The straightforward answer is no, you can’t use a hitch-mounted bike rack without a trailer hitch. Because this is a hitch rack, it requires a trailer hitch to hook the whole system on.
If we don’t have a hitch, we have no stable place to put our rack on and hang our bikes. Even though buying a trailer hitch can be a bit of an extra cost, it’s totally worth it if you know the benefits.
Let’s check out more about hitch bike rack and trailer hitches right below!
2 Different Kinds Of Hitch Bike Racks
There are 2 types of hitch-mounted bike racks you’ll often find today: the hanging and the platform rack.
Hanging Hitch Rack
This type of rack hangs your bikes on their frames–just like those hooks you have to hang your shirts or pants.
Hanging rack can usually accommodate 2-6 bikes depending on the type you get. They are less expensive than the platform hitch rack.
This style is super lightweight and easy to set up. You just need to right the right hitch receiver and voila, you’re all set.
The only downside to the hanging rack is possibly the swaying issue. On bumpy roads, your bikes may experience some swaying that can potentially cause unwanted scratches.
Still, it’s a solid choice if you don’t want to spend too much and still have a rack that works well.
Platform Hitch Rack
Platform hitch racks have a solid base or platform for your bikes to stand on. This completely solves the swaying problem we talk about earlier with the hanging hitch rack.
This feature makes the platform rack a great carrying tool for bikes with expensive carbon frames or those that you don’t want to have scratches on the bike’s surface.
Because the rack is more secure, it is also more expensive than the hanging bike rack. Despite that, the setup is also simple and straightforward.
Although this rack style is great, it can only hold a limited number of bikes–usually about 2 or 3. So, this is another point you should consider before buying one.
In short, the platform rack is suitable for bikers who want a stable, secure base so their bikes won’t experience any damages.
Hanging vs Platform Hitch Rack: Comparison Table
Selecting The Best Trailer Hitch
Trailer hitches can be installed on cars and other vehicles. You should check with the manufacturer to see how much weight your vehicle can tow safely.
Usually, one really heavy bike weighs around 70 lbs. So, if you have 3 bikes, you’ll need about 210 lbs power to hang them securely during your trip.
Here are the 2 most common hitch types you will often need for the hitch rack:
As you can see, these capacities are more than enough to hang 5-6 bikes. Again, just check with your vehicle’s manufacturer to make sure it can support this amount of weight.
Class III and class IV hitches are suitable to install on SUVs, trucks, vans, or CUVs.
When you see a hitch bike rack says something like this:
Vehicle requires professionally installed Class III or IV 2″ hitch to use this product.
You know that you need to get a Class 3 or Class 4 hitch to use the rack most securely.
So, go get one. But if you’re wondering what the best hitch brands are, here are the top selections:
3 Best Hitch Bike Racks & Brands
After selecting the best hitches, you may need to find info on the best hitch-mounted racks and brands.
Let’s have a quick look at some of them right now:
This hanging rack hooks up to 4 bikes. It requires a class 3 or 4 hitch receiver. You can easily set it up in under 5 minutes.
The carrying arm is 22 inches long with tie-down system to secure your bikes nicely in place. Be sure to never use this rack in the front of your vehicles.
Although this may not be the best to use on trailers, you can use it on your cars or SUVs.
You may not want it because it touches your bike’s frame. Many people love this rack because it’s comparatively cheap and because it works.
- Easy setup
- Can hook 4 bikes
- May scratch paint
- Not for trailers
BV Bike Bicycle Hitch Mount Rack Carrier for Car Truck SUV
This BV bike rack is a platform hitch rack. It features a smart tilting design that lets the user open the rear gates of your vehicle without having to detach the rack.
The rack can hold a 35-lb bike on each of its platform. The maximum tire width is 3 inches. So, this rack is not for fat tire bikes.
The loops and padded arms can hold your bike securely in place and protect the paint coat from scratching.
Note that the rack doesn’t not work well with 1 ¼ inch receiver. The other downside to it may be the price.
If you’re willing to pay, then this is going to be worth every dollar.
- Super secure base
- Smart tilting design
- Protecting from scratching
- Not compatible with 1 ¼” receiver
Thule Vertex XT Hitch Mount Bike Carrier
This Thule vertex hitch rack is a hanging rack. It can fit 1 ¼ to 2 inch receivers. With its built-in cable locks, you can secure your bikes in place without worrying about them being wobbly.
The rack can handle a max load of 140 lbs, which means over 5 bikes if your bikes are not too heavy.
The Snug-Tite lock feature will lock the rack in place with the hitch so you won’t experience any weird movements when you drive with the hitch rack at the back.
You may not want to use this for heavy bikes. The rack is also quite expensive.
- Fits most 1 ¼ – 2 inch receivers
- Max load 140 lbs for over 4 bikes
- Snug-Tite fit to keep the rack in place
- Not ideal for heavy bikes
- Quite pricey
To answer your question again, you do need a trailer hitch to use a hitch bike rack. Because the rack is designed that way for the most secure and stable carrying of your bikes along the way.
The 2 most common hitch racks you will find are hanging and platform. Hanging rack is cheaper and lighter. Platform rack is more expensive but more stable.
Be sure to equip your vehicle with Class 3 or Class 4 hitch to install the hitch rack on. For hitches, look for brands like Towever, Connor or CURT.
For hitch bike racks, brands like Thule, Allen Sports, and BV Bike are worth your attention. Hope this was helpful and thanks for reading! Happy cycling!