10 Best Kayak Roof Racks to Buy in 2020

If you enjoy kayaking, you will agree that a roof rack is one of the essential accessories that you must have. After all, without a roof rack, it would become very difficult to transport your kayak from your house to the water.

While it is possible to put the kayak inside your car, what would you do if you had a 12-foot long kayak? You now begin to see the dilemma. In this post, we will consider the 10 best kayak roof racks of 2020. 

Why is it important to have a post about this?

Well, there are many options available on the market today, with each one promising to be the best option that you can ever choose. While some live up to the billing, many others fall short. To prevent you from falling victim to substandard kayak racks, we have spent hours testing and researching scores of these products.

The ten products reviewed in this roundup are the best you can buy right now. Aside from providing a list and review of the best kayak roof racks on the market right now, we have also provided you with an essential buying guide to help you to choose your next kayak roof rack wisely.

Read on to find out these and more information.

As promised, here’s the buying guide we compiled for you.

Types of Kayak Racks

There are different types of kayak racks on the market today. Let us consider the different types that are available. 

  • Pads

This type of rack is one of the easiest and quickest to fix to your car. Pads, as the name implies, are roof racks that are just placed on top of the car.

They are either made from foam or are inflatable. With this type of rack, you do not need crossbars or racks on your car. 

All you need to install pads is to loop straps through openings like the side windows of the vehicle. Once this is done, the kayak is placed on the pad and tied down.

This type of rack comes with certain advantages.

First, it is excellent when going short distances. They are quite easy to set-up at short notice. 

Another advantage of this type of rack is that you do not need to install a rack system on the roof of your car. Adding a rack would change the aesthetic of your car. Hence, if you do not want any alterations to how your car looks, you should consider using pads. 

Nevertheless, this type of rack comes with disadvantages. One main disadvantage is that it is a temporary fixture. Hence, it isn’t meant for heavy-duty transportation or traveling over long distances. 

  • Crossbars

This type of rack is quite popular. It comes as sturdy bars attached to the roof of your car. It is made of high-quality, durable materials and allows you to tie different stuff, ranging from bicycles, bags and, of course, kayaks.  

  • J-Cradle

The J-Cradle comes in the form of a base and holding arm in the shape of a J. Due to the design, you can easily load your kayak from the side of the vehicle. 

This type of rack is very strong and will hold your kayak very securely over long distances. It is efficient for different kayak sizes. 

  • Saddles

The saddle is usually a combination of pad and crossbars. It comes as a set of pads that are attached to the crossbars of your vehicle. The kayak is placed on these pads and is held down from the bottom.

It is a good rack type for carrying large kayaks. 

  • Rollers

Rollers are similar to the saddle type of rack described above. However, as the name implies, it comes with rollers. Hence, it allows for easy loading and unloading of the kayak. 

  • Stackers

The last type of kayak rack comes as a post-like assembly. As the name implies, it allows you to stack two or more kayaks on the vehicle.

Factors to Consider while Choosing a Kayak Rack

How will you know the best type of kayak rack to buy? Well, the following factors can help you to make the right choice:

  1. Type of Car Roof

The first thing you have to consider is the type of car roof that you have. Let’s consider some of the most popular car roofs and solutions that can work. 

  • Bare-roof car roof: If this is the type of roof on your car, we recommend using a pad type of kayak rack. In fact, it is the only viable option that you have. 
  • Side-rail car roof: If your car has side rails, you will also have to choose a pad type of rack. However, the good news is that you can install crossbars on the side rails. That way you can pick another type of kayak rack for a more secure fit. 
  • Crossbar car roof: This type of roof can use different types of kayak roofs. With the crossbars, you can install virtually any type of rack that you want. 
  1. Distance You Are Driving

If you are driving long distances, you need to have a very secure kayak rack. As we discussed earlier, all other types of racks are great when traveling long distances except for the pad type of rack.

  1. Kayaking Frequency

If kayaking is something that you do once a year or infrequently, it would not make sense spending plenty of money on a rack. 

However, if you frequently kayak, then it would be smart to invest in the best kayak rack system. 

  1. Kayak Weight

If you have a heavy kayak, we recommend buying a rack system that makes it easy to load and unload your kayak. 

The only downside with such systems is that they cost more than regular options. 

  1. Durability

You should consider the materials the kayak rack is made from. This will affect how long it will last. 

To such ends, avoid fragile materials like plastic. We recommend choosing racks made from strong materials like steel. 

10 Best Kayak Roof Racks of 2020

Thule Hull-a-Port Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier

The first option on this roundup is this impressive option from Thule. The Thule Hull is one of the most popular options available on the market today.

When the features and benefits are considered, it isn’t surprising that many people have it as their kayak rack of choice. 

Thule Hull-a-Port Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier
  • Proven J-style kayak carrier creates more room on the load bar

First of all, this rack comes as a J-cradle type of kayak rack. Therefore, it is quite versatile and can carry different sizes of kayaks whenever required. 

It comes with four different adjustable touch-point padding. This versatility lets it carry different shapes and sizes of kayaks with relative ease. With the adjustable points, you can have your kayak sitting vertically or horizontally, depending on what you want. 

During testing, we found the vertical orientation to be best for us since this allows better airflow and reduces air resistance. It will, therefore, reduce energy expended by your vehicle. 

Another reason why this carrier is highly rated is that it can carry up to four kayaks at a time. Once properly mounted and the kayaks securely tied, you can head over to the water without any fear of your kayak falling off your roof. 

Pros

  • Compact
  • Can carry up to four kayaks
  • Durable build

Cons

  • Does not come with accessories

Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Kayak Rack

If you are on the lookout for a kayak rack that is easy to set up, then we highly recommend this unit. It comes with an integrated board which we found makes loading straightforward and quite easy. 

Furthermore, once the kayak is on the rack, you can tie it down securely by using the durable buckle protectors. 

To aid in holding down the kayak, you will also find the pair of premounting bolts provided to be very useful. There are also several straps that will keep both the rack and the kayak securely fitted on your car roof. 

Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Universal Car Rack Kayak Carrier with Bow and Stern Lines
  • J-style kayak carrier with built-in boarding ramp for easy loading

Aside from the secure installation, we also like the overall design of this rack. It comes with plenty of padding, which we found really useful. This padding not only protects your kayak but also protects the body and paint of your car. 

The design also lets you secure the kayak vertically. This will save energy and lets you take more than one kayak with you. 

One major reason we like this unit is the folding technology. This technology grants overhead clearance so you can park inside your garage easily. 

One downside we found during testing is that it is rather noisy. The rack produces quite an annoying squeak as you transport your kayak. 

Pros

  • Easy to load the kayak
  • Durable
  • Folding technology

Cons

  • Relatively expensive
  • Makes a squeaky noise

YAKIMA Kayak Rack

Up next is the Yakima Jaylow car rack. This model offers users the flexibility to carry different types of kayaks in different positions.

It can carry your kayak—whether big, small, or relatively irregularly shaped. It also comes with several adjustment settings, one of which allows you to carry more than one kayak at a time.

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 position (up to 80 lbs.) or 2 kayaks in a vertical, stacked position (up to 110 lbs. combined)

You should know, though, that you cannot carry more than one kayak when the carrier is in a cradle position. To carry up to two boats, you have to set it in the vertical position. It is thus one of the best dual kayak roof racks available today.

Additionally, this excellent kayak rack is heavily padded all around. This gives more protection to your kayak and your vehicle. The padding also improves the grip on the kayak. 

To hold your kayak down securely, this rack features several straps and tie-downs. It is built to last and can carry weights of up to 110 pounds at a time. 

Cleaning the rack is quite easy and straightforward. Since the rack comes with a groove-cushioned base, sand and other types of dirt are easily washed off. 

Due to the cam lever on the rack, you can adjust the crossbars and carry different types of kayaks. Whether you are going solo or are going with a companion, you will surely find this kayak very handy. 

Pros

  • Simple design
  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to clean

Cons

  • Limited crossbar size

HandiRack Universal Inflatable Roof Rack Bars

This unit is a versatile and multipurpose kayak roof rack that offers exceptional value for money.

It is made of unique materials, which differentiates it from most of the other racks on the market and even on this roundup. It is made of high-quality denier nylon.

Denier nylon is quite durable and offers excellent padding to your kayak. Therefore, even if you are traveling over long distances, the padding will protect your kayak all through the trip. 

Sale
HandiRack Universal Inflatable Roof Rack Bars (Black); Tie-downs Included; Fits Most Cars and SUVs
  • Inflatable vehicle rack for carrying all types of gear and accessories; Makes a great CANOE RACK, KAYAK RACK, SURFBOARD RACK, SUP RACK and WINTER SPORTS RACK; LIGHTWEIGHT YET HEAVY-DUTY; Load capacity...

The HandiRack lives up to its “universal” moniker. It is compatible with virtually all types of car roofs available today. 

Installing the kayak rack is quite easy and straightforward. The kayak rack comes with the tools you need for installations. If you are stuck during installation, you will find the instruction manual very useful. 

The unit also comes with a travel bag that lets you store the kayak inside your trunk quite easily. 

Another feature we like in this unit are the D-rings anchor points. These ensure secure transportation all through the trip. 

One downside we found during our research and testing is that the kayak might scratch your roof as you transport it. 

Pros

  • Versatile
  • Long-lasting
  • Comes with a travel bag

Cons

  • Kayak may scratch car roof

ECOTRIC J-Bar Universal Kayak Roof Rack

The Ecotric J-Bar is a highly rated kayak roof rack that comes with certain features that make it a top choice for many car owners.

If you are concerned about how your car looks after installing a roof rack, you might be appeased by the relatively small size of the Ecotric J-Bar. It still leaves plenty of space on the top of your car after installation and mounting your kayak.

ECOTRIC J-Bar 2 Pairs Universal Kayak Canoe Top Mount Carrier Roof Rack Boat SUV Van Car with One Year Warranty
  • Cross Bars are thicker than 1" or wider than 2.5" will not be mounted properly,round or oval crossbar is not fit.please notice it

As with many J-style options on the market, this model has a wide-mouthed style. 

We love this style because it allows you to load and remove the kayak quite easily. 

While it might not do as well as rollers in this regard, it is still easy enough. 

It is a durable rack that is made of high-quality steel parts. Therefore, you do not have to worry about your kayak falling off as you drive. Furthermore, the kayak roof rack is corrosion-resistant.

We love that it comes with adjustable padding that conforms to the load you place on top. As it weighs about 16 pounds, it is lightweight and will not increase energy costs.

As with the model reviewed above, it is compatible with most of the cars on the market. It can be installed on different types of crossbars regardless of their shape. 

To make installation easier, this model has all the tools you need in the packaging. The 8-inch straps go round your kayak and keep it firmly set on your car throughout transportation. 

One issue we had with this model is that the padding is not as durable as the frame. 

Pros

  • Frame is durable
  • Corrosion-resistant
  • Versatile
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Padding lacks durability

TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier

The TMS J-Bar is one of the least expensive products on this roundup. 

But while it is quite cheap, it is well constructed and comes with better performance than even more expensive options. 

First of all, it is made of steel. This high-grade steel means that it is rather durable and can go the distance without breaking. 

Sale
Lifetime Warranty TMS® 2 Pairs J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier Canoe Boat Surf Ski Roof Top Mount Car SUV Crossbar
  • KAYAK CAR TOP CARRIER A simple, low-cost solution to carrying your kayak ITEM#: KAYAK-RK-J(2SET) CONDITION: BRAND NEW QUANTITY: 2 PAIRS

Additionally, it comes with adjustable padding. Therefore, you can rest assured that your car roof and your kayak will be safe throughout the period that you use it.

As with most J-style options on the market, it has a wide-mouthed design. This design ensures that you can load and unload it very easily. The design also means that the kayak doesn’t take up all of the roof space. 

With an ability to carry weights of up to 75 pounds and kayaks of around 36-inch width, you will find this unit quite versatile. It can be used with virtually all types of crossbars on the market. 

To assist you set it up, all the required hardware components are found in the package. 

Overall, it is a cheap, versatile, and rather durable unit that will offer good performance for several trips to come. 

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Easy to load and unload
  • Padded protection
  • Adjustable straps

Cons

  • Cheaper construction than competitors
  • Poor installation instructions

Seah Hardware Universal Roof Rack

As with the TMS unit reviewed above, the Seah Hardware roof rack is a cheap option for those looking for something that doesn’t cost plenty of money. It is thus great for anyone who infrequently kayaks. 

Seah Hardware Universal Roof Rack Cross-Bars 2 PC. 48 Inches
  • The straps go through the door frames, and attach the rack on top of the roof, it fits almost all four door car without side rails, it fit four door car with side rails which height is less than 6.4...

Aside from the price, one main advantage of this unit is that it comes with crossbars. Hence, you can add crossbars to the vehicle, regardless of the size or shape. Once this is done, you can easily add the rack and your kayak. 

These 48-inch crossbars are made of high grade steel. Hence, it feels solid and will serve you throughout the trip without breaking. 

The bars are quite impressive as they can carry weights of up to 800 kg. 

Pros

  • High load capacity
  • Strong crossbars
  • Affordable
  • Easy to set up

Cons

  • Paint on the bars scratch easily
  • Thin straps

Thule 898Pro

The Thule 898 Pro is one of the more expensive options on this roundup. However, once you use it, you’ll likely understand why it costs so much. During our test, we were super impressed by the build and features. 

Hullavator PRO Black/Silver
  • Wider cradles can accommodate bigger width hulls (up to 36 inches wide)

Made in the USA, it comes with a wide cradle that allows you to put in kayaks up to 36 inches wide. Therefore, it is quite easy to set up your kayak on this rack. 

The gas struts also add to the ease of setting up your kayak on the carrier. Additionally, it can accommodate kayaks that weigh up to 75 pounds. These specifications make it quite versatile as most kayaks fall within this range. 

To hold your kayak down during your trip, you’ll surely appreciate the two center straps and tie-downs. With a 9.5-foot length, these straps will surely go round the kayak and tie it securely to your car’s roof. 

Overall, it is a durable option that will carry your kayak safely over long distances. 

Pros

  • High performance unit
  • Highly durable
  • Easy loading and unloading
  • Easy to install

Cons

  • Expensive

Thule Hull-A-Port Xt Kayak Rack

The Hull-a-port CT is a J-cradle kayak roof rack that is quite versatile and easy to use. It can carry up to two kayaks at a go. 

Sale
Thule Hull-a-Port XT Rooftop Kayak Rack, Black, One Size
  • Carry up to two kayaks due to the dual position design that transforms from a j-cradle to two boat stackers position

Due to the StrapCatch easy strap system, it is very easy to load and highly secure. This particular technology makes this unit one of the fastest to load and unload on the market today. 

It can be folded, which is quite useful when you are not using the rack. You can fold it up using a lever. 

Installation is a breeze. First, the whole rack comes preassembled. Furthermore, all the hardware parts that you need already come in the package. 

The load straps have buckle bumpers and stern tie-downs. Therefore, it is very adaptable and can manage weights of over 120 pounds. 

Pros

  • Ease of use
  • Foldable design
  • Can carry up to two kayaks

Cons

  • Expensive

Malone SeaWing Saddle Style Rack

The last option on this roundup is a V-cradle type carrier, the only one of its kind on this roundup.

The V-cradle aims to reduce the time used to set up the kayak. It is effective as it ensures the stability of the kayak. It features load straps with buckle protectors and stern tie-downs for added security. 

It comes in a nice design that enhances your vehicle’s gas usage. The parts are durable, rust-resistant, and allow it to carry several times its own weight. 

You can set it up easily since it comes with all the tools required for installation. 

Pros

  • Comes with all required assembly tools
  • Comes in different colors
  • Secure 

Cons

  • Limited versatility

Comparison Table of 10 Best Kayak Roof racks

Best Kayak Roof Racks - 2020
ProductLoading capacityWeightType
Thule Hull-a-Port Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier75 lbs8.7 lbsJ-cradle
Malone Downloader Folding J-Style75 lbs12.2 lbsJ-cradle
YAKIMA Kayak Rack110 lbs12.7 lbsJ-cradle
HandiRack Universal Inflatable Roof Rack175 lbs5.75 lbsCrossbars
ECOTRIC J-Bar Universal Kayak Roof Rack165lbs16.1 lbsJ-cradle
TMS J-Bar Rack Kayak Carrier75 lbsYesJ-cradle
Seah Hardware Universal Roof Rack
1800 lbs6 lbsCrossbar
Thule 898Pro75 lbs34.7 lbsJ-cradle
Thule Hull-A-Port Xt Kayak Rack130 lbs12.5 lbsJ-cradle
Malone SeaWing Saddle Style Rack70 lbs10.05 lbsSaddle design

Conclusion

Summary

Buying a kayak rack is not an easy thing to do. You can’t just waltz into the market and choose the first option that catches your fancy.

There are several factors to consider before making a buying choice.

In the buying guide above, we discussed some of these essential factors. These include the type of rack, the kind of roof that your car has, the length of your trip, the frequency of your kayaking, and more.

Considering each of these factors before making a buying choice is sure to help you. 

In creating the list of the best kayak racks above, we considered each of these factors. These parameters informed the choice of products. We spent hours researching and testing each of the products reviewed. Therefore, we have narrowed down your choices, making it much easier for you to make the correct buying decision.

Each of the products reviewed above comes with features and benefits that you’ll find useful. Choose any of the ten best kayak roof racks of 2020 reviewed above, and be rest assured of durable, convenient, and excellent performance.

As you decide, ensure that your choice meets your needs in terms of performance, durability, price, and comfort. Happy kayaking!

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