A Step-by-Step Guide To Transporting A Kayak In a Car

A Step-by-Step Guide To Transporting A Kayak In a Car

The summer season has arrived, and you are eager to spend quality time kayaking. However, you may encounter a problem that many kayakers face: how do you get the kayak to the water without an RV or a truck?

Fortunately, a kayak can always be transported in a car, with or without a roof rack.

Here you will learn the basic requirements for transporting a kayak safely in a car, as well as the best methods for doing so.

What you’ll need to transport a kayak in your car

Bow and stern lines

Bow and stern lines are ropes or straps used to secure the boat’s bow and stern to the car. They secure the kayak to the car to keep it from falling backward or forward while driving. Weaving the straps through scupper holes is not recommended because it can cause stress fractures.

In addition, look for non-stretchy and water-resistant straps that vibrate less than nylon webbing.

Padding or foam blocks

If your vehicle lacks factory racks, be sure to purchase padding or foam blocks to protect the kayak from abrasive surfaces. Please avoid using pool noodles as a substitute because they degrade faster than foam blocks. Pool noodles may end up costing more than long-lasting foam blocks in the long run.

Cam buckles

Cam buckles are used to easily secure the kayak. The majority are made of polyester webbing because it is easy to use and resistant to sun, rain, and harmful scratching.

While some kayakers use ratchet straps, they are bulkier and more likely to damage the boat. As a result, cam buckles are superior tie-down straps.

What is the best way to transport a kayak in a car?

Using a roof rack

The majority of kayakers transport their boats on the roof of their car. This is the most common method, and if your SUV comes equipped with a pre-installed rack with a crossbar, you’ll be fine.

Once your car roof is in place, use a kayak cart or someone to help you carry the kayak to the car. It may be difficult to move the boat by yourself, but if it is your only option, make sure you do so safely.

If you have assistance, however, follow these steps to load your kayak onto the roof:

  1. When you get to your car, park the kayak parallel to your SUV, with the bow facing the front.
  2. Holding the hull at each end of the kayak and lifting it overhead is your job. To avoid injuries, raise your legs rather than your back.
  3. Place the kayak directly above the roof rack and gently place it on top of it. Depending on the type of roof rack you have, position the kayak carefully.
  4. Tie down the kayak properly so it doesn’t fall out while you’re driving. Use the essentials I mentioned earlier. 

Note: If you’re loading your kayak by yourself, place a blanket or towel on top of the car’s rear bumper to avoid scratching the roof or bottom of your kayak. Consider wearing a PDF to protect the area of your shoulder where the kayak will rest while being carried.

Although you may not require a kayak cart to load your kayak onto the roof of your vehicle, it is an essential tool for transporting your kayak to the shore without damaging the hull. As a result, if you have a kayak cart, you might want to use it to load the kayak onto the roof.

Use of J-rack

J-rack is a good roof rack that you can use to transport up to two kayaks on your car by attaching it to a factory luggage rack.

It’s a ‘J’-shaped rack with a 45-degree angle that makes it simple to transport multiple boats on a car. Installing the J-rack, loading the kayaks, and tying them down are all demonstrated in the video below.


Tying directly to the roof (i.e., without a roof rack)

Even if your vehicle doesn’t come with a luggage rack, you can still secure the kayak to the roof. You’ll need foam blocks and cam buckles for this. When tying down your kayak, use foam blocks to protect the roof of your car and the bottom of your kayak.

Here’s a video of how to load a kayak onto a car that doesn’t have a roof rack:


Using a kayak trailer

A kayak trailer is another option for transporting a kayak in a car without a roof rack. Purchase a kayak trailer, easily load the boat, and tow the trailer behind your vehicle.

A trailer can also be used to transport two kayaks. Your car, on the other hand, should have a towing package and the capacity to handle the weight of the kayak and the trailer.

Driving safely while carrying your kayak on top of your car

Once your kayak is safely secured on the car roof, you must drive carefully to ensure that your kayak arrives at the water unharmed. First, check your tire pressure and fine-tune it based on the adjusted pressure information in your car’s owner’s manual.

Maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you while driving. If you’re traveling a long distance, consider stopping to double-check that your kayak is still securely fastened to the roof. Air resistance and driving movement can shake the kayak, loosening even the most secure tie-downs. While you may be tempted to rush to your kayaking destination, taking a few extra minutes could save you a lot of time and aggravation.


Transporting a kayak on a car is one of the affordable and easiest options for many kayakers. You can load the boat on a roof rack, tie directly on the car roof or tow it in a kayak trailer. Regardless of your choice, ensure you drive safely to get to your destination with your kayak and vehicle in good shape!

About the author:

Name: Ally Mash

Bio: A world traveler and outdoor enthusiast, Ally has spent most of his free time backpacking through South America, Iceland, Vietnam, and Europe. His mission is to get more people in the mindset of protecting our planet by sharing its beauty with fellow adventurers like him on Adventures Pursuit!

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