Cargo Carrier and Hitch Rack Basics
A hitch carrier combines large storage capacity with easy waist-level loading — an alternative to roof carriers. Types of hitch racks and carriers include bike racks, hitch cargo racks, and hitch cargo carriers. Hitch racks and cargo carriers slide easily into your vehicle's "receiver hitch," (also called a trailer hitch). If your vehicle doesn’t have a hitch, visit our CURT Hitch Finder to find a hitch for your vehicle.
Hitch-mounted racks and cargo carriers have the advantage of offering easy access to your gear without the lifting and stretching required when loading and unloading bikes or gear out of a roof top carrier. Hitch racks and hitch cargo carriers are a plus for your fuel economy because they incur minimal wind resistance.
Hitch Carrier Categories
These are there are two types of hitch cargo carriers available.
- Hitch cargo carriers are
durable, weatherproof "boxes" that are mounted to a fixed or swingaway
frame that slides easily into a 1.25" or a 2" hitch receiver and offer
easy access to your gear. Storage capacities of hitch cargo boxes are
rated in cubic feet. MAX Cargo Carriers hold 16 cubic feet of
storage, while the Standard and Basic Cargo Carriers hold 12.5 cubic feet
of storage. A cargo box is the ideal solution for people who need extra
storage space that will keep their gear secure and protected from the
- Hitch racks or
hitch "baskets" are open racks that slide into a 1.25" or a 2" hitch
receiver. Ideal for carrying bulky items that will not
fit into a confined space, hitch racks are 53"(L) x 25" (W) and feature
5" high side rails that keep you gear securely in place. Providing
convenient waist-level access to gear, they come in fixed or swingaway
models. Gear can be protected with the use of hitch cargo bags or secured with a tie-down cargo net.
Considerations When Selecting a Hitch Carrier
- Capacity: First, is your vehicle equipped to handle a hitch carrier? Hitch racks and cargo boxes are designed to attach to your vehicle's 1.25" or 2" receiver hitch. Some smaller vehicles are not rated for a hitch, so check the manufacturer's guide for your vehicle's maximum tongue weight capacity. Most hitch carriers and hitch racks will support up to a 200 lb. load capacity. For more information on hitches, see Trailer Hitch Basics on this site or the CURT Hitch Finder.
- Weather protection: Does your gear need protection from the elements? A cargo box is an enclosed, weatherproof space for your gear, while a hitch rack is open and subject to weather. Weatherproof can be used in combination with a hitch cargo rack to protect your gear.
- Rear vehicle access: Do you need access to the rear of your vehicle? Each hitch carrier is attached to either a fixed or swingaway frame. If the hitch carrier is attached to a fixed frame, you will not be able to access the rear of your vehicle without removing the carrier box. If you have a swingaway frame, you will be able to pivot the carrier box out and away for full access to the rear of your vehicle.
- Security: When carrying gear outside of
your vehicle, you may be concerned about the security of your items.
Hitch cargo boxes offer excellent security with lockable boxes and hitch locks,
which lock the frame of the carrier to your vehicle's hitch. Hitch locks can be used on cargo boxes as well as cargo racks.
Hitch Carrier Comparison Chart
The comparison below will assist you in deciding whether a hitch cargo box or a hitch rack is best for you.
| Hitch Cargo Carrier Comparison Chart|
| Key Considerations|| Hitch Cargo Carriers||Hitch Racks |
| Capacity|| Up to 200 lb. gear capacity|
(depends on vehicle's tongue weight)
| Up to 200 lb. gear capacity|
(depends on vehicle's tongue weight)
| Weather protection|| Enclosed, weatherproof|| Unprotected, open rack|
| Rear vehicle access|| Gear is protected inside a lockable box; frame can be secured with a hitch lock|| Frame can be secured with hitch lock|
| Price|| $299 - $599|| $129 - $299|
| Ease of installation|| Simply slide frame into your hitch receiver, insert hitch pin, tighten and plug in tail lights. May be easier with two people|| Simply slide frame into your hitch receiver, insert hitch pin, tighten. Only one person required|
| Accessories/options|| Various sizes available; lid rack, wheels, cargo light, custom color details (e.g., team colors)|| Cargo net, cargo bag, bike rack, or rod rack can be added|
| Items to carry|| Items that need protection from weather and road debris, such as soft luggage, tools, sporting and tailgating supplies|| Good for bulky items such as lawn mowers; items that don't need protection from the weather and road debris such as coolers|
Want to have BOTH a cargo box and a cargo rack? The StowAway frames are designed as common platforms for any of our carriers. So, you can mount one of our cargo carriers, hitch racks, bike racks or rod racks to either our fixed or swingaway frame.
Explore our Hitch Carrier products
Contact one of our Specialists via email or call us toll free at 800.943.5377