Can You Put A Bike Rack On A Leased Car?

When leasing a car you want to avoid added expenses other than the necessary monthly payments. 

A major drawback of leasing a car is the potential end-of-lease costs that would result from any alterations, damage, wear or tear. 

These costs may make a person leasing a vehicle shy away from a modification such as a bike rack installation.

So what happens if a biking enthusiast or bike owner would like, say, to put a bike rack on the vehicle during the leasing period? An immediate instinct would be to decide that it is completely out of the question. 

However, hope is not lost. 

There is actually a solution that will ensure that both parties are satisfied. That is, the leasing company will get their car back as it was and you can enjoy the freedom of a bike rack while still holding the other end of your bargain. 

Can you put a bike rack on a leased car?

1. Check the lease agreement 

The first step would be to read the lease document. The car lease agreement is a legal contract that stipulates the terms and conditions of the lease including the restrictions. 

The leasing company might actually not approve of the installation. This is because the company owns the vehicles and is in the business of selling and reselling them to potential owners. 

Therefore, the company would like the vehicle non-modified for the next user and it would be a violation of the agreement to modify it.  The penalty for modifying a leased car is paying out cash and possibly losing the security deposit.

If the lease agreement is on board with installing the bike rack, then it is time to notify the dealership. Remember that the car is actually a lease and is not completely yours! The dealership will usually not have an issue with installing the bike rack as long as the installation is reversible with minimal damage. 

By notifying them, you avoid the possibility of a penalty. You cannot go without notifying the dealership because it is highly likely that they will notice a change or blame any mechanical failures or differences in the vehicle on a modification.

2. Check the state laws

It is also important to check whether or not your state has passed legislation regarding bike racks on vehicles.  Some states have issues with bike racks such as 

  • Not securing the bike rack properly.
  • Bike racks hiding the car’s license plates which may promote crime.
  • Bike racks hiding the backlights.

If a bike rack is illegal, then do not proceed with the installation. If it is not, there are still guidelines to be followed. For instance, many cities require that bike racks be installed at least 18 inches away from the vehicle’s front end to avoid affecting the driver’s ability to see out the windshield. These rules also limit how far the bike rack can go from the bumper.

States can vary in how they treat racks and license plates.

For instance, most states require that license plates and taillights be visible to other drivers while on the road. 

Virginia state law is explicit in the fact that it is illegal to obscure a license plate with a hitch, let alone with anything else. (VA code 46.2-716). Utah state law is the converse, license plates can be obscured by a trailer hitch, a wheelchair lift, a trailer, a bike rack, or any other cargo carrying device, as long as the installation is done properly. 

In Michigan, the law was amended to allow bike racks to block license plates.  Ensure you are conversant with all the laws in the state and act accordingly even when navigating movement from state to state.

How to find a perfect rack if the lease agreement allows 

Now that permission is out of the way, how do you find a suitable bike rack that will ensure the leased vehicle remains in good condition?

Note that not all bike racks will be suitable for all vehicles or for all people. 

There are four primary types of bike rack mounting systems:

  • trunk mount
  • roof mount
  • hitch mount
  • spare tire mount. 

1. Trunk mounted

Trunk-mounted racks are light, highly portable, and easy to mount and take off which is the best-case scenario for a leased vehicle. However, they are often limited in their load capacity. 

2. Roof mounted

Roof mount racks provide easy access to the trunk but are inconvenient for taller vehicles. If extra precaution is not taken with a roof rack during installation, removal, or driving, there will definitely be scratches. 

3. Hitch mounted

Hitch mount racks cost more however their sturdiness makes them a worthwhile investment. They are a great option for frequent users and users looking to carry more than three bikes.

4, Spare tire mount

The spare tire mounts are easy to install however extra care is needed while reversing or moving through tight spaces to avoid damage. Furthermore, spare-tire mounts only work if there’s a spare-tire bracket on the back of your vehicle. Most of these mounts have a two-bike limit, so if you need to carry more bikes, you may want to consider a different type of rack.

Some bike racks that come highly recommended include the SeaSucker Hornet Bike Rack. SeaSucker uses vacuum cups that can attach to the rear hatch glass or body. SeaSucker bike racks are very popular among leases and rentals because they have very little contact with the vehicle hence less damage and they are easily installed and removed.

For a traditional trunk mount bike rack, the Yakima FullBack 2 Bike Rack is a great choice because it only uses 4 straps instead of 6. This limits the contact with the vehicle and the narrow adjustable arms make it easy to load different bikes. 

You might be surprised to find out that some companies offer bike racks for rentals. Rental car companies that offer bike racks include Avis Rent a Car, Budget Rent a Car, Rent-A-Wreck, and Turo. Bike rack availability varies depending on the location you are renting from. Other rental car companies like Alamo Rent a Car and Enterprise Rent-A-Car allow you to use your own bike rack. If you choose to go this route, ensure the bike rack is compatible with the vehicle, and take note that you will be responsible for any damage your bike rack may cause to the leased vehicle.

Now, assuming you have the green light on the entire process and you install your compatible bike rack. With proper care, the damage will be minimized but still not eliminated completely. 

How bike racks affects rented cars

Bike racks affect vehicles in the following ways:

  1. The weight of the Bike rack

The weight of the new accessory in the car will affect the center of gravity, which affects the vehicle’s balance. It reduces the ability of your car to handle winding roads. The extra weight also damages the body panel and paint of the vehicle where it rests.

  1. Blocking the rearview window.

When the mounted bike rack fitted at the back, it obscures the blind-spot visibility. Bicycles could also hold on something at the end or get hit by side objects, the shaking or the swings caused by the sudden movement may result in fatal damage to the vehicle.

  1. Mounting the bike on the rack

Placing the bike on the rack onto a tall vehicle can be a tough challenge increasing the risk of mishandling resulting in scratches on the vehicle’s surface, body and other possible damages. The bike rack may not be compatible with the bicycle, and if adapters are not used, the banging of the bike is common, causing the denting of your car. Sturdy foam pads create a soft, protective barrier to avoid denting and scratching the vehicle’s finish.

  1. Straps failure

The straps might become loose, wear out or snap, resulting in the bike banging onto the vehicle’s body panel. Paint is scratched from the car’s body by the bicycle in such cases. The rack’s bike might sway or shift while driving and dent the car.

  1. Increase in height and length of your car

A bike rack mounted on the spare tire or trunk increases your vehicle’s overall length and causes difficulty of maneuvering and backing up in enclosed spaces. The roof-mounted bike racks increase the risk of damage, especially during packing in garages and structures with low ceilings.

  1. Cleaning with the Bike rack

The bike rack creates damage to your car during cleaning and may trap a lot of dust, spillage oil bike oils making it hard to clean. It is vital to remove the bike rack before cleaning. To avoid scratches or dents when installing the bike rack, properly clean the surface of the vehicle where the bike rack will be mounted and clean the pads of the bike rack that will be in contact with the vehicle and voila! Take extra precaution when removing it as well.

While quality racks are less likely to damage or dent vehicles, it is still not advisable to go distances that are too long or bumpy since it will downgrade your gas mileage. 

Driving too fast is also not recommended when bikes are attached. After installing your bike on a rack, start out by driving slowly and gradually increasing speed. 

In the event that a bike rack is not a solution to your bike transporting needs due to various factors, do not give up! You can always take the bike apart to transport it easily or get a folding bike. Another solution is to rent a bigger vehicle or if you want to go cheaper, just rent a bicycle at you intended destination. 

Final thoughts.

For some people with a long lease, temporary modifications for a leased car might make sense. However, for the most part, modifying a leased vehicle is not necessarily a good idea, since you will not be able to keep your investment long-term and you might also decide to terminate the lease for one reason or the other.  The best option especially if you invest heavily into the bike racks is to buy the car at the end of the leasing period.  If you do not intend to buy the vehicle, make sure to remove it before return as per the leasing agreement.

Nonetheless, if it is truly your heart’s desire and you have the green light to proceed without fully committing to buying the vehicle, then by all means go ahead!

The brief answer to your question then, is yes, you can put a bike rack on a leased car. Just notify the leasing company, pick the best and most suitable rack, and most importantly, take good care of the car in the long run. 

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