No Hitch Bike Rack for SUV? 3+ Alternatives for Your SUV

No Hitch Bike Rack for SUV? 3+ Alternatives for Your SUV

Greg here again to tackle a common question I get from SUV owners – what are my bike rack options if I don’t have a hitch?

Hitch racks are often the first choice for securing bicycles to an SUV.

But maybe your rig came hitch-less, or you don’t want to hassle with installation.

No worries, you’ve still got plenty of solid racking alternatives.

In this article, we’ll explore trunk mounts, roof racks, interior loading, and even hitch addition for getting your bikes aboard your SUV safely and easily.

From budget-friendly options to premium picks, I’ll help you find the best no-hitch bike rack for your vehicle.

Let’s roll!

Can You Put a Bike Rack on a Car Without a Hitch?


While hitch racks are popular for larger vehicles, you’ve got several other great options for securing bikes to an SUV without a trailer hitch:

1. Trunk Racks

Strapping a rack to the rear liftgate is one of the easiest ways to go hitch-less.

Trunk racks ratchet into place without tools in minutes.

Just watch the weight limits!

2. Roof Racks

Utilize your SUV’s roof rack system to mount bike trays or hangers above.

The higher you go, the more caution needed top-heavy loads.

3. Interior Loading

For 1-2 bikes, remove the front wheel and load straight into the cargo area.

Use padding to prevent vehicle damage.

4. Truck Bed (if applicable)

For SUVs with a truck bed, you’ve got great options like fork clamps, rail hooks, and wheel trays to secure bikes.

5. Hitch Addition

You can always have a hitch installed to open up sturdy receiver-mounted racks.

But it’s a costlier investment in parts and labor.

As you can see, lack of a factory hitch doesn’t mean you can’t haul bikes with your SUV.

Let’s explore those no-hitch options in more detail so you can make the best choice for your needs and budget.

What Do I Need to Attach a Bike Rack to My Car?

To install a bike rack on your vehicle without a hitch, you’ll need:

For Trunk Racks

  • Strap mounting hooks that fit over the rear tailgate/liftgate
  • Padding to protect the vehicle paint
  • Secure ratchet straps to stabilize the rack
  • Potential reinforcement straps for heavier bikes

For Roof Racks

  • Crossbar roof rack system to attach bike trays
  • Locking bike mount trays or hanging style racks
  • Straps to secure bikes to trays/hangers
  • Foam padding to prevent paint damage

For Interior Loading

  • Quick release front wheel removal tools
  • Blankets or padding to protect interior surfaces
  • Straps or cargo nets to prevent bike shifting

The right rack for you depends on your vehicle’s setup, number of bikes, and budget.

Let’s compare the options next.

Are Trunk-mounted Bike Racks Safe?

Trunk racks certainly are convenient, but are they safe for highway speeds and bumpy roads?

It depends on the rack quality and proper setup:

Rack Construction

The best trunk racks have metal mounting hooks and thick reinforced straps.

Plastic parts can crack and lead to disasters.

Ratchet the straps down super tight and use included reinforcement straps for heavier bikes or loads.

Weight Limits

Most trunk racks max out around 60 lbs per bike.

Exceeding that risks rack and strap failure.

And be mindful of overall rear weight limits for your vehicle’s suspension.

Attachment Points

Mount to sturdy chassis parts like rear tow hook holes or liftgate supports.

Avoid attaching solely to bumpers which can flex.

Padded Mounts

Cushioned, vinyl-coated contact points prevent paint damage during transport.

Avoid bare metal-on-metal.

Anti-Sway Cages

Higher end racks have integrated frame cradles or sway straps to reduce bike movement and collisions during transport.

So while trunk mounting is definitely convenient, take the time to properly install quality racks, use all reinforcement straps provided, and inspect attachment points regularly on trips.

That ensures safe, worry-free hauling.

Can I Tie a Bike to My Roof Rack?

While simply tying a bike to your naked roof rack is possible, I don’t recommend it.

There are far safer and more secure options.

Paint Damage

The bike frame rubbing on the paint, even with towels for padding, risks ugly abrasion and scratches.

Wind Resistance

An upright bike acts like a sail catching wind, which can stress the bike, vehicle roof, and your tie-down points.

Theft Risk

A loosely tied bike can be stolen right off the naked roof rack while you’re stopped.

Safety Hazard

In a sharp turn or sudden stop, the unrestrained bike could go flying off the roof, endangering other motorists.

Instead, invest in some quality roof trays or hangers made to securely cradle and lock your bikes during transport.

Brands like Yakima, Thule, Saris, and Swagman make excellent roof mount bike racks for all vehicle types.

While tempting for convenience, tying bikes directly to roof racks is just too risky in my opinion.

Spend a little more for proper roof rack bike mounts and you’ll have happy trails!

How do you put a Thule bike rack on a SUV?

As a Thule brand loyalist myself, here are some tips for installing their excellent SUV bike racks:

Hitch Racks

  • Verify hitch class rating (1.25″ or 2″) and matching Thule rack size
  • Insert rack shank fully into receiver tube and secure with pin and clip
  • Tighten rack knobs and adjust angles as needed
  • Check all parts for tightness regularly

Roof Racks

  • Attach Thule crossbar set to proper corresponding foot packs
  • Place crossbars correctly spaced per instructions
  • Mount bike trays or hangers to crossbars, spacing along bars with room for bikes
  • Secure bike mounts with provided lockable straps and torque knobs

Trunk Racks

  • Review SUV rear geometry and select correct straps and pads
  • Loop upper hooks and ratchet lower straps very tight
  • Attach reinforcement straps to chassis parts instead of just bumper
  • Confirm bikes fit properly in cradles and use integrated locking cables

Thule makes high-quality racks that are secure and durable when installed properly.

Always double check the mounting, strapping, and locking – both before departing and at fuel stops.

How Do You Carry 4 Bikes on a Car?

Carrying 4 bikes on a vehicle opens up more creative loading options.

Here are some methods:

Hitch Rack

A 4-bike hitch rack like the Thule T2 or Kuat NV 2.0 is the simplest option.

Just mind the rear overhang length.

2 Level Hitch Rack

Special dual level hitch racks like 1UP USA’s Quik Rack allow 4 bikes stacked in 2 rows while minimizing rear overhang.

Trunk + Roof Combination

Use a trunk rack for 2 bikes and roof rack with trays/hangers for the other 2.

Watch the height clearance up top.

Inside + Trunk/Roof Combo

Remove front wheels and load 2 bikes inside.

Use trunk or roof rack for the other 2 bikes.

Truck Bed (If Applicable)

For SUVs with truck beds, you can combine bed racks, roof, and interior loading to carry up to 4 bikes securely.


For longer trips, consider a small utility trailer to mount a 4+ bike rack with room to spare.

With a bit of creative planning, you can carry 4 bikes safely.

A 4-bike hitch rack keeps things simple, but explore multiple mounting points if needed.

How Do You Put a Bike in The Back of an SUV?

For 1-2 bikes, loading inside an SUV is quick and convenient:

  • Remove front wheel using quick release or wrench
  • Place bike in cargo area with forks facing into vehicle
  • Use padding like blankets to prevent vehicle damage from pedals and drivetrain
  • Secure wheel using tie-downs, cargo nets, bungee cords, or straps
  • Support frame on both sides if needed to prevent toppling

Some tips for interior loading:

  • Fold rear seats down for more interior room if needed
  • Turn handlebars sideways for better fit around spare tire
  • Only carry 1-2 bikes max to avoid interior damage
  • Avoid setting heavy bikes directly on padded vehicle carpeting
  • Check bikes are secure before driving so they don’t shift and scratch

For accessing bikes mid-trip, loading inside an SUV is quick and convenient.

Just take care to prevent interior damage from pedals, chains, or handlebars with proper padding and restraints.

Can You Put a Hitch on Any Car?

Adding a trailer hitch receiver opens up a whole world of sturdy bike rack options.

But can any vehicle be retrofitted with a hitch?

In general, if a vehicle didn’t come with a factory hitch, one can likely be installed by an experienced mechanic.

There are two main factors to consider for hitch compatibility:

Frame Strength

The vehicle frame and body must be sturdy enough in the rear to support towing loads and tongue weight.

SUVs and trucks usually have the beefiest frames optimized for hitches.


A hitch requires holes to be drilled in the chassis frame for proper bolt mounting points.

The vehicle underbody must allow access for drilling and routing the hitch receiver.

So while most SUVs, crossovers, and even sedans can have hitches added, every vehicle is different. The shop has to review frame suitability, clearance, wiring, and optimal positioning.

And it’s an expensive installation, often $500-$1000 in parts and labor.

Definitely research carefully before assuming any vehicle can have a hitch added worry-free.

An incompatible frame can mean racks Unauthorized for towing put you at risk.

Do all SUVs Come With a Hitch?

While some SUV models like the Ford Explorer and Chevy Tahoe frequently include hitches, most do not come standard with a receiver hitch from the factory.

Here are common reasons an SUV might lack a standard hitch:

Trim Level

On some SUVs, the hitch is only included on certain higher trim packages geared toward trailering versus standard models.

You have to upgrade to get it.

Designed for Passengers

Many smaller “crossover” SUVs are designed more for hauling people than cargo.

So hitches are left off to save costs and weight.

Aftermarket Installation

Manufacturers know many people later install hitches for towing.

So they leave them off rather than drilling holes unnecessarily.

Regional Needs

In areas where trailer towing is less common, automakers will skip the hitch to tailor vehicles to that region’s needs.

While handy, don’t assume your new SUV comes standard with a hitch. Carefully verify if the exact trim package includes one before purchase. And know that one can be added down the road if needed!

Final Thoughts

Well, I hope this gives you plenty of options for safely hauling bikes on an SUV without a hitch receiver.

While adding a hitch later allows heavy-duty racks, you can certainly get by without one using trunk, roof, or interior loading techniques.

Take the time to properly install and secure any rack or bike, and inspect regularly during trips.

Don’t just slap on a trunk rack and blast off down the highway!

Prevention is the best way to avoid a rack failure and damaged bikes.

Let me know if you have any other SUV bike racking questions.

I’m always happy to chat racks, help explain options, or provide installation tips.

Safe trails my friends – now get out and enjoy those bikes!

Avatar photo
Joey B. Ramsey
Passionate cyclist, father, and blogger.
I've been riding bikes since childhood and enjoy sharing my knowledge with fellow cycling enthusiasts.
My diverse bike collection allows me to write reviews and advice based on personal experience with various bikes and accessories.
join me email cta
Join me
Join me for more cycling related content and deals.

Related Articles