Bikes are a great way to get around, whether it’s your hometown or vacation spot. If you have a vehicle with a hitch receiver, you can buy a hitch-mounted bike rack so that you have space for more than one bike in your vehicle.

However, if your car doesn’t have a built-in hitch receiver, then you won’t be able to use a hitch-mounted bike rack. Hitch receivers can be expensive and difficult to install, so if you don’t need one for your current car, it may not be worth the hassle of installing or buying a new receiver.

Luckily there are plenty of alternatives to hitch-mounted bike racks that don’t require a vehicle with a hitch receiver. There are also a few downsides to including a hitch on a vehicle, so even if you do have one now, you may not want to in the future.

By knowing your options and taking a close look at their pros and cons, you can choose the best bike rack for your needs.

What are alternatives to hitch-mounted bike racks?

If you own a vehicle without a built-in receiver, then you can’t use a hitch-mounted bike rack . For those who really like to haul around lots of bikes or tow their boat, then there is tow bar mounted racks that attach right to your vehicle’s tow bar. These tend to be flimsier and have a very limited weight capacity, but they are still secure and easy to use.

If you want a bike rack for occasional use in your driveway or in very light traffic situations, then a roof-mounted bike rack like this one may be the answer. They’re sturdy and work well if you don’t need to move your vehicle more than once every few weeks.

If you don’t like the idea of sticking something to your vehicle or would rather not block your rear window with a rack, then consider investing in a trunk-mounted bike rack like this one. These attach to the frame of your car and hold two bikes securely without blocking any windows or doors. They are very secure, so they won’t damage your car or fall off, but this means that it can be a bit more difficult to get the bikes in and out of them.

If you’re transporting large or heavy bikes, then a hitch-mounted bike rack may still be your best bet. They are easy to use and allow you quick access to the rear of your vehicle, so you won’t have to worry about dropping or scratching your bikes during unloading.

Are there downsides to non-hitch mounted bike racks?

All of these options have their own benefits and drawbacks, so you must consider all of them before deciding on a bike rack.

Bikes tend to be the heaviest things people transport in their vehicles, so you’ll need to make sure that your bike rack can support the weight of all of your bikes.

Roof-mounted bike racks work well for light use or for small cars with no trunk, but they are difficult to access if you have larger items in the back of your car. Depending on how you have them installed, they also block rearview mirrors and may block your view out of the rear window.

Trunk-mounted bike racks are easy to access but difficult if you have a large car or many items in the trunk that can’t be removed. These also won’t work well for very heavy bikes and may damage your vehicle while transporting them.

Hitch mounted bike racks are secure and strong, but they can be difficult to install. They’re also bulky and may annoy other drivers if your rear window is blocked or you need to open up the back of your vehicle.

Is it worth having a hitch installed on your vehicle?

If you want to haul around bikes frequently, tow a boat or trailer, or have a small car that can’t support roof-mounted racks, then having a hitch installed on your vehicle may be worth the cost. If you don’t ever plan to move your bikes more than once every few weeks and never want to tow anything with your car, then it may not be worth the hassle of buying and installing a receiver.

If you’re not sure whether or not it’s worth having a hitch installed, look online for ‘hitch fitment calculators’ to see what fits your car and how much it will cost to have one installed. If this seems too much hassle or expense, consider buying a less expensive bike rack that doesn’t need a receiver or paying for an Uber every time you want to go somewhere with your bikes.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you attach a bike to a car without a rack?

The easiest way to transport your bicycle with your car, minus the bike rack is to put it inside of the vehicle itself. This generally is best done by removing the front wheel, and lowering the seat as much as possible to give enough room in the vehicle for it to fit.

Do bike racks need hitch wiring?

Most hitch bike racks do not require any form of power to operate, and do not need to be plugged in. Sure there are some that have an integrated 3rd brake light, however those are rare.


If you still aren’t sure which type of bike rack is best for you, then consider talking to a local car accessory specialist or measuring the inside of your trunk before making any decisions. You should also determine where you plan to take your bikes often enough that it’s worth investing in a bike rack. If you’re mostly planning to use your bike rack at home or at the office most of the time, then it may not be worth the extra expense.