Transporting a kayak from home to a kayaking destination isn’t always as easy.
Because unless you’re one of the luckiest people to live close to a river, an ocean, or the sea, you need a reliable means of transportation.
If you own a car without rails, the most convenient option on the table for you is to use the best kayak racks for cars without roof racks.
So in this guide, we’ll look at some of the top rated options that you can get right now and use to get your kayak from home to your place of adventure.
Best Kayak Rack for Car without Rails: Top Picks
1. Seah Hardware Universal Roof Rack
Mounting a roof rack that can hold a variety of heavy items on your car isn’t a bad idea at all. And that makes the Seah Hardware Universal Cross Bars ideal.
Whether you want to bring a kayak to a kayaking destination for a weekend adventure or you want to bring your hybrid bike with you to the beach, these universal crossbars are perfect for the job.
This model features strong and durable straps that easily go around a car. And the crossbars are strong enough to hold a maximum weight of 150 pound. The waterproof ratchet tie downs ensures the bars remain firmly on the car’s roof regardless of the conditions of the roads.
The Seah Hardware universal crossbars are easy to manage, taking about 5 minutes to mount and only 3 minutes to take down. You’ll love this model because it holds a kayak firmly, without squeaking or rattling, on short and long trips.
2. Malone VersaRail Roof Rack
Sturdy and easy to install, the Malone VersaRail is the grab-and-go roof rack to use if you need to mount your kayak easily and get going fast.
Whether the beach is just a few minutes away or you plan to drive your kayak over a long distance, this model can be quite handy.
For starters, this kayak rack’s load bar features a top coating, which offers a shield against elements and corrosion. And it’s easy to increase their surface area with the suction cups so that they evenly distribute the weight of the kayak.
The Malone Versatile kayak rack can handle a maximum weight of 135 pounds, which is around 15 pounds less the weight limit of Seah Hardware Universal Roof Rack. However, the difference is quite insignificant, particularly because most kayaks don’t weigh more than 100 pounds.
What’s interesting is you can use the same rack almost forever. Kayakers who’ve used this before commend the load bar for having held their kayas well. Not to mention they haven’t noticed any bent or breakage on the model.
The hand-tightening straps offer a great support to the suction tower. Just be careful not to over tighten them so that they last longer.
One of the things you’ll love about the Malone VersaRail is how easy it is to install. First, it comes with all the accessories required for installation, so you don’t need to retrieve your tool or spend extra to buy parts. Second, it take around 30 minutes to put everything together, with more of your time going to aligning the suction tower to the side of your car.
A minor letdown of this kayak rack is the noise it makes. It tends to rattle on long distance drives. And although the squeaking isn’t deafening, it can be quite annoying.
3. HandiRack Universal Inflatable Roof Rack
Whether you’re on a tight budget or you want to give an affordable kayak rack for cars without rails a try, you should consider the HandiRack Universal Roof Rack.
Built to take the smallest space possible, this inflatable rack makes bulky and expensive roof bars outdated.
It’s inexpensive, but it’s not one of those you get what you pay for kind of roof racks. Rather, it’s a well-built, easy-to-use model, which you can use to transport your kayak over a short or long distance just fine.
In other words, if you’re interested in a flexible, multipurpose rack with a decent carrying capacity, the HandiRack Universal is a good deal to consider.
The HandiRack twin tubes are, in our take, the strongest selling point of this universal rack. By cushioning impacts, especially from unfriendly and bumpy roads, you can transport your kayak to your destination via different terrains without worrying about damages. The bow and stern lines are strong and durable, and their function is to tie down your kayak securely from front to back.
One of the most impressive features of this inflatable roof rack is the maximum weight capacity that it can handle. Once properly installed and inflated, it can carry a load of up to 170 pounds, which is more compared to the carrying capacity of Seah Hardware and Malone VersaRail.
It’s easy to pack away when it’s not in use. Simply fold it down nicely and stuff it in the nylon travel bag that comes with the package.
While the setup process of this kayak rack is easy and straightforward, getting the boat on it is a bit tricky. The system is somewhat rounded once fully inflated, and the surface is slippery. So you’ll need an extra hand to secure a kayak on it.
4. SportRack Complete Roof Rack System
The SportRack Complete Roof Rack System isn’t the cheapest model on this list. But it has some interesting features that make it worth trying.
The first, and probably obvious, thing you’ll notice is the size of the system. Its 45.5 inches long, 5.8 inches wide and 3.8 inches high.
SportRack uses premium grade steel to build this roof rack, and this makes it a sturdy and durable model yet. It includes a coated finish, which is both ultraviolet light and corrosion resistant.
The elastic cushions and soft plastic covering ensures the rack doesn’t do damage to the top of your car, not matter how fast you drive. At around 12.5 pounds in weight, the SportRack Roof Rack System is one of the lightweight models in the market right now. What’s more, it can hold up a kayak as heavy as 130 pounds.
What’s not to love about a universal roof rack? They’re always easy to install and this model is not an exception. Because it’s versatile, this roof rack fits many popular vehicle models. The installation is easy and straightforward, taking only around 20 minutes of your time, 30 if you work slowly.
As with many universal roof rack systems, the SR1500 model comes with all the accessories needed for installation. The locks may not be the model’s ideal selling point, but they’re anti-theft and come pre-assembled to keep the rack safe.
SportRack states clearly that the system doesn’t require any drilling. And that explains why it’s such a simple yet well-built model that’s easy to handle.
5. AUXMART Universal Roof Rack
The AUXMART may not be a popular pick in the kayak rack category, but it’s one of the best performing options for the price point. Given that it’s a universal roof rack, it can fit many car models on the fly.
On design, this roof rack is made of a premium-grade aluminum, which is not only durable but also corrosion and rust resistant. While the material makes the rack feel lightweight during installation, the whole setup is sturdy enough to handle a load capacity of up to 150 pounds.
This roof rack features rubber pads at the bottom, and they’re ideal for shielding your car’s paint from damage. There are three pairs of padded clips that protect your car from scratches. Not to mention the skip proof rubber strap that ensures your kayak stays in position during transportation.
You will love this unit because it’s easy to install, taking only a few minutes of your time to complete. The package includes all the relevant installation accessories, so you don’t have to buy additional tools. Plus, it comes with a handy user guide to help you get the installation task done in the shortest time possible.
It’s important to point out that this model is not marketed as for kayaks. Even then some car owners have already put to the test and learned that it held up quite well. So you might also want to try it if you love a universal rack that goes for under $150.
Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Kayak Rack for Car without Rails
Check the Width of Your Car
Cars have different widths and so are the roof racks for kayaks. So it’s important to determine the width of your car first before buying a roof rack system. This information will enable you to pick a rack that fits perfectly after a few adjustments.
Manufacturers spoil you for choice on kayak racks, and that’s fine. But depending on the build and premium features, some rack cost more than others do. That’s why it’s important to determine how much you’re willing and able to pay before you settle for a model.
Once you know your budget, identify a roof rack that goes for the amount you’re willing to set aside. Evaluate the premium features and their benefits to see if the model is worth buying. If you do so, you’ll not only get a rack that fits in the sweet spot but also the value for your money.
Kayak racks have varying weight limits. So it’s important to know how much your rack weighs before buying a rack for it. For example, if you own a kayak that weighs something like 90 pounds, consider a model that can hold a maximum weight of 130 pounds.
The last thing you need to place on your car is a roof rack that will be difficult to install.
So make sure that the model you’ve identified is easy to attach to the roof of your car before buying. The easiest way to do this is to analyze reviews of the customers who’ve actually used the rack. Specifically, check what they think about the installation process.
As for the Kayak racks for cars without rails that we’ve discussed in this review, they should take under 20 minutes to attach properly. Some even come with installation instructions to walk you through the process.