There are five distinct classes of trailer hitches divided by towing capacity and receiver size. For hitch bike rack use, not all classes are relevant and some are even barely usable.

Class 3 is the best in terms of bike capacity, and compatibility with most hitch racks.

Class 4 and 5 may be overkill for bike transport but may be worth consideration for trailer towing.

Class 1 or 2 would have enough tounge weight for most bikers, but fewer hitch bike racks mount to a 1 1/4″ receiver ball.

Here is a table of normed hitch classes and bike rack capacity based on tounge weight:

Receiver SizeTounge capacityBike Rack Capacity
Class 11 1/4″200 lbs max.2 – 4 bikes
Class 21 1/4″350 lbs max.5 bikes
Class 32″800 lbs max.5+ bikes
Class 42″1.000 lbs max.Overkill
Class 5 XD2″2.500 lbs max.Overkill
Class 5 CD2 1/2″Overkill
Trailer hitch classes and tounge weight

A tow hitch is designed to be able to tow stuff much heavier than a couple of bikes.

As you can see, all 6 classes of hitches allow for bike transportation using a hitch-mounted rack.

For e-bikers, class 1 may not be suitable in most cases as it quickly reaches its weight limits.

Generally, it is advised to go for a 2″ receiver ball size, since most hitch racks are supported and the selection is far greater. The same goes for bike capacity.

For classes 1 and 2, the ability to do so just is not that great. They are the most limiting.

If your vehicle allows it and it is at all a possibility that trailer towing is in your future, I would opt for a class 4 hitch – if your car allows it.

This way you are not limited in what your new hitch can do in the future. And you can carry more than enough (e-)bikes.

Here are a few more pointers to help you decide:

  • The most common hitch bike racks require a 2″ receiver ball size. They also have more capacity.
  • For hitch bike racks a hitch needs to support enough tounge weight capacity – not total weight capacity.
  • An average bike weighs 25 lbs, while an average e-bike weighs 65 lbs.
  • The actual hitch rack weighs between 40-60 lbs, depending on the number of bikes it can hold.

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