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Best Hitch-Mounted Cargo Carriers: When You Need Extra Space

Handy cargo carriers that fit right onto the back of your vehicle

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BYHank O'Hop/ LAST UPDATED ON November 5, 2021

Not everyone has room in their budgets for pickup trucks, though many people have use for them. That's why your buddy Dave with an F-150 is so popular. A hitch-mounted cargo carrier is far more feasible, affordable, and keeps you and Dave friends for years to come. It might not be as spacious as an 8-foot bed, but it frees cabin legroom and gets your gear wherever your planned adventure begins. That's why we want to discuss how to pick the right hitch-mounted cargo carrier for your vehicle and which ones we recommend. Let’s get into it.

Best Overall

Curt 18151 Hitch Mount Cargo Carrier

Summary

High-quality cargo carrier coming from an industry-leading name. The ability to mount this to most hitch classes combined with a foldable design makes it a clear choice for many car owners.

Pros
  • Compatible with 1 1/4-inch and 2-inch receivers
  • Folds up against vehicle when not in use
  • High-quality construction
Cons
  • Carrier lower that receiver and might drag on some applications
  • Might sit near exhaust on some applications
Best Value

MaxxHaul 70107 Hitch Mount Compact Cargo Carrier

Summary

An affordable unit with quality that surpasses initial expectations. Solid materials and powder coating promote reliability while it supports the same weight as costlier units.

Pros
  • Affordable price point
  • Surprisingly good quality for the price
  • Comes with hitch pin
Cons

Wide opening might cause items to pass through

Rattles quite a bit
Honorable Mention

Oklead Hitch Mount Cargo Carrier

Summary

Everything a standard carrier does, and then some. This is a foldable model with extra-high walls that comes with an anti-rattle stabilizer to promote an enjoyable ride.

Pros
  • Deeper than average walls offer maximum support for cargo
  • Includes anti-rattle stabilizer to maintain quiet ride
  • Folds up neatly against the vehicle, even with tall walls
Cons

Issues with powder coating are somewhat typical

Elevation too high for lights in some applications
Best Hitch-Mounted Cargo Carriers: When You Need Extra Space

Best Hitch Cargo Carriers Reviews & Recommendations

High build quality, useful features, and the versatile mounting makes this model a must-have for most car owners. Our number one spot goes to Curt. If you’re already somewhat hitch savvy, that’s probably no surprise. Curt is an industry-leading brand known for supplying high-quality hitches and hitch accessories at reasonable prices. What we have here is a 60-inch wide x 20-inch deep cargo carrier with walls that measure 6 inches tall and comes with a maximum weight capacity of 500 pounds. 


A great detail about this model is that it’s compatible with both 1 1/4-inch and 2-inch receiver hitches, meaning it’ll work with Class 1 through 4 hitches and even Class 5 hitches with 2-inch receivers. This is a folding model and has integrated reflectors to make sure you’re traveling as safely as possible. This carrier is an excellent option for many applications, though not all. The shape of the shank drops down relatively low, and that can pose significant issues with vehicles with a low ride height, and it does place the cargo close to the exhaust on some applications. Also, there are complaints of rattling due to the way it fits in some hitches.

Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Curt Mfg.
  • Part Number: 18151
  • Weight Rating: 500 pounds

Pros:

  • Compatible with 1-1/4-inch and 2-inch receivers
  • Folds up against vehicle when not in use
  • High-quality construction

Cons:

  • Carrier sits lower that receiver and may drag on some applications
  • May sit near the exhaust on some applications
  • Tends to rattle in most hitches

The low price caught our eye, but the quality makes it superior to other low-dollar options. We get it. Budgets are tight sometimes. And in that case, we suggest you take a look at this model from MaxxHaul. This is about as simple as it can get, so the savings are passed on to you. The MaxxHaul is a solidly built unit topped with a decent layer of powder coating, meaning it should be up to take a beating. 


As for the dimensions, this unit measures 53 inches wide by 19 1/2 inches long and fits into a 2-inch receiver. It also has walls that measure 5 inches tall and can hold up to 500 pounds, too. MaxxHaul also sets this unit up with rear reflectors and ships it to you with a hitch pin for good measure. You do need to be extra cautious about what you place in this carrier because it doesn’t have a mesh bottom. The wide openings could allow small items to fall through and we should also mention that it does not fold up against the vehicle, meaning you’ll likely want to remove it whenever it isn’t in use. Customers also note that rattling is a common issue.

Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Maxxhaul
  • Part Number: 70107
  • Weight Rating: 500 pounds

Pros:

  • Affordable price point
  • Surprisingly good quality for the price
  • Comes with hitch pin

Cons:

  • Wide opening allows small items to pass through
  • Does not fold up to vehicle
  • Rattling noises are typical of this carrier

The deep walls help this model secure cargo better than others, the folding design and anti-rattle stabilizer are just a couple of cherries on top. If you’re looking to get a little more out of your carrier, this model by Oklead is one you should consider. The first thing you’ll notice that’s different about this Oklead is the height of the walls, measuring 14.4 inches tall compared to the 5 inches of those above. That offers a whole lot more peace of mind for anything you store here. Also, with dimensions of 60 inches wide by 24 inches long, you won’t have too much of an issue hauling those large coolers and luggage. 


What really separates this from the other entries, though, is the inclusion of an anti-rattle stabilizer. That ensures that it won’t cause all kinds of noise when it’s fitted into your 2-inch receiver. On top of all of that, everything folds up neatly to the back of the vehicle when this carrier isn’t in use. While there is a lot to like about this model, it’s not perfect. We’ll point out that it elevates the cargo carrier in relation to the receiver. That’s great for ground clearance, but it might cover the taillights on some applications. Also, a good amount of customer testimonials indicate there are some issues with the powder coating finish.

Specs:

  • Manufacturer: OKLead
  • Part Number: RS03B
  • Weight Rating: 400 pounds

Pros:

  • Deeper than average walls offer maximum support for cargo
  • Includes anti-rattle stabilizer to maintain quiet ride
  • Folds up neatly against the vehicle, even with tall walls.

Cons:

  • Elevated position may be an issue for lights on some applications
  • Issues with faulty powder coating are fairly common

Cyclists can safely store their bikes and the above average dimensions come in handy with other cargo. If bikes are a part of your adventuring loadout, this Tow Tuff hitch-mounted cargo carrier is one you’ll want to consider. We say that because this model not only is a cargo carrier, but it comes with bike racks, too.  Sure, you can install bike racks to other carriers, but putting them together under one part number just saves you the hassle. With the wheel cradles installed, this carrier can hold up to four bikes, which is pretty impressive in itself, but as stated, it’s a cargo carrier, too. 


The 62-inch width and 27-inch length make for a respectable storage capacity. It also holds up to 500 pounds, meaning you can use it for many different situations without concern, so long as you have a 2-inch receiver hitch that can handle the load. This is the first and only carrier on our list that doesn’t have a whole lot of wall to offer. The overall depth of 3 inches offers very little security to taller items. Also, this model does not fold up into the vehicle, and that is a feature you will find in many carriers in a similar price range.

Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Tow Tuff
  • Part Number: TTF-2762KR
  • Weight Rating: 500 LBS

Pros:

  • Comes with accessories for carrying bikes
  • Large dimensions offer more surface area for cargo
  • Higher weight capacity than needed for bikes adds to versatility

Cons:

  • Short walls offer little support for cargo
  • Does not fold up, unlike others in this price range

Built in ramps and the heavy-duty construction make this a must-have for anyone loading up rolling equipment. We’re wrapping up our list with one more entry from MaxxHaul only, this time, things aren’t quite as utilitarian. That’s right, this bad boy comes with a built-in ramp. Cargo carriers are going to hold some heavy gear from time to time, and lifting that gear can be both awkward and dangerous to your back if you’re not careful. The ramp on this unit makes it easy to roll large coolers, scooters, or anything else that will fit within its 47-inch wide by 27-inch long confines. MaxxHaul’s carrier also features 7 1/2-inch walls of protection, keeping everything firmly in place while riding on a 2-inch receiver. 


Speaking of which, it comes with rattle-reduction accessories to keep things quiet. A heavy-duty aluminum structure prevents rust while also supporting up to 500 pounds. The real Achilles heel of this model is how narrow it is. While it’s good enough for single pieces of large gear, it still can’t accommodate quite as many individual items as the average carrier on our list will. Also, installation is a little more time-intensive than most of the other carriers we’re highlighting.

Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Maxxhaul
  • Part Number: 80779
  • Weight Rating: 500 pounds

Pros:

  • Built-in ramp makes loading rolling equipment easier
  • Heavy-duty aluminum structure resists rusts
  • Deeper than average walls offer additional support

Cons:

  • Complicated assembly
  • Narrow size limits overall capacity

How We Selected The Products 

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

Learn more

Hitch-mounted cargo carriers are pretty simple, really, which is good because we don’t have to evaluate much when choosing our favorites. In all reality, our biggest concerns are quality, manufacturer reputation, and capacity. We made sure to pick out models that we know you can trust to carry a good amount of cargo without crumpling under the weight. After that, we had the freedom to consider additional details such as pricing, make and model, and other useful features that help them better suit the needs of different consumers. We went through a long list of hitch-mounted cargo carriers and removed many from consideration until we came up with the list you see above.

Our product selections, rankings, and awards for this story are based on research. While we haven’t conducted real-world testing yet on all of these products yet, we’ve looked at consumer testimonials and data, tutorials, and general discussions on social media and in forums. We also consider price and specification in the context of the segment. And, of course, we rely on our institutional knowledge of the automotive landscape to weed out weak products.

Buying Guide/What to Look For 

Say you need something different than the options we’ve highlighted. No problem. There are some details that we considered that you’ll also want to take into account for. That’s why we’ve put together a quick buying guide for you below where we’ll walk you through everything that you need to know to make sure that you pick out a high-quality product that truly meets your demands.

Do You Need a Hitch-Mounted Cargo Carrier?

If you have a trailer hitch on your vehicle and routinely need more storage, it only makes sense to add a cargo carrier to your arsenal. You might not get the room of a pickup truck’s bed, but you add enough space for coolers, small dirt bikes, hunted animals, and other supplies when camping, on vacation, or during a move.

You can argue that unoccupied seats provide the same amount of room, and that is true. But what if you’re taking the family? You can load everything up on the cargo carrier and leave more than enough breathing room for the kids and dog. And as a bonus, you won’t have to worry about sharp corners tearing up the upholstery.

  • It’s a quick way to add more storage space to your vehicle
  • Frees up more cabin room for passengers during trips and keeps cargo from damaging the upholstery 
  • It supports more weight than a roof rack

What to Consider When Buying Hitch-Mounted Cargo Carriers

Thankfully, there’s not a lot to cargo carrier designs, as it’s a relatively simple construction. And as we said, you don’t have to look at much to determine if you’re picking out a good unit. Still, there are a few details you need to make sure you read into.

Receiver Hitch Size

The first thing you need to make sure of is that the cargo carrier will work with the receiver hitch on your vehicle. You determine this by verifying the shank size matches your receiver. Receiver hitches on cars typically have either a 1 1/4 or 2-inch receiver. If you’re not sure what you have, simply take a measuring tape out and find the size of the opening.

If you find a cargo carrier with a 2-inch shank, you can still use it for a 1 1/4-inch receiver with an adapter. However, this will reduce the tongue weight capacity by about 50 percent. So, you need to make sure that the weight of the cargo carrier and cargo doesn’t exceed that threshold. We say it’s worth upgrading your hitch because of this limitation.

Dimensions

Overall dimensions are an incredibly important detail as well. For one, it determines how much room you have for cargo. Obviously, you want to make sure you pick a cargo carrier that has enough surface area to carry what you need it to.

Also, keep in mind that the size of the cargo carrier is adding length to your vehicle. That usually isn’t more than two feet, but it’s something you will need to be aware of in traffic. You also want to make sure you pick a cargo carrier that’s any wider than your vehicle, or that’s wide enough to obscure your taillights. 

Weight Capacity

Most hitch-mounted cargo carriers will have the ability to support about 400-500 pounds, which is more than enough for most situations. Still, weight quickly adds up as you start piling coolers and luggage on top of each other. So, you need to make sure you pick a sturdy enough cargo carrier for your situation.

As a rule of thumb, it’s better to play it safe and get a carrier that can support more than you think you’ll need. Even then, you need to be mindful of what you use it to carry, as overloading the carrier can lead to serious consequences.

Expert Tips On Hitch-Mounted Cargo Carriers

Before we close shop for the buying guide, let’s leave you with a few pointers on trailer cargo hitches. These are tips you can apply after your purchase to make sure you don’t run into any hiccups down the road.

Weight Distribution Has a Caveat

As we said when we spoke about hitch adapters, you need to consider hitch tongue weight capacity. Just because the cargo carrier can support up to 500 pounds does not mean you can safely load it up to that weight. Make sure you know what the hitch can support to prevent overloading it. Too much weight can damage the hitch and possibly even your vehicle’s frame.

Invest in a Cover

A hitch-mounted cargo carrier places your belongings outside of the vehicle. That means whatever is back there is subject to the elements. A cargo carrier cover is a simple upgrade you can make to ensure your belongings are safe. Trust us — rain, dust, and road debris won’t show any mercy while you’re driving.

Invest in a Hitch Lock

You do need a hitch pin to attach your cargo carrier, and the one you already have will work just fine. Still, we recommend investing in a locking-type pin, as it does slightly boost security. It won’t do anything to protect what’s on the carrier, but it does ensure the carrier isn’t going anywhere you don’t want it to.  

FAQs 

All right, we know you have a few questions of your own. We just can't hear them. We can do the next best thing and answer some of the most commonly asked questions about hitch cargo carriers we've found on the internet!  

Q. Are hitch-mounted cargo carriers safe?

Yes, cargo carriers are safe but only if used properly. So long as you don't overload them and secure your belongings properly, you shouldn't have any issues. Again, it's essential to be mindful of the receiver hitch's maximum capacity as you load it up to avoid problems.

Q. Do hitch-mounted cargo carriers need lights?

 If your cargo obscures your vehicle's tail lights and reverse lights, it will need lighting. However, you shouldn't run into this issue if you pick the right size for your application and avoid placing gear back there that adds a substantial height to the carrier.

Q. How fast can you drive with a hitch-mounted cargo carrier?

For most situations, you can drive up to any speed limit with any hitch cargo carrier attached. That doesn't mean it's always safe, though. It would be best if you always drove with caution whenever you have one attached. Of course, you should always make sure your cargo is secured correctly, but driving aggressively can cause the cargo to shift unexpectedly, creating serious problems for you and other drivers.

Q. Are hitch-mounted cargo carriers legal?

Yes, cargo carriers are legal. You just need to make sure you do your part to ensure that they are safe. Always make sure everything is properly secured and that you're not obscuring your taillights. If you don't and an accident is caused because of it, you will be held accountable.

Q. Can you put a bike rack on a cargo carrier?

That depends on the model you have to work with. Some cargo carriers will allow you to attach a bike rack so long as they don't have raised sides that will interfere with installation. There are those that come ready for bikes out of the gate, such as the Tow Tuff TTF-2762KR Steel Cargo Carrier with Bike Rack.

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