Are Hitch Cargo Carriers Legal Or Not – Must Find Out!

Last Updated on June 19, 2023 by Will Sabel

Being ignorant about the road law when using the hitch-mounted cargo carrier, believe it or not, it can cause you a jail penalty due to breaking rules.

One such rule to know about is on cargo carriers. Are hitch cargo carriers legal? Technically, using the cargo carrier on the hitch is not illegal. But a few things can make it illegal. Such as:

  • Cargo carrier falling during the ride.
  • Blocking the license nameplate.
  • Hiding the tail lights.

Curious why these reasons make it illegal? Well, obviously you are as there’s no proper explanation of why these are illegal in some states including the US. 

So, we will give you a full insight into the reasons and tricks to avoid such law issues.

Let’s get into the topic!

Are Hitch Cargo Carriers Legal? Yes Or No!

Hitch cargo carriers

It’s clear that the cargo carriers are legitimate for road use. But, this gear can void the law if hiding the parts which need to be seen or if it contributes to causing harm to other drivers. Let us explain it further:

Weighty Cargo Carrier Can Fall From Hitch

Installing a cargo carrier that affects the TW (Tongue Weight) and CW (Cargo Carrier Weight) capability is not normal. This can cause more harm to the cargo carrier’s weight.

So, are cargo carriers legal even if they seem overweight? There’s nowhere you’ll find a rule which says the bulky hitch cargo carrier is voiding the law.

But, this can verily cause issues like collapsing or falling to the ground when driving. And, this can risk the lives of other drivers who are right behind you.

Solution: We would suggest you grab a lightweight cargo carrier that suits the tongue weight so that you won’t cause issues due to bulkiness and avoid causing harm to other drivers.

Improper Size Of Cargo Carrier Block The License Nameplate

The wrong hitch cargo carrier sizes can cause the hitch cargo carrier license plate to be covered. It is a big issue as the nameplate needs to be seen from afar.

Some states have no issue with the license plate hidden but most would stop you and can charge you due to this behavior.

Solution: One way is to relocate the license plate so that the cargo carrier on the hitch doesn’t cover it. Or, you can hang the plate on the front surface with a zip or steel tie strap.

Hides The Taillights Due To Large Load

If you tend to carry big loads that fully cover the back area of your car, then using the cargo carrier on a hitch is not legal.

It’s due to the hiding of the taillights which need to be seen for the driver’s protection in the dark or night period. This as well helps a lot to prevent mishaps.

FYI, the taillights help other drivers to see your truck to notify the existence of the truck in dark hours. Police will stop and charge you due to violating the law openly during the ride.

Solution: Adding extra (more than 2) taillights on top of the cargo carrier might solve the illegal issue. It might need adjusting the running light circuit and ground wire on the connector.

Some Key Information At a Glance

While they are legal to use on public roads, keep these essential points in mind:

  1. Different sizes of carriers are available; choose based on your requirements.
  2. Follow specific state regulations, ensuring license plates are visible and considering vehicle turning radius.
  3. Ensure carriers are secured using straps and tie-downs for safety.
  4. Be mindful of legal extension limits, typically 18-24 inches.
  5. Always check weight limits depending on the car’s hitch, the carrier, and the vehicle type.
  6. Specialized carriers with rod holders and dual carriers offer additional functionality.
  7. Secure shaky carriers or bike racks with Anti-Rattle Hitch Tighteners or proper installation and weight distribution.
  8. Most carriers are designed for rear hitches, but some can be used on front hitches. Keep license plates visible when using a front hitch.
  9. Avoid towing with a hitch cargo carrier attached. Use a Multi-Use Trailer Ball Mount for simultaneous towing and cargo carrier use.
  10. Hitch cargo carriers usually weigh between 30-70 pounds and have weight limits ranging from 125-250 pounds.

Always check state-specific regulations when using hitch cargo carriers across states.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a hitch cargo carrier on a rental car?

It’s not recommended as some rental companies have restrictions on the use of cargo carriers. You have to consult with the rental company to ensure.

Can I use a hitch cargo carrier on the highway?

It’s legal to use hitch cargo carriers on highways as long as they fulfill all the requirements.

Overall Thoughts

Following simple rules can save your $150 – $5,000 charges and relieve everyone from facing accidents. As you’ve gone through this guide, hopefully now you have a good understanding of the limitations of hitch cargo carriers and can guess if it’s legal or not.

The given solutions will help you to make this part legal for road applications. Keep these in your mind! Also, be sure to spend on taillights and license plate adjustment via an expert.

Hopefully, this guide is helpful in terms of making you follow the law to ride without catching any police negative attention.  Good Luck!

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Author: Will Sabel

Will Sabel is an avid car enthusiast. When he's not writing for RidersWant, you'll find him cruising the country in a new car. People are always wondering how many cars he has!

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