To help you on your quest for finding the best kayak roof rack, we’ve taken the liberty of doing the research for you. After sending countless hours testing hand-on and scouring the Internet and reading through the descriptions of countless kayak racks, as well as endless customer reviews, we’ve narrowed down the options to what we think are the best of the best. We’ve compiled all of the information that we’ve found into this best kayak roof guide.
In this guide, you’ll find descriptions of our picks for the best kayak roof racks. We outline the key features of each model, including a list of pros and cons for each one. We’ve also included a buyer’s guide, which highlights the most crucial factors that you should take into consideration when you’re shopping for a kayak roof rack.
We wrap things up by answering some of the most frequently asked questions that consumers have about kayak racks. With the information presented in this guide, you should be able to find the best kayak roof rack for your specific needs.
Our Top Picks
The guide that we’ve put together is very comprehensive, and we know that not everyone has the time to read through this long list. Just because you don’t have a lot of time doesn’t mean you don’t want to find a high-quality, reliable kayak roof rack. That’s why we put together this section.
Here, we highlight our picks for the top three kayak roof racks, including the best overall, best premium, and best budget models.
Best Pick: Rhino-Rack Nautic 570 Series Kayak/Canoe Carrier
- Universal fitment - fits most popular brands of roof rack crossbars
- Front/rear pads engineered to fit a variety of hull shapes
- 180 degree rotation to allow loading from the side
- Large 2.95" x 7.87" contact surface area per cradle
- 5 Year Warranty
The best kayak roof racks should be durable, easy to use, and reliable, and the Rhino-Rack 570 Series Kayak/Canoe Carrier checks off all of those boxes. The universal fitment is designed to work with most roof rack crossbars. The front/rear pads are specially designed to accommodate hulls of all shapes and sizes. With a 180 degree rotation, you can load your vessel from the side. Each cradle features a large 2.95 inch by 7.87 inch contact surface. Waterproof, UV-protected, and corrosion resistant, these roof racks can withstand the elements with ease and will be sure to last a long time.
Premium Pick: Thule Hull-a-Port XT Rooftop Kayak Carrier
- Versatile rooftop rack that holds 1-2 kayaks
- Dual position design transforms from a J-cradle to a two boat stacker
- Integrated StrapCatch helps to easily manage straps while loading kayak
- Easily folds flat when not in use
- Fully assembled out of the box
If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line kayak roof rack, our premium pick is an excellent choice: the Thule Hull-a-Port XL Rooftop Kayak Carrier. It can hold one or two vessels and the dual position can be transformed from a J-cradle to a two boat stacker, making it a highly versatile roof rack. An integrated StrapCatch makes managing straps while loading up your kayaks. It comes fully assembled and is ready to install right out of the box. When you aren’t using it, you can fold the rack flat to prevent unnecessary drag while you’re driving.
Budget Pick: TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier
- Steel design with adjustable padding for carrying strength and kayak protection
- Wide mouth J bar offers easier loading and unloading
- Quick on/off hardware ensures fast installation and removal
- Optimally sized J style carrier leaves roof space. Dimensions: 17.5" (L) × 12.5" (W) × 6.5" (H)
- Accommodates kayaks up to 36inch wide and 75lbs. Authentic TMS products contain vacuum sealed installation hardware. Authentic TMS products are shipped in labeled boxes with item description (as shown in picture).
For shoppers who don’t want to spend a lot of money but don’t want to sacrifice quality for cost, the TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier is a great choice. The steel construction is highly durable and can withstand the elements and regular use. Adjustable padding enhances the strength of the rack while offering protection for your kayak. The wide mouth J bar design makes loading and unloading your boat a breeze, and quick on/off hardware makes installation and removal a cinch.
Kayak Roof Rack Reviews
Now that you’ve had a sneak peek at our top three picks for the best kayak roof racks, let’s dive in and take a closer look. In this section of our guide, we provide more detailed reviews of our top picks for the best kayak roof racks, including our picks for the best overall, best premium, and best budget picks, as well as additional premium-quality models.
Rhino-Rack Nautic 570 Series
Our pick for the best overall kayak roof rack is the Rhino-Rack Nautic 570 Series. It’s constructed of highly durable anti-corrosive, rust-proof, and UV-resistant materials, so it can withstand all types of wear and tear.
The universal fitment can accommodate the most popular types of roof rack crossbars. Front and rear santoprene rubber pads are that engineered to accommodate various types of hull shapes and the large 3 inch by 8 inch contact surface area offers extra stability for your kayaks while you’re driving.
It comes complete with two tie down straps and two rapid straps that are outfitted with unique buckle protectors, too. The 180 degree rotation makes side mounting a cinch, so you’ll be able to get your kayak on and off the rack in no time. Kayaks aren’t the only thing this roof rack can carry; it can be used to transport canoes, too.
The lightweight design (6.3 pounds) won’t weight down your car, yet the racks are exceptionally durable and will keep your kayak safe and secure on your roof. For your confidence, it’s backed by a five year warranty, too.
- Made of highly durable, yet lightweight materials
- Universal fitment can accommodate the most popular brands of roof rack crossbars
- Front and rear pads are designed to fit all types of hull shapes
- 180 degree rotation allows for easy side loading
- Large contact surface area
- Comes with 2 tie down straps and 2 rapid straps with unique buckle protectors
- Backed by a 5 year warranty
Thule Hull-a-Port XT Rooftop Kayak Carrier
If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line kayak roof rack that can accommodate more than one vessel, the Thule Hull-a-Port XT Rooftop Kayak Carrier is an excellent choice. It’s made of high-grade materials that can stand up to all types of wear and tear.
The dual position design can be turned from a J-cradle to a two boat stacker. An integrated StrapCatch makes it easy to manage straps while you’re loading your kayaks. It comes fully assembled and is ready to install right out of the box.
When it’s not in use, it can be folded flat, which prevents drag on your vehicle. This kayak roof rack comes complete with load straps, buckle bumpers, and stern tie downs for a single boat and it can be locked to load bars with Thule’s One Key System (which is sold separately).
It’s designed to fit on all types of load bars, too, so its highly versatile.
- Made of durable, high-grade, lightweight material
- Dual position design can go from a J-cradle rack to a two boat stacker
- Integrated StrapCatch makes it easier to manage straps while loading
- Comes fully assembled and is easy to install
- Folds flat when it isn’t in use
- Comes complete with load straps, buckle bumpers, and stern tie downs for one boat
TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier
Shoppers who are looking for a high-quality and reliable kayak roof rack but don’t want to spend a lot should check out the TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier. Constructed of steel, it’s incredibly durable, yet lightweight, so I won’t add a lot of weight to your vehicle.
The wide mouth J bar makes loading and unloading a cinch, and the hardware allows for quick and easy installation and removal. Measuring 17.5 inches by 12.5 inches by 6.5 inches, this carrier can carry kayaks that measure up to 36 inches wide and weigh up to 75 pounds.
Padding on the top and bottom bars will protect your kayak from damage and prevent it from sliding around. It comes with thick nylon straps with buckle closures, too, that will keep your kayak safely secured, so you can have peace of mind knowing that your vessel won’t shift around while you’re driving.
Even better, the TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier is that it doesn’t cost a fortune!
- Durable, yet lightweight steel construction
- Rubber wrapped bars provide protection for your kayak
- Wide mouth J bar allows for easy loading and unloading
- Can accommodate kayaks of all shapes and sizes
- Comes with the necessary hardware and is easy to install and remove
- Very affordably priced
IKURAM Kayak/Surf/Ski Roof Carrier Rack
Next on our list of the best kayak roof racks is the IKURAM Kayak/Surf/Ski Roof Carrier Rack. It’s specially designed to offer maximum protection for kayaks and stand-up paddle board, as it features thick, oversized all-weather rubber saddles and padding, which prevents your vessels from damage.
The J cradle design is highly versatile, as it can accommodate kayaks that measure up to 42 inches wide weigh up to 158 pounds. It can also fit vessels of varying shapes, including oval, round, and square. It also comes with everything you need to install it onto your vehicle, as well as to secure your vessels in place, including heavy-duty safety tie-down straps that have a 750 pound break strength.
This roof rack is made of aviation-grade aluminum alloy, so it’s incredibly lightweight, yet super durable and is rust- and corrosion-resistant. The quick raise and fold design allows you to fold it down when you aren’t using it and the convenient front release handle increases the overhead clearance.
Lastly, it can be used to carry up to two kayaks or standup paddle boards and it even comes with paddle holders!
- Made of aviation-grade aluminum
- Rust- and corrosion-resistant
- Features thick, all-weather rubber saddles for ultimate security and protection
- J-cradle design can accommodate vessels in an assortment of sizes
- Can be used to carry two kayaks or stand-up paddle boards
- Comes with a paddle holder
- All hardware is included
- Fast and easy installation
- Quick raise and fold design
DrSportsUSA Universal Foldable Kayak Canoe SUP Carrier
The DrSportsUSA Universal Foldable Kayak Canoe SUP Carrier 3 in 1 Adjustable Car Roof Rack is one of the most versatile kayak roof racks on our list.
It’s a 3-in-1 adjustable universal carrier that can be used to transport kayaks, as well as canoes and stand-up paddle boards. It can be used as a J-style, dual J-style, and saddle style.
Made of high-grade, 1.5 mm thick steel and featuring an indented tubing design that swivels 180 degrees from the center arm, it’s incredibly durable and very easy to use. Foam padding and a rubber base cover provide protection for your vessels while ensuring that they won’t slip and slide.
Pre-punched holes ensure proper alignment, too. It comes complete with 150 pound rated ratchet pulley straps, bow and safety tie downs, and puller handles, too. With this kayak roof rack, you’ll have no trouble getting your vessels to your destination.
- Made of 1.5 mm thick steel
- Foam padding and rubber base prevent slippage and protect your vessels
- Swiveling 180 degree center arm for easy loading and unloading
- Three usage options – J-style, dual J-style, and addle style
- Comes complete with 150 pound rated ratchet pulley straps
- All hardware is included
- Easy to install
Malone J-Pro 2 J-Style Universal Car Rack Kayak Carrier
The Malone J-Pro is a 2-J-style universal kayak car rack. It’s made of high-grade alloy steel, so it’s very lightweight, yet extremely durable. E-coating on the steel prevents it from corroding, so it can withstand the elements with ease.
It comes equipped with JAWZ mounting hardware, which can fit all types of cross rails, including round, square, and oval. Bow and stern safety tie-downs are included, as are two 12 foot cam buckle straps, as well as 60 mm and 70 mm pre-coated mounting bolts.
The wide J-style design allows for easy loading and unloading, and installing the racks to the roof of your vehicle is a breeze.
Backed by a limited lifetime manufacturer’s warranty, you can purchase the Malone J-Pro kayak roof rack with confidence, because if anything goes wrong, the manufacturer will replace the racks or refund your money
- Made of e-coated corrosion-resistant steel alloy
- Universal JAWZ mounting hardware can fit onto round, square, and oval cross rails
- Comes with bow and stern safety tie-downs, two 12-foot cam buckle straps, and 60 mm and 70 mm pre-coated mounting bolts
- Easy to install and easy to load and unload kayaks
- Backed by a limited lifetime manufacturer’s warranty
Mrhardware A01 Kayak Roof Rack
The last, but certainly not the least, kayak roof rack on our list is the Mrhardware A01 Kayak Roof Rack. The bars are made of 1.5 mm thick steel tubing that is incredibly durable and can hold kayaks or canoes that weigh up to 150 pounds.
Painted with a heavy-duty, weather resistant outdoor paint, you’ll have confidence knowing that this roof rack can stand up to the elements with ease. Foam padding and a rubber base covers are made out of weather- and sun-resistant rubber and foam and ensure your vessels are safe and secure.
This roof rack comes with all of the hardware you’ll need and is very easy to install on all types of roof racks. It comes with an EVA sticker, too, that will protect your car bar. It comes with two super-strong strap that can accommodate kayaks that measure up to 36 inches wide and that weigh up to 100 pounds.
Backed by a 60 day warranty and affordably priced, the Mrhardware A01 Kayak Roof Rack for SUV Car Top Roof Mount Carrier J Cross Bar Canoe Boat is an excellent choice for transporting your boat.
- Steel design with adjustable padding
- Wide mouth J bar offers easier loading and unloading
- Quick on/off hardware ensures fast installation and removal
- Rust-resistant coating and hardware for longer product life
- Accommodates kayaks up to 36″ wide and 100lbs
Other Best Selling Options
- KAYAK CAR TOP CARRIER A simple, low-cost solution to carrying your kayak ITEM#: KAYAK-RK-J(2SET) CONDITION: BRAND NEW QUANTITY: 2 PAIRS
- This Kayak Carrier designed mounts to virtually all crossbars and load bars on the market. The carrier secures the kayak on its side, consuming minimal space on the load bar. As shown in the pictures we put the Kayak Rack on the Ladder Rack Bar.(sold separatly). A maximum of 4 sets of kayak racks can be mounted on a full size truck. Save your space.
- Features: Steel design with adjustable padding for carrying strength and kayak protection Wide mouth J bar offers easier loading and unloading Quick on/off hardware ensures fast installation and removal Optimally sized J style carrier leaves roof space All surface rust-resistant coating and hardware for longer product life Includes all mounting hardware and 2 straps Accommodates kayaks up to 36" wide and 75lbs. Compatible with most crossbars and load bars. Powder-coated finish for rust resistance
- LIFETIME WARRANTY- Your satisfaction is the most important to us and we offer limited lifetime warranty for our kayak rack carrier. If you have any concerns with this product, please contact us.
- PLEASE CHECK MEASUREMENTS BEFORE PURCHASE.
- 🛶【Maximum Kayak Protection】: Maximum protection for kayaks and stand-up paddle boards thanks to the oversized, thick and all-weather rubber saddles and padded upright, which can stop the kayak from rubbing and getting damaged effectively, that is the Best-in-Class TopGuard padding.
- 🛶【Universal and Easy Mounting Design】: This J-Cradle accommodates kayaks up to 42" wide and 72 kg/158 lbs, fits to round, square and the most oval shaped factory installed cross rails quickly and easily, and this kit includes everything you need to transport two kayak vertically on the roof of your car, bow-stern safety tie-downs and two 25×2800 mm heavy-duty straps with a break strength of 750 lbs are also included.
- 🛶【Not For a Single Use】: Made from high quality anodized Aviation Grade Aluminum Alloys, lightweight, durable and rust-resistant, that can be really water-proof and anti-corrosion for longer time, which means you can reuse it every year, save your money and save the world.
- 🛶【Quick Raise and Fold Design】: Come with quick fold down design, which can be quickly raise or fold when not in use using the convenient front release handle to increase the overhead clearance, and the J-bars can also be easily locked at different angles with this handle to suit different shapes of kayaks.
- 🛶【Multiple Carrying Functions Design】: Carry up to two kayaks or standup paddle boards due to the multiple position design and the oversized padding and acrylic fabric sleeves that transforms from a J-cradle to different configurations to maximize your roof space. The Native Paddle Holders comes standard of, which can help you perfectly position your paddles while transporting kayaks.
- [ HEAVY DUTY CONSTRUCTION ] – The racks are made of 22mm diameter and 1.5mm thick steel tube,stronger than else. Black Powder-Coated Steel for Durability & Rust Prevention Plus Long-Lasting, can resist all weather condition and use for a long life.100 Lbs Tested, easy and safe for your transport.
- [ FOLDING AND ERGONOMIC DESIGN] – Ergonomic quick release design, more easily to fold and raise the racks than others. Racks can be folded flat when not in use, get better clearance to drive your car into garage and not have to remove.
- [ REDUCE SCRATCH DESIGN] – Foam Padding and Rubber Pedal design to reduce scratch of your kayak and prevent the canoe or kayak from rubbing.
- [ UNIVERSAL MOUNTING DESIGN ] – Compatible with most crossbars,such as square, factory and aerodynamic crossbars，Except the round bar.
- [ MULTI PURPOSE USE ] – Easy to Install, use this car roof rack to carry Kayak, Canoe, Surf board, Ski board, Snow Board and SUP. Extra 4 pcs tie down straps including.
- Travel With Ease - Taking a Kayak, Canoe, or Surfboard on your next adventure has never been so easy. Simply Mount the J-Bars on the crossbars, and secure the Kayak with the included straps
- Universal Fit - This Kayak Roof Rack set was designed with you in mind, and will fit nearly all crossbars allowing you to take your kayaks anywhere, no matter what car you are traveling with
- Padded Design For Additional Protection - Kayak Carrier Set is made durable in its steel design, but is also padded to ensure no damage is done when transporting your kayak or canoe
- Simple Set Up - Detailed and easy to follow instruction manual included to help get you out kayaking on your next adventure or surfing the waves as quickly as possible
- Complete Set for One Kayak Rack- Contains one pair of racks, two safety straps, and all needed pieces for set up. Can accommodate kayaks up to 36" wide and 75lbs
- KAYAK CAR TOP CARRIER A simple, low-cost solution to carrying your kayak ITEM#: KAYAK-RK-J(1SET) CONDITION: BRAND NEW QUANTITY: 2 PAIRS.
- SECURITY FEATURES:in order to ensure that customers have a good trip and safe, this product USES the loose to prevent the installation of the screw, each 2 sets of Mounting hardware.Before and after the configuration has 10 feet long ratchet rope.1 inch wide, 10-foot long, blue and high quality belt buckles can be maintained for a long time without breakage and safety and reliability，The strongest factory tested tie down straps: 600 lb break strength
- FEATURES: Steel design with adjustable padding for carrying strength and kayak protection Wide mouth J bar offers easier loading and unloading Quick on/off hardware ensures fast installation and removal Optimally sized J style carrier leaves roof space All surface rust-resistant coating and hardware for longer product life Includes all mounting hardware and 2 straps Accommodates kayaks up to 36" wide and 100lbs Will fit most factory or aftermarket round,square,oval and flat crossbars.
- EASY INSTALLATION:Mounting hardware design USES 2 PCS, equipped with EVA sticker in order to protect your car bar, will not scratch you.Will fit most factory or aftermarket square and flat crossbars (OEM crossbars be within 2.5" wide and 1" thick)
- The Amazon default warranty is 30 days, but we can offer 60 days
Kayak Roof Rack Buyer’s Guide
Kayaking is an excellent activity. Not only does it promote physical fitness, but it’s also just a great way to take a break from the everyday hustle and bustle, get outdoors and enjoy the Mother Nature’s beauty.
While there’s no doubt that kayaking offers numerous, for most people, a kayaker’s paradise usually isn’t just outside their door, which means you need to pack up your gear – including your kayak – and travel to a lake, river, bay, or any other body of water. Given how big and bulky a kayak is, trying to get it wherever you’re going can be a serious challenge.
Most recreational kayaks are 10 feet long, while touring kayaks range between 12 and 16 feet long, and sea and ocean kayaks can measure up to 23 feet long! No matter what type of kayak you have, chances are there isn’t enough room inside to fit it inside.
You could latch it onto your roof with some rope, but that isn’t exactly safe. So, how can you successfully get your kayak where you need to bring it and use it safely? With a kayak roof rack, of course.
A kayak roof rack, as the name suggest, is a specialized rack that is specifically designed to securely carry a kayak on the roof of your car, truck, or SUV via an installed rack or foam blocks and prevents the vessel from bounding, sliding, or shifting while you’re driving.
A kayak rack prevents both your vehicle and your vessel from damage, and it also improves your safety and the safety of other motorists (a boat falling flying off a roof when you’re travel down an interstate or even on a country road can result in a potentially dangerous situation).
Finding a kayak roof rack isn’t hard; just go to any sporting equipment store or online retailer and you’ll find dozens of options to choose from. While choice is definitely a good thing, it can also make determining which kayak roof rack will best suit your specific needs a daunting prospect.
Now that you’ve had a chance to read through the review of our top picks for the best kayak roof racks, you’re probably wondering which one you should choose.
While each option is well-made, is easy to use, and will keep your boat secured to the roof of your car, you only need one. So, how do you decide which roof rack will best suit your needs? – By taking some key factors into consideration. In this part of our guide, we highlight some of the most important factors that should be taken into consideration when you’re shopping for a kayak roof rack for your vehicle.
First things first: You need to decide which type of kayak roof rack will work best for you. There are a few different options to choose from, including:
- Pads. Pads are an ideal choice if you need a temporary solution to carry your kayak over short distances. Foam and inflatable designs are available, and both are designed to sit on the top of your roof and feature straps on either end that joins together on the inside of your vehicle. Pads are easy to install and remove, and they’re generally affordably priced; however, they aren’t the sturdies option, as there’s a chance that your vessel could slip off if you’re traveling at high speeds.
- Saddles. This kayak roof rack style has a V-shaped design and feature ratchet straps that are used to support and secure the kayak in place. Options include a single saddle underneath the middle of the kayak or two adjustable saddles hat you can place on either end of the kayak. Saddles are aerodynamic, so they produce less noise when you’re driving and offer better security in high winds.
- J-Cradles. As the name, these kayak roof racks resemble the letter “J” and they have the smallest footprint of all, which makes them extremely popular. Instead of standing upright, the boat sits on its side, which makes it easier to fit more than one kayak on the roof of your vehicle. Additionally, J-Cradle roof racks are highly secure and very easy to use.
- Rollers. Rollers allow for easier loading of a kayak. For example, you place the rollers on the rear of your roof, you can load the front of the boat onto the rollers and roll the rest up onto the rack with ease.
- Stackers. The last style, stackers, are comprised of vertical posts that secures the kayak on its side. They’re very easy to install and use, and they’re usually reasonably priced. If you plan on hauling multiple boats at one time, a stacker-style rack is your best bet, as you can fit up to four kayaks on the rack.
You should also consider the type of vehicle you have, as the size and design of the roof will determine which type of roof rack would work best for your needs. For example, if the roof of your car is bare, or if it has side rails but no crossbars, foam or inflatable pads are the only option you can use, as all other kayak roof racks have to be attached to crossbars.
If your vehicle has crossbars, you have more options, as most types of kayak roof racks can be installed on crossbars; however, you may have a hard time inflatable or rubber pads onto the roof.
The Number of Kayaks
You’ll also need to consider the amount of kayaks you will be transporting. If you’re only to be transporting a single kayak, you can use any of the above-mentioned designs; however, if you’re planning on transporting more than one kayak, you may not be able to use some of designs, such as pads or saddles.
If you’re going to be transporting two kayaks, a J-cradle or stacker would work fine, but if you want to transport more than two, a J-cradle is your best bet.
The Distance You’ll be Traveling
If you’re going to be traveling far distances, you want to be sure that you choose a kayak roof rack that can keep your boat secured for a prolonged period of time or in windy conditions.
Pads, for example, aren’t ideal for long-distance travel or for windy conditions. As long as they’re installed correctly, any of the other designs should be suitable for long-distance travel and high winds.
Frequency of Use
If you’re only going to be using it once in a while, there’s no reason to invest in an expensive kayak roof rack. However, if you like to hit the water on a regular basis, then spending a little more on a high-grade rack would be a worthwhile investment.
You should also consider the materials that the roof rack is made of. Avoid materials that are on the flimsy side, such as aluminum or plastic, as these materials have a tendency to bend or break and can become damaged by the elements.
If you want your kayak roof rack to be as sturdy and durable as possible and to last a long time, you’ll want to purchase a more durable material, such as steel. It’s also a good idea to invest in something that has been treated with a protective coating that can prevent rusting and corrosion.
The Weight of Your Kayak
Lastly, you’ll want to consider the weight of your kayak, as you’ll want to choose a roof rack that can support it. Read through the descriptions of the roof racks you’re considering to find the weight limits.
You don’t want to choose a rack that won’t support your kayak, as it could end up buckling under the weight. If your kayak is on the very heavy side, you may want to opt for a rack that features a lift-assisted feature, such as rollers or bars that slide out and bend down so that you won’t have to lift the vessel up as high in order to strap it in place.
Kayak Roof Rack FAQs
Will I have to drill holes in my crossbars?
Typically, no; however, if you want to install a permanent roof rack, doing so may be worth your while.
Can I move the roof rack to different vehicles?
Yes, but just make sure that it fits onto the roof of whatever vehicle you’re planning on securing it to.
Should I remove the roof rack before going to the car wash?
It’s probably a good idea to remove your kayak roof rack before going to the car wash, as there’s a chance that it could get stuck in the machinery.
Will I need assistance loading my kayak onto the roof rack?
While you could load it onto the rack yourself, an extra set of hands is always helpful.
A kayak roof rack opens up a whole new world of possibilities for paddlers, as you’ll be able to explore more locations with ease. With the information presented in this guide, you should be to choose the best kayak roof rack for your specific needs.