The best and safest ways to carry bikes in the car

man putting bikes on car roof racks

Danny Baggs

Posted February 29, 2024

Many Victorians want to transport their bicycles on road trips or days out to enjoy new cycling routes. Here’s how to carry a bike in your car safely and legally.

Whether you’re checking out Melbourne’s best bike trails, trying a new regional bike ride or heading off on a family-friendly bike trail, cycling can be a great way to keep active and have fun. If you’re transporting your bicycle in your car, however, you need to make sure that it’s properly restrained.

Here are Victoria’s road rules on carrying bikes on your car, plus the top four ways to safely carry your bike in the car. Make sure to read up on protecting your bike from theft and how to properly lock your bike to keep your bicycle safe after your drive too.

Before you head off on a road trip with your bike, ensure that you have packed an emergency car safety kit and check that your Emergency Roadside Assistance coverage is adequate and up-to-date. 

How to lock your bike to prevent theft | RACV

How to legally transport bicycles in the car

Victorian road rules on transporting bikes

It’s important to follow each state’s road rules when transporting bikes in or on your car. In Victoria, there are three main things to keep in mind.

Number plates

Certain bicycle racks fitted to the rear of your vehicle could obscure your number plate, which is illegal. Your vehicle’s rear number plate must be clearly visible up to 20 metres at any angle within a 90-degree horizontal arc and a 45-degree vertical arc.

Luckily, you can obtain a legal bicycle rack number plate from VicRoads. This can be fitted to the rear of your bicycle mount. Make sure this plate is visible at night with sufficient lighting.

Vehicle rear visibility

Bicycle racks must not obscure your vehicle’s indicators, brake lights, taillights, or parking lights. Make sure you position your bicycles and rack to provide the best visibility for drivers behind your car.

If you can’t avoid obstructing lights, then you must fit a pair of red lights visible for 200 metres behind your vehicle to the rear of your bicycle rack.

You must also move and clearly display any obstructed Probationary or Learner’s plates.

Weight and dimensions

Your bicycle rack may not carry more than the number of bicycles it was designed to hold. The combined weight of your bicycle rack/s and bicycle/s attached the vehicle, as well as other loads (including passengers), must not exceed your vehicle’s gross mass. You must also not exceed the maximum weight limit for any bike rack or vehicle towbar.

Attaching a bicycle rack must not extend beyond the legal dimensions of a vehicle, which is 4.3 metres high and 2.5 metres wide. It also can’t protrude more than 150 millimetres from the outermost side of either side of the vehicle.

In addition, a rear bicycle rack cannot exceed rear overhang limits, which is 3.7 metres or 60 per cent of the wheelbase (whichever is less). It also should not protrude more than 1.2 metres beyond the rear of the vehicle, although this is permissible if you attach a warning signal. The warning signal should be brightly coloured material with each side at least 130 millimetres long during the day, and a red light visible from 200 metres during the night.

Finally, you must minimise the likelihood of injury to any person making contact with your vehicle. Cover any sharp pieces of metal and surround number plates with rubber or plastic.

father and child putting bikes into car boot

Packing the bikes in the car for a cycling day should be both fun and safe. Image: Getty

In the car boot

The simplest way to transport your bike is to store it in your car’s boot. A standard-size bike can fit on its side in most car boots with its wheels removed. In larger sedans and SUVs, you may only have to remove the front wheel, or not have to remove a wheel at all.

This can be a very convenient way to transport your bicycle, since it doesn’t require any expensive racks, doesn’t block your car’s sensors and cameras, and doesn’t require a difference to the way you park. It also keeps your bike safe from the elements. Opportunistic bike thieves may even be deterred from poaching bikes kept inside locked-up cars.

That said, storing your bike in the car boot limits luggage space if you have other gear. It can also get your boot dirty, and your bike could scrape your car interiors. Most importantly, it may move or slide in the event of a sudden change in direction or a harsh brake. To remedy this, properly restrain your bike and wheels – a simple octopus/bungee tie-down strap works well. You can also use blankets, tarps or towels to protect both your bike and the car during the drive.


cyclist loading her bike into her car boot

Use blankets, towels or tarps to protect your bike and boot. Image: Getty

Roof racks for bikes

Car roof racks are a common way to transport bikes. There’s a wide variety available, but whichever roof rack you choose, make sure it’s specifically designed to secure bicycles. You should also ensure that you can safely lift the bikes onto the roof of your car before you purchase a rack. Most bike roof racks fit two bikes with the front wheels removed.

Keep in mind that having bikes on top of your car can affect vehicle handling on winding roads or in windy weather. Extra care will also be needed when entering restricted-height areas like garages, tunnels, and areas with low-hanging branches

two bikes secured to bike roof racks on car

Bike roof racks are a secure way to transport bicycles. Image: Getty

Rear car mount for bikes

Boot-mounted bike rack

A boot-mounted bike rack attaches your bike to the boot with straps. This option is cheap, easy to get bikes on and off, and compatible with most vehicles. Boot-mounted bike racks also shouldn’t block any car cameras or sensors.

You will need a good bike lock, however, since this bike transport option provides the easiest access to your bikes. Most models don’t allow for easy access to your boot, and you will also need a bit more parking space. If not properly mounted and secured, your bike could get damaged and scratch your car’s paintwork.


man securing his bike to his rear car mount

Tow-mounted bike racks are secure and simple to use. Image: Getty

Tow bar-mounted bike rack

If your vehicle has a tow ball, you can use a tow-mounted bike rack. This is often the safest and easiest way to carry more than one bike in your car, with some models fitting up to six bikes.

Tow-mounted bike racks are easy to get bikes on and off, and most models don’t hinder access to your boot. Their more sophisticated locking systems better protect your bikes from theft, and there’s very little risk of damage to your car or bikes.

Of course, you’ll need to have a car set up for towing, which many smaller cars aren’t. Tow-mounted bike racks also tend to be more expensive, heavy and bulky than other bike mounts. Keep in mind that you will need more parking space, and that the rack may block some car sensors.

If you are ordering a new vehicle and know you will be regularly carrying bikes, it may be a good idea to add a tow kit to your order so it can be professionally installed by the dealership before you pick up the car.

RACV Emergency Roadside Assistance is available to help 24/7.
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