Installing hitch on Subaru Outback

I’m planning to install a hitch on a 2006 Outback XT. Would appreciate recommendations re brands (Hidden Hitch, Draw Tite, etc.), 1.25" vs. 2" receiver, and whether dealing with the dual exhaust, etc. to install the hitch is realistic for a reasonably competent handyperson. I realize that the 2" receiver won’t increase the vehicle’s towing capacity, but would it increase options and flexibility for towbars, bike racks, etc.?

The older Outback . . .
. . . had a 1 1/4" reciever. You might take a look at one of 'em to see how they did it.

I’ve installed two…
hitches, but neither on a Subaru.

What I have learned from one DrawTite, and one Hidden Hitch, is that they make them to fit your specific vehicle very well.

Just bolt them on.

In the Mitsubishi experience, two existing bolts had to be removed before mounting.

As far as hitch bar size, check out what’s available for your car. 2" may not be an option. I looked into getting a hitch for a front wheel drive vehicle I own, and only the smaller was available.

If it is, check out the accessories you want to add to it, and see which makes more sense.

Good luck,


best price
I got, believe it or not, was from U haul!

The hitch was specific for my car (Ford Focus). No electrical was done, the hitch was specifically installed for my bike rack.

Yes, 4 bikes on the back, 3 boats on the roof.

No, I no longer get 33 mph like that.

But we do resemble the Beverley Hillbillies when headed off for outdoor fun.

Also unless you find something really unusual, receiver size seems to be related to towing capacity. I couldn’t find any 2" hitches for my car, only 1.25".

Hiches and Bike Racks
I’d check with your Subaru dealer WRT which type hitch will best fit your car then check JC Whitney, Pep Boys, etc for generic brand.

WRT bike rack, I got a rack for my SUV from Harbor Freight for $30.00 Carries two bike, will fold down even while attached to the hitch and is adaptable to both 1-1/4 and 2 inch hitches.

2nd hitch from U haul
When I put a hitch on a past vehicle the U haul hitch was much cheaper than the Dealer.


I had…
an 05 Outback with a hitch,and you find it hard to find a 2" reciever for them. Hitches are sized by towing capacity class and I believe Class III and above are 2". Depending on model ,and engine size of the Outback decides the towing capacity,and receiver size. I had 3 Outbacks{96,02,05},and none had a 2" receiver available. I used a 1 1/4" -2" adapter for my bike rack. All my hitches were Hidden Hitchs I bought at local RV dealer and installed myself. Most were 4 bolts in existing weld nutted holes on the frame. 05 required removing the muffler hanger and pushing muffler aside to access frame to attach hitch,other then that fairly easy.


Try forums on

– Last Updated: Apr-08-09 8:32 AM EST –

As I recall, there's a lot there on mounting hitches.

Oops! That's

on my 06 Legacy wagon
I installed a Curtis 1.25 purchased from etrailer. They have very easy and specific on-line instructions and offered best prices. Several of major brands are all made by same company. Legacy ground clearance is less than Outback but otherwise same underneath. I disconnected exhaust flanges and removed mufflers. Then bolted on hitch and replaced mufflers in about 30 minutes total. The Subaru hitch sits closer to car but was about $300 vs $270 for hitch and two bike receiver rack. Let me know if you want pictures or more details.

good company
If you plan to shop online, is a great company to deal with.

And just so you know, Draw Tite, Hidden Hitch and Reese are now all owned by the same parent company and made in the same mega factory.

You can get an adapter that goes from 1 1/4" - 2". Yakima has a Subaru hitch too.

It’s BALL SIZE that can kill versatility

– Last Updated: Apr-08-09 11:46 PM EST –

(Please stifle the snickering!)

As ksfrmn noted, you can buy an adaptor that makes a 1.25" receiver square fit devices made for 2".

When I had a Wrangler, the max towing capacity was 2000 lbs so it made no sense to choose the more expensive Class III hitch receiver instead of Class I. What you might want to find out is the cost of the 1.25"-to-2" adaptor vs. the additional cost of Class III. I suspect the adaptor is cheaper. Since the weight of the hitch system itself is part of the towing limit, it's a good idea to not go for much overkill. Especially if you have a 4cyl engine.

The real killer as far as versatility goes is a hitch BALL that is anything other than 2". This has nothing to do with the receiver square size; my trailer's standard 2" coupler was intended to go on a 2" hitch ball. The $10 ball simply bolted onto the hitch bar that was 1.25" square. You can do some mixing and matching, but the 2" ball and coupler size is most common.

I am pointing this out because a popular (and expensive) dedicated kayak trailer, the Rack n Roll, uses a 1 7/8" coupler, not 2". If you set up your hitch to use a 1 7/8" ball, then you really lose flexibility to attach bike racks, load carriers, heavier-duty trailers, and other items that assume use of a 2" ball or receiver square.

So a 1.25" square, with a 2" ball on the bar, plus a 1.25"-to-2" adaptor should give you good flexibility.

I had a DrawTite hitch on the Wrangler, a bumper-mounted ball on the Toyota 1-ton (good enough, but not as good as a hitch due to less clearance for jackknifing), and now a factory hitch on my Frontier (probably made by one of the big hitch "names"). No complaints about any of these.

OK, don’t presume…
ball size.

If you are going to venture into towing options, you will need a few balls :wink:

Not only will you be looking at the size of the ball, you will need to be aware of the size of the threaded “bolt” at the opposite end of the ball. They are not all the same.

Now this goes way beyond the OP, but just so ya know, check out both ends when finding hitch reciever/hook up options.

Happy Trails,


putting a hitch on Subaru

I put a hitch on my '99 Forester a year or two ago. I’m no mechanic, to be sure. It was a bit of a project, but mostly because I have a lot of rust under the car - lots of hacksawing to get the old bolts off. If you are mostly rust-free, it shouldn’t be too difficult.

I used a u-haul hitch, and it was pretty straightforward. Nice thing about the subaru’s is that the wiring harness in with the spare is all set up to plug a trailer wiring attachment in, no need to cut and solder or any of that mess.

Good luck!


It’s darned confusing
There are also hitch bars that have different amounts of drop/rise, multi-ball welded assemblies (the bar and balls are one unit, with the balls facing different ways), and…those nasty metal testicular balls (seriously) that fit into the hitch when you aren’t towing.

Then there’s the rest of the hitch and its even more confusing options and requirements.

Oh…you probably want a “4-flat” electrical connection, but if you end up with something else, there are adaptors for those, too. My Class III setup came standard with a 7-pin connection (need this if towing a braked trailer). The adaptor to use with our trailer’s 4-flat plug cost all of $11.

This is why a good hitch shop is worth finding.

Subaru Outback hitch
We installed a flat-bar hitch on our Subaru. It worked great for towing our trailer. However, when we “sold” the car to our daughter,she wanted to mount a commercial bicycle carrier onto the hitch: no soap, unless we weld a strap onto the carrier to insert into our hitch. So, I’d go with a square receiver type of hitch, whichever size suits your interests.