2019 Best Kayak Roof Racks: Get Value for your Money

Kayaking is one of the outdoor activities that most people find interesting and refreshing and would do everything to be part of whenever an opportunity emerges. However, making a Kayaking trip has proved challenging to many, especially in terms of packing enough equipment to guarantee safety and convenience of all involved.

Among the Kayaking gears that people tend to pack include protective gears, helmets, life vests and the best kayak roof rack that will effectively serve its purpose. While all these sets of equipment are a must have for many, very few people pay attention to the kayak roof rack they use, often sacrificing one aspect, such as durability, for another, such as price.

In light of these, we will review some of the best kayak roof racks currently available in the market. However, we will begin by exploring some of the elements to consider while choosing a kayak roof rack so that you can see how we managed to assemble the list of the best kayak roof racks.

What to consider when choosing the best kayak roof rack

Appeal and the nature of our needs and wants determine most of the choices we make when purchasing a product, and since appeal varies from one person to another, designing a universal rule to follow can only be a futile project. However, with in-depth research on trends relating to the purchase of the right kayak roof rack, below are some guidelines that will ensure that you not only obtain a quality product but that you have value for your money in the long term.

Consider the roof of your car

When intending to purchase a kayak roof rack, the first thing to consider should be the size of your car’s roof. By design, a different kayak will only fit a specific kind of roofing system. In this industry, there is no size that fits all. For this reason, it is advisable that you make some measurement of the size of the roof of your car and compare the result with what is available in the market.

For instance, if your car has pre-fitted crossbars, your selection for the best kayak roof rack will narrow down to saddles, j-cradles and or stackers. However, if your car lacks this feature, and you are not ready to have them installed, you have to go for inflatable racks. The only way you can have sophisticated racks on a car that does not come with built-in crossbars is to purchase the crossbars separately and have them installed on your car.

The cost

The cost of the roof rack is definitely a major determining factor. While every one of us may want to acquire the best and draw the most benefits from a roof rack, it is the product pricing that ultimately determines what you get for your car. The best kayak roof racks are definitely pricy, and numerous manufacturers do make and sell products of exceptional quality.

Yet, substandard roof racks also exist in the market, most of which are poor in the build quality. Based on a product assessment, I learned that most of the good racks are made of steel, with the not so good ones are made of plastic.

User-friendliness

With this aspect, we are focussing on the process of installing the rack, and dismantling it after the trip. You should try as much as possible to avoid buying any rack that is made up of a bunch of separate pieces accompanied by a complicated set of instructions for installation and materials. Such racks will require you to spend so much time assembling and dismantling, quality time that you can spend on other important things.

I have tested, and therefore, can comfortably recommend that you buy a rack made of large pieces and whose bolts and nuts are easy to use. That way you won’t suffer the drawbacks of misplaced parts, neither will you need to spend unnecessary time on it.

The number of kayaks it can accommodate

This aspect will come in handy when you want to involve a group in the kayaking trip. Take your time to ascertain the maximum capacity of your preferred rack. If you think you will only need to have two kayaks on any trip, then most of the racks available in the market will serve you well. All you will have to do is stick the two kayaks the usual way and achieve the desired stability for the trip.

The two kayak-sticking maneuvers, however, will not work when you need to transport more than two kayaks. For this case, you will need stackers since they have room for an additional two to three kayaks. Noteworthy is that contrary to what the name of the stackers suggests, they don’t pile the kayaks on top of one another. Instead, they have enough room to accommodate multiple kayaks arranged side by side.

Whether it comes in a complete set

Interestingly, set completeness of the rack goes hand in hand with the cost. A set that comes complete with its accessories will definitely be pricy compared to one whose accessories are sold separately. That notwithstanding, if the product is designed in such a manner that the actual rack is sold separately with the additional necessary equipment, then such a deal is one you should stay away from. Instead, shop around for a product that comes in a complete set, and at the same time, of good quality.

In most cases, the comparatively cheaper pricing of certain products translates to compromised quality, something that might see you purchase a product that will be obsolete after merely three trips.

Lightweight or heavyweight

Nearly all of us have fallen to the fallacy that any heavy product must be strong. But with the new kayak roof racks made of light aluminum currently available in the market, you no longer have to fall for this wrong attribution of quality. Today, aluminum-based roof racks are the best alternatives given that aluminum is 30 percent lighter than steel and strong enough to endure heavy loads.

Durability

Product durability is one aspect that should come next after cost, yet for many clients, determining this aspect can be challenging. The truth, however, is that while some racks will serve you well, others will only last a couple of weeks. To determine a rack’s durability, check the maximum load the rack is designed to carry. Also, consider using a product brand whose manufacturers have a record of supplying products already tested and proven under various conditions. Today, quality roof racks can handle loads of up to ten times their base weight.

Effect on the car’s performance

To be sincere, the extra load you carry on top of your car will always be worrisome. For many, the worry is that the load may compromise the performance of the car. To address this, roof racks exist in the market that is aerodynamically stable. Their design is such that they handle air resistance very well and can have little if any, the effect on your car’s gas mileage

The company’s product diversity

When considering the kayak roof rack brand to buy, ensure that the manufacturer offers a wide range of products. If a company only limits its product line to a specific rack model, then that could be a red flag for you. Different racks fit different roofing systems. With product diversity, looking for spare parts would be an easy undertaking. It would be as simple as contacting the manufacturer and inquiring about the availability of replacement parts.

Availability of additional accessories

Additional accessories are a worthy bonus for this kind of product. In as much as it is convenient to have a roof rack of your choice, you still have the right to ask for additional accessories to compliment your rack. The extra set of equipment is what makes the deal sweeter. A rack that comes with accessories, such as those that will allow you to mount other important stuff such as a bike or a surfboard, would be ideal and worth purchasing.

Now that we know what to look for when considering to purchase a roof rack, below is a list of some of the best kayak roof racks we have managed to sample in the market. Remember to ensure compatibility with your car before making the purchase.

Top picks for kayak carriers:

The following are my top picks of the best kayak carriers:

  • 1Thule Hull-a-Port Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier
  • 2 Malone Auto Racks Downloader Kayak Carrier
  • 3 Malone SeaWing
  • 4 Yakima Jaylow Kayak Carrier
  • 5 The Kayak Wing by Great Lakes Kayak LLC
  • 6 Yakima Showboat 66 in Kit
  • 7 Malone HandiRack Inflatable Universal Roof Top Rack
  • 8 SportRack Adjustable Kayak Carrier
  • 9 TMS J-Bar Rack

1. Thule Hull-a-Port Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier

Thule Hull-a-Port Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier

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This is arguably one of the most famous kayak carriers currently available in the market, and therefore ranks among the best kayak roof racks one can ever have. Its design is such that it offers the user ease of use and portability. Furthermore, its simple and foldable J-profile design offer the much-needed convenience of handling.

With four adjustable touchpoint padding designed to hold kayaks of varying sizes, and the flexibility to have vertical (which is more aerodynamically stable) or horizontal orientation, you can never go wrong with the Thule Hull-a-Port carrier.

Thanks to its effective and efficient design, you can comfortably load four kayaks. All you need to do is to mount the carrier and tighten its belts and you will be good to experience a comfortable trip to your kayaking point.

Pros

  • Integrated PFD (pull-fold-done) lever feature for ease of handling
  • Occupies minimal space

Cons

  • Sold separately from other accessories

2. Malone Auto Racks Downloader Kayak Carrier

When it comes to securing your kayak on the carrier for easy transportation, the Malone Auto Rack Downloader leads the pack. Equipped with straps bearing buckle protectors that is largely a replica of a passenger with seatbelts tightly worn, as well as an easily removable universal mount, the carrier offers unmatched flexibility and reliability during kayak relocation.

Also, just as is the case with the Thule-a-Port Carrier, the Malone Auto Rack has a J-profile for easier loading and unloading of your kayak. A unique characteristic for the Malone Auto Rack is its oversized padding that features an in-built ramp for improved stability. The Malone Auto Rack also adopts a fold-down technology for overhead clearance, a feature that is very appropriate when part of the path you are traveling on is under a low-lying tree canopy.

Made specifically for those who intend to go big, Malone Auto Rack can support kayaks that are up to eight times its weight, hence suitable for carrying heavy kayaks.

Malone Auto Racks Downloader Kayak Carrier

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Pros

  • Color variety from which to choose
  • Comes complete with tools and equipment

Cons

  • Limited to a fixed roof size

3. Malone SeaWing

Malone SeaWing

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This V-cradle type carrier features a saddled wing design that significantly reduces setup time. Packed with a universal fit Jawz, mounting bolts and load straps equipped with buckle protectors for enhanced safety and stability of the kayak, and further complemented by safety bow and stern tie-downs for improved safety, the Malone SeaWingis sure one to beat among the best kayak roof racks.

It is also aerodynamically stable for improved gas mileage, just as is the case with the Thule Hull-a-Port Carrier. It is capable of supporting a load capacity of up to seven times its weight and can effectively serve as a roof extender for your car. Also, the incorporation of nylon-based build ensures that it can resist corrosion.

Due to its size, it is suitable for anyone who often brings extra baggage. It comes with a complete set of tools and equipment with almost one-size-fits-all hardware.

Pros

  • Easy to set up and consumes minimal space
  • Comes complete with tools and other equipment
  • Exist in a wide range of colors

Cons

  • It is limited to a fixed roof size

4. Yakima Jaylow Kayak Carrier

The Yakima Jaylow carrier is the ultimate definition of flexibility (capable of carrying kayaks of different shapes and sizes), an aspect that makes it a traveler’s preference. The carrier also boasts multiple settings that allow it to accommodate a single boat when setting in the cradle position and two boats when setting in the vertical position. Also, the presence of additional padding allows it to provide extra protection and grip to the loaded kayak.

Complete with straps and bow and stern tie-downs, aerodynamic stability and load support of up to 110lbs, the Yakima Jaylow is any traveler’s dream. Further, its over-molded base with groove cushion allows it to effectively wash away sand and all forms of dirt, hence easy to manage.

Many people have found it ideal for going kayaking alone or in the company of a partner. Thanks to the integrated cam-lever on its crossbars that is compatible with any type of roof rack, you are at will to adjust its setting based on need.

Yakima Jaylow Kayak Carrier

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Pros

  • Design simplicity

Cons

  • Limited to a specific crossbar size

5. The Kayak Wing by Great Lakes Kayak LLC

​The Kayak Wing by Great Lakes Kayak LLC

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Ideally, this is an item for the minimalists. It requires a minimum clearance of one and a half inches between the carrier’s crossbar and the roof of the car. Also, its wings are designed in a manner that makes it effective for handling V-shaped hulls, in addition to being able to fit on any roof rack system. The innovative Kayak Wing also eliminates the possibility of your kayak incurring any damages to its hull during transportation.

With accessories already included in the package, installing this supercarrier no longer requires extensive use of tools. It guarantees an easy installation, ensuring that you can accomplish the kayak mounting process within minutes. It comes with straps for securing the kayak to ensure it doesn’t incur any damages to the hull, be it dents or scratches.

One particular downside of the Kayak Wing is that it is not compatible with just about any type of kayak you may own. Its size implies that it limits you to kayaks with a maximum thirty-inch width. Nonetheless, the simple fact that it is sturdy, reliable and light in weight guarantee exceptional service when used appropriately.

Pros

  • It comes as a complete set hence is hassle-free
  • Features black felt pads to ease kayak sliding onto the wings
  • Sturdy, reliable and lightweight

Cons

  • Only ideal for relatively light kayaks
  • The nubbly wingnuts may be difficult to tighten

6. Yakima Showboat 66 in Kit

Yakima Showboat 66 in Kit

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The Yakima Showboat 66 in Kit is the ultimate product that completes your system as an outdoors person. Featuring a load assist roller fixed on its rear that slides out for easy access, and the ability to adjust from side to side to accommodate more than one kayak, you can now explore the more dynamic side of the best kayak roof racks. Complimented by two sixty-six inches Yakima crossbars, the Yakima Showboat ensures vehicle protection during loading and unloading of the kayak.

Further, the roof rack is made from corrosion-proof stainless steel and has paddings that offer an extra layer of protection for your car when transporting a kayak. It not only comes with the complete set of tools and equipment but is designed to carry any type of kayak you may own.

Precisely, the Yakima Showboat is the ultimate tool for those who want to explore the benefits of a more innovative kayak carrier and is quite ideal for big kayaks. In fact, the Yakima showboat clamps directly onto the Whispbar, square, round and any other factory crossbar.

Pros

  • Guaranteed stability of the mounted kayak
  • Features padded roller pads for kayak’s protection

Cons

  • It’s a relatively heavy carrier
  • Exclamation Triangle Limited to only one color

7. Malone HandiRack Inflatable Universal Roof Top Rack

Efficient, exquisite and unique. That sums just about everything related to the Malone HandiRack Inflatable Universal Rack. This inflatable rooftop rack offers just about all the benefits associated with a traditional metallic roof rack and suffers none of the related drawbacks. Installing it will only take you a few minutes, and it will comfortably support up to 180lbs worth of load.

Made of 420-denier nylon, with 650-ring anchor points, and fitted with a double-action Handi Pump for inflating the roof racks in a matter of minutes, this high capacity roof rack is everyone’s dream. Also, the rack is rugged enough to offer support for a wide cross-section of loads and features a fuel-efficient low-profile design.

This rack is designed for those who are no longer interested in installing the traditional roof racks. The fact that it is lightweight yet compact makes it suitable for use in any vehicle, hence will allow you to transport your kayak without much hassle.

Malone HandiRack Inflatable Universal Roof Top Rack

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Pros

  • Quite affordable
  • High load capacity of up to 180lbs
  • An exquisite low-profile design

Cons

  • The risk of deflation when in use should it be pricked by a pointed object

8. SportRack Adjustable Kayak Carrier

​SportRack Adjustable Kayak Carrier

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The SportRackAdjustable Kayak Carrier ranks among the best kayak roof racks due to the simplicity of its concept and the robust quality it offers. Fitted with adjustable foam blocks as opposed to the traditional touchpoints found in other kayak carriers, the blocks allow for modification so that any type of kayak can fit onto the rack. Also, the rack comes with a complete set of gears and is therefore compatible with most roof-rack configurations, including naked roofs.

The design also features a non-skid underside whose purpose is to protect the car roof. It also has two straps for securing foam and bars to the vehicle. Thus guaranteeing stability not only for the loaded kayak but also for your vehicle. The two rounded plastic bars prevent the load from coming into contact with the vehicle roof, while the two polypropylene straps serve to secure the kayak to the vehicle.

Given its design, this carrier targets those seeking less sophisticated carriers. Despite its straightforward design, it offers exceptional services just like other kayak carriers that exist in the market. Also, it is pocket-friendly and at the same time delivers value for your money.

Pros

  • Can accommodate a full range of Kayak widths (16’’ to 24’’ spacing)
  • Relatively cheap

Cons

  • A somewhat unappealing design

9. TMS J-Bar Rack

Compared to other products currently available in the market, the TMS J-Bar Rack was designed to be the best kayak carrier. It can be attached to any type of crossbars and load bars makes it a candidate for a perfect kayak hauler. It is extremely popular. Thanks to its ability to accommodate varying kayak sizes without taking so much space. Its popularity also draws from the fact that it can carry loads of up to ten times its weight and up to twice its width.

The carrier features a steel design for strength with easily adjustable paddings, to protect your kayak from damage during relocation. Furthermore, its wide and solid J-style design makes the loading and unloading process very easy and efficient.

Though ideal for those who prefer simple racks, the TMS J-Bar rack features durable construction and will work fine with just any size of a kayak. Its design is such that it guarantees no contact between the loaded kayak and the roof of your car, hence preventing your car from suffering undue damage over time.

​TMS J-Bar Rack

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Pros

  • Simple concept for fast installation and removal
  • J-style carrier style leaves space for other stuff such as bicycles
  • Very affordable

Cons

  • Limited to kayaks with a fixed size, of up to 36’
  • Exclamation Triangle Comparatively low weight capacity, of up to 75lbs

Summary

Today, kayaks come in varied shapes and sizes. Made from different materials, ranging from metal to fiberglass, wood to plastics and fabrics, among other materials. The essence of a kayak roof carrier is to ensure minimum damage and the transporting car or truck. For this reason, you need to make an informed choice of the type of kayak roof rack that you install on your car. As we have seen earlier, among the factors to consider in order to purchase the best kayak roof rack include the cost, durability, completeness of the set(in terms of accessories), the number of kayaks it can accommodate, its effects on the car’s performance, among others.

We believe that the review offered on the various kayak roof racks. It has highlighted the extent to which the numerous products meet the basic standards of assessments. All the products we have listed as the best kayak roof racks are very solid. It can offer the much-needed reliability and will effectively deliver value for money. Noteworthy though is that these products must be used within their design capacities and according to their respective use criterion.