10 Best kayak roof rack for cars without rails [2023]

Best kayak rack for car without rails

Kayaking is one of the healthiest and exciting hobbies or choice of sports one can have. It’s a chance to unwind, relax, and at the same time, explore nature.

But in reality, not everyone has access to the bodies of water that are meant to be traversed using your kayak, and most of the time, we need to travel a certain distance to get to these destinations.

Transporting your kayaks may pose a challenge especially if your car does not have rails. Fret not, as technology and humans ingenious have always found ways to make things possible for us.

In this article, we introduce some of the best kayak roof rack for cars without rails.

Best kayak roof rack for cars without rails:Quick View

1. Brightlines Equinox Roof Rack Cross Bars
2. Auxmart Universal Roof Rack Side Rails
3. Malone VersaRail Bare Roof Cross Rail Rack
4. Cargoloc 2-piece 52 Aluminum Roof Top Cross Bar Set
5. Seah Hardware Universal Roof Rack Cross-bars
6. AA-Racks 2 Pair Double Folding J-Bar Rack
7. Malone Stax Pro2 Two Kayak Rack
8. Maxxhaul 70231 Hitch Mount Truck Bed Extender
9. IKURAM Kayak/Surf/Ski Roof Carrier Rack
10. MotorFansClub Cross Bars Roof Rack

Type of Kayak Roof Rack

There are a few types of roof racks that you can try for your car. Scan this section for you to decide whether which one is best suited for your car in terms of design, style, and functionality.


Yep, as simple as inflatable foam or pads can be added on top of your car’s roof and be a contraption for you to situate your kayaks easily for a trip. You won’t need any other hardware to mount or secure your kayaks on it and it’s one of the easiest roof racks to setup.


If you’re looking for a sturdy rack whether for long trips of heavy-duty kayaks then a J-style roof rack might be perfect for your style and your car.


Saddle type kayak roof rack for cars has two grips that you can attach to your crossbar and it should hold your kayaks from below quite nicely. These types of roof racks are super secure.


If you’re someone who finds loading kayaks on top of your car quite challenging then roller type roof rack for kayaks might just be ideal for you. These rollers are the easiest contraption to utilize and load your kayak on top of your vehicle.


Not really a type of roof rack for kayaks but should serve as the base of these roof racks. Crossbars allow you to utilize a multitude of roof rack for kayaks for easy transport.


Should you have multiple kayaks that are relatively small then a stacker type roof rack is best suited for you.

List of 10 Best kayak roof rack for cars without rails

1. Brightlines Equinox Roof Rack Cross Bars

Enjoy the great outdoors without worrying about how to bring your kayaks with the first entry on our best kayak roof rack for cars without rails review the Brightlines Equinox Roof Rack Cross Bars.

These are top of the line crossbars that should give you the freedom to take your kayak anywhere. The bars themselves have an optimized aerodynamic design that should be ideal for any roof accessory. So load your gears up and enjoy the road.

Why is this a top pick?

This is one of our top picks for the bars themselves are made out of premium aluminum extrusion with an aerodynamic blade edge and adjustable length. This makes sure that this crossbar is quite versatile and can accommodate or are compatible with a lot of vehicle brands.

The mounts can be adjusted when needed and you may carry everything that you need with it. This includes your kayak, cargo bags, snowboards, canoes, and all sorts of luggage safely to your destination.

Perfect for those meaning to travel cross country or maybe just a quick adventure to the outdoors. The crossbars are easy to install to boot with no drilling required from you. That’s convenience and reliability offered in one package.


✅ An inexpensive car rack returns a great value for your investment

✅ Easy to install and fits great on a multitude of vehicles

✅ Rock-solid bars that will last you for a long time

✅ Good looking crossbars

✅ Made with top quality material


⛔ Watch out for some installation problems due to screw problems

Also Read: Two person k2 kayak review

2.Auxmart Universal Roof Rack Side Rails

Next on our list is from the prolific Auxmart brand with their Auxmart Universal Roof Rack Side Rails. This brand boasts a thousand products underneath their belt and their goal is to provide quality products so their clientele can enjoy the most out of life.

This is one versatile crossbar for your vehicle and it will be a universal fit for a lot of car types. It’s safe, made of high-quality material, easy to set up, and comes with everything that you will need to install it.

Why is this a top pick?

This is a no-brainer top pick for us for it’s got everything a good quality kayak roof rack is required to be. First of all, it is made out of premium quality aluminum that’s not only lightweight, but of course, ultra-durable.

It’s got a load capacity of 150 pounds, just make sure that your load is evenly distributed. It’s got soft rubber pads at its bottom so you are sure to not damage your car paint. And what we like most about it is that it’s quite easy to install with no drilling required.

Also, this contraption is quite versatile for it comes with 3 different mounting clamps. This product is compatible with vehicles that have got a bare roof so you will not need anything else pre-installed.


✅ Compatible with a multitude of vehicle types

✅ Easy to setup

✅ If you’ve got a bare roof then this is for you

✅ Multiple mounting clamps for versatility

✅ Made out of durable material


⛔ This product is the least great fit for kayaks out of everything on our list

3. Malone VersaRail Bare Roof Cross Rail Rack

Next on our best kayak roof rack for cars without rails is the convenient Malone VersaRail Bare Roof Cross Rail Rack. Use this unit should you want to instantly transform your bare roof into a fully functional as well as a stable platform for all your transport needs.

Bikes, boats, kayaks, canoes, and any storage systems can all come aboard this roof rack. It comes in two lengths, assembled, and ready to go. It also comes with a twin cup vacuum tower and 1.5 inches attachment straps.

Why is this a top pick?

It’s a top pick for it is super easy to install with no additional tools needed aside from the wrench that comes with it. The load coating is guaranteed corrosion resistant and its square shape should allow for most accessories to fit right in.

The rack also comes with non-marking silicon pads and as mentioned, a 1.5 inches attachment strap. You can install it in a manner of a few minutes. Choose between 50 inches and 58 inches in length. It’s got a load capacity of 135 pounds and a pull strength of 75 pounds.


✅ Well-rated and popular product

✅ Very easy to use and install

✅ Steady and reliable

✅ Noiseless rack even at high speeds

✅ Better than most from its mid-range price category


⛔ Low-quality stitching

4. Cargoloc 2-piece 52 Aluminum Roof Top Cross Bar Set

Moving on, let’s check out the Cargoloc 2-piece 52 Aluminum Roof Top Cross Bar Set.

This product is made out of high-quality aluminum that’s got a 150-pound load capacity and will ensure that your load whether a kayak, bike, or ski will be safe and secure atop your car no matter where your destination may be.

Why is this a top pick?

The Cargoloc 2-piece 52 Aluminum Roof Top Cross Bar Set is a top pick in our opinion for it is one of the most secure kayak roof racks on our list. It is key lockable and that just adds another layer of security for your load.

It’s got a load capacity of 150 so that can be your kayak of most likely up to the heaviest variety. It comes with clamps that adjust accordingly to your car’s existing side rails. It’s got a rigid aluminum body that’s relatively lightweight but won’t fail you in terms of reliability.

It measures 52 inches end-to-end with a max of 46 inches span between your side rails. The gap due to the raised side rails ensures that it will fit most vehicles.


✅ A pretty popular product with positive reviews online

✅ Good fit on most vehicles and relatively easy to install

✅ Great value for money

✅ Good liking roof rack

✅ Durable build


⛔ Not the most stable product on our list especially on highway driving

5. Seah Hardware Universal Roof Rack Cross-bars

Next on our list is the ultra-reliable Seah Hardware Universal Roof Rack Cross-bars.

It comes with straps to easily attach it to your roof and the 120-centimeter crossbars are heavy-duty enough to make sure that your load is in place and stays secure.

Why is this a top pick?

This is a top pick simply because of its heavy-duty steel construction and at the same time its ease of use. It comes in a sleek black color that should blend right in with the color of your vehicle.

This is a 48 inches adjustable roof rack and so you’ll have different angles to configure it with as you fit it right on top of your vehicle. It should be versatile enough to be attached to a lot of types of vehicles and easy enough to install that you won’t even break a sweat.

This roof rack is ideal for different transporters like your kayak, bikes, or even freight boxes. The ratchet straps are also waterproof and super durable and will tie your luggage down nicely. Install in minutes and detach in just a few seconds.

That’s why this roof rack is a great investment for anyone!


✅ Super easy to install and detach

✅ Fits most vehicles

✅ Lightweight and durable crossbars

✅ Ratchet straps are top of the line (1800 pounds tie-down)

✅ Adjustable for different convenient angles


⛔ Overall, mediocre reviews online and must be because of the flimsy design

6. AA-Racks 2 Pair Double Folding J-Bar Rack

One of the most popular types of roof rack for kayaks is the J-bar style and the AA-Racks 2 Pair Double Folding J-Bar Rack should be right up that alley.

This roof rack is super versatile and will allow you to take on a multitude of luggage types may it be a kayak, ski, paddleboard, or snowboard with you wherever, whenever.

Why is this a top pick?

This J-rack is constructed with weather-resistant tubular steel that’s epoxy powder coated. This construction makes it heavy-duty and it can hold up to 150 pounds of load capacity.

It also comes with a rubberized base plus a foam cushion in its arm. Add the reinforced cargo strap in the mix and you have yourself one of the safest ways to transport your cargo atop your car.

The heavy-duty ratchet straps will tighten and secure your kayak in place. They are 16 feet long and tested for 2200 pounds of tie-down. The J-bars are also quite innovative and can fold 180 degrees for your convenience. It’s sleek, versatile, and secure at all parts with all the foam padding and rubberized components.


✅ Very innovative design makes securing your luggage a breeze

✅ Easy to install and detach

✅ Durable construction

✅ Your vehicle or luggage is secure to damage at all times

✅ Pretty well-suited for water sports vessels like your kayak


⛔ May want to ease in the load capacity as it’s not as strong as advertised (might bend)

7. Malone Stax Pro2 Two Kayak Rack

Next on our best kayak roof rack for cars without rails is the Malone Stax Pro2 Two Kayak Rack.

This is a universal car roof rack that’s a dual kayak carrier and one of the latest designs from the brand. The main philosophy behind the product is combining the value of a stacker type rack with the convenience of a fold-down variety.

Why is this a top pick?

There’s no way that we are leaving the Malone Stax Pro2 Two Kayak Rack out of our review and it’s most definitely is worthy of a top pick. The efficiency, convenience, and economical design of this rack are just too much to pass up on.

Not only can you load two kayaks on it at once but it’s got a reliable strapping and padding system to secure them in place and won’t damage your car or kayak in the process.

It comes with stable and durable folding aluminum posts that are octagon shaped. The design should also allow for better aerodynamics so you can drive steady. It’s got an overall rust-resistant construction that I’m sure is going to make it more durable.


✅ Very innovative design

✅ Carry two kayaks at once

✅ Pretty sturdy build

✅ Great value for money

✅ Secure and stable straps and padding


⛔ Be careful when situating your kayak as the design of this rack might dent it

8. Maxxhaul 70231 Hitch Mount Truck Bed Extender

Got a pickup truck? Then the Maxxhaul 70231 Hitch Mount Truck Bed Extender should be perfect for you.

Extend your truck bed with this product so you can take your kayak with you with relative ease.

Why is this a top pick?

This truck extender will let you take a ladder, canoe, kayak, and other long luggage easily with just a simple setup. It’s got an adjustable length plus width and that should give you much-needed versatility for a range of applications.

It’s got reflective strips on its sides so you protect yourself and other vehicles when out on the open road. It’s got quick pins for easy assembly and disassembly. And on top of that all, it is built with durable material that’s got a powder coat finish.


✅ Durable heavy-duty steel construction

✅ Lightweight and relatively easy to setup

✅ Versatile vertical and horizontal design

✅ Can handle a load of up to 350 pounds

✅ A functional design makes it a very effective extension


⛔ Some parts are not as reliable as the main components that affect the overall quality of this product

9. IKURAM Kayak/Surf/Ski Roof Carrier Rack

The penultimate entry on our review is the innovative and stylish IKURAM Kayak/Surf/Ski Roof Carrier Rack.

This is a top-of-the-line J-style kayak carrier and you’d be quite surprised as to how easy and safe you can now transport your kayak.

Why is this a top pick?

Innovative designs are brought about by passionate manufactures and that’s exactly why this product is a top pick and deserves everyone’s attention.

The mounting hardware that comes with it is versatile enough to fit in round, square, and oval cross rails. The rack is then made out of anodized aviation-grade aluminum alloys that of course are super reliable and durable. This is actually quite lightweight but it doesn’t compromise in quality at all plus it is rust-resistant.

The rubber saddles are thick and oversized to protect your kayaks from any rubbing during the travel. And lastly, you won’t need any tools to install it or detach it and load up your kayak in place at all.


✅ Quick raise, as well as fold design, is very convenient

✅ Perfect for kayaks plus the native paddle holders are great add-ons

✅ High-density foam (rubber) saddles tremendously help in preventing damage to your car or load

✅ Very functional, versatile, and innovative design

✅ Superbly durable construction


⛔ Can get a bit complicated to figure out at first

10. MotorFansClub Cross Bars Roof Rack

Own a Jeep? Then this last entry on our best kayak roof rack for cars without rails is for you. Introducing the MotorFansClub Cross Bars Roof Rack.

Tough rack made out of high-quality and durable material meant for the rough road and the great outdoors.

Why is this a top pick?

The bars are made out of high-grade aluminum that’s actually quite light, easy to assemble and dismantle. This unit is compatible with Jeep Wranglers models 2008 to 2018. Aside from the relative ease of installation it also creates very little wind noise once you install it atop your vehicle. That’s due to its streamlined water drop construction.

This is also quite ideal if you always bring oversized stuff on your trips. We’re talking about kayaks, canoes, skis, and bikes of course. That’s max capacity and utmost durability for you.


✅ Perfect for long trips

✅ It’s a rack that you can maximize in terms of its load capacity

✅ Premium quality crossbars are super durable

✅ Won’t affect your mileage that much

✅ Great value for money


⛔ Prone to rusting prematurely

What type of roof rack do you need for a kayak?

So which should be the best-suited roof rack for you and your kayaks?

To answer this question, what you primarily need to take a look at is your vehicle. What type of vehicle do you own? Which model or what year was it released? All of these questions should all boil down to properly identify whether a rack is compatible with what you’re driving.

Do own a van, SUV, or pickup truck? Do you have rood rails, or it’s all bare? Also, you need to consider the size of your kayak and its type. Do you plan to bring a few or just one? Also, you need to consider the distance that you are traveling or the terrain that will traverse.

You need a roof rack that’s durable, reliable, secure, and easy to attached or detached. Our list includes some of the best kayak roof racks for cars without rails and they come in multiple types and designs. Choose wisely and enjoy!

Kayak Roof Rack for Cars without Rails Buying Guide

Here are the aspects that you should watch out for to ensure you purchase only the best quality kayak roof rack for your car that’s got no rail.


Material is everything since you need your roof rack to be heavy-duty. We’re talking about safety so it should be reliable enough to handle your kayak when out on the open road. Flimsy roof racks will definitely let you down so be sure to be wary of how strong yours can be.

Usually, we would recommend roof racks made out of aluminum that’s high-grade and at the same time ones that are made out of stainless steel with corrosion or rust-resistance.

Load Capacity

The next thing you need to consider is capacity. Standard roof racks will have a load capacity of 150 pounds. That should be enough to handle a kayak as most of the time they won’t weigh over 100 pounds, especially with the newer models.

You should question a rack with less than 120 pounds of load capacity.

The Shape and width of Your Vehicle’s Roof

It can be durable and it can handle some load but what’s the point if it’s not compatible with your vehicle. Make sure to check your vehicle’s model, year, and make before deciding on a roof rack. It’s easy to ensure so.

Weight of the roof rack

The roof rack itself should not weigh a lot that it will affect your vehicle’s mileage significantly. Also, a heavy roof rack can’t be installed nor dismantled easily and that’s a bit of a deal-breaker.

The Mounting System

The mounting system of your roof rack determines its versatility. Especially if you’re planning on using it on more than just one vehicle. Some are designed for certain vehicles only but others are more versatile.

It all boils down to how it clamps unto your car especially since you are looking for something compatible for vehicles without any existing rails.

Durability and Cost of the Kayak Roof Rack

Lastly, it should be well worth the investment. This should be a question of frequency in terms of how often will you use a roof rack and also your commitment to kayaking. Invest accordingly and you won’t regret your purchase.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Transport a Kayak without a Roof Rack?

It will be challenging for sure but it’s not impossible to transport your kayak if you don’t have a roof rack for your car at the moment. All you need to have are the right things to execute such contraption DIY style.

What you’re going to primarily need are pool noodles, ratchet, and tie-down straps. Make sure that your pool noodles are thick, large, and heavy-duty enough to tie down your kayak securely. You’ll need at least 2 hard nylon ratchet straps too.

Align and setup your kayak with the pool noodle then tie it down with your ratchet strap.

Do you need to make holes in your car’s roof?

If you’ve got a bare roof on your car without say maybe a crossbar to install the rack on to then you might need to make holes in it. Don’t worry, as long as you follow the instructions that come with the roof rack then this can be done nicely and seamlessly.

Some vehicles will have factory issues holes specifically for mounting and there shouldn’t be any drilling required.

How do I tie down a kayak on a roof rack?

Start tying down your kayak on the roof rack when you’re sure that you’ve centered it. Use your cam strap and make sure that your buckle is resting right at the side of your kayak and at the same time just a few inches above and right at the side of one of your crossbars. Toss the other end of the strap right over your kayak.

Go around your vehicle and then loop the end of the strap that you just tossed right underneath the crossbar. Repeat the looping process as necessary. Tighten but don’t overdo it.

Last thing you need to make sure for the bow and the stern of your kayak to be securely attached to your car. This is most especially recommended if you are traveling on the freeway where there may be high winds.

When to Use a Roof Rack for Transporting Kayak?

If you go kayaking frequently then you must install a roof rack for your kayak on top of your vehicle. Roof racks should also be necessary if you have bulky, heavy-duty, and hard shell kayaks. Where simple contraptions or DIY racks won’t work.

Needless to say, transporting your kayaks the right way is required to ensure that there will be no road accidents caused by accidental dislodging of your kayaks from on top of your car.

Do roof racks affect fuel economy?

Yes, it can. Should you have a roof rack then expect that your mileage would be affected. Even the empty ones can drop gas mileage by 7%. So expect for that number to increase should you put additional cargo on the said roof rack. It should all be worth it though.

Can I Add Rails to My Car?

You certainly can. Rails are important should you be in a habit of transporting things that are too large for the interior or trunk of your car. Go talk to your car dealer or any independent suppliers to find the best option for your vehicle.

Can you put 2 kayaks on top of a car?

Yes, you may but this depends on the roof rack for kayaks that you have installed. Also, the weight and size of your kayaks will determine whether it is safe to do so. You may even put more than just 2 but be sure to have all the necessary stuff to get this accomplished.

Is it possible to get replacement parts for my roof rack?

Most certainly. Roof rack parts are available whenever you need some.

Final Thoughts:

There you have it, these are some of the best kayak roof racks for cars without rails. You must secure your kayaks during your travels so you don’t get yourself involved in an accident nor harm anyone else once you are on the open road.

You need reliable, durable, easy to install, and functional roof racks so it won’t defeat its entire purpose of being a tool for convenience. After all, kayaking is a way for us to unwind, explore, and stay fit.

So the next time you plan a trip make sure that your kayaks are safe and transported kayak the right way.

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