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roof mounted vs hitch mounted bike rack -- any strong opinions?

Just bought a diesel station wagon and I need a bike hauling solution. Big question right now is if I get a roof rack or a hitch rack. All-in, with the cost of the hitch installation on the car, the cost is about the same. With the roof rack, I can use it for ski season and add a storage pod, but I'd lose some gas mileage. Any advice? 

5 Replies

I have a honda civic hatchback that didn't have any roof rails. I put a sea sucker talon rack on it and that worked great. I used it on long trips, but I could never travel in peace because I was always afraid of the bike just flying off. I still have the sea sucker rack in case of emergencies. I ended up getting a hitch put on at Uhaul which was recently priced and picked up a Kuat 2 bike rack. I love the hitch rack. 

We also use a roof rack on our Outback, but when i get to the location of my ride or race i end up having to clean my bike of all the Southeast Texas bugs.

I prefer a hitch rack, I had it mounted on the roof but it was always difficult to get my bike up (I’m 5’ 10” and car was a Ford Escape) I felt like the bike was either going to tip over and fall before I latched it on, I ended up getting a step stool which helped out. Another problem was the height, there were times when I would hit branches and I freed that one day my bike and rack would be ripped off.

Currently I have a hitch rack and I love it, it’s easy to put in/ take off the bikes, I still have the roof rails for other purposes but for a bike I find a hitch rack to be easier and more convenient. Only thing is to be sure to put a bike lock on it for added security.

Concur with this response.  I would be wary of not knowing your total vehicle height restrictions with the bikes on the roof.  I would also suggest locking the tow hitch rack to the tow hitch as well as locking the bikes to the rack.  


Congrats on the new car! Seems like the roof rack would be a great choice for you, at least initially. You’ll have the flexibility to put skis and expand cargo like you mentioned. When the time comes, I would supplement with a hitch rack, much easier to load/unload bikes with. Everyone I know with a roof rack has forgotten that they had a bike on top and have driven it into something.....

You probably won’t lose too much gas mileage, especially since you have a diesel 

hope this helps!

@Peloya @jgarcia1982 @KVu  ...thank you all! I think that right now I'm going to go with the roof rack. Just more affordable, and I want easy access to the trunk space. Long term, I think the combo hitch and roof is going to be the winner.