Roof boxes are great for increasing your car’s load-lugging ability, but they’d be so much better if they weren’t so high up. Imagine not having to stretch to install, remove, fill and unload them.
And wouldn’t it be a bonus if your fully laden car didn’t suffer increased wind noise, reduced economy, and problems with height-restricted car parks? Fortunately, towbar-mounted rear racks and boxes are a good alternative. Most models tilt to allow boot or hatchback access, while prices are dropping as more brands enter the market.
So is it time to ditch roof bars and boxes? We loaded eight towbar units to find out.
How we tested them
All vehicles have a limit their tow bars can support. So while a box’s capacity and max loading limit are important, so is its weight; the lower the better, to allow more cargo. As most systems are built around a plain, or cycle, rack, we also appraised each product for its versatility.
Easily stored systems accumulated extra points and so did ease of use, security for the set-up and its contents, and the availability of a light board if the system obscures the vehicle’s rear lamps. The final factor we considered was the price of the products from online sources.
Bak-rak’s winning dual-purpose Bike-rak comes at an unbeatable price. Modula’s ReCargo is bigger and has a higher price, but is more user-friendly. Buzz Rack’s Platform is a great alternative to a small trailer.
- 1. Bak-rak Bike-rak with Lightweight Box
- 2. Modula ReCargo Towbar Travel Box
- 3. Buzz Rack Multi-Purpose Tow Ball Platform
Bak-rak Bike-rak with Lightweight Box
Price: around £178
Capacity: 185 litres
With a 60kg load limit and weighing 10kg, this system is perfectly suited to the average car, where the towbar will probably have a load limit of 70 to 80kg. It’s very versatile, too. Create a four-bike carrier by unbolting the box and repositioning the crossbar and two supports through the top of the upright. The box can also be replaced by an optional tray (£29), allowing rack duties. Bak-rak has kept weight down by keeping things simple, but that means the bike-retaining system and towball coupling are less slick than some here.
Modula ReCargo Towbar Travel Box
Price: around £459.99
Capacity: 400 litres
Modula’s ReCargo is the second-biggest box in this test and comes complete with rear lights and a number-plate holder. Security is offered by locks on the towbar coupling, box lid, and removable upright. With the box removed and the upright fitted, the large rack is well suited to transporting items that cannot go in the crate. A dedicated cycle rack is also available as an option. Although we like the simple lever-operated towball coupling, the combined rack and box weight is heavy, at 32kg. That means a very high towbar limit is needed to make use of the box’s 75kg maximum load capacity.
Buzz Rack Multi-Purpose Tow Ball Platform
Probably the most versatile product available. Thanks to an adjustable back bar, the rack’s front-to-back depth can be extended to almost 60cm. The horizontal bars on the upright section are adjustable vertically or laterally, and they can point up, down and forwards as required. Four two-piece straps, which use pull-through couplings and eight rack-mounted eyelets, make it easy to lash items securely to the platform, while the 75kg maximum load and the unit’s low 12.5kg weight maximise the rack’s carrying ability. The unit also packs down rapidly to an easily stored 104 x 63 x 25cm pile.
Bak-rak G4 Base-rak with Large Ultra Heavy Duty Plastic Box
Price: around £479
Capacity: 450 litres
Underpinned by Bak-rak’s bombproof stainless steel G4 Base-rak, this system’s hefty 120kg maximum load – and usefully low 14kg weight – make the product
a serious contender for vehicles with a high towbar capacity. The box is made from tough high-density polyethylene and has a steel frame. It’s easy
to load, too, thanks to a removable lid. Unbolt the box and the rack comes into its own: many roof bar cycle racks can be placed on it laterally, while optional extender bars are available that allow for simultaneous box and bike transportation. Other Bak-rak extras include a tough tray and rear uprights in various heights.
Ginnell Fibreglass Products Dog Box
Price: around 350 Euros (£306 approx)
Capacity: 306 litres
In Ireland, some of the working-dog fraternity transport their mud-caked canines in these boxes, rather than frequently cleaning out their car interiors. But specify a plain door rather than a vented one, and you’ll get a storage system that won’t have Fido quaking. The side door aids loading and unloading and makes it easy to use every cubic inch of the box. We like Bak-rak’s plated steel G3 rack underpinning the box, and the max 100kg loading. Less impressive is the 24kg unit weight and the fixed towbar coupling, which cannot be tilted to clear large bootlids.
Bak-rak Box-rak with Tumble Mount
Price: around £184
Capacity: 185 litres
Box-rak is normally Bak-rak’s entry-level system, but the Tumble Mount fitted here raises the price by £35. Not that the mount is usually necessary unless a vehicle’s tailgate is large and opens downwards, such as a pick-up’s; Bak-rak’s tiltable towball coupling clears most tailgates. The tumble mount simply hinges the box at the rear, too, providing full clearance. Otherwise, this product is essentially the same as our Best Buy, minus the natty integral bike rack and the useful upright. The max load of 60kg remains, the unit weight improves to 9kg while replacing the box with a large tray-cum-rack is still an option.
Westfalia BC60 Tilting Two-Bicycle Carrier with Box and Platform
Capacity: 200 litres
This is a slick design that begins as a folded two-cycle bike rack and measures just 64 x 59 x 20cm. Use the simple lever system to position the rack on the towball, and it takes seconds to unfold the bike supports and rear lightboard. Alternatively, you can slot either the storage box or the storage tray, on top instead. No tools are needed for fitting and the box even has wheels, should you want to mount it pre-loaded. The price is high for the modest capacity offered, and the rack and box weigh a portly 32.5kg, while the low 45kg maximum-box limit cost the Westfalia points.
Thule BackSpace XT
Price: around £839
Capacity: 300 litres
Another system that starts as a two-bike cycle carrier. Unlike Westfalia’s BC60, though, there isn’t a tray option; this is either a storage box or a bike carrier, or, with an optional extra, a box, and single bike carrier. The box is actually a tray with a tough flexible upper, which is great for storage because it shrinks down to 136 x 43 x 24cm. While its drysuit-style zips and velcro flaps are weather resistant, they are fiddly compared with a conventional lid. The Thule’s high price,
the 50kg maximum load and the 27.3kg unit weight are the main drawbacks.
TowBox BoX V2
Price: around £699
Capacity: 390 litres