How Far Can a Car Bike Rack Stick Out?

If you’re looking for some clarification on the question, “How Far Can a Car Bike Rack Stick Out?” you’re in the right place.

Before moving to the point I would like to say that a car bike rack is never a problem by itself since it virtually never sticks out the sides of your car. Only a bike rack with bikes loaded might be a concern.

To answer your question, the rack cannot stick out so far that it would interfere with turning or cross traffic. To be more specific let’s consider how far a car bike rack can stick out:

  • Beyond the rear side of your car,
  • The sides of your car.

The last thing to mention here is that there are different bike rack types, and some of them indeed can stick out the sides (hitch and trunk racks), whereas others (roof racks) can not due to their nature. So further in the article, we will consider hitch and trunk rack only.

How far can a bike rack stick out the sides of your car?

There are definitely some limits to how far any object (whether it is a ladder, a lumber stick, or bikes loaded on a bike rack) can extend the sides of your car. Different states have a bit different regulations when it comes to this issue. However, I won’t dive any deeper since bikes on your rack won’t be a problem in any state. How so? The math is very simple.

An average car is 70 inches wide

An average bike is 70 inches long as well

As a result, in most cases, your bikes on the bike rack won’t be sticking out the sides at all.

Even if we are talking about small cars (for example, VW Beattle which is 60 inches wide), the bikes will stick out only 5 inches from each side. So it won’t cause any problems unless you have a tendency to drive very close to obstacles and other cars, which I believe you don’t.

Moreover, the width of an average lane in the US is about 145 inches. As you can see, you still have a lot of room for maneuvers even if your bikes are sticking out the sides a bit.

How far can a bike rack stick out beyond the rear side of your car?

Here you definitely have nothing to worry about under no circumstances. Of course, there are some limits to how far any object can extend beyond the rear side of your car, but even the longest bike rack won’t come even close.

For example, in Washington, nothing can stick out 15 feet (180 inches) beyond the rear axle of a vehicle on a public road. You won’t find a rear bike rack longer than 40 inches. 


As you can see, there is no such problem as a loaded car bike rack sticking out too far. It is possible under some unusual circumstances (either your car is too small or your bikes are too long), but it won’t be too big of an issue anyway since the bikes won’t stick out more than a few inches from each side.