If you are going on a kayaking trip, you are going to want to have a kayak roof rack and not just trying to secure it with a couple of bunjies! Make sure you get the best kayak rack instead.

Whether you are taking your kayak out for the first time, or you take trips often, you will want to feel safe knowing that your kayak is secure for travel. Having a kayak roof rack is the best way to do that. 

There are many different brands out there that offer a wide selection of options to choose from, which is great for consumers, but can make finding the right one for you more difficult.

With so many options to search through, it can get a bit out of hand.

Let's have a quick look, though, which products are the absolute winners:

However, you should keep reading as we have some good advice on how to choose and we also took the time to look through a number of brands and products and narrowed it down to the best of the best.

Here are the 10 best kayak racks on the market. 

TAP and HOLD to SCROLL left and right in the table

Best Kayak Roof Racks

Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Universal Car Rack Kayak Carrier

HandiRack - Universal Inflatable Roof Rack Bars

AA Products J-Bar Rack for Kayak Canoe Boat Carrier Roof Top Mount on Car

CargoLoc 2-Piece 52" Aluminum Roof Top Cross Bar Set

Rhino-Rack Nautic 570 Series Kayak/Canoe Carrier

Yakima - KeelOver Rooftop Mounted Canoe Rack for Vehicles

RORAIMA Universal Folding Lightweight Anti-vibration Roof Rack Pad

TMS® 2 Pairs J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier

Mrhardware A01 Kayak Roof Rack

Thule J-Style HullaPort Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier

best kayak rood racks

Best Kayak Roof Rack - The Reviews

1. Review of Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Universal Car Rack Kayak Carrier

This product has a load capacity of 75lbs and has a J-style carrier with built-in loading ramp.

The fold down technology allows for greater overhead clearance and is compatible with the MPG351 Telos Load Assist.

There is oversized padding on the rack for protection during transport. The JAWZ mounting hardware fits a variety of cross rails including, round, square, and oval. 

What Previous Buyers Said?

Buyers have raved about this product and given overall positive feedback on these J-Cradle style kayak carriers.

The only negative is that the universality is not completely up to par, but most are happy with their purchase.  

PROS:

  • 75-pound load capacity
  • Great overhead clearance
  • Extra padding for kayak
  • Fits most cross rails

CONS:

  • Not completely universal
  • Can squeak if it doesn’t fit perfectly

2. Review of HandiRack - Universal Inflatable Roof Rack Bars

This rack can fit RVs, ATVs, and most other vehicles and is inflatable with an expandable cargo carrier.

The fold down technology allows for greater overhead clearance and is compatible with the MPG351 Telos Load Assist.

There is oversized padding on the rack for protection during transport. The JAWZ mounting hardware fits a variety of cross rails including, round, square, and oval. 

What Previous Buyers Said?

Buyers have raved about this product and given overall positive feedback on these J-Cradle style kayak carriers.

The only negative is that the universality is not completely up to par, but most are happy with their purchase.  

PROS:

  • 180lbs load-capacity
  • Easy to store
  • Certified at highway speeds
  • Easy to inflate 

CONS:

  • Not suitable for rain
  • Prone to leaks

3. Review of AA Products J-Bar Rack for Kayak Canoe Boat Carrier Roof Top Mount on Car

This rack has wide mouth J-bars for easy loading and a steel design with adjustable padding for extra carrying strength.

The rack comes with custom-designed bolts and heavy-duty ratcheting straps for safe transport. It also comes with an adjustable rope hanger for added security.

It is lightweight, weighing only 11lbs so it won’t weigh your vehicle down.

It's specifically designed for kayaks and since it actually leaves room on your vehicle's roof-rack for other items as well.

What Previous Buyers Said?

Most customers have written positive reviews about this rack and are quite happy about the fact that the ratcheting straps don't need to be purchased separately, but they are included in the very reasonable price. 

Some people have mentioned that the screws are too long and touch the roof line, leading to scratches. Overall, most are positive.  

PROS:

  • Easy loading J-bars
  • Lightweight
  • Custom bolts 
  • Ratcheting straps

CONS:

  • Screws may touch the roof
  • Needs to be tightened often

4. Review of CargoLoc 2-Piece 52" Aluminum Roof Top Cross Bar Set

This rack is made from high-quality aluminum and has a 150lbs loading capacity. It has a heavy-duty clamping mechanism that fastens to the rails for secure transport.

It measures 52’ and fits up to 46’ of gear. It fits with vehicles with raised side rails with a gap only, so that is required for use. 

The best thing about it is that you can use it not only for your kayaks, but any other cargo that you may have.

What Previous Buyers Said? 

Customer reviews are mainly positive and have given a high rating overall. The fact that it fits any car with raised side rails is basically its biggest advantage, but also its disadvantage at the same time. It doesn't fit any other roof-rack set up.

Some people were concerned with durability, but the bad reviews are few and far in between. 

Overall, many consumers had good experience using this rack.

PROS:

  • High-quality aluminum 
  • 150lbs loading capacity
  • Fits up to 46’
  • Fits raised side rail vehicles
  • Can be used for any other cargo

CONS:

  • Durability is questioned
  • Only compatible with raised side rail vehicles

5. Review of Rhino-Rack Nautic 570 Series Kayak/Canoe Carrier

This rack has front and rear pads that are designed to fit most hull shapes and is made to fit most roof rack crossbars. 

This rack allows for loading from all sides due to its 180-degree rotation and has a large contact surface area per cradle.

It comes with four rubber pads to cushion the kayak and also comes with a 5-year warranty. 

What Previous Buyers Said?

Customer reviews are positive, mostly, and they highlight the product's quality feel and design.

The negative comments have focused on round bars not working with this rack, but other than that issue, most consumers are satisfied. 

PROS:

  • Front/rear pads
  • Rubber pads for kayak 
  • 180-degree rotation
  • 5-year warranty 

CONS:

  • Doesn’t fit round bars
  • Hex bit needed for installation

6. Review of Yakima KeelOver Rooftop Mounted Canoe Rack for Vehicles

This rack has a universal design meant to fit round, square, and oval bars and includes all accessories needed for strapping down your kayak.

It also comes with extra padding protection with pads for the gunwale and for your crossbars. It also is easy to install and requires no tool for installation. 

What Previous Buyers Said? 

Customers have raved about this rack and unsurprisingly, they highlighted the fact that you don't even need any tools for installing it and that it includes everything you need to carry your kayak. 

With most reviews being positive, the only negative comments were about sliding the kayak over the rubber pads, which tended to be difficult. 

Overall, customers were very happy.  

PROS:

  • Universal design
  • Includes everything you need 
  • Rubber pads
  • No tool installation

CONS:

  • Rubber pads stick 
  • Need to reverse to fit long kayaks

7. Review of RORAIMA Universal Folding Lightweight Anti-vibration Roof Rack Pad

This rack has a lightweight folding soft rack pad for kayaks and has two 8ft lashing straps for extra security.

It has a universal fit that allows it to work with most vehicles and has a load capacity of 200lbs. The lashing straps are 1.5’ wide and have a 400lbs breaking capacity and comes with two extra long straps for more security. 

What Previous Buyers Said? 

Customers highlight the fact that it fits any type of car and due to its lightweight, it's very easy to work with. Furthermore, users are really happy with the kayak rack's high load capacity of 200lbs.

The negatives were about larger sized kayaks not being able to fit properly, but there were only a few.

Overall, the review showed customers were impressed. 

PROS:

  • Lightweight
  • Universal fit
  • 200lbs load capacity
  • Strong lashing straps

CONS:

  • Doesn’t work with large kayaks
  • Straps aren’t the most durable

8. Review of TMS® 2 Pairs J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier

Here you are getting 2 pairs of kayak carrier racks. That means you can carry two kayaks at the same time with these. These are universal kayak roof racks. That means they fit almost on all types of load bars and crossbars out there.

You can load a kayak up to 36 inches wide and 75 pounds or 34 kg. This one has a wide J mouth, which allows easier loading and unloading. In addition, the ‘Quick On/off’ feature makes it easy and fast to install and uninstall the racks.

What Previous Buyers Said?

The previous buyers liked this product. Most of them said that for the price, this is a great deal. They also liked that it is very easy to install and disassemble.

PROS:

  • Made with heavy-duty steel
  • Comes with a lifetime warranty
  • You will get all the installation accessories for free
  • Comes with rust-resistant coating

CONS:

  • The quality of the cam straps could be better

9. Review of Mrhardware A01 Kayak Roof Rack

If you are looking for a budget-friendly option, then this kayak roof rack could be a good option. This package includes a pair of roof racks that fits most types of crossbars out there. As these racks come with EVA stickers, this will not scratch your car.

Usually, this can accommodate kayaks up to 100 pounds or 36 inches wide. The rugged steel construction, wide J mouth, and adjustable padding make it one of the best kayak roof racks in this price range.

What Previous Buyers Said?

The customers of this kayak rack system have mixed opinions. Some of them have a complaint that they needed to buy replacement straps. But they stated that it is very easy to install. Plus, the mechanism of this roof rack is very secure.

PROS:

  • Budget-friendly
  • Weather-resistant coating
  • Made with heavy-duty steel
  • Comes with all the installation accessories

CONS:

  • The quality of the supplied straps are not up to the par

10. Review of Thule J-Style HullaPort Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier

This roof kayak carrier is from the popular Thule brand. This is another J-cradle style kayak carrier. It has the PFD (Pull/Fold/Done) feature. That means you can fold it in a snap when not in use. You can load kayaks of up to 75 lbs. and 34 inches wide in this.

Additionally, you will have 2 straps with buckle and 2 ratcheting bow & stern tie-downs for securely loading the kayak on top of your car. It will easily fit on most factory round bars, racks, and the Thule rack system. The net dimension of the product is 20 x 10.5 x 5.5 inches. It weighs about 12.6 pounds.

What Previous Buyers Said?

This is a popular kayak rack system to the past customers. They have admitted that the price could be a bit lower. 

However, they have liked the build quality and the performance of the rack. So they are recommending it.

PROS:

  • Robust build quality
  • Easy to install
  • Very secure

CONS:

  • A bit expensive

best roof racks for canoe

Other Useful Kayak or Canoe Roof Rack Accessories

1. Review of Seattle Sports Sherpak Suction Boat Roller Load Assist for Mounting Kayaks and Canoes to Car Tops

This useful tool is made to be universal with suction cups that attach to cartop or glass.

This load assist has two different mounting angles and enables one person to load the kayak by themselves with ease.

The bars are made from aluminium and the closed cell suction cups are gentle so that they do not cause scratches.

It will basically help you damage your vehicle when you're trying to load your kayak or canoe on your own. It can be immensely useful if your truck's roof is quite high, however you can use a car door latch step too. 

What Previous Buyers Said? 

Customers reviews are mainly positive and they mention how much easier it is to use a tool like this than to struggle a canoe or kayak up on a vehicle's roof. 

The negative comments were often about the suction cups not adhering to curved surfaces, but they were small in number.

Overall, customers were happy with their purchase. 

PROS:

  • Universal fit 
  • Suctions cups gentle
  • Two mounting angles 
  • Durable aluminium

CONS:

  • Doesn’t adhere to curve surfaces
  • Suction is unreliable

2. Review of FishYuan Sentry Ratchet Kayak and Canoe Bow and Stern Tie Downs

This load assist has two different mounting angles and enables one person to load the kayak by themselves with ease.

The bars are made from aluminium and the closed cell suction cups are gentle so that they do not cause scratches.

It will basically help you damage your vehicle when you're trying to load your kayak or canoe on your own. It can be immensely useful if your truck's roof is quite high too. 

What Previous Buyers Said? 

Customers reviews are mainly positive and they mention how much easier it is to use a tool like this than to struggle a canoe or kayak up on a vehicle's roof. 

The negative comments were often about the suction cups not adhering to curved surfaces, but they were small in number.

Overall, customers were happy with their purchase. 

PROS:

  • Ratchet pully 
  • Corrosion-resistant
  • 10ft rope length
  • Easy set-up

CONS:

  • Rope can be too short 
  • Two sets needed

3. Review of Lashing Straps for Kayaks, Canoes and Roof-Mounted Cargo

These straps are 1’ by 10’ with a breaking strength of 2400lbs

The working load-capacity is 800lbs and is made from polyester fibers and rust-resistant zinc alloy. The set-up is easy and can be done in 60 seconds. 

They can be used in all weather as they absorb water without damage and can be used in humid, damp climates.

What Previous Buyers Said?

Buyers have left mostly positive comments about this product and while it's universal, so it can be used for any other cargo, they mentioned how easy it is to fix a canoe or kayak to an already installed rack. 

The negatives were that the buckle doesn’t have padding to keep the items safe from the buckle, and that getting the strap out is a bit difficult. Overall, buyers were satisfied. 

PROS:

  • Good price
  • 800lbs load-capacity
  • Easy set-up 

CONS:

  • Difficult to get out 
  • No buckle padding

How to Choose the Best Kayak Roof Rack

With this new information, you still have to make a decision about which one the best kayak racks will be right for you.

So, here is what you should look for when choosing your kayak rack. 

Types of Kayak Racks 

Determining which type of kayak rack will work best for you is a key part of finding the perfect match.

This list contains a few different types, and also tools like the ratchet pulley system or the suction cup bars. With so many to look at, you need to filter through them to find the kind that will work best for your kayak. 

For example, some types are meant for smaller, lighter kayaks but for a larger one you might want to also consider an accessory like the suction cup roller load assist.

An important point to consider whether your vehicle is already fitted with a roof-rack or perhaps raised side rails mounted on the side of the roof.

Here is a quick rundown of some of the most common types of kayak carriers...

Pads

This type of kayak carrier is made of foam or inflatable. You will not need any other accessories or hardware to install them as they are one-step roof racks.

Rollers

If you want to load the kayak on top of your car on your own. Then you should use rollers.  

J-Style / J-Cradle

This type of kayak racks is the most popular. Because they are easy to set up, sturdily built, and very secure. Also, J-style/J-cradle style kayak carriers save a lot of roof space as you will be able to load the kayaks from the side of the vehicle. 

Stackers

If you want to load multiple small kayaks on your vehicle, then the stackers would come in handy. With the help of stackers, you will be able to stack several kayaks at the same time on your vehicle’s roof.

Saddles

As the name suggests, this type of rack has a mechanism like saddles. This will attach to the crossbars of your vehicle and secure the kayak from underneath.

What is Your Vehicle Type? 

Although many of the options on this list are universal, some are meant for certain types of vehicles. So, knowing which ones you can’t use on your specific vehicle will help you narrow down the best options. 

For example, if you are liking the CargoLoc bar set, you will need a car that has raised side rails or else it won’t work.

Knowing which one of the best kayak roof racks will fit your vehicle is an important piece of the picture. 

You will also have to think about the mounting accessories as well.

Some racks will require the use of certain crossbars, and the type of car will determine which crossbars you can use. This will limit your choices if you are unable to attach what you need.

In short, what type of kayak rack you are going to get will largely depend on the type of vehicle you drive. Fortunately, there are a plethora of kayak racks to choose from out there.

So, you will find a suitable one for you as well. Ensure that you are getting a kayak rack that is compatible with your vehicle.

How Often Will You Need to Use the Kayak Rack?

The number of times that you need to use the rack is another factor that you should think about when looking for the best kayak roof rack.

Depending on how often you will need to use these racks, you can end up frustrated with complicated setups that you will have to do on the regular.

If you are going on trips each weekend, you will want to get a rack that is easy to use. 

Similarly, if you are often going on solo trips, you will have to think about how you will complete installation alone. In this case, you may need to get something that has a simple set up, or load assisted carriers, such as the suction cup roller load assist.

If you use your kayak only every so often, then you won’t need to spend big money on a heavy-duty contraption that is made for constant use.

You could look at options that are temporary and easily removable, so you can set them up only when you need it. 

How Many Kayaks Do You Have? 

Lastly, you will have to think about which rack will work for the number of kayaks you are looking to travel with.

If you only have one, then you can look at options that are made for one kayak, but if you plan on carrying more than one kayak then you may need stacker racks that allow for multiple items. 

There are many options that are made for a single kayak, so if you are carrying multiple, then you need to look for one that is specifically made to hold more.

Otherwise, if you try to use one for more than what it is meant for, you risk dropping them while driving.

I don’t have to tell you why that is dangerous for you and the other drivers around you, so pick wisely.

First, find out how many kayaks you will want to carry on your vehicle. That way it will be easier for you to choose the one that suits you the most. 

If your vehicle/car has a good roof rail system and enough width, then you will be easily able to load more than one kayak at the same time. However, you might have to buy cam straps separately for that.

Material

Like any other Jeep Wrangler accessories, you should check carefully whether your kayak rack is made with reliable material or not. 

Most kayak carrier racks are constructed with steel. On top of that, they put weather-resistant coating to make the rack long-lasting.

FAQ

Can I Add Rails to My Car?

Shortly, yes. You can add rails to your car for loading kayaks on top. However, you might need to have some experience handling such projects. Again, you can take help from a professional. 

That is why we would recommend adding non-permanent roof rack rails to your car. That way you are not damaging your car as well as it will be very easy to install.

Do You Need A Roof Rack For A Kayak?

The short answer is ‘Yes’. If you want to take your kayak from your house to the destination by vehicle, the best way is to use a kayak roof rack system. This is the easiest method to carry a kayak in your car. 

On the other hand, there is an alternative to that as well. You can use a foam block or pool noodles to transport your kayak. But we don't recommend that.

Can You Put 3 Kayaks On A Roof Rack?

Technically, yes. There are some particular kayak roof rack models that are capable of transporting 3 kayaks or even more than that at once. 

So, if you want to put 3 kayaks on the roof rack of your car, you have to look for one of those kayak roof racks. You can also use stacker bars to load multiple kayaks at once.

How Do I Get A Kayak On Top Of My Car By Myself?

Frankly, the easiest and best way to get the kayak on top of your car is to get help from others. 

But if you are on your own on your trip, there are a few ways you can accomplish that as well. You can use a lift system. You can find various roof racks for kayaks with a special lift system integrated.

You can also get rolling wheels for your kayaks. Lastly, you can use a blanket or a towel to use it as a point of contact between the vehicle and the kayak. 

That way you will be able to get the kayak on top of your vehicle on your own without spending much.

How Do I Put Two Kayaks On A Roof Rack?

First, make sure you have enough roof space on your car for transporting multiple kayaks at once. To make it easier, you can use stacker bars or add a second rack. 

Also, there are particular kayak roof racks that come with the capability to carry two kayaks simultaneously.

Conclusion and Buyer’s Advice - Best Kayak Racks

Any of these racks work great for different kayakers’ situations, however, the two best kayak roof racks are pulling ahead of the others.

Our recommendation goes for the AA Products J-Bar Rack and the RORAIMA Roof Rack Pad

The J-Bar Rack is a purpose made, kayak carrier that does the job right. It is made of high-quality materials and it's very easy to use. Its price is very reasonable so if you know the size of your kayak, check if it would fit into this one as this is the one to go for!

However, if you'd like a more universal, versatile set-up, the Roof Rack Pad from Roraima should be your choice.

It comes with a life warranty, and with its 200lb load capacity, you can carry multiple kayaks on it. And it gets better: it's not pricer than the J-Bars!

Make sure you go through our advice on how to choose a rack, as the best kayak roof racks differ for each individual. Choosing one for your situation doesn’t just mean going for the top two.

Considering all the criteria mentioned above, you may find that another product works better for you. So, choose wisely.

Chances are, that if you have a kayak or a canoe, you also have a bike that you don't want to leave at home. In that case you can read our guide on the best hitch bike racks right here.