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Do Bike Racks Need a Hitch Ball? (Answered)

Those who love outdoor biking and adventures might have used bike racks to transport their bikes. Hitch bike racks are very easy and convenient to use. Different bike racks use various mounts for their bikes.

Do bike racks need a hitch ball?

Bike racks that require a hitch mechanism to fit them with any vehicle might need a hitch ball mount. Hitch ball mounts serve as a cushion to stabilize your bike racks. Not all bike racks need a hitch ball. Different types of bike racks use the strap and haul systems as well.

Do all bike racks need a hitch?

Bike racks with hitches are easy to install to a vehicle. But there are different options available in the market. Many of them do not need a hitch for installation.

There are different types of racks. For example, truck racks, trunk racks, roof racks, spare tire racks, etc., and not all of them require a hitch to attach them with any vehicle.

So, all bike racks do not need a hitch. Spare tire racks, truck racks, truck racks, etc., do not need a hitch. These racks also allow the towing of trailers on the back of the car.

Roof racks are the safest option as they keep your car and the carrying vehicle intact. These do not need a hitch.

Which bike racks need a hitch ball?

Platform or tray racks:

These racks are attached to the vehicle using a hitch mechanism. They can carry a lot of weight and stably align bikes.

Hanging racks:

Hanging racks can carry from 2 to 5 bikes at a time. They are light in weight.

Vertical bike racks:

These bike racks can hold numerous bikes and require less horizontal space. They are stable if you fix and strap them properly.

Recumbent racks:

These racks can carry two bikes with a lot of space between them. The seat inference is minimum in this rack.

Trike racks:

You can adjust the heights of the bikes in these racks. They can attach most of the tadpole strikes.

Flat tire racks:

These racks can keep your bikes safe and sturdy. They are wobble-free and can foldable after use.

What kind of hitch should I get for a bike rack?

There are five classes of hitches available for towing different kinds of vehicles behind your car/SUV. We get this classification according to their towing capability.

You can carry or two from 200 pounds to 17000 pounds using hitches. From common appliances to heavy-duty materials, you can tow them using them.

A bike rack falls under the category of common appliances. They are light in weight, and their installation process is also simple.

As the class of the hitches gradually ascends, their towing capacity also ascends. Class one hitch is the most common type of hitch used for towing bike racks.

Light-duty receiver hitches are also known as class one hitches. They can carry weights up to 2,000 pounds. So, they are in use for carrying bike racks.

Are non-hitch bike racks safe?

Bike racks are of different styles and types. There are roof racks, trunk racks, cargo boxes, truck racks, spare-tire racks, etc.

Non-hitch bike racks are the racks that do not use a hitch to attach bike racks to the vehicles. These racks use straps, strands and trays, and many other things to carry your bikes in your car.

The risk of scratches and damages is high when you use a hitch bike rack. But non-hitch bike racks are safer in this regard. They properly attach the bikes to the vehicle by strapping them. But you cannot carry a lot of bikes at a time.

These non-hitch bike racks are safe if you use them as instructed. If they are strapped well to the vehicle, they can keep your bikes safe. But negligence in their use may cause accidents.

Double-check and strap or attach your bike racks to your car while using a non-hitch bike rack.

How do you attach a hitch to a bike rack?

Size of the receiver hitch:

First, you have to determine the size of the hitch receiver in your car/SUV.

Adjust the adapter:

The most common size for a hitch receiver is two-inch. A bike rack comes with an adapter. If the size is smaller than two-inch, remove the adapter.

Inserting the rack into the receiver:

Then insert the bike rack into the receiver to align the holes in them in a straight line. Line up the hole in the receiver with that of the bike rack to lock them using nuts and bolts.

Insert the bolts:

Insert a lock washer and a flat washer below the bolts head and then insert it through the lined holes of the rack and receiver.

Tighten the bolts:

Tighten the bolts as far as you can with your hands. Then take a wrench to tighten them at their best.

Lock the rack:

Attach a cotter pin to the end of the bolt to lock it. And check the rack’s stability by shaking it a little.

How do you stabilize a hitch on a bike rack? 

After attaching the hitch on the bike rack with that of the car, your bike can sway or rock whenever you ride a bumpy or uneven terrain. It can also move a lot and make noises due to metal rattling.

To avoid this rocking of the bikes and minimizing the noises, you can stabilize the hitch on your bike rack.

You can stabilize the hitch on your bike rack using a hitch tightener. A hitch tightener is a U-bolt that comes with a steel plate and some nuts and bolts.

You have to place this tightener on the connecting point of the rack and the hitch of the bike rack. Then screw the tightener along with a washer and bolt.

These tighteners are universal, and you can try various positions per the flexibility of your vehicle. You have to lock the tightener to stabilize the grip of the hitch.

There are also other ways of tightening your hitch to the bike rack. For example, you can use different straps, weight distributors, cushion hitch, etc. all these things stabilize your hitch connection and gives you a smooth ride with your bike rack.

How much does it cost to install a hitch on a bike rack? 

Hitches are available in 5 classes or classifications. These are divided based on their lifting capacity. The higher the class, the higher the towing capacity.

For a bike rack, you will need a class 1 hitch. It is also known as light-duty receiver hitches. These hitches are light in weight and can tow weigh approximately 2,000 pounds.

The construction of these hitches allows it to tow the bike racks and different cargo carriers.

It can cost you around 100$ – 150$ to install a hitch to a bike rack. And remember that it is the installation cost only. You have to pay separately for the other pieces of equipment as well.  

How to fit a bike rack to a tow ball? 

  • At first, you have to measure the weight your vehicle can carry to tow the bike rack.
  • Then clean the tow ball of the vehicle to remove grease and dirt.
  • Place your bike rack positioning on the tow ball.
  • Lower the bike rack onto the tow ball.
  • Now lock the carrier rack by pushing down the handle of it.
  • Adjust the arms and lock them according to the height of your bikes
  • Take a D-shaped clip and enter it through the left side of the frame’s hole to secure the bike rack.

And this is how you fit a bike rack to a tow ball, and you are ready to go. Also, follow the instructions manual that comes with your bike rack to install it properly. 

Are hitch bike racks better? 

Hitch bike racks are comfortable and easy to use. They are of two types. One comes with a platform or tray. The other comes with the configuration of hanging your bikes. No matter what their configuration is, hitch bike racks have their own merits and demerits.


  • You can carry a lot of bikes, and it is easier to install as well.
  • It is the best option for regular users.
  • They are light in weight and allow you to carry 2-5 bikes at a time.
  • There is clearance on the ground more in the hanging style hitch carrier.
  • The platform-style hitch bike rack holds and stabilizes your bikes the most by keeping their placement aligned, etc.


  • These bike racks are a little pricey than other trunk mounting options.
  • The tray-style carrier is heavy and can cost more as well.
  • The hanging carriers can sway your bike to incur some damages to it sometimes.
  • This carrier can also block your rear-view and limit access to the trunk, etc.

These are some of the merits and demerits of a hitch bike carrier. Now you can decide on your needs whether it is better for you or not.

So, hitch bike carriers are flexible and friendly to use. They allow the safe carriage of bikes to distant places and enjoy the ride in peace. 

These bike racks are easy to attach and control. Give them a try next time you plan on taking your bike along with you on any trip.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do Bike Racks Need Lights?

Can You Open The Trunk with The Bike Rack?

Can You Put Electric, Carbon, or Other Bikes On a Bike Rack?

Do You Leave Your Bike Rack On Your Car?

Does a Bike Rack Damage Or Scratch Your Car?