Kayak Roof Rack


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  • Features: Steel design with adjustable padding for carrying strength and kayak protection Wide mouth J bar offers...

kayak roof rack for cars without rails


What is a kayak roof rack?

How do you use this type of product?

Does every roof rack for kayak use work with every vehicle?

A kayak car rack is any type of rack that is installed on the top of your vehicle and used for transporting your kayak from one place to another. These types of racks can be used for canoes and stand-up paddleboards in most instances, too, although some are specifically shaped for kayaks only.

Most of the time, these racks are fitted onto crossbars on top of the vehicle. The kayak is then slid into place and tied down onto the rack using tie-downs or straps that are often included with the rack itself.

Roof racks can be used with cars or SUVs. Most trucks don’t need roof racks, since they have enough space to haul a kayak using different methods instead.

Here are a few requirements to look for in your vehicle when determining whether or not it can be used with kayak racks for cars:

  • What is the size of your vehicle’s top? Measure it and see if it meets the requirements for the rack you’re considering.
  • Do you already have crossbars installed? For the vast majority of racks, you’ll need crossbars first, so be sure you have them or are willing to install them before you go further.
  • What kinds of crossbars do you have? Some are round and some are square. Some racks are universal for all types of crossbars, while others can only be used with one type.
  • How tall is the rack? Will it make your vehicle too tall to pass under low bridges or drive-throughs?

Now that you know a little bit more about what to look for, read on to find some of the best kayak roof rack options around.

Option #1. Kayak Roof Rack for Car

Kayak Roof Rack - J-Bar Hooks Canoe, Surf-Board & Kayaks Carrier...

This Kayak Roof Rack for Car  is a good quality low-price item that works with canoes, surfboards, and paddleboards as well. This option is built from heavy-duty materials and comes in a pack of two so you can support a single kayak on the roof of your car or SUV.


  • This roof rack works with all styles of crossbars, with very few exceptions.
  • This offer can be installed quickly without the use of any tools.


  • These roof racks may be prone to rusting.
  • The foam padding may flake or tear off easily, even with regular use.

Option #2. Ecotric J-Bar Universal Kayak Roof Rack

ECOTRIC Kayak Roof Rack J-Bar Rack HD Universal Kayak Carrier...

The Ecotric J-Bar Universal Kayak Roof Rack  is a great kayak rack for SUV use. This choice comes with straps and tie-downs and is sold in a set of two pairs, so you can easily bring along several kayaks on your next adventure. This sturdy set of racks works for most kayaks up to 36 inches in width.


  • This roof rack can be used with most square or flat crossbars up to 2.5 inches wide and 1 inch thick.
  • The bars are fitted with foam padding for protection.


  • The metal is thin and may become bent or damaged easily.
  • Some vehicles may be too small to use two sets of this roof rack at the same time.

Option #3. Car Rack & Carriers Universal J-Shape Rack

Car Rack & Carriers Universal 2 Pairs J- Shape Rack HD Kayak...

If you’re looking for a sturdy set of car racks for your kayak that won’t put you over your spending budget, consider the Car Rack & Carriers Universal J-Shape Rack . This set supports up to 150 pounds of kayak weight and can be used with any kayak smaller than 36 inches in width.


  • The metal bars are coated to protect them against rusting and weather-related damage.
  • It’s easy to put this rack on and take it off again quickly when needed.


  • Installation is challenging and may take a while.
  • Although the rack doesn’t rust easily, the screws do in some instances.

Option #4. TMS J-Bar Rack

TMS® 2 Pairs J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier Canoe Boat Surf Ski...

With the TMS J-Bar Rack , you can enjoy the safety and security of a sturdy kayak carrier for car use without having to worry about your boat. This rack is easy to mount and comes with straps and tie-downs to protect your kayak even further while it’s in use.


  • This option can be used with any kayak smaller than 36 inches in width.
  • The rack can support up to 75 pounds of weight.


  • This roof rack is intended for smaller crossbars, so it’s important to measure before buying.
  • Assembly is a little more complicated for this rack than some of the others listed here.

Option #5. AA-Racks J-Bar Rack Roof Top Mount

AA-Racks Folding Kayak Rack Car Roof Top Mounted,J-Bar Kayak...

Try the AA-Racks J-Bar Rack Roof Top Mount  for a kit that will get you on the road with your kayak in no time. This J-bar set features non-slip grips and attaches firmly to the crossbars of your vehicle for safe use on the road. This offer is available in several different styles, shapes, and sizes.


  • This roof rack can be used for kayaks of up to 16 feet in length.
  • The rack can support up to 2200 pounds of weight.


  • Some customers have had issues with this choice rusting more than the others on our list.
  • The included bolts may not last as long as the rack itself.

Option #6. Rooftop Universal Kayak Carrier

Rooftop Universal Kayak Carrier Car Roof Rack Set of Two J-Shape...

The Rooftop Universal Kayak Carrier  is a good quality generic brand of rooftop carrier that has all the features you need. This choice includes foam padding to protect the surface of your kayak and keep it from sliding around, and the rack system is built to resist weather damage, too.


  • This rack can be used for up to 150 pounds of weight, so it’s ideal for bigger, heavier kayaks.
  • The rack can fold down flat when it’s not in use.


  • The included screws may not be durable and may need to be updated.
  • Some products may arrive missing hardware.

7. Yakima JayLow Rooftop Kayak Carrier

YAKIMA, JayLow Rooftop Mounted Kayak Rack for Vehicles, Carries...

Try the Yakima JayLow Rooftop Kayak Carrier  when you need to bring along one or two kayaks for your next adventure. This roof rack system includes two racks, hardware, straps, and a quick and easy installation setup that makes it convenient for both casual kayakers and frequent paddlers, too.


  • This set works with any round or square crossbars that are at least 24 inches apart from each other.
  • The roof rack can support up to 110 pounds of weight between one to two kayaks.


  • The plastic pieces may begin cracking sooner rather than later.
  • This option can’t be used with a key locking system.

Option #8. Thule Hull-a-Port Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier

Thule Hull-a-Port Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier

For a product from a popular brand name that’s built to last, check out the Thule Hull-a-Port Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier . This roof rack offers more space than some others on the list and is packed with durable, extra padding. It’s quick and easy to operate when you’re in a hurry, even with a heavy kayak in tow.


  • The rack comes with additional buckle straps and tie-downs.
  • This offer works with round crossbars and any crossbars that are made by Thule.


  • The screws on this option are prone to becoming weak and loose over time.
  • The included bolts may be too short for some vehicles.

Option #9. Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Universal Car Rack

Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Universal Car Rack Kayak...

The Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Universal Car Rack  has a slanted boarding rack platform to make it easier to place your kayak on the rack for travel. It’s designed to work with round, oval, and square racks in almost every instance, so it’s a great choice for your universal roof rack needs.


  • There’s plenty of extra padding on this offer, so it won’t scratch or damage your kayak easily.
  • This roof rack can be purchased in sets of one to sets of four.


  • This choice sometimes arrives missing the hardware needed to install it.
  • The buttons on the rack can become stiff easily.


There are a lot of roof racks out there, and they all have their own strengths, weaknesses, and features. Each one can bring something different to your kayak hauling experience and help you move your watercraft from place to place. But which kayak rack for car use is the best option for most vehicle needs? Here are our top three recommendations:

  • Thule Hull-a-Port Pro: This is a heavy-duty roof rack with plenty of padding, too. This option comes from a well-known brand name and is sure to last a long time.
  • Yakima JayLow: Another rack from a popular brand name, this J-bar is a good option for cars with pre-installed crossbars.
  • TMS J-Bar Rack: This is a very popular choice and is one of the bestsellers from our list. Customers are often satisfied with this easy-to-use roof rack, especially for a lower price point than some of the others on the list.

Pick your favorite of these options listed above and get ready to haul your kayak with ease! 

Last update on 2022-09-26 at 12:55 Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. CERTAIN CONTENT THAT APPEARS ON THIS SITE, COMES FROM AMAZON. THIS CONTENT IS PROVIDED ‘AS IS’ AND IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE OR REMOVAL AT ANY TIME.

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