One of the first steps to getting on the water with your new boat is to have a vehicle rack that can transport it. While some SUVs come with factory rails and/or racks, many don’t and as far as cars go, you’ll more than likely have nothing at all. If you have a naked roof waiting to get dressed up, then this article is for you!

The first thing to finding the right roof rack is to ask yourself how many boats you will be carrying and how much you will be willing to spend. Then you’ll need to find a rack that meets these needs and is compatible with your vehicle. We’ve outlined three different base rack systems below that we hope will get you started on finding the best fitting rack for you.

Temporary Pad & Strap Systems

The bottom line: Inexpensive, fast & easy to install system that’s adequate for carrying a single boat.

For those who don’t have a whole lot to haul or money to spend, a foam and strap system is something to consider. These temporary rack systems involve straps that circle through the inside of your car along the roof and over the top, where they are attached to foam padding. Quick and easy to install and remove, these racks are great at carrying a single boat. However, it is important to keep in mind that the foam pads are usually located around the middle of your roof so this is where weight and pressure will be coming down. If your car’s roof has a sensitive area like a sun roof, you’ll want to see if these can be installed around it, otherwise a foam and strap system might not be a good fit for you.

We offer four different pad and strap systems: Malone Canoe CarrierMalone Kayak CarrierMalone Handi Roof Rack, & the Quick Sports Strap Roof Magnum.

Basic Cross Bar Systems

The bottom line: Your average kayak car rack, great for hauling heavy loads and compatible with a number of accessories.

If you’re looking for something that can hold more than just a single boat and aren’t interested in spending extra on features, than think about some of our basic bar systems. These systems involve installing four foot pads or towers along the roof of your car and then connecting a cross bar between each pair. A common misconception is that the installation of these are complicated and permanent, when in fact they are fairly easy to install and are considered temporary though can be left on permanently if chosen. Because of the tower/footpad system, these racks can hold much more compared to the pad and strap systems and even most factory racks – averaging somewhere between 150 and 300 pound load capacities. Finally, these bars are compatible with a wide range of accessories ranging from load assists to cradles, all of which can be found here.

We currently carry three different crossbar options: Thule Load Bar with Thule Foot PackSeattle Sports Sherpak, Malone Universal Cross Rails & the Yakima Crossbars with Yakima Q Towers.

 

Premium Cross Bar Systems

The Bottom Line: They cost a little extra but are sturdy, look good and make almost no noise compared to the basic cross bar systems.

If you want all the extra features and are willing to spend the money, look no further. These are the newest and most top of the line base racks, with sleeker, aerodynamic designs meant to reduce driving noise (it is significant) and increase fuel efficiency. Otherwise, these systems are very similar to their less expensive siblings as they are temporary but can be left on permanently, are compatible with most accessories and can hold on average between two and three hundred pounds.

We currently carry two different premium crossbar options: Yakima Whispbar and the Thule Aeroblade w/ Thule Rapid Traverse Footpack.

Each rack is different and fits various makes and models differently. Check Thule’s?utm_source=ackblog&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=blog and Yakima’s fit guides to see how one of their racks might fit your vehicle. Finally, once you’ve chosen and installed your base rack, you might be interested in rack accessories. We offer a number of them here?utm_source=ackblog&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=blog but look for a blog soon that will detail more about each type. Thanks for reading and if you have any comments or questions remember to share them below! – Joseph@ACK

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18 comments

    1. Hey Joshua,

      It’s going to be difficult to transport three kayaks on your car. :/ I chatted with our customer service manager and he said he doesn’t recommend more than 120 lbs of weight on the roof, but if they’r three smaller kayaks, these products would work:

      https://www.austinkayak.com/products/19891/Yakima-Baseline-Towers-4-pack.html

      https://www.austinkayak.com/products/19927/Yakima-BaseClips-Naked-Roof.html
      Clips 148 and 150

      https://www.austinkayak.com/products/14915/Yakima-JayLow-Kayak-Carrier.html
      x3 of these

      https://www.austinkayak.com/products/19907/Yakima-CoreBar-Pair.html

      The total cost rings up at $951.

      If the kayaks go over a combined weight of 120 lbs, he recommends getting a trailer, a more expensive option than the roof rack.

      I know, neither are very budget-friendly, but those are the two options for transporting three kayaks on a smaller car. Hope it helps!

  1. Hi, I have small Saturn with a naked roof. I don’t really have the money to buy roof rails and carriers for the car at the moment. I wanted to try a foam block kit but have heard people say that they could potentially hurt or warp the boat. I’ll be getting a new Perception Striker in a few weeks and I don’t want to ruin it right away. I would take it off the car at the end of the day or next day after every use. Do the blocks really do this to a kayak? Should I just suck it up and spend the extra money to get a nice rack? Do you have any other suggestions on what I could do? Thanks!

    1. Hmmm… I have heard of kayaks getting warped before – typically from the sun or other heat exposure. When this occurs, it is possible to “pop” your yak in back in shape (there are a lot of tutorials on this topic!), but if you’re using the blocks for now and plan on taking your kayak off to properly store, you should be okay. I personally, have never had any issues and can tell you we give customers foam block kits to borrow when transporting ACK rental kayaks so, as a company we trust them with our kayaks… That being said, there is always a risk for things to go wrong and you definitely are better off getting a nice rack for the long run. However, I think you’d be fine using a foam block kit for now – if they were such a “dangerous” product we certainly wouldn’t carry them!

      1. That makes me feel a lot better about them. I do plan on purchasing racks at some point but for right now the blocks are a better fit for me. Thanks for getting back to me so quick!

  2. Hi!

    I was wondering if you could help me. I have 2 8 ft kayaks that I used to be to throw in my truck and take on adventures. Now, I have a new car (Chevy Malibu) that does not have roof racks. It’s a completely naked roof. Could you suggest the best way to transport my kayaks?

    Thank you!

  3. Great write up, thank you.
    Is there any advantage to using oem bmw racks? I have a bare roof 5 series and I’m looking to transport a kayak.

    1. Hey Phil, sorry for the late response! I checked out our fit guides and wasn’t able to find anything specific for cab-over campers. So, I’d suggest you start by filling out the Rack Helper form for Thule & Yakima on our website (https://www.austinkayak.com/RackHelper.php). Be sure to note in the comments section that you have the camper on your vehicle. Both Thule and Yakima should be able to recommend specific products for you. I hope this helps!