Best Kayak Racks

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Transporting a hard shell kayak that can be well over 10 feet long, can be a quite challenging task for many reasons. You need a rack for your vehicle that meets all your requirements. Here’s the top ten:

Top 10 Kayak Racks Under Review

Table of Contents

Trawling through the internet comparing each can be time consuming and pretty tedious, so we’ve compiled a breakdown of the pros and cons of the best out there to allow you to make an informed purchase.

Review

TMS J-Bar Kayak Carrier

BEST KAYAK ROOF RACK

Kicking off the list with one of the best overall kayak roof racks around. The TMS J-bar is highly affordable while staying durable and protective of your kayaks.

It’s made of heavy-duty steel and padded with adjustable foam to minimize deformations while transporting the kayak.

The J-cradle design, with it’s wide mouth, makes it remarkably easy to load and unload the kayaks off your roof.

Moreover, it comes with an on and off hardware that allows for swift installations and removal. The great thing about this rack is that it comes with a lifetime warranty for a worry-free purchase.

What makes it great:

  • Features a long-term warranty
  • Durable construction with adjustable foam
  • Compatible with most crossbars

Specifications

Size 17.5 x 12 x 6.5 inches (L x W x H)
Weight 16lbs
Maximum Load Capacity 75 lbs
Ideal for most SUV crossbars
Materials coated steel

Thule Hull-A-Port Xt Kayak Rack

Best Kayak Rack for SUVs

The Thule Hull-A-Port kayak rack is excellent for SUVs owners. It’s a great option for saving up some space, as the rack can be folded when you’re not using it.

You can use it as a single kayak carrier through the J-cradle position. However, you can also use it in stackers position to support two kayaks at a time.

The smart design of the kayak rack makes it mountable on almost all vehicles with load bars up to 80 mm wide.

What makes it great:

  • Comes with durable straps and tie-downs for one boat
  • Can be used to carry up to two vertical kayaks
  • Fits most load bars up to 80 mm wide

Specifications

Size 20 x 9 x 20 inches (L x W x H)
Weight 12.5lbs
Maximum Load Capacity 130 lbs (75 lbs for a single kayak)
Ideal for SUVs
Materials steel and plastic

MaxxHaul Universal Kayak Rack

Best Kayak Rack for Trucks

If you’re looking for a way to save more space in your truck, this kayak rack should be on your radar.

The MaxxHaul 70423 is a kayak rack that’s designed to be installed on your truck bed to extend its storage.

This means that you’ll be able to fit in all the gear you need while holding up to 400 lbs of maximum allowed weight.

The kayak rack can be easily installed without needing to drill holes into the rail system. The rack can be installed both vertically or horizontally.

The cargo bumpers are adjustable for a tight fit to prevent the kayaks from sliding while transporting.

What makes it great:

  • Can be installed vertically or horizontally
  • Ultra-durable structure with a very high weight limit
  • Adjustable brackets and bumpers

Specifications

Size 70 x 2 x 26 inches (L x W x H)
Weight 63 lbs
Maximum Load Capacity 400 lbs
Ideal for Trucks
Materials powder-coated steel and aluminum

If you’re looking for an advanced kayak rack that allows you to comfortably load and unloads your kayak, the Thule 898Pros Hullavator is the one for you.

After installing this one to crossbars, you only need to pull the cradles down, so you can attach the kayak.

After that, you only need to secure the kayak with the included straps for extra security. Once everything is in place, push the kayaks back up and you’re ready to go! It just can’t get easier than that!

Things we like:

  • Loads and unloads the kayak with minimal effort
  • Comes with a QuickDraw bow and stern tie-downs for convenience
  • Features protective padding to keep the kayak secure

Specifications

Size 36 x 16 x 6 inches (L x W x H)
Weight 34.7 lbs
Maximum Load Capacity 75 lbs
Ideal for SUVs
Materials steel, plastic and foam padding

Malone Downloader is one of the best J-cradle kayak racks on the market thanks to its high adjustability and convenience.

The universal kayak rack is foldable and can be adjusted to the exact size of your kayak. Also, it comes with all the needed tools for installation.

This includes mounting bolts as well as loading straps and buckles. Additionally, the kayak rack is fitted with large foam padding to protect the kayak for deformation and damage.

Things we like:

  • Foldable J-style rack for more overhead clearance when not in use
  • Oversized padding for extra protection
  • Universal fit on most crossbars

Specifications

Size 17 x 6 x 19.5 inches (L x W x H)
Weight 12 lbs
Maximum Load Capacity 75 lbs
Ideal for SUVs
Materials Coated steel

If your car has no roof racks, this might be a great option to consider. The HandiRack kayak roof rack is an inflatable bar that can be an excellent alternative to regular foam roller roof racks.

The fact that it’s inflatable also makes it ideal for anyone looking for a convenient solution in a short time.

You can easily keep the kayak rack in your trunk and install it whenever you’re going to use the kayak.

The rack is made of nylon, which is known for its relative durability, so you won’t have to worry about tears. Also, the rack comes ready with all the needed straps to tie the kayak down.

Things we like:

  • An ideal pick for buyers on a budget
  • Ideal for all kinds of sedans, SUVs, and trucks
  • Easily packed in the car trunk when not in use.

Specifications

Size 15.8 x 8.5 x 8 inches (L x W x H)
Weight 6.8 lbs
Maximum Load Capacity 75 lbs
Ideal for SUVs, trucks, and sedans
Materials powder-coated steel

If you’re more into saddle style kayak rack, the Dock Glide from Thule is among the best selling saddle racks around.

One of its top features is that the saddles are super easy to install on the crossbar. You only need to glide it into the center and you’re ready to go.

The saddles allow for easy loading and unloading without worrying about the size. You’ll only need to adjust the saddle heads to get the snug fit you’re looking for.

The cushion pads are designed to fit the pivoting of the saddles. This way, it’ll be able to fit and cushion the kayaks at any position.

Things we like:

  • Quickly installed and removed
  • Easy to angle and secure
  • Assisted loading

Specifications

Size 15.8 x 8.5 x 8 inches (L x W x H)
Weight 6.8 lbs
Maximum Load Capacity 75 lbs
Ideal for SUVs, trucks, and sedans
Materials powder-coated steel

Similar to the Thule Dockglide, the Malone Seawing is also a Saddle style kayak carrier that’s ideal for all kinds of vehicles.

Instead of pivoting and angling, this one has a more classic design that utilizes bows and stern lines to attach the kayak.

The kayak carrier is characterized by being ultra-slim, making it able to carry up to 2 kayaks side by side. Also, it comes with cord straps that don’t obstruct your vision while driving.

Things we like:

  • Good value for money
  • Easy to install and set up
  • Low profile design for better clearance

Specifications

Size 27 x 6 x 5 inches (L x W x H)
Weight 10.05 lbs
Maximum Load Capacity 70 lbs
Ideal for SUVs, trucks, and sedans
Materials aluminum

The kayak rack from Leader Accessories is designed mainly to help you save as much cargo space as possible while transporting your kayak.

The kayak rack is made out of powder-coated steel, which ensures an excellent level of rigidity and sturdiness to carry up to 150 lbs of weight.

However, the racks are fitted with foam padding to prevent scratching and damage. Moreover, it comes with its own tie-down straps.

Leader Accessories made sure that the kayak racks are easy to install with a universal fit that suits most crossbars on the market.

Things we like:

  • Easy to install
  • Universal fit
  • Able to transport heavy kayaks

Specifications

Size 17.8 x 14.2 x 6.4 inches (L x W x H)
Weight 15.52 lbs
Maximum Load Capacity 150 lbs
Ideal for SUVs and trucks
Materials powder-coated steel

Last but not least, another MaxxHaul kayak rack for trucks. However, this one acts as a hitch mount that you can install on your truck or SUV to carry your kayak.

The truck bed extender is also highly versatile and can be used to transport a wide variety of tools and items, such as ladders, wood logs, and pipes.

The extender is highly adjustable, so you can customize its length and width to provide a snug fit for your kayak. However, make sure that you pad the extender to avoid damaging the kayak.

Things we like:

  • Extends truck beds
  • Highly versatile option
  • Easy to install with 4 quick release clevis pins

Specifications

Size 37 x 19 x 3 inches (L x W x H)
Weight 34.5 lbs
Maximum Load Capacity 300 lbs
Ideal for SUVs and trucks
Materials steel

There’s a huge variety of kayak rack options available in the market. These kayak racks are different in style, installation spot, and other features. That’s why it’s critical that you choose the ones that suit you the best.

Here are some of the most essential points that you need to keep in mind while shopping for a kayak rack for your vehicle.

Inflatable vs. Solid Kayak Rack

The first thing that you need to decide is the type of kayak rack you’re going for. While shopping in the market, you’ll come across different materials for kayak racks.

These materials include stainless steel and aluminum for hard racks. These ones are classified into j-cradles, saddles, and stackers. However, you might also find some inflatable ones made from nylon

Inflatable kayak racks are great for easy to install and they’re usually compatible with different types of vehicles. However, they aren’t as durable and protective as solid ones. That’s why you need to keep these factors in mind while choosing.

Type of Vehicle

The type of vehicle you’re going to use also has an effect on the style of kayak rack you’re going to use.

Ideally, there are kayak racks for sedans, SUVs, and trucks. As a rule of thumb, most of these types are installed on the roof crossbar to save space.

Although trucks might have enough space for kayaks, you might need that space for extra gear. Truck kayak racks vary in styles.

Some of them are hitch mounts, which act as an extension to the truck bed while the others are racks for the truck bed itself. Hitch mounts are easier to install while truck racks give more storage space.

Number of Kayaks and Maximum Weight Capacity

Every rack has a maximum weight limit that you need to watch out for. Ideally, most kayak racks are able to carry kayaks easily. However, the real test begins when you’re using relatively heavy kayaks or multiple kayaks.

Generally, kayak racks with higher weight capacity are more expensive. That’s why you should be careful not to spend more on a multi-kayak holder that you might not need.

Security

One of the golden standards to measure the quality of a kayak is through its security level. It’s crucial that you check all the safety features in the kayak you’re going to choose.

These features include sliding prevention, heavy-duty buckles, adjustable robes for tight fits, and more.

Ease of Use

No matter how ideal the kayak rack is, it’s pointless if you can’t use it properly. Make sure that the kayak you’re going to get is easy to use. This includes easy installation and disassembling as well as loading and unloading.

However, if you prefer a complex but more secure model, it must come with a user manual with clear instructions on how to use the rack. This way, you’ll make the most out of your investment.

Most roof rack systems depend mainly on the presence of crossbars to work. Ideally, you need to have two crossbars attached on each side of the vehicle’s roof to load the kayaks.

Usually, most SUVs and truck models come with stock roof crossbars. However, if your car doesn’t have crossbars, I recommend Summates Universal Roof Top Cross Bars.

While transporting a kayak, you need to lessen all chances of damage and deformation by loading it correctly.

However, this depends mainly on the type of kayak racks you’re using. For example, stackers can work either upright or upside down. However, tie-downs are usually preferred upside down to minimize damages.

Ideally, most kayak racks include the minimum safe distance between each kayak on the rack. However, a distance of 15 to 20 inches is usually more than enough for most models.

As you can see, the list of the best kayak racks in the market varies in types and features. However, if you’re looking for an all-round ideal kayak rack, TMS J-Bar Rack Kayak Carrier Top Mount Car is our favorite. This Kayak rack ’s super durable and provides a secure fit for kayaks. Additionally, it’s a universal fit, so it will work on different types of vehicles!

However, if you’re looking for a good extension rack for your truck, MaxxHaul 70423 Universal Aluminum Truck Rack is a great choice,