Roof Rack vs Tow-Hitch

If you have a car and you need to transport something that won’t fit in your car, you have several options. When it comes to sporting equipment, most people make the choice between a towbar attachment, or roof racks. Both have their pros and cons, and it’s not always a straightforward decision. Let’s review some of them.

Sqagman Bike Rack

Roof Racks

Roof racks are certainly one of the most popular options for outdoor enthusiasts. Many such people already drive vehicles like SUVs which usually come with built in roof rails. This makes adding some racks a simple and obvious choice. Added to this the amount of customizability you can get from roof racks it’s a strong candidate:


  • Easy to install
  • Customizability – mountings for skis, kayaks, bikes etc.


  • Fuel economy
  • Damage risk
  • Difficult to lift equipment


On the other side we have tow-bars. For SUVs and pickups, installation can be quite easy and cost-effective, but many cars, especially imports, may have to be worked on by the dealer, adding unnecessary cost compared to roof racks. At the same time, while a bike might fit perfectly behind your car, a kayak won’t. There are some pretty good attachments for skis and luggage, but you are space constrained more than with roof racks.


  • Low damage risk
  • Accessibility


  • Limited options
  • Can affect access to trunk


So what should you be purchasing? As with most decisions, it depends. You must look at what is most suited to your vehicle as well as what you are wanting to haul. Also research the cost of both options. For roof racks, you need mountings, cross bars and then attachments for your specific equipment. For tow-bars, you need the tow-bar mounting along with a bike rack or luggage carrier. Price discrepancies can be large in both directions, so be sure to do your research properly and make sure you’re purchasing equipment for your year vehicle model. For most cars you will have a wide selection of options, but don’t forget to check out your local classifieds or craigslist.

Recommended Products

Pro Series Cargo Basket

Proseries Cargo Basket

Slotting straight into your tow hitch, this luggage carrier comes in two different sizes. While it’s the perfect addition when you need to take extra baggage, it would also do well to hold some skis, and maybe even a bike if you’re careful. Made from strong steel with a corrosion proof coating, the stinger is curved to give you added clearance. Very well priced, the Pro Series Cargo Basket has excellent customer feedback with years of service ahead.

Car Rack & Carriers J-shape Rack

Car Rack & Carriers J-shape Rack

J-shape racks are the perfect way to transport surfboards, kayaks and other light watercraft. Angled to make loading and unloading easy, the Car Rack & Carriers offering provides two sets of racks that will clip easily onto any crossbars that you have. The set comes with foam on the racks to prevent damage, and even includes straps to keep things secure.

Swagman Bike Rack

This tow-hitch mounted bike rack is both low cost and portable. Able to handle two bikes of varying sizes, the rack folds up into an easily stored module. If you only need to transport two bikes, the price and convenience of the Swagman Bike Rack is not to be passed up, supported by positive customer feedback.

Thule Force Cargo Box

Thule Force Cargo Box

When it comes to transport accessories, Thule is the place to go. If you have the budget, and are wanting best in class products, Thule make excellent products with great guarantees and amazing ease-of-use. Their Force Cargo Box is an aerodynamic luggage carrier that mounts onto your roof racks. Available in several different sizes, it does require you to already have cross bars. A special design even allows you to open the cargo box from either side of the car, and a key lock is provided for security.

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