Extend your vehicle’s capacity with the best hitch cargo carrier. Not only will you free up valuable space inside, you’ll also be able to transport larger and bulkier objects for your next camping trip with ease.
Here’s how to choose the best model for your vehicle and make packing for your next getaway a much smoother process.
- 1 Best Hitch Cargo Carrier
- 1.1 CURT Basket Hitch Cargo Carrier
- 1.2 Reese Explore ProSeries Rambler
- 1.3 ROLA Vortex Steel Hitch-Mount Cargo Carrier
- 1.4 MaxxHaul Hitch Mount Compact Cargo Carrier
- 1.5 CURT Tray Hitch Cargo Carrier
- 1.6 Mockins Steel Cargo Basket
- 1.7 Erickson Cargo Carrier with Sides
- 1.8 CURT Aluminum Hitch Cargo Carrier with Ramp
- 1.9 Stromberg Carlson Cargo Caddy
- 2 Buyer’s Guide to Buying the Best Hitch Cargo Carrier
- 3 Rooftop Vs Hitch Mount Cargo Carriers
- 4 Hitch Cargo Carrier vs Trailer
- 5 Hitch Cargo Carrier Accessories
- 6 Top Hitch Carriers Video
- 7 Final Thoughts
Best Hitch Cargo Carrier
Find the best hitch cargo carrier for your vehicle right here with our top-rated hitch cargo carrier reviews. Wherever you’re going exploring and whatever you need to pack, you’re sure to find your ideal model right here.
CURT Basket Hitch Cargo Carrier
The Basket Hitch Cargo Carrier by Curt, one of the leading USA towing equipment manufacturers, is one of the very best models on the market and our top pick if you are looking for a folding hitch cargo carrier. When it’s not in use, simply fold the shank up and out of the way, as long as you don’t have a rear-mounted tire that can hamper the folding action.
Not only does this model fold, it also benefits from an angled shank design to improve ground clearance if your vehicle is low to the ground or when driving over uneven ground or steep slopes. Its strong tubular steel construction has a generous 500-pound load capacity, while the black carbide powder-coated finish ensures maximum durability and weather resistance. You may, however, want to pick up some end caps to prevent water from getting into the open ends.
Thanks to its strong mesh base, it’s easy to clean, while the six-inch sides complete with built-in reflectors keep your items securely in place. Use it with a cargo bag, net, or bungees, this durable and robust hitch cargo carrier makes an all-around excellent choice and even comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
Reese Explore ProSeries Rambler
The Explore ProSeries Rambler by expert towing manufacturer Reece is one of the easiest models to assemble thanks to its two-piece construction. The strong steel bolts together in just minutes and boasts a generous 500-pound weight capacity.
Thanks to its raised shank design, this hitch cargo carrier has fairly good ground clearance, although not quite as much as Curt’s Basket Hitch Cargo Carrier. Otherwise, a lot of its other specifications are pretty similar, including 5.5” side rails and a 60-inch by 24-inch mesh base.
While this two-inch receiver model is also treated with a powder-coat weather-resistant finish, you’ll want to paint over the included hardware as the silver-colored bolts rust pretty quickly if left untreated. Also, bear in mind that no reflectors or reflective tape are included with this hitch cargo carrier, so you’ll need to pick some up before trying it out or risk getting run into.
All in all, this is a popular, robust model with a good weight capacity and a useful raised shank design, plus plenty of space for all of your bulky camping supplies. Bike clips and compatible light systems are available separately.
ROLA Vortex Steel Hitch-Mount Cargo Carrier
If you need a heavy-duty hitch cargo carrier, the Vortex 59502 by Rola is the one to go for. Its generous 600-pound weight capacity is 100 pounds more than most other comparable models and it fits all standard square two-inch receivers.
Made from strong, durable steel construction, complete with a powder coated finish, the Vortex has a long five-year limited warranty, testament to its high-quality, robust materials and design. Its five-inch high side rails give you unlimited attachment points and extra security for larger items, such as coolers, while the mesh base can easily accommodate several bikes with the separate Bike Mount Adapter Kit 59904.
Thanks to its rise shank design, you get improved ground clearance to clear gradients and uneven terrain on your next camping trip. Its raised position also means that less drag and noise is created as this hitch cargo carrier sits right behind in your vehicle’s slipstream
Assembly is easy, thanks to its two-piece construction, however, this is one heavy piece of kit weighing 73.6 pounds, so you may want to enlist an extra pair of hands to help fit it. While a hitch pin is included, bear in mind it is threaded, so this unit is not compatible with all replacement locking versions.
Complete with license plate attachment points and two reflectors, the Vortex 59502 is a good solid buy that is certainly robust enough to transport all of your camping equipment
MaxxHaul Hitch Mount Compact Cargo Carrier
The Hitch Mount Compact Cargo Carrier by MaxxHaul is a great purchase if you are looking for a lightweight model that is also easy on your wallet. Weighing just 25 pounds, it is less than half the weight of a lot of other hitch cargo carriers with a similar 500-pound weight capacity – ideal if you will be putting it on and taking it off alone.
Made with durable powder-coated steel, this model features five-inch side rails for extra security and unlimited attachment points to keep all your camping gear safely onboard. The base measures 53 inches by 19 inches, making it more compact than your average 23 or 24 inch models, sticking out less behind your vehicle with 6.5 inches between the pin hole and the carrier edge.
While this is a great value for money buy complete with built-in reflectors, it is less suitable for low-rise vehicles having a straight, no-rise shank. So, if your vehicle already sits low to the ground, you may struggle to get adequate clearance on steep driveways and over speed bumps. Assembly is relatively easy, although the instructions could do with some improvements.
On the whole, a good buy for the money, this lightweight hitch cargo carrier is easy to install without a second person helping and fits standard two by-two-inch hitch receivers.
CURT Tray Hitch Cargo Carrier
If you are looking for a tray hitch cargo carrier, be sure to take a look at this model #18110 by Curt.
Thanks to its low sides, it’s ideal for fitting bulking camping supplies even with a slight overhang with its numerous mounting holes for your net or bungees. The strong mesh base adds extra security, preventing any slimmer items from slipping down.
Thanks to its angled shank, this tray hitch cargo carrier has good ground clearance, while the included adapter sleeve allows you to fit it on either a 1¼ inch or a two-inch receiver tube – ideal if you have two or more vehicles with different sized receivers. Its two-piece design makes it easy to assemble, while the carbide black powder coat finish ensures extra longevity.
Featuring a 300-pound weight capacity, this model is superior to most standard cars’ maximum tongue weight capacity and should provide more than enough space for all of your camping gear with its 48 by 20-inch base. While the hitch pin and clip are provided, bear in mind that the pin is threaded so it may not be compatible with any locking pins that you may already own. Also, you’ll need to pick up some reflectors or reflective tape before using.
Complete with a limited lifetime warranty, on the whole, this model is a good tray hitch cargo carrier for the money from one of the most experienced USA towing accessory brands.
Mockins Steel Cargo Basket
If you don’t already own any hitch cargo carrier accessories, you could save yourself time and money by purchasing this set from Mockins.
This comprehensive kit includes a 500-pound weight capacity steel cargo basket hitch carrier, a hitch stabilizer, waterproof cargo bag, and cargo net, so you’ll have plenty of options for safely securing all of your camping gear.
Thanks to its generous 500-pound weight capacity, this hitch cargo carrier can accommodate even very heavy items. It also features six-inch-high rails that provide unlimited attachment points and extra security. The large 60 by 20-inch base has a mesh bottom for an easy cleanup.
One of the main advantages of this model is that it can be folded when not in use, meaning you won’t have to take it off and put it back on when exploring after you’ve set up camp. However, note that the weatherproof finish could do with an extra layer, so if you are planning on leaving it attached to your vehicle for any amount of time, we recommend giving it an extra spray.
Compatible with all standard two-inch receivers, the manufacturer does not recommend this hitch cargo carrier for use with vehicles that have a rear-mounted spare tire as it will block the rear door.
Erickson Cargo Carrier with Sides
If you are looking for a hitch cargo carrier with high sides, check out this model by Erickson Manufacturing.
Featuring a 60 by 20 inch mesh base, the 18-inch high sides can be collapsed or removed, allowing you to transport a wider variety of camping equipment. Use it without the railing for large bulky items and tie them on via the attachment points or for firewood and various loose camping or fishing items, use it with the sides up.
This basket hitch cargo carrier fits standard two-inch receivers and has a generous 500-pound weight capacity. Assembly is fairly straightforward, taking around 20 minutes on average. At 55 pounds it is quite heavy, however, it is possible to install it without a second person present.
If you are thinking of purchasing this model, bear in mind that there are no reflectors included and you will also have to pick up a hitch pin before you can use it. What’s more, you may experience some corrosion problems depending on where you store it or how long it is left exposed to the elements on your vehicle. For this reason, we recommend giving it a quick spray with a corrosion-resistant, waterproof paint for metal to ensure a longer lifespan.
CURT Aluminum Hitch Cargo Carrier with Ramp
The Curt Aluminum Hitch Cargo Carrier with Ramp is an excellent choice for easily transporting heavy wheeled equipment for camping, such as your generator. Thanks to its three-position folding ramp complete with anti-slip ridges for easier loading and unloading, it’s very easy to use.
Made from lightweight yet durable aluminum, the hitch cargo carrier shank can also be folded up when not in use with the ramp folded down inside of it. This means you can leave your carrier on your vehicle once you’ve unloaded without it sticking out all vacation long.
With its large 50 by 30-inch base and generous 500-pound weight capacity, this hitch carrier is extremely useful. Easy to assemble with just eight bolts to fit, you can have it up and ready to go in less than 30 minutes. Compatible with standard two-by two-inch receivers, this model features six integrated eye-bolts for securing your load, plus built-in reflectors.
On the downside, any items with small wheels risk getting stuck in the gaps between the slats, so you may want to keep some plywood handy. Also, care is needed when loading heavy items as the aluminum ramp slats can bend if the weight is not adequately distributed.
However, for general ease of use and good value for money, this is a top-selling hitch cargo carrier with a ramp.
Stromberg Carlson Cargo Caddy
If you’re on a budget and looking for an inexpensive hitch cargo carrier, make sure you take a look at this model by Stomberg Carlson.
Despite its low price, this hitch cargo carrier has a high 500-pound weight capacity. Featuring short sides with numerous tie-down points, it’s easy to secure a wide variety of camping essentials, such as coolers, tents, and fuel.
If you are looking to take your bikes with you on your camping vacation, there is an additional bike rack accessory kit that can be purchased for use with this model allowing you to transport up to four bicycles. Thanks to its large 60 by 23-inch mesh base, you’ll have plenty of space, plus water and road grit will simply fall through the mesh for an easier cleanup.
Compatible with standard two-inch receivers, while this model does have a powder coated rust-resistant finish, it could do with some extra weatherproofing to ensure that it remains in good condition for longer. Assembly is not particularly difficult, however, the instructions could be clearer, for example it is not specified that the front and rear stitch plates are not symmetrical which can lead to mix ups.
While you do tend to get what you pay for, if you are looking for a cheap hitch cargo carrier, this model makes a good choice for the money.
Buyer’s Guide to Buying the Best Hitch Cargo Carrier
There’s a lot to bear in mind when choosing the best hitch cargo carrier for your vehicle. Here are the main essential features that you’ll want to focus on when making your selection.
Hitch cargo carriers are generally priced between $100-$500 depending on numerous variables including quality of construction, features, and ease of use. While it can make sense to purchase a cheap hitch cargo carrier, as the saying goes buy cheap, buy twice. So, before you decide on your budget, it’s best to take a couple of considerations into account.
First of all, how often will you be likely to use your hitch cargo carrier? Once or twice a year on vacation? Every weekend? If it’s the former, you may as well opt for an inexpensive model and replace as needed. Alternatively, if you are going to be using your hitch cargo carrier on a highly regular basis, it makes sense to pay more for a more durable model with improved user-friendly features such as a folding shank.
Secondly, calculate your anticipated average load. If you are going to be transporting over 150 pounds on a regular basis, then you would be better off spending more money on a more robust, higher-quality model. For the occasional short trip with a light load, you can get away with spending less.
Hitch cargo carriers are made from either steel or aluminum. While steel is generally preferable given its extra strength and durability, it is a lot heavier than aluminum, which can make your hitch cargo carrier more difficult to install without assistance from another person.
Aluminum, on the other hand, is much lighter but can be prone to bending if overloaded. Aside from opting for an aluminum version with steel reinforcements, we recommend choosing a steel hitch cargo carrier if you will be regularly transporting heavy loads and have no problem attaching and detaching your carrier.
If you need a lightweight hitch cargo carrier that you can easily detach and reattach alone, then an aluminum model will be your best option provided you won’t be regularly transporting heavy loads over long distances.
Folding or Fixed Shank Carriers
Folding shank carriers are a good option for regular use. While they cost more, they make driving and parking much easier with your empty hitch cargo carrier still attached – ideal for using your vehicle once you’ve set up camp.
However, for less regular use, a fixed shank carrier can be better value for money – simply detach it when it is not in use.
Most hitch cargo carriers have a carrying capacity of 300 pounds, with others capable of accommodating up to 600 pounds. While you may be tempted to go out and purchase a model with the highest capacity, take a few moments to first of all consider your average load as well as your vehicle’s tongue weight capacity.
If, for example, all of your camping gear weighs around 200 pounds, you probably won’t need to go for a model that can carry more than 300 pounds. Regardless of what you want to carry on your hitch cargo carrier, it is important to make sure that your vehicle can safely accommodate the weight – just because your carrier can take up to 500lbs, doesn’t necessarily mean that your vehicle’s hitch can!
Before making your purchase, check your vehicle’s tongue weight capacity. Once you have this figure, remember, you’ll need to deduct the weight of your hitch cargo carrier from this amount. The remainder is the maximum load you can safely transport on your hitch cargo carrier.
For example, if you have a Toyota RAV 4, the tongue weight capacity is 150 pounds. Minus your carrier’s weight, say you opt for a lightweight 25 pound model, and you have a 125 pound weight capacity.
Take a vehicle that is better suited to towing heavier weights and you’ll get a higher tongue weight capacity. A Ford Expedition, depending on the exact model, will have a tongue weight capacity of around 895 pounds – even when you take off 80 pounds for the carrier, you still have 815 pounds capacity, so you would purchase a carrier with a 600 pound weight capacity and load it up to the maximum limit.
Basically, it is pointless paying out more for a higher capacity carrier if your vehicle can’t take the extra weight, so always do the math before choosing your hitch cargo carrier.
It is important to choose a model with a base size that is best suited to your gear. If you have many bulky camping items, it can be helpful to group them together and measure just how much space you are going to need. To make it easier to decide between differently sized models, mark out the internal dimensions of the base and try loading your items into the area.
If you don’t purchase a model with a large enough base, you will struggle to get all of your items securely stowed on your carrier. Given the size of your carrier when packaged and the fact that most units require assembly, it is best to double-check the dimensions are right for your needs before ordering.
Aside from the dimensions of your hitch cargo carrier base, you’ll also need to consider whether you want to opt for a base with mesh or bars.
Bars are a good choice for large items; however, if you decide to pick up something smaller while you’re away, you can risk it slipping through. Mesh is a popular choice, keeping both large and small items securely onboard while allowing grit, debris, and precipitation to fall through the openings.
Type of Carrier
There are three main types of hitch cargo carrier. Let’s take a closer look at each type to help you find the best model for your needs
Basket hitch cargo carriers have raised sides to keep your luggage securely in place.
The exact height can vary considerably from model to model. Bear in mind that while high sides allow you to stack your gear, you will have to lift it up considerably higher to load and unload. Not something you want to be doing with a camping power generator, for example.
Some basket models have removable fencing. This can be really handy, allowing you to transform your basket hitch cargo carrier to a flat bed one, or to fill it up with firewood as a basket, then to remove the sides for rapid unloading.
Flat bed hitch cargo carriers are a good option for extra large items that have a low center of gravity. While they are pretty much flat, this type of carrier usually features a raised lip around the edge with several attachment points so you can secure your items to your carrier.
Flat bed models are best used with one or two large cargo bags that can be strapped down, rather than trying to tie on numerous individual small items.
If you are looking to transport your generator or a mobility scooter, for example, a hitch cargo carrier with a ramp makes an excellent choice, saving you from straining your arms and back.
While models with ramps are generally a lot more expensive, not only do they make it easier to load all of your camping equipment, they can also be useful for transporting large items of furniture and lawnmowers when you’re not heading off on vacation.
Most hitch cargo carriers can be used at the front of your vehicle, provided you have a suitable front receiver. Bear in mind that if your carrier has built-in red reflectors, you’ll want to conceal them and stick on some white ones or light-colored reflective tape.
Make sure that your license plate is visible and that your radiator and headlights are not obstructed by your carrier, or else you could risk overheating or an accident.
While locking mechanisms do not come as standard, you can easily pick up a locking hitch pin to secure your carrier to your vehicle. If you are transporting valuable items, you can fix them securely to your hitch cargo carrier with padlocks or bicycle locks for peace of mind, especially if you’ll be stopping off en route.
Unless you get a really tight fit, chances are your hitch cargo carrier will make some noise, especially when you hit the freeway. Keep noise levels down and headaches at bay with an anti-rattle hitch tightener.
Before you embark on a long journey with a new hitch cargo carrier, make sure you test it out first. If yours starts making a really annoying noise once you hit higher speeds, you’ll want to get it sorted out before you set off.
Ease of Use
Most hitch cargo carriers, once fully assembled, are very easy to use. Simply attach yours to your receiver and load it up. That said, there are a couple of extra features that improve usability.
For easier driving, look out for folding models and park with ease once you’ve unloaded. Slanted shank models also make for easier driving, especially if your vehicle’s receiver is low. Otherwise, you’ll risk catching your carrier on steep gradients and over uneven terrain.
Multiple attachment points can also make loading up your carrier securely a lot easier. While you’ll probably want to add on extra reflective tape, a model with in-built reflectors can be installed right out of the box without you having to go searching for tape before you can use it safely.
If you will be regularly attaching and removing your hitch cargo carrier, you may want to look out for a low weight model at around 25 pounds, as opposed to a 75 pound model.
Also, if your car has a low tongue weight rating, then you’ll want a very lightweight carrier so you can still transport a reasonable weight rather than having your carrier’s weight take up half of your maximum weight capacity.
On the other hand, if you are using a large tow vehicle and have opted for a folding model or intend to leave your hitch cargo carrier attached, a heavier model will give you a higher weight capacity and will also prove more durable, especially with frequent long trips.
As we mentioned earlier, your vehicle’s tongue weight rating will play an important role in helping you to decide which hitch cargo carrier to choose.
You can tell if your vehicle will be compatible with a certain carrier by checking out which hitch class it falls into and whether or not it is recommended for a specific carrier.
- Class I – approximate tongue weight capacity = 100-150lbs. Average receiver size = 1.25”.
- Class II – approximate tongue weight capacity = 200-350lbs. Average receiver size = 1.25”.
- Class III – approximate tongue weight capacity = 350-500lbs. Average receiver size = 2”.
- Class IV – approximate tongue weight capacity = 500lbs+. Average receiver size = 2”.
Classes I and II mostly include regular cars and less powerful crossovers, with classes III and IV consisting mainly of SUVs, trucks, higher performance crossovers, and vans.
Rooftop Vs Hitch Mount Cargo Carriers
Stuck deciding whether to go for a hitch mount cargo carrier or a rooftop carrier? Here are some of the main factors you need to be aware of when making up your mind.
Ease of installation
Without a doubt, it is much easier to install a hitch cargo carrier to your vehicle’s receiver, rather than trying to install a rooftop box, especially if you have to fit crossbars. If you have a heavy cargo carrier to install, you might want to ask for a hand installing it. With a large rooftop box, you’ll be much better off with two pairs of hands.
Ease of use
Loading and unloading a hitch cargo carrier is generally much easier, especially if you are loading heavy items as you won’t have to lift them so high off the ground. Most bulky items simply won’t fit inside a rooftop carrier, so if you want to transport tall or wide items, a hitch cargo carrier is your best bet.
As hitch cargo carriers stick out behind your vehicle they are at risk of blocking your lights, license plate, or exhaust. They can also increase the likelihood of you being rear-ended, unlike rooftop boxes.
However, you’ll need to pay extra attention to height restrictions when driving with a rooftop carrier.
Impact on driving performance
As hitch cargo carriers sit within the slipstream of your car they do not create a lot of drag, unlike rooftop carriers. However, you may find parking to be more difficult with a hitch cargo carrier attached, especially if you already drive a long vehicle.
If you are using a waterproof cargo bag on your hitch cargo carrier, you’ll get comparable levels of protection to using a rooftop carrier.
Hitch Cargo Carrier vs Trailer
If you’ve definitely ruled out a roof box, you may be stuck deciding whether to opt for a trailer or a hitch cargo carrier.
Cost – Trailers are much more expensive than hitch cargo carriers, if you can fit your camping gear on a hitch cargo carrier, you could save yourself hundreds of dollars.
Impact on driving – Driving with a trailer is a lot different from driving with a hitch cargo carrier. You’ll need plenty of practice before heading off with a trailer in tow, whereas provided you remember to add on a few extra feet to your vehicle’s length when making tight maneuvers, you’ll hardly notice the difference driving with a hitch cargo carrier.
Versatility – A trailer will allow you to transport a wider variety of different items, giving you greater versatility. However, for your average camping trip, you should be able to fit all of your gear on a standard cargo hitch carrier.
Capacity – When it comes down to capacity, trailers definitely have the edge, being able to accommodate much more than a hitch cargo carrier.
Maintenance – Trailers require much more maintenance than a hitch cargo carrier and when something needs fixing or replacing, it will generally cost much more. You will also need to regularly inspect your trailer and inflate and replace its tires as necessary.
Hitch Cargo Carrier Accessories
To make sure that your hitch cargo carrier is ready for use from day one, you’ll want to check out the following list of essential and not so essential hitch cargo carrier accessories.
Vehicles with 1 ¼” receivers will need an adapter unless you are looking at purchasing a model specifically designed for use with smaller receivers.
Believe it or not, not all models come with a hitch pin. Double-check before you order, or better still, order yourself a locking hitch pin and protect your equipment and carrier from opportunist thieves.
Will your license plate be obscured by your fully-loaded hitch cargo carrier? If so, make sure that you opt for a model with space for your plate or pick up some tag brackets.
While slanted hitch cargo carriers are less likely to obscure your rear lights, if you are going to be driving down unlit roads, investing in a light kit for your hitch cargo carrier will help to keep you clearly visible and safer, both when driving at night and braking in traffic.
Bungee Cords, Ratchet Straps and Cargo Nets
Bungee cords are always handy to have around and an extra set can help you to secure your equipment to your hitch cargo carrier.
If you are transporting a heavy item or a large cargo bag, you may want to invest in some heavy duty ratchet straps to prevent any movement and keep your goods securely attached to your carrier.
For multiple items, use a cargo net to prevent any of your items from falling by the wayside should they work their way loose.
A loose-fitting hitch will disturb you with its rattling noise. Hitch tighteners are an inexpensive way to prevent these sounds and ensure a smoother drive by creating a nice tight fit between your receiver and your hitch cargo carrier.
Essential if your hitch cargo carrier doesn’t come with any built-in reflectors and recommended even if it does, reflective tape or stickers can help to make your carrier more visible to other road users and prevent you from being rear-ended.
Top Hitch Carriers Video
Easy to use and a highly convenient way to free up space inside your vehicle, hitch cargo carriers are an excellent way to transport all of your camping gear.
If you are still undecided which is the best hitch cargo carrier for your needs, take a second look at the Curt Basket Hitch Cargo Carrier. This folding model has a high 500-pound capacity, complete with an angled shank for superior ground clearance. With its strong, durable construction, six-inch sides, and robust mesh base, little wonder it’s a top selling model.
Alternatively, if you are looking for an inexpensive hitch cargo carrier for infrequent use, the Cargo Caddy by Stromberg Carlson is a good budget choice thanks to its large 60 by 23-inch mesh base, complete with a 500lb weight capacity, and numerous tie-down attachment points.