Best Vertical Hitch Bike Racks (2023 Buyer's Guide)

bikes mounted on vertical hitch rack

Are you ready to take your cycling game to the next level?

Well, you're in luck because I've got the inside scoop on the best vertical hitch bike racks out there.

And trust me, I've learned a thing or two about picking the best bike racks as a former REI sports merchandiser.

There are plenty of different types of bike racks on the market, with vertical hitch bike racks coming in at the top of this list in terms of popularity.

Vertical hitch bike racks attach to your car’s hitch, at the back of the vehicle, and suspend your bikes vertically from their fork crown or front wheel, keeping them safe and secure.

With so many options on the market, how do you choose the right one?

I've done the research and from experience at REI, here is the shortlist.

If you want to skip to best vertical hitch bike racks in detail, click here.

1. Yakima Hangover (Best Overall)

2. Thule Apex Hitch Bike Rack (Best Value)

3. Allen Sports Deluxe 4Bike Hitch Mount Rack (Most Affordable)

There are many other different vertical hitch bike racks you could choose for your bike transportation needs.

These racks vary by capacity, price-point, quality, materials, brand, style, and more.

So let me guide you through so you can choose the one that’s right for you.

Oh, and before I forget, make sure to check out my article on the different types of vehicle bike racks. It's a must-read for any cycling enthusiast.

What Are Hitch Vertical Bike Racks?

A hitch vertical bike rack is a type of bike carrier that attaches to the hitch of a vehicle and holds bikes in a vertical position, with the bikes standing upright.

Unlike traditional horizontal racks where bikes lay flat and are parallel to the ground, vertical racks hold the bikes perpendicular to the ground, allowing for more bikes to be carried in a tighter space.

Why Consider a Vertical Hitch Bike Rack?

if you're looking to transport multiple bikes efficiently without them rubbing against each other, a hitch vertical bike rack might be the solution for you.

They're especially popular among mountain biking groups and families with several bikes.

Vertical hitch bike racks offer a wide range of benefits for cyclists, especially when compared to other types of bike racks on the market. Let’s look at these advantages below.

vertical hitch bike rack benefits

1. Higher load capacity

One of the biggest advantages of vertical hitch bike racks is that they can carry up to six bikes, making them ideal for larger families or those who must frequently transport several bikes at once. They are also offered in 4-bike versions for those who don’t require maximum capacity.

2. Better fuel economy

Roof racks, in general, can significantly raise your fuel costs, owing to their disruption of a vehicle’s aerodynamics. Rear racks, on the other hand, are more economical in terms of fuel usage, since they’re out of the path of the air.

3. Frees up more storage

Because a vertical hitch bike rack allows you to store your bikes at the rear of your vehicle, it frees up additional storage room on the roof—something which is very valuable for those going on a holiday or camping trip.

4. Easy installation and compatibility

Vertical hitch bike racks are one of the easiest bike racks to install since they utilize a vehicle’s rear hitch. Some models even boast a simple, 10-minute installation. Because a hitch is a universal feature across many car models, these types of bike racks are also compatible with a wide range of vehicles.

5. Ease of use

Vertical hitch bike racks are also praised for their ease of use. Unlike a roof-mounted bike rack, for example, you don’t need to lift your bikes high up onto the roof of your vehicle. Instead, bikes can simply be lifted a short distance off the ground to be secured onto the rear vertical hitch mount. Roof-mounted bike racks can also create a whistling sound when driving on the highway, whereas trunk-mounted racks are prone to causing paint damage on the front of your car if you don’t take extra safety measures.

Vehicle Compatibility and Fit

When selecting a vertical hitch bike rack, ensuring compatibility with both your car and your bike is paramount.

The last thing you want is to buy a bike rack and later find out it won't fit.

  1. Check the hitch size and type on your vehicle, as racks are designed for specific hitch dimensions (commonly 1.25-inch or 2-inch).
  2. Consider the number and types of bikes you'll be transporting. Some racks might struggle with non-standard frames, like those of children's bikes or certain mountain bikes.
  3. Verify the total weight capacity of the rack, especially if you plan to transport heavier bikes like e-bikes.

How to Install a Hitch Bike Rack

Always start by thoroughly reading the manufacturer's instructions or watch their branded tutorials on Youtube. This will help you to understand the little thing to ensure a safe and correct setup.

Some racks require specific tools for installation so be aware of this and plan to have it on hand before starting.

Pro tip: once you install it, give the rack a good shake to ensure it's secure.

Bike racks typically last for many years but it is wise to periodically inspect your rack for any signs of wear, rust, or damage. This can prevent potential failures on you future trips.

Dirt can also cause premature wear so keep the rack clean, especially the moving parts and hitch connection.

Watch the video below for easy vertical installation.

Best Vertical Hitch Bike Racks

1. Yakima Hangover (Best Overall)

As Yakima’s first-ever vertical bike rack, the Hangover doesn’t disappoint. It can safely haul up to 6 mountain bikes, making it ideal for tour operators, group rides, and big families—all without the need for multiple racks or trailers. It’s made of heavy-duty steel and weighs 33kg, yet is lightweight enough for easy installation.

Along with the ability to carry more bikes with less space, the Yakima Hangover also has a foot-operated tilt mechanism that changes the rack position for easy loading and unloading. It tilts down and out of the way for rear-of-vehicle access when the bikes are unloaded too, allowing easier entry to your trunk. With soft padding on the fork crown, a rotating wheel cup to support bikes with various-sized wheelbases, and 3 mast angles to avoid bike-tire contact with your vehicle, the rack is both convenient and supportive to use.

The major advantage of this vertical hitch bike rack is its ability to carry up to 6 bikes safely and securely. Users also find it incredibly convenient to be able to access the back of their vehicles while the bikes are still attached to the rack. Many have also praised the step release to lower the bikes, which they believe makes the product well worth the higher cost.

In terms of drawbacks, some users recommend using backup straps, as the provided bike straps have been known to tear. Others state the rack is more difficult than other models to install and attach their bikes to, but state once they got used to the product, this process became easier.

The high cost of this bike rack can be a deterrent for some, but you certainly get what you pay for in terms of maximum load capacity, safety, and features that make traveling with bikes a whole lot easier.

View on Amazon

2. Thule Apex Hitch Bike Rack (Best Value)

For those wanting a high-quality vertical hitch bike rack from a leading manufacturer, but without the larger bike-holding capacity, the Thule Apex is highly recommended. It can carry up to 4 bikes and provides superior bike stability and fit. The rack’s compact design fits a wide variety of bike sizes and frame styles, while users can quickly attach and secure bikes using ratcheting straps.

One of the best features of this vertical hitch bike rack is the fact that it tilts down to allow rear vehicle access. Additionally, the bike arms fold down when the product isn’t in use, making it a convenient bike rack to have attached to your car—even when you’re not carting numerous bikes around town.

Perhaps what users love the most about this rack, however, is its unparalleled stability. An integrated anti-sway cradle prevents bike-to-bike contact, while simply ‘disappearing’ when not needed. The Thule also comes in at a cheaper price point than the aforementioned Yakima Hangover, making it more budget-friendly for those who don’t need to carry several bikes at once.

One of the reported downsides of this product is the difficult assembly. Be prepared to study up on installation before you begin and get a friend or two to help you out!

All in all, this vertical hitch bike rack is a winner among consumers, with the majority of users praising its safety, security, and convenience.

View on Amazon

3. Allen Sports Deluxe 4Bike Hitch Mount Rack (Most Affordable)

The Allen Sports Deluxe 4Bike Hitch Mount Rack is the best option for those on a tighter budget. Not only does it cost considerably less than the two previously mentioned bike racks, but it has the capacity to hold up to 4 bikes safely and securely.

Its 22-inch-long carry arms individually secure bicycles with Allen’s patented tie-down system, while the folding carry arms quickly drop out of the way when the rack isn’t in use. The carry arm also accepts a wide range of frame sizes and designs, allowing you to confidently transport your child-size mountain bike, adult-size road bike, or anything else in-between.

Perhaps one of the biggest selling points of this bike rack—apart from its affordable price—is the fact that it sets up and installs in less than 5 minutes. Users will also benefit from the included “no wobble bolt”, which secures the rack inside of the receiver hitch with a movement-free installation.

One of the downsides to this rack, however, is that it only fits vehicles with a 2-inch trailer hitch installed. If your vehicle is without this component, it will require a professionally installed Class III or IV 2 inches hitch to use this vertical hitch bike rack. As a result, you will need to take this cost into consideration before your purchase.

Additionally, users report a small amount of wear and tear on their bikes after transporting them, particularly because the bikes must be stored closely together.

While both Thule and Yakima are unbeatable in terms of quality and materials, the Allen Sports Deluxe is perfectly acceptable for those who don’t need maximum bike carrying capacity. Many users are surprised at its sturdiness and longevity, making it a product that’s certainly worth consideration.

View on Amazon

Bottom Line for Vertical Hitch Bike Racks

Vertical hitch bike racks are the way to go when you are thinking about transporting your bike to those exhilarating trails, especially mountain bikes.

They attach to your car's hitch and suspend your bike vertically, providing a secure and convenient transportation solution.

I've compiled a list of buying factors you should consider when choosing the right option for you.

  1. Articulate your needs: Consider the number of bikes you'll be carrying and your budget. This will help you narrow down your options.
  2. Research the top picks: Take a closer look at the racks I've recommended. Read reviews, compare prices, and evaluate their features.
  3. Armed with all the information, it's time to make a choice. It's not just about price and functionality, but also about quality and durability. Often, you get what you pay for.
  4. Hit the trails: Once you've made your decision, it's time to hit the road and explore all the trails and paths.

Don't let the hassle of bike transportation hold you back. Investing in a vertical hitch bike rack can ease and elevate your future biking experiences.

Hanna Leclair
Colorado raised and adventure-driven, I juggle being a mom, amateur triathlete, and blogger. A former REI sports merchandiser, I'm all about picking the perfect gear for every journey.