Are Car Bike Racks Universal?

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One question I get asked often is – are car bike racks universal?

You see, nothing confuses a bike owner as bike racks. With different types of car bike racks out there, it’s understandable why anyone would be confused.

Actually, one could say that car bike racks are not universal. However, with some modifications, some car bike racks can become universal, sort of.

In this article, I will be clarifying the important things you need to know about car bike racks.

It’s my hope that after reading this piece, you will have a clearer picture of what car bike racks entail.

You will also be able to decide on which one to go for.

But first, let’s see if any bike rack can fit every car.

Can Any Car Bike Rack Fit Every Car?

Are Car Bike Racks Universal

Like I briefly mentioned above, car bike racks are not exactly an all-fit bike rack. There are some types of car bike racks that go well on a particular type of car.

There are also some bike racks that can be adjusted to fit a particular type of bike.

However, a roof bike rack cannot go on a car that doesn’t have crossbars. Likewise, a hitch bike rack cannot go on a car without hitch receivers.

Some bike racks can only fit SUVs and sedan, while others can only fit trucks.

Besides, there are some bike racks that can make loading and unloading your bike on your car easy or difficult.

The thing is that most cars have the same width with somewhat similar size of trunk. So, if you can add some straps to some car bike racks, they may be able to work with most cars. But this is not something you want to risk when embarking on a long trip.

But if you ask me, I’ll say that each bike rack has the type of vehicle it is meant for.

To get a clearer picture, let’s dissect the various types of bike racks and see if they are universal or not.

3 Important Points To Take Into Consideration

There are 3 important factors to consider when it comes to the universal nature of a bike rack.

Bike Racks Are Specific To Bikes

Not all car bike racks can accept all types of bikes. For instance, some bike racks can be adjusted to fit both adult and kids’ bikes. Others may not have such room and can only fit adult bikes.

This is one reason a bike rack cannot be said to be universal.

Always check the width specification of the bike rack you want to buy before making a purchase.

Bike Racks Are Specific To Vehicles

One other reason bike racks cannot be universal is that manufacturers or car bike racks make them to suit a certain type of vehicle. While some bike racks can fit pickup trucks, they may not be compatible with SUVs and sedans.

Bike Racks Must Fit With Vehicle Attachments

That a car bike rack fits a particular car does not mean that it will fit the car. The vital accessories like hitch rack receiver and other vehicle attachments must be compatible with the bike rack as well.

Which Bike Rack Can Qualify As A Universal Car Bike Rack?

Roof Bike Rack

Roof mounted bike racks can be used on different types of cars. They come in different versions to fit different models of cars. Before you can use this rack on your car, you need to have crossbars.

But if you don’t have crossbars, you can improvise by mounting clips and install the rack to your car door frame or rain gutter.

Now, does this make this rack universal? The answer is no.

Roof bike works best with small cars. There is no way this rack can go on a pickup truck because it will look very odd.

So, while roof bike racks can be used on different types of vehicles, they cannot fit every vehicle. And for that reason, roof bike racks cannot qualify as universal car bike racks.

Trunk Bike Racks

Trunk bike racks are very common and popular and used on many cars. Bikers love it because it’s easy to install and use. And they are super easy to mount and un-mount bikes onto them.

With just a strap, you can use a trunk bike rack on any car that has a trunk.

If you think about it, trunk bike racks may be said to be universal in nature because you just need straps to hold the bike in place.

But then again, not all cars have trunks. Again, a pickup truck has a bed which might make it impractical to use a trunk bike rack on such a vehicle.

So, can trunk bike racks qualify as universal bike racks?

They may be close to looking universal, but certainly trunk bike racks cannot be used on all vehicles and therefore cannot be considered universal.

Hitch Bike Rack

Hitch bike racks work with different types of cars, but they are best suited for pickup trucks and SUVs.

Before installing a hitch bike rack, your car needs to have a hitch receiver. If your car doesn’t have one, you can get one at an extra cost.

But imagine installing a hitch receiver on a small car like Sedan. I guess you can’t even imagine it because it certainly will look off.

Hitch bike racks are best for cars with a little bit of height.

For the fact that not all cars can comfortably use a hitch bike rack, it means that hitch bike racks cannot be termed universal bike racks.

Suction Bike Racks

Because suction bike racks can be suctioned to any part of a car, some might say it is a universal bike rack.

Well, you are not far from the truth. Even the manufacturers of such bike racks claim that they are universal.

In fact, if you want a bike rack that can stay on any type of vehicle, suction bike racks will be your best option.

So, does it mean they can be called universal bike racks? Well, going by the points listed above, they can pass as universal bike racks.

The problem is- not everyone is comfortable with suction bike racks. There are some suction rack failure history in the bike community. The absence of straps makes it one of the least desirable bike racks amongst bikers.

Spare Tire Bike Racks

Just like the name, spare tire bike racks go on a car’s spare tire position.

You will need straps to attach the rack to the spare tire. Because of their light weight, spare tire bike racks are easy to attach and detach.

Now, the problem is that not all cars have their spare tires on the body of the car. And without an outward spare tire position in place, you cannot use this on your car.

That alone limits the types of cars that can make use of this type of rack.

With that said, you already know that spare tire bike racks cannot qualify as universal bike racks.

Truck Bed Bike Racks

Just like spare tire bike racks, truck bed bike racks cannot be used on cars that don’t have truck beds.

So it’s safe to say that no, truck bed bike racks cannot be called universal bike racks.

The Right Bike Rack For Your Car Type

SUVs and Minivans

SUVs and minivans can use any type of car bike rack because of the way they are designed. While there are plenty options, a hitch type of bike rack would be best suited here. Reason being that hitch bike rack allows you have easy access to your trunk. It is also the best in terms of compatibility and capacity for SUVs and minivans.


With Sedans, most bike racks will fit very well. But there are some that may not work very well. For instance, while hitch bike racks can be mounted on Sedans, the weight of the bike and low clearance can make the car to be hitting the ground. For best results, a roof bike rack will work best for a Sedan. Trunk bike racks will work also, but may not provide the best security for your bike.

Pickup Trucks

Here is another type of vehicle that can use any type of bike rack. However, if you want the best experience, you should go for a truck bed bike rack. But if you will be making use of your truck bed, you can then go for a hitch bike rack.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I make a car bike rack universal?

With some straps and cords you can use most car bike racks on your car. But this might not work with suction bike racks because there is no provision for such. However, the universal nature of suction bikes means that you can use them on many cars.

Is there a way to know if my car can accept any type of bike rack?

The best way to do this is to check with the manufacturer of the bike you want to buy. Every manufacturer states the vehicles that their bike rack can fit. So, if your car or its model is not listed, it means that such bike rack cannot work for your car.

If I decide to go for suction bike racks as universal bike racks, can they be trusted?

They are built to work on most cars, and they have strong suction power. While some people have had their cars and bike damaged when using suction bike racks, many people have had good experiences with it. Just know that if you are going for them, you do so at your own discretion.


So, are car bike racks really universal? In as much as some bike racks might fit every car, it still doesn’t mean that they are universal.

Although suction bike racks are said to suit every car, but not everyone would risk using such bike racks.

With the information contained in this article, you should be able to settle for the right bike rack for your car.

Also read: 13 Tips for Traveling with a Bike Rack to Make Your Trip Better

Jeff Phillips Racktutor
About the author

Jeff Phillips is the able founder of In his professional life, he has been offering Paintless Dent Repair and Hail Repair services in North Texas since 1990. He is the owner of DentMasters. He is still passionate about outdoor adventures with his family, bikes and cars. So he has first-hand experience on bike racks. He is regularly testing suitable racks for his upcoming trip. His aim is to create a user-friendly free website where bikers can easily read bike rack informations without any hassle.

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