A kayak roof rack is the easiest way to transport your kayak to the water, no matter where you would like to use it. If you’ve got a roof rack, if your car can go there, then your kayak can too!
Whilst it’s possible to move your kayak around on the top of a trailer or inside a van, these methods are far more difficult and cumbersome, and will often require a dedicated vehicle. This is a completely unnecessary expense, especially when putting a kayak roof rack on your car is so extremely easy. It’s also a huge amount cheaper.
The best kayak rack for you will depend upon a few factors, including how large your vehicle is, the size of your kayak, and whether or not you’d like to take have the possibility of carrying more than one kayak at a time on your roof rack.
The market of kayak roof racks is fairly large. In this comprehensive guide, we’re going to break down and review some of what we think, are the best kayak roof racks on the market. In addition to reviewing roof racks, we’ll also provide a guide to some of the points that you should be aware of when buying your new roof rack – such as price, design points, and necessities.
What To Look For In The Best Kayak Roof Racks
Design of The rack
Your kayak roof rack’s design is a very important point to consider when you’re out looking to buy. First and foremost, you should ensure that the roof rack you’re looking at is suitable for your vehicle. If you’ve got a van and want to place the rack on top, then be sure to look for large racks that are particularly designed for use on vans!
Get one that’s purpose-built – This is another point that people often try to budget on wrongly. Whilst there are many roof racks on the market, all are purpose built for different uses. There is no point in buying a rack that’s designed to carry bikes thinking that it will also accommodate your kayak! Not only could you cause serious damage to the top of your vehicle, you could also pose serious risk to other road users should you be driving with a kayak strapped to the wrong racking system.
Aesthetics – Looks are another important point to factor in when looking at kayak roof racks. If your rack is going to be on your vehicle at all times or far the majority of the time, you’re going to want to be sure that it’s aesthetically pleasing. Interesting points to look for are collapsible points, that can allow the rack to lie as flat as possible on the roof of your car. Whilst you might not think it will make much difference, it can really change the look of your car when the rack is still on, but not in use.
Ease of Use – If you know that you’re going to be regularly adding and removing the rack from your car, it pays to make sure you get one that can be done so with ease and in a short time.
Cost should, of course, is going to be a consideration when you’re in the market for your kayak rack. Everyone wants to be as cost-effective in their purchases as possible, which is sometimes a great idea. However when it comes to buying a kayak rack, getting an extremely cheap option is a false economy.
Opting for a higher-quality and perhaps slightly more expensive rack will mean that you’re getting a product that’s going to last you and your kayak for many years – in which time you might have had to buy two or three cheaper options due to breakages. Paying out that little more money for your first kayak rack is ensuring that you’re getting a reliable product that’s going to last.
Advantages of paying a little more for a kayak rack:
- Higher quality with well-made fittings
- Less chance of damaging your car
- Will last for a much longer time and serve as a long-term investment
- Higher-end racks come with more features as standard
Keeping an eye out for high-quality materials in kayak racks is important. You should ensure that the towers and bars of the racks have good fastenings that are non-abrasive, and that can be easily adjusted.
Another good point to look for is rubber lining underneath the fastenings and fixtures. Not only does this mean that they can be more securely fastened together/to other things, it also means that they’re less likely to cause damage to other parts of the rack or your car when tightly bound.
Best Kayak Roof Racks
Malone Downloader – Folding Kayak Roof Rack
Malone is one of the most well-known kayak roof rack manufacturers. They are also known for making some of the finest and most accommodating kayak roof racks on the market today.
Thanks to its very handy J-style design, the roof rack can easily be moved upright whenever you would like to mount your kayak on top. When not in use, the rack can be easily left on your car without being too intrusive, thanks to it being able to fold nearly flat, resultantly not adding much to the total height of your car.
This kayak roof rack boasts a “j-style” design, making getting your kayak on and off the rack very easy and convenient. The rack also features ample padding, to ensure that both your kayak and car are kept safe an damage free, whilst in transit.
- Easy and quick to use thanks to J-Style racking
- Kit comes with everything required to mount on the rails of your vehicle and get on the move
- Extremely well-padded, ensuring that your car and kayak are not damaged
- Can be folded low so that little height is added to the top of your vehicle – ideal if you’re leaving the rack on your car for any length of time
YAKIMA JayLow Rack – Double Kayak Roof Rack
The Yakima JayLow is a great double kayak roof rack. Being able to support up to two kayaks once mounted on the roof of your vehicle, you’ll have no problem transporting yours and your friend’s kayak to the side of the water whenever you like.
The JayLow can support a single kayak in a cradled position up to 80 lbs. If you’re looking to cater for two kayaks, the rack can support a combined vertically stacked weight of up to 100 lbs, which should be more than enough for two standard sized kayaks.
Compatibility with the Yakima JayLow is excellent too. It can be easily fitted onto a variety of crossbar shapes and styles, including square designs, round, and more sleek aerodynamic variants. Please not, the crossbars must have a minimum distance spread of 24 inches.
Similarly to the Malone rack reviewed previously, this Yakima model comes supplied with all of the fixtures and fittings that you’ll need to get started fitting the rack onto the roof of your car right away. The rack also comes supplied with various straps and tie-downs, which further ensure the security of your kayak(s). Yakima also state that the rack should be able to be easily installed onto your car, without the use of tools, in around 10 minutes!
- Can easily support any type of kayak
- Well padded to ensure both kayak and car are kept safe
- Can support one or two kayaks (up to 110 lbs if 2)
- Extremely easy to fit onto car, with no tools required and a total installation time of less than 15 minutes
- Can be easily folded flat once on top of your vehicle
- J-Cradle design
Thule 898 Pro Hullavator – Advanced Kayak Car Mounting System
There is no doubt about it. The Thule Hullavator is the most advanced kayak roof rack from our list of reviews, and arguably the most advanced kayak lifting and mounting system on the market.
Completely revolutionary, this amazing rack allows you to load your kayak onto the rack at waist level on the side of the car and secure it in place. Once all is safe and ready to go, you can simply push the loaded boat upwards, and the system will assist you on getting the boat on top of your vehicle, thanks to the powerful gas struts. Once in position, the Hullavator snap locks into place and you’re ready to roll!
This rack system can support kayaks that are up to 36” in width, and 75 pounds in weight. Once locked in, your kayak will be extremely well protected too, with 8 various areas of the rack featuring high-quality, shock-absorbing padding.
This revolutionary Thule rack system is also resistant to rusting, you’re sure to get many years of great usage from the Hullavator.
- The most advanced kayak rack and mounting system on the market today
- Loading can take place at waist level, on the side of the car
- Looks great
- Easy to set up
- Can support kayaks of up to 36” in width and 75 lbs in weight
Malone Handirack – Kayak Roof Rack For Cars Without Rails
The Malone Handirack is the perfect option if your vehicle is not fitted with roof rails. Previously, you might have thought that you wouldn’t be able to mount kayaks (or anything for that matter) on the roof of your car – the Malone Handirack says otherwise!
The Malone Handirack is inflatable, which means that you can easily keep the two inflatable components in the back of your car, for whenever you might need to use them – extremely convenient indeed.
Our favorite part about the Handirack is that it’s completely versatile. Whilst it is great for carrying kayaks on top of your car, it can support really, anything that you would like. Whether you’d like to put a kayak, canoe, windsurf board, or skis on top, the Handirack will serve as the perfect solution.
The Malone Handriack is extremely easy to get onto your car in no time at all. You don’t need to use any tools during installation – the straps simply go through the doors of your car, and are secured together where they meet in the middle securely.
- Fits almost all cars on the market, no roof rails are required
- Easy to store anywhere you like
- Installation is quick and simple
- Can support a wide variety of sporting equipment, not just kayaks
Malone Seawing – Saddle-Style Kayak Roof Rack
The Malone Seawing offers a seat-like design for your kayaks. Boasting a very simple design, the Seawing consists of two horizontal metal bars that are mounted onto the roof rails of your vehicle, and then two v-shaped kayak cradles, into which your kayak or kayak(s) will sit.
The Seawing is again, a very easy system to get started with and set up properly. The kit comes with everything that you could need to get going right away.
Thanks to the cradle-shaped design, you can be sure that your kayak will be secure once strapped in place. Dependant on the size of your vehicle, thanks to the thin design of thse mounts, it could be possible for the SeaWing to support two kayaks on top of your vehicle.
- Secure V-shaped cradle design
- Quick and easy to mount
- Potential to carry two kayaks
We hope that you’ve gained a fair amount of information from reading our guide to the best kayak rood racks on the market today. If you’d like more information on a variety of different kayaks and kayaking products, please check the rest of our buyer guides out here.