Roof Rack vs Hitch Rack: Choosing the Right Option for Your Needs

Deciding between a roof rack and a hitch rack, consider a roof rack for versatility and minimal impact on vehicle handling, while a hitch rack offers easier loading and better fuel efficiency due to reduced wind resistance. Your choice should align with your specific needs and preferences.

Roof Rack vs Hitch Rack

Are you an outdoor enthusiast who loves to go out to travel consistently and needs a rack to transport equipment? A dependable rack is necessary to transfer gears like kayaks, skis, and other equipment. Two options exist when you’re going to choose a rack for you. They are – roof rack and hitch rack.

Both have pros and cons. Therefore, you need to learn thoroughly about them to make a concrete decision on which one will be the best for you. Besides, learning about these racks and understanding their differences will help you make an informed decision.

Let’s explore the roof rack vs. hitch rack: choosing the right one. Here we go –

It’s well-known that bike racks come in various types of shapes and sizes. They also have different load capabilities.

Roof Rack for Bikes

Roof Rack

Roof racks have long been a staple for frequent travelers. They contain crossbars mounted on the vehicle’s roof. Besides, they provide a suitable platform to convey various sporting and household gear. Roof racks can conveniently carry gear such as kayaks, bikes, camping gear, cargo boxes, etc.

Roof racks mainly consist of two things. They are – the crossbar and foundation. These two things are enough to mount a roof rack on the vehicle.

There are also factory-furnished roof racks available. A large number of vehicle possesses factory-furnished roof racks. They consist of the roof as the foundation and the elevated side rails.

Additionally, you can upgrade or modify the rails to meet your requirements. It’s up to the vehicle’s owner.

To purchase a roof rack, you can go for Yakima Skybox Carbonite or Thule Force XT XL. Both are currently the best on the market due to their versatility, massive storage, and durability.


Advantages of Roof Rack
  • Roof racks offer increased visibility of the road. The reason is when you drive on the street; these racks don’t block your rearview mirror.
  • They’re extremely capable of maneuvering in little spaces or parking garages.
  • They fit perfectly even if the vehicle has a lower roof height.
  • If the roof has mounting points or crossbars, you can fit it virtually with all vehicles.
  • Lastly, a roof rack is an answer if you’re a travel freak who needs to carry an abundance of gear.


  • There are some considerations regarding using a roof rack. The primary concern is aerodynamics and wind resistance. Due to the roof placement, there’s a massive chance they can increase drag and affect your vehicle’s fuel efficiency.
  • The extra height can make loading and unloading of the products a bit challenging. As a result, it could take more time to do that. You could also face injury in case of a wrong move.
  • Prevent entry to height-restricted areas.

Hitch Rack

Hitch Rack for Bikes

Hitch racks are the alternative option to the roof rack. These racks are mounted on a hitch receiver at the vehicle’s rear. Additionally, they’ll be fastened to the receiver. Hitch racks are generally called bike racks. People use them primarily to haul bikes.

Hitch racks are shaped to hitch’s hooks on the vehicle’s rear side. These racks are well-known for easy to use, effortless loading and unloading system of bikes, cargo carriers, sports gears, and other devices.

Kuat Piston Pro X 2-Bike Rack and Thule T2 Pro XTR 2-Bike Hitch Rack are the top hitch racks worldwide. Both are incredibly versatile, have a considerable load capacity, and are made of superior materials. You can check them if you want to purchase a hitch rack to carry your gear.


Advantages of Hitch Rack
  • These racks are extremely easy to use. They also offer fast loading and unloading of gears.
  • Hitch racks can carry 1 to 4 bikes without a hassle. Since these racks are primarily made to convey bikes, you can try on them if you’re a bike lover.
  • They provide stability and safety to carry the bikes.
  • Since they are mounted at the back of the vehicle, they are less affected by wind and don’t have too much influence on fuel efficiency.
  • Some hitch racks have the option to tilt. It allows convenient access to the vehicle’s rear even when fully loaded.


  • When you load the bikes into the hitch rack, you need to load them closely. Bikes of different sizes and shapes may not ride perfectly. As a result, things could go wrong.
  • It can limit access to the vehicle’s rear.
  • Hitch bikes generally convey the bikes lower. Therefore, thieves can reach them and steal them.

Which One is the Perfect – Roof Rack vs. Hitch Rack?

We’ve already seen the features, pros, and cons of roof racks and hitch racks. The big question is which one is the best between them. Well, there’s no shortcut answer to it. It will depend on various considerations. Let’s check some essential things to consider before choosing between a roof rack and a hitch rack.

Cargo Amount

The main difference is the type and amount of cargo hitch and roof rack can convey. This is undoubtedly the most crucial consideration you should take. Hence, first, ask yourself – what products will you convey, or how long will your trip be?

roof rack to carry heavier items

If you have a short trip and need to carry minimal gears, then a hitch rack is the ideal answer to sort out your problem. Contrariwise, if you need to go on a long trip and carry massive equipment, you better go for a roof rack instead of a hitch rack.

A roof rack can save your day if you carry heavier items in your vehicle. It also provides good security on a long journey. You can take various products, such as kayaks, bicycles, skis, etc., on the roof rack. Hitch racks are mostly used to convey bikes.

Vehicle Compatibility

Check if your vehicle has a factory-installed roof rack or a hitch receiver. If you have a roof rack, using a roof rack-mounted system will be best. Elsewhere, if you have a hitch receiver, a hitch rack will be a better option, without a doubt.

So, as you see, it mainly depends on your car.

Rack’s Access

Regarding versatility or adaptability, the roof rack is second to none. There’s no question about it. However, a hitch rack is suitable for you if you want to access your rack and pick a particular product much faster. Since the roof rack is a large product, it will take you a significant amount of time to access it.

Hitch Rack for Easy Access

But hitch racks aren’t that bigger, and you can easily access them in a short amount of time. The procedure of loading and unloading a hitch rack is pretty straightforward.

Visual Looking

What type of look do you prefer? You can go for a roof rack if you want a sporty look for your rack. On the other hand, if you prefer a sleek-designed rack, a hitch rack is one you should go after. It all depends on you.


Compare the prices of roof racks and hitch racks, including any necessary accessories or modifications. Roof rack systems are usually very costly. If your vehicle doesn’t have an existing roof rack, you can be sure that you’ll have to spend a lot of money.

hitch racks tend to be more affordable

Contrariwise, hitch racks tend to be more affordable and easier to install. So, if you don’t have a bigger budget, you can go after a hitch rack.

So, these are the factors you should consider before moving for a rack. You can make a correct decision about whether a roof rack or hitch rack is the best option. Just think thoroughly about these factors and make your move according to your exact preferences and requirements.

Q & A

Do roof racks or hitch racks impact gas mileage?

The answer is yes. Both roof and hitch racks have a profound influence on gas mileage. However, roof racks have more impact on it.

Which is the most popular between roof and hitch racks?

According to various sources, hitch racks are becoming more popular. The reason is young people use hitch. They can easily carry bikes on it. Further, the high price of roof racks and typical loading and unloading procedures are another reason for decreasing popularity of roof racks. 

What’s the price of the roof racks and hitch racks?

The hitch racks can cost around $80 to $1000. On the other hand, the cost of roof racks varies from $150 to $1800.

Are the roof or hitch racks damage the car?

Not, actually. However, if you use these racks carelessly, then you can. Before using the rack, set them up correctly. Maintain the guidelines and instructions given by the manufacturers. This is how you can avoid any adverse incident.

Final Notes

So, if you ask me the verdict regarding the “Roof rack vs. Hitch rack”, I will say it’s totally up to you. Both are good in their ways. You should check the features of them correctly to understand. Since racks are expensive, you should make the final move by assessing each fact wisely. If you still have any questions regarding the topic, please ask them in the comment box. I’ll try my best to provide you with the ideal answer.

Automotive products are like an addiction to me. Years ago, I started my job at a Roof Box installation co. Then I realized that I have a passion for cars. It is a perfect scope to share my different experiences about automotive products.