If your current car, truck, minivan, or SUV does not have a hitch, the world of hitch bike racks is still open to you. You can most likely have a trailer hitch installed as an aftermarket part.
On average, the total cost of a complete Class 3 trailer hitch install ranges from $510 to $950.
This price includes a minimum of $400 for material for the tow hitch and wiring harness and $180 for a mechanic’s labor.
Car repair shops are less expensive than car dealerships while offering the same functionalities.
The total amount varies depending on the type of vehicle and the type of hitch. Since such an installation includes many bigger and smaller parts, with varying amounts of work that comes with those, there is potential to save some money at many corners.
What a professional tow hitch installation includes
A complete tow hitch installation includes the actual trailer hitch, a wiring harness, and the labor necessary for the installation of both those kits.
In detail, a complete package includes:
- Trailer Hitch Kit
- Hitch Receiver (Class 1-6)
- Ball Mount & Hitch Pin
- Trailer Ball
- Safety Chain
- Wiring Harness Kit
- 4 or 7 pin
- 1 hour max. for each the trailer kit and wiring kit
Generally, it is advised to go for a 2″ receiver ball size, since most hitch racks are supported and the selection is far greater – and so is weight capacity.
The following table shows how much you can expect to spend on each on average:
|Car Repair Shop
|Trailer Hitch Kit
|Wiring Harness Kit
|Labor (2 hours max.)
These prices are a mix of quotes I got offered from my local shops, are offered online (U-haul etc.), and reported by forum posts.
Don’t expect to get a drastically better hitch for that dealership premium though. Aftermarket parts can carry and tow just as well.
With all the shops I sent an inquiry about hitch install prices, there were also some repair shops in the dealership-pricing territory. So, it does not hurt to seek out a couple of different offers.
The best prices came from larger companies, that offer their own branded aftermarket parts and have experience from countless of installations to reduce the time needed.
Not specifically included in this list is a trailer hitch lock, which is very much recommended as an additional layer of bike rack security to avoid theft. These locks do exactly what they say: locking the receiver hitch to the vehicle so only you can take it (and everything attached to it) off. They replace the hitch pin and can cost anywhere between $30 and $300 on Amazon.
How long it takes to install a trailer hitch
The amount it takes to mount the hitch to the chassis of a vehicle largely depends on the vehicle rather than the hitch.
On average, a professional mechanic can install a trailer hitch in between thirty minutes and one hour.
Similarly, installing the matching wiring harness generally does not take more than one hour. Actual numbers do vary based on the type of vehicle and type of tow hitch.
Anything over two hours total is already unusual to see if done by a professional. Experienced mechanics should be able to inform you up-front of the time an installation would take on your specific vehicle.
While installing a wiring harness is best done by a pro, there is still an easy way to completely eliminate up to an hour of labor expenses entirely…
Installing a tow hitch by yourself
If you are handy and have the tools, you can save money for a professional mechanic.
Installing a trailer hitch is entirely possible to do on your own. These are standardized parts, often fitted to the specific vehicle. And the installation sometimes does not require specialized tools.
All in all, this is a fairly simple process that should not take more than an hour from start to finish. Even if you have never done it before.
Most kits come with detailed and easy-to-follow instructions. Besides, the amount of individual parts is limited. This is just not a very extensive procedure for most cars.
So, leave yourself the option to try for yourself, before opting for plan B and calling your local mechanic. Make sure you have access to one that is willing to install parts that are not ordered or bought through them.
U-Haul and Curt both made excellent videos showcasing how it is done by the pros.
This way you can get a feeling of what it takes and if that is something you are confident in doing.
Additional wiring for tail lights
Electrical wiring for tail lights and license plate illumination is probably the most overlooked part of a tow hitch.
Chances are you are blocking your license plate and tail lights when using your hitch – like with a hitch bike rack. This is illegal but trailers and bike racks usually come with additional lights and license plate mounts.
Luckily, just as you can do with the actual hitch, the wiring can also be installed as an aftermarket upgrade. So if your vehicle did not come equipped with a factory hitch or trailer wiring, you can install all of that without any compromises.
Just like the hitch, this can be done by yourself. However, it is more complicated to do and often requires partly disassembling the interior in order to get to the existing wiring on board.