If you’re planning on traveling with a lot of gear or want to haul things you would prefer to keep outside your vehicle, a hitch mounted cargo carrier is the perfect solution. These cargo carriers free up needed vehicle space and making for a more comfortable ride and in turn, happier occupants. In a vehicle like a small SUV or Jeep, it could actually double your hauling capacity.
They are great for hauling things you may have never thought of until you have one.
- Generators, Lawn Mowers, Snow Blowers
- Gas Cans
- Electric Medical Scooters, Wheel Chairs
- Folding Chairs
- Boat Motors
- Garden Mulch
- Yard Debris
- BBQ Grills
- Camping Gear
- Hunting Kills
- Tailgating Supplies
- Sandy Beach Gear
- Other messy, dirty, stinky or bulky things.
Once you get a hitch cargo carrier and realize how often you use it along with how convenient they are, you will wonder how you ever lived without one.
Hitch Mounted Carriers Vs. Roof Mounted Carriers.
When it comes to packing gear outside of the car, there are two locations, roof top or rear mount. Let’s compare those two options and see why hitch mount is better.
Hitch cargo carriers are quick and easy to put on and take off. You can have it installed and ready to go or have it removed in less than a minute. Roof-mounted carriers, not so much. You are also less likely to scratch your car than a roof mount carrier. Hitch mounts do not require you to lean up against the vehicle or to load or unload gear over top of your car and do not make for a top heavy car.
Aerodynamics and Clearance
Being mounted on the vehicle, hitch carriers have very little if any disruption to the aerodynamics of the vehicle. Using a less aerodynamic roof carrier means that it costs you money in wasted fuel every time you use it.
With rear-mounted carriers, you won’t have issues clearing parking garages and fast food drive thru overhangs like with a roof mounted carrier.
About half of rear-mount carriers have a raised shank design which raises the bottom of the hitch carrier to be higher than the hitch receiver. That helps prevent the carrier from bottoming out on driveway inclines and speed bumps when mounted to a vehicle with low ground clearance.
The raised shank also helps increase the distance between your exhaust pipe and the cargo you’re transporting.
The other half of hitch mounted carriers have a straight shank. These would work well with bigger trucks that are higher off the ground or for trucks with rear mounted spares. That way there is more distance between the carrier and the tire for cargo.
If you need to increase the distance further than the cargo carrier provides, a trailer hitch receiver tube can accomplish this.
Protection from the Elements
Although most roof mounted carriers protect your cargo from the elements in a sealed bin, you can use a storage bin or buy a weatherproof cargo bag to accomplish the same thing. A word of caution here… It’s important to know where your exhaust is at the end of your bumper or goes out to the side.
If your exhaust pipe is by the bumper and your cargo bag comes into contact with it for an extended period of time, it could end up melting your cargo bag or bin or create an outright fire.
You want to maintain a good distance between cargo and the exhaust pipe. This is where a raised shank hitch mounted cargo carrier could have possibly saved the day.
Nearly all hitch mounted cargo carriers have a mesh platform or support bars for the flooring. Either case, it makes clean-up quick and easy cleanup. This allows for dirt, sand, and liquids to easily escape and a quick spray with a water hose tends to remove anything that was left behind.
Hitch mounted cargo carriers are easy to store and take up very little garage space, unlike roof mounted carriers.
Rooftop vs. Rear Mount Conclusion
When compared to rooftop cargo solutions, hitch mounted carriers are arguably the best way to haul cargo outside of the vehicle.
Picking the Best Hitch Mounted Carrier.
Steel or Aluminum Build
Carriers are generally made from either steel or aluminum.
Steel carriers are less expensive but are heavier to carry. They can weigh in at around 50 lbs or more depending on size and build quality.
On the other hand, aluminum cargo carriers generally weigh in between 20 to 30 pounds, again depending on size and construction.
If you would struggle to carry and work with a 50 to 60 lbs cargo carrier, the extra cost of an aluminum carrier or a folding steel carrier to remain on the vehicle might be justified.
Folding Carriers vs. Fixed Shank Carriers
Choosing a folding carrier over a fixed carrier depends on how often you plan on using it and your vehicle.
If you frequently use your carrier (such as with an electric mobility scooter) but do not want to be burdened with constantly removing and reconnecting it to your hitch, a folding hitch mounted carrier would be a good choice.
Make sure to consider the style of your vehicle and what is most important to you before purchasing a folding carrier. A rear mounted tire could block it from fully folding up. Also once folded, carriers can also block vehicle a rear hatch or tailgate from opening and closing. You may not want to lower the carrier each time you need access to the tailgate or hatch.
If your vehicle has rear parking assist sensors (to warn you if something is behind you), having a folded cargo carrier can also cause it to sound nonstop while reversing.
Whether it is constructed of steel or aluminum, most carriers can carry safely support anywhere from a few lightweight items to around five hundred pounds or more of cargo.
Hitch Mounted Carrier Platform Styles:
Basket Style – Has retaining wall sides to help keep cargo secure and in place on the platform. The rails give peace of mind and also makes for a convenient location to attach bungee cords and cargo straps. This style is easier to carry as the rails make for great handles.
Flatbed Style – Allows you to easily transport odd or oversized items. Also, it’s great for heavier items as you do not have to lift them as high to load and unload them on the carrier. With the outside edge of the framing is usually made from angle iron, so it often has a raised lip on the outside edge. Notice the holes in the raised lip? Those are used for anchor points for cargo nets and bungee cords.
Three Rail Style – Like a hybrid of both the basket style and flatbed style. Has three rails to keep cargo from sliding off the back or sides and hitting the road but no rail on the vehicle side to still allow for bulkier items.
Ramp Cargo Carriers – They are available in basket and flatbed styles. Having a folding ramp perfect for loading anything with wheels, from a mobility scooter or wheelchair to things like lawn mowers or snow blowers.
The ramps that slide in (instead of sticking up in the air) are often available in the fold up carrier style as well.
Best Hitch Mounted Carriers.
Pricing Key: Prices fluctuate. Each $ = approximately $50.00.
|Pro Series 63153 Rambler||Basket||Steel||No||500 lb.||Rise||$$|
|Highland 1042000||Flatbed||Steel||No||500 lb.||Straight||$|
|Tricam ACC-1F||Flatbed||Aluminum||No||500 lb.||Straight||$$|
|TMS 92655||Basket||Aluminum||No||500 lb.||Straight||$|
|CargoLoc 32500||Three Rail||Steel||No||500 lb.||Straight||$$|
|ROLA 59502||Basket||Steel||No||500 lb.||Rise||$$$|
|ROLA 59502[/easyazon_i||UCC500||Ramp||Steel||No||500 lb.||Straight||$$$$|
|Five Star 436-ACCTG||Ramp||Aluminum||No||300 lb.||Straight||$$$$$$$|
Don’t Forget the Accessories
It’s important to know the size of vehicles receiver to know if your new rear mount carrier will fit. Most hitches are made to fit a 2 inch receiver. If your vehicle has the smaller 1 1/4″ receiver, you can buy a 1-1/4″ to 2″ Receiver Adapter to convert it.
If you don’t have one, you will need one. Some rear-mount carriers include one but the norm is that they do not. Even if they do, I would recommend purchasing a locking hitch pin. The Masterlock B0009V1WS4 is the number one selling locking hitch pin. For less than 10 bucks more than a normal hitch pin, it’s cheap insurance for your new cargo rack.
Often when fully loaded with cargo, the gear may be blocking your tag from view. The last thing you want is to be pulled over and receive a traffic ticket. A tag bracket is a simple and cheap fix.
On larger (wide) carriers, once loaded it could block your tail lights from view. Many carriers have cutouts for installing lights kits like the ROLA 59516 LED Light Kit. It can help prevent rear-ended collisions and keep you legal.
Bungee Cords and Ratchet Straps
Most cargo bags made for carriers come with attached straps. If you are planning to transport gear not in a cargo bag, bungee cords and ratchet straps can help ensure your gear arrives with you to your destination.
A great alternative to individual bungee cords.
Sometimes there is a little play between the rack and the receiver which can cause the rack to sit slightly sideways or to rock. Some people who have experienced this have wrapped a little duct tape around the shank to create a tighter fit. This extra accessory will take every bit of slack and is a more permanent solution. It’s worth every penny.
Inattentive drivers can collide with your carrier not realizing how far out it is extending from the rear of the vehicle. Some carriers have built-in reflectors or come with reflective tape. Most do not. You can easily add your own reflective tape or stickers to help bring attention to your carrier.