting.
Also, if you’re using a long wheelbase bike with a boot or towbar rack, be aware that the front and rear wheel may stick out on either side of your car. When measuring your wheelbase, remember the distance is from your front axle to the rear axle.
6How often you’ll be travelling
If you're going to be using the rack regularly, you want it to be easy to use. A roof rack is ideal for securing your bikes out of the way. You don't need to worry about reversing or parking unlike with boot and towbar racks. You'll also have access to your boot.
However, because your bikes are so high up they can be fiddly to mount. Boot and towbar racks make it easy to secure bikes but you'll need to be careful parking up.
The easiest bike carriers to use are the innovative new vacuum suction SeaSucker racks. All you do is press the vacuum cups down to create an initial seal then press the vacuum pump until low pressure keeps the pump fully depressed. To attach your bike simply remove the front wheel and attach the front dropouts to the metal bracket with the QR lever. The whole process takes a few seconds.
7How far you will be travelling
Drag reduces fuel economy. If you're heading up to the highlands for an epic weekend away, then a roof rack may not be your best bet.
Boot racks and towbar racks keep your bikes out of the wind for more efficient aerodynamics.
8Vehicles with spoilers
If your car has a standard metal sheet rear spoiler, you may be able to use a boot mounted rear rack. It’s very unlikely you will be able to use this type of bike carrier if your car has a plastic rear spoiler (as the plastic will be too weak to support the combined weight of the rack and bikes).
Please check our car rack compatibility section for more information.
Car racks & light boards
Do I need a light board for my car rack?
Before you buy a car rack you should determine if you need to fit a light board to your car. Your number plate and rear lights have to be visible from all angles at all times. The easiest way to do this is by fitting a light board. Don't fit the light board to your bikes (this is illegal), fit it to the car rack itself.
Popular Roof Racks
£41.67 per month on finance
Popular Boot Racks
Popular Towbar Racks
Finance available on all baskets from £99
Frequently Asked Questions
Your type of car and transport needs dictate what is best. Please see our guide for more info.
Not all racks fit all cars. Please see our handy guide for more.
Some use foam or rubber on contact points, though doing your best to avoid metal on metal contact is advised.
A rear hatchback rack, towbar rack or roof rack will be suitable.
Perhaps the easiest and most convenient for those with a towbar is a towbar mounted rack.
The best bike rack is one suited to your vehicle and needs. Please see our guide for more info.