Hitch Mounted Cargo Carriers (All You Need to Know!)

In comparison with roof mounted cargo carriers, hitch mounted cargo carriers are more aerodynamic because they operate behind the vehicle. With less wind resistance, hitch mounted cargo carriers allow for better gas mileage, thus saving you money.

The hitch mounted cargo carriers also offer the advantage of easy access to your cargo load. As opposed to having to reach up to the roof to grab it. There are several types of hitch mounted cargo carriers for different applications.

To use a hitch mounted cargo carrier properly, you will need a trailer hitch. All hitch mounted cargo carriers fit one of two trailer hitch sizes. 1-1/4″ (Class I and II) and 2″ (Class III and larger). Trailer hitches with a 2″ x 2″ opening support more weight than 1-1/4″ x 1-1/4″ trailer hitches. Both offer many features to help transport your belongings safely and securely.

Hitch mounted cargo carriers can slide easily into the square receiver opening of a trailer hitch. And can held in place with a pin and clip or a trailer hitch lock.

Hitch Mounted Cargo Carriers Types

There are different classifications when it comes to the types of hitch mounted cargo carriers. From platform styles to primary material used. We will start with the platform styles type.

Platform Cargo Carriers

  • The most basic, common type of cargo carrier is the platform cargo carrier.
  • These are flat and open and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
  • Some have a folding function in which the carrier folds up parallel to the back windshield or collapses inward for a more compact, easily stowable size.
  • Several hitch mounted cargo carriers have solid base trays, and others have grated trays.
  • Some are made of lightweight aluminum, whereas others are made of durable steel.
  • Another differentiating feature is the railed tray, which prevents items from sliding off the carrier and provides easy tie-down points for the load.

Enclosed Cargo Carriers

  • Enclosed cargo carriers protect your belongings from theft and harsh weather.
  • Their rugged design offers ample interior space for your gear.
  • Some Enclosed carriers can be removed from their tray. For some trays even tilt up to reduce space when not in use.
  • Two different functions allow easy access to the rear cargo area.
  • On some carriers, the tray swings away from behind the vehicle to the side.
  • Other carriers have two telescoping bars that extend the tray away from the vehicle.
  • Because large carriers can block a vehicle’s tail lights, lighting kits are available.
  • Many of them also have a drain at the the bottom of the carrier to allow for an easy cleanup.

Wheelchair Cargo Carriers

  • Wheelchair and scooter carriers help you easily load and transport mobility equipment.
  • Models can be lowered and raised to guide wheelchairs onto the platform or come with ramps.

Motorcycle Hitch Mounted Cargo Carriers

  • Motorcycle carriers slide into 2″ trailer hitches so that loading and transporting your bikes is a snap.
  • Don’t worry about struggling to get motorcycles or choppers in the truck bed or pulling a trailer.
  • From choppers to dirt bikes to scooters, these carriers accommodate a wide variety of bikes.

Hitch Load Extenders

  • No matter the size of your trunk or truck bed, there is always that canoe or ladder that refuses to fit inside your vehicle.
  • A hitch load extender will solve that problem.
  • Shaped like a goalpost, a hitch load extender fits into a trailer hitch receiver and provides extra stability for long items.
  • A telescoping design allows the upright bar to adjust to accommodate different vehicle heights and sit level with the roof or truck bed.
  • Load stops keep items from sliding.

Hitch Mounted Cargo Carriers Features

Non-Folding or Folding

  • Hitch mounted cargo carriers can occupy a lot of space. When not in use, some models fold to save space.
  • With folding models (right), the platform folds up 90 degrees to become parallel with the back windshield, and a pin and clip secure it in place.
  • Non-folding models (left) do not fold or collapse, but they are typically less expensive and may be leaned against a wall for storage.

Solid Platforms or Mesh Platforms

  • Hitch mounted cargo carrier platforms are available with two types of surfaces: solid and mesh.
  • Solid surfaces (left) protect your gear from road debris that bounces up and hits the bottom of the platform during travel.
  • Mesh surfaces (right) provide easy hooking points for cargo straps and allow dirt to fall off your gear and pass through the holes onto the ground.

Railed Platforms or Lipped Platforms

  • Hitch mounted cargo carrier platforms have two types of retaining sides, railed and lipped.
  • Railed sides (left) are raised from the platform and allow oddly shaped items to protrude through the opening.
    • More important, railed sides provide several hooking points, and some rails can be removed for easier loading.
  • Lipped sides (right) are more economical and do provide some attachment hooks for tie-downs.

Steel, Aluminum, or Polypropylene

  • Most hitch mounted cargo carriers are made of steel (left), which is durable and often coated with black powder to protect it from rust and corrosion.
  • Some carriers are made of aluminum (center), which is not only more lightweight but also rust resistant.
  • Another material used to build carriers is polypropylene (right), a type of plastic.
    • The polypropylene tray is mounted on a steel frame to make the carrier lightweight and strong.

Hitch Mounted Cargo Carriers Accessories


For most cargo carriers, you will likely need tie-downs such as straps, bungees and nets to secure your gear tightly on the tray. They can hook onto several areas of cargo carriers, including rails, grates and grooves.

Trailer Hitch Locks

Trailer hitch locks do a great job of protecting your cargo carrier from theft. They simply slide into the hitch pin hole and lock on one side. There are many styles and sizes of hitch locks, and some are even threaded to reduce rattling inside the hitch receiver.

Anti-Rattle Devices

Because of manufacturer part clearance requirements, any hitch accessory will move around a little bit inside the trailer hitch. To eliminate movement and any resulting noise, anti-rattle or anti-wobble devices can be used, allowing for a quieter ride. Some anti-rattles even incorporate locks to secure your belongings.

Hitch Adapters

Do you need to make your 1-1/4″ trailer hitch compatible with some 2″ equipment, or vice versa? A hitch adapter transforms any hitch from a smaller to bigger (or bigger to smaller) size to accommodate differently sized cargo carriers.

NOTE: Using a hitch adapter often reduces the weight capacity of your hitch by at least half the original amount.

Hitch Extenders

Need a bit more clearance to get past a bumper or rear mounted spare tire? A hitch extender gives you more room when you are hauling a cargo carrier.

NOTE: Using a hitch extender often reduces the weight capacity of your hitch by at least half the original amount.

Cargo Bags

Cargo bags offering protection from harsh weather, road grime and debris. A cargo bag transports gear to its destination, leaving it clean and dry. Some cargo bags expand to offer more cubic feet, and most include straps to secure the bag to the cargo carrier platform.

Lighting Kits

Lighting kits are never a bad idea, but if either the cargo load or the cargo carrier itself blocks the vehicle’s tail lights, they are required. This blockage typically occurs on small SUVs when the tail lights are close together.