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How to Choose a Bike Rack for a Jeep Wrangler

Hitch-mounted, spare tire-mounted, and roof-mounted bike racks all offer options for carrying bikes on your Jeep Wrangler. But depending on how your Jeep is equiped, some types will work better than others.

Learn more about these three main types of bike racks:

  • Hitch-mounted - these racks attach to a hitch at the back of your vehicle
  • Roof-mounted - these attach to a roof rack system that has crossbars
  • Spare-tire-mounted - these racks attach to the spare tire at the back of your vehicle

Hitch-Mounted Racks

Thule hitch-mounted bicycle carrier installed on Jeep Wrangler with bike loaded Thule hitch-mounted bicycle carrier

A hitch-mounted bike rack is a great option for hauling bikes on your Jeep. This type of rack will work whether your Jeep has a soft or a hardtop. Keep in mind, though, that a hitch-mounted rack must extend out far enough from your Jeep's hitch to clear the spare tire. These racks are easy to mount and remove, just slide them into the hitch and secure them with a pin or lock. Hitch-mounted racks don't make contact with your Jeep (except at the hitch), so they won't damage its paint. These racks can interfere with opening the tailgate and accessing the back of your vehicle. To help with this, some bike racks fold down or swing out of the way. However, if you have a spare on the back of your Jeep, folding racks may still not allow you to open the tailgate very far without making contact.

Your vehicle must have a hitch if you want to use one of these racks. If your Jeep doesn't have a hitch, consider installing one. Most hitches can be installed with basic handtools, and most of them don't require drilling. See our fitguide to find a custom-fit hitch for your Jeep Wrangler.

Note: If you have a larger, non-standard spare tire on your Jeep, be sure to check the distance from the hitch pin hole of your Jeep's receiver to the outer edge of the spare and compare this value to the clearance listed for the rack to ensure a proper fit. Click here to learn more about how to measure your vehicle for fit.


  • Easy to install and remove
  • Easy to mount bikes
  • Large capacity - up to 5 bikes
  • No damage to vehicle finish


  • Interferes with access to back of Jeep
  • Requires a hitch
  • Prevents use of hitch for towing

Roof-Mounted Racks

Rola roof-mounted bicycle carrier with bike Rhino-Rack roof-mounted bike rack

If your Jeep has a hardtop, a roof-mounted carrier is an option for you. When you carry bikes on your Jeep's roof, you can easily remove your spare if needed, you can tow a trailer if you want to, and you can open the rear hatch to stow gear. You'll have to lift your bike up to the roof of your Jeep, though, which can be difficult on such a tall vehicle. A small stepladder can make loading a bike much easier. Because roof-mounted bike racks don't contact your Jeep, they can't scratch the finish. See our fitguide to find a custom-fit roof rack for your Jeep Wrangler.


  • Easy to install and remove
  • Allows full access to back of vehicle
  • No damage to vehicle finish


  • Bike loading can be awkward
  • Requires crossbars
  • Requires a rack for each bike

Spare Tire-Mounted Racks

Spare tire mounted bicycle carrier on Jeep Wrangler with bikes installed Thule spare tire mounted bike rack for Jeep Wrangler

A Jeep can present a challenge when it comes to carrying bikes. Trunk-mounted racks won't fit over the spare tire. A roof-mounted rack is not an option if your Jeep has a soft top. A hitch-mounted rack will work if your Jeep has a hitch and the rack is long enough to clear the spare. If none of these options are a good solution for you, consider this option - a spare tire-mounted rack. This type of rack mounts on the spare tire, so you can easily carry bikes on your Jeep. And if you do have a hitch, you can use it for towing and still take your bikes with you.

Note: If your Jeep has a larger, non-standard spare tire, be sure to check fit information listed for any rack that you are considering to ensure proper fit.


  • Easy to mount bikes
  • Allows trailer towing
  • No damage to vehicle finish


  • Interferes with access to back of Jeep
  • Complicates use of emergency spare

Additional Articles

How to Choose a Hitch-Mounted Bike Rack

How to Choose a Roof-Mounted Bike Rack

How to Choose a Spare-Tire-Mounted Bike Rack

Written by: Raymond P.

Last updated: 1/11/18

Steve J.


What do you recommend for 37-inch tires?



Can roof rack for Jeep Wrangler unlimited hard top 2012 be used for kayaks?

Etrailer Expert

Chris R.


Assuming your kayaks don't exceed the roof's capacity (which is the case for any vehicle), the hard top on your Jeep is indeed capable of transporting them with a roof rack system in place. For your Jeep Wrangler I like the Thule WingBar setup that consists of part # TH711520 for the crossbars and # TH300R for the Gutter Feet. Your copy of the Jeep's owner's manual should hopefully list a weight capacity for the roof.



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