Best Kayak Roof Racks for Cars with and without Rails

10 Best Kayak Roof Racks for Cars with and without Rails 2024

(Last Updated: August 13, 2020)

A roof rack is a collection of poles fixed on the roof of a vehicle with the aim of carrying large luggage such as a kayak or canoe. Recently, most people are turning to kayak as a sport. However, they shy away from hiring a van to carry the kayak for them. Instead, they opt to install a roof rack on their vehicles for transporting their kayak. If you find yourself researching “how to transport a kayak without a roof rack” this guide will be of help.


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Malone Stax Pro2 Kayak Carrier 9.7
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Malone SeaWing Saddle Kayak Rack 9.9
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Malone AutoLoader J-style Kayak Rack 9.9
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HandiRack Inflatable Roof Rack 9.4
Thule 834 Hull-A-Port Rack 9.6
ROLA J-style Carrier Rack 9.4
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Rage Powersports Roof Kayak Carrier 9.3
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SuperAir Soft Roof Luggage Rack 9.0
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Trademark Supplies Tarp Kayak Roof Rack 9.1
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TMS J-Bar HD Kayak Rack 9.1

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The rack can be removed at any time and reinstalled when you want to use it. There is a roof rack for vehicles that do not have built-in rails.

A roof rack. Crossbars and towers are the main components of a roof rack. Crossbars are the poles that run across the roof of the car. They provide the surface for placing the luggage. There are three main types of crossbars in the market today, factory, in no which has a square shape, and Yakima which is round.

Towers on the other end are the feet of a roof rack. They carry the luggage placed on the roof. Installation of the feet determines the firmness of the tower. Some towers come with lock and others with keys that are sold separately. The main types of towers available in the market include rain gutters, factory bars, fixed point, and bare roof.

Rail. A rail is composed of fixed bars attached to the roof of a car. It serves as a barrier or a pole for hanging things.

Tips for selecting a roof rack

The shape of the roof

Some brands such as Yakima and Thule have a roof rack that fit most cars. However, it is important to know the shape of the roof of a car so that you get a rack that fits best.


Compare the prices of a roof rack with other carriers of the same properties. Some racks are overpriced yet there exists a similar rack at a much lower price.


The intended use influences the choice of a roof rack. Most people install a rack to carry their luggage on it.

Desired mounting system

When it comes to selecting a roof rack, it is important to consider the desirable mounting system. Racks have different screw bracket systems that will determine whether the rack will be unmounted every time or remain on the roof permanently. In addition, the brackets style will affect how the kayak will be attached. Hook style brackets are ideal for holding a kayak in an upright position.


Over time, the rack will have to endure wear and survive long drives on rocky roads. Thus, it has to be durable.

Types of kayak roof racks

J-Cradle kayak carrier

A j-Cradle kayak roof rack is installed up in a 45-degrees inclination. The rack offers security to the luggage. There is enough space for two kayaks on this carrier.

Stacker kayak carrier

Stacker kayak carrier has enough space to carry two to four kayaks in one round. This means that the roof will have more space for other luggage. A Stacker carrier is ideal for people who have large luggage as it will help them save on transportation costs. However, the kayak is placed in a vertical position, and this is not very secure when aerodynamics comes to play.

Saddle kayak rack

The most common type of saddle kayak roof rack is the auto rack. Most people prefer this type because of its ease of use and its secure kayak attachment. A saddle rack carries the kayak in a horizontal position. The kayak does not occupy all space on the roof and there is extra room for more luggage. When it comes to aerodynamics, this position is safe.


Top 10 Roof Racks for Kayaks 2024


1. Malone Stax Pro2 Kayak Carrier

The Malone Stax Pro2 has a stacker style kayak carrier that has a universal design which can be tied well in most crossbars. The pack comes with straps for tying two kayaks. However, depending on the size of your car roof, you can tie up to four kayaks.

Malone Stax can be folded down when it is not being used. This feature makes it portable and it is more aerodynamic. The package comes with four foam blocks that provide sufficient padding between the roof of the car and the carrier to prevent scratching and bending on the car. Malone roof rack has octagonal shaped posts that offer maximum support to the boat. It is also an easy load kayak roof rack.


  • Universal design
  • Can be folded
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Foams for cushioning kayaks
  • Octagon-shaped posts


  • Pads are not durable


2. Malone SeaWing Saddle Kayak Rack

Malone SeaWing saddle has a low-profile design that occupies less roof space. The design offers little to no wind resistance, thus, requires less handling issues. Its rack has a flex function for cradling the kayak and improving gas mileage. The carrier is slim enough to fit two kayaks.

Most people who purchased this rack said that it is easy to load a boat on Malone SeaWing saddle. Some said it is possible to load the boat on the vehicle without any help. However, there are complains that the rack is not convenient for large boats. One of the biggest challenges is where to tie the boat if the roof of the vehicle does not have mounting poles. The SeaWing saddle has two colors, red and black.


  • Low-profile
  • Easy to set up and load
  • Cost-effective
  • Adaptable


  • The supplied hardware is faulty
  • Rack doesn’t work well for wide boats


3. Malone AutoLoader J-style Kayak Rack

Malone AutoLoader carrier can support the luggage of up to 70 pounds. The design of the rack enables it to withstand heavy winds as well as salt-water corrosion. Malone J-style kayak carrier comes with a built-in boarding ramp that facilitates easy loading and unloading. The package comes with universal mounting hardware that can be used on all types of rails, from square to oval rails.

Cradles on the carrier are flexible and can be adjusted to enhance security and contact on the rack. The Malone AutoLoader xv is one of the most advanced carriers in the market.


  • Down-sloping ramp for easy loading and unloading
  • Corrosion resistant material
  • Universal mounting hardware
  • Safety tie-down straps
  • Padding


  • Weak straps


4. HandiRack Inflatable Roof Rack

A HandiRack inflatable roof rack has to be inflated before it is used to transport a kayak. An inflatable carrier is easy to install. In fact, some people say they took minutes to install the rack. Inflatable carriers can be folded and stored in the trunk until need arise. HandiRack can support a weight of up to 180 lbs on a vehicle without rails.

This is among the few kayak roof racks for cars without rails. HandiRack carrier is packed in a travel bag. It also comes with an air pump and tie-down straps. The air chambers provide a cushion between the luggage and the roof of the car. The kayak remains intact at high speeds.


  • Easy to use
  • Expandable carrier
  • Portable
  • Universal design
  • Easy to install
  • Multipurpose
  • Free travel bag
  • One year warranty


  • Air chambers cannot withstand high temperatures or pressure


5. Thule 834 Hull-A-Port Rack

Thule 834 comes in silver color. The dimensions are 6 inches high and 15 inches wide. Hull-A-Port has a J-profile design which gives the rack an angle shape. Its wide mouth facilitates easy loading and unloading. Thule 834 comes with powerful straps for holding the luggage firmly on the roof.

The 834 roof rack package includes thick pads that cushion the kayak against the roof of the car. This way, the kayak remains intact and firmly secured on bumpy roads. The roof rack also comes with a buckle bumper which protects the kayak and the vehicle from scratching during transportation. Thule 834 is coated with a rust-resistant material. The hardware is made with long lasting material to ensure it is durable. This roof rack can support the weight of up to 75 lbs.


  • Durable
  • Stable
  • Powerful straps
  • J-profile
  • Buckle bumper
  • All-weather pads


  • Requires additional hardware when using it with Aeroblade
  • Cannot be folded


6. ROLA J-style Carrier Rack

ROLA is J-style kayak roof rack. The rack can support all types of kayaks from singles to sit-on-top. ROLA rack has a robust capacity that can support a heavy load. This is among the most convenient kayak roof racks with crossbars. Each carrier has a steel powder coating that protects the boat from corrosion as well as wear over the years.

The package comes with foam pads for protecting the kayak and the car during transportation. ROLA carriers have universal hardware that works well with other cross bars. The package comes with heavy duty straps for tying the luggage during transportation.


  • Steel coating
  • Foam pads
  • Universal hardware
  • Premium straps
  • Robust capacity


  • No instructions manual


7. Rage Powersports Roof Kayak Carrier

Rage Powersports carrier is one of the best kayak racks for a car without rails. It can be used to secure one kayak to a car that doesn’t have side rails or crossbars. Rage carrier has an angled profile. Each package comes with two pairs of buckle straps for tying down the luggage to provide maximum anchorage during transportation. The roof rack comes with two ropes for securing the bow and stern.

Powersports carrier has high-density foam for creating a buffer between the roof of the vehicle and the kayak. The foam blocks also offer a firm grip to the luggage.


  • Angled profile
  • Buckle straps
  • Tie-down ropes
  • High-density foam blocks


  • Short and noisy straps
  • Takes at least two people to handle
  • Not suitable for long distance


8. SuperAir Soft Roof Luggage Rack

SuperAir Soft Carrier is suitable for carrying a kayak and other heavy luggage on the roof of the car when traveling. As the name suggests, the rack is made with a soft material that protects the roof of the car from scratches. In addition, it has anti-vibration properties that ensure the luggage is in place throughout the journey.

It comes with two strong straps and durable metal clamps for securing the luggage on the roof. A soft carrier can support a load of up to 165 lbs. This kayak roof rack is easy to install. These are ideal roof racks for cars without gutters.


  • Universal
  • Lightweight
  • Soft rack
  • Heavy duty straps
  • Durable metal clamps
  • Anti-vibration
  • Easy to install


  • Not suitable for long trips
  • Not convenient for heavy luggage


9. Trademark Supplies Tarp Kayak Roof Rack

Kayak Roof Rack is universal and can fit any vehicle from trucks to SUV and vans. The carrier can be tied to oval, flat, round, or square car roofs. It is ideal for transporting kayaks as well as other aquatic vehicles. This roof rack can only fit cars with roof rack crossbars.

A kayak carrier is manufactured with steel which makes it durable and sturdy. Hence, it can support heavier kayaks. The material of the rack is water resistant and this makes the carrier suitable for use in all seasons. Though the rack is manufactured from steel, it is relatively lightweight. This makes it easy to install and remove when not in use. It comes with a one year warranty.


  • Universal fit
  • Can support heavier boats
  • Durable design
  • Lightweight
  • Carrier straps
  • Water resistant


  • Only works with cars that have roof rack bars
  • Tension knobs get loose with time


10. TMS J-Bar HD Kayak Rack

TMS J-Bar roof rack comes in two pairs which include the straps for anchoring the carrier. The rack has a universal design that is compatible with attachments for most crossbars. The carrier features an adjustable padding as well as a corrosion-resistant coating.

It is easy to install the carrier as the assembly instructions are straightforward. The rack can support luggage even at higher speeds of 60 to 70 mph. However, most people who purchased this product replaced the straps with stronger ones. Others reported that the product was delivered without the manual.


  • High-quality
  • Easy to install
  • Secure even at high speeds


  • Missing manuals
  • Weak straps



Despite the type or the size of your kayak, there is a roof rack that suits your needs. If your car lacks built-in racks, there are carriers designed for them. Most people prefer J carriers for vehicles with built-in rails. A J-style rack is a dual kayak roof rack that can accommodate two kayaks at a time.

When it comes to selecting a roof rack for carrying your kayak, consider the shape of the car roof. Other considerations include price and the purpose of the rack. With the information passed in this article, you can confidently choose a carrier that is right for you.

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