Whether you are packing for a road trip or ready to transport goods for your business, cargo room is a priceless commodity in your car. Countless people waste hours of their lives struggling with the best way to arrange their luggage. Whether traveling in a truck or car, sometimes it all just doesn’t fit. But there is a solution: hitch-mounted cargo carriers.
This extension allows you to greatly expand your vehicle’s storage capabilities. The best part, they do it without the gas mileage penalty and loading hassle of a rooftop cargo carrier.
What Is a Hitch Cargo Carrier?
Cargo carriers for cars provide you with another way to store and transport your belongings. Simply put, a hitch cargo carrier is a metal bed or basket that is attached to the rear of your vehicle using a 1.25” or 2” hitch receiver.
With this in place, you now have extra storage space without having to tow a trailer or climb your roof. Thanks to its outdoor use, it also provides a possible location for items that are either dirty or giving off a strong smell, like gas cans.
When not in use, many cargo carriers can be folded up towards the trunk. This allows for easier driving and less of a hassle when compared with having to constantly install and remove other storage solutions.
Are Trailer Hitch Cargo Carriers Safe?
Cargo carriers shouldn’t impede your driving in any way. There are no serious modifications that need to be made to your car in order to use a cargo carrier safely. If you already have a tow hitch installed, then you are ready to go. Additionally, most hitch cargo carriers are fairly low to the ground, so they shouldn’t block any rearview visibility.
When comparing the personal safety standpoint of a roof cargo carrier vs. hitch cargo carrier, the latter wins almost every time. When reaching for a roof-mounted option, there’s a constant possibility of objects falling, with a chance of damaging you and your vehicle. Roof-mounted cargo carriers also put a strain on your back during the loading and unloading process and in general, are very inaccessible. With the hitch-mounted cargo carrier low to the ground, all of these issues are solved, keeping you and your vehicle safe.
Overall, as long as the cargo carrier is securely mounted to an installed hitch, there should be no safety issues with using one.
How Much Weight Can a Hitch Cargo Carrier Hold?
A lot of the most popular cargo carrier options advertise a maximum weight of 400 to 500 pounds. It is important to note that this weight limit is for evenly distributed weight. If, for example, you put 400 pounds on only one side of the carrier and nothing on the other side, then there is a chance that the cargo hitch will fail.
It’s also important to know what your car’s actual capabilities are in regards to carrying this weight. While most people will look at their towing capacity to see if their vehicle can handle the strain, that’s only half the answer. What you, more importantly, need to know is your Tongue Weight. Your Tongue Weight will tell you how much force can be placed down onto the hitch itself before it fails. Since cargo carriers have no wheels, all the weight will be pushing down on your tow hitch.
There are four different hitch classes, labeled from one to four. The higher up you go, the higher the towing capacity and tongue weight capacity goes. Most SUVs and Trucks are equipped with Class III or IV hitches which should allow them to handle up to 500 pounds of tongue weight.
Tongue Weight Capacity
100 - 150 lbs
1,000 - 1,500 lbs
2,000 - 3,500 lbs
For those unsure of their hitch class, you can check your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Additionally, if you already know your towing capacity, you can approximate the general tongue weight by taking 10% of the towing capacity.
What Should I Look For in a Hitch Cargo Carrier?
While hitch cargo carriers are fairly simple objects, there are still things that you should consider.
The first is the weight capacity and what size hitch receiver it uses. If you require the maximum amount of weight possible, then you need a heavy duty hitch cargo carrier that can go up to 500 pounds. These cargo carriers will most likely need a 2” receiver rather than a 1.25” receiver, so make sure that your vehicle is compatible.
Another consideration to factor in is your desire for a folding hitch cargo carrier. If you don’t plan on using your carrier very often, but don’t want it sticking out or the hassle involved in constantly removing and reinstalling, find one that folds.
A cargo carrier with a ramp might also be a feature that will be appreciated. If you are planning on transporting objects that are cumbersome to load, this will be a good choice. The ramp will allow you to push heavy objects onto the cargo carrier, saving you a lot of backaches.
Lastly, aesthetics could play a part in the decision-making process. While a cargo carrier is purely a product for utility, perhaps there’s something that matches better with your car.
Do Hitch Cargo Carriers Affect Gas Mileage?
One of the other benefits hitch cargo carriers have over roof-mounted ones is their minimal effect on gas mileage. Since the cargo carrier doesn’t change the silhouette of your vehicle, there shouldn’t be any additional drag placed on the car as it drives. You will however probably still see a slight drop in gas mileage due to the extra weight being hauled, but that is unavoidable.
How Do You Load a Hitch to a Cargo Carrier?
Installing a hitch cargo carrier is a fairly easy process and requires only a rachet or a wrench. The carrier itself will need some minimal assembly that will require a few bolts. Once assembled, the carrier slides right into your hitch with one final bolt to lock it in place.
You can watch a video that shows the general assembly process of a cargo carrier here.
what is the best hitch-mounted cargo carrier
Once you have figured out your ideal requirements for a cargo carrier, it’s time to find the right one. Below you will find some of our picks for the best cargo carrier for each type of situation.
1. The Best Affordable Cargo Carrier
This Curt Cargo Carrier is the best option for those that are wishing to stay on the frugal side. The 60 x 24-inch cargo basket provides a lot of space despite the low cost. The six-inch sides also provide more security for anything placed in the carrier. Weight capacity wasn’t comprised either as the cargo carrier is able to stack 500 pounds.
Other features include integrated reflectors placed around the carrier to make it more noticeable to other drivers. The connector is also angled, allowing this cargo carrier to function well on cars with lower ground clearance.
The carrier is also capable of folding up when not in use so that it’s not in the way.
2. The Best Cargo Carrier With a Ramp
The Maxxhaul hitch mount cargo carrier is the best choice if you need a ramp for easier loading. This cargo carrier is actually the smallest on this list, but if you routinely have to transport heavy objects, then the tradeoff will most certainly be worth it. Even with its smaller size, the carrier is still capable of transporting 500 pounds.
The carrier features a 47” ramp that can be used to easily load powered wheelchairs, scooters, lawn equipment, and other wheeled objects. The seven-inch high walls should also do well to help secure your cargo. Reflectors are found on the corners to help with nighttime visibility. This is also the only cargo carrier on this list that does not come in a black color.
3. The Best Hitch Cargo Carrier With a Bike Rack
The Tow Tuff is a great choice for those that want their cargo carriers to pull double duty. This cargo carrier has the shallowest walls on this list, but it makes up for it with its second use. The Tow Tuff can also double as a bike rack.
Despite its diminished sides, the cargo carrier also has reflectors in the corners to increase nighttime visibility. With its 500-pound weight capacity, you can safely transport up to four of your bikes. For those that are transporting a lot of cargo, but also need a bike rack for more adventurous days, this could be the perfect all-in-one solution.
4. The Largest Cargo Carrier
The OKLead cargo carrier is best for those that need the most cubic feet possible. While most of the cargo carriers here stay within the same length and width, the OKLead leads the competition in terms of its height.
With 14.4” high walls, you can feel confident in stacking and not have it fly away. The high walls also aren’t a detriment to the loading experience as there is a door on the side allowing for easier access. This is a great candidate for those wishing to use a nylon cover to keep their cargo safe from the weather. With its high walls, the cover should be able to sit snug in your carrier without much need for tying down.
When not in use, this cargo carrier can also be folded up.
5. Honorable Mention
Lastly, we have the Arksen cargo carrier. Worth considering, it comes at a competitive size and price with a respectable 500 pounds weight capacity. The perimeter walls are six inches high, allowing for added security in your cargo. The Arksen cargo carrier is also capable of folding up when not in use. There are no novel features in the Arksen, but sometimes you just need something simple.
Bestselling Hitch-mounted Cargo Carriers on Amazon
Last update on 2022-01-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API