Last Updated on March 23, 2024 by Afsar

Have you ever felt the irresistible call of adventure, beckoning you to explore the hidden treasures of tranquil lakes, winding rivers, or majestic coastlines? If so, you’re not alone. Kayaking offers a thrilling escape into the heart of nature, where every paddle stroke carries you closer to serenity and excitement. But before you can set sail on your aquatic journey, there’s a crucial question to address: How do you transport your kayak safely and conveniently to your chosen waterway?

The answer lies in car kayaking roofs—ingenious solutions designed to effortlessly transport your kayak wherever your wanderlust leads. In this guide, we’ll delve into the world of car kayak roof systems, uncovering the best options to suit your needs, preferences, and vehicle type.

Whether you’re a seasoned paddler seeking the ultimate roof rack setup or a novice adventurer looking for hassle-free kayak transportation, we’ve got you covered. From sleek roof racks to versatile kayak saddles and innovative lift-assist systems, the options are as diverse as the waterways you’ll explore.

Join us as we embark on a journey to discover the top car kayaking roofs on the market. These roofs unlock a world of adventure and enable you to make the most of your kayaking escapades. Let’s dive into the exploration of these essential tools that bridge the gap between land and water, turning every car into a gateway to aquatic adventure.

Best Kayak Roof Rack 2024

Yakima JayLow Folding J-Cradle Kayak Rack

Yakima JayLow Kayak Carrier

Yakima’s Jaylow Kayak carrier is one of the most used kayak car rack carriers in the world. JayLow comes with multiple settings, where you can carry one kayak in the J-cradle position, two kayaks in the vertical position, or you can fold it down if not used. Its amazing design allows it to carry almost all types of kayaks. The contact points are extra padded, so it provides better protection and grip when traveling.

The installation process is straightforward, and Yakima includes the necessary tools in the package. The over-molded stainless steel strap can accommodate a variety of raised rail profiles. The amazing roof clearance allows a full range of Yakima gear mounts. The whole thing is durable and capable of providing great support to the kayak. The soft over-molded base along with the groove cushions the boat and allows the sand and grit to wash away. Use the heavy-duty straps and tie it down properly, and transport your kayak smoothly. You can also use the SKS lockable, but it is sold separately.

In a nutshell, Yakima JayLow is a premium quality kayak car rack, and it will deliver amazing performance on the road for sure.

  • Extra padded contact points
  • Can carry any type of kayaks
  • Multiple adjustment settings allow one or two kayaks to be transported
  • Included heavy-duty straps and tie-down
  • Specification: L 6.69″ x W 6″ x H 20″
  • Weight: 11 lbs
  • Risk-free easy torque set installation (the tool is included in the package)
  • Allows sand and grit to wash away
buy button
TMS-J-Bar rack

TMS 2 Pair J Bar Rack

TMS is a popular name when it comes to kayak accessories. A lot of their accessories have been loved by kayakers for their amazing performance. This is a J Bar Rack coming from TMS which can help you transport your kayak to different places. It has been designed in such a way, that it will mount to virtually all types of crossbars and load bars on the market. The carrier will secure the kayak or canoe on its side while consuming very little space on the load bar. Depending on the size of your vehicle, a maximum of four sets of kayak racks can be mounted on the roof of your carrier (click here for two packs). The J-Bar rack comes with a steel design and adjustable padding which provides great strength while protecting your kayak from scratches and bumps. The wise mouth J bar offers very easy loading and unloading. Unlike most kayak racks, this is very easy to install. The J style carrier has been appropriately sized to leave a lot of roof space. It also comes with a rust-resistant coating and hardware for longer product life. The rack can accommodate kayaks up to 36″ wide, and the weight capacity is 75 lbs. As mentioned before, it can fit almost all types of round, square, oval, and flat crossbars. On top of that, it comes with 4 long straps to help you secure the kayaks on the top of your car or truck.

  • Steel design with adjustable padding
  • Easy loading and unloading
  • Can accommodate up to 36″ sized kayaks
  • Maximum weight capacity: 75 lbs
  • Strap provided
  • Optimally sized J style carrier provides a lot of roof space
  • Vacuum sealed installation hardware
  • Fits most square, round, oval, and flat crossbars
buy button
Thule Hull-a-Port Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier

Thule Hull-a-Port Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier

Thule is one of the biggest companies when it comes to outdoor and transportation products. Headquartered in Malmo, Sweden, Thule provides premium quality products with high performance. Thule’s Hull-a-Port pro is a premium rooftop kayak carrier that has a J-style shape. This J-style kayak roof rack provides a great amount of room on the load bar. The wide mouth J-profile provides easier loading and unloading. All surface rust-resistant coating along with the hardware makes sure that it provides service for a long time. Thule uses a PFD leaver, meaning pull, fold, and it provides a rapid folding and improved overhead clearance. If not used, the PFD lever collapses the carrier quickly and easily. Its custom mounting hardware fits most round, square, and other shaped racks. It goes great with Thule rack systems, and I would suggest you check the fitting system if you are using a different type of rack system. It has a padded harness that will gently cradle your kayak to prevent scratches when traveling. This bow and stern tie-down with the two straps are my favorite for the safety it provides. You will be getting a Thule Hull-a-Port rooftop kayak carrier, necessary hardware, straps, rope, straps, ratcheting hooks, mounting knobs, buckle bumper, and an instructional guide. 

  • Steel design with adjustable padding offers protection when traveling
  • If not used folds down easily
  • Easy installation and removal
  • A perfectly sized J-style carrier leaves a lot of space on the roof space
  • Allsurface coating and hardware for prolonged life
  • Accommodates 34″ kayak
  • Weight capacity: 75 lbs
  • Comes with a padded strap
  • Provides pocket to tuck the loose strap ends
  • Tool-free installation
  • One person can do loading and unloading
  • It fits the Thule rack system, round bars, and most factory racks
Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Universal Car Rack

Malone Downloader Folding J-style Universal Kayak Car Rack

Malone is one of the most influential kayak accessories manufacturers, and they have always provided high-quality products at a very reasonable rate. This J-style kayak carrier from Malone is no exception, and it provides incredible performance. It comes with a built-in boarding ramp which provides an easy loading option. When not in use, the fold-down technology used by Malone increases overhead clearance. It is compatible with the MPG351 Telos Load Assist.

If you look closely, you will see that it comes with oversized padding which protects the kayak during transportation. The JAWZ mounting hardware is compatible with round, square, and factory oval cross rails. It comes with both 60mm and 70mm pre-coated mounting bolts. The Cam-style load straps with the buckle protectors allow the kayak to be transported vertically on your car rooftop. The dimension of the carrier is L17″xW6″XH19.5″. The load capacity is 75 lbs.

  • Dimension: L17″x W6″X H19.5″
  • The load capacity is 75 lbs
  • Built-in boarding ramp for easy loading
  • Fold-down technology increases overhead clearance
  • Oversized padding protects the kayak when traveling
  • It fits round, square, and most factory oval cross rails
  • Cheap price
buy button
OxGord Kayak Roof Rack for Car

OxGord Kayak Roof Rack for Car

If you are looking for a cheap kayak car rack, OxGord’s kayak car roof rack can be an excellent option for you. Just like the kayak car rack from Malone, this one is also a universal kayak car rack meaning it will fit most automobile which has a roof rack of round, square, oval, and flat crossbars. You can use this car rack to transport a kayak, canoe, surfboard, paddleboard, and other small water vessels. If your car has a roof rack bar, there’s a high chance that this roof rack will work.OxGord used sturdy steel to make this kayak roof rack. Also, it is water-resistant, and it will prevent rusting and protects the rack from rain and snow. It can hold heavier kayaks, canoes, and similar water vessels. Despite the fact that the J-bar mount is made of steel, it is quite lightweight and fairly easy to install and remove. The dual mounts are designed to hold one kayak safely. You will get two J-Bar cradles, tightening knobs, bow-stern straps, and carrier straps to secure the kayak on the top of your car safely. All the necessary hardware is included, and you do not need extra tools.

Best cheap kayak roof rack

  • Dimension: 20″L x 5.5″W x 16″H inches
  • Universal design: fits most automobile roof rack bars (oval, square, round, and flat crossbars)
  • Weight capacity: 150 lbs
  • Heavy-duty steel design but lightweight
  • Padded for security
  • Rustproof
  • Protects from rain and snow
  • Quick loading and unloading thanks to J-style frame
Yakima JayHook Kayak Rack

Yakima JayHook Kayak Rack

Yakima’s JayHook is a kayak rack that can transport any type of kayak available on the market. The J-shape design ensures that the cradle is safe and secure to hold a kayak. It is fairly easy to load a kayak using this kayak rack. It has been padded at the contact points to provide protection to the kayak while offering a better grip when transporting the kayak. Just like the best kayak roof racks on the market, this one also offers easy and tool-free installation. Once you buy it, you can easily install the kayak roof rack, and start loading the kayak. It has a dimension of L 9.5″ x W 5.5″ x H 19″. The classic design of the side-loading J-Cradle will survive many years on the road. Besides the hardware, you will find a heavy-duty strap that can be used to secure the kayak properly. The crossbar compatibility is universal, and the weight capacity is 80 lbs.

  • Weight capacity 80 lbs
  • Dimension: L 9.5″ x W 5.5″ x H 19″
  • Padded for protection
  • Can carry any type of kayak
  • Universal mounting
  • Easy and quick tool-free installation
  • Side-loading J-cradle design
  • Bow/stern tie-downs
  • Heavy-duty straps included
buy button
Folding kayak car rack

Kayak Roof Rack by Vault Cargo Management

Not all of us are willing to spend hundreds of dollars to land a kayak car roof rack. This kayak car rack from Vaul Cargo Management offers great features at a reasonable price. Vault Cargo top mount kayak rack is quite easy to use. It has a foldable design making it easy to save space if not using it. It has a J-Bar system which is made of round aluminum tubing making it lightweight. You can mount it to almost any crossbars including the Vault Cargo Crossbars. Just like the top products, this one is also easy to install.

Heavy-duty aluminum construction makes this kayak car rack lighter than most of its counterparts on the market. Vault Cargo Management uses fully adjustable J-Bars allowing you to fold down easily. As a result, you don’t have to remove the rack every time you drive into the garage. Also, you can fold the racks in either direction. Use the blue button to adjust the kayak with a simple push. You will also get two adjustable lashing straps in the package.

  • Easy to mount
  • Weight capacity: 75 kgs
  • Heavy-duty aluminum construction
  • 180-degree folding motion: folds down pretty easily
  • Can be folded in either direction
  • Soft cushions are attached to each bar to prevent rubbing and scratches
  • Two adjustable lashing straps provided
  • Looks stylish
  • Not so universal (has trouble fitting round-shaped crossbars)
buy button

JDM Auto Lights 2 Pair Universal Kayak Canoe Top Mount Carrier

JDM’s kayak top mount carrier is a great option if you are not willing to shell out a lot of money. Despite the low price, JDM kayak car roof rack offers good support to the kayaks. It has a solid heavy-duty steel construction. The surface has a rust-resistant coating to ensure durability. As you can see in the picture, the wide-mouth J-Bar offers easier loading and unloading.

It has been claimed universal by the manufacturer, and it should virtually fit all the crossbars and load bars found on the market.

 As the carrier will secure the kayak on its side, a lot of unused spaces will be available for you. It has a maximum weight capacity of 165 lbs, and it can accommodate kayaks up to 36″. You will get 4 kayak racks, 4 tie-down straps, and universal mounting hardware in this package.

  • accommodate kayaks up to 36″
  • Weight capacity: 165 lbs
  • Wide mouth J-Bar makes it easy to load and unload
  • heavy-duty steel construction
  • Surface Rust-Resistant Coating
  • Low price
  • Virtually fits all crossbars and load bars
buy button

Ecotric J-Bar Universal Kayak Top Mount Rack

Ecotric’s car rack for kayaks comes at very reasonable pricing. It is not the best kayak car rack on the market, but it gets the jobs done, and also the price helps. It has some mounting issues with crossbars thicker than 1″ or wider than 2.5″. However, it comes with two pairs of kayak car racks, meaning you can hold two kayaks. Also, 4x straps are provided with mounting hardware.

The mounting hardware steel design comes with adjustable padding to provide strength and protection to the kayak. The design makes it tough to fit the round or oval-shaped crossbars but fits most square and flat crossbars. It weighs 7.2 kg and has a maximum weight capacity of up to 165 lbs. It can accommodate kayaks up to 36″ wide. The optimally sized J-style carrier will leave a good amount of space on the roof for you. It has durable and rust-resistant hardware to protect itself from rain and snow.

  • Heavy-duty steel and rubber
  • Maximum weight capacity: 165 lbs
  • Durable and rust-resistant hardware
  • The j-style wide mouth offers faster installation and removal
  • Accommodates kayak up to 36″ wide
  • Includes two pairs
  • 8″ length straps
  • Has issues with crossbars thicker than 1″ or wider than 2.5″
  • Doesn’t work with oval or round-shaped crossbars
buy button

Rola J Style Kayak Carrier Roof Rack

Rola J Style Kayak Carrier Roof Rack

Rola’s J Style kayak carrier roof rack is a nice option for kayak owners. No matter if it is a sit-on-top or tandem or any other kayak, you can use this kayak carrier roof rack to transport your kayak safely. Rola used high-strength powder-coated steel construction to make this kayak rack. As a result, you can use this kayak season after season. It comes with a foam pads cradle to protect the kayak from scratches or bumps when traveling. Rola claims it to be universal, meaning it can be used with virtually all types of crossbars. Rola provides premium quality straps and bow/stern tie-down in the package. It has a dimension of 21.625″ L x 12.25″ W x 5.625″ H and weighs only 12.55 lbs.

  • Dimension: 21.625″ L x 12.25″ W x 5.625″ H
  • Weighs 12.55 lbs
  • High-strength powder-coated steel construction
  • Foam pads
  • Virtually fits all crossbars
  • Premium heavy-duty straps and bow/stern tie-downs
buy button

How to choose the best kayak roof rack?

A lot of things need to be checked when you are looking for a kayak roof rack for your car. To make the procedure easy for you, I will provide some of the main factors to check when making a buying decision. These crucial factors will help you land the best kayak roof rack very easily and quickly.Enter your text here…


Different types of kayak car racks are available on the market for various purposes. For example, the primary function of a kayak roof rack is to transport a kayak. However, some of the kayak racks will allow you to transport other items with it. You can call them as multi-purpose kayak, and they are designed to offer a good amount of space to carry more items alongside the kayak. Nevertheless, if the kayak car rack doesn’t provide extra space, I strongly suggest you not to force it. It can harm the rack, your car or the kayak itself. Another important thing to check is the foldability of the rack. If you are not using the kayak rack, you can fold it to save space. Some of the kayak racks are easy to remove, and some are attached permanently to your car roof. This might not be an issue if you keep your car outside or have a garage with a high height limit. But, if you are going to park your vehicle in a low garage or pass through a hanging object, you should get a folding kayak roof rack.

Loading and unloading

Unless you are going to kayak with a friend or partner, you will have to do the loading and unloading by yourself. This is a tricky part, as you don’t want to waste time and energy on loading and unloading kayaks. Some people find the rear loading racks easier than the side-loading racks. If you already know the type of loading you want to do, then you are well ahead of choosing the kayak rack. Usually, I prefer wide-mouth J-style cradles as they allow the loading and unloading more efficiently and quicker than the other, but that’s my choice. There are different types of extra accessories available on the market to help you with the process though. Please bear in mind that you will have to pay extra for such accessories.

Numbers of kayaks

Most of the kayak car racks available on the market allow you to load one kayak on the roof of your car. If you are planning to kayak with your friends or partner, you may want two kayaks at the same time on the roof of your car. Some of the kayak roof racks will allow you to load two kayaks at the same time. However, it totally depends on the roof of your car. If you have enough space, you can buy a rack that supports two kayaks at the same time.


The installation process of the kayak roof rack plays a vital role in the buying decision. Not a lot of us are familiar with installing and removing roof racks. Usually, the first installation is always a difficult one. Once used to it, one can do it very easily. However, the installation process will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Usually, they include a manual with the package to do it by yourself. If you are not feeling well with the instructions, you can also hire a technician to do that for you. There are also other ways like going to Youtube to find the installation of that specific model.


As mentioned before, not all kayak car roof racks are universal, and this needs to be considered when making a purchase decision. Take a look at the car and see if it comes with crossbars or not. Check the size of the roof, and see if it can hold more than one kayak if you want. You need to check if it can still provide you with extra space if you need it.


Your kayak requires the safety it deserves. You definitely don’t want the kayak to fall off the roof of your car when you are traveling on the road. The kayak roof rack needs to hold the kayak very firmly and ensure that the kayak doesn’t fall off. There should be multiple points of contact like tie-down and straps. Some of the manufacturers provide premium quality heavy-duty straps to ensure that the kayak doesn’t wiggle when traveling.


Often overlooked, the material of the kayak car rack plays a great role in its longevity of it. The kayak rack will be on the roof almost all the time. Depending on the area of your living, it will face dust, rain, and snow. If it is not rustproof, the rack won’t be in tip-top shape for a long time. When choosing a kayak car rack, choose one which comes with rustproof material. Heavy-duty steel and lightweight aluminum are the two most popular materials used on kayak roof racks. Some of the kayak roof racks available on the market come with fabric material or inflatable material. Depending on the type of arrangement, they can also provide good protection.


Just like any other product, you need to check the brand of the kayak roof rack. Some of the biggest brands that I would like to mention are Thule, Malone, JDM, etc. Brands like Thule and Malone have gained trust with their top-notch products, and it shows in the listed car roof rack mentioned in the article.


I love my kayak. It is like a part of my body. Other than the scratches I got in the kayak from the rocks of the river, I don’t want any other on it. This is why I like to buy the best kayak roof rack to secure my kayak with ease. If you are not willing to spend a lot, you can buy cheap kayak roof racks, but there are other alternatives available on the market with better features at a high price. If you can, I would suggest you spend a good amount of money on the roof rack

Types of kayak racks

There are different types of kayak roof rack carriers available on the market. Each style has different types of advantages and disadvantages.

J-style or J- Cradles

This is the most popular choice for carrying kayaks. They come with a base and a holding arm, creating a shape of “J”, which allows the paddler to load the kayak from the side of the car. The kayak will sit at an angle. Due to the impressive functionality, it leaves a lot of room to carry more items like luggage, bicycles, or maybe another kayak. Popular kayak roof rack manufacturers like Yakima also make this type of rack. Usually, they are made of high-quality raw materials and offer incredible performance. Due to the robust design, J-style kayak car racks are widely popular among kayak owners. If you have a big kayak, I highly recommend using a J-style kayak roof rack.

Temporary / Foam Pads

Unlike most other solutions, foam pads are a temporary solution for short drives. For example, if you are transporting a kayak from the store to your place. If you don’t have an SUV and own a regular car, 99% chance that the car didn’t come with a rack. Usually, the pad will sit on your roof while using straps on both ends to connect inside of the vehicle. The temporary pads can be installed on the rooftops with no racks. In a sense, they are the most straightforward solution to install and remove. The straps go inside and on the top of your car to protect the kayak. This is a solution for short drives and is recommended not to use for transporting a kayak long-distance.


As the name suggests, it is basically a saddle-style kayak rack. This is a V-shaped rest with a ratchet strap that supports the kayak and holds it in place. A single saddle on the middle of the kayak or two adjustable saddles on both ends of the kayak can be used to hold the kayak. In terms of noise and strong wind, the saddle roof rack comes very useful. However, one single saddle can hold one kayak. So, if you wish to transport two kayaks, you will have to have at least two saddles.


If you want to transport multiple kayaks at the same time, a stacker-style kayak rack can come very handy to you. Stacker racks will fit the kayak in an upright position on their sides. As a result, it takes very fewer spaces than other styles of racks, and multiple kayaks can be transported at the same time. Additionally, it is cheap, fits most kayaks, and offers great safety.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What if I already have racks installed on my car roof?

If you are lucky or genius by buying a car that already comes with a roof rack, you just need to add some foam pads. You will also need some straps to tie down the kayak to the car.

Can I add rails to my car?

Yes, you can. The question is, should you? If you are accustomed to such activities, you can try it by yourself. However, drilling or making a hole in the roof of the car is something I would leave for the experts. That being said, some of the roof rails can be mounted to your vehicle without any substantial modification. I will definitely go for that if I try to do it by myself or if I own a very new model car.

Final Verdict

As an avid kayaker, I would love to have the ability to take my kayak almost everywhere. Just remember that if you have a car that doesn’t come with a rack, you can still get one installed, and it doesn’t cost a lot of money. If you already have a roof rail system installed on your car, I would prefer a J-style carrier as they offer better performance. I have mentioned a lot of different types of kayak roof racks in this article, and if you read carefully, you will be able to land the best kayak rack for your car.

Good Reads: