The Benefits Of Installing Bicycle Racks On A Car

So, what is the deal with bike racks for cars? Are they worth their cost? Most bicycles fit into most cars – I even fit a big downhill mountain bike rig into the tiny trunk of a Honda Civic Sedan for years. Let me state the following though:

As a whole, bike racks are worth it to make traveling with a bike enjoyable. Most importantly they will save your time and patience when heading out for a ride. You can focus on enjoying the adventure ahead while keeping your bike and the car interior from getting damaged by loading and unloading from the trunk.

If you are even thinking about it, chances are you have use for a car bike rack but are unsure about the pros and cons of getting one. 

Do you really need a bike rack?

If you are planning to go out on bike rides fairly regularly throughout the year (or summer), there is a high chance you will benefit from having a bike rack on your car. Depending on what best bike rack fits your car, you can leave it on there all season. When you do, the logistics become extremely easy. I noticed the difference. Every. Single. Ride.

“Just get your gear on, throw the steed up onto the rack, and you are already on the move.”

The time you need to prep the car, pull apart the bike (front-wheel mostly), gently place it at just the right place (while going back and forth from trunk to side door), fiddle with the handlebars, and so on turns into time spent on the road towards your riding spot. Every time you head out that’s an easy 15-20 Minutes more of actually sitting in the saddle … or at the pub for your favorite after-ride beverage.

You will notice and welcome this relief too. It is just a question of how often – depending on how often you usually ride or plan to ride. Some fellow riders average 3-4 rides every week. Others may only do one big ride a year. It totally depends on your needs.

Here are Advantages and Disadvantages for bike racks (in my experience):


  • Ease of use. (And install for that matter, most have become very user friendly.)
  • Fuel your enthusiasm by keeping the effort to go on a ride minimal
  • Visit favorite or further away riding spots more often.
  • Take more than 1 bike with you. Group Rides with friends, family or your significant other.
  • Car seats for kids in the back? Leave them installed where they are. 
  • No more dirty, greasy or scratched car interiors.
  • Your bike won’t slide around and possibly get damaged while it’s on its side.
  • No more disassembly procedure to fit everything in a trunk.
    • Hydraulic brakes may feel different every time when disassembling the front wheel, laying on the side and possibly even pressing the brake lever without the disc brake.
    • V-Brakes are an extra hassle for getting wheels off. Don’t even get me started.
  • Traveling with a bike without inconvenience is a game changer.


  • Finding out what bike rack fits your car and needs may be the biggest hurdle.
  • Depending on your needs, prices can be steep. (Solution: Used ones work equally as well. This is a tool that does not need to be flashy.)
    • To help you think about the investment, break down the cost to an individual ride. Using conservative numbers: 
      (Money) 500$ Rack for the next 5 years minimum at 20 rides a year. 500$ : 5 years : 20  = 5$ per Ride 
      (Time) 15min front wheel disassemblies and trunk acrobatics per ride for 20 rides / year over 5 years = 25 Hours of fumbling time saved.
  • Worry about bike thieves. (Solution: Get a lock with alarm. Most hotels offer locked bike storage rooms)
  • Worry about rack thieves. (Solution: There are hitch locks. Roof and trunk racks can hardly be removed from a locked car)
  • Storage during off-season. Make Sure you can either store it somewhere or use the entire year-round.
  • Fuel Efficiency. 
    • Roof Racks: You may want to ease off the gas pedal a little with a cargo on top, since aero drag is exponential to speed. Without cargo, this is a non-issue.
    • Hitch Racks: After countless hours on the road with bikes on the trunk, I found that hitch racks hardly make a difference on gas mileage.
  • Roof racks may be out of scope for riders with short stature.
  • Roof racks with bikes on them don’t mix too well with garages.

4 low risk ways to check if bike racks are for you

Finally, I have some recommendations for you, if you are still unsure if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages for you …

  • Buy used. As long as it fits your car and needs, go for it. No harm done if you decide to sell it later.
  • Try out a friend’s hitch rack. They are the most compatible.
  • Rent a bike on your next vacation and see if you like bicycling in unfamiliar regions.
  • Find more uses for it. Like roof boxes for skis, tools, camping gear etc.

My underdog benefit: Vacation transportation!

I did not anticipate this to be such a huge benefit. In fact, this wasn’t even one of my planned uses when I bought my first bike rack. Even planning the road trip, it did not cross our minds to take 2 bikes with us on top of all the luggage.

But in the end, we went on a 1000 km (600 miles) road trip through Italy – with our bicycles in tandem. On the way, we stopped in a couple of cities for sightseeing. The only requirement we had in each of them was a parking space. We did not need any public transportation, scheduled tourist rides, guides, or any other distraction. We hopped on our bikes and went directly to the places that looked interesting to us – with minimal effort.

You just save so much time and hassle but still can go wherever pedestrians can. This was a feeling of total freedom I rarely felt before! Exploring Rome on two wheels was a completely different experience than sightseeing on foot as we had done so many times before. 

And this is what I want you to feel too. It’s not about the metal rig on a vehicle – it is about what it can enable you to experience.

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