There is so much versatility with the best hitch cargo carrier that almost all car and truck owners should own one. From classic cargo around the house to some unusual objects, these types of carriers are very useful and practical.
If you want the best overall design, the Curt 18153 Basket-Style Cargo Carrier is the rigth choice for you. Those mostly concerned with safety should choose the Rola 59502 Vortex Steel Cargo Carrier and fans of lightweight carriers can rely on the Best Choice Products Heavy Duty Aluminum Cargo Carrier.
Hitch cargo carriers are also easy to install which gives them a certain appeal that may be hard to match. A hitch cargo carrier is also used to increase the load capacity of a vehicle. But as with all automotive accessories, not all cargo carriers are the same. The following article is dedicated to the best choices and it guides those new to hitch cargo carries around the most important characteristics to look at.
The cargo carrier embodies the most important features in its class in one of the simplest yet most efficient designs money can buy. The basket-style construction works great when it comes to dealing with all types of cargo without sacrificing durability as it doesn’t allow rainwater to accumulate. The installation process is simple as well and a single person can have it ready for cargo placement in a matter of minutes.
One of the main strengths of the carrier comes with its tubular steel construction. It is this material that handles weight very well, which is its main purpose. It is said that the carrier can handle up to 500lbs, which is a considerable amount for such a minimalistic design. The carrier itself comes with a weight of just over 100lbs so it should handle weight properly both during the summer and during the cold winter months
The design of the carrier is made for the ultimate efficiency. The basket-style design is actually made to fit all types of products and weight. The 6-inch edges are also added to keep the load in place. Of course, up to this point, nothing is truly revolutionary in the hitch cargo carrier world.
But the hitch-mounted cargo carrier also comes with a folding design. When not in use, the driver can simply fold it up. This can also be useful when the car needs to be parked and when there is not the time to take the carrier off the car. It can be in a public parking space or it can even be the case in the garage at home. The folding capacity of the carrier is made with a simple design, but the important aspect is that it does its job well.
A small but important design particularity also comes with the angled shank. At a first glance, it may not seem like an important design element. In reality, it allows the basket of the carrier to sit higher above the ground and it represents one of the important particularities on uneven terrain. From an aesthetic point of view, the cargo carrier is also higher above the ground which means it will also collect less dirt. This is also applicable to the actual load of the carrier.
When it comes to possible additional products to use with the carrier, there are a few recommended options. First of all, a rainproof cargo carrier box is great to protect any load. Secondly, a master lock which attaches to the receiver is also recommended. It works as a simple and efficient anti-theft solution.
The coating of the hitch cargo carrier protects it from rust. But some drivers also recommend a new layer of paint after a couple of years to balance the effects of abrasion over time and to ensure the carrier remains in good condition for the long term.
The cargo carrier is one of the simplest solutions in its class. It is highly affordable as well. This combination recommends it for added practicality. Based on a solid steel frame, the cargo carrier is among the most interesting solutions when it comes to aesthetically-pleasing designs in this class. Even more, it is recommended to use the carrier with any type of weight such as boxed or luggage.
Most drivers are curious about the weight capacity when deciding on a cargo carrier. But with a maximum weight capacity of 500lbs, it is among the most recommended products for its actual real-life use. Camping equipment, general luggage, and even a few everyday objects can be carried with the cargo carrier.
The surface to place the cargo on is made with the mesh style steel wiring. This prevents small objects from falling through but it is resistant enough to actually hold the weight. But the weight is also held in place by the high 6-inch tubular steel rails. This design is widely considered in this category of hitch cargo carries as a proof that it actually works to a high standard.
As for the installation process, there is not much to say about the carrier. It can be installed in most 2” receivers which are found on different vehicles such as compacts, sends, SUVs etc. Of course, the installation should be as smooth as possible. Even if the carrier comes with powder coating, this layer is actually thin and the metal can get exposed to the elements when scratched.
One of the distinct advantages of the carrier is that it does not block the tail lights of the car. At the same time, it does not obstruct the view out the rear window. It can be said that while the driver does not actually see the load while driving, the carrier is a safe solution, especially when the load is safely secured to the frame of the carrier. For this purpose, straps or an additional securing mat can be recommended as an after purchase.
Drivers seeking more complex designs can certainly find an innovative solution in the Vortex Steel Cargo Carrier. Made to integrate cargo-carrying with safety measures such as included lights, the product is highly recommended. Those traveling far or those who want to ensure they are highly visible on the road can use this carrier. At the same time, drivers who need to deal with cargo which actually blocks their car’s tail lights can also consider the carrier. For this purpose, the manufacturer also added a special accessory which allows the rear number plate to be mounted on the car as well.
Made with heavy-duty steel, the carrier has a weight of just over 70lbs. It is easy to install, even by a single person. The carrier can be installed on any 2” receiver. This receiver is placed at the back of the car. If your car does not have a receiver, you may not be able to use the cargo carrier unless you decide to mount a third-party receiver on the vehicle.
It is also important to note the cargo carrier comes with a powder coat finish. Its role is to protect the metal materials from corrosion and the effects of time. Rain and salt can affect the powder coat finish in time, together with scratches. But most drivers should ensure the carrier is in good condition and it is even recommended to apply a fresh layer of pain a few years down the line.
In terms of accessories, additional lighting is available as well. The manufacturer offers the possibility of adding the extra lights to improve the carrier’s visibility. Of course, there are other safety measures and good practices which can be applied by drivers who want to stay safe. One of the measures is not to load the carrier so high up that it would actually obstruct the view out of the rear window. It is why so many hitch cargo carriers actually instruct on these measures in the owner’s manual.
Since the purpose of the hitch cargo carrier is to free up space or to add extra carrying capacity, the hitch carrier needs to be used accordingly. While the carrier is loaded, it may be difficult to access the trunk. At the same time, there is no folding option when the carrier is not loaded. Taking these drawbacks into consideration, drivers need to establish if the Vortex trailer hitch cargo carrier is right for them.
The Highland carrier is the simplest design in its class. It is made to be affordable and very easy to use and these characteristics make it stand out in a niche where the carrier can be overly complicated. Made with a two-piece construction, the carrier comes with a 60-inch length. This is enough for most drivers and it can handle various types of loads such as sporting or camping equipment.
Assembling the carrier is straightforward. Made with a 2-piece design, the cargo carrier is immediately assembled into a sturdy platform. The carrier can be used on all 2” receivers. Mounting it on the receiver and taking it off is easy. The good news is that the steel construction of the carrier makes it very durable. Since there are no moving elements which are usually seen in foldable designs, the carrier is much more flexible and durable. Furthermore, it represents one of the leading options for long-term use. If drivers want a carrier to be used on various cargo which will not need any upgrades in the future, the Highland design might be the way to go.
The hitch cargo carrier is among the most recommended packs when it comes to an all-in-one approach. Drivers with no time to shop around can simply look towards choosing a solution which comes with the carrier, a large cargo basket, and 4 securing straps. With everything needed to ensure the cargo is secured, the pack can be an affordable way of dealing with the extra carrying capacity of the carrier.
It goes without saying that the cargo carrier itself is quite dependable. It comes with a weight capacity of 500lbs which places it among the leading options on the market. Luggage, sporting equipment or gardening equipment can be transported with the carrier. Furthermore, the mesh design of the hitch cargo carrier also means that it can hold smaller loads as well.
The hitch carrier’s hitch-connecting arm is angled upwards to allow for better ground clearance. At the same time, it works as one of the best solutions when it comes to securing points for the straps with the mesh carrier design and the high 6-inch sides.
It is also recommended that drivers use the included cargo basket for load protection during bad weather. With a size of 60” by 20”, the cargo basket is recommended for luggage or specialized equipment. It is easy to use as it comes with a zipper which goes around the basket.
Installation is easy for most vehicles. The carrier is first put together with its two sides and is then inserted in the 2” hitch receiver of the vehicle. The good news is that, unlike most other hitch cargo carriers, it also comes with a hitch stabilizer which has the role of reducing vibrations and the sounds which come from the carrier while driving. With a complex pack filled with plenty of reliable accessories, it is recommended for most people looking to have all the required components delivered together for the next holiday adventure.
Made to fit 2” hitch receivers, the cargo carrier is one of the affordable solutions to deal with multiple types of objects. It mounts on almost all vehicles with a 2” receiver, which tends to be larger vehicles. But it can even mount on a smaller hitch receiver with a hitch adapter. If its design is simple, its capacity is at modern standards. The weight capacity of the hitch cargo receiver is situated at 500lbs as a maximum point. It means it can carry plenty of everyday objects and equipment.
Since it comes shipped in a box, the carrier is split into two main pieces which need to be put together. The pieces include the two cargo carriers, a pivot bolt, a safety pin, the folding receiver tube in two pieces and 3 reflector pieces which can be added when the carrier is done. For safety purposes, it is recommended to keep the reflector pieces on the carrier at all times.
Made from steel, the carrier is durable as well. It can be used on any type of weather conditions. But when not in use, the carrier can be taken off the receiver and placed into storage. However, the biggest benefit of the design comes with the capacity to have a folding action. This diminishes the instances where the carrier needs to be taken off the vehicle. At the same time, the carrier may be used in conjunction with its roof-mounted brother, offered by Leader Accessories as well. Both carriers can significantly increase the load capacity of an SUV or compact car and they can work together as well. Other accessories can be purchased as well. An anti-rattle stabilizer can go a long way. It can offer increased comfort for those who are traveling long distances and to those who want to ensure the cargo is as stable as possible.
The cargo carrier is made from aluminum instead of steel and this makes it one of the lightest designs in its class. It comes to offer a minimalistic profile perfect for the occasional user. At a weight of just 27lbs, it is one of the lightest designs in its class. It comes with plenty of freedom of movement as a result. Those who do not have enough space to store a regular steel carrier in the garage might need to carry it further to a shed or in the basement. It is here the lower weight represents a great solution from the carrying weight perspective. But aluminum is strong enough as well. The carrier comes with a 500lbs weight capacity which recommends it among the leading options in its class, even rivaling the best steel designs.
The carrier comes with installation instructions in a step-by-step guide. But putting it together is not too complicated. For this reason, it comes with additional reflective pieces which can be easily added at the end as an extra safety precaution.
Of course, the carrier can also use a number of accessories. They include the anti-rattle tighter, a master lock for extra safety and even a rainproof cargo carrier. Of course, all of these accessories would need to be purchased separately.
But the carrier is not perfect and drivers need to be aware of its drawbacks as well. Among these drawbacks, it is worth noting the lack of foldability as well as the lack of a mesh surface for the cargo to stay on. It doesn’t mean the carrier is not recommended, but it means it might not be as flexible with its design and the type of small objects it can carry as its alternatives.
With a 500lbs carrying capacity and adjustability for both the 1.1/4” and the 2” receivers, the carrier is one of the most robust options in its class. Curt made it with tubular steel only, eliminating the need for mesh materials. This, in return, offered a carrier for larger objects which is truly durable.
The two-piece design is easy to assemble and easy to install. However, it will need some type of securing straps as most other hitch cargo carriers. A securing net can be a good purchase from this perspective. Furthermore, it is also important to consider that the carrier is made for larger objects such as luggage and bokes. It is why the tubular design can even prove easier to maintain. Cleaning it is very easy. Using a garden hose for the water source and a sponge with detergent, cleaning the carrier is simpler than cleaning a mesh design alternative.
However, it does has its own drawbacks as well. One of the biggest inconveniences comes with the fixed shank, which doesn’t offer any freedom of movement and which actually fixed the carrier close to the ground. It also means that the carrier will get dirtier much faster when traveling as a result. However, those considering this style of cargo carrier are interested in its robustness and less in its cleanliness.
With a 520lbs maximum load capacity, the cargo carrier is the most powerful solution in its class. It is recommended for heavyweights and it can also be the versatile solution needed for drivers who need to deal with various types of cargo. At the same time, the mesh materials are recommended for smaller objects which would otherwise slip through the steel bars.
It is also made with the standard 6” side rails which are perfect when it comes to securing the load. With two added straps in the pack, drivers can secure their cargo and be ready to hit the roads in minutes. Apart from this, the carrier is finished to a high standard. It is almost the best-looking solution from this perspective and it can certainly attract users who value aesthetics. But the carrier also comes with 4 reflectors recommended for safety both during the day and during the night on busy roads.
As one of the lightest steel hitch cargo carries, the product can be considered by those who are not necessarily looking for a robust alternative. With a weight of just over 58 pounds, it is easy to handle and it can also be quickly installed.
It features a steel tubular frame and added reflectors which ensure it comes with plenty of visibility for the cars behind. Finished with powder coating, the carried also lasts well in rain, sun, and snow. It can be one of the products to consider for carrying various cargo regardless of the season. As one of the solutions with a specialized shank, it also sits a bit higher above the ground which keeps it cleaner and which also allows the car to go a bit off-road without hitting the carrier.
How to Choose the Best Hitch Cargo Carrier
There are a few basics characteristics to look at when choosing the best hitch cargo carrier. The good news is that these products are always evolving and they offer a stronger profile and more appealing designs than ever before. Furthermore, they are now available for all types of vehicles as they are friendlier to use and install.
A hitch cargo carrier does not need to be taken into a dealership to be installed on a vehicle and this makes it a simple solution to a complex problem, that of insufficient cargo space. But even if all designs are different, it’s still worth pointing out that at their core, they can actually be compared simply by looking at the following characteristics.
Objects It Needs to Carry
Before even considering a hitch cargo carrier, it is important to think of its purpose. Which objects will it carry the most? Are these objects tall, heavy or large? These questions need to be addressed and their answers can steer the buyers in a certain direction.
The heavier the load, the bigger the weight capacity needs to be. The smaller the objects, the more suitable a mesh design is. If the driver is handling the carrier alone, a lightweight product is recommended. These variables need to be addressed and the objects which are actually carried need to correspond with the type of hitch cargo carrier preferred by the driver.
At the same time, the objects which are carried can also be established in relation to the trunk of the car. Whatever does not fit in the trunk can fit on the carrier and the other way around. But many people consider hitch cargo carries for larger objects which would not fit in the car in the first place. They can be pieces of equipment such as a lawnmower. At the same time, it is also recommended to choose a carrier which facilitates the transportation and the safety of the cargo as, a lawnmower, for example, is not too cheap to replace. It needs to be properly secured and properly stable, even at higher speeds.
The objects which are carrying on the carrier can also influence trunk access. Larger objects are easy to transport, but while on the carrier, they might actually limit the access to the trunk. Furthermore, it is essential to think about this if the cargo is not light and if the access to the trunk is mandatory. For some designs, it means that this compromise needs to be made. It is also important to consider that access to the trunk may also be made from the side while the carrier is mounted, even if there is no cargo on it. It means that heavier objects could be harder to remove from the car’s trunk in this situation.
The actual weight of a hitch cargo carrier is more important than many people think. If the weight is seen in relation to the load capacity of the car, it also needs to be seen from the handling perspective. For this purpose, it is essential to choose a solution which handles easily and which can be mounted and taken off with ease by a single person.
The average weight of a hitch cargo carrier averages between 70 and 100lbs. The lightest option of just 58lbs is made from aluminum and it is recommended for its ease of use. However, since the hitch cargo carrier is actually made from steel in most cases, it might be a bit heavier, at least heavier than the 70lbs mark seen in many popular designs.
The weight of the hitch cargo carrier also has a lot of weight when it comes to rattle and noise. The lighter the carried, the more likely it is to produce rattle and created discomfort while driving. At the same time, the extra weight of a carrier does not exclude rattle and it may be seen in most current designs. Of course, there are a few reliable anti-rattle designs on the market, but all of them need to be chosen according to the design of the hitch carrier.
Another important instance when living with hitch cargo carries is the ease in which the driver can place it into storage. Carrying a large piece of metal is not recommended for those with back pain, for example. It is why the weight of the carrier can also come with some discomfort in this area. It is highly recommended to store the carrier somewhere close to the car, like the garage. This ensures that even if the hitch mounted carrier needs to be carried, the distance would be actually manageable.
The weight of the hitch cargo carrier is also important in relation to the overall load capacity of the car. It is why drivers are recommended to read the car’s user manual and see which maximum weight is allowed on the hitch receiver. If this information is not available, the best bet is to contact the auto dealership directly to see the exact load capacity for a specific vehicle.
Some of the best and most popular hitch cargo receivers come with a weight capacity of up to 500lbs. This is more than enough for the average user but it can also be much less than this with a few cheap alternatives.
This weight capacity is important in relation to the actual cargo. Some gardening equipment can be heavy, as is the case with some types of sporting equipment. Other cargo such as boxes of clothing or household items might not be as heavy. However, a few instances where drivers tried to carry decorative rocks in large boxes led to the deterioration of the hitch cargo receiver.
It is why all drivers are recommended to check this maximum load capacity before planning the transport. The easiest way to do so is by actually checking the maximum load of the hitch carried in the manufacturer’s description. This capacity is usually noted on the box. Those shopping online can find the information in the product’s description. If this information is not available, consumers are advised to contact the manufacturer of the hitch cargo carrier directly. In most cases, this can be done by phone or via email. Furthermore, it is also recommended to choose a solution which allows full transparency and which offers this information from the start in order to maintain good credit.
The weight capacity of a cargo carrier also needs to be known in relation to the tire pressure, especially on the tires in the back of the vehicle. Drivers are advised to check tire pressure before and while the cargo is loaded. Air can get away in small quantities and it can influence fuel economy, top speed and even the handling of the car. In this perspective, it is actually recommended to keep an eye on tire pressure from time to time.
Steel vs. Aluminum Materials
There are various materials to choose from when it comes to hitching cargo carriers. However, most options have now settled on steel and aluminum. Similar in texture and look, these two materials have their own advantages and disadvantages. The good news is that carriers are widely available with both materials.
Steel cargo carriers are recommended for their robust profile and impressive durability. It is hard to find such a durable metal at such an affordable price and for this reason, steel is widely used in the industry. It is also recommended to choose products which are actually made entirely from steel, as a few insertions might be actually made from other materials. Steel is also easy to maintain and to powder coat if and when needed. Most importantly, steel can offer a weight capacity of up to 500lbs which is impressive given the affordability of some of the available designs.
Aluminum is another great alternative. Its main advantage is that it is lighter than steel. For this reason, a carried can be around 20% lighter than steel alternatives. It puts less pressure on the hitch and less pressure on the back while being carried. At the same time, it generally maintains the same maximum load capacity as steel. It is not unusual to see aluminum hitch cargo carries with a weight capacity of 500lbs. At the same time, aluminum is easier to work with as it can bend at a lower temperature and the designs which can result from this can be more complex.
When it comes to long-term use, there is no clear winner between these two materials. A winner can only be chosen in relation to what the driver or user actually needs. If the driver needs the ultimate robust design, a steel carrier is recommended. If the driver has back issue or simply doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of heavy cargo carriers, an aluminum alternative is recommended. The main difference to be drawn between these two types of hitch cargo carries comes in actual practicality and functionality and which doesn’t necessarily take into account the materials themselves as much as many people would think.
Tubular vs. Mesh Designs
Both steel and aluminum are used across a range of products. They are used in various designs and they represent an interesting choice for those seeking to find a suitable product for their own type of cargo. Tubular designs are usually made from steel and they are widely used for the frame of the hitch cargo carrier, although the same would apply to aluminum alternatives. However, the bottom part of the hitch cargo carrier can come with different designs.
The bottom part of the carriers is usually made with steel mesh designs recommended for objects of different sizes. They can be further reinforced with a few metal tubes underneath. Other hitch cargo carriers come with no mesh at all, just a few simple metal tubes along the carrier. It means that they are not recommended for small objects unless they are actually placed in boxes before being put on the hitch cargo carried.
While these differences are small, they can certainly be important in the long term. For example, the mesh carriers need more time to clean. While the cleaning itself is not complicated, it may take more time than cleaning a tubular design. If the carries are used often on dirt roads, this problem can shortly become important and it can even see drivers looking for a replacement sooner than expected.
However, there is a clear winner in this small debate. The mesh design is better for the average driver as it can handle multiple types of cargo. For this purpose, it is highly recommended to use such a design if the cargo to be transported is of a different nature and changes according to the needs of the owner. It is rare to see a hitch cargo carried with tubular bottoms to be recommended over a mesh design and this trend is not likely to change in the future either.
The good news is that there are options to choose from which cover both designs and which satisfy the needs of even the most demanding drivers. At the same time, it’s also worth noting smaller manufacturers might come with more daring designs in the future as the only way to stand out on such a crowded niche is by offering something completely different. Furthermore, these small manufacturers might also be able to offer more accessories, which is not generally the case with most carriers at the moment.
With powder coat finish being the most popular, hitch cargo carriers can be used for long periods of time. However, most carriers are not actually protected on the inside of the steel tubes and it is clear water can enter here as well. It is why, in time, the signs of corrosion become very visible.
Just looking over a few specialized online forums finds plenty of complaints from users who fight rust even a few years down the line. Some of them who are actually more prepared can even go as far as to use a spray painter as soon as they get their hands on the hitch cargo carrier. For many, this means there are reduced chances of actually getting the most out of their seemingly durable carriers. But most users should not use paint sprayers but rather choose products which are made with good durability from the factory.
At the same time, it is not likely that the carrier would be used on the car every day. Since it is not used, it is placed into storage. If the storage air humidity is not at an acceptable level, it can be the biggest enemy for most hitch carriers. It is important to consider the impact the higher humidity level has on the metal.
For example, the carrier should not be stored in basements where the lack of proper air circulation can lead to the development of rust and even mold. At the same time, leaving the carrier out in the rain isn’t an option either. It is why there should be plenty of reliable alternatives such as the dry air from the garage.
Those who want to ensure their carriers are not going to be damaged by humidity in time also need to consider other dangers. Nothing can quite compare to high humidity but salt from the winter roads can be corrosive as well. It is why most drivers should actually make an effort to clean their hitch cargo carriers right after a trip on winter roads. The salt may not even be visible at a first glance, but basic warm water with soap can go a long way when it comes to removing the small particles which can erode the surface of the metal. In a way, this is similar to the maintenance of the car, which also needs to be cleaned.
There are not many safety features to consider for a hitch cargo carrier. However, they are serious safety concerns even in small numbers. Of course, the obvious safety issue comes with the blocked tail lights. In this situation, it is highly unlikely to escape the law and the police can even take action if they are not visible on the road. For this purpose, included safety lights can go far for all traffic participants. Even more, these lights can also go far when it comes to the integrity of the car, especially when in reverse in tight space with low lights.
Similarly to the tail lights which can come as standard or which can be added from third-party merchandisers, reflective strips are highly recommended. Most designs come with no reflective strips at all. Those which do offer them, come with 4 to 6 reflective strips which sometimes need to be added to the installation process. Drivers are advised to actually use these reflective strips, regardless of the tail lights situation. It is why they can be a major safety benefit both during the day and during the night.
If the lights and reflective stripes are obvious safety features, the locking mechanism of the rack isn’t. It is now mandatory for the hitch cargo carriers to lock well and there are a few accessories which can even eliminate rattle. But is rattle truly a safety issue? When it comes to wobbling and the possibility of the cargo load to move around, it is definitely a safety issue. Furthermore, it is also recommended to choose a design which works well in terms of stability and in this case, even the leading options can struggle. However, the best manufacturers advise drivers to evenly distribute the weight on the cargo carrier to eliminate some of these problems.
If most hitch cargo carriers can struggle when it comes to proper freedom and flexibility, it is not the case for all designs. Foldable designs might be more expensive, they might take longer to install and they might even be more problematic on the long term if not taken care of. But at the same time, their practicality is impressive.
So instead of taking the carrier of the car, drivers can simply fold it up and continue their journey. Those without a foldable design might need to take the carrier off the car when trying to park in the garage. At the same time, they can also struggle with other issues such as having to carry the cargo carrier from one place to another. In many cases, it is important to know that the designs also come with other smaller characteristics but which may impact the way the carrier performs in time.
A folded shank design is highly superior for a number of reasons. First of all, it represents a solution easier to deal with when it comes to cleaning the carrier. Being situated higher above the ground, it doesn’t get dirty as fast.
At the same time, it is also important to know that this design is only offered on the best hitch cargo carriers and not all users can have access to it. But it also impacts those who need to drive on hills and specifically off-road. Since a low carrier can hit the ground in many cases, these types of folded shanks can go far when it comes to that extra freedom of movement for the car. It is also important to note that the higher the carrier, the bigger the chances of the rear window to be blocked.
So it might be a matter of compromise for many drivers. It is why, for safety purpose, rear visibility should not be compromised. Furthermore, rear visibility should be a matter of priority even above the cleanliness of the hitch cargo carrier.
Most hitch cargo carriers can be mounted on a 2” hitch receiver. It represents a universal mount solution and it is standard for many cars out of the factory. However, smaller hitch receivers might need adapters in a few rare cases.
But most importantly, the hitch carrier should actually fit the vehicle when it comes to safety. It is recommended they do not obstruct the tail lights and even worse, the visibility in the rearview mirrors. It is why the cargo carrier should not be wider than the car, which can be the case with a few hatchbacks with aftermarket hitch receivers.
Most hitch cargo carriers don’t come with any accessories at all. Usually, the driver is responsible for purchasing them separately. Mandatory accessories include a few straps or a securing cargo net. Other accessories can include extra reflective strips or locking mechanisms. However, there are a few hitch carriers which come with all of them included in the pack. These packs might be more expensive from the start, but they are certainly the most practical option when it comes to saving time and possibly money.
The accessories which are offered by the manufacturer might also not be the best in terms of quality. Adjustable straps are higher in quality when sold separately when compared to what can be found when purchasing in an all-in-one solution. Furthermore, it is important to know that additional straps will be needed in time.
Other accessories can include anti-theft locks and even anti-rattle mechanisms. In the end, the decision of purchasing them separately can be better in terms of quality but it will take more time to research each product individually.
Compatibility With Roof Cargo Carrier
Those who want to carry extensive sporting equipment or additional cargo might not be satisfied with a simple hitch-mounted carrier. Apart from the space in the trunk, drivers could potentially have the ability to mount a roof cargo carrier as well. For this reason, they need to ensure there is some level of practicality with these two types of carriers when mounted together.
One of the largest issues in this situation is actually accessing the trunk since both the roof carrier and the hitch-mounted carrier can obstruct the access together. Another issue to consider is with overall car maneuverability which is influenced by a single carrier and even more visibly with two carriers. Both the fuel economy and the car’s handling are affected in this situation. Of course, this also means the car needs to be driven at lower speeds and it can create one of the least desired effects for those driving long distances.
Accessories to Buy for a Hitch Cargo Carrier
There are a few problems to consider when it comes to a hitch cargo carrier. As it comes from third-party manufacturers and not from the car’s manufacturer, there are certain issues to deal with. One of them is the rattling. The second most important issue to deal with is the safety of the carrier. At the same time, the safety and stability of the cargo are important as well.
All of these problems are dealt with on an individual level. Looking at what drivers need and what their complaints are will lead to the following list of recommended and even mandatory accessories which may be included with the cargo carrier but which, most likely, need to be purchased separately.
Anti-Rattle Hitch Stabilizer
The simplest and most efficient accessory to purchase is the anti-rattle hitch stabilizer. As its name suggests, it is made to deal with a rattle. From this perspective, it represents one of the best solutions for those who want to actually improve driving comfort, diminishes rattle, carrier movement and even the possibility of damaging the powder coat finish on the carrier as a result of the movement.
The good news is that a simple anti-rattle stabilizer can be mounted quickly at home. Most designs are made to be mounted while the carrier is already on the hitch. However, other designs might require drivers to place the rattle on the hitch first, before securing the cargo carrier. Regardless of the chosen design, the anti-rattle stabilizer needs to be tightly installed.
Cargo Carrier Bag
The cargo carrier bag is nearly as important as the cargo carrier itself. It represents the basic solution to carry different objects. The best part is that it actually protects these objects from the dirt on the road and from the rain as well. Many of these carrier bags are zipped which means accessing the cargo is easy and that it is also completely sealed against the elements. Furthermore, it is also important to ensure that the bag actually fits the size of the hitch cargo carrier.
The bags might not be a too different one from the other. However, they all have in common the fact that they need to be kept clean. Many bags can develop mold when exposed to high quantities of rain and when not properly dried. At the same time, the can develop mold in storage and it means that cargo carrier bags need to be actually maintained properly and paid attention to more than the cargo carrier itself.
Most cargo carrier bags can also be washed. But it might not be the best idea to add it to the washing machine. Instead, drivers can wash them with soap and water before letting them dry naturally completely.
Master Lock Hitch Lock
A master lock hitch lock can be one of the best ways to ensure the hitch carrier is locked to the car. As not all carriers come with such a solution, many drivers need to find their own alternative to mounting on the hitch. The good news is that a lock is inexpensive and it can be one of the best ways of dealing with the extra safety measures needed while traveling.
Installing such a lock is not complicated and in most cases, it actually replaces the safety pin which goes through the hitch. For the best durability, it is recommended to purchase a lock which can easily be cleaned. When traveling during winter, it is also recommended to keep water off the lock as it can freeze and jam.
It seems that there could never be enough straps to deal with. Some manufacturers offer from 2 to 4 straps while others sell their cargo carriers with no straps at all. Regardless of the situation, drivers should always have extra straps available in the case on an emergency. The number of securing straps has less to do with the design of the hitch carrier and more to do with the size and weight of the cargo. For this reason, each type of cargo has its own needs when it comes to securing straps.
Many people can also find plenty of reliability in extra straps when it comes to lateral support as well. When taking corners, the load should actually be as stable as when driving in straight lines. Extra straps are cheap to buy and there are plenty of great designs to choose from. One of the best tips is to actually look for straps made with vivid colors. These colors can add to the visibility of the hitch cargo carrier which can only improve on-road safety. If a roof rack can work well with black straps, orange, red or green straps are much better at the back of the car, on a hitch-mounted cargo carrier.
But most straps can also deteriorate in time. Due to the UV lights, salts on the road during winter and due to changes in temperature, these securing straps can show signs of wear in time. The best alternative is to simply consider replacing the straps when the first safety concerns arise and not wait for them to break off completely.
Adjustable Cargo Nets
An alternative to straps come with cargo nets. They can be secured in multiple points to the hitch cargo carrier and they are also versatile which means they can work with objects of various sizes. These nets are also available from a number of manufacturers and they can even be purchased after the hitch cargo carrier purchase. At the same time, expensive and heavy cargo can also be secured both with a cargo net and with extra straps.
How to Maintain a Hitch Cargo Carrier
Making sure a hitch cargo carrier is in good condition is the best way of ensuring it has a long life. There are a few tips which might actually make this easier and following the next steps is recommended regardless of the design of the cargo carrier.
Keep it Clean
Removing debris and dust is recommended as often as possible. It can be done with a cloth or with a water hose. However, after every long drive, owners should ensure their cargo carriers are clean and as new to keep the finish in good condition and to ensure that rust will appear soon on the metal surfaces.
Watch Out for Scratches
Scratches can be small or deep. Both can actually harm the cargo carrier in the long term. Since they can favor corrosion, scratches are to be avoided at all costs. For this purpose, it is not recommended to drop the cargo carrier on the ground. It is also not recommended to drop the cargo on the carrier either. Working with care can have a good return in the future where the cargo carrier can function just as well.
Powder Coat Finish
Even the most careful drivers might get a few scratches on their cargo carriers. For this reason, it is advisable to deal with them as soon as possible when they do appear. Cleaning the area with sandpaper and applying a fresh coat of paint might be the most affordable way of dealing with the issue at home.
Keep It in a Dry Place
Another important consideration to make comes with storage. The hitch mounted cargo carrier needs to be placed in a cool and dry place, away from moisture. Keeping it in the basement might directly expose it to an environment which comes with a high degree of humidity, which is certainly damaging in the long term. Furthermore, it is also advisable to keep an eye on the cargo carrier from time to time and to ensure it does not form condensation and then freeze due to temperature changes while in storage.
Avoiding Heavy Loads
One of the most underappreciated methods of taking good care of a hitch cargo carrier comes with avoiding heavy weight on it. Make sure you know its maximum weight capacity. You should not force extra weight on it even if it seems like it can handle it. This can create irremediable damages and it can also break the carrier completely.
It is not too complicated to choose the best hitch cargo carrier. The good news is that many drivers can find them very practical, with a sense of added carrying capacity and with a car maneuverability which is not affected too much.
However, not all hitch cargo carriers are created equally. It is why drivers should first choose a design which fits their cars well. Secondly, the hitch-mounted cargo carrier should also fit the type of cargo which needs to be transported. But if this variable seems obvious, drivers should also take a closer look at the safety of the cargo carrier.
For this purpose, it should come with plenty of lights and high-visibility strips. Added straps for securing the cargo can also be seen as a great addition for extra safety. But at the same time, it is also recommended to choose a solution which works well in terms of practicality.
Choosing between a fixed and a foldable design might be a matter of interpretation. Many drivers do not actually need a foldable design. Others might prefer its added practicality. But both these designs have their own strengths and weaknesses. The final decision is one which takes all these aspects into consideration. The good news is that, if taken care of properly, even the most basic hitch cargo carrier can be durable and reliable.