If you want to increase your vehicle’s hauling capacity, a few options are as appealing as getting a hitch cargo carrier. For SUV owners like myself, it offers a similar storage capacity to a pickup without breaking the bank. Hitch cargo carriers are relatively affordable, versatile, and functional. Their versatility is one reason why I will always recommend them over roof racks since some hitch carriers are also fully functional as converted bike racks.
Curt Basket Style Cargo Carrier 18153
The Curt Basket-Style Cargo Carrier is the perfect all-rounder. It can support up to 500 lbs of cargo and offers stability, durability, and ease of use. It also folds up for convenient storage.
|Cargo Carrier||Weight Capacity||Carrier Dimensions||Hitch Compatibility||Affordability||Folding|
|Curt 18153||500 lbs||60″ x 24″ x 6″|
|Rola 59502||600 lbs||56″ x 23″ x 5.25″|
|Reese Explore ProSeries||500 lbs||60″ x 24″ x 5.5″|
|MaxxHaul 70422||500 lbs||60″ x 20″ x 6″|
|Tow Tuff TTF-2462KR||500 lbs||60″ x 20″ x 6″||2″ receiver||Moderate||No|
|Oaklead Folding Hitch Cargo Carrier||500 lbs||58″ x 20″ x 6″||2″ receiver||Moderate||No|
|MaxxHaul 70275||500 lbs||53″ x 19″ x 4.5″||2″ receiver||Low||No|
Rackmaven may earn a small commission should you purchase a product through one of our affiliate links.
CURT 18153 Hitch Cargo Carrier
Best Overall Hitch Cargo Carrier
60″ x 24″ x 6″
Why We Picked It
The Curt 18153 is a well-designed carrier with a high-quality look and feel. Curt covered the entire carrier with a black powder coating to ensure it remained resistant to rust, scratches, and UV damage. I like that the 2-inch shank folds against the vehicle when not used. The mesh platform has 6-inch high side rails that prevent luggage from sliding out during transit. It also doubles as a convenient attachment point for a cargo net or cargo bag strap to hold down multiple pieces of luggage.
As is standard with most hitch cargo carriers, it has a 500-pound weight capacity, with its inner tray dimension being 60″ x 24″. For safety, it has built-in light reflectors that help with increased visibility when driving in low-light areas.
My only genuine concern with this cargo carrier is that the interior of the steel tubes isn’t protected against rust. The tube ends are open, leaving the possibility of water getting in and rusting occurring.
The Curt 18153 has been a top seller since it first entered the market in 2014. Its sizeable 60-inch steel basket base comfortably supports up to 500 pounds. Add the Curt 18153’s folding feature, functional design, and integrated light reflectors on its frame for additional visibility and safety. There is no doubt this hitch cargo carrier is so popular, which is why it is my top recommended hitch cargo carrier.
2. Oklead Folding Carrier
60″ x 24″ x 14.5″
Design and Features
This carrier is a fantastic blend of basket and tray-style designs. Unlike most basket carriers, it has a high 14.4″ side rail with a side rail height of around 6 inches. However, it’s versatile because the side rails can be folded entirely down, transforming the cargo carrier into a platform/tray design. Additionally, the carrier itself also folds flat against the car’s trunk, making its overall design one of practicality and discretion.
This cargo carrier works well with general passenger cars and SUVs, perfectly fitting onto 2″ hitch receivers. This cargo carrier is ideally suited for camping enthusiasts, as its large base caters to various camping gear and necessities. The mesh base is, again, a great benefit as it keeps smaller items from slipping through and getting damaged or falling off during trips.
The newer model differs from the previous one due to its upgraded support bracket design, lifting the carrier’s base with about 5 degrees to support heavier cargo loads better. It is made from steel, adding to the carrier’s overall durability and sturdiness. The steel frame also feels solid, and there is minimal wobble during driving, even with nothing loaded onto the carrier.
Safety and Security
Regarding safety, two red light reflectors are attached to the front of the carrier, helping with visibility in severe weather conditions or low lighting.
This is a versatile yet practically designed carrier for transporting various cargo or gear. With a load capacity of 400 lbs and pricing at just over $200, it doesn’t beat the CURT 18153; however, its versatility deserves an honorable mention as a top consideration.
3. Rola 59502 Vortex
56″ x 23″ x 5″
Design and Features
Starting with aesthetics, this cargo carrier is a well-suited choice for larger vehicles such as trucks and SUVs. It looks better on larger, bulkier cars due to its robust design. The Vortex fits vehicles with a 2″ hitch receiver, and its helpful rise shank offers more ground clearance, especially when the carrier is loaded to maximum capacity.
The mesh floor prevents smaller options from slipping through larger openings, especially when driving over rough terrain. Steel bars fully support it, preventing the carrier’s base from caving in or bending due to heavy loads.
Safety and Security
The side rails are an average height for basket cargo carriers. Still, they have ample space for tying ratchet straps and cargo nets, as with the Oklead and Curt 18153. The Rola Vortex also has two light reflectors to alert other drivers of its presence at night.
If you want to buy an additional lighting kit for this cargo carrier, the 20174 Red Cargo Carrier Light Kitis is recommended. It’s one of the best lighting options for this specific carrier.
The Rola Vortex offers good value for money, especially considering that it has an above-average weight limit of 600 pounds and its build and design are clearly of a very high standard.
A Great Alternative
The King Bird upgraded folding hitch mount cargo carrier is a close contender to the Rola Vortex steel cargo carrier and is more affordable. Its basket is a few inches longer but takes second place in weight capacity and overall durability next to the Rola Vortex.
4. Reese Explore ProSeries Rambler 63153
60” x 24” x 5”
Design and Features
The ProSeries’ main feature is the massive cargo space stretching 60 inches. The basket design is standard, with an average rail height of about 5.5″ and ample space to hook on a cargo net. As with the previous hitch cargo carriers on this list, the carrier’s base has a mesh design, which is much more secure than larger gaps. The powder-coated steel frame feels sturdy, solid, and well-balanced when fully loaded.
As with most cargo carries, the ProSeries 63153 has a rise shank design, giving it more ground clearance should you drive over uneven terrain. One feature that is noticeably missing is the ability to fold the cargo carrier flat against the trunk when it’s not in use. This is a significant oversight on Reese’s part, in my opinion. The 63153 is perfect for most vehicles with a 2″ hitch receiver.
Safety and Security
As mentioned, the ProSeries has no light reflectors, unlike the other hitch carriers on this list. It’s not a huge deal, but I still found this disappointing. So if you prefer more visibility on your carrier, it is suggested that you get tail lights or reflectors and add them separately. These are essential to alert other motorists of the trailer behind your car.
As a suggestion, the Rola 59516 Led Light Kit is an excellent choice. The ProSeries 63153 also has cutouts that are compatible with the lights.
A Great Alternative
The Tow Tuff hitch cargo carrier is a solid alternative if you’re looking for something with a similar base size. The Tow Tuff’s steel construction offers a stable platform/tray-style mesh base with a weight capacity of 500 pounds and the same price range.
5. Tow Tuff TTF-2762KR
62” x 27” x 3”
Design and Features
The Tow Tuff has an innovative and versatile design. Its tray/platform-style base has a length of 60 inches, offering ample space to transport various cargo options. Its dual-purpose design doubles as a general cargo carrier or a 4-bike hitch rack, making it a fantastic all-rounder for any regular traveler or outdoors person.
When converted to its bike rack form, the adjustable wheel cradle and tie-down holes secured the bikes perfectly. There was minimal wobble between the cycles when driving.
Unlike most cargo carriers, the Tow Tuff has a tray/platform style design. This type of carrier, as it is less restrictive in the kind of cargo that you can load onto it since there are no high-side rails. As with many carriers, this carrier is also made from heavy-duty steel. The frame itself seems solid. However, the mesh flooring isn’t as compact as the Rola Vortex or Curt.
The Tow Tuff TTF-2462KR is well-fitted to 2-inch receivers, but it would’ve been better if it had a raised shank for additional ground clearance or could fold flat against the car’s rear. Converting the carrier to a bike rack is done by simply connecting the bike rack pins to the allotted openings on the hitch rails.
It’s also a Bike Rack.
The Tow Tuff has decent tie-down straps, a pull-out bar, and adjustable four-wheel cradles. However, the wheel cradles’ longevity is questionable as they do not seem like they will handle frequent use of the well before degrading. They have a universal design, so they should fit most public road and mountain bikes.
Converting the cargo carrier into a bike rack is an easy enough task. There are allotted openings on the side rails of the carrier into which the wheel cradle rack is locked. This is not overly complicated and takes a few minutes, making the Tow Tuff practical and user-friendly.
Tow Tuff might not have the prestige of Curt or Maxxhaul, but this is still a solid and functional dual-purpose cargo carrier with a large base and 500-pound weight capacity.
6. MaxxHaul 70422
49” x 22” x 3”
Design and Features
As mentioned, MaxxHaul has long been one of the most popular recreational towing and hitch-mount product manufacturers. High quality and value for money are why this brand is so respected and esteemed.
The 70422 hitch carrier is a bit more compact (53.7″ x 20.7″ x 4.7″) than some of the other entries on the list, making it an excellent fit for most cars with a 2-inch Class III and IV hitch receiver. Considering its price range, its solid steel construction is quite impressive.
When loaded to its maximum recommended weight capacity of 500 pounds, there was impressively no wobble when driving over smooth and uneven terrain. However, considering the different types of cargo you might load onto it, it is suggested that you use a cargo bag or cargo box as a safety precaution.
The gaps between the rails and base of the carrier are pretty significant, and smaller or loose items may fall through. Another recommendation is to pay attention to weight distribution when loading cargo and ensure that everything is evenly distributed.
7. MAXXHAUL 70275
53.5″ x 29.7″ x 8″
Design and Features
The 70275 isn’t the sleekest-looking cargo carrier out there, but its functionality makes up for what it lacks in aesthetics. Its aluminum frame is quite strong, yet you can quickly feel the difference in weight when handling this carrier compared to its steel counterparts.
This large cargo basket best suits vehicles with a Class III & IV standard 2″ hitch receiver. The carrier is made mainly from high-grade Aluminum. However, the under-support system and the hitch shaft are powder-coated steel. This was a nice touch to balance the lightweight Aluminum with some heavy-duty steel.
The ramp itself is around 60 inches long and folds out quite quickly. This ramp is perfect for wheeling larger items such as wheelchairs or lawnmowers. However, using it for larger cargo like snowmobiles is not recommended. The ramp folds in half and can be placed vertically or horizontally inside the cargo carrier while driving.
Considering that it’s made from Aluminum and is lightweight, it has a maximum loading recommendation of 500 pounds, which is the average weight for most cargo carriers, regardless of their construction and material.
This is the most expensive cargo carrier on this list. Taking into consideration its relatively large size (53.5″ x 29.7″ x 8″), its lightweight aluminum frame, and its 60-inch folding ramp, the price tag seems a bit steep.
A Great Alternative
Alternatively, to even out the relatively high price tag of the Maxxhaul 70275, the much more affordable Ecotric hitch cargo carrier is a great option. The powder-coated steel Ecotric is noticeably smaller and more compact than the 70275, but it also has a maximum recommended weight of 500 pounds.
The Different Cargo Hitches
When shopping for hitch cargo carriers, you’ll notice variations in the materials used and the style in which they are designed. These variations all offer their own unique set of benefits and drawbacks. How you intend to use your hitch-mounted cargo carrier will define what type of style you want.
1. Basket Style Cargo Carrier
It has railed sides to keep cargo secure and provides a convenient location to attach cargo straps or cords for added security. Baskets are ideal for transporting bulky items and are very popular as they suit people’s general transportation needs.
2. Flatbed Style Cargo Carrier
The flatbed design does not have high rails on the sides but has slightly raised edges, with most of them having anchor points for cargo straps, nets, and bungee cords. This is a perfect consideration if you transport oddly shaped or large items frequently.
3. Ramp Style Cargo Carrier
The ramp cargo carrier is perfect for transporting large or wheeled cargo. Like the basket and flatbed style, a folding ramp slides onto ground level, loading large or heavy-wheeled items much more conveniently.
Selecting The Right Hitch Cargo Carrier – Important Considerations
- Carrier Use: What will be your cargo carrier’s primary use? And what items will it be carrying? These answers should indicate whether a box, rack, or another style of hitch cargo carrier would meet those needs.
- Vehicle Type: The type of vehicle your cargo carrier would be hitched to is essential to determine the tongue weight capacity of the trailer and whether or not your vehicle would support it. The tongue weight capacity is the maximum vertical weight a vehicle’s hitch can support during ordinary driving conditions.
Check out our quick and helpful guide on how to measure Gross Tongue Weight (GTW).
- Vehicle Design: The rear design of your vehicle will determine how suitable a specific hitch cargo carrier type is. Does your car have barn doors or a rear spare tire? Will your car’s tailgate be a problem?
- Vehicle Class Hitch: There are five trailer hitch classes, identified as Class I through V. Each hitch class has a unique size and maximum towing weight based on the strength and size of your vehicle and the design of the hitch itself. Before buying a hitch carrier, you must familiarize yourself with the size of your hitch and its limitations and specifications.
Buyer’s Guide – What To Look For In A Hitch Cargo Carrier
Please pay attention to a few things in our guide below before buying a specific carrier to avoid common mistakes people make when using a cargo rack.
Most cargo carriers are made from steel or some form of alloy steel. However, there are some made from other robust metals as well. The build of your cargo carrier must be of high quality.
Steel is incredibly durable and doesn’t bend under heavy pressure. If you settle on a steel carrier, it has been powder-coated to prevent damage and rust from environmental elements.
Another popular material is Aluminum, which is much lighter than steel, durable, and can take a lot of abuse. Additionally, Aluminum doesn’t rust like steel, but it is more prone to scratches.
Rear Hatch Access
If rear hatch access is crucial, consider buying a carrier that doesn’t have a curved hitch for better ground clearance. Carriers with no rise built into the shank could give you access to your rear hatch. This is hardly possible with curved/high carriers. Note that you would be giving up better ground clearance.
Ensure that the receiver and main shaft fit correctly and that there is no wiggle room. It is essential to know what the attachment mechanism of your vehicle looks like, as most carriers will be able to fit a standard 2-inch receiver. Still, bigger or smaller vehicles might have a different-sized receiver.
Poor attachment may also result in road noise due to your cargo carrier rattling and wiggling on rough or uneven terrain.
Your cargo carrier should be heavy-duty and able to comfortably support the weight of whatever is loaded onto it. Generally, carriers can support between 500 lbs and 600 lbs.
The Weight Of The Carrier
Your hitch mount cargo carrier’s weight affects many things. The heavier it is, the more effort it will take to install it. Aluminum carriers are very lightweight and easy to assemble and install. This is perfect for single-person installation. However, steel carriers can also easily be installed with the combined help of two people.
The Cargo Carrier Base
The design of a cargo carrier’s base should be practical. The base must be strong enough to support a heavy load and properly secure the cargo without letting things fall through, and it should also not be a hassle to clean.
High-side rails are often preferred as it does a great job of securing cargo and keeping it from slipping off the carrier, especially on uneven terrain. Most commonly, the rails are set at a height of 6 inches.
Alternatively, high side rails make it difficult to load and transport oversized items that are oddly shaped or bigger than the carrier base.
Before buying a hitch cargo carrier, consider the base dimensions that best suit your needs. How much room do you need, and what sized objects will you transport?
Rear Or Front-Of-Vehicle Hitch Options
Certain cargo carriers can be attached to the vehicle’s front. Certain people prefer this option as it makes them feel more comfortable seeing the cargo before them.
The Locking Mechanism
Most cargo carriers have an anti-theft locking mechanism, such as a locking hitch pin, which prevents the carrier from being taken off the vehicle. This is an essential feature for many people as it gives them peace of mind that their belongings are safe and secure.
Weather protection is vital. You don’t want rust in your carrier after a week of use. In this case, aluminum carriers have better rust resistance. On the other hand, steel is more sturdy, and when coated with black powder, which is well looked after and protected, it resists rust long enough.
Another thing you should look at is the bottom. If it is a full pan or tight mesh, it could hold water. This water affects rust resistance too. Another thing is if there are open tubes where water can get in. If the pipes are not powder-coated, they will rust faster. If you plan on using your carrier for years, ensure you check this out.
Useful Hitch Cargo Carrier Accessories
To make the most of your hitch cargo carrier, various accessories can help you customize it for your specific needs. Accessories for hitch cargo carriers can include straps, locks, covers, and more.
Straps help to keep your items secure and can be adjustable for different sizes and shapes. Locks help to protect your belongings from theft.
Covers can protect your items from elements like rain and sun. Accessories such as lights, racks, and baskets can help you safely store and organize items.
Are There Benefits to Having Hitch Cargo Carrier Accessories?
Hitch cargo carrier accessories are great additions to any vehicle and can provide several benefits.
They are an ideal way to transport luggage, camping equipment, sports equipment, and other items you may not be able to fit inside your vehicle. These accessories provide a secure and convenient way to carry larger items without worrying about them sliding around in the cargo carrier or falling off during a trip.
These accessories are designed for user-friendly installation, attachment, and removal and are often made from durable materials to ensure they last for many years.
These accessories are typically very affordable and can be a great way to save money on trips needing extra storage.
Hitch Cargo Carrier Safety Tips
The primary safety concerns for cargo carriers are clear visibility and proper load security.
- Remember that Your Vehicle’s Length has Increased Significantly: Cargo carriers can take up as much as three feet behind the vehicle they’re attached to, increasing chances of backing up into things. With this, you must also remember that your car’s rotation space has increased significantly when turning, which is necessary to compensate for that. Before heading out on long trips, try practicing at home and getting used to incorporating the added length in your driving and parking styles.
- Always Consider the Bumps When Driving Over Uneven Terrain: It’s easy to lose your cargo when you forget that bumps are much harsher when your carrier crosses them. Make sure your load is strapped down securely, and when you stop, check to see whether or not the straps are still tight enough. Also, ensure no straps are flapping, hanging off, or alongside your vehicle.
- Check that Your License Plate is Visible: Carriers covering a license plate can result in you being pulled over and receiving a ticket. It is not legal to have your license plate covered. To remedy this, temporarily relocate your license plate to your cargo carrier using a universal license plate bracket. Take care that it is 12 inches off the ground with adequate lighting if relocated.
- Invest in a Hitch Tightener: Invest in a hitch tightener or trailer tie-down when purchasing your hitch cargo carrier. This helps minimize or eliminate any shifting or rattling from your cargo carrier.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Accessories Can I Use With My Hitch Cargo Carrier?
The most commonly used hitch cargo carrier accessories are:
– Stabilizing straps
– LED indicator lights
– Hitch stabilizers
– Receiver adapter
– Cargo net
– Cargo bag
Are Hitch Carriers Legal?
Yes. They are legal, but overloaded cargo carriers may violate the law if they collapse and cause damage or injury to vehicles or their occupants around them.
What Max Speed Can I Drive With a Hitch Cargo Carrier?
It is recommended that drivers not exceed 90 MPH, which may result in collisions or the cargo carrier collapsing.
Are Hitch Cargo Carriers Better Than Roof Carriers?
When deciding between the two, consider what is most important to you in a carrier. A hitch cargo carrier is the best option if you’re looking for something that can be easily accessed and packed.
Does a Hitch Cargo Carrier Affect Gas Mileage?
A hitch cargo carrier has an almost unnoticeable effect on your gas mileage when driving standard speeds, especially roof cargo boxes.
- 14/07/2023 – Updated product lists and supplementary content to improve user experience and overall helpfulness.
Timo is an outdoor enthusiast and gear specialist who is constantly exploring. As an avid hiker, he has completed the ADK 46ers, South Beyond 6000, GA4000, and the Colorado 14ers. He's ice climbed Mt. Hood, hiked up half a dozen mountains in the Alps, and spent three consecutive summers constructing a sustainable trail through the Colorado high country.