You have bought a kayak. Congrats! In case if you don’t mind asking this – how are you going to transport it to the nearby lake or river? You are not going to keep it as a trophy in your garage, are you?
Unless you have purchased an inflatable kayak that can be folded easily, you need to have a roof rack so that the kayak can be mounted on the roof of the car. Without these handy kayak Roof Racks, things can go horribly wrong during the transportation. The kayak might get slipped off the roof and get damaged. When it comes to transporting a kayak, the options are very much limited. You might be tempted to take a shortcut and end up buying ropes to strap the kayak to the roof of the car. But believe me, this is a horrible idea.
Unless you have mad driving skills and the condition of the road is excellent, you will eventually end up damaging both the car and the kayak in the process. And did I mention the scratches that your kayak can develop in the process of lifting it off the car?
The safest and the probably the easiest way to transport a kayak is to get a kayak rack which is also known as kayak carrier.
10 Best Kayak Roof Racks for Car
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Listed are the best kayak roof racks for cars that money can buy. Check these reviews carefully and then decide which kayak roof rack suits your budget and requirements –
Easy to install, AA-Racks J-Bar Rack for Kayak is extremely versatile and strong built. Forget about the kayak, you can even transport any other super heavy outdoor gear on it without even jeopardizing its stability in one way or the other. Loading and unloading have been simplified and the credit goes to its open design. epoxy powder coated tubular steel is used in the making of this AA-Racks J-Bar Rack for Kayak and therefore, it is incredibly strong, durable, and stable.
AA-Racks J-Bar Rack for Kayak is weather resistant and the maximum weight capacity is well over 150 which is more than enough for most paddlers. The arms are wrapped in foam cushion and it has got a rubberized base that will keep your kayak protected from abrasion. If you are planning to transport a super long kayak on it, you just need to make sure that the J bars are tied firmly to the roof rack of your car and you will be good to go.
Ecotric J-Bar Universal Kayak Carrier Roof Rack is a heavy-duty kayak roof rack carrier that can be installed easily and effortlessly. If you are planning to go a long drive and are planning to drive at high speed, you should consider using an extra backup rope system in the front and rear ends of your car to keep your kayak secured in a case, the straps fail to do their job in some worse case scenarios.
Lack of proper installation instructions might bum you out but don’t let that ruin your mood because if you know what you are doing, installing Ecotric J-Bar Universal Kayak Carrier Roof Rack is fairly easy. All you have to do is to follow some basic YouTube tutorials and you will be just fine. Moreover, installation manuals are most cases too complex to follow.
Don’t you want to spend a ton of money on something fancy just to move your kayak around on the rood of your car? Well, in that case, put your trust on Lifetime Warranty TMS® J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier. This kayak carrier allows you to transport your kayak without burning a hole in your pocket. It can be mounted easily on almost all types of load bars and crossbars that are commonly available in the market. The kayak is attached sideways and thus allowing to save precious space on the roof of the vehicle.
You can mount 4 sets of Lifetime Warranty TMS® J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carriers on the roof of your car. Easy loading and unloading of a kayak are made possible thanks to its wide mouth design. The rust-resistant coating makes it super durable and the steel construction adds to its incredible strength. You can easily mount a 75lbs kayak on it given that it is wider than 36 inches.
Reasonably priced, Thule 834 Hull-A-Port is a no-nonsense kayak roof rack that does it well even when the weather turns bad or the road gets bumpy. Thule 834 Hull-A-Port will hold on to your kayak no matter what. Its steel body is resistant to rust and it has got adjustable padding to protect your kayak from developing scratches during the transportation process. To keep the kayak secured in one place, you need to make proper use of the straps.
This standard J-style cradle offers spectacular performance at a reasonable price. What else you can expect?
OxGord Kayak Roof Rack for Car allows you to transport a standard-sized kayak without losing your mind or without paying an astronomical price for it. OxGord Kayak Roof Rack takes less than 5 minutes to install and taking it off from the roof of your vehicle should not take more than a minute. To keep the kayak stable in one place, you need to use both bow stern straps and carrier straps.
It does not matter whether your vehicle has flat crossbars or round ones, OxGord Kayak Roof Rack will most probably fit it without an issue. Its weather-resistant design is definitely an added advantage. Steel construction also adds to its incredible strength and durability.
SPORTRACK SR5527 24 in. Adjustable Kayak Carrier are dirt cheap yet they hold on firmly to your kayaks irrespective of the condition of the road. Be it a paddleboard or a large kayak, SporTrack Kayak Carrier can easily accommodate them as it is equipped with adjustable foam blocks. These foam blocks are strong and dense. The rack can be easily installed on the roof of your car without wasting hours on it. If the wind is blowing hard, you might have to tighten the straps a little bit to ensure that the kayak stays in its positions. SporTrack Kayak Carrier is simply the best solutions for occasional use.
- Easy to install on the roof.
- Between the mounting straps add extra foams to prevent rubbing.
- Bow and stern tie included.
- 2 straps are included to secure foams.
- Narrow aluminum bars.
- Short metal bars
- It gets noisy when the wind picks up speed (over 50 miles per hour)
Fitting Malone HandiRack Inflatable Universal Roof Top Rack on the roof of your vehicle is easy as pie. Just unwrap it first and then place it on the roof. Get it strapped properly and then pump air into it and there you have it. Now, you have a fully functional kayak roof rack that can easily carry a 180-pound canoe. Malone HandiRack Inflatable Universal Roof Top Rack can be installed on all types of roof surfaces. 5 D-ring anchor points included to make it easier for people to strap the kayak firmly.
Malone HandiRack Inflatable Universal Roof Top Rack is ideal for long family road trip. It basically helps you increase the overall loading capacity of your car. Moreover, this kayak roof top rack is easy to use. Since this is an inflatable kayak roof top rack, you can fold it and squeeze it in a small carry bag.
- Made from high quality tough nylon that adds to its strength and durability.
- To provide cushion between the rooftop and the kayak, air chambers are included.
- Heavy-duty yet extremely lightweight.
- Double-action HandiPump included.
- Tie-down HandiStraps included.
- Included are two HandiRack twin tubes.
- Air chambers can’t withstand too much heat.
- In the rainy season, the fixtures start leaking.
Yakima Showboat Kayak Roof Rack helps people load their kayak without asking for help from the passersby. Most people struggle a lot while mounting kayak on a kayak roof rack but you don’t have to deal with such little inconveniences anymore if you decide to install Yakima Showboat Kayak Roof Rack. You can load multiple kayaks on it without making yourself feel tired and exhausted in the process.
- Kayak carrier included. Thus, making it super easy to load and unload boats.
- Made from stainless steel which as we all know corrosion-resistant
- Limited Lifetime Warranty
- Adequately padded to protect kayaks from developing scratches.
- You should not load extremely heavy boat on this kayak roof rack.
- You might have a real struggle fitting this on a vehicle that has rear hatchback style openings.
A 30” wide boat can easily be loaded on the Kayak Wing Rack with Covered Straps. The best thing about this kayak wing rack is that it comes preassembled; thus, saving your precious time that can be better utilized. All you have to do is to remove the screws from the bottom of that kayak wing rack and then slide it carefully onto the crossbars. That’s it. It should not take more than 5 minutes to load a full-size kayak on this Wing rack covered straps. The design of this Kayak Wing rack is eye candy. Moreover, Kayak Wing Rack with Covered Straps can help prevent the damage of hull.
- Lightweight and durable.
- 5 years warranty.
- Made in the USA.
- The kayak has to be strapped face up.
- Removing this from the vehicle’s roof will certainly take some doing.
Thule Dockglide Kayak Saddle is highly flexible and it is very easy to install and uninstall. It has large cushioned pads that protect the hull from damages and dents. Use its stern tie-downs, QuickDraw bow and buckle bumpers to strap the kayak firmly. No matter how wide the hull is, Thule Dockglide Kayak Saddle can easily accommodate it.
Weighing just 6.8 lbs, this kayak saddle is extremely lightweight and since it is made from high impact nylon, it will last long no matter what. Included are 4 pivoting hull pads that allows it to accommodate hull pads of any shape and size. Its elaborate design is a bit overkill but that does not affect its overall performance in one way or the other.
- Easy loading and unloading
- Horizontal orientation
- Instructions are a bit complicated to follow.
Advantages of Kayak Roof Racks
There are some definite advantages of kayak roof racks. Listed below are some of them –
1. Cost Effective
Unlike Kayak Trailers which are extremely expensive, kayak roof racks are available in different price points. No matter how small your budget is, chances are that you will be able to find a kayak roof carrier that suits your budget precisely.
2. Offers Protection
Kayak roof racks are specifically designed and built to offer extra protection to your kayak. A kayak trailer might prove handy while transporting a kayak from one place to another but it does not offer any kind of protection from scratches or dents. Since a vast majority of kayak roof racks come with paddings, there is very little chance that your kayak will develop scratches in the process. On a bumpy road, these paddings are certainly going to save your skin.
3. They are Versatile
The best thing about these paddings that we have just discussed is that they are very versatile in nature. Of course, they make it easy to attach the kayak firmly to the kayak rood racks but besides that, they also help people carry their luggage. This is the reason why most people don’t remove these padding from their cars, even when the kayak season officially ends.
Which Roof Rack Is Best for Me?
There are a number of factors that you need to carefully consider while selecting a kayak roof rack. Most of the kayak roof racks are built for the specific type of vehicles for easy transportation. So, that means, you must check the compatibility of the kayak roof rack with your vehicle first before making the final buying decision. A kayak roof rack that fits perfectly on the roof of a pickup truck is definitely not a good choice for you if you own a standard SUV. Visit the manufacturer’s website to figure out whether the roof rack that you are planning to purchase is compatible with your vehicle.
There are other aspects that you will also have to carefully consider –
1. The Base Roof Setup of Your vehicle
Some cars do come with rails on its roof whereas some sport a bare roof. If your vehicle does not have any setup on its top, you should bury the idea of carrying a kayak on the top. Followings are some popular setups that are usually attached on the roof of a vehicle – Side Rails, Aftermarket crossbars, and factory crossbars.
If your vehicle has nothing on its top, there is only one way to transport a kayak and that is installing foam pads on it. This might sound a great idea on the paper but these foam pads are not as reliable as side rails. Chances are quite high that these foam pads might fail to secure the kayak throughout the journey and in the process, you might end up damaging both the kayak and the vehicle.
The best way to deal with such a situation is by purchasing crossbars and then installing them on the roof of the car. However, if your car already has factory crossbars attached to its roof, you should consider buying stackers, j-cradles, saddles or similar type of gear mounts to put some teeth into the crossbars’ carrying capacity. However, don’t forget to take a look at the weight capacity of the factory crossbars before you start installing these gear mounts on them.
2. Type of Kayak
What kind of kayaks you are planning to transport? Kayaks are available in different shapes and size like –
- Sit-In Kayaks
- Sit-On-Top Kayak
- Recreational Kayaks
- Folding Kayaks
- Inflatable Kayaks
- Fishing Kayaks
- Whitewater Kayaks
Some of these kayaks are easy to transport whereas some others might give you a lot of trouble while transporting them on a car. Some are extremely wide in the middle whereas some are narrow and short in size. This is the reason why it makes sense that you purchase an adjustable kayak roof rack in case you have different varieties of kayaks available at your disposal.
3. Kayaking Frequency
Do you really want to spend hours just to load and unload kayak? Of course, you don’t. Those of you who tend to kayak on a regular basis, you need to figure out a way to speed up this boring loading and unloading task. You need to consider upgrading your existing kayak hauling systems by attaching a pair of rollers on the back of the rack and a pair of saddles on the front. Side-loading j-cradles is also a great option to speed up loading and unloading of the kayak. The bottom line is, you need to find out a carrier that offers a decent level of assistance during your daily ordeal with kayaks. Side and top loading kayaks are a good alternative but they also demand extra attention from the drivers while driving as they increase the width of the vehicle.
4. Features of The Kayak Roof Racks
Most kayak roof rack manufacturers try to ignore or overlook the drawbacks of their kayak roof racks. They only include positive features of their products on the website and that means, if you want to get a 360-degree view of the product, you need to check out the reviews of the buyers on eCommerce sites like Amazon or eBay.
Try to identify those kayak roof racks that offer a decent level of protection from dent and scratches. However, you should not compromise on the quality front. The Kayak Roof Rack should have a well-built structure and they should be extremely adjustable in nature. If you don’t want your kayak to fall over while driving on a bumpy road, you need to read all the features of kayak roof racks carefully.
5. Branded Product
The market is getting flooded with fly-by-night manufacturers. Since these types of manufacturers don’t two hoots about the quality, they can sell their products i.e. roof racks in dirt cheap rates. Don’t even think of buying a kayak roof rack from these manufacturers because if anything goes wrong, there is no way you will get a replacement. This is the reason why you need to purchase a kayak roof rack from a trusted manufacturer.
6. Long Distance Travelling
In case, you are planning a cross-country trip, you need to find something more reliable and stable than those foam pads. Don’t get me wrong; foam pads are great for short distance travel but they tend to lose their grip over the period of time and that means, the longer you drive, the greater the chances of your kayak falling over and damaging your vehicle eventually. So, in case, you are driving long distances, it is safe to use j-cradles or saddles for such cases.
7. Foam Rollers or Roof Racks?
If your car happens to have built-in racks and bars, you might be tempted to attach some foam pads onto it to give it good grips. Unless the weather is too rough or the road condition is pathetic, this trick might work. But consider buying kayak roof racks if you are planning a long-distance tour because you may never know when things might get ugly.
Try straps along with foam pads to secure your kayak without spending a fortune. Don’t go overboard with creativity while doing so. Try to keep it as simple as possible. However, foam pads have a major drawback and that it can only let you transport a single kayak. But dedicated kayak roof racks will let you carry multiple kayaks.
Another major advantage of dedicated kayak roof rack is that they are more secure in nature and they offer more stability. Some roof racks do come with a built-in locking system that adds more to its stability.
Most Popular Kayak Roof Rack Brands
There are a number of companies that have entered this lucrative business of manufacturing kayak roof racks lately and this has made it all the more difficult for new buyers to zero in on a kayak roof rack that can offer a decent level of performance. You would certainly not like to buy a kayak roof carrier from a manufacturer with a questionable market reputation. Moreover, you can’t trust reviews on e-commerce sites because they can be manipulated easily. Understanding the complexity of this problem, Kayak Manual has created this list of top 4 kayak roof rack brands so that you don’t lose your sleep over it –
1. Malone Auto Racks
Malone Auto Racks tops this chart with its impressive track record. Considered to be one of the fastest growing kayak accessories manufacturing companies in North America, Malone Auto Racks has its stores spread across different parts of Europe, Canada, Australia, and the United States. It has been operating successfully for the past 10 years and that means, you are going to get support from them in case your kayak roof rack runs into some sort of trouble. In case, you are not aware of; but Malone Auto Racks was credited for manufacturing and marketing “J” style kayak carrier.
Today Yakima is considered to be one of the most trusted and respectable kayak roof racks manufacturing brands in the United States but its journey was tough and humble to be precise. The company started its long and illustrious journey in a tiny machine shop in Yakima, Washington. It is hard to even imagine how a small machine shop can catapult itself into a major brand of car racks within such a short time span. It is one of the few car racks manufacturing companies that are spending its resources on developing cutting edge kayak roof racks.
Founded in 1942, Thule was credited with being the first company who finally came up with something to help vehicle owners to transport their sports equipment all by themselves. This Swedish company is also credited for manufacturing a wide range of car roof racks for different car models.
TMS is considered to be a new entrant in this industry but that does not mean that it is playing second fiddle here. Almost all its products are listed as best sellers on major e-commerce sites like eBay and Amazon and this is not a simple feat by any standard. If you are looking for high-quality kayak roof racks, you can definitely put your trust in this brand.
Arthur G. Moore is a veteran paddler. He has over 10 years of whitewater kayaking experience in his kitty. When he was young, he used to love kayaking in rapid III and rapid IV but as time went on, he decided to concentrate mainly on covering long distances on a standard touring kayak. He is currently working as a senior editor for Kayak Manual.