10 Best Kayak Roof Racks (Quality and Affordable)

Best Kayak Roof Racks

Best of all, the kayak roof rack is delivered with complete installation accessories and instructions that will allow you to mount your kayak right away. If you have never used a roof rack before, it is really beginner-friendly.

If you are interested in a quality and affordable model, we took the time to research and reviewed some of the best kayak roof racks on the market. Let’s see if those racks are worth the investment!

You can also read other product reviews on the same niches such as kayak cart, kayak trailer. If you search for kayaks, here are some kayak reviews that I recommend to read like type of kayakcheap kayakkayak for dogkayak for beginner, and many more. 

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Product Name

Shape

Weight Capacity

Dimensions

Rating

Current Price

Yakima Jaylow Kayak Roof Rack

1. Yakima Jaylow Kayak Roof Rack

J-curve

80 lbs

20.2 x 10.5 x 7.8 in

4.4

Lifetime TMS J-Bar Kayak Roof Rack

2. Lifetime TMS J-Bar Kayak Roof Rack

J-curve

75 lbs

18 x 7 x 7 in

4.2

Vault Cargo Management Universal Locking Roof Rack

3. Vault Cargo Management Universal Locking Roof Rack

Crossbar

150 lbs

55.2 x 8.2 x 6.5 in

4.0

Thule Hullavator Pro Kayak Roof Rack

4. Thule Hullavator Pro Kayak Roof Rack

Flat

75 lbs

36 x 6 x 16 in

4.0

Malone J-Pro 2 J-Style Universal Kayak Roof Rack

5. Malone J-Pro 2 J-Style Universal Kayak Roof Rack

J-curve

75 lbs

16.0 x 6.0 x 16.5 in

4.5

Thule 887XT Slipstream Kayak Roof Rack

6. Thule 887XT Slipstream Kayak Roof Rack

Flat with rolling desk

75 lbs

47 x 30 x 5 in

4.0

Great Lake Kayak LLC Wing-Sea Kayak Roof Rack

7. Great Lake Kayak LLC Kayak Roof Rack

Flat

N/A

21.0 x 4.5 x 8.0 in

4.1

ToughSteel Universal J Shape Kayak Roof Rack

8. ToughSteel Universal Kayak Roof Rack

J-curve

150 lbs

17.5 x 11.0 x 6.0 in

4.0

Malone Auto SaddleUp Kayak Roof Rack

9. Malone Auto SaddleUp Kayak Roof Rack

Bow

90 lbs

5 x 5 x 9 in

3.7

SportRack SR5527 Adjustable Foam Kayak Roof Rack

10. SportRack SR5527 Kayak Roof Rack

Block

130 lbs

32.0 x 17.5 x 9.5 in

3.5

#1. Yakima Jaylow Kayak Roof Rack

Editor's Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars (4.4 / 5)

Yakima Jaylow Kayak Roof Rack
  • Shape: J-curve
  • Dimensions: 20.2 x 10.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Weight Capacity: 80 lbs
  • Number of Kayaks: 2

The Yakima Jaylow is a popular kayak roof rack that is easy to install and has a respectable feature set. For one, this model has a weight capacity of 80 lbs which makes it a little bit above average when it comes to the weight it can carry.

Moreover, it is versatile and can carry one kayak in a horizontal position or 2 kayaks when stacked vertically. Best, to protect your kayak, it has soft contact points that will not scratch your boat. One of the best things about this model is that you can purchase SKS locks to protect it against robbery. Note that those locks are sold separately.

Out of the box, you get all accessories that will allow you to quickly and easily get started right away with this roof kayak. It comes with heavy-duty straps to attach your kayak to the roof rack. In addition, you can easily fold it when you are not carrying a kayak.

The only caveat we have with this model is that it does not have a load assistant system and you will have to manually mount your kayaks with the full weight weighing on you. However, the Yakima Jaylow justifies its fairly steep price by being highly durable and easy to install.

Pros:

  • Beginner friendly. Installation is very easy. Comes with all accessories
  • Compatible with all SKS lock systems for better security
  • Can carry up to 2 kayaks vertically

Cons:

  • The price. It is more expensive than other roof racks with similar features
  • The weight capacity of 80 lbs could have been a little bit higher for the price

#2. Lifetime TMS J-Bar Kayak Roof Rack

Editor's Rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars (4.2 / 5)

Lifetime TMS J-Bar Kayak Roof Rack
  • Shape: J-curve
  • Dimensions: 18 x 7 x 7 inches
  • Weight Capacity: 75 lbs
  • Number of Kayaks: 1

The Lifetime TMS is a typical J-curve roof rack with an excellent build construction as well as a decent weight capacity of 76 lbs. But what makes this model one of the best kayak roof racks on the market is the highly affordable price.

In fact, the Lifetime TMS has the best price in this review. What we like about this model is that it has soft contact points that will not damage your kayak during transportation. It also has a fairly compact form factor at only 18 inches. Moreover, since it is quite compact, it will have no problem fitting on top of a small car.

This roof rack can accommodate kayaks up to 36-inch in width, which is pretty much almost every kayak on the market as kayaks are rarely wider than this size. You get a pair of very tough and heavy-duty straps for harnessing your kayak on your roof as well as all accessories for the installation.

One of the beauties about this affordable kayak roof rack is that it can be installed on both square and round crossbars allowing it to fit universally any type of crossbar on the market.

Pros:

  • Very affordable. Value for money
  • Compact form factor. Will easily fit a small car
  • Can be installed on both square and round crossbars
  • Padded so as to protect your kayak from scratches during transportation

Cons:

  • None

#3. Vault Cargo Management Universal Locking Roof Rack

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Vault Cargo Management Universal Locking Roof Rack
  • Shape: Crossbar
  • Dimensions: 55.2 x 8.2 x 6.5 inches
  • Weight Capacity: 150 lbs
  • Number of Kayaks: N/A

The Vault Cargo is a unique product in this kayak roof rack review. In fact, this model is not a real roof rack but a crossbar system that will allow you to quickly and easily accommodate roof racks of various makes and models.

One of the best things about this crossbar is that it has a high weight capacity of 150 lbs. Further, since it is made from a heavy-duty metal alloy, it will not break or bend with weight. Moreover, this crossbar is also very durable and long-lasting.

With its 55.2-inch width, it is quite large and ideally suited for a medium-sized or large size vehicle like an SUV. In addition, this crossbar will comfortably fit rails up to 47 inches. The remaining space can be used to store your baggage if you want to store it on top of your vehicle roof.

Moreover, this unit has a cam lock system that will quickly engage and lock the crossbar on top of your vehicle roof when pressed down. For more security, it comes with a key that will allow you to lock the cam lock system.

Pros:

  • High weight capacity of 150 lbs
  • Very easy to install
  • Will accommodate almost any type of roof rack model
  • Uses a cam lock system that comes with a key that can lock the whole system

Cons:

  • Installation can be a little bit difficult for those who have never installed a crossbar on their vehicle before
  • Will not fit a small car due to its 55.2-inch width

#4. Thule Hullavator Pro Kayak Roof Rack

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Thule Hullavator Pro Kayak Roof Rack
  • Shape: Flat
  • Dimensions: 36 x 6 x 16 inches
  • Weight Capacity: 75 lbs
  • Number of Kayaks: 1

In the world of roof racks, the Thule Hullavator Pro is a premium model that distinguishes itself from the competition with its solid and heavy-duty build construction. Moreover, this model is also one of the most expensive roof racks on the market.

However, quality has a price. This roof rack uses a flat shape that makes it very easy to use both when mounting on top of the crossbar or when installing a kayak. Of course, it is fully padded so as to protect your kayak against scratches and it has an efficient design that will allow you to transport your kayak even in rough terrains without making noise.

This roof rack has a maximum width of 36 inches, which is pretty average by roof rack standards. Best, the width can quickly and easily be adjusted so as to more securely fit your kayak dimensions. You can install your kayak both horizontally and vertically.

But what makes this top-rated kayak roof rack so popular is its gas strut system that will allow you to install your kayak very easily. Indeed, this gas strut removes 40 lbs out of your kayak weight when loading your kayak making it much easier to do so. Absolutely brilliant!

Pros:

  • Gas strut system makes it very easy to load a kayak on this roof rack
  • Premium build construction. Very durable and long-lasting
  • Width can easily be adjusted

Cons:

  • The most expensive roof rack in this review

#5. Malone J-Pro 2 J-Style Universal Kayak Roof Rack

Editor's Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Malone J-Pro 2 J-Style Universal Kayak Roof Rack
  • Shape: J-curve
  • Dimensions: 16 x 6 x 16.5 inches
  • Weight Capacity: 75 lbs
  • Number of Kayaks: 1

The Malone J-Pro 2 is one of the smallest and compact roof racks on the market. With a height of only 16 inches, it will appear almost invisible on a kayak.

Moreover, the weight capacity of this roof rack is pretty average at 75 lbs. However, it is still decent enough so as to be able to transport most kayaks with great ease. This model is delivered with all accessories and installation kits that will allow you to quickly and easily get started.

The harnesses that come with this roof rack are heavy-duty and the brackets are made from tough and durable metal that will not break or bend easily. Moreover, the bracket will install on both square or round crossbars which is almost every type of modern factory-fitted crossbars.

For additional protection of your kayak, the bar is fully padded so as not to scratch or cause unnecessary noise and vibrations on your kayak during transportation. Since this is a J-curve shape, your kayak will need to be installed vertically.

Pros:

  • Small and compact at only 16-inch in height and width
  • Comes with a pair of heavy-duty harnesses and brackets
  • Easy to install on both round and square crossbars

Cons:

  • Will not fit Aero bars

#6. Thule 887XT Slipstream Kayak Roof Rack

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Thule 887XT Slipstream Kayak Roof Rack
  • Shape: Flat with a rolling desk
  • Dimensions: 47 x 30 x 5 inches
  • Weight Capacity: 75 lbs
  • Number of Kayaks: 1

The Thule 887XT is the only horizontal roof rack with a rolling desk. What this means is that this roof rack comes as a whole system and you do not need a separate crossbar on your vehicle to use this roof rack. It is all-inclusive.

Moreover, the 887XT is one of the largest on the market with a width of 47 inches. Clearly, this model will not fit a small car as it is intended for a medium-sized or large vehicle. Therefore, we elect this model is one of the best kayak roof racks for SUV that you can currently buy.

Further, the build quality of this roof rack is excellent. It is made from a double-coated steel that is corrosion resistant, durable and very long-lasting.

One of the best things about this rack is that padded touch points that will protect the hull of your kayak of any type during transportation. The weight capacity of 75 lbs. is not very impressive, but still pretty decent.

Last but not least, this roof rack is able to accommodate only one kayak but it does so with ease and is quite stable even on bumpy roads.

Pros:

  • Comes as an all-inclusive system. Easy to install and use
  • Padded hull contacts so as not to scratch your kayak
  • Saddles can be adjusted to take the shape of your kayak

Cons:

  • This roof rack is wide at a 47 inches. It is intended only for a medium-sized or large vehicle like an SUV

#7. Great Lake Kayak LLC Wing-Sea Kayak Roof Rack

Editor's Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars (4.1 / 5)

Great Lake Kayak LLC Wing-Sea Kayak Roof Rack
  • Shape: Flat
  • Dimensions: 21 x 4.5 x 8 inches
  • Weight Capacity: N/A
  • Number of Kayaks: 1

This kayak roof rack is one of the simplest that you can buy. The design is nothing extraordinary, but one of the good things about this model is that it simply works and it does not require a lot of accessories to do so.

But one of its downsides is that it is suited to work with a kayak that is only 30-inch in width or less. Further, installation is quite easy as it comes with all mounting accessories to do so. However, another caveat is that it can work only with a crossbar that has a maximum width of 3-1/4 inches. Most standard size crossbars will qualify, but not all.

Moreover, the build construction of this roof rack is quite decent as it is made from a thick ABS plastic that is durable and long-lasting. To make it a better deal, you get no less than a 5-year warranty on this roof rack. The touch points are padded so as to offer protection to your kayak as well as prevent scratches.

All in all, this is a simple and yet effective flat shape model for those looking for a cost-effective and simple roof rack solution for their vehicle.

Pros:

  • Simple and effective
  • Touchpoints are padded so as to protect your kayak during transportation
  • Very easy to install and will mount on technically every crossbar shape

Cons:

  • Will not fit crossbars of 3-1/4 inches in width
  • Cannot be used on kayaks wider than 30 inches

#8. ToughSteel Universal J Shape Kayak Roof Rack

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

ToughSteel Universal J Shape Kayak Roof Rack
  • Shape: J-curve
  • Dimensions: 17.5 x 11 x 6 inches
  • Weight Capacity: 150 lbs
  • Number of Kayaks: 2

As its name suggests, this rack is made from thick 1.5 mm steel which is very durable and long-lasting. Moreover, this model is consistently rated as being one of the best kayak carriers due to its impressive weight capacity. Indeed, at 150 lbs, it is one of the best weight capacities in this review.

Further, it comes with a complete mounting kit that will easily install on almost any type of crossbar, whether it is square or round. In addition, you get 2 pairs with this purchase so it can hold up to 2 large size and heavy kayaks with great ease.

For such a heavy duty kayak roof rack, it is also quite small in width and height. Indeed, with its width of 17.5 inches, it will not get in the way when a kayak is mounted on it. For further security, the bars are padded so as to protect your kayak even further from scratches.

Lastly, one of the best things that we like about this kayak roof rack is its price. Indeed, it is an affordable roof rack that offers a rich set of features.

Pros:

  • Affordable. Value for money
  • The bar has pads so as to protect your kayak from scratches
  • Easy to install on any type of crossbar, whether it is square or round

Cons:

  • Assembly instructions could have been easier to understand

#9. Malone Auto SaddleUp Kayak Roof Rack

Editor's Rating: 3.7 out of 5 stars (3.7 / 5)

Malone Auto SaddleUp Kayak Roof Rack
  • Shape: Bow
  • Dimensions: 5 x 5 x 9 inches
  • Weight Capacity: 90 lbs
  • Number of Kayaks: 1

We know Malone for their quality kayak roof rack accessories. This Auto SaddleUp from Malone is no different. However, it is a little bit different from your traditional roof rack in terms of functionality and looks.

Indeed, this model uses the rare bow shape so as to press against your kayak during transportation and keep it firmly in position. Moreover, there are 4 “saddles” that have soft pads on them for protection and prevent your kayak from scratching easily.

This model comes with JAWZ mounting technology which means that it will universally fit almost any type of factory fitted crossbars. There are quite a few accessories delivered with this purchase, but installation remains quite easy. You also get quality harnesses and branded pads for the money.

Pros:

  • Easy to install and use
  • Will universally fit any type of vehicle crossbars
  • Touchpoints are soft and will not scratch your kayak during transportation

Cons:

  • Not as durable as other types of roof racks since it is made from solid nylon

#10. SportRack SR5527 Adjustable Foam Kayak Roof Rack

Editor's Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

SportRack SR5527 Adjustable Foam Kayak Roof Rack
  • Shape: Block
  • Dimensions: 32 x 17.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Weight Capacity: 130 lbs
  • Number of Kayaks: 1

The SportRack SR5527 is as unique as it looks. In fact, this is not your traditional metal kayak roof rack but rather a foam pad system on which your kayak rest upon.

Despite being made from foam, it is still heavy-duty and can withstand a heavy weight of 130 lbs. In fact, the weight capacity of this unit is one of the best you will find in this kayak roof rack review. Moreover, this model is antiskid which will prevent your kayak from slipping.

But one of the best thing about it is that you get a lot of heavy-duty straps to harness your kayak. Installation couldn’t be easier and you do not need a crossbar to use this product. Neat!

Pros:

  • You do not need a crossbar to use
  • Big weight capacity of 130 lbs
  • Heavy-duty foam based. Will not degrade over time
  • Comes with 8 heavy-duty straps for harnessing your kayak

Cons:

  • Can be noisy during transportation
  • Not the most secure roof rack system for carrying large and long kayaks

How to Buy a Kayak Roof Rack

How to Buy a Kayak Roof Rack

#1. Your Vehicle

The type and size of a roof rack that you choose to go with will directly depend on the size of your car. The smaller the car, the smaller roof rack it can fit for security reasons.

For those who own a small car, do not try to install an oversized roof kayak. A small to medium-size kayak roof raft is plenty for most people.

Owners of bigger and wider vehicles have more flexibility. Big vehicle owners can safely install a roof rack that can host 2 or even more kayaks at a time.

#2. Number of Kayak

The number of kayaks that your roof rack can carry will depend on both the size of the roof rack as well as the size of your vehicle. Obviously, the larger your vehicle and larger the roof rack, the more kayaks it can carry.

Remember that it is dangerous to overload your roof rack with too many kayaks as most roof racks are designed to accommodate only a specific number of kayaks.

#3. Bar height

The bar height will depend on your own height. If you are not very tall then a roof rack that stands too high will be difficult to access. Furthermore, you will have difficulty mounting the kayak to a kayak roof rack if it is a high rack system. It will be even more difficult to mount your kayaks if your rack does not have a gas strut.

In addition, rack systems come in both vertical and horizontal. Vertical rack systems offer more versatility when carrying kayaks but are more difficult to mount for those who are of an average height to below average.

#4. Material

The material or build construction of the roof rack is one of the most important aspects to consider. You do not want a fragile roof rack that is made from materials like plastic as those will break easily. Additionally, a cheaply made roof rack will cause a security hazard on the road.

Choose roof racks that are made from a tough metal like steel rather than aluminum or plastic. Moreover, the most robust type of fasteners is made from carbon fiber. Those offer the best durability over time but are more difficult to find. They are also more expensive.

#5. Load Capacity

Just like most kayaking accessories, the roof rack has a weight capacity as well. The weight capacity will basically show you the maximum weight that the roof rack can carry. It does not have to be for a single kayak, but the sum total of it. Most roof racks have an average weight limit of 80 lbs. Do not go over this load limit and try to stay at around 20% below this capacity for more safety.

How to Install a Kayak Roof Rack

How to Buy a Kayak Roof Rack

Installing the kayak roof rack should not be a difficult task. Here are simple instructions that will show you how to get started quickly and easily.

Step 1 – Unpack the Roof Rack

­Unpack the kayak roof rack and lay all its accessories down, including mounting base brackets, knobs and nuts so as you get an idea what you get out of the box. Most roof racks should come with 2 cam straps for strapping the kayak to the car top carrier.

Moreover, you should have some quick release knobs for easy mounting and unmount. Then you should find metal brackets that go underneath your roof crossbars.                     

Step 2 – Crossbar

Ensure that your car has a crossbar installed on the roof. Some kayak roof racks come with an included crossbar, but not all models do. If not, you will have to purchase a crossbar separately before proceeding further into the roof rack installation.

Step 3 – Mount the Kayak Roof Rack

Now that you have the crossbar installed on top of your car roof, proceed with instilling the kayak roof rack. You will find a mounting base at the bottom of the roof rack with protruding bolts. Insert the bolts into the mounting holes of the crossbar and then tighten the nut fastener.

Do not apply excessive force on the nut fastener as over tightening the nut can actually weaken the base and damage the crossbar. Lastly, ensure that the roof rack has a secure fit.

Step 4 - Install The Kayak

Now that you have mounted the kayak roof rack on the crossbar, you can proceed by securing the kayak. Place the kayak on top of the roof rack in an appropriate position and then secure the kayak to the roof rack with other provided cam straps.

Before hitting the road, ensure that the kayak is safe and secure on the roof rack.

There you have it. Installation of the kayak roof rack cannot be simpler than this. Even absolute beginners can do it.

Conclusion

One of the best things about the kayak roof rack is that it is very easy to install and use. Even if they come in different shapes and sizes, you do not need a lot of experience or knowledge to use it.

Our kayak roof rack review above lists some excellent models for the money. They come at different prices and some are better suited for a particular need than others. If you are still not sure which roof rack to get, we recommend you read this article again.

Tom Brady
 

Tom Brady is an online blogger. He loves outdoor activities such as fishing, camping. He write articles about outdoor activities for this blog to share his understanding and experience.