Editor’s Note – This list of the best hitch cargo carriers was updated on January 9, 2023, to add newly listed products and improve content relevance and usefulness. Paragraph on hitch cargo carrier accessories added.
Regarding vehicle storage capacity, especially those with limited features, few options are as appealing as a cargo carrier. For SUV owners like myself, it offers a similar storage capacity to a pickup but without breaking the bank in the process.
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. Perfect for cycling enthusiasts.
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For the Best Overall Basket Style Hitch Cargo Carrier, Get the CURT 18153
Curt offers a wide range of trailer hitch cargo carriers with various mounting options, including both front and rear-mount cargo carriers, some of which have a folding shank, which is a feature I always prefer. The Curt 18153 basket-style cargo carrier offers everything you need from a general hitch cargo carrier; stability, practical functionality, affordable pricing, durability, and a lot of cargo space. And that is why I recommend this as one of the best hitch cargo carrier options overall.
One of the main features I like about the 18153 is that it has a 2-inch shank that folds up against the vehicle when it’s not in use. This is great as I don’t have to constantly remove it after using it now and then.
As is standard with most hitch cargo carriers, it has a 500-pound weight capacity, with its inner tray dimension being 60″ x 24″. This is quite spacious, more than adequate for me to load a bunch of camping and outdoor gear.
The basket itself is quite well-designed and has a high-quality look and feel to it. I like that Curt tried to cover the entire carrier with a black powder coating to ensure it remains resistant to rust, scratches, and UV damage. This is just an extra measure Curt takes to ensure their products meet their high-quality standards.
The mesh platform, which I greatly appreciate, and 6-inch high side rails prevent luggage from sliding out during transit. This is a design feature that I strongly encourage. Furthermore, from a practical point of view, the high side rails also provide a convenient attachment point for a cargo net or cargo bag strap to hold down multiple pieces of luggage. This a something that tray or platform-style cargo carrier designs lack.
The Curt 18153 carrier also does well regarding additional safety precautions, as it has built-in light reflectors that greatly help with increased visibility when driving in low-light areas. Another greatly overlooked design feature.
My only real 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. While this isn’t a guaranteed issue, if you do want to protect your steel pipes against rust and corrosion, you can alternatively paint the inside or even plug the open tubes to prevent water from entering.
A Great Alternative
The Mockins steel cargo basket and the Oklead folding cargo carrier receive honorable mentions as they come in at a close second compared to the Curt 18153 cargo carrier. These alternatives offer mostly the exact dimensions as the Curt, with the most noticeable differences being the side rail measurements and the carrying capacity.
I wanted to give a special mention to the Oklead, as I find this carrier to be a fantastic blend of both basket and tray-style designs. It has a very high 14.4″ side rail, unlike most other basket carriers that generally have a side rail height of around 6 inches. However, it’s versatile because the side rails can be completely folded down, transforming the cargo carrier into a platform/tray design. This is such a helpful feature; I just had to include it. 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. I’d say that this is a cargo carrier that is perfectly suited for camping enthusiasts, as its large base caters to a variety of 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 better support heavier cargo loads. I also like that 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.
As far as safety is concerned, two red light reflectors are attached to the front of the carrier, helping with visibility in severe weather conditions or low lighting.
I like this hitch cargo carrier. It is a very versatile yet practically designed solution for transporting various cargo or gear. With a load capacity of 400 lbs and pricing at $209.99, it doesn’t beat the CURT 18153; however, with its versatility, I feel it deserves an honorable mention as a top consideration.
For the Best Heavy-Duty Basket Style Hitch Cargo Carrier, Buy the Rola Vortex
Rola has been around for quite a while and has built a reputation for creating strong roof racks and cargo management products. The Vortex steel hitch mount is no different. When loaded to the brim, it effortlessly supported a cargo weight of 600 pounds. The heavy-duty steel framing makes it perfect for long hauls, and rugged terrains, which, in my opinion, makes this the best choice if you’re looking for an actual heavy-duty cargo carrier backed up by an established, reputable brand.
Starting with aesthetics, I consider this cargo carrier a well-suited choice for larger vehicles such as trucks and SUVs. It looks better on larger, bulkier vehicles 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.
Sticking to design, a feature that I like, as mentioned before, is the mesh floor. I prefer this as it prevents smaller options from slipping through larger openings, especially when driving over rough terrain. This mesh floor is fully supported by steel bars, preventing the base of the carrier from caving in, or bending, due to heavy loads.
The side rails are an average height for basket cargo carriers, but they do 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, I would recommend the 20174 Red Cargo Carrier Light Kit. It’s one of the best lighting options for this specific carrier.
At $209.99, 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 it takes second place in weight capacity and overall durability next to the Rola Vortex.
For the Best Basket Style Carrier With the Largest Base, Buy the Reese Explore ProSeries Rambler
Very few cargo carriers beat the Reese ProSeries regarding size and build quality. However, bigger doesn’t always mean better; as even with its larger-than-average frame (60” x 24” x 5”), the ProSeries Rambler has an average weight capacity of 500 pounds. This large, high-quality steel carrier frame and affordable pricing are why the Reese Explore ProSeries Rambler is my number one recommendation for those who need a large carrier.
Firstly, the main feature of the ProSeries is obviously the massive cargo space stretching out 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 huge oversight on Reese’s part, in my opinion. The 63153 is a perfect fit for most vehicles with a 2″ hitch receiver.
I have to mention that unlike the other hitch carriers previously mentioned on this list, the ProSeries doesn’t have any light reflectors. It’s not a huge deal, but I still found this disappointing. So if you prefer more visibility on your carrier, I suggest you get tail lights or reflectors and add them separately. These are important considerations 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 solid platform/tray-style mesh base with a weight capacity of 500 pounds and the same price range.
For the Best Flatbed Cargo Carrier, Buy the Tow Tuff TTF-2762R
Best flatbed and versatility, Tow Tuff offers something special with this 2-in-1 cargo carrier, a removable bike rack. Innovative and dedicated, Tow Tuff manufactures and distributes high-quality, durable automotive and trailer management tools and equipment. And this cargo carrier is just that. If you prefer flatbed cargo carriers, the Tow Tuff TTF-2762KR, with its large base platform, strong weight carrying capacity, and bike rack versatility, is the top choice.
I liked the Tow Tuff due to its innovative and versatile design. Not to mention that its tray/platform-style base has a length of 60 inches, offering ample space to transport various cargo options. I was extremely impressed with its dual-purpose design 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 I converted it to its bike rack form, the adjustable wheel cradle and tie-down holes secured the bikes perfectly. I only loaded three bikes onto the carrier, just for reference. There was very little wobble between the bikes when driving.
Unlike most of the other cargo carriers I looked at, the Tow Tuff has a tray/platform style design. I am more prone to go for this type of carrier, as it is less restrictive in the type 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, for instance. On a positive note, the Tow Tuff does come with decent tie-down straps, a pull-out bar, and four-wheel cradles that are adjustable. However, I am not that convinced about the longevity of the wheel cradles as they do not seem like they will handle frequent use of the well before degrading. The wheel cradles have a universal design, so they should fit most general 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 an overly complicated process and takes a couple of minutes, making the Tow Tuff not just practical but very user-friendly as well.
The Tow Tuff TTF-2462KR is well-fitted to 2-inch receivers, but I would’ve been more impressed 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.
I like this hitch cargo carrier’s design and versatility. 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, and at $193.99, it definitely gets my seal of approval.
For the Best Value for Money, Get Yourself the MaxxHaul 70107
Maxxhaul is a reputable brand in the cargo carrier space. Their entry-level products, like the 70107 cargo carrier, offer impressive durability, practicality, and strength at a budget-friendly $80.99. If you’re looking for excellent value for money but don’t want to break the bank, I would definitely recommend getting the MaxxHaul 70107.
As mentioned, MaxxHaul has long been one of the most popular manufacturers of recreational towing and hitch-mount products. High quality and value for money are why this brand is so respected and esteemed.
The 70107 hitch carrier is a bit more compact (53.7″ x 20.7″ x 4.7″) than some of the other entries on my list, making it a great fit for most cars with a 2-inch Class III and IV hitch receiver. Considering its price range, I am impressed at the solid steel construction of this carrier. Although I am not fond of carriers that do not have meshed bottoms, this carrier does feel quite sturdy and secure when attached. The powder-coating finish is always a nice touch.
I loaded the carrier to its maximum recommended weight capacity of 500 pounds and was impressed to see that there is no wobble when driving over both smooth and uneven terrain. However, considering the different types of cargo you might load onto it, as a safety precaution, I would suggest using a cargo bag or cargo box.
The gaps between the rails and base of the carrier are quite large, and there is a possibility of smaller or loose items falling through. Another recommendation is to pay attention to weight distribution when loading cargo and ensure that everything is evenly distributed.
For a Great Ramp Option, The Maxxhaul 70275 Takes the Cake
With Maxxhaul dominating this list, it comes as no surprise as to why their products are consistently considered a top choice for many. Hitch cargo carriers are a very practical solution for those who don’t own pickups but want to haul seriously bulky or heavy cargo items. So adding the added benefit of a ramp on which large objects can be wheeled, we’ve got a whole different ball game. This is where the Maxxhaul 70275 shines as my top recommendation for hitch cargo carriers with ramps.
The 70275 isn’t the sleekest-looking cargo carrier out there, but in terms of functionality, it makes up for what it lacks in aesthetics. Its aluminum frame is quite strong, yet you can easily feel the difference in weight when handling this carrier compared to its steel counterparts. Considering that it’s made from aluminum and feels quite 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.
The ramp itself is around 60 inches long and folds out quite easily. This ramp is perfect for wheeling larger items such as wheelchairs or lawnmowers. However, I will not recommend using it for larger cargo like snowmobiles. The ramp folds in half and can then be placed vertically or horizontally inside the cargo carrier while driving.
This is quite a large cargo basket, and I would say it is best on vehicles with a Class III & IV standard 2″ hitch receiver. Upon closer inspection, I realized that although the carrier is made mostly from high-grade Aluminum, the entire under-support system and the hitch shaft are made from powder-coated steel. I felt like this was a nice touch to balance out the lightweight aluminum with some heavy-duty steel.
The only thing I had to complain about regarding this cargo carrier was its price tag. At $428.43, 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, I’m not quite sure how I feel about its asking price.
A Great Alternative
Alternatively, to even out the rather high price tag of the Maxxhaul 70275, the much more affordable Ecotric hitch cargo carrier is a great option also. 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. Again, I prefer the mesh-floor design of this cargo carrier over the above-mentioned Maxxhaul. I also like how the 42″ ramps fold completely flat onto the carrier’s base, fitting perfectly. And the best part is it is priced at a much more pleasing $205.45.
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. The way you intend to use your hitch-mounted cargo carrier will define what type of style you’re going to want.
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 it suits people’s general transportation needs.
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.
Ramp Style Cargo Carrier
If you plan on transporting large or wheeled cargo, the ramp cargo carrier is a perfect choice. Similar to the basket and flatbed style, a folding ramp slides onto ground level, loading large or heavy-wheeled items much more convenient.
Selecting The Right Hitch Cargo Carrier – Important Considerations
What is going to be the primary use of your cargo carrier? 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.
The type of vehicle that your cargo carrier would be hitched to is important to determine the tongue weight capacity of the trailer and whether or not your vehicle would be able to support it. The tongue weight capacity is the maximum vertical weight that a vehicle’s hitch can support during ordinary driving conditions.
Check out our quick and useful guide on how to measure Gross Tongue WEight (GTW).
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. Each class is based on the strength and size of your vehicle and the design of the hitch itself.
Buyer’s Guide – What To Look For In A Hitch Cargo Carrier
If you will be using a cargo carrier regularly, it is important to pay attention to certain things before buying a specific carrier.
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. Ensure that 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 that do not have any rise built into the shank could allow you to have 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 important 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 support the weight of whatever is loaded onto it comfortably. 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 offer the possibility of being attached to the vehicle’s front. Certain people prefer this option as it makes them feel more comfortable seeing the cargo in front of 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, there are a variety of accessories that 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. There are also accessories such as lights, racks, and baskets that can help you store and organize items efficiently and safely.
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 that 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 where you need extra storage.
Hitch Cargo Carrier Safety Tips
The primary safety concerns for cargo carriers are clear visibility and proper load security.
Keep in Mind 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 keep in mind that your car’s rotation space has also increased significantly when turning, and it 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 felt much harsher when your carrier crosses them. Make sure that your cargo is strapped down securely and when you do stop, check to see whether or not the straps are still tight enough. Also, ensure no straps are flapping or 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 if relocated, it is 12 inches off the ground with adequate lighting.
Invest in a Hitch Tightener
When purchasing your hitch cargo carrier, invest in a hitch tightener or trailer hitch tie-down. 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 result in law violations should 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, you should consider what is most important to you in a carrier. If you’re looking for something that can be easily accessed, as well as easily packed, a hitch cargo carrier is the best option.
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.