Top 10: Best Kayak Roof Rack of 2019


The feel of the breeze coming right off the water, the pull as your paddle slices into a cresting wave, the sight of the sun shimmering on the ripples of water: kayaking is a truly glorious experience. It is a time when we are most connected with ourselves, with nature and with a peace that is hard to find elsewhere. We’re going to help you find the best kayak roof rack to get you there!

But, if you can’t get the kayak to your favorite lake, ocean, or stream, all of that is just a dream. As an avid kayaker, I know that sometimes getting your kayak strapped to your car can be the biggest stressor, unless you have a great kayak roof rack or if you have a large truck. But even then, it can be a challenge. As the owner of a smaller vehicle, I’d have no way to get out on the water without my trusty kayak rack. I want everyone to be able to experience the joys of gliding out on the open water, which is exactly why I have compiled this list; to show you that the best kayak carrier is out there, and it will change your life! So without further ado, here’s a list of what I think is the best kayak carrier on the market plus some other kayak roof racks that are right up there as well!

The Best Kayak Roof Rack Reviews

1. Vault Cargo Management’s Folding Kayak Racks – The Best Kayak Roof Rack

And now for the number one product on our “best kayak carrier” list: The Vault Cargo Management Folding Kayak Rack!

What is NOT to love about this best kayak carrier?! First, this “best kayak roof rack” works with nearly any vehicle’s existing roof rack. No need to go out and spend money on another product to make it work! This set of two J-rack bars easily connects to your car’s roof rack cross bars. And you won’t want nor will you need to take them off when you’re done using them! Here’s why this is the best kayak roof rack. The J-racks are made of the highest quality, heavy duty aluminum. That means not only are these bars lightweight, but they will last forever. Unlike many traditional j-rack kayak roof racks that you see on the market, these bars fold down when they are not in use. So, you can park your car at the beach just as easily as you can park your car in a tight parking garage in the heart of the city without ever removing your kayak roof rack.

This rack is great not only for carrying your kayak, but also your canoe, stand-up paddleboard or other vessel. And with Vault Cargo Management’s rack, you’re also assured that your boat is traveling safely. This best kayak carrier also has a non-rub design; attached to each bar is a soft cushion that prevents it from rubbing on your kayak and causing any hot spots in transit. Plus with the 180 degree folding motion of the cradle, you can be rest-assured that however large or whatever size your kayak is, it will fit within this best kayak carrier.

All you have to do to confirm the quality of this product is to go on Amazon or other review websites. I looked-I tried to find a bad review on this best kayak roof rack, but I simply couldn’t! In fact, nearly all of the reviews that I saw were either 4 or 5 stars. How can you top that?! With other customers saying that this is the only brand that they will buy from here on-I am putting my full trust in this Kayak roof top rack!

But the cherry on top of Vault Cargo Management’s Kayak rack is that when you purchase from this company, you truly get everything you need. They include the j-racks, the mounting hardware, the straps to securely tie down your kayak: you simply won’t need a single thing besides what you get from this company. And to top it off, they have a warranty and satisfaction guarantee that is second to none, so even if you have doubts, you can rest easy knowing that you can get your money back if you don’t like it!

The best kayak roof rack on our list is available both on Amazon as well as Vault Cargo Management’s website. Be sure to check prices in both spots, as it appears as though the price is commonly a bit lower on Vault’s website.

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Kayak Rack Facts:

  • Inexpensive
  • Extremely easy to install
  • Easy to use; can fold down and leave on vehicle
  • Lightweight, won’t add weight to your vehicle

2. Yakima JLow Folding J-Cradle Rooftop Rack – Runner Up For Best Kayak Carrier

Besides the funny, tongue-in-cheek name, this kayak roof rack is near the top of our list for it’s impeccable quality. It looks and feels like your traditional J cradle rack and certainly does have most of the features that you see in other racks but, it is far less expensive than the others that you will see in the marketplace! Plus, it folds down, making it much easier to use than other models.

This product looks sharp and has some awesome tools that really help the user out. I’m talking about things like slide rails that protect your car’s paint job and also help you get the kayak onto your vehicle in a quick, easy manner! It’s as simply as pulling on the release handles and letting the top rack to fold down. This is extremely helpful, especially when you are trying to load an 80 pound kayak on top of your kayak roof carrier! And speaking of boats-this rack can carry TWO vessels in vertical position. It is extremely easy to use and to set up on your vehicle, fitting on nearly any roof rack from any manufacturer, while Yakima does recommend their own Yakima Streamline.

Plus, it comes ready to go, already installed right out of the box-you can put it right on your roof rack without using any tools! This kayak roof carrier may look very high maintenance, but it is anything but! It includes heavy-duty straps and also bow and stern tie downs, but you do have to buy the SKS locks separately. Unlike other j-rack kayak racks, this one does fold down when not in use. With the high quality of this product, you’ll want to leave it on your vehicle all the time, so that will come in very handy! Truly a “best kayak carrier!”

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Kayak Rack Facts

  • Moderate price
  • Holds one vessel up to 80 lbs, two vessels up to 110 lbs
  • Easy install without any tools
  • Limited lifetime warrantee
  • Comes with heavy duty straps as well as bow and stern tie-downs
  • Recommended for use with Yakima products

3. Thule 898 Hullavator Assist Carrier

This next product on our “best kayak roof rack” list is especially good for those who have larger kayaks, with hulls as wide as 36 inches!

The Thule 898 Hullavator Assist Carrier not only carries large kayaks, like a few others on our list, it actually helps the user load and unload the vessel onto the top of their vehicle. This particular best kayak carrier does so by lowering the kayak about 40 inches to the side of your vehicle, at about waist level.

To load, simply pull the arms of the rack down to the side of your vehicle. You can gently place your kayak right in the padded cradle, and then strap it in using the included QuickDraw center straps that even have car-protective bumpers. The cradle is fully adjustable, ensuring that your vessel will fit right in. The gas struts on this kayak rack then take it from there, assisting you by lifting at least 40 pounds of the kayak’s weight as it is lifted to the roof of your vehicle.

The process is incredibly easy, takes just minutes and ensures that your car and your kayak are kept in pristine condition during transit. Plus, the bow and stern straps ensure that your kayak is going nowhere during your travels!

While the manufacturer recommends that you use a Thule Rack system like the Thule edge, those who own this best kayak carrier say that it works fine with most factor rack systems that have round bars. While this system is highly rated, it also is for the serious kayaker, as it is one of the most expensive kayak roof racks on the market. But, you get what you pay for and this product has a corrosion-resistant base and cradle and is very highly rated by those who own it. Do be aware this this rack does not fold down when it is not being used, so make sure that you are not going under any garages or bridges with less than 8 feet of clearance!

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Kayak Roof Rack Fast Facts:

  • Expensive
  • Loading and unloading assistance
  • Holds kayaks up to 75 lbs
  • Weather resistant; can leave on your vehicle

4. Yakima Jayhook Kayak Rack

Tried and true, our #4 “Best Kayak Roof Rack” is one we all know and love, and have for years: the Yakima Jayhook Kayak Rack. This kayak roof rack will hold nearly any kayak, so long as it is under 80 lbs, plus it takes up a very small amount of space on your roof, in case you need to haul other gear. The J-shaped cradle is traditional, secure, stable and makes for very easy loading and unloading.

The padded racks are gentle to your boat, ensuring that it is safely stowed as you traverse down windy roads, in all kinds of weather! They provide protection and grip while you are driving. The two cradles hold your kayak on its side, are easily accessible for loading and unloading and do a great job of making sure that your kayak stays put (! Bow and stern tie-downs are included, in addition to heavy duty straps that keep your kayak safely tied to this best kayak carrier.

Plus, installation is incredibly easy; one person can do it without any tools! You can install this kayak roof rack, load up your vessel and be on the road within less than 10 minutes. This works on nearly every roof rack that is available on the market, no extra parts needed to make it fit. The rack is made of durable materials, ensuring the product will last a long time, even if you install it and never take it off of your vehicle.

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Kayak Roof Rack Fast Facts:

  • Moderately priced
  • Fits nearly any kayak, from tandem to whitewater
  • Easy to install, no tools needed
  • Works with nearly any roof rack

5. Thule 887XT Slipstream Kayak Rack

Getting your kayak on Thule’s 887 Slipstream Kayak rack is as easy as 1-2-3! While this “best kayak roof rack” is a bit more involved than some of the other models on this list, it does have a lot of great features we think you’ll really enjoy!

This kayak roof rack is made to hold one kayak, weighing up to 75 pounds. You simply load the kayak from back to front, “slipping” it right into the Slipstream Kayak rack. All you have to do is align the front of your kayak with the rack on the back of your vehicle, and the sliding roller on the back of the mount gently guides your kayak into the rack. The best kayak roof rack helps with about 50% of the weight of the boat!

Once you see how easy this best kayak roof rack is, you will love it! Plus, the four pivoting hull pads on this rack are all adjustable, meaning this kayak roof rack will fit just about any size or shaped boat. Just strap your boat down with the two straps that come with the rack and you will feel like your kayak is fully secure. Here’s a huge benefit: if you are a family of kayakers, two of these carries will fit on your vehicle at one time.

Though this best kayak roof rack is extremely easy to install, its also made of the finest materials that allow you to keep it on your vehicle full-time, worry free. This kayak rack is made of durable, rust resistant coating and hardware, so you know its going to last a long time. Plus, with less worries about scratching your paint or roughing up the top of side of your vehicle as you’re loading in your kayak, you know you’ll have some extra money in your pocket for the fun stuff!

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Kayak Roof Rack Fast Facts:

  • Expensive
  • Works best with Thule roof racks
  • Holds kayaks of up to 75 lbs
  • Reduces the weight of vessel during loading/unloading by up to 50%

6. Yakima ShowDown Kayak/SUP Rack Black

This “best kayak roof rack” offers a special “boost” that makes you realize it’s a lot more than your traditional kayak roof rack! The Yakima ShowDown Kayak rack boasts a lot of features, including its ability to hold stand-up paddleboards and its ability to help you load heavy crafts.

This kayak roof rack is heavy duty; certainly for the boater who means business. Yakima’s Showdown kayak rack holds kayaks up to 80 lbs, but it doesn’t stop there; the rack helps you lift that kayak onto your roof. Its arms tilt down 26” from the top of the roof rack, which means you can load your boat at just about waist level, right on the side of your vehicle. It takes on 30-45% of the load that you are placing on the rack (depending on its width). This makes loading and unloading your vessel onto this kayak roof rack extremely easy, even if you’re on your own! This rack will easily hold a large kayak or two stand-up paddleboards, with the smallest part of the crossbar measuring 24 inches. The cradles of this rack are covered in felt, conforming to the body of your boat and ensuring that it gets safely from place to place.

Keep in mind, to use this product, you need to have a vehicle with a pre-installed roof rack; this will not work with clips or naked roof racks ( . Although Yakima’s ShowDown rack is made of lightweight materials, it is heavy duty (the rack weighs 34 pounds!) so your vehicle must have a 165-pound rack weight rating. Yakima also suggests that you purchase a SKS Lock Cores for added security, ensuring that this kayak rack is locked to the base rack. Likely, you will want to keep this on your car at all times as opposed to taking it on and off when you decide to take a trip to the water. But there’s good news-the rack folds down flat when it is not in use, limiting the amount of drag and noise, so leaving it on your vehicle is no problem.

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Kayak Roof Rack Fast Facts:

  • Expensive
  • Assists with loading/unloading of kayak
  • Vehicle must have 165 lb rack weight rating
  • Most users leave this installed on their vehicles
  • Holds 80 lb kayak or 2 SUP boards

7. Thule Top Deck 881 Kayak Saddle

With most products on our best kayak roof rack list, you have to adjust and position your boat so that it fits to the confines of whatever rack you bought. Rarely are they made to specifically fit your kayak; but that’s not the case with this “best kayak roof rack!” Thule’s Top Deck 881 Kayak roof rack conforms to the most popular hull shapes, not the other way around!

The strong rubber pads on this rack hold the hull of your kayak tightly in place while protecting your vessel. Some reviewers have said that they hold so tightly to the hull that it is reminiscent of a sticker but does not harm the paint or body. Plus, the large surface area of the contact points ensure that there are virtually no hot spots! Keep in mind, this is a flat cradle, which may not be the shape of your kayak’s hull.

This kayak rack is relatively easy to install. The manufacturer says that it only works with Thule Rack systems cross bars, round bars or factory racks, but other reviewers have said that it works fine with most factory installed cross bars including those from Yakima, AeroBlade and Xsporter (so long as you use an adaptor kit). It also is very lightweight, less than 5 pounds, and is easily stored in your home, garage, or vehicle!

This kayak roof rack holds one boat that is up to 36 inches wide and weighs up to 75 lbs. It is so easy to use; only one person is needed to load and unload your kayak on to this rack. When you buy Thule’s Top Deck 881 roof rack, you get everything you need: four saddles, all of the hardware needed for mounting and two high-quality, heavy duty straps for securing the boat and stern.

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Kayak Roof Rack Fast Facts:

  • Moderate Price
  • Conforms to popular flat hull shapes
  • Easy to install
  • Works best with Thule roof rack systems

8. SportRack SR5527 Adjustable Foam Kayak Carrier

This makes our “best kayak roof rack” list for many reasons, but one stands out above all else: if you do not currently have a roof rack on your car, you can use this kayak rack, no problem! If you are a household of kayakers that switches between cars or if you’re not sure you want to make the commitment to having anything permanently affixed to your vehicle, this kayak roof rack is for you!

SportRack’s Jetty Deluxe (SR5527) best kayak roof rack has two fully adjustable foam blocks that can be positioned in any way you choose to accommodate nearly any size kayak. The foam blocks will slide up and down a 32” cross bar, accommodating vessels between 16’-24.” So, be aware: that means this kayak roof rack is only suitable for smaller kayaks. However, it also means that this is also a great product for someone who kayaks but also needs a roof rack to carry their surf or paddleboard. Plus, these foam pads are durable and adjustable and they’re also lightweight, so this product is easy to store.

Just because the pads are lightweight does not mean this kayak roof rack lacks in quality. The non-skid bottoms of the pads keep the rack securely in place while protecting your vehicle. This kayak rack also comes with bow and stern tie downs, ensuring your vessel is going nowhere, with no drilling required!

Keep in mind, this is not a permanent rack; when you are done using it, you should take it off of your vehicle to prevent any unnecessary damage.

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Kayak Roof Rack Fast Facts:

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to install, lightweight
  • Works on nearly any vehicle
  • Only for smaller kayaks
  • Can be used to tow paddleboards/surfboards

9. The Kayak Wing Sea Kayak Rack with Covered Straps

This product makes our “best kayak roof rack” list because of its ease of use, easy storage and reliability. However, it is important to mention that this kayak roof rack will only hold kayaks that are up to 30” wide. That is typically the size of a sea kayak, but if you have questions about fit, you can find the width of your boat by measuring the widest part of the hull.

Installing this kayak rack is easy; no tools are required and all necessary items are provided. Plus, The Kayak Wing’s Sea Kayak rack fits with nearly all roof rack systems that have been previously installed on your car, including popular brands like Thule and Yakima. The wedge can be positioned either to the left or the right, which increases the carrying capacity and according to the company, this kayak rack can nearly double the carrying capacity of your roof rack.

This system is so easy to use, in just minutes you can be in or out of the water and ready to head to your next adventure. The black felt pads on this kayak rack make it very easy to slide your vessel right onto the wings of the rack.

But truly makes this a “best kayak carrier” is the care that is given to making sure your boat is safe and protected. The quick strap that holds your kayak down is surrounded by a neoprene protector, which guards your car or boat from being scratched by the metal. Combined with bow and stern straps, I feel confident that my boat would stay put on this kayak roof rack.

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Kayak Roof Rack Fast Facts:

  • Somewhat pricey
  • Durable, lightweight and easy to store
  • Easy to install, no tools needed
  • 5-year warranty
  • Strap protection keeps your car and your vessel from being damaged

10. TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier

First, it goes without saying. You cannot beat the price on TMS’ J-Bar Rack, which is one of the reasons why we believe this fits right into our “best kayak roof rack” list, with it being about half the price of some other models! Plus, this product comes with a lifetime warranty, is made of high quality steel and has lots of padding to keep your prized kayak safe! In fact, reviewers say, between the padding and the straps, they feel that their kayak is very safe, even when traveling at high speeds on a highway, and for long distances. The best kayak carrier is only the best when it keeps your beloved vessel safe!

The extra wide mouth on the J-Bar is great for easy loading and unloading; something that is so needed after a long day of paddling! The kayak roof rack holds kayaks up to 36 inches wide, weighing up to 75 pounds. And even though this kayak rack can hold a lot; it also leaves lots of space on the roof for whatever else you’re hauling.

Another great feature: the quick on/off hardware means to can easily install this (and remove it) on any car’s roof rack. Especially if you are in a family with multiple cars, this is extremely useful. The unit is very lightweight, less than eight pounds and could easily be stored anywhere, even inside your home, without disturbing anything.

Keep in mind, if you buy this product, you will need to make sure that you have cross bars installed on your roof rack; it does not come with them. Also, this product isn’t weather-proof, so if you live in a very rainy area, you’ll want to find another option.

Kayak Roof Rack Fast Facts:

  • Inexpensive
  • Steel J bars holds kayaks up to 36” wide, 75 pounds
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Fits on roof rack, but you’ll need to buy cross bar


And that is our full list; we hope you enjoyed this “best kayak roof rack” list and found it very informative! Our goal is to make sure that you are fully informed before you go into any store to buy a kayak roof rack. Instead of piling your kayak in the bed of your truck or your SUV, you should have the freedom to use that cargo space for the other things you love (like your friends, your bikes, your luggage and other gear).

A kayaking experience is truly not enjoyable if you’re constantly worried about the loading and unloading process of your kayak roof rack. And certainly you shouldn’t be considering buying a larger car or stopping kayaking entirely because you can’t get to your favorite location. Ensuring you have a safe, trustworthy kayak roof rack makes all the difference in the world!

There are so many options out there on the market these days; some brands familiar, some not. Some are very expensive, while some are unbelievably cheap, and it can be hard to know which brand you should go with and what you can truly believe. Kayak roof racks are an investment, and if you choose right, they should last you for many years to come, but most importantly, should help you enjoy your kayaking experience even more! From simple foam wedges with straps, to large racks that lift your kayak onto your roof nearly by themselves, the choice that you make should be entirely based on your lifestyle, not just on price or because you’ve heard of a brand before! We would love to hear what you think and to share with us which ones you love and which ones that you would add to the list. Thanks for stopping by and checking out our best kayak roof rack list!

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