When it comes to carrying your bike on your vehicle, trunk racks are usually not only the most portable but the most affordable too.
While roof racks and hitch-mounted racks are other options for transporting your bike to the best roads, trails, and hills around, trunk racks – when carrying three bikes or fewer – remain a very popular option. Not sure what type of rack is right for you? Check out our overview of all bike rack types, their differences, and recommendations for each application.
Usually easy to install and convenient to store when not in use, there is plenty to consider when selecting the optimal model.
We have covered the key considerations in terms of capacity, weight, installation, cost, quality and security below, but first let’s dive straight in to the best trunk bike racks on the market.
Thule Raceway Pro
Thule’s Raceway Pro is a simple but tech-packed trunk bike rack from the higher end of the long-standing Swedish brand’s offering. Established nearly 80 years ago, Thule specialise in transporting bikes, board and everything in between – and that experience shines through in their market-leading products. The Raceway Pro is a simple three-bike rear carrier, but it is packed with patented tech.
It comes at a price – if you are shopping on a budget, there are cheaper options out there. But Thule justify the price with the amount of smart touches on offer. Sure-Tight ratcheting cables ensure a secure fit, while their patented FitDial is adjustable enough to guarantee a snug fit to any suitable vehicles. That said, the fit is not universal and you will need to check it is suitable for your needs.
If it is, however, and you can spare the expense, you also get premium cradles to store your beloved bike, with vibration-dampening tech. Patented no-sway cages prevent the bikes shifting and hitting either each other or your vehicle, while the Thule Raceway Pro is lockable – both from bike to carrier and carrier to vehicle. It also folds flat when not in use.
From a similar end of the market to the Thule Raceway Pro, the FullBack is Yakima’s answer. Another long-established market leader, it is now more than 35 years since the Pacific Northwest made their big breakthrough when they supplied fairings for the 1984 Olympic road races.
Still at the top end of the bike rack market now, the FullBack follows the same blueprint of premium protection, easy installation, enhanced fit, and full locking. Protection is in the form of SuperCush ZipStrip cradles. The Yakima FullBack is fitted with a simple four-strap design, while the external frame constructions and padding keeps it secure and efficient at the back of your vehicle. Finally, the full SKS locking package allows you to lock your rack to your vehicle and, likewise, your bikes to the rack.
Saris Bones EX
Saris have upgraded their classics Bones trunk bike rack, and the Saris Bones EX is now better fitting, stable, and more versatile than before. The Bones is Saris’ flagship trunk rack and hugely popular, and the EX is very much a case of subtle evolution rather than revolution.
The changes for those familiar with previous iterations are minimal, but they do enhance the rack’s versatility. Saris claim the Bones EX will now fit 90 percent of vehicles, which is possible thanks to a new dog-leg design on the upper legs, with built-in strap guides. If you have a spoiler, for example, the Saris Bones EX will fit no problem.
The tie-downs have been upgraded too, while the fit – albeit sometimes criticized for being fiddly at first installation – is secure in transit. The original was a best seller, and the Bones EX upgrade takes that to a wider market.
Available in two- or three-bike iterations, the SportRack Pursuit is lower down the pricing scale if you are looking for value for money on a tighter budget. While around half the price of the models above, the SportRack Pursuit still boasts all the basics you would expect from a decent quality trunk rack.
Those features include soft rubber cradles and soft straps to protect your bikes and an adjustable fit provided by six straps for easy installation. It is versatile, covering most trunks and hatches, and added padding is included to protect your car.
When in transit, it is secure thanks to an anti-sway stability cradle that prevents your bikes and trunk rubbing. There is no locking system, and the premium touches of the more expensive systems are absent, but if you want something simple but secure, SportRack have you covered.
Thule Gateway Pro
Move a little lower down the Thule range and the Gateway Pro is another excellent value-for-money trunk rack from the mid-range region. A six-strap tightening system ensures a secure and stable fit. Plenty of space – seven inches in fact – makes this an ideal choice for carrying multiple bikes without the risk of contact. Furthermore, the integrated anti-sway cradles are versatile, accommodating a wide range of bikes and frames.
A smart extra touch is an integrated cable lock, allowing you to lock your bike to the Gateway Pro bike rack. Thule make use of oversized molded pads to protect your vehicle’s paintwork, meanwhile, and – when not in use – the Gateway Pro folds flat for convenient storage.
Clean lines and a simple, secure fit mean the Kuat Highline scores well as a mid-range trunk bike rack too – though it does have some drawbacks. The lightweight (13lb 15oz) trunk rack is great for transport, folding small when not in use. When in use, it is secure, with anti-sway features, and a considered fit.
Kuat’s attention to detail includes protective film layers for vehicle-rack contact points to protect your paintwork. It is easy to fit and easy to use, with a six-strap attachment and integrated ladder straps for your bike’s top tube. Additional straps keep the seat tube steady and avoid swaying in windy weather.
However, while Kuat pay attention to protecting your car’s paintwork, the same is not as evident when it comes to your bike. If it is a run-around, winter bike you will be more than happy with a secure fit and easy installation. The ladder straps fasten directly onto your bike with no other protection, however, so this is not the rack for your if you boast an eye-turning roadie with a sleek paintjob. That is the main point to bear in mind, while the lower cost also means no locking features at all – they are the only two major drawbacks, but they are big ones.
Hollywood Racks Express
For riders on a tight budget, the Hollywood Racks Express is a quick and easy trunk bike rack that comes in under the $100 mark. It is built with simplicity in mind, and ready to go out of the box. The rack – available in two- or three-bike versions – features nothing more than simple soft rubber bike cradles. Attaching to the front and rear of your top tube, the cradles are built to protect your paintwork.
There are no extra stability features, so again this is not one for your high-end racing machines. Neither is there additional locking. But if all you want is to get your bike from your home to your ride, and back, there is little to be unhappy about. Easy-to-use adjustment hubs ensures a fit for most vehicles’ trunks.
Allen Sports Deluxe
For even tighter budgets, the Allen Sports Deluxe is a very basic entry-level trunk bike rack. But you get value for your money, with some nods to lateral stability and protecting your car’s paintwork. It is also simple to install, with a single configuration to carry two bikes.
There is no messing around when installing the Allen Sports Deluxe then, and the bike rack is fairly versatile too with a wide-ranging fit. The straps – individual tie downs – lack the cushioning and extra stability offered by higher-end cradles, while security is not covered.
But for the price, you cannot expect much more – if you want those features, you need to spend more money. If you just want a simple means of transporting your bike without breaking the bank, this is it.
Hollywood Racks Expedition
Step up from the Express, and Hollywood Racks also offer the Expedition – another simple-to-install, good value trunk bike rack. Built to fit almost any vehicle, the Hollywood Racks Expedition boasts rubber anti-sway cradles to protect your bike and prevent too much movement when you are riding. Furthermore, in a step up from the Express, it boasts patented anti-sway blocks too to reduce the risk of damage in transit.
The quick-release hubs are easy to use, straight out of the box, and there is an integrated tie-down strap for extra security. That security is no substitute to a properly locked trunk rack, however, if that is what your aim is. Nevertheless, it is easy to transport, easy to use, and keeps your bikes relatively safe in transit. More often than not, there is little need for any more.
Buyer’s guide for trunk bike racks
Most trunk bike racks feature room for two or three bikes, with models usually available in both options. It is a fairly obvious place to start limiting your search, but not all two- or three-bike racks are made equal.
Pay attention to how much space is afforded between bikes and also how secure the bikes are in their cradles – a poorly-built three-bike rack will put your bikes at risk of damage in transit, through swaying and rubbing. Anti-sway cradles and other patented anti-sway features are the better options if you know you will be regularly transporting multiple bikes.
There is plenty more to consider when searching for the best bike rack for your needs to too, such as the type of bike you intend to transport. If you are looking to transport, for example, an e-bike then you will need a specialist rack – and you may consider a trailer more appropriate. Most trunk bike carriers are limited to 35lbs per bike, even at the top end of the market, so there is no allowance for e-bikes.
Even racks such as hitch racks with a slightly larger maximum capacity could also then fall foul of the weight limits imposed by your vehicle manufacturer. In short, if you want to transport a fat bike, e-bike, MTB or downhill bike, you are going to need a better solution than a trunk bike rack.
The hanging-style trunk rack is also not suitable for step-through women’s bikes. They can be accommodated, but you will need to purchase a specialist adapter for them. If you are on a tight budget and looking at a trunk rack to save money, it is an obvious downfall to consider.
Ease of installation
Trunk bike racks score highly for ease of installation, however. Usually, they fold flat and so are ready to go out of the box. Simply unpack, unfold and strap in. The difficulty comes in micro-adjustments and getting the perfect fit for your car. You do not want to be scratching your paintwork because you were blasé about installing the trunk rack.
Usually, installation is a matter of strapping in through the trunk though the more expensive models also lock to your car. The ease of installation is also the trunk bike rack’s biggest downfall, however – it is easy for you to put on, but it is also easy for anybody to take off. That is a key consideration when looking for the best bike rack. A trunk rack – even with the locking features – is still a well-tooled thief away from disappearing with your pride and joy in tow.
Cost & Quality
Locking systems are one of the main draws of higher-end trunk bike racks, but further nods towards higher quality – and higher cost – feature throughout. Trunk bike racks may be simple to use and install, but there is still plenty to consider when making and purchasing them.
The higher-quality trunk bike racks should feature far more secure cradles. Greater attention to detail and often patented designs include softer straps to protect your bike’s finish and anti-sway features to prevent bike-to-bike contact too. The higher-end bikes offer more versatile fits too. The key to your decision is essentially what you are looking to transport and how often.
You do not need a high-end bike rack if you are just looking for a way to transport your bike to your ride. Higher-quality bikes and more regular – and longer – transport demand a more expensive trunk bike rack.
Security can be broken down into two sections: how secure is your bike when you are driving and how secure is your bike when you are not? For the latter point, the more elaborate trunk bike racks feature locking attachments and sturdier straps. There is still a compromise when it comes to security and trunk bike racks, however. Ultimately, the majority of trunk bike racks simply need to be removed from the car – and some decent cutters will do just that.
Security when your bike is in transit, meanwhile, is an entirely different matter. Many factors affect it, but ultimately anti-sway strap designs to prevent lateral movement and more elaborate bike cradles are vital to look out for.
The other contact point, of course, is from rack to car. A more secure rubber foot will prevent damage to your paintwork and simultaneously combat lateral movement when driving. The top-end models can even boast vibration-dampening technology. It does make them slightly harder to install, but given what the trade-off is, micro-adjustability is well worth the financial and time costs.