To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Best bike racks for cars 2023: Roof, towbar and rear-mounted bike carriers from £78

Take your bike for a ride! We’ll help you choose the best bike rack for your car or van

Next time you fancy taking your beloved bike to the countryside or a sporting event, don’t just chuck it in the boot of your car. Neither bike nor car will thank you for it. Instead, invest in a carrier specially designed to transport your bike – or all the family’s bikes – on your car, safely and legally.

There are a few different types of bike carrier, of course. Some secure your bike to the roof, leaving your rear-view free of distractions. Others strap your bike to the boot, ensuring you can keep an eye on it and won’t get stuck under low bridges. Others can tow a whole clutch of bikes behind you.

Here, we’ll quickly run through the factors that’ll help you find the ideal carrier for your bike, car and budget. Then we’ll reveal the six bike carriers that impressed us most with their ease of use and setup, security features, and value for money.

READ NEXT: Best bike locks

How to choose the best bike rack for your car

Should I travel with my bike on the roof, boot or towbar?

Each method has clear pros and cons. Actually, each has more cons than pros, so the choice is really a matter of deciding which disadvantages you’re least bothered by. Let’s start with the cheapest option.

1. Rear-mounted bike carriers

Pros: Racks that strap onto your hatch or boot are easy and affordable, not least because you don’t need other hardware (such as roof racks and towbars) to fit them onto. They also give you a clear view of your bike or bikes as you drive.

Cons: That clear view of your bike or bikes may be handy for keeping an eye on them, but you really should be watching the road instead. A rear window obscured by bikes will interfere with your driving. The bikes may also cover your number plate and even your lights. Then there’s the risk of damage to your car from the strap-on frame and the bikes loaded on it. Any good bike carrier should hold your bikes away from your vehicle, but the risk of scratching is highest with rear-mounted strap-on carriers.

2. Roof-mounted bike carriers

Pros: The next most affordable option, roof-mounted bike carriers, are arguably the safest because they don’t obstruct your view. You’ll also have full access to your tailgate and boot, and won’t need to worry about obscured plates or lights. Plus, despite initial appearances, roof carriers are extremely secure, with carefully-designed mounts, straps and ratchets to keep your bike from moving, even when you’re bombing down the motorway.

Cons: Your bike takes a battering by the wind up there, so your fuel consumption will be higher. Then there are the height problems. You have to get the bike up and down again, which is tricky unless you’re tall – and look out for car park entrances. In most cases you’ll also need to buy a roof rack or bars, although you can then leave them on permanently to take all kinds of carriers. See for a full guide.

READ NEXT: Best adventure bikes for off-road cycling

3. Towbar-mounted bike carriers

Pros: If your vehicle already has a towbar attached, then a towbar-mounted carrier is very easy to fit. There are two types of towbar carrier: platform (‘ride-on’) carriers that support up to four bikes by their wheels and are the strongest type of bike carrier; and the more affordable ‘hang-on’ towbar carriers, where you hang bikes from their top bar. Many towbar carriers come with integrated number plates, lighting boards and bike-locking features.

Cons: More expensive than roof and rear boot carriers. If your motor doesn’t already have a towbar, you’ll need to buy one, and pay to have it fitted. But it’s money well spent on years of freedom to travel securely with your bike, or all your family’s bikes.

READ NEXT: Best cycling helmets

The best bike racks and carriers you can buy in 2023

1. Thule ProRide 598: Best single bike carrier for a single bike

Price when reviewed: £118 | Check price at Amazon This classic roof lock from leading bike transport brand Thule is a steal at little over £100. It’s super-secure, very easy to use, and keeps your bike safely out of your rear view and away from your paintwork.

Initial setup is fairly straightforward, and loading your bike in the carrier is simple – but only if you can reach the roof. It automatically positions your bike when you sit the wheels in the trays, then you secure it by locking the rubber-cushioned claw around the down tube and tightening the ratchet. The claw is designed to fit all shapes and sizes of tube, including chunky mountain bikes, and the ratchet’s click system stops it crushing, although you may want to add extra protection on a valuable carbon frame.

The wheel straps are also easy to attach, and their diagonal fit keeps your bike stable when you’re cruising down the motorway, although some users report the straps are tricky to open after a tiring journey. That’s annoying, but preferable to straps that come flying undone when you’re driving.

The Thule ProRide only carries one bike, but four of these cost the same as a good four-bike platform carrier. Keep it (or several) in the boot for attaching to your roof rack whenever you fancy an adventure.

Key specs – Type: Roof-mounted (additional roof rack required); Load capacity: 20kg; Product weight: 4.2kg; Size: 145 x 32 x 8.5cm; Max number of bikes: 1

2. Saris Bones EX3: Best rear bike carrier

Price when reviewed: £200 | Check price at Halfords Saris’s ‘Bones’ racks are pretty pricey for strap-on boot racks, but they are superb pieces of engineering: secure, lightweight, reliable and really quite handsome. The Saris Bones EX3 fits securely on any type of car (even those with spoilers), carries three bikes safely away from the paintwork – and doesn’t need a roof rack or towbar to fit onto. So it could end up saving you money, especially if you’d been considering renting a van to take the bikes on holiday.

Like all the Bones racks, the EX uses a system of one-click locking retractable straps, adjustable arms and pivoting floating rubber feet to secure the bikes and fit nearly any vehicle without damaging it. It feels incredibly solid despite weighing just 11lbs (5kg), and is quick and easy to remove and stash in the boot.

The downside, as with many rear mounted racks, is that the bikes will obscure your rear window and the back of your vehicle, so you’ll need extra plates and lights to stay safe.

Key specs – Type: Rear door-mounted; Load capacity: 47kg; Product weight: 5kg; Size: 61 x 57 x 19cm; Max bikes: 3

Check price at Halfords

3. Peruzzo Arezzo Towball 3: Best towbar carrier under £150

Price when reviewed: £87 | Check price at Amazon At under 7kg, this Raleigh-designed carrier is the lightest bike rack in our rundown and also one of the cheapest. It clamps straight onto the towball then holds up to three bikes securely away from the car, with safety straps and soft rubber positioners to protect your cycles.

The carrier tilts back to give you access to the boot, but it’s rather heavy when loaded with bikes, which hang from struts rather than being supported by a platform. The struts are quite close together, so we wouldn’t recommend using it for three expensive bikes, and you may need an extra attachment to hang bikes without a top bar. You’ll also need to buy a number plate and lighting board.

But don’t let us put you off – if you need to transport multiple bikes and you’re on a budget, this is the best-value carrier for you.

Key specs – Type: Towbar-mounted hang-on (additional towbar required); Load capacity: 45kg; Product weight: 6.63kg; Size: 70 x 55 x 20cm; Max bikes: 3

4. Thule Xpress Pro 970: Best budget towbar mounted bike rack

Price when reviewed: £85 | Check price at Wiggle When it comes to bike racks, Thule is a well known name and the Xpress Pro 970 is an affordable offering that demonstrates why it’s such a trusted brand. The rack can hold two bikes and has a maximum load capacity of 30kg, which is ample for you to transport both mountain and road bikes.

The holders are rubber-coated, which makes them great at not only holding your bikes in place but also protecting your bike frame from any dents and scrapes. Other thoughtful design features we love are the reflecting caps, which illuminate the rack to traffic from the rear.

You can also neatly fold the rack down with ease, meaning you can store it away or transport it in your car boot when you’re not using it.

Key specs – Type: Towbar-mounted; Load capacity: 30kg; Product weight: 4kg; Size: 72 x 52 x 14cm; Max bikes: 2

5. Seasucker Mini Bomber: Best suction pad roof bike rack

Price when reviewed: £495 | Check price at Merlin Cycles  The Seasucker Mini Bomber is certainly expensive, but it goes a long way in justifying the asking price. Firstly, it gets rid of the need to fit roof bars to your car as it uses four 6in suction cups. This makes the Mini Bomber extremely versatile; you can fit it on your car’s roof, boot or rear glass.

Now, we know that attaching your precious bikes to your car using suction cups sounds somewhat precarious. Thankfully, the Mini Bomber has a Power Band indicator that tells you when they are securely attached.

In terms of storage space, the Mini Bomber can hold two bikes that weigh up to 20.4kg each. Bikes attach to the rack by the fork after the front wheel is removed, while another mount keeps the rear wheel secured. Your bike will need to have standard quick-release forks to be compatible, but if your bike is thru-axle, then fear not: you can buy a thru-axle to quick-release adapter here.

Key specs – Type: Roof fork-mounted; Load capacity: 40kg; Product weight: 5kg; Size: Not given; Max bikes: 2