Hitch Carrier Basics

A rear hitch carrier combines large storage capacity with easy waist-level access and is an excellent alternative to rooftop carriers in design, function, and accessibility. Our hitch carrier frames easily slide into your vehicle's receiver hitch, also called a trailer hitch. Hitch-mounted racks and cargo carriers also incur minimal wind resistance due to their aerodynamic positioning, making them much more efficient in terms of fuel economy. Different types of rear hitch carriers include hitch cargo racks, bike racks, and hitch cargo boxes.

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

What is a Hitch Cargo Carrier?

Hitch cargo carriers are durable, weather-resistant cargo boxes mounted to either a Fixed or SwingAway frame. These frames easily slide into a 1.25" or 2" hitch receiver on your SUV, truck, or car. The storage capacity of hitch cargo boxes is rated in cubic feet. For people who need extra storage space that will keep their gear safe and protected from the elements, a hitch cargo carrier 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. Receiver hitch racks offer convenient waist-level access to gear and come in Fixed frame or SwingAway frame models. If installing a hitch cargo rack, gear should be placed in a hitch cargo bag or secured with a tie-down cargo net.

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 is whether or not your vehicle is equipped to handle a rear 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 some smaller vehicles are not rated for a hitch, so be sure to check the manufacturer's guide for your vehicle's maximum tongue weight capacity. Most rear hitch carriers and hitch racks support up to a 200 lb load capacity. 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 all 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 makes sense for you. Why is our cargo box considered weather-resistant, as opposed to weatherproof?
  • Rear Vehicle Access: Do you need full access to the rear of your vehicle? Each rear hitch carrier is attached to either a Fixed or SwingAway frame. If the rear hitch carrier is attached to a Fixed frame, you will not be able to access the rear of your vehicle without first removing the carrier box itself. If you have a SwingAway frame, you will be able to pivot the carrier box out and away (up to 180 degrees) for clear access to the rear of your vehicle.
  • Security: When storing gear outside the safety of your vehicle, you might be concerned about the security of your items. Thanks to lockable box latches and Hitch Locks, hitch cargo boxes offer excellent security. A hitch lock slots into the hitch and frame, locking 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 Hitch Carrier Basics 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 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, weather-resistant Open rack (unprotected)
Rear Vehicle Access Full rear vehicle access (with SwingAway frame) Full rear vehicle access (with SwingAway frame)
Price $399-$779 $129-$549
Installation Slide frame into hitch receiver, insert hitch pin, and tighten; Connect taillights (we recommend two people for assembly) Slide frame into hitch receiver, insert hitch pin, and tighten
Accessories/Options MAX and Standard sizes available;
lid rack, wheels, LED lights, custom color options
Cargo net, cargo bag, bike rack, fishing rod holders
Great for Carrying Items that need protection from weather and road debris
(soft luggage, tools, and sporting and tailgating supplies)
Bulky items and items that don't need protection from weather and road debris, such as coolers

Exclusive StowAway Interchange Feature

Looking to install a cargo box AND a cargo rack? All of Stowaway's frames can be used with either our cargo boxes or our cargo racks, as well as our 4-bike racks and fishing rod racks. With Stowaway's exclusive interchange feature, you get more for your money and the best of both cargo storage worlds.

Explore Our Hitch Carrier Products

Additional Hitch Carrier Questions?

For additional questions or concerns about any of our 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.