Platform vs Hanging Hitch Bike Rack

Platform vs Hanging Hitch Bike Rack: Exploring the Key Differences

Having a bike rack is a must for those who often like to get out of the city and enjoy an early evening pedaling through nature! A bike rack doesn’t just allow you to conveniently carry bikes in your car. It also eliminates the potential risk of damage to your car and bike.

There are different kinds of bike racks based on their functionality and design. But that’s not our concern right now. The question we are dealing with in this article is, which one of the platform bike racks and the hanging bike rack is better, and which should you get?

The debate of platform vs. hanging hitch bike racks goes way back. In this article, we will end this discussion once and for all. After a well-thought comparison and detailed analysis of the features and aspects, we plan to reach a verdict. This will also help you to get a better insight into this matter.

Platform vs Hanging Hitch Bike Rack

What Is a Platform Bike Rack?

Platform style bike rack is also known as tray style bike rack. As the name suggests, this type of bike rack comes with a platform or wheel tray for carrying the bikes. The design of the platform bike rack allows it to support the bikes’ wheels, thus ensuring great stability. 

The frame of a platform bike is usually made of sturdy metal, such as steel or aluminum. The build ensures that the bike rack at the back of your car can withstand the impacts on a bouncy road. It also has a protective coating that protects it from damaging factors such as rain, UV rays, and corrosion.

A platform-style bike rack is a great choice for hauling bikes to a long distance. However, it has some drawbacks too. Here’s an overview of the advantages and drawbacks –

Advantages of a Platform-Style Bike Rack

  • Loading & unloading bikes is easier with a platform bike rack.
  • You can carry up to 4 bikes at a time.
  • Offers great convenience and excellent stability.
  • Securely holds the bike both at the frame and wheels.
  • Offers enough gap between the bikes. 
  • Compatible with a wide range of bike types.

Drawbacks That You Need to Consider

  • Installing this bike rack takes quite a toll on you.
  • Weighs a lot because of the bulky frames.
  • Costs a lot compare to other types of bike racks.
  • Storing isn’t that convenient.

What Is a Hanging Hitch Bike Rack?

On the other hand, a hitch bike rack hangs the bike by the frame. That’s why hanging Hitch bike racks are also known as frame-mounted bike racks. The bikes’ top tubes are attached to two durable bars with adjustable rubber straps. This type of bike rack doesn’t offer any support at the bottom. 

The frame of a hanging hitch bike is made of durable steel or aluminum, just like a platform bike rack. However, the frames aren’t as sturdy as the ones of a platform bike rack. It’s mounted to the car by the hitch receiver, allowing you to carry your bikes securely.

Advantages of a Hanging Hitch Bike Rack

  • Comes with a convenient lightweight build
  • Folds up easily and that makes it easy to store
  • Quite affordable compared to a platform bike rack
  • Doesn’t occupy much space at the back of the car
  • Can be installed and uninstalled easily

Drawbacks That You Need to Consider

  • The wheels and the bottom part hang freely
  • Not as stable as a platform bike rack
  • Not so compatible with different bike models
  • Mounting the bikes is comparatively difficult
  • Access to cargo is quite troublesome

Platform vs Hanging Hitch Bike Rack: Which One Is Better? 

Now it’s time to subtly compare and figure out the better one. To do that, you need to take the key factors into consideration. First, we’ll compare both bike racks based on each key factor, and then we’ll figure out which one has the overall upper hand. So, let’s start –

Build & Lifespan

The build of a bike rack is one of its key features. A bike rack is supposed to have the durability you can trust with the safety of your bike. While both platform and hanging hitch bike rack are built with sturdy metal, the frame’s design and thickness aren’t the same. 

Platform bike racks are heavy for a reason. The tray for holding the wheels is made of thick steel or aluminum pipes. It can withstand heavy pressure and lasts for a couple of years. On the other hand, the building of the hanging hitch bike racks is rather shaky and feels flimsy.

Affordability

A hanging hitch bike rack definitely has the upper hand regarding affordability. Given that the bike capacity remains the same, the price of a hanging hitch bike rack is usually half that of a platform bike rack. A hanging bike rack hitch’s frame, design, and material are average. 

A platform rack or a tray-style bike rack often comes a bit pricey. Even though the price is stiff, it’s worth every penny. If you have an expensive bike, a platform rack would be the right choice. But a hanging hitch rack works just fine if you have an average bike.

Compatibility with Bikes

Hanging hitch bike racks have some limitations in terms of compatibility. These bike racks are only designed for carrying bikes with straight top tubes parallel to the ground. That’s bad news for full-suspension mountain bikes, step-through city bikes, or children’s bikes. 

The platform bike racks are quite unbeatable in this regard. As the wheels are mounted on the rack trays, it can accommodate any variety of bikes without any issue. The idea here is absolute. No matter what shape of frame tube a bike has, it’ll always have a wheel!

Stability & Safety

The stability and safety of a platform bike rack are on a whole new level. The wheels of the bikes sit on the platforms and are secured with an arm. It also has straps to attach the wheels more securely. As the bottom of the bikes has stable support, they remain quite stable. There is also enough gap between the trays so the bikes don’t contact each other and remain safe.

However, the scenario is quite different for a hanging hitch bike rack. On a hanging rack, the bikes are suspended from the rack by their top tubes while the wheels and lower parts of the bikes dangle freely.

Weight Factor

The heavy weight of the platform bike racks surely is an issue. The weight of the rack alone significantly increases the weight at the rear end of your car. This extra weight affects the fuel economy and hinders the car’s speed. You have to pay the price for the extra durable thick frame. 

In contrast, the lightweight of a hanging hitch bike rack is quite convenient. You can keep it folded at the back of your car even when you’re not carrying a bike. 

Installation

Installing a hanging hitch bike rack is twice as easier as installing a platform bike rack. It all comes down to the design again. A platform bike rack is quite big and weighs a lot. So, installing it alone without support will take a toll on you. 

Due to the compact design and lightweight of a hanging hitch bike rack, you can easily install and uninstall it anytime. 

Convenience in Storing

Convenient storage is an important factor in bike racks. Due to the lightweight and collapsible metal frame, a hanging hitch bike rack doesn’t occupy much space, making it easy to store. Some also have to tilt or folding features, reducing the storage footprint when not in use.

As a platform rack doesn’t offer the same folding feature, storing it becomes a hassle due to its size and weight. On top of that, it stretches a long distance from the vehicle, compromising the clearance with other vehicles.

Carrying Capacity

The maximum carrying capacity of a platform bike rack is usually 4. However, it can carry up to 5 or 6 if the manufacturer allows it. The design of this particular type of bike rack is quite suitable for carrying about 6 standard-sized bikes at once.

Some hanging hitch bike racks can also carry 4 or more bikes simultaneously. While it is possible when the extended rods are longer and have extra straps, it’s not necessarily safe. Even if the frame is sturdier than usual, I don’t think the design is cut out for that. 

Cargo Access

Most platform bike racks come with a swing-away feature for easy cargo access. You can swing the rack away from the cargo door halfway or fully to the side while the bikes are on it. However, that isn’t possible with a hanging hitch bike rack. 

You’ll need to get all the bikes off the hanging hitch rack, fold it, and then you’ll have access to the cargo space of your vehicle.

Here’s a table below to show you an overview of the whole situation:

Key FeaturesPlatform-Style Bike RacksHanging Hitch Bike Rack
Build & LifespanDurable & long-lasting Average
PriceQuite PriceyAffordable
CompatibilityAll kinds of bikesHas limitations
Stability & SafetyExcellentAverage
Weight FactorVery BulkyLightweight
InstallationDifficultEasy
Storing A bit troublesomeConvenient
Carrying CapacityGreatAverage
Cargo AccessConvenientTime-Consuming

Final Verdict

A platform-style bike is the better choice regarding functionality, performance, and convenience. But does that mean you must rule the hanging hitch bike rack out of the picture? No! Because at the end of the day, it all comes down to what you need and which is more suitable. 

Both bike racks have great demand in the market and serve their own purpose. Even though one may be better from a particular aspect, it doesn’t mean you need one. I recommend prioritizing your need instead of focusing on the platform vs. hanging hitch bike rack debate.

Eddie Burton - Senior Author
Senior Author: Eddie Burton

Eddie Burton is a passionate car enthusiast and a seasoned mechanic with over 15 years of experience in the automotive industry. He has worked with a variety of vehicles, from classic muscle cars to modern luxury cars, and has extensive knowledge of all types of auto parts and accessories.

Eddie’s love for cars began at a young age when he would spend hours tinkering with his first car, a 1967 Mustang. Since then, he has pursued his passion for cars by working in various garages and workshops, honing his skills and expertise in everything related to automobiles.

As a contributor to our website, Eddie shares his in-depth knowledge and experience with our readers, providing valuable tips and advice on auto parts, repairs, and maintenance. He’s committed to helping car owners get the most out of their vehicles by providing honest and practical reviews of auto parts, accessories, and tools.

With Eddie’s vast experience and expertise, you can trust his recommendations and insights on everything related to cars. Whether you’re a seasoned car owner or a newbie in the world of automobiles, Eddie’s articles and reviews will help you make informed decisions and keep your vehicle running smoothly for years to come.

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