Best Kayak Racks
Unless you are a part of the fortunate few that lives within walking distance to a body of water, you have most likely had to deal with the very specific dilemma of transporting your kayak from your house to the water. Even if you don’t own a pickup truck, if you invest in a great kayak rack, you can hook your kayak to your car and let your outdoor adventures begin.
With so many kayak racks out there on the market, it can become confusing and overwhelming selecting which one is perfect for your needs. Some racks were only designed for specific types of cars, and others require an overly complicated installation process. That is why we have done the research and scoured the web for the best kayak racks available today, and why they are the best on the market. These kayak racks are relatively easy to install and should work with most car models that come equipped with factory crossbars. So check out the list below and let your adventures begin!
In a Hurry? The test winner after 16 hrs of research
Easy to load
- Malone Auto
- OxGord Universal
- Car Rack & Carriers©
- ABN Kayak
- Malone Auto Racks Stax Pro2
- THULE 835 Hull-a-Port Pro
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
1. Malone Auto
Easy to load
Some report that it doesn’t support larger kayaks
This is the Cadillac of all kayak roof racks. It is constructed from heavy-duty materials that keep not only cars but also kayaks safe and secure so that you don’t have to worry about the status of your kayak while traveling down the highway. This added security comes at a higher price, but many past users find that this kayak rack is definitely worth the added expense.Read more
The design of this rack is what makes it truly unique. It sports the classic J-shape hook that is standard for most kayak racks, but it has the option of being folded down when it is not in use.
The problem with many kayak racks is that they stick up significantly from the car and because they are screwed in place, they are not really easy to remove when not in use. The Malone rack is unique because it folds down to lay flat against the car with the press of a button.
This rack can only hold one kayak, but it holds it extremely well. Users can rest assured that their kayak is securely in place while traveling down the highway.
Ease of use
Loading your kayak up on this rack is simple and easy. Simply hoist it up onto the J-shaped hooks, and once it is in place, secure it with the straps that are included over the top of the kayak, and further secure it by tying it to the front and the rear of the car.
To assemble the rack, you will have to dig out your toolbox to affix the mounting hardware to the crossbars of your car, but it shouldn’t be anything too complicated. All of the hardware that you will need is included with the purchase. It attaches to the crossbar of your car and is tightened with screws with a wrench.
Peace of mind often comes at a price, and for this secure rack that's the case. The cost of this kayak rack is one of the most expensive racks that is currently on the market. However, all of the added benefits, plus the security that comes with a Malone Auto Racks products makes this rack well worth the money if you can swing it.
This rack hits all of the marks of what a kayaker would want in a roof rack. It is sturdy and dependable, it retracts inward when not in use, and it is a cinch to load and unload your kayak. If you can spare the extra cash for the padded price tag, it is well worth the money.
Easy to Install
Some users report that the straps are not long enough
Some users have reported problems with included hardware
The TMS Kayak carrier is one of the best carriers out there because it’s easy to install and incredibly affordable. It is shaped in the standard J-shape that is typical for most kayak racks, and it hooks to the crossbars on your car.Read more
As stated before, this rack is shaped in the standard J-shape that makes the kayak easy to load, as well as ensuring that it stays put when you hit the road. They are made from superior materials that are capable of hauling up to 75 pounds.
The purchase of this carrier comes with two separate mounts that are affixed to the crossbars on your roof and is capable of comfortably holding one kayak.
Ease of use
All of the hardware and tools that you will need are included with purchase. Users will have to climb up onto the roof of their car to mount the hooks to the crossbars of their car. After the hooks are mounted, simply lift your kayak securely in place, and use the straps to secure the front of the kayak to your car.
This J-shape mount ships completely assembled, all you have to do is mount the hooks to the crossbars on your car. The instructions that come with this model are easy to read and have a lot of diagrams. You will have to break out the toolbox for a wrench to tighten the screws, but after that, you are ready to hit the road.
The price is one of the best features of this rack. It is one of the more affordable kayak racks that is currently on the market, costing about the same price as it would cost you to take a friend out for a nice lunch after a long day out on the lake.
If you are looking for an affordable way to cart your kayaks to the lake for the weekend and you don’t want to be bothered with a difficult installation process, these kayak racks are an excellent choice.
Easy to load
Only holds one kayak
Users report that included screws are too long
This is a great alternative for a kayak rack for those that don’t want to fumble with tying down their kayaks to the front of their cars. This design is easy to install and is possibly more secure than some of the other kayak racks on the market. That added safety and ease of use, unfortunately, comes at a significantly higher price tag, however.Read more
This rack comes in the classic J-shape design with the additional benefit of rubber tipped curves. It is made from powder-coated steel that makes it rust resistant, which is an important feature because you are often loading wet kayaks up onto this rack when it’s time to head home, and rust means that it's losing strength. The straps used to keep the kayak in place are made from heavy-duty materials to ensure your expensive kayak stays put, even on those long road trips.
These two racks are only capable of holding one kayak. Many of the other racks on this list come with two racks that are used to hold two kayaks in the middle with the addition of ropes that are tied to the front of the car. This product, however, holds the kayak at both ends and the strap goes over the kayak and affix to the bars.
Ease of use
Loading this kayak up onto your car is simple and easy, and it doesn’t require the use of any additional ropes or straps. Simply hoist your kayak up and secure it into the J-shape hooks. Once it is securely in place, use the durable and heavy-duty straps to secure the kayak to the top of the rack.
These racks affix to the crossbars of your car and come with all of the necessary hardware to make sure it is secure. You may have to dig out your toolbox to make sure that the screws are tightened correctly to prevent your kayak from falling off in the middle of the highway.
The downside about this rack is that it is priced significantly higher than many of the other kayak racks on the market. This higher price comes from the quality as well as the guarantee of buying a product from ROLA (a trusted brand in the car rack industry).
For kayakers in the market for a singular rack that is secure, easy to load, and comes from a trusted brand, the ROLA Kayak Roof Rack is an excellent choice for those willing to pay the slightly padded price tag.
4. OxGord Universal
Easy to install
Rubber grips protect kayak
Some users report that included screws are too long and scratch roof of car
The Oxgord Universal Kayak Roof Rack is a safe and sturdy rack to carry your kayak without breaking the bank. It is constructed in the classic J-shape frame and mounts to the crossbars on the roof on your car. The ease of use, as well as the simple installation, makes these racks stand out from the rest.Read more
As state before, these are constructed in the classic J-shape design to comfortably hold your kayak in place. The hooks have soft rubber grips to not only keep your kayak from getting scratched and scuffed, but it also prevents it from jumping around when you are driving on bumpy roads.
When this rack is fully mounted, it is capable of holding one kayak. However, based upon how it holds the kayak upright, the purchase of an additional set of racks would allow you to fit one more kayak to the roof of your car.
Ease of use
It’s incredibly simple to load up your kayak and hit the road with the use of these J-shape hooks. Simply hoist your kayak up to the roof of your car and cradle it into the hooks. Once it is in place, use the straps that come with this purchase to secure it to the front and back of your car.
Assembly is quick and easy, but you will have to dust off that toolbox to affix these racks to the roof of your car. As with most of the other racks, these racks are attached to the crossbars that are already on your car. Screw on the mounting brackets to the hooks, and slide them onto the bars. Once you have them where you want them, turn the knob found on the bottom of the rack to tighten it into place.
This is where this product really shines. It’s one of the least expensive racks found on this list. It may not have the versatility or unique design as the Malone Auto Racks carrier, but it serves the purpose it is set out to achieve without breaking the bank.
If you are in the market for an affordable way to get your kayak to the lake, the Oxgord Universal Roof rack is an excellent choice. Plus, it is so affordable that you can dish out the extra money to buy an additional rack to invite a friend along on your next weekend getaway to the lake.
5. Car Rack & Carriers©
Fits two kayaks
Easy to install
Some users have difficulty securing it to their crossbars
Some find that the straps are not long enough, or they have a tendency to slip
This kayak rack is the perfect solution for kayakers that are looking to carry more than one kayak to the lake. It is made from sturdy and durable materials and has thick canvas straps to ensure that your kayaks keep up with you as you speed down the highway after work for your weekend getaway.Read more
The design of this rack is also the classic J-shape frame that cradles kayaks. The base is made from durable plastic, and the metal arms are coated in thick plastic to prevent kayaks from becoming scratched or rattling around on bumpy roads. It also comes with stylish orange canvas straps with metal buckles for added security.
Unlike many of the other racks on this list, the Car Racks & Carriers rack is able to hold two kayaks. It’s also versatile enough to carry canoes or surfboards.
Ease of use
The J-shape design makes this rack a cinch to load. Simply lift your kayak up onto the roof and cradle it between the two hooks. Once it is securely in place, utilize that orange straps to secure the kayaks to the car, and tighten them with the metal buckles.
Yes, you will have to break out your toolbox, but you won’t be pulling out your hair trying to figure out how to mount these to the roof of your car. The instructions are easy to follow, and all of the screws and washers are included. Once you have tightened the screws to the brackets, the unit can be tightened turning a plastic and simple grip knob on the bottom of the rack.
Considering that these racks are able to carry two kayaks makes this an incredible deal. It costs about the same amount one would spend taking a friend out for a nice steak dinner. With the use of high-quality materials and positive user reviews, the price of these racks is fantastic.
If you and a friend are looking to take a fun weekend road trip to the lake together, the Car Rack & Carriers© Kayak rack makes it easy for you to load up your gear and hit the road before the weekend traffic gets bad. Plus, it’s low price provides more money to spend on road snacks.
6. ABN Kayak
Made with rust-resistant steel
Easy to install
Simple to load
Some users report rubber grips leave black marks on kayaks
Some reports that the straps that are included are a tad flimsy
ABN makes a great roof rack that rivals the quality of some of the bigger brands, and it is offered at a slightly lower price point. The design and features meet all the needs of most people looking for a kayak.Read more
As with all effective kayak racks, this model sports the classic J-shape design that cradles the kayak against metal bars that are protected by a thick layer of rubber to prevent your kayak from rattling around and becoming scratched and scuffed on bumpy roads. It also comes with straps that are easily adjusted by buckles.
This rack is capable of comfortably holding one kayak. However, the way that it holds the kayak on its side means that there is an extra roof on your roof to hold additional kayaks with the purchase of additional racks.
Ease of use
Loading your kayak on and off is a cinch with this rack. To load, all you have to do it hoist your kayak up and place it on the rubber hooks. Once you feel that it is property in place, you can secure it by using the buckled straps that come with these racks.
Mounting these racks to the crossbar in the roof of your car is easy. You will have to dig into your toolbox for a wrench to tighten the screws, but that is pretty simple and even those that have no experience with tools will not struggle to mount this rack to the roof of their car.
The price of this rack runs right down the middle of the road. It is not the most expensive rack on the market, but it is by no means the least expensive rack on the market. If you were looking for a great rack but aren’t willing to pay top dollar, this is an excellent option.
If you are looking for a way to cart your kayak to the lake, but you did not want to spend top dollar to do so, this rack is an excellent option. It is made from quality materials, is a snap to install, and makes it easy to load and unload your kayak from the roof of your car.
7. Malone Auto Racks Stax Pro2
Grips kayaks with foam rests
Easy to install
Folds down when not in use
Some users report that straps don’t hold tension well
This kayak rack is a little bit different than any other rack that you will find on the market. Instead of utilizing the classic J-shape frame that cradles your kayak, this uses a system of soft foam and hooked bars to keep your kayaks safe and secure. Past users were a little unsure at first about its different design but quickly discovered that it kept kayaks securely in place on long car rides.Read more
As stated above, the design of this rack is what makes it stand out against the rest of the racks on the market. It has curved foam that cradles your kayak seamlessly, and long metal bars with hooks on the end that are used to hold the straps that are used to keep the kayak in place. In addition to its innovative design, this model also has the ability to be folded down when not in use, which is something that most kayak racks don’t do.
What also makes this rack great is that it is able to hold two kayaks, meaning you and your friend can hit up the lake with only one car.
Ease of use
Loading and unloading kayaks are a cinch. Due to the fact that this rack doesn’t have the raised J-shape cradle, you don’t have to lift your kayak as high as you normally would. All you need to do it set the kayak on the grooved foam, and lean it against the white bar. After your kayaks are in place, use the provided straps to secure the kayaks to the car.
Leave your toolbox in the garage, you won’t be needing it. All of the components to this rack are able to be tightened to the crossbars by hand. Each bar is affixed to crossbars and then tightened by twisting the plastic knob found at the bottom of the unit.
This innovative design comes with a significantly higher price than some of the other racks on the market. The innovative design offers excellent security for your kayak and your car, and if you have the extra money to spend it is well worth the price.
If you were looking for something a little different than the traditional J-shape kayak racks, the Malone Auto Racks Stax Pro2 Kayak Carrier is a great choice if you have the extra money to spend on a more expensive rack.
8. THULE 835 Hull-a-Port Pro
Easy to load
Arms fold down making it easier to pull into the garage when not loaded
Some users find them difficult to mount
Thule is a trusted name in the outdoor gear industry, so it comes to no surprise that they are coming in at the top of this list. This kayak rack sports the classic J shape frame that keeps kayaks secure and protected.Read more
The design of this rack this thick and sturdy. It is made from high-quality steel that is able to hold a lot of weight, and the steel arms are coated in soft rubber to keep kayaks safe from becoming scratched or dented on bumpy car rides. The rubber grips are stamped with the Thule brand in thick white letters along the side. This model comes with royal blue straps to tie kayaks down to the car. What makes this design special is that the arms fold down when not in use. This is a feature not available on many kayak racks.
One set of kayak racks is able to support one kayak comfortably. Due to the way that this kayak is held on its side, you have the option of purchasing an additional set of racks to add another kayak on the roof of your car.
Ease of use
Hoisting your kayak up onto these J-shaped hooks is simple and easy. Once all of the hardware is installed, all you have to do it lift up your kayak and secure it into place on the hooks. Once you have your kayak where you want it, further secure it by using the stylish blue straps to affix the kayak to your car.
You might not need to grab your toolbox to install these racks, but you might need to call a friend over to help. These racks affix to the crossbars on your car, and past users have discovered that setting them into place and tightening them can be a little difficult for just two hands.
Thule is one of the leading names in the outdoor gear world, and the price of these hooks reflects the price of a superior product. This is one of the more expensive kayak racks to make this list. However, if you are willing to spend the extra money, you will be receiving a product that will most likely last for many, many trips out to the lake.
If you are in the market for a superior set of kayak racks that will keep your kayaks safe and secure on those long roads trips, these are an excellent option. They do cost a lot more than some of the others, but if you have the extra money they are definitely worth it.
Can be used with a number of water gear
Keeps gear secure
May not fit car, look if it is compatible with model before buying
This kayak rack has a great design and comes from a great company. It is versatile as it can be used with a variety of different water gear. It is easy to store and uses a simple strap system. The INNO is definitely a kayak rack to seriously consider. If you choose to go with this one, you will be happy you did.Read more
This design is perfect to strap in your kayak and journey to your next adventure spot. It has a thick and durable plastic base that is mounted to the crossbars of your car. The security of this rack not only ensures your car is protected and also your kayak is protected.
This rack can hold one kayak comfortably, but if you are using this rack for other water gear. It can hold 3 shortboards and 2 longboards.
Ease of use
Loading your kayaks onto this rack is simple and easy, and shouldn’t take too much of your time. Simply undo the straps and slide your kayak through the straps, once the kayak is in position simply tighten the straps to secure your kayak in place.
No assembly required, simply install this rack onto your existing crossbars on your vehicle.
This rack is on the higher priced size but it is well worth it due to the security and ease of storage it provides you. Simple design but maximum protection to your car and your gear.
INNO, short for innovation is a great addition to this list. These versatile racks are slightly higher in price, but worth it. They can also be used for surfboards and canoes. The only downside to these is that they may not be compatible with your car. Make sure to check which models these racks are compatible with before purchasing.
Easy to load
Difficult to assemble
Some users find that the mounts are a tad flimsy
Mrhardware offers a great kayak roof rack that is set at an incredibly affordable price. It may take a little bit more time to get this set up than some of the other racks on this list, but the extra effort will save you a little bit of money. It sports the classic J-shape hook that makes it a cinch to load.Read more
The J-shape hooks are not only a great design because it makes it simple to load up your kayak, but it also helps keep your kayak safe and secure on long road trips. The arms of the glossy black hooks are padded with a thick rubber that prevents your kayak from getting scratched or dented on bumpy roads.
The purchase of this product comes with one pair of hooks that can accommodate one kayak. Due to the way that the kayak is held on its side, it is easy to load up another kayak with the purchase of an additional set of racks.
Ease of use
To load up your kayak, simply hoist it up onto the roof and set it into place on the J-shaped hooks. Once you feel that it is where you want it, tie it down to the car with the straps that are provided. Once you feel that the straps are secured, it is time to hit the road.
The bad news is that this product comes in pieces, and you are responsible for putting everything together. The arms come in one piece, and you will need to screw the arms onto the mounting unit, and then mount the unit onto the crossbars of your car.
The most handsome feature about this rack is the affordable price. This product is probably one of the most affordable kayak racks on this list. If you have the extra time and patience to put these racks together, it is a great deal.
If you are looking to save a little bit of money this is an excellent option to help carry your kayaks to the lake for a long weekend getaway.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Functionality is, of course, priority one, but the design and materials are also important features that we looked at. Unless you are a part of the very fortunate few that has the option of kayaking at the lake every day of your life, you will probably have to contend with an empty kayak mount on the roof of your car throughout the week. Some of the more expensive units are designed so that the arms from the J-shaped hooks fold down when not in use, making it easier to park in your garage during the workweek.
It also important to know if there is a rubber coating on the rack. This feature can protect both your car and kayak from scratches. Along with how the kayak will be strapped into place, all of these small features together ensure the safety of your investments.
More time spent fiddling with affixing the rack to your car means less time spent doing other things, like kayaking at the lake. Also, the more time you spend trying to install a rack that is difficult means a higher probability that something wasn’t done properly, making your kayak less safe. When selecting the best racks it is important that they are easy to mount to your car.
With most designs, the initial set-up of mounting the racks on your car is the most difficut part of the job. Although this task is fairly simple on its own, you will usually need a few tools and a bit of muscle. After this, hoisting the kayaks up and onto the rack is typically easy and you only need to position them correctly and adjust the straps.
Ideally, you want to spend more on your actual kayak and road trip snacks than you want to spend on your rack. Let’s face it, spending a lot of money on a system to cart your kayak is not an ideal way to spend your hard-earned money. It’s more fun to spend money on paddles, snacks, and kayak accessories. We took this into consideration when compiling this list, and tried to get the most affordable racks on the market without sacrificing important features such as security and ease of use.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Even though many of these designs have built-in rubber padding, being extra safe is never a bad idea. This can be as simple as putting a towel down to avoid scratches. Or, you could also invest in a kayak cover to keep it safe from dirt, dust, and scratching.
The first time you fasten your kayak to the racks it may seem difficult. It is best to have a friend nearby to help you get into the swing of things. After a few times, it will become easier and easier and you'll wonder why you ever had doubts.
Other Factors to Consider
To ensure that your kayak rack does not get damaged over the years and last you many years to come you can take some precautions when packing your kayak and when driving. This is making sure the kayak rack is not touching the ground or scraping after the kayak has been loaded, as when you are driving and hit a bump that the kayak rack does not get damaged off the ground. Raise up your kayak rack and make sure it is a safe distance off the ground.
In the outdoor gear world, there are some brands that have made quite a name for themselves in the realm of travel. Thule and Rhino-Rack are two of the big ones, but other brands such as ROLA and Malone Auto Racks has manufactured some great car racks that have you in mind. Most of the bigger brands only make racks for outdoor sports, so you know that they have a keen eye on what outdoor athletes need in their car racks.
Frequently Asked Questions
If it has wheels and a roof, you can mount your kayak to just about anything. You will just have to spend a little bit more money and put in some more effort. Many of the SUVs on the market come standard with crossbars, which are what all of the above kayak racks affix to. If you do not have these crossbars standard on your car, you can purchase them, often from the same company that you bought your mount from. If installing extra things on your car doesn’t appeal to you, you can also purchase an inflatable roof rack that ties to the inside of your roof through the back windows. Keep in mind that this model is not ideal for travelers that like to ride with the windows up.
Technically, yes, but they will not be as secure and highway travel is most likely out of the question if you want to ensure that you make it to your destination with four kayaks instead of three. If you are traveling a short distance, other kayakers have loaded two additional kayaks in between the two that are securely mounted, and then just tied them down.
You can use your kayak on rivers, lakes, canal, and even the ocean. But it is best to find a kayak that is fitted to where you will be adventuring most as not all kayaks are able to be used on all these types of water bodies. Also, consider that to get to these water bodies most likely you will be traveling through bumpy and gravel roads, so ensure that you attach your kayak to your kayak rack securely so you don’t lose your kayak on the way.
The answer is yes, depending on the model. Some kayak racks can not only store your kayak but also paddle boards, surfboards, wakeboards, and other water gear. It is best to research the product you are interested to ensure you get one that can be multi-used for your other boards and gear.
- Kayak Carrier Buyer's Guide, Buying Guide, Jan 20, 2017 ,
- Buy Instead of DIY: The Benefits of Purchasing a Kayak Rack, Blog, Nov 25, 2018 ,