Are Hitch Cargo Carriers Legal: Here Are 3 Things to Know Before you Buy One

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A vehicular modification that includes adding accessories to your car, truck, or SUV is commonly regulated by laws. 

So, it’s pretty expected to wonder whether attaching a hitch cargo carrier violates any rule, especially as it can become a hazard in traffic.

Hitch cargo carriers are legal, which is why they are widely available in the market. However, if they are overloaded compromising road safety, you could violate the law. You can also expect legal consequences if your cargo carrier suddenly collapses or gets detached from the receiver causing damage to other vehicles.

Although there’s no law stopping you from attaching a hitch cargo carrier to your vehicle, it is imperative to guarantee its security. Find out how you can use this accessory while adhering to road safety regulations as you read on. 

What Makes a Hitch Cargo Carrier Legal? 

4 Things To Look For In A Hitch Cargo Carrier?

Laws may vary from one state to another. This remains true even with the use of hitch cargo carriers. 

While installing one to your vehicle does not go against any law, there can still be grounds for violations if you don’t follow the recommended process and utilization, which include the one below:

1. The license plate is still visible

Under no circumstance should you cover your license plate when you’re on the road. That also means your hitch cargo carrier should not obstruct the plate. However, this could be tricky through an inexperienced eye, especially if your cargo carrier is taller than average. 

Nonetheless, you have to secure that the plates can be seen without trouble. Otherwise, you might be facing a violation of the license plate law. 

So, before you hit the open road, consider the following solutions if and when your hitch cargo carrier blocks your plate.

emporarily move the license plate on the back of the hitch cargo carrier

To ensure that your license plate remains conspicuous, one sensible thing you can do is transfer the license plate whenever you use the hitch cargo carrier. This can be done if you frequently use the carrier. Otherwise, you can check out the next suggestion.

Request for a temporary paper license plate

Relocating the license plate may not be a good idea if you’re regularly in need of a hitch cargo carrier. 

What you can do instead is get a temporary license plate. Then you can attach it to the back frame of the hitch cargo carrier. This way, officers and traffic enforcers can still see your license number, and you can avoid getting into trouble with the law. 

2. Taillights are not blocked

If you’re driving long enough to master the rules of the road, then you already have a better grasp of the importance of taillights. 

With larger hitch cargo carriers, the lights can be obscured or blocked completely. Therefore, it’s crucial to check the dimensions of the cargo carrier first and its capacity to cover the back of your car before you complete a purchase transaction. 

On the other hand, if you already have a hitch cargo carrier covering the taillight, read on to the next section to find the most viable solution. 

Do You Need Lights on a Hitch Cargo Carrier? 

Yes, you will have to install taillights on your hitch cargo carrier if it blocks the ones in the car. In addition, states often require adding extra lighting to reinforce road safety laws. 

As you may know by now, Taillights are critical car parts that keep you visible to other drivers. As a result, you can avoid getting into vehicular accidents. So, adding lights on a hitch cargo carrier strengthens your safety.

3. Loads are secured

A detached hitch cargo carrier can be a nightmare for you and other drivers on the road. It can lead to all sorts of damage and can even cause fatal road accidents. So, to avoid this unfortunate incident, take note of the following tips:

Secure your cargo: 

Your hitch cargo carrier may come with straps or nets intended for securing your load. If not, you can always find a reliable one online like the Mockins heavy-duty cargo carrier net

Most hitch cargo carriers are open, exposing your cargo openly on the road. But if you use straps or nets, they can be held down, preventing them from getting thrown out of the carrier. 

In the same way, you can also go for hitch carrier cargo bags that have built-in straps. This is preferable if you’re transporting items that shouldn’t be exposed to dust or water. Check out the MARKSIGN hitch carrier cargo bag to see how it could work in your favor. 

Make sure to tighten the bolts around the hitch receiver 

Attaching the hitch cargo carrier to the receiver can be simple. All you got to do is tighten the bolts and ensure that they lock properly. 

Nevertheless, you still need to double-check your work, ensuring that you followed the instructions well. If not, it could lead to your hitch cargo getting detached in the middle of the road. So, don’t forget to check your locks and whether or not you installed the cargo carrier haphazardly.

Do not overload the cargo carrier.

It goes without saying, but putting too much load on your hitch cargo carrier that goes beyond its weight capacity automatically spells terrible news. 

Overloading increases your risk for road accidents. But even if you dodge these instances, putting too much weight on the carrier can still damage your vehicle, the hitch cargo carrier yourself, and your items.  

For example, if you overload your cargo carrier, there’s a good chance that you end up swaying your vehicle and having a sagging suspension. As a result, you may have problems steering your wheels or keeping your brakes. 

Also, it’s pretty obvious that you increase the risk of your cargo carrier collapsing if you go beyond its load capacity. This leads to your items getting damaged as they could go flying off the road or crashing through other vehicles. 

So, to ensure that your vehicle remains safe and intact even with a hitch cargo carrier, make sure not to exceed the tongue weight capacity of the hitch.

How to Increase Hitch Cargo Carrier Safety on the Road?

Laws governing traffic were designed primarily for everyone’s safety. Hence, if the hitch cargo carrier installed in the back of your vehicle challenges this safety, you may encounter legal problems. 

With that, it’s best to ensure that you keep safety in mind when you buy a hitch cargo carrier. 

On top of the tips mentioned above, choosing a durable cargo carrier equipped with enhanced security such as ratchet straps, cargo net, and waterproof bag like the TITIMO folding hitch mount cargo carrier can be the safety measure in itself.

Final Thoughts 

Hitch cargo carriers provide ample storage for transporting bulky materials, making it one of your best choices for carrying all sorts of items. In addition, it’s perfectly legal to attach one to your vehicle. 

However, you should also check your state's rules about this accessory as external cargo carriers can become a hazard on the road. 

Then again, even without an active law on its use, it’s best to ensure safety and security when you have a cargo carrier. So start with choosing the most suitable one for your needs and condition.

About the author 


Vieira Babeker

Hi! I'm Vieira. I've always been interested in different Auto Accessories

My passion here at theroofboxes.com is to provide helpful straight forward clear advice and tips for Automotive Accessories.

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