kayak rack for car without roof rack

11 min read
Last Updated: Jul 12, 2024
BY: Matt Keepnes

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Kayaks can be notoriously tricky pieces of gear to transport, especially in the back of a truck. If you are leaving on a kayaking trip and need to transport your kayak, securing it to your vehicle is necessary. But what happens if your car doesn’t have rails for roof racks? Thankfully, there’s an answer to transporting your kayak even if you have a truck: a kayak rack for cars without rails!

There are a few options for carrying a kayak on a car without a roof rack:

  1. Foam blocks: You can place foam blocks on the roof of your car and secure the kayak on top of them with straps. This is a low-cost option, but make sure to choose blocks that fit your car and kayak properly.
  2. Portable roof rack: There are inflatable and foldable roof racks available that can be installed and removed quickly. They work similarly to regular roof racks but are designed to be more portable.
  3. Hitch-mounted kayak rack: If your car has a hitch receiver, you can use a hitch-mounted kayak rack that attaches to the receiver. These racks are easy to install and remove and can carry one or more kayaks.
  4. Rear-mounted kayak rack: Some companies make rear-mounted racks that attach to the trunk or hatch of your car. These racks are typically designed for one or two kayaks and are easy to install and remove.

Regardless of the option you choose, make sure to secure the kayak properly and follow all safety guidelines while driving.


You might think it’s easy to find a car kayak rack without looking too far because people are asking for it all the time. But once you begin your search, you are likely to appreciate how difficult these racks can be to find with most sales websites boasting about their capabilities and features. So if you’ve decided that shopping around is the best thing for you, there are some things to consider before making an educated purchasing decision from reliable sellers:

Kayak Rack Type

If you're shopping for kayak racks for vehicles without roof rails, the first thing you need to do is figure out which type of rack you want. When it comes to racks for cars that don’t have factory-installed roof rails, here are your primary options:

Metal Cross Bars

This type of roof rack comes with metal crossbars. For vehicles that already have existing roof rails, you can install a back rack with less hassle and expense. However, if your vehicle is missing these pre-existing roof rails, many companies make crossbars specifically designed to fit in place easily and cleanly. They use adjustable straps to attach the bar to your car via the cab so you can stay secure while transporting your kayak on the road.

Foam Block

As its name suggests, the foam block is made out of large blocks of foam. These foam blocks attach to the roof of a car without rails using adjustable straps. Once the foam blocks are set up, you simply place your kayak on the blocks, strap it down, and then hit the road.

The benefit of foam block roof racks is that they’re often affordable and easy to install. But they’re noisy on the road due to vibrations and not as secure at high speeds because they tend to break free with too much pressure on them. Also, regardless of what type of vehicle you have (SUV / sedan / truck), these racks can only be used for transporting one kayak at a time.

Inflatable Tubes

When it comes down to kayak storage when not in use, it’s easy to be tempted by the low entry point of Inflatable Tube Racks. They are quite affordable and they’re tempting because they take up very little space in comparison to their foam counterparts which is something that can save you a lot of hassle when on the road or storing your yak permanently.

The only downside is that inflatable tube racks suffer from many of the same flaws as foam block racks: namely, the fact that your kayak won’t be protected unless it is securely strapped down and there will still be a chance of damage occurring if not handled correctly. All in all? If you need a temporary holder for your boat then inflatable tube racks might just do the trick! Just make sure that wherever you go, your kayak is locked safely inside so nothing gets damaged through potential negligence.

When it comes to transporting a kayak to your favorite water holes, there’s no one-size-fits-all method. Though, if you enjoy long road trips and like to pack light (often times carrying only one small bag for all of your valuables), then this can be a great solution.

Anything from carpeted floor mats to thick fabric will work in keeping your kayak nice and dry during long treks across the country or state. If you live on the water, however, then investing in a heavy-duty metal canoe rack might be best for you given their durability and ability to support large cargo loads even when fully loaded from floor to ceiling.

Consider the type of storage space you have at home before making any final decisions about which model will meet your needs down the road should they differ from those mentioned above.



Although there are many kinds of kayak racks, it is easy to pinpoint the ones that work with your needs. The first step would be to look into whether or not a certain rack works with your vehicle.

Depending on the kayak rack that you choose, look for compatibility with most vehicles. Make sure to visit the manufacturer’s specifications before investing in a kayak carrier for your vehicle, as this information is vital to ensuring a safe fit for your car.

There are a lot of cars on the market that have different kinds of door designs. In some cases, this can make it difficult for you to fit your kayak in them properly. Keep in mind that kayak racks without rails usually thread their straps through the cab of your vehicle, which can pose an issue with 2-door models if the boat is heavier and load capacity becomes an issue.

Kayak Compatibility

When shopping for a rack to transport your boat, you need to make sure it can accommodate your kayak and also that it will fit on your vehicle.

Generally speaking, boat racks that do not require the fitment of replacement rails are universally compatible with most kinds of kayaks. However, all racks have limited weight capacity ranges and unique requirements regarding space in terms of loading widths, meaning they might be less suitable for some specific kayak models or brands.

As such, it’s essential that you check the width and weight capacity of your kayak rack before making a purchase. Some kayak racks are wider than others. Foam and inflatable models often have higher weight capacities but narrower widths than metal crossbars. If you’re in doubt about the rack’s compatibility for your specific model, contact the manufacturer directly for more info on the best options for your needs!

Kayak Compatibility

Storage Size

unlike the racks that are attached to car roofs, rock climbing racks for cars don’t come with mounts. In fact, you likely wouldn’t want to leave these on your vehicle for long periods of time because the weight can cause damage.

Kayak racks are an easy and affordable way to transport your kayak on the roof of your vehicle. With that said, if you're looking for a rack, you need to consider how much space it will take up in storage. Is there enough space at home? You can't keep it on your vehicle when you're not using it, which means you'll need to make sure there's room to store it between uses.

Ease of Installation

Most kayak racks for cars without rails aren’t designed to be left on vehicles for extended periods. As such, you'll likely need to install and remove your rack system from your vehicle before and after every use.

Thus, most tie-down rack systems are designed with simplicity in mind. Most models are relatively easy to assemble and install, giving you the ability to use them for a variety of things inside your car or boat in minutes!

For example, metal cross bar racks like the Malone Versa Rail Bare Roof Cross-Rail cargo System can be super quick to install on their own. But if you also want to install J-Cradles for multi-kayak or other multi-rig transport, that can slow down the installation process a bit.

Foam and inflatable models also can sometimes be tricky to attach to your car. However, securing your kayak to these racks takes a little longer than doing so on metal crossbars by nature. If you haven't already done so, please take the time to review our article on How To Keep Your Kayaks Safe When Taking Them On Road Trips for some helpful tips!

KAYAK ROOF RACK Ease of Installation

Why do you need a kayak rack for your car?

I'm sure you've been in this situation before. You have a truck or SUV with a bed in the back, but no rack. You bring your kayak to the lake (or a river or a beach or whatever location you like to kayak at most) and you have to go through the hassle of laying the kayak down in the bed of your car. Then you have to tie it down. Then when you're done kayaking, you have to untie it and then tie it back down.

Then when it's time to put it back in your car, you have to do it all over again. If you lived in an area with such a thing as kayak racks for cars, you could simply pull up to your kayaking spot, lower the kayak into the car and then lock it in place. That way you don't have to ever worry about kayak theft because your kayak can't be stolen while it's locked in the rack.

What is the best kayak rack for a car without a roof rack?

The best kayak rack for a car without a roof rack is a Thule 963 Top Deck. This kayak rack is simple, easy to install, and requires no tools. The carriers are padded to help prevent bumps and scratches and the super sticky rubber pads will stick to any car. If you have a hatchback car and you want to get your kayak from A to B then this is the perfect rack for you!

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How to choose your kayak rack for a car without a roof rack?

Handling a kayak on the roof rack is quite time-consuming and complicated. You need to secure it with straps and tie-downs. A kayak carrier can make the whole process very easy. If you have a vehicle, you can go in for a kayak rack. Choosing the right kayak rack for the car can be a challenging task. You need to consider the size of your kayak and the length of your vehicle. New rack designs have emerged in the market making the task of choosing and installing the rack easier. Below are the top kayak racks for cars.

Why do you need a kayak roof rack for the car?

If you are someone who owns a car and wants to go on a kayaking trip with your friends and family, you will need a roof rack. Yakima roof racks are the best roof racks to purchase. It is the most popular roof rack among kayakers because it is so easy to install and you can use it quickly. It doesn't take up too much space on your car, and it's really durable and secure.


The kayak rack for a car without a roof rack is a good way to carry kayaks. The kayak rack for cars without roof racks is easy to install. The kayak rack for cars without roof racks is easy to use. The kayak rack for a car without a roof rack is easy to load and unload. The kayak rack for a car without a roof rack is easy to handle and steer. The kayak rack for cars without roof racks is easy to store when not in use. The kayak rack for a car without a roof rack is easy to transport when traveling.



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creator of RoofboxTop.com

Matt Keepnes

Matt Keepnes, travel enthusiast and creator of RoofboxTop.com. I share expert tips on car storage solutions for seamless travels, combining personal experiences with practical advice.

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