I'm looking at possibly buying some kind of bike rack for my 4-door Mazda 3 sedan. I currently just have one road bike, but want to be able to carry two bikes just-in-case. Does anyone have any opinions, one way or the other, for a roof rack versus a trunk rack?

I worry about a trunk rack scratching the paint on the car. We've all seen those bikes on trunk racks that seem to be swaying in the wind and seem "loosely attached", and I do plan to drive on the highway/interstate with the bike.

Trunk racks are a lot cheaper than the roof racks. Is it worth spending the extra money to buy a roof rack?

Here are the different options I'm looking at:

Roof rack:

Trunk Rack:

Any help and/or insight is appreciated.

  • 2
    Would you consider getting a hitch installed and using a hitch rack? The added bonus is being able to pull a small trailer.
    – kmm
    Jul 3, 2013 at 1:06
  • 1
    With @kmm install a bolt on hitch and get a hitch rack. It will end up costing you about the same as a roof rack setup, you'll save on gas, and you won't drive your bikes into a garage. Seems like there's another post on this somewhere out there...
    – joelmdev
    Jul 4, 2013 at 0:25
  • 1
    A trunk rack is OK for one bike, maybe two in a pinch. A hitch rack will handle two bikes, maybe three in a pinch. A roof rack can handle 4 bikes. Unless you need the capacity, the roof rack is inconvenient, inefficient, and too apt to result in a collision with something overhead. Oct 4, 2016 at 2:39

2 Answers 2


I don't think there will be a clear roof vs. trunk recommendation as both systems have their pros and cons:



  • Does not cover the trunk lid (access to the trunk when fully loaded)
  • Bikes stay cleaner (Especially when raining - on the trunk, the rear of the car sucks up road grim which gets into the bikes moving parts)


  • You have to lift the bikes up to the roof for mounting (more or less difficult depending on your size and roof height)
  • Significantly changes the car's steering and wind behaviour
  • Higher wind resistance, therefore higher fuel consumption
  • Risk of driving under a low object and significantly damaging bike and car (Putting a small sticker on the top of the windscreen in front of the driver - I use a red arrow - meaning "Bikes on roof")



  • Lower wind resistance, therefore less influence on steering and fuel consumption (With modern cars such as the Mazda 3, this is surprisingly significant)
  • Loading/unloading is easier
  • Can see if bikes become insecure


  • Maybe prevents access to the trunk when fully loaded (may depend on car and rack model)
  • Influences sight through rear mirror
  • Blocks rear lights and number plate (Legal considerations in most countries)
  • Bikes more prone to damage - Major : accident, dragging on ground, Cosmetic: rack design.

For the scratches: the roof mounted one has the advantage of using points on the car that are dedicated to mounting, which means that there's very low danger of scratching your car (as long as you are careful when mounting the rack itself). The trunk mounted racks normally have some foam rubber on their fastening parts, which normally also prevent the car from scratches. So here, there's also normally no problem.

As long as you don't buy the next best cheap rack but have a look at some tests and invest a bit more money, both types will do their job. Also, as long as they have a reasonable mounting design (that is understood and used correctly), highway speeds (130km/h, 80mph) shouldn't be a problem with any of them. On the other hand, both types can be dangerous if the bikes are not properly fastened on the rack. As far as I know, the German technical control board (TÜV) and automobile clubs recommend the trunk version over the roof mounted one where possible, because of their lower influence on the steering of the car.

  • 3
    Roof rack con: If you drive into the garage with the bike on the roof you'll need a new door and a new bike. I never realized how often this happens until I saw the "Bike on Board" signs for your dashboard.
    – mikes
    Jul 2, 2013 at 19:54
  • That is a major con with a roof rack. If you search around there are MANY anecdotes of people doing this out there on the 'net. Additionally, a roof rack can make loading and unloading a two-person job, especially if the vehicle is tall (like an SUV). Some roof racks (Yakima) use a clamp which goes around the downtube. I am always nervous watching that clamp being fastened, and my bike does not have a carbon frame. Another rider I know had their wheels damaged when their bike leaned over on a roof rack in high winds. Jul 3, 2013 at 0:46
  • 1
    just to add to Benedikt: a rear rack will have nylon straps holding it to the car (most likely). If you are prone to leave the rack on the car, these straps will deteriorate fairly quickly. Where a metal roof rack will survive the elements much better.
    – tir38
    Jul 4, 2013 at 16:51

Considered looking for a Reese hitch instead: E-trailer hitch for Mazda 3. It would offer a cleaner look to the car, be easier to load and unload bikes, and won't damage the car's finish.

  • Trailer hitch racks are the way to go. You can easily get a hitch installed at uhaul for around $100 - $150 bucks (it's cheaper if you ask that they don't install trailer wiring). It's easy to get bikes on and off. There are ones that fold relatively flat to the back of your vehicle (Yakima FlipSide is what I use). Mine never leaves my car
    – Benzo
    Jul 3, 2013 at 12:07

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