Hitch Carrier Basics | Hitch Cargo Boxes and Hitch Cargo Racks

A hitch carrier combines ample capacity for your gear with easy waist-level access. Many users prefer hitch carriers over rooftop carriers due to this ease of access and overall usable capacity.  Hitch carriers slip into your vehicle's receiver hitch (trailer hitch) and are anchored with a hitch pin or hitch lock. Hitch-mounted racks and cargo boxes incur minimal wind resistance due to their location at the back of vehicle.  Hitch carriers include hitch cargo racks, bike racks, hitch cargo boxes and specialty hitch racks.   

In order to help you select a rear hitch carrier that meets your needs and fits your vehicle, the Hitch Carrier Basics Guide covers:

What is a Hitch Cargo Box?

Hitch cargo boxes are durable, weather-resistant cargo boxes mounted to either a Fixed or SwingAway frame. These frames slide into a 1.25" or 2" hitch receiver on your SUV, truck, or van. The gear capacity of hitch cargo boxes is rated in cubic feet. For people who want to keep their gear safe, secure and out of the weather a hitch cargo box is the ideal solution.

What is a Hitch Rack?

Hitch racks or hitch "baskets" are open racks that slide into either a 1.25" or 2" hitch receiver. Hitch racks are ideal for carrying bulky items that will not fit into a confined space or rooftop carrier. Our hitch racks are 53"L x 26"W and feature 5" high side rails for keeping you gear securely in place. The StowAway hitch rack offers convenient waist-level loading and comes on a Fixed or SwingAway frame. Gear placed in the hitch cargo rack can be secured with a cargo net or put into the hitch cargo bag

Top Four Key Considerations When Selecting a Hitch Carrier

When selecting a hitch carrier, the following are the top four key points to consider:

  • Capacity: Your first consideration should be whether or not your vehicle is 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. Keep in mind that smaller or lighter vehicles are generally not rated for a hitch, so be sure to check the manufacturer's guide for your vehicle's tongue weight capacity. Most hitch carriers and racks can carry up to 200 lb of gear.  For more information on hitches and tongue weight, review our Trailer Hitch Basics guide.
  • Weather Protection: Do you want your gear to be protected from the elements while traveling? A cargo box is an enclosed, weather-resistant space for your gear, while a hitch cargo rack is open and subject to the elements. The time of year and the kind of weather you generally travel in will help determine whether an enclosed cargo box or an open cargo rack will work best for you. Why is the StowAway cargo box considered weather-resistant, as opposed to waterproof?
  • Rear Vehicle Access: Do you need full access to the rear of your vehicle?  A hitch carrier is attached to either a Fixed or SwingAway frame. The fixed frame will not allow you to access the rear of your vehicle without first removing the carrier itself. The StowAway swingaway frame will swing the rack or box out up to 180 degrees for clear access to the rear of your vehicle.
  • Security:  Hitch carriers and racks can be secured to the hitch and vehicle with a hitch lock. The StowAway Cargo Boxes each include a locking latch for securing the contents, so are the best option for transporting your gear securely.   

StowAway Hitch Carrier Comparison Chart

The Hitch Carrier Comparison Chart below will assist you in deciding whether a hitch cargo box or a hitch rack is best for you and your vehicle.

Key Considerations Hitch Cargo Box   Hitch Rack 
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, weather-resistant Open rack (unprotected)
Rear Vehicle Access Full rear vehicle access (with SwingAway frame) Full rear vehicle access (with SwingAway frame)
Price $399-$789 $129-$649
Installation Slide carrier into hitch receiver (best done with two people), insert hitch lock, tighten hitch tightener, connect taillights. Slide hitch rack into hitch receiver (easiest with two people), insert hitch pin, and tighten hitch tightener.  
Accessories/Options MAX and Standard sizes available; accessories include a lid rack, wheels, buffet board, cover   Cargo net, cargo bag, bike rack, rod holders, grill
Great for Carrying Carry on bags, duffle bags, camping gear, cooler and most other tools or gear  Coolers, camping gear, bulky items 

StowAway Swingaway Frame

The StowAway swingaway frame is a common platform for all of the StowAway cargo boxes and racks.  Our cargo box can be removed and replaced with one of our hitch racks or with the bike rack, all on the same swingaway frame.  This common platform feature offers excellent value for the active traveler or road tripper.  

Explore Our Hitch Carrier Products

Additional Hitch Carrier Questions?

For additional questions or concerns about any of our hitch cargo carriers, hitch racks, or hitch rack accessories, feel free to contact one of our cargo carrier specialists via email or phone, toll-free at 800-943-5377.