5 Best Kayak Racks: Your Buyer’s Guide

Kayaking, kayak rack, rooftop rack

Getting your kayak from the driveway to the water can sometimes be a real challenge. If you don’t own a truck, it can be a pain to come up with a system to secure your boat on your vehicle. We’ve put together a top list of some simple, reliable and affordable kayak rack systems to get your boat down to the landing with ease.

Whether your vehicle has a rail system already installed, or you drive a smaller sized sedan with no roof racks of any kind, there are some solid options here for every vehicle type. Don’t forget about kayak caddies for those longer distance walks down to the landing as well.

malone, kayak rack, kayak, roof rack Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Easy to assemble and mount with no tools required
  • Oversized padding on the bracket
  • Can mount two sets to accommodate for two kayaks!
Price: $98.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
9sparts, kayak rack, rooftop rack, kayak, J rack Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Very affordable J-style bracket
  • Can accommodate all sorts of boats and other toys!
  • Lifetime warranty included
Price: $119.98 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
vault cargo management, kayak rack, kayak, roof rack Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Can receive a variety of different car top mounts
  • Will fit almost all car-top rail systems
  • Supports up to 150 pounds
Price: $114.15 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
attwood, foam kayak pads, kayak carrier, kayak rack, kayacking Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Very affordable and simple to use
  • Is compatible with most vehicles
  • Even larger, heavy boats will mount fine on this unit
Price: $29.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
yakima, kayak rack, roof rack, kayak saddle, kayaking Amazon Customer Reviews
  • No need to twist your kayak sideways
  • Super easy set up
  • Nice and easy on the hull of your boat!
Price: $109.37 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. Best J-Style Kayak Rack: Malone J-Style Universal Car Rack Kayak Carrier

    • Oversized padding on the brackets accommodates a wide variety of hull shapes — accommodating even larger, bulkier kayaks
    • This set is built to be corrosion resistant so it should last for years
    • Easy to assemble and mount with no tools required
    • Can mount two sets of these brackets on your rooftop to accommodate for two kayaks!
    • Includes a limited lifetime warranty
    • If you have a particularly heavy kayak, it might take a little practice learning how to get your boat up into this rack on your own
    • Complaints about the straps loosening on particularly long rides
    • Do not fit some Aero-bars, although this rack is nearly universal, be sure to check your vehicle's compatibility

    Here’s an excellent option for a J-style kayak rack. This system by Malone is definitely one of the more effective and easy ways to strap up your kayak.

    This bracket will fit most boats and has some serious strength. The universal “JAWZ” mounting hardware is able to fit round, square and oval cross rails, so this is likely a good fit for your vehicle.

    The corrosion resistant steel construction of this unit is meant to withstand years of abuse, and the two 12 foot cam buckle straps are built seriously tough as well. The padding on the brackets are designed to be a bit oversized, so these mounts will receive just about any hull shape to accommodate for all types of kayaks.

    This rack includes bow and stern safety tie-downs and both 60 and 70 millimeter pre-coated bolts for mounting. It’s all here!

    One of the coolest parts about using a kayak mount like this is that you can orient two sets of them on either side of your vehicle’s roof and have space to safely mount two kayaks!

    Malone even includes a limited lifetime warranty on this product, so you can buy in confidence. Assembly is a breeze and there are no tools required. If you’re looking for a top quality mounting system that’s simple to install and built to last, look no further.


  2. 2. Best Cheap J-Style Kayak Rack: 9sparts Universal J-Shape Cross Bar Kayak Rack (4 Pairs)

    • Very affordable J-style bracket
    • Lifetime warranty included
    • Can accommodate more than just a kayak! (canoe, paddleboard, etc)
    • Easy installation
    • Doesn’t include any tough strapping
    • Aesthetic is not as 'professional' looking as some of the competiton
    • Not as durably built as some of the competition

    Here are some seriously affordable J-style brackets by 9sparts. These weather-resistant brackets certainly aren’t the quality of the previous brackets listed, but customer reviews insist they mount a kayak just fine – and there are four sets included with this purchase!

    These brackets can accommodate for a kayak up to 36 inches wide and 150 pounds, so although they are not top quality they can handle just about any boat you want to toss up there.

    The padding is foam, and the base is rubber, so these mounts won’t scratch up your hull in the slightest if used properly. These brackets are also built to fit square, round and oval crossbars on just about any vehicle, and mount with ease.

    There are pre-punched holes for spot-on alignment, saving you the frustration of a tedious installation. There are no rugged straps included with this model, so you’re going to want to purchase some tough strapping or cordage along with this product.

    There’s a lifetime warranty on this product, so fear not if things don’t work exactly as they should. Don’t forget that this style bracket can hold a lot more than just kayaks, this is a fairly versatile system that can fit surfboards, paddleboards, canoes and much more.

  3. 3. Best Versatile Rooftop Kayak Rack: 54” Universal Locking Roof Rack Crossbars by Vault

    • Can receive a variety of different car top mounts - not just kayaks (ski/bike racks, cargo pods, ect.)
    • Will fit almost all car-top rail systems
    • Has a lot of width and supports a heavy load (up to 150 pounds)
    • Doesn’t come with a mount specifically for kayaks included
    • You could mount a kayak right to this unit - but are probably better off buying a bracket or sadde system
    • Fairly expensive

    This locking roof rack is a great item to own if you’re a serious outdoorsman. You can lash your kayak or boat right to this unit or attach a J-style or saddle mount to it.

    This type of rack allows you to really customize how you want to transport your kayak (or anything for that matter). This model will fit rooftop rails up to 47 inches apart, so it’s compatible with just about every vehicle type that has roof rails.

    There’s a 150-pound load capacity, so you can even load up your kayak or fishing boat with your gear and rest assured this rack can handle it.

    Probably the coolest thing about this rack is that it can receive all sorts of other rooftop mounts other than just kayak brackets and saddles. This is the perfect roof rack for those who want to be able to mount a bike rack, cargo pod, ski rack or whatever else along with the option to load up a kayak. Its a versatile mount that can be employed for a lot of uses.

    For the outdoorsmen who have a lot of hobbies, this is an excellent item to equip on your vehicle.

  4. 4. Best Cheap Kayak Carrier: Attwood Car-Top Kayak Carrier Kit

    • Very affordable and effective option for loading a kayak onto a rooftop
    • Is compatible with most vehicles - strap your boat right to the roof, no rail system required
    • Included the strapping and 15 feet of powerful rope for further security while driving
    • Even larger, heavy boats will mount fine on this unit
    • Requires a little practice to find out the best way to strap up your kayak using this system - be mindful when learning how to use this system
    • Be careful not to lose any pieces of this kayak rack system seeing as it's not installed on your vehicle
    • Foam blocks can become damaged if not stored properly

    The beauty of this system is it’s compatible with just about every vehicle type – your car or truck doesn’t require a rail system for this unit to work.

    I have used this foam-block system of kayak rack many a time. It’s not the most convenient way to load up your kayak, but it works just fine. If you rather spend your hard earned cash on some other kayaking accessories or gear, then this could be a fine option for you.

    For a super reasonable cost, you can throw your boat right on top of your vehicle and get out there. 

    My father mounts his 10 foot Feelfree kayak right onto his Toyota Camry with a system just like this. It’s a bit ridiculous to mount such a big boat on such a little car in this fashion – but the bottom line is it works fine and is no doubt the cheapest way to get a kayak on top of almost any vehicle.

    This package comes with foam blocks, two straps with adjusting buckles and clips and even includes 15 feet of polypropylene rope for further securing your boat. It’s truly a killer deal and a fine option for getting your kayak in the water. Practice your knots and strap up your ride!

  5. 5. Best Kayak Saddles: Yakima DeckHand Kayak Saddles

    • No twisting your kayak sideways with this one - just slide it right up onto the vehicle and tie it down
    • Super easy set up - comes on and off quite easily
    • Nice and easy on the hull of your boat!
    • Unless your boats are REALLY narrow, you can probably only fit one kayak on your roof rack with this one
    • This system requires crossbars
    • The weight limit is a bit lower on this unit (80 pounds) but still should have plenty of strength for most kayaks

    I like this approach to mounting a kayak on a roof rack. Depending on your style kayak, this might be a lot simpler for you than using a J-style mount.

    With this system, there’s no twisting your boat into the sideways position that J-style brackets require, so if your kayak is really cumbersome and awkward this could work well for you. The oversized cradles conform to a wide variety of hull shapes, so this is a good fit for just about every style kayak.

    Felt padding is included with this set to avoid scratching up your boat. Paired with a crossbar system these mounts are a breeze to install and use. The mounting hardware is also universal, so there shouldn’t be any issues with compatibility to your roof rack.

    Installation is tool-free and simple, so no maddening battles with lug nuts and wrenches. There’s strapping included with this set as well, so you’re ready to rock with one purchase.

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