Most SUVs, trucks and wagons have some sort of lift gate or swing door to access the rear of the vehicle.  As a result, current hitch bike racks in today"s market have been designed to allow you access to the back of the vehicle while carrying bikes.

Loading and unloading your bikes is easier with a Hitch Mounted Bike Rack than a Roof Mounted Bike Rack because you only have to lift the bikes up waist-high.
Loading and unloading your bikes is easier with a Hitch Mounted Bike Rack than a Roof Mounted Bike Rack because you only have to lift the bikes up waist-high.

Hitch mounted bike racks are the easiest racks to operate.  As opposed to hauling your bikes onto the roof of the car, rear-mounted hitch racks make loading bikes easier since you only need to raise your bike waist-high.  Hitch mounted bike racks also install easily and can be removed easily with a single tool, or sometimes no tool at all, making it a great choice for weekend warriors or people who only want a rack for seldom use.  The Thule 9043 Helium Aero 3 Bike Rack is made of lightweight aluminum and incorporates a no-tool installation.

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The New Thule 9043 Helium Aero 3 Bike Hitch Mounted Bike Rack is lightweight, has a no-tool installation knob, is fully equipped with locks, and fits 2" and 1 1/4" receiver hitches.

There are many features that round out the lineup of hitch racks.  Some racks have folding bike arms that can be stowed when not in use.  This feature is handy when parallel parking for example, since the rack is not sticking out behind the car.  This is a standard feature on all of the "Hanging Style" hitch mounted bike racks that we carry.

The Yakima Quick Cam Lever makes it easy to fold down the bike rack arms which minimizes the footprint of the rack on the back of the vechicle.

Thule has developed their version, the Hitch-Switch, which allows the bike arms to be raised and lowered with just the lift of a switch.  This feature is available on the Apex series, the Vertex series, the Helium Aeros hanging style bike racks.

Thule has developed there version called the Hitch-Switch which allows the bike arms to be raised and lowered with just the lift of a switch
Thule has developed there version called the Hitch-Switch which allows the bike arms to be raised and lowered with just the lift of a switch.

This same Hitch-Switch is also incorporated into most Thule bike racks for another benefit, lowering the entire bike rack to gain access into the back of the vehicle.  After you unload the bikes from the rack, pull the Hitch-Switch at the bottom of the rack to release the upper portion of the rack allowing it to tilt down away from the vehicle.  You now have enough room to open up your tailgate or hatch, gaining access into the back of your vehicle.

The Thule Hitch Switch is also used at the base of the bike rack to allow access to the back of the vehicle
The Thule Hitch Switch is also used at the base of the bike rack to allow access to the back of the vehicle

Yakima uses a similar system consisting of a spring loaded pin that, when released, allows the rack to fold down and away from the vehicle giving you complete access into the back.

The Thule Hitch Switch is also used at the base of the bike rack to allow access to the back of the vehicle
Yakima Spring Pin controls the racks upright position - pulling the pin releases the rack to be folded down to gain access to the back of your vehicle.

Integrated locking systems not only lock the bikes to the rack, but also lock the rack to the hitch.  Both locks are keyed alike, meaning you will only need one key to access either the bike lock or the hitch lock.

The integrated cable lock on the Yakima Swingdaddy is used to lock your bikes to the bike rack and in stored conveniently inside the bike rack
The integrated cable lock on the Yakima SwingDaddy is used to lock your bikes to the bike rack and in stored conveniently inside the bike rack when not in use

Vehicles with swing out doors, like the Hyundai Santa Fe, and the Toyota Rav 4 will most benefit from a swing out bike rack.  There are many advantages to swing-away bike racks versus fold down bike racks.  When the rack is swung open, you are afforded complete access to the rear of the vehicle even when the rack is fully loaded with bikes.  This means you do not have to remove every single bike from the rack before folding the rack to gain access to the back of the vehicle.

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The Thule Apex Swing gets completely out of the way of the trunk with bikes loaded. Very convenient when needing to access the back of vehicle.

 

On the other hand, using a fold-down bike rack on a vehicle with a swing-open rear door will not provide complete access to the rear of the car, since the rear door will not be able to clear the rack, even when it's folded down completely.  Fold-down bike racks are a great choice for many vehicle applications, especially when access to the rear of the car can be achieved through an independent, lift-up rear glass, like the Toyota 4Runner.  While the fold-down rack will allow you to lift any lift-back or hatchback door, it is extremely cumbersome and awkward to fold down the rack when bikes are loaded, even with just 2 bikes.

Swing-away racks, such as the Yakima SwingDaddyYakima FullSwingThule Apex Swing, and the Thule Vertex Swing do require a bit more work to operate than a fold-down rack since you need to completely loosen the wing bolt to open the rack, and reattach it securely to close the rack when preparing for transit.

Preparation for swingaway racks involves loosening the security bolt and pulling the security pin
Preparation for swing away racks involves loosening the security bolt and pulling the security pin.

If your application requires you to move from a 2" receiver to a 11/4" receiver, have no fear, most of the hitch mounted bike racks from both Thule and Yakima are designed to adapt to either size receiver hitch options.  All that you need to do to adapt your rack to a different size receiver hitch is either attach or remove the sleeve located on the rack's tongue.  The only exception to this is the swing-away racks which only fit 2" receiver hitches.

The platform-style upright mounted hitch racks, such as the Yakima 2443 Hold Up, are sold in different varieties designated for hitch size.  You cannot attach a 2" upright rack to a 1¼" hitch receiver; you must buy the 1 ¼" version bike rack to do that.

Platform-style Upright Bike Racks, like this Yakima 2433 Hold Up, are receiver hitch size specific
Platform-style Upright Bike Racks, like this Yakima 2443 Hold Up, are receiver hitch size specific