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  1. #1
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    Roof rack vs hitch

    So I use to own a truck and decided to get a car. I was planning on buying a roof rack right out of the gate, but then a few friends suggested I should get a hitch installed on my car. I thought about it and with a roof rack I know it would create drag and with the driving I do for work I know it would be on there all the time.

    So my questions are, does it really create that much drag? Is a hitch the best way to go as a mode to transport bikes? I know a roof rack would have a hell of a lot of drag with bikes on it for sure instead of having them behind your car. Just not sure if I could get one installed and where to you find shops that can install a hitch for a car?

    And whats the best hitch rack to get if I go that route?

    Sean

  2. #2
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    How many bikes do you need to carry? What kind of car?

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    Roof -

    Pluses--- best ride for bikes, fit almost any bike, maximum bike capacity, full access to trunk, no danger of damage from backing up or getting rear ended.,

    Minus --- harder to load for short people, lots of air drag when loaded, though far less for the rack alone, raised height clearance, raising the real risk of bike damage by low clearances.

    Hitch racks

    Pluses, easy to load, less costly

    Minuses, restricted access to trunk or rear hatch, increased risk of damage backing up, or if rear ended, can be a pain with many frame designs or ladies bikes (special top tube adapter needed).
    bikes Ground clearance issues on some cars and roads, weight cantilevered out in back which can cause handling issues with a loaded car, family, stuff, and 4 bikes in the back.

    These are just the highlights, and I'm sure others can flesh it out more, but it's a toss up, and what's best for you depends on your personal particulars.
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  4. #4
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    Do a search on the subject. Been done to death.

    For instance... my VW GTi got 31 mpg on the freeway nekkid. 28 mpg with an empty roof rack, 24 mpg with a bike up there. I get no hit with two bikes on a hitch rack on that car.

    I now have an A4 sedan that gets 29-30 MPG on the freeway (depending on how heavy footed I am that day). I put a bike on the hitch rack in back and it drops to 27 mpg because the bike sticks way up over the rear trunk in the breeze.

    On the other end of the scale, if you drive a big SUV with crappy aerodynamics that gets 13 mpg to begin with, it will get about the same with two bikes on the roof.

  5. #5
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    need to know this for sure....

    Quote Originally Posted by joe_bloe View Post
    How many bikes do you need to carry? What kind of car?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by joe_bloe View Post
    How many bikes do you need to carry? What kind of car?
    Probably only carry 2 bikes, one would be a road bike and the other would be a 29er. I bought a 2012 hyundai sonata.

  7. #7
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    I recently acquired a new setup and decided on a Kuat NV hitch rack with wheel trays. Most of the bikes I transport do not have a straight top tube so that ruled out "hanging" types.

    The main reasons I went with a hitch rack: significantly less chance of scratching the car putting on/taking off bikes, after 25-50+ mile MTB rides I don't want to have to put bikes on the roof, no worries about pulling into the garage at home or work and crunching what is on top, better security (NV has built in cable locks and I add another one on the rare instances where I park and leave the bikes on the rack for more than a few minutes). I researched a bunch of different ones including 1up, Thule and Yakima and liked the features on the Kuat better. Definitely not cheap but the bikes I am transporting aren't chicken feed either.

  8. #8
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    No need to have a shop install the hitch. On most cars it's going to take you an hour or so to install yourself. It's just a few bolted connections to pre-drilled holes in your car frame. Go to carparts.com or hiddenhitch.com

  9. #9
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    Some yes, some no

    Quote Originally Posted by wbmason55 View Post
    No need to have a shop install the hitch. On most cars it's going to take you an hour or so to install yourself. It's just a few bolted connections to pre-drilled holes in your car frame. Go to carparts.com or hiddenhitch.com
    I actually had to remove the rear bumper on my 96 GTi to install the hitch. Man, what a major PITA. I'm pretty handy, and can fabricate my own parts, and it still took me around two hours.

    My Audi A4 was way easier. It basically just bolts up to the spare tire well in the rear trunk, plus one other bolt. That took me around 45 minutes to get it all lined up, sealed and purdy.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Hawk View Post
    Probably only carry 2 bikes, one would be a road bike and the other would be a 29er. I bought a 2012 hyundai sonata.
    Then I'd lean toward the hitch. I regularly carry four bikes on my Mazda5, so I went with the roof rack, but if I knew for sure I'd only need two, I'd go hitch.

    Mine's on the right:


  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by pimpbot View Post
    I actually had to remove the rear bumper on my 96 GTi to install the hitch. Man, what a major PITA. I'm pretty handy, and can fabricate my own parts, and it still took me around two hours.

    My Audi A4 was way easier. It basically just bolts up to the spare tire well in the rear trunk, plus one other bolt. That took me around 45 minutes to get it all lined up, sealed and purdy.
    Yah ahhh, it took a dealer 4 hours to install my OEM Honda hitch (rear bumper was off for all but 15 mins of the time). I tried a Draw Tite aftermarket hitch first and it made some crazy exhaust noise at idle, 30 and 60 MPH. Best thing to do is check car forums for your model before purchasing an aftermarket hitch to make sure it is a good fit for your vehicle and determine how difficult the install will be.

  12. #12
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    Uhaul sells and installs hitches for pretty cheap, the hitches are good quality and at a good price, the hitch for my 2011 toyota corolla is $115 and installation varies from store to store but usually isn't more than $50 with a lifetime installation guarantee. That being said, i installed the my uhaul hitch on my old 2005 civic with no problems at all.
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  13. #13
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    I have a Honda Civic, and recently went with a roof rack over the hitch for one reason. When we go on camping trips and bring the bikes, the weight of our supplies in the trunk plus the weight of the hitch, rack, and bikes on the back of the car would simply be too much. Better to have the bikes on the roof and not bottom the car out.

  14. #14
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    Personally I think roof racks on small cars or sports cars look kind of stupid, especially when people don't trim their bars and have tubes hanging off each side. For some reason people in Colorado think it's cool to look all outdoorsy, so there are people who leave their ski/snowboard racks on all season, or drive around the suburbs all the time with a giant luggage box on the top even though it's destroying their gas mileage. I refused to put one on my Charger when I had it. It would have completely ruined the lines of the car.

    I'd get a hitch mounted tray-style. Best part is you can take it off when you're not using it (some are easier than others to get off and on). When I'm fully loaded I have 2 on the roof and 2 on the back, but I only use my roof racks if there's more than 2. It's just too much of a hassle putting them up and taking them down, especially on a tall vehicle. Plus I don't like how careful I have to drive when they're up there. They make me nervous. I might be paranoid, but they do sway quite a bit, no matter what roof rack you have.
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    Roof -

    Pluses--- best ride for bikes, fit almost any bike, maximum bike capacity, full access to trunk, no danger of damage from backing up or getting rear ended.,

    Minus --- harder to load for short people, lots of air drag when loaded, though far less for the rack alone, raised height clearance, raising the real risk of bike damage by low clearances.

    Hitch racks

    Pluses, easy to load, less costly

    Minuses, restricted access to trunk or rear hatch, increased risk of damage backing up, or if rear ended, can be a pain with many frame designs or ladies bikes (special top tube adapter needed).
    bikes Ground clearance issues on some cars and roads, weight cantilevered out in back which can cause handling issues with a loaded car, family, stuff, and 4 bikes in the back.

    These are just the highlights, and I'm sure others can flesh it out more, but it's a toss up, and what's best for you depends on your personal particulars.
    id have to agree with this, went from yak roof with wind splitter on my tc cut my avg MPG by like 6-7. then went to a hitch with a swagman for the same price new as my used yak. no loss of mpg

    rack on the tc actually looked nice wind splitter lined up nice with the windshield, def alot better looking then a hitch rack which is always ugly without a bike. so + for the roof rack in that aspect

    i didnt like that i have to mount my king cobras backwards.
    i have to take the bike of it in the tray closest to the car to get to the trunk, transferable to all hitchs is a + to hitch

    on a sonata def go hitch. etrailer has good prices 95. got mine from there installed myself just have to drill one hole to gain acess to the others.
    put a hitch on my parents camry for 180 installed at uhaul

    definately go tray style


    Last edited by CT3; 08-07-2011 at 01:47 PM.

  16. #16
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    Trailers are an overlooked option. There are many from $150 to thousands. I have a Harbor Freight trailer, I extended the tounge 10 inches, added some 2x10 planks, and removed one of the 2 springs to get a better ride. Pulls great, loads/unloads easy. I simply moved the center crossmember up 10 inches and the tounge moved 10 in with it.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Hawk View Post
    So I use to own a truck and decided to get a car. I was planning on buying a roof rack right out of the gate, but then a few friends suggested I should get a hitch installed on my car. I thought about it and with a roof rack I know it would create drag and with the driving I do for work I know it would be on there all the time.

    So my questions are, does it really create that much drag? Is a hitch the best way to go as a mode to transport bikes? I know a roof rack would have a hell of a lot of drag with bikes on it for sure instead of having them behind your car. Just not sure if I could get one installed and where to you find shops that can install a hitch for a car?

    And whats the best hitch rack to get if I go that route?

    Sean
    I lose about 2mpg in a car that averages 25mpg - in other words, not a big deal. If you get a good quality rack in either configuration (so it's about the same money) and you don't plan on towing anything, then the hitch receiver will set you back another $200-400. So it's probably a wash either way. If you lose that 2 mpg on a vehicle that gets 15mpg, it's a lot more expensive.

    Now, if you already have a hitch on the car, then getting a rack like the 1UpUSA that goes on and off very quickly is the ticket. If you have an SUV - then get a hitch rack. It's a PITA to put the bikes on a roof rack on an SUV.

    Then, with the roof, there's the issue of low overhangs and garages. Having done some bike damage this way, I can attest it's a factor in the decision. Very easy to do. When I called Yakima to see about repair/replace on rack parts after that event, they said they get about 4 calls a day on this topic. So, it's not an isolated occurrence.

    J.

  18. #18
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    I would choose a roof rack in almost every situation. I started using a hitch rack but the cables run along the bottom of the cross bar on my bike. So when I hang my bike on the hitch rack the cables rubbed between the rack and the frame taking all the paint off. I imagine if i were to keep hauling it like that I'd eventually damage the cables and maybe rub weak spots in the frame itself.
    The first time I saw the rub marks in the paint and the wear on my cables I tossed that piece of crap in the junk pile and bought a roof rack.

    As for fuel mileage I've never checked because I don't care. Both my Subaru and my wife's Yukon had factory roof racks so I can't imagine adding the little bicycle jigger made much of a difference.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Haligan78 View Post
    I would choose a roof rack in almost every situation. I started using a hitch rack but the cables run along the bottom of the cross bar on my bike. So when I hang my bike on the hitch rack the cables rubbed between the rack and the frame taking all the paint off. I imagine if i were to keep hauling it like that I'd eventually damage the cables and maybe rub weak spots in the frame itself.
    The first time I saw the rub marks in the paint and the wear on my cables I tossed that piece of crap in the junk pile and bought a roof rack.

    As for fuel mileage I've never checked because I don't care. Both my Subaru and my wife's Yukon had factory roof racks so I can't imagine adding the little bicycle jigger made much of a difference.
    That's why flat bed hitch racks with arms that only touch the wheels. Are best. 1up kuat Thule make some that don't touch the frame

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Haligan78 View Post
    I would choose a roof rack in almost every situation. I started using a hitch rack but the cables run along the bottom of the cross bar on my bike. So when I hang my bike on the hitch rack the cables rubbed between the rack and the frame taking all the paint off. I imagine if i were to keep hauling it like that I'd eventually damage the cables and maybe rub weak spots in the frame itself.
    The first time I saw the rub marks in the paint and the wear on my cables I tossed that piece of crap in the junk pile and bought a roof rack.

    As for fuel mileage I've never checked because I don't care. Both my Subaru and my wife's Yukon had factory roof racks so I can't imagine adding the little bicycle jigger made much of a difference.
    Yes, those are the type of hitch racks that were used in the last century. Hitch racks have come a long way. Even a roof rack w/o a bike causes a significant decrease in mileage, it's basically throwing away $$. The initial cost is usually similar, but one keeps costing you every time you drive. If you keep your speed at 45mph or less the drag of the roof rack is negligible, but when you go faster the drag increases dramatically. There still are a few situations where a roof setup may be more practical, but it's not for the same reasons from 10+ yrs ago.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    Hitch racks

    Pluses, easy to load, less costly

    These are just the highlights, and I'm sure others can flesh it out more, but it's a toss up, and what's best for you depends on your personal particulars.
    Another point. I've got two vehicles. One with a hitch, and one ready to get a hitch. Bike rack will be easily swapable between the two without killing the paint or without a bunch of extra parts.

    Roof racks will take more time to swap and require much more fiddling to secure. We would have needed different clips minimum, possibly even towers for the car to van. Add in an extra fairing too.

    Had roof racks in the past (and still have one for the hauling vehicle), and they keep the bikes out of the way, secure, and visible. I'm not willing to take the mileage hit with gas over $3.50 a gallon. When I bought the first roof rack, it was about $1.05.
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  22. #22
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    on the yakima racks. you have 4 towers to take off if you want. that takes all of what 5 minutes. and maybe 10 to put back on and make sure your measurements are right. i have yet to see a real noticeable difference in mpg but i will find out on my 5 hour haul with an obese bike on top this coming weekend. i just think it looks so much cleaner on a car


  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    Yes, those are the type of hitch racks that were used in the last century. Hitch racks have come a long way. Even a roof rack w/o a bike causes a significant decrease in mileage, it's basically throwing away $$. The initial cost is usually similar, but one keeps costing you every time you drive. If you keep your speed at 45mph or less the drag of the roof rack is negligible, but when you go faster the drag increases dramatically. There still are a few situations where a roof setup may be more practical, but it's not for the same reasons from 10+ yrs ago.
    Not true.

    If you have to add a hitch to your car for the purposes of using the hitch rack, the hitch rack is considerably more expensive.

    As well, your energy cost consumed by the worse aerodynamics depends largely on energy efficiency of your car initially. For example, a car that gets 25mpg consumes 1/25th of gallon per mile. If your car gets 12.5 mpg (to make it easy) your cost to go one mile is 0.08 gallons (twice as much). If a roof rack knocks off one mpg then it's going to use 1/24th gallon per mile, or the difference is 0.0017 gallons per mile. Lets say you leave that rack on your car for 6000 miles per year (half of a driving year for the average driver), then the difference is 10 gallons of gas or about $37 per year. For that gas guzzler at 12.5mpg, the difference would be 41 gallons per year or about $154.

    So, if you have a typical car that gets 25mpg then adding a receiver at $200-400 (presuming you weren't towing in the first place), you wouldn't break even on that deal for 8 years or so. Hitch racks are not cheap at all in this scenario.

    If you have a 12.5mpg car, it's probably a big SUV or truck, and that already comes with a hitch (at least often it does). So you save that but even then, we're talking something like $14 per month. So the aero issue is pretty much a don't care in almost any scenario.

    Our SUV is an old Volvo cross over and it gets about 17-18 average. New Suburbans get 21-23mpg on the highway according to some friends. For my cross over Volvo, the cost is just under 20 gallons per year or $72 per year. That's in "don't care territory for me." If one had to add a receiver to a car like that, it would take 4 years to pay back. Not great at all. For $72, I'll take the convenience of just leaving it on the car.

    If, as some say, their car already came with racks on top (i.e. Subaru) adding the trays for a roof rack may not even be measurable realistically.

    So, unless you are driving a Hummer, it probably doesn't matter. If you car gets decent gas mileage, the pay back is awful if you have to add a hitch receiver.


    J.

  24. #24
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    I was in this same position. 2005 Audi A4. I wanted a roof rack since it looks so much cleaner. I simply couldn't justify the cost of it though. Not in comparison to a hitch + 2 bike tray rack. I had U-Haul install a hitch, and picked up a 2 bike tray rack from Amazon for $141 + free shipping. Total cost was under $370, and for that much, I couldn't find anything close to put on the roof, even used on Craigslist. Closest I found was a rack on eBay that I would have to dinkle with, and hope was as described. Simply not worth it if you ask me.

    Starting empty, I can put the rack on, and both bikes in about 5 minutes or so. My wife, who is 5'1", who I ride with all the time, would have issues loading a bike up on to the roof of my car. With this hitch rack, either of us can load the bikes with no assistance.

    I also noticed that one of the downfalls of a hitch rack could be blocked access to the trunk. This is not the case on my rack or car. If you get the type where the bike hangs, I could see an issue. I don't even need to move my bike to gain access to the trunk. If I did, there is one pin that you pull, and the whole rack angles back to let you get into the trunk.

  25. #25
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    Depends a lot on the hitch you get and your car (simplicity of adding a hitch). For example, the cost to add a hitch to my car, which has a difficult bumper arrangement, is about $300-400.

    Also, even when you use a Thule or Yak bar set, you can also buy similar budget roof trays as you did for your trunk. Easy to find on Amazon, trays for $45 or less (one at $29) per bike. It's easy to find cheap stuff at both levels. The question is, do you want to trust your bike that probably costs many to several times what the these cheap racks cost to such stuff? Also, most of them wind up with arms to the finish on the bike.

    Got to compared cheap to cheap if you do this correct. Original point still stands - racks on the hitch or on the roof can be found for about the same. If you have to add a hitch, then the hitch racks get more expensive fast.

    J.
    Last edited by JohnJ80; 08-08-2011 at 08:12 AM.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnJ80 View Post
    Depends a lot on the hitch you get and your car (simplicity of adding a hitch). For example, the cost to add a hitch to my car, which has a difficult bumper arrangement, is about $300-400.

    Also, even when you use a Thule or Yak bar set, you can also buy similar budget roof trays as you did for your trunk. Easy to find on Amazon, trays for $45 or less (one at $29) per bike. It's easy to find cheap stuff at both levels. The question is, do you want to trust your bike that probably costs many to several times what the these cheap racks cost to such stuff? Also, most of them wind up with arms to the finish on the bike.

    Got to compared cheap to cheap if you do this correct. Original point still stands - racks on the hitch or on the roof can be found for about the same. If you have to add a hitch, then the hitch racks get more expensive fast.

    J.


    i made this spreadsheet when i bought my roof rack and considered buy it new, huge savings difference. with the hitch rack even a 400 kuat would still be alot less. or a car that would require 150-200 hitch. installing it yourself will save you alot of money too, i hate paying for labor

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnJ80 View Post
    Got to compared cheap to cheap if you do this correct. Original point still stands - racks on the hitch or on the roof can be found for about the same. If you have to add a hitch, then the hitch racks get more expensive fast.

    J.
    But it's not the same, just like you said, it's like throwing a few dollars out the window each time when you use the roof-rack (or just drive around, but maybe not as much on every drive obviously). Over time, the hitch rack comparatively pays for itself. I've had my T2 for something like 5 years now, think of all that $$$ a roof-rack user is just throwing away, especially because I take the rack off when I'm not using it. We're talking a significant difference, or if you feel it's not, would you be ok with sending me $200-300? I could really use the money if you think that it's not a significant amount. It's also not exactly apples to apples if you are thinking about a car that already has rails or something on top to mount the racks, but I digress (I just checked on recievers a few days ago and 100-150 is the average price, for a variety of cars including BMWs).
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    On a high mileage car, the difference in pay back is something like 8 years. I've never had a rack that I had for longer than about 3-4 maybe 5. That's a foolish bet.

    It's not the price for a variety of cars including BMW, because that's what I have and the cost is significantly more than that - the last quote I got about 6 weeks ago was $300-350 installed for a butt ugly receiver that requires drilling into the bumper. The hitch itself without installation runs between $225 and $264. Also, it's a total PITA to install.

    Either way, the cost of having a rack on the top or as a hitch rack is immaterial and about the same. If you have to add a receiver to your car just for the rack, then it's not economical. That's also considering that you leave the roof rack on your car the entire biking season. If you take it off, and mine comes off in <5 minutes, then the cost of the "loss" of aerodynamics is pennies - literally.

    There are reasons to buy roof racks and hitch racks. Saving gas money is not one of them. It's largely a wash.

    J.

  29. #29
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    Here's my 2 wheel setup...
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Roof rack vs hitch-img_1136.jpg  


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    That's wild!

    What does it do to the handling of the motorcycle?

    J.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnJ80 View Post
    On a high mileage car, the difference in pay back is something like 8 years. I've never had a rack that I had for longer than about 3-4 maybe 5. That's a foolish bet.

    It's not the price for a variety of cars including BMW, because that's what I have and the cost is significantly more than that - the last quote I got about 6 weeks ago was $300-350 installed for a butt ugly receiver that requires drilling into the bumper. The hitch itself without installation runs between $225 and $264. Also, it's a total PITA to install.

    Either way, the cost of having a rack on the top or as a hitch rack is immaterial and about the same. If you have to add a receiver to your car just for the rack, then it's not economical. That's also considering that you leave the roof rack on your car the entire biking season. If you take it off, and mine comes off in <5 minutes, then the cost of the "loss" of aerodynamics is pennies - literally.

    There are reasons to buy roof racks and hitch racks. Saving gas money is not one of them. It's largely a wash.

    J.
    Really? I must have did it all wrong then! You do realize you lose a few mpg with a roof rack in the first place?, then a bike makes it go down a few more. If racks and

    Looking at cars and racks, it looks like $500 or more is the price for a decent roof rack. We're looking at $300 just for the towers/load bars, then how much for things like farings, the actual tray, (how many?). It looks like $600 is easy to surpase. It sounds like you're cooking the numbers. Yes, if things aren't equal, then one may come out ahead or at least delay the inevitable, but going from zero to a roof-rack is very expensive. Hitch racks are not cheap either, but these come out to be pretty much the same. Then you figure that you're spending an extra hundred a year in gas? I go back to my previous post, can you send me some money that you don't need please!!??

    So lets say your 35mpg car goes to 33 with the rack, and then with bikes drops to 29mpg. You drive 8000 miles without bikes a year, and 2000 with. That is going to be 1089 in gas that you spend with your rack on (with gast at $3.50/gal). This is $89 more than you'd spend if you had no rack. Although it's not a huge amount of money, it's completely wasted.


    So lets say your 17mpg car gets 16 with the rack, and 14 with (same % decreases as above). $2250 for that 10,000 yearly with rack vs 2059, that's pretty significant. The reason is the milege sucks so bad for that vehicle in the first place.

    In both of these cases, it's money that's completely wasted...gone forever. A hitch rack on the other hand, not significantly contributing to any drag (when it's not there zero! and with bikes much less than a roof one) is going to essentially be paying for itself relatively. How many roof racks come off in 5 minutes?

    It sounds like you have some sort of crazy car if it requires drilling into the bumper. I know that there are a few situations where people can't use hitch racks, but by and large they are a far better solution in terms of how they've evolved over the recent years and the ease of loading/unloading and how they preserve fuel economy.
    Last edited by Jayem; 08-08-2011 at 01:58 PM.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  32. #32
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    I'm not tracking your math at all. You need to take the actual gasoline used in each case, you can't use the mpg number to calculate the savings. 1mpg at 35mpg is a lot less gas than 1mpg at 16mpg.

    I tell you what - you go ahead and spend that extra $200-400 on a hitch receiver installed for an 8 year payback. Seems foolish to me. The bet that I'd have a rack 8 years later (even 5) is a bit odd since my racks have never lasted that long anyhow. That would be BIG money wasted.

    I have tracked the mpg change in my car with and without racks (BMW 530xit wagon). I lose between 1-1.5mpg on my BMW with the rack. I lose 3mpg from winter to summer (worse gas mileage in big cold) so that's a bigger deal. I average about 25mpg on my car year round.

    Price for a decent set of bars:
    $250 or so. Just looked it up.
    Rockymounts: $99 each so call it $450 total. You can do half that if you want to buy budget brands trays - still an extruded tray and QR skewer arrangement. Just clunkier.

    Thule T2 - $395 just sitting on the ground. Add receiver for $150-400 installed. T2, 2 bikes comes to $600-950 depending on car. If you had the hitch it would be $400. If you had the bars it would $200.

    Whole thing is pretty much a wash if you want to wait 5-8 years.

    Gasoline analysis - see above.

    Just for grins, we once had a problem with a hitch rack on a trip and had to move all 4 bikes to the top of the SUV. That only cost us 3 mpg at 70-80mph over what we were getting before. Our SUV (volvo xc90) was getting 17 mpg before the rack problem. It got 14-15 after the rack problem with 4 bikes on top vs 4 bikes behind the car (hitch). That was the average over 2000 miles of driving FWIW.

    If you have a car that already has cross bars or if you keep bars on your car already for other things, then the roof rack comes out way ahead and the incremental gasoline usage is probably not measurable. That is, unless of course, the vast majority of your driving is with your bike on top (which I think is pretty unrealistic).

    If you're buying a rack for either front or back, the aerodynamics are not such a big deal. Handling is a big deal. Overhands and road noise are a big deal. Bugs and rocks on your bike are a big deal. Getting 4 bikes up on top of an SUV is a royal PITA.

    The point is this - the cost of the aero piece is not worth it. It's like paying $10,000 more for a car that is more "eco" when the gas savings over the life of the car is less than the incremental price of the car and the increased maintenance cost. Doesn't make sense economically.

    J.

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    Lots of good info Thanks!!

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    I put a hitch receiver on my car for less than 150.00, of course that was installing it myself. It really isn't very hard. I think the roof racks look nicer, but they are less practical. My car is usually used as a commuter, it is a sleek car that is usually driven at 65mph, so I would have taken a fairly big hit on the gas mileage. If it were just driven around town a roof rack would not have been as costly over the long term. Also, when I checked prices I found it was cheaper to put on the receiver and a back rack, than it was to put on a roof rack.

    Amazon.com: Hollywood Racks HR8500 Traveler 4-Bike Hitch Mount Rack (1.25 and 2-Inch Receiver): Sports & Outdoors

    So around 330.00 for a quality setup, I doubt you could do a nice roof rack for that and that doesn't even factor in gas. I must admit I still haven't bought the rack, because I ended up getting a small trailer, which is great for camping. I put the canoe, quad, bikes and all the camping gear on the trailer, so i guess what I'm saying is forget the racks altogether and get a trailer.

    If I had a point I lost it about half through this post.
    "What kind of bike? I don't know, I'm not a bike scientist."

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    My BMW is pretty sleek and the hit on gas mileage with roof racks is about 1.5mpg. That's predominantly highway driving at speeds up to 80mph (most often around 70-75 mph). I guess that's my point, the gas mileage hit/aero isn't nearly as big as most people presume it will be - especially when you do the economics. In other words, there really isn't much to factor in, or out for that matter. As an aside, Yakima customer service made the point to me when I asked about fairings that noise and aerodynamic aren't equivalent. In other words, adding that fairing may reduce noise but it won't help the gas mileage compared to the bare rack.

    Using the rack you list there, would not match the roof racks quality that is being discussed here (i.e. Thule or Yakima). That would be using something like $50 trays and $50-70 cargo racks such as Rage Racks. Total rack cost would be in the range of $150 or so.

    As well, I presume that you don't leave your rack on the back of your car all the time. Same would behavior would have to be presumed for roof racks. In those cases, it seriously makes no difference what so ever. The difference isn't great even if you leave the roof rack on your car all the time. If you take it off, then it's rapidly into "don't care" territory and there essentially is no gas cost hit over time.

    I'm not a big roof rack guy - in fact I have both roof and hitch racks. Roof goes for the car, hitch goes for the SUV. I'm just taking exception to the presumption that there is an equivalence in cost between roof and hitch racks. There isn't, hitch racks are considerably more expensive - apples to apples if you need to add the hitch.

    J.

  36. #36
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    Also apples to apples if you need to purchase the entire roof rack system. My Audi came with nothing. To go quality on the roof would have been significantly more than adding a hitch and rack.

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    Damn, so much great info in here! My wife and I just picked up a new vehicle, time to do some shopping.

  38. #38
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    How 'bout both?

    Gotta get up to get down.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnJ80 View Post
    My BMW is pretty sleek and the hit on gas mileage with roof racks is about 1.5mpg. That's predominantly highway driving at speeds up to 80mph (most often around 70-75 mph). I guess that's my point, the gas mileage hit/aero isn't nearly as big as most people presume it will be - especially when you do the economics. In other words, there really isn't much to factor in, or out for that matter. As an aside, Yakima customer service made the point to me when I asked about fairings that noise and aerodynamic aren't equivalent. In other words, adding that fairing may reduce noise but it won't help the gas mileage compared to the bare rack.

    Using the rack you list there, would not match the roof racks quality that is being discussed here (i.e. Thule or Yakima). That would be using something like $50 trays and $50-70 cargo racks such as Rage Racks. Total rack cost would be in the range of $150 or so.

    As well, I presume that you don't leave your rack on the back of your car all the time. Same would behavior would have to be presumed for roof racks. In those cases, it seriously makes no difference what so ever. The difference isn't great even if you leave the roof rack on your car all the time. If you take it off, then it's rapidly into "don't care" territory and there essentially is no gas cost hit over time.

    I'm not a big roof rack guy - in fact I have both roof and hitch racks. Roof goes for the car, hitch goes for the SUV. I'm just taking exception to the presumption that there is an equivalence in cost between roof and hitch racks. There isn't, hitch racks are considerably more expensive - apples to apples if you need to add the hitch.

    J.
    No, I listed a quality rack, as a matter of fact I sorted by ratings and the rack I chose was not the cheapest by a longshot and it was rated very high. The cheap hitch mount racks were around 80 on Amazon and can be had for 50 at Wally World. If I had a roof rack it would stay on, like most of them do, because they don't come on and off in a few seconds.

    Here is a Thule which has the same rating as the one I posted, but the bike rests on the tires and not the top tube for 240.00. So if I go that route I will be at 390.00 total, I can't get a complete Thule roof rack for 390.00, it comes out around 700.00.

    Amazon.com: Thule 990XT Doubletrack Platform Bike Hitch Rack: Sports & Outdoors

    Look this really isn't a big deal, I actually would have preferred the look of a roof rack, but I as far as cost goes their is no way I could put a quality roof rack on for what the hitch mount cost, plus now I have a receiver on my car, a rack that comes on and off easily and the ability to pull a trailer.

    One thing though, if I had to pay to install the hitch the cost would have been a lot closer, the exhaust had to be dropped and heat shields recut to fit around the mounting points on the hitch, plus my car didn't have a plug in harness available, which means the plug had to be spliced in, so the labor for install would have been at least 100, maybe more. With that in mind the cost would have been a lot closer.
    "What kind of bike? I don't know, I'm not a bike scientist."

  40. #40
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    Anything hitch/trunk mounted is just asking for trouble. Restricts too much of the tail light area for me. Just asking to get rear ended. I'll sacrifice 4-5 mpg to avoid having to deal with an insurance company replacing my bike...

  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnJ80 View Post
    That's wild!

    What does it do to the handling of the motorcycle?

    J.
    I only took it out once. If I hit a crosswind, I can feel it. But if there's none, I don't know if it's there. I'm gonna test out my DH rig on some twisties soon. Wish me luck...

  42. #42
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    When we drive with 4 bikes on the back of our SUV, you can definitely feel it in the corners on the highway. I would guess it's the same for a motorcycle.

    j.

  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by kapaso View Post
    No, I listed a quality rack, as a matter of fact I sorted by ratings and the rack I chose was not the cheapest by a longshot and it was rated very high. The cheap hitch mount racks were around 80 on Amazon and can be had for 50 at Wally World. If I had a roof rack it would stay on, like most of them do, because they don't come on and off in a few seconds.

    Here is a Thule which has the same rating as the one I posted, but the bike rests on the tires and not the top tube for 240.00. So if I go that route I will be at 390.00 total, I can't get a complete Thule roof rack for 390.00, it comes out around 700.00.

    Amazon.com: Thule 990XT Doubletrack Platform Bike Hitch Rack: Sports & Outdoors

    Look this really isn't a big deal, I actually would have preferred the look of a roof rack, but I as far as cost goes their is no way I could put a quality roof rack on for what the hitch mount cost, plus now I have a receiver on my car, a rack that comes on and off easily and the ability to pull a trailer.

    One thing though, if I had to pay to install the hitch the cost would have been a lot closer, the exhaust had to be dropped and heat shields recut to fit around the mounting points on the hitch, plus my car didn't have a plug in harness available, which means the plug had to be spliced in, so the labor for install would have been at least 100, maybe more. With that in mind the cost would have been a lot closer.
    I guess that's my point - I don't see that particular Thule rack as all that great of a rack. I would not, for example, compare that to Thule's high end trays or Yak sprocket rockets or Rocky Mount trays for the roof. I'd put that in the $50-$70 trays as a comparison point. So that's primarily where we disagree.

    Either way, I guess the point is that the savings from aerodynamics is not a decision point if one looks at economics of the whole thing either way.

    J.

  44. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnJ80 View Post
    I guess that's my point - I don't see that particular Thule rack as all that great of a rack. I would not, for example, compare that to Thule's high end trays or Yak sprocket rockets or Rocky Mount trays for the roof. I'd put that in the $50-$70 trays as a comparison point. So that's primarily where we disagree.

    Either way, I guess the point is that the savings from aerodynamics is not a decision point if one looks at economics of the whole thing either way.

    J.
    So you are finally admitting the cost is similar. Then what's left, aerodynamics.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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  45. #45
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    No, I'm not.

    I'm saying that the racks were not comparable and the comparison would have been much, much cheaper roof racks. There is no payback if you have to add a hitch.

    And with the cost of all of this, and further presuming that you take either rack off of your car and don't leave it on all the time - the aerodynamics is a total waste of breath to discuss.

    J.

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    [QUOTE=BaeckerX1;8317740 It's just too much of a hassle putting them up and taking them down[/QUOTE]

    Actually, I can take my rack off in literally about 1 minute. Unlock and open the latches and lift it off as one unit. Makes putting it back on maybe a 5 minute process.

    For me, we only saw our gas mileage decrease when bikes where on the car, not with an empty rack. Either way, when we take longer drives and don't need the rack the rack comes off.

  47. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by Craigers View Post
    Actually, I can take my rack off in literally about 1 minute. Unlock and open the latches and lift it off as one unit. Makes putting it back on maybe a 5 minute process.

    For me, we only saw our gas mileage decrease when bikes where on the car, not with an empty rack. Either way, when we take longer drives and don't need the rack the rack comes off.
    Sorry if it wasn't clear, but I was talking about putting the bikes up on the roof, especially after a long ride. Have you seen how tall my vehicle is in the previous picture? I need a step-ladder to do it and I'm almost 6ft tall.
    Gotta get up to get down.
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  48. #48
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    i dunno. two bikes on the back of my VW TDI and I average almost 50mpg when driving 65.

    big bonus about bikes on the hitch rack is that after 1000 miles the front ends of them aren't covered in a thick layer of dead bugs and bird guts....
    Try to be good.

  49. #49
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    At that kind of gas mileage, there is little to be saved by putting the bikes on the back or on the top.

    J.

  50. #50
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    Sure there is....

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnJ80 View Post
    At that kind of gas mileage, there is little to be saved by putting the bikes on the back or on the top.

    J.
    10-20% hit is still a 10-20% hit in mileage.

    Not to mention wind noise, not being able to open the sunroof (wind noise again) having to run the AC more (because of not being able to open the sunroof due to the wind noise).... and harder to chain the bikes down to something solid. When I use a roof rack, I would chain the bikes down to the Jesus handle inside the car through the sunroof, or to the door handle. Now, I just chain them to the hitch bar.

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