If you are not a big fan of dirt inside of your car then buying a car bike rack is the perfect solution. Moreover, fitting your bikes inside the car each time you would like to take them with you can be very tedious, and bike racks solve this problem as well.
It sounds good, and actually, it really is.
However, you might be wondering if it is easy to install a bike rack on a car. The answer depends on a bike rack type:
- Trunk-mount bike racks are the most time-consuming. It usually takes 2-3 minutes to install a trunk rack on your car since it requires adjusting of straps (normally there are 6 straps). Once you are used to it, you can obviously expect it to be done faster.
- Hitch bike racks are the easiest ones. It won’t take more than 1 minute. This is the case because the only thing you need to do is to connect your hitch bike rack to the hitch receiver.
- Roof bike racks are also very easy to install. It won’t take more than 1 minute per one bike place holder. So the more bikes you need to transport the more time it is going to take so keep it in mind.
However, the answer to the question of whether car bike racks are easy to install or not also depends on what exactly you mean by “install”. Some bike rack types require quite a preparation to be done before (hitch bike racks require a hitch receiver and roof bike racks require either roof racks or crossbars). So if by “install” you mean the whole system installation, the answer will be different:
- Trunk-mount racks are getting installed on a car out of the box. You don’t need to buy or install any extra parts.
- All hitch bike racks require a trailer hitch. A trailer hitch normally takes no longer than 1 hr to get installed at a professional car service. You can probably do it yourself, but it will take a bit longer since you don’t do it on a daily basis, do you?
- All roof bike racks require either roof racks or crossbars (depending on the roof type). These are very easy to install. It won’t take you more than 5 minutes, I would assume.
Let’s go through each bike rack type and find out how to install each of them in more detail (including things you need to buy to be able to install a bike rack itself).
Roof bike rack installation in a nutshell
Things that you need to install a roof bike rack
As I have mentioned briefly, you can not directly install a roof bike rack on your car. All roof bike racks are installed either on roof racks or on crossbars, both are called “roof rack system”.
By the way, there are 4 car roof types: naked (bare), fixed-points, raised rails, flush rails.
Naked (bare) require roof racks
Fixed-points require roof racks
Raised rails require roof crossbars
Flush rails require roof crossbars
So which roof rack system you need depends on your car’s roof type.
Traditional roof racks are installed on naked (bare) and fixed-points roofs, whereas crossbars are installed on raised rails and flush rails roofs.
The installation process depends on a particular roof rack system’s manufacturer, model and whatnot so I can not go through it. In any case, you are supposed to assemble a roof rack system before it can be installed. Simply follow the instructions which are usually very straightforward and illustrated to make it really easy.
The whole process won’t take longer than 30 minutes (including the assembly and the installation of a rack system on your car).
How to install a roof bike rack
Now we are ready to install a bike rack itself on the roof rack system. This step is quite easy and normally does not take longer than a minute or two.
I can not give you a direct answer on how to do it since it highly depends on a particular model. You simply follow the instructions and do what it says.
The bottom line is that all models are easy to install. You just need to attach the bike rack to the roof rack system.
A tip. It is always advisable to buy a roof rack of the same producer that made your roof racks or crossbars. Some of them are simply not universal.
Hitch bike rack installation in a nutshell
Things that you need to install a hitch bike rack
Many people are asking whether you have to have a hitch for a bike rack or not. The answer is very definitive. All hitch bike racks require a trailer hitch. Otherwise, there would be nothing for your hitch bike rack to be attached to.
As a result, in order to install a hitch bike rack, you need to install a trailer hitch before. Some car models come with a trailer hitch preinstalled though most of them do not. Check if your car has a hitch receiver anyway since there are chances that you are already good to go.
There are five different classes of trailer hitches. Each class has its own hitch receiver size (1-1/4-inch, 2-inch, 2-1/2-inch).
Class 1, class 2 and class 3 trailer hitches are normally installed on cars (sedans, hatchbacks, SUVs).
Check which trailer hitches are compatible with your car’s model before buying anything since they are not universal.
Moreover, all hitch bike racks go with either 1-1/4-inch or 2-inch hitches. So you need to make sure that the trailer hitch you would like to install will be compatible with the hitch bike rack you are planning to buy.
In most cases, even though your trailer hitch and hitch bike rack are different in size it can be solved with the help of an adapter. Anyway, it is always better to have everything compatible out of the box. On top of that, some hitch bike rack models do not allow to use an adapter (for example, some Hollywood hitch rack models).
To install a trailer hitch on your car you will probably have to visit a car service. It will take less than an hour for professionals and will cost you $100-$250 (plus $200-$500 for a trailer hitch itself). You can do it yourself though since it is not rocket science at all, but will probably take more than an hour.
How to install a hitch bike rack
Once you have your car equipped with a trailer hitch, everything is going to be very easy.
The only thing you need to do is to connect your hitch rack with the trailer hitch receiver. Just follow the instruction since each model has a bit different installation process.
The bottom line is that it will be very easy and straightforward since it is done in two simple steps most of the time:
- Slide the bike rack into the hitch receiver so that it fits into the hitch pinhole,
- Tighten the knob, then lock it with the key (most hitch bike rack models allow to lock the rack on the hitch so nobody can steal it).
Trunk-mount bike rack installation in a nutshell
Things that you need to install a trunk-mount bike rack
You do not need anything in order to be able to install a trunk bike rack. This bike rack type is installed directly on your car (bumper and rear window) so the only thing you need to buy is a bike rack itself.
How to install a trunk-mount bike rack
Trunk bike racks can be a bit different so the installation process will vary as well. Simply read the instruction and do what it says. In any case, basically all trunk racks will require these steps to be taken:
- Properly position the rack on your car. The position of the rack highly depends on your car’s body type (sedan, hatchback, SUV, van),
- Attach the straps to your car. There are normally six straps though some models have only four. Also, depending on a particular rack model and on your car’s body type there might be very different connection points.
- Tighten the straps (you are supposed to make sure that the straps are still tight from time to time).
All car bike racks are fairly easy to install at the end of the day.
Hitch bike racks are the easiest ones. However, keep in mind that a hitch bike rack normally weighs around 40-50 lbs so you are going to be required to perform some lifting (which some people would consider quite heavy).
Roof bike racks are also very easy when it comes to installation. There are two connection points for each bike placeholder.
Trunk-mount racks might not be too easy to install for the first time. Once you get acquainted though, the process will take only 1-2 minutes longer than hitch racks and roof racks.