10 Best Kayak Roof Racks Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

Placing the kayak directly on the roof is not only careless, but it is also very dangerous. In the best-case scenario, you will damage your roof and kayak. But it can get a lot worse. For instance, the craft can slip from the roof and cause a major accident. 

So, in short, the wiser decision you can make is to purchase a kayak roof rack, as it will solve all the aforementioned problems. But which one should you pick? As there are too many options in the market, we’ve taken the time to review some of them here. So, feel free to browse to the list and choose the best kayak roof rack for you! 

Capacity (Pounds)TypeMaximum Width (Inches)ConstructionNumber of Kayaks
TMS 2 Pairs J-Bar Rack75J-cradle36Steel1
AA-Racks Steel Jetty Saddle Rack90*SaddleNo limitSteel1
Thule Hullavator Pro75Saddles with lift assistance36 Aluminum and steel1
AA-Racks Universal J-Bar80*J-cradle36Stainless steel Up to 2
Yakima JayLow80/110J-cradle/Vertical stacker36Stainless Steel1
Malone SeaWing Saddle70Saddle36Polycarbonate 1
HandiRack Universal Inflatable Roof Rack180Temporary inflatable rackNo limit420-denier nylonUp to 2
Thule Hull-a-Port XT75/130J-cradle/Vertical stacker36Steel and plasticUp to 2
Rhino Kayak Stack Rack 200Plug-inNo limitAnodized metal alloyUp to 4
Sportrack Removable Carrier75*Removable rack 15Aluminum1

Best Kayak Roof Racks Reviews

TMS 2 Pa J-Bar Rack

Lifetime Warranty TMS® 2 Pairs J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier Canoe Boat Surf Ski...
  • KAYAK CAR TOP CARRIER A simple, low-cost solution...
  • This Kayak Carrier designed mounts to virtually...
  • Features: Steel design with adjustable padding for...

TMS is a known supplier of kayak roof racks. All of which have a superb quality for the price. This time, we bring you not one, but two pairs of their J-cradle HD kayak carrier model!

Yes, you read that right; two pairs instead of one. And what is better is that it comes at an affordable price. 

The kayak rack has a steel construction with a rust-resistant coating for long-lasting operation. Additionally, it comes with four foam pads that you can adjust depending on the width of your craft. It can accommodate kayaks up to 36” wide and 75 pounds. And, since it is a set of 2 pairs, you can transport two kayaks at the same time, provided that there is plenty of space in the roof to install both pairs. 

The carrier is compatible with most of the existing crossbars, regardless of its shape. And it comes with a set of 4 straps (2 for each pair) to secure the kayak to each J-cradle. We still recommend getting another pair of ropes to secure the bow and the stern to the tow hooks. 

Although the installation is not hard at all, you may have a hard time assembling the carrier. 

The thing that we love the most about TMS products is that they offer a lifetime warranty on them. Thus, if you ever face any problem while using these J-cradles, you can quickly get in touch with the company to solve it.

Key Features 

  • Type: J-cradle
  • Maximum weight: 75 pounds
  • Maximum width: 36 inches 
  • Construction: Steel
  • Item weight: 7.9 pounds 
  • Foam cushioning
  • Lifetime warranty

Pros: 

  • It is suitable for a wide range of kayaks. 
  • Durable build.
  • It is compatible with most aftermarket crossbars.
  • Easy installation.

Cons: 

  • The straps are not as durable as the rack. 
  • The assembling process is a little hard. 
  • Not for massive kayaks.

AA-Racks Steel Jetty Saddle Rack for Kayak

AA-Racks Steel Jetty Saddle Rack for Kayak Carrier Canoe Boat Paddle Board...
  • 【Jetty Saddle System】Flexible four point...
  • 【Rubber Padding】Integrated rubber padding...
  • 【How to Use】Attach Carrier to Vault Cargo roof...

What we like the most about the AA saddle rack is its flexibility. It can accommodate kayaks of different width and length. Plus, it has no virtual weight limit, which means that you can transport those bulky fishing kayaks without a problem.

The saddles have a steel frame. Like before, it has a protective coating against rust. The insides have a non-slip rubber padding to prevent scratching the hull. Plus, it keeps a secure grip of the kayak for the duration of the trip. 

The package contains four movable pads, which you can adjust depending on the dimensions of the kayak. They are compatible with most aftermarket crossbars. Additionally, you can place them in the middle on the roof, or towards the side. The second option saves more space and makes things easier if you want to load the craft from one of the sides. 

The saddles come with two 16-feet long polyethylene ratchet straps. According to AA-Racks, each one has a 2200-pound breaking strength. Therefore, it is quite unlikely that they will fail.  

Key Features 

  • Type: Saddles
  • Maximum weight: 90 pounds
  • Maximum width: No limit
  • Construction: Steel
  • Item weight: 9.66 pounds 
  • Rubber padding
  • Lifetime warranty

Pros: 

  • It has a highly flexible operation
  • Easy to use and install
  • The rubber pads offer a secure a tight grip 
  • Compatible with most aftermarket crossbars

Cons: 

  • It is quite easy to hit the kayak with the edge of the saddle and damage the hull
  • AA-Racks doesn’t provide information about the maximum weight the rack can handle. 

Thule Hullavator Pro Kayak Rack

Hullavator PRO Black/Silver
  • Wider cradles can accommodate bigger width hulls...
  • Waist-level loading, unloading and strapping by...
  • Gas struts making it easy to load and unload the...

Before we waste your time, if you are looking for an affordable option, you can look elsewhere. Because this kayak rack is not cheap at all. 

The reason for this is that the Thule 898Pro has a gas lifting assistant. According to the supplier, the rack can take up to 40 pounds of weight off from the kayak that you are carrying. 

However, that isn’t the best thing. The Thule 898Pro comes down to waist level! This way, you can place the kayak in the rack without lifting it over your head. Then, fasten the craft to the carrier and push it to the roof. Once it is in place, you can secure both the bow and stern to the tow hooks of your car with the Thule QuickDraw tie-down straps. Sadly, it is compatible with some aftermarket crossbars. 

The Thule 898Pro has an aluminum and corrosion-resistant steel frame. It is quite heavy, which makes the installation a little bit difficult. Additionally, the eight padded contact points guarantee your kayak protection. 

You can accommodate kayaks up to 36 inches wide and 75 pounds within this assisted kayak roof rack. 

Key Features

  • Type: Saddles
  • Maximum weight: 75 pounds 
  • Maximum width: 36 inches
  • Construction: Steel and aluminum
  • Item weight: 39.7 pounds 
  • Foam padding
  • Gas lifting system
  • Waist-loading 

Pros: 

  • It allows waist-loading. 
  • The lift assistant takes 40 pounds off the kayak weight. 
  • It has oversized pads for enhanced protection. 

Cons: 

  • It is quite expensive. 
  • Difficult installation due to its weight. 
  • Only compatible with square crossbars.
  • It takes more space on the roof than other similar models.

AA-Racks Universal Double Folding J-Bar Kayak Rack

AA-Racks Universal Double Folding J-Bar Kayak Rack for Kayak Carrier Canoe Boat...
  • 【FOLDING & Stainless Steel】Each Stainless...
  • 【Rubber Pedal & Foam Protector】The foam...
  • 【How to Use】Attach Carrier to Vault Cargo roof...

Wait, AA-Racks again? Yes. But this time, we bring you their universal double folding J-cradle. It has a stainless steel frame that you can completely fold while it is not in use. So, there is no need to take it on and off each time you wish to go fishing or for a paddle.

Additionally, it takes little space, which means that you can use it with SUVs and sedans alike. These J-cradles fit most aftermarket crossbars and are remarkably easy to install and use. All that you need to do to fold the rack is turn the four knobs, fold, and turn them back. 

The frame has three thick foam pads and one rubber pad in the midsection. Plus, it comes with 2 straps to fasten the kayak to the rack, and 2 tie-down cords to secure the bow and stern to the tow hooks. 

The J-Bar AA-Racks can handle kayaks up to 36 inches wide. Sadly, they don’t prove the maximum weight, although we believe that it has to be around 80 pounds since the rack construction is similar to other models that have this capacity. However, we recommend asking directly to the supplier or read the instructions before using the rack.  

Key Features

  • Type: J-cradles
  • Maximum weight: Around 80 pounds.
  • Maximum width: 36 inches
  • Construction: Stainless steel
  • Item weight: 17 pounds 
  • Foam and rubber padding
  • Fully foldable

Pros: 

  • You can fully fold the rack while not in use.
  • Easy installation and usage. 
  • It is compatible with most aftermarket crossbars.  
  • It comes with plenty of cords to secure everything in place. 

Cons: 

  • There is no information about the maximum weight. 
  • You can easily lose the knobs if they are not tight enough. 

YAKIMA JayLow Rooftop Mounted Kayak Rack

Sale
YAKIMA - JayLow Rooftop Mounted Kayak Rack for Vehicles, Carries Up to 2 Kayaks
  • CARRY UP TO 2 KAYAKS: Fits 1 kayak in J-cradle...
  • FITS MOST CROSSBARS: Compatible with Yakima...
  • INCLUDES STRAPS: Includes all the necessary...

The Yakima JayLow is a fantastic J-cradle kayak roof rack and one of the best in this list. Why? First, it has a durable, stainless steel frame with rubber and foam padding. Additionally, it comes ready to install out-of-the-box, which means that you don’t have to waste time reading the instructions and figuring out where each piece goes. Another outstanding feature. and maybe the best is that it can hold up to two kayaks! Yes, you can use this rack in its traditional J-cradle position, or as a vertical stacker to accommodate two crafts at the same time. 

Lastly, the JayLow is compatible with most aftermarket crossbars. Though, Yakima suggests a 24 inches minimum distance between each bar. 

Yakima added heavy-duty straps and bow/stern tie-down to secure the kayak to the rack and tow hooks, respectively. And, while you are not using the racks, you can fold them using the red lever near the base.  

Key Features

  • Type: J-cradles
  • Maximum weight: 80 pounds in J-cradle position and 110 as a vertical stacker
  • Maximum width: 36 inches
  • Construction: Stainless steel
  • Item weight: 12.7 pounds 
  • Foam and rubber padding
  • Fully foldable

Pros: 

  • It comes ready to install.
  • It is quite easy to use.
  • Fully foldable.
  • It can carry up to two kayaks.
  • Large carrying capacity. 

Cons: 

  • It is a little pricey. 
  • While it is compatible with most aftermarket crossbars, it is not stable in all of them.

Malone SeaWing Saddle Style Universal Car Rack

Malone SeaWing Saddle Style Universal Car Rack Kayak Carrier with Bow and Stern...
  • Low-profile kayak/cargo carrier with single saddle...
  • Easy-to-set-up mid-point mounting takes up minimal...
  • Flexes gently to cradle boat and improve gas...

Are you looking for a low-profile kayak roof rack? If so, this is a serious candidate. The Malone SeaWing has a flexible polycarbonate construction with rubber padding that easily adapts to the kayak width. Therefore, the rack doesn’t increase the drag like other carriers in this list.

These saddles come with in-built ratchet straps and with a set of bow/stern tie-downs. They will keep your kayak secure at all times, and since the rack tightly wraps the kayak, it won’t move, no matter the distance or the type of road. Therefore, this is an ideal choice for a long-distance road trip. Plus, since they are quite small, you will have plenty of room to accommodate the rest of your gear. 

You can accommodate kayaks up to 36 inches wide and up to 70 pounds. Beware that, the wider the kayak, the worse the grip will be. Additionally, while this is a low-profile saddle that has little wind resistance, it doesn’t perform as well with wide kayaks. 

According to Malone, the SeaWing is compatible with most crossbars. However, we have noticed that they do not fit so well on oval bars. 

Installing the saddles is a straightforward process. But be careful not to scratch your roof since the screws are a little long. Similarly, the SeaWing design allows a quick and easy load and unload. Just fit the kayak in the back saddle and squeeze the rest of the craft to the front. 

Key Features

  • Type: Saddles
  • Maximum weight: 70 pounds
  • Maximum width: 36 inches
  • Construction: Polycarbonate 
  • Item weight: 10 pounds 
  • Rubber padding

Pros: 

  • It has a low-profile that decreases wind resistance. 
  • The kayak stays in place and doesn’t move.
  • It leaves enough room for another rack or more gear. 

Cons: 

  • It doesn’t fit on oval crossbars. 
  • It doesn’t perform as well with broad kayaks. 
  • The screws could scratch the roof of your car.

HandiRack Universal Inflatable Roof Rack 

Sale
HandiRack Universal Inflatable Roof Rack Bars (Black); Tie-downs Included; Fits...
  • Inflatable vehicle rack for carrying all types of...
  • Easy to install; No tools required; Twin-bars are...
  • Universal roof bars; No side rails or gutters...

Sadly, most of the racks available in the market are either for sedans, SUVs, or trucks. So, what happens if you have a small, two-door car? Fortunately, HandiRack has your back here with this temporary inflatable roof rack.

The universal inflatable roof rack stays true to its name, as it fits virtually any car in the market. And the best thing is that it is super easy to use and install. Just remember to take it off while you are not using it, or someone may take it! HandiRacks added a handy bag to store your inflatable kayak rack while it is not in use.

According to the HandiRack, this 420-denier nylon rack can hold up to 180 pounds of cargo. However, we don’t recommend pushing it to its limits, especially if you are driving through a bumpy road. Each rack has five rings to tie your kayak and anything else you are transporting. Additionally, it comes with four straps, one for each rack and the other to fasten the bow and stern. 

HandiRacks also included a double-action pump. Bear in mind that first you place the rack on the roof, secure the straps with the door, and then inflate it. 

Key Features

  • Type: Temporary rack
  • Maximum weight: 180 pounds
  • Maximum width: No width limit
  • Construction: 420-denier nylon
  • Item weight: 5.75 pounds 
  • Inflatable

Pros: 

  • It doesn’t increase wind resistance as much as other models. 
  • It is compatible with most cars. 
  • Lightweight and very portable. 
  • It can handle two kayaks at the same time. 

Cons: 

  • It is delicate; anything sharp could damage it easily. 
  • You have to take it on and off each time you wish to use it. 
  • It doesn’t work too well in hot environments. 

Thule Hull-a-Port XT Rooftop Kayak Rack

Thule Hull-a-Port XT Rooftop Kayak Rack, Black, One Size
  • Carry up to two kayaks due to the dual position...
  • Universal mounting design fits all types of load...
  • Folds flat when not in use. Fits Thule AeroBlade...

Another Thule kayak roof rack that is quite similar to the Yakima JayLow we reviewed before. It retails for almost the same and has similar features. Therefore, if you like the JayLow, but you fancy Thule more, this one’s for you.

It has a steel frame with a plastic base. The structure can withstand up to 75 pounds in its J-cradle position, and up to 130 pounds as a vertical stacker. You can place two kayaks at the same time in its latter position. 

The rack comes with enough straps to secure one kayak. Therefore, you must purchase another set if you wish to transport two crafts at the same time. 

While not in use, the Thule Hull-a-port XT quickly folds, so you don’t need to dismantle once you finish using it. And it is fully assembled out-of-the-box! 

Key Features

  • Type: J-cradle and vertical stacker
  • Maximum weight: 75 pounds in J-cradle position and 130 as a vertical stacker
  • Maximum width: 36 inches
  • Construction: Stainless with plastic
  • Item weight: 12.5 pounds 
  • Foam and rubber padding
  • Fully foldable

Pros: 

  • It is fully assembled out-of-the-box
  • Fully foldable.
  • It can carry up to two kayaks.
  • Compatible with most aftermarket crossbars. 

Cons: 

  • Expensive.
  • You have to purchase another set of straps if you wish to take two kayaks at the same time. 

Rhino Kayak Stack Rack

Rhino Rack Kayak & Canoe Nautic Stack Carrier, Folding Upright with Universal...
  • Rhino-Rack Nautic Stack Kayak & Canoe Carrier,...
  • Fully assembled ready for easy installation; fits...
  • Can carry up to 4 watercrafts pending length of...

Time for a roof rack that can take more than two kayaks! The Rhino stack rack can handle up to 4 kayaks at the same time, provided that they fit in the roof of your car, of course.

It has an anodized alloy that is strong enough to keep all kayaks in place for the duration of your trip. Additionally, each pole has a rubber padding to protect the inner kayak and a nylon reinforced base. 

We recommend asking the supplier to check whether or not your bars are compatible. And, make sure to read the instructions before hauling 4 kayaks in the roof and drive away. You must place each one in such a way to increase the overall stability. 

Key Features 

  • Type: Vertical stacker
  • Maximum weight: No information available
  • Maximum width: 32 inches
  • Construction: Anodized alloy
  • Item weight: 7.47 pounds 
  • Rubber padding
  • Foldable

Pros: 

  • You can fit up to 4 kayaks at the same time. 

Cons: 

  • The more kayaks you fit, the more unstable it becomes. 
  • It is quite easy to damage a kayak if you don’t know how to stack them. 

Sportrack Removable Kayak Carrier

Sale
SportRack SR5527 Adjustable Foam Kayak Carrier, 24-Inch, Black
  • Fully adjustable foam blocks can be positioned to...
  • 2 non-skid underside protects the vehicle finish
  • Includes 2 straps to secure foam and bars to the...

This is an ideal option for those looking for a simple, affordable, and reliable kayak roof rack. The Sportrack sr5527 is a set of temporary crossbars with two foam blocks each. You can adjust them to accommodate kayaks from 16 to 24 inches. 

Additionally, it comes with two straps to fasten the kayak to the crossbar, and two extra cords to secure the bow and the stern. 

As you can see, there is nothing fancy about this rack. Still, it does its job, and it sits way below the 100$ limit! So, if you are looking for a budget kayak roof rack, this is the one for you!

Key Features 

  • Type: J-cradle
  • Maximum weight: 75
  • Maximum width: 24 inches 
  • Construction: Foam 
  • Item weight: 6.8 pounds 
  • Foam cushioning

Pros: 

  • Affordable.
  • It is easy to use and install. 
  • You can use it with or without pre-installed bars. 

Cons: 

  • It is not so stable at high speeds.
  • It is not suitable for wide kayaks.

Our Winner

Best Kayak Roof Rack: AA-Racks Steel Jetty Saddle Rack for Kayak

Sometimes we don’t want the most premium item on the market. But we don’t like the cheapest either. Thankfully, there are things like these AA-Racks steel saddles to indulge us.

The first reason for our pick is the price. It is not the cheapest rack in this guide. That trophy belongs to the sportrack sr5527. But it is not the more expensive rack in this list. Additionally, it is compatible with most aftermarket crossbars.

Another advantage is that you can individually adjust each pad to the desired width. Therefore, any kayak will tightly fit within the saddles regardless of its width. And, even though AA-racks don’t show the maximum weight, we’ve tested this rack with a 90-pound kayak, and it manages to handle it. Therefore, this is the strongest single-kayak roof carrier in this list!

The biggest drawback is that it is quite easy to hit the kayak with the saddle while loading it. So, we recommend to rest the kayak in the bars first, and then move the pads to wrap it. 

Buyer’s Guide: What You Should Know Before Buying 

It is always important to know what to look for when buying something, as it is the only way to get the best value for our money. In this guide, we will show you the relevant features of kayak roof racks. 

We will talk about some rack characteristics, such as the different types of racks, the material, and aerodynamics. Plus, some relevant aspects that you should keep in mind when browsing for a new kayak roof rack, such as the roof and kayak dimensions, the trip distance, how many kayaks are you transporting, and how many times you are planning to use the rack. 

With all this information at hand, you should be able to find the best kayak roof rack for you. 

Understanding the Different Types of Racks

You might have noticed that there are a bunch of different options in the market. And while all of them get the job done, they do it differently. Therefore, the answer to the question of which is the best kayak roof rack depends on your particular need.

Let’s see which are the most common kayak roof racks, and how they work. 

  • Saddle Carriers:  These are remarkably easy to use since the design is quite simple. A great thing about saddles is that they can accommodate large or small kayaks and take little space on the roof. Therefore, these are an ideal option if you have a small vehicle. 

As the name suggests, saddle-like carriers have a ‘V’ shape. The kayak rests on it, and you can secure it in place with some straps. There are two designs; separate pads or single saddles. 

The fists consist of a set of four pads, two for each rack. You can adjust each one separately to accommodate kayaks of different sizes, which is the main advantage of this design.

In contrast, the second type of racks is a set of single saddles. Therefore, they don’t have the flexibility of the first design. But they do offer more protection to the kayak. 

As we said before, using saddle racks is extremely easy. All that you need to do is to put the craft in the back carrier and squeeze it to the front. Then, tie the kayak down, and you are ready to hit the road. 

  • J-Cradles: If you are planning to engage in a long trip, and bringing a lot of gear, you should consider going for a J-like rack. 

These are a set of holding arms with a ‘J’ shape. Thus, the kayak rests on its side and not in the hull like the former model. J-cradles systems require existing sidebars to secure them. 

The most significant advantage of this type of rack is its small footprint. It takes little space in the roof, even less than saddles, leaving more free areas in the roof for the rest of your equipment. Additionally, J-cradles are sturdy, durable, and more than capable of handling large yaks. 

Since J-cradles are at either side of the car, placing the kayak is easier. You only have to lift the entire craft and put it on the bend. However, depending on the vessel weight, this task could be a little tricky. That’s why some producers add lifting systems to their designs. Of course, this comes at a price that you might not be willing to pay.

The main problem with this design is that it is not aerodynamic. Therefore, you could experience some resistance while driving. Plus, you are likely to hear the structure whistling, especially at high speeds. 

Keep in mind that, as the kayak is almost in an upright position, the overall height will increase. Therefore, make sure that there aren’t any branches or bars that could hit your craft.

  • Temporary Racks or Foam Blocks: Temporary pads are the most basic racks that you can find in the market. They are not as durable as the previous two. But if you are an occasional paddler, you will hardly find something better, especially if you are on a tight budget. 

You don’t need sidebars to fix temporary racks, as they typically come with straps that you can use to fasten it at either side. 

One of the disadvantages is that you can only fit one kayak at a time. Additionally, you have to rely on your strength and nothing else to secure the rack in place. 

Therefore, we don’t recommend using this type of rack for long trips, especially under harsh conditions. 

  • Vertical racks: Lastly, we have vertical racks. These are a little like the J-cradles we discussed before. This time, the kayak sits entirely in a perpendicular position. Therefore, it leaves even more space for other gear or kayaks. 

Your car must have pre-installed crossbars for you to install the vertical racks on it. The process is quite simple. However, it will be a little bit difficult to lift and put the kayak in place. 

As happens with J-cradles, vertical racks are not as aerodynamic as horizontal models. Therefore, you might experience some wind resistance. And, like before, remember that now your car is taller. Thus, make sure that the road is free from anything that can hit the roof rack.

Most vertical racks are foldable. Which means that there is no need to detach them while not in use. And come with straps to fasten the kayak to the frame.  

Now that you have a general idea of the different kayak racks available, it is time to discuss some relevant aspects of these gadgets, and some extra things that you should consider before making any purchase. 

Weight

Most kayak roof racks come with a maximum weight rating. Usually, you can exceed it, though we don’t recommend it, especially if you are engaging in a long trip at high speeds. The drag will increase the tension, and the rack is more likely to fail. Therefore, try your best to keep the weight down and drive safely to avoid problems.

Aerodynamics

Fixing things at the top of the car will only increase wind resistance, that’s a fact. As a result, you will notice a decrease in the fuel economy, especially after long trips. 

Generally speaking, the farther the kayak sits from the roof, the more resistance it poses. Similarly, more kayaks mean more drag. 

But an increase in fuel consumption is not the only consequence. The kayak, rack, and bars will have to endure more tension as well. Do you remember when we told you to leave some room for error in the past section? This is exactly why! The air will push both the kayak and rack, increasing the apparent weight that the rack is supporting. Therefore, if you are pushing them to the limit, they are quite likely to fail, especially when driving at high speeds.  

Material

The built material has a close relationship with the rack quality, and, of course, price. For instance, plastic or foam carriers are the cheapest gadgets available. But they are not as durable as metal models. 

Aluminum or steel carriers are a better option altogether. Sure, they are more expensive. But they have a long-lasting build that will pay itself in time. Plus, if you are transporting a kayak that is worth a month’s rent, you must make sure that it is well protected. 

Cushioning to Avoid Scratches 

Before making any purchase, make sure that the rack that you are interested in has enough cushioning. Not only to prevent scratches. But to make sure that the kayak stays in place. 

Straps

A heavy-duty rack with poor straps is useless. You should check the cord material beforehand to guarantee proper functioning. 

Your Car Matters

As kayak roof racks go above your car, the type of vehicle has an impact on which model you should purchase. For instance, large SUVs have more room in the roof to accommodate larger kayak carriers or more than one rack at the time. For example, two sets of J-cradle racks can easily fit in an SUV roof without too much trouble. 

Fortunately, most kayak roof suppliers provide information about product compatibility. So, it shouldn’t be such a hassle to find the right one for your car. However, we hardly recommend measuring the roof beforehand. And see where you can and can’t attach things. This way, you will avoid scratching the roof of your car. 

Some racks, like J-cradles, need a pre-installed set of sidebars. Therefore, if your car doesn’t have one, you must purchase them separately. Sadly, sometimes you can’t attach such bars in some cars. Thus, if this is your case, a temporary rack or foam pad is the only logical choice.  

Additionally, bear in mind that racks for a pick-up truck may not work on a sedan or SUV. Therefore, if you have more than one vehicle, you should purchase a rack for the car that you will use the most. Or a rack that fits both of them. Although, this is only possible if the vehicles are of similar size. 

Similarly, you must take into account the height of your car. For example, it will be difficult for you to lift the kayak to the roof if you have a massive SUV. But don’t worry, you can either ask for a little help or purchase a rack with gas-assisted lifting or rollers. 

The Kayak Dimensions

As before, measuring the kayak is also essential. You must make sure that the rack can securely hold the kayak in place. And that every inch of the craft stays within the structure. This way, you will avoid buying a rack that can’t support your kayak.

Most kayak roof racks come with a width limit; the length is usually not limited in any model. Thus, you only have to make sure to purchase a rack with, at least, the same width of your craft. 

Trip Distance

It might sound odd, but the distance influences the type of rack that you should purchase. For example, foam or removable racks are not suitable for long trips on a bumpy road. The reason is simple. They don’t offer as much protection and don’t hold the kayak as tight as saddles or J-cradles. 

How Much Are You Planning to Use It?

There is not much of a point of purchasing an expensive rack if you are going to use it a couple of times each year. In this case, a foam rack is the best option you have. 

In contrast, if you are an avid angler that goes to the water each weekend, you should consider investing some good coin in a reliable kayak rack. You can fold most of these models and leave them on in the car. This way, you don’t have to put it on and off each time you go for a paddle. 

How Many Kayaks Are You Transporting? 

Some models like J-cradles and vertical stacker can carry more than one kayak at a time. Hence, if you wish to transport more than one craft at the same time, you should purchase a temporary rack. 

FAQ

Now, let’s take some time to answer some common questions that you may have when browsing for a kayak roof rack.

  • How do kayak roof racks work? 

The principle in all the types of kayak rack is the same. The kayak either sits in its hull or side, and you secure the craft with a couple of ropes. 

The main difference, as you can see, is how the kayak sits, and how you set up the rack itself. For example, saddles, J-cradles, and vertical racks all need either crossbars or sidebars to work, whereas temporary racks don’t. 

  • How to install kayak roof racks?

It depends on the kayak rack model you choose. In the case of temporary racks, you merely need to pass the rope inside the car and tuck it with the door. Then, you place the kayak in the pads and secure it with a set of straps.

Things are different with J-cradles, saddles, and vertical racks. Here you fix either one to the pre-installed bars of the car. Then place the kayak and fasten it with some ropes. The great thing about these models is that they can handle more weight, and you don’t even need tools to attach them to the bars. 

Either way, you should always check the instructions manual that comes with the purchase. It is the only way to correctly install the rack. 

  • How do I load the kayak?

Again, this depends on the type of roof rack you have. Most times, you will be loading the kayak by either a side or the back of the car.

Typically, loading the kayak from the back is easier since you can place the bow first and then slide the kayak in place. In contrast, you must lift the kayak and place it on the rack if you are loading it from the side. It is quite hard because you have to handle all the weight by yourself. 

Some racks come with lift assistants. That is a sliding bar whose job is to take the weight off from your arms. You merely place the kayak on it, and then slide the arm back in place. Of course, such racks are inherently more expensive. After all, comfort comes at a price, right? 

  • How do I fasten a kayak on a roof rack?

Once the kayak is on the rack, it is time to tie it down. Most carriers come with their straps to secure the vessel in place. 

Usually, all you need to do is to make sure to make a loop around the kayak with the strap. Then, pass it under the rack and make another loop around an anchor point. Most suppliers indicate the location of such points in the owner’s manual.

For extra balance and security, you can tie the kayak to the front and rear of the car. Just take a couple of ropes, make a knot around craft handles, and then tie the other end around the tow hooks. 

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