Best kayak roof rack review

When it comes to transporting your kayak, it’s important to get the best car roof rack available. With so many models available it can be challenging to know which rack is the right one for you and whether they are worth the price. We’ve reviewed 9 different models to help you decide.

Apontus Universal Kayak Roof Rack J Bar

A J-style rack which comes with racks, tie down straps and hardware for two kayaks. Designed for kayaks 3 ft. or smaller and up to 75 lbs. The rack will not work properly on cars with racks thicker than 1 inch.

Best for smaller, recreational kayaks and we don’t recommend going too fast. Also, if you’re going a long distance, these might not be the best choice. Installation was not easy but having smaller hands helps with installation.

Pros: Price

Cons: Issues with installation, Quality

A-Smart J Bar Kayak Roof Rack Carrier Car Top Mount

The A-Smart J-style rack comes with two pairs of racks and the accessories needed to transport two kayaks. Capable of transporting a 150 lbs. kayak and it works with square, round or blade-style crossbars.

Though this rack is affordable, the A-Smart rack also comes with some slight difficulty installing. It’s easier to use your own wrench. We also found that the directions for installation were less than clear. Users might have some issues with anything longer than a recreational kayak.

Pros: Price, Works with heavier kayaks or a canoe

Cons: Issues with installation, Quality

Malone J-Downloader Universal Car Rack Carrier with Bow and Stern Lines

Comes with one set of racks and two sizes of mounting bolts, 60mm and 70mm. The J-style racks can fold when not in use so it takes up less space overhead. This rack works with round, square, and most oval cross rails and it’s easy to install. Also comes with loading ramps so it makes it a little easier to load your kayak.

The two sets of mounting bolts come in really handy if the other doesn’t work and allows the rack to work with almost any car rack. The loading ramp and folding ability are also great features. This is a high quality rack at a slightly higher yet reasonable price.

Pros: Solid, Durable, Reliable, Loading Ramp

Cons: Price

Malone SeaWing Saddle Style Universal Car Rack Kayak Carrier with Bow and Stern Lines

This rack is designed to hold your kayak bottom-down which allows you to carry two kayaks on your roof and increases gas mileage by decreasing air resistance. The style of rack also makes it easy to load and unload your kayak. Only designed for kayaks up to 70 lbs.

The only drawback is that it is not ideal for larger kayaks. The Malone SeaWing rack works with round, square, and most oval cross rails and it’s easy to install. The price isn’t too high but would be easier to justify if it worked with larger kayaks.

Pros: Easy assembly, minimal air resistance

Cons: Not ideal for larger kayaks

Pack’em Racks Folding J-style Kayak Rack Automobile Roof Top Rack

Pack’em Racks J-style rack comes with two sets for two kayaks and the racks fold down when not in use. It also comes with two sets of mounting plates for different types of car racks. Another plus is that the rack is heavier duty and designed for increased service life.

Great price for a good rack. The two different types of mounting plates are helpful if a flat plate doesn’t work and you need a curved plate. Great for kayaks up to 100 lbs.

Pros: Price, Vehicle Compatibility, Durability

Cons: Doesn’t work on a round bar

Rhino-Rack Folding J-Cradle Kayak Carrier with Universal Mount

One set of sturdy and well-made J-style racks. Only designed for transporting up to 99 lbs. but works with all kinds of car racks including aftermarket. Also comes with a paddle attachment as well as the ability to fold down.

A little pricey for only supporting up to 99 lbs. but a very reliable rack for smaller kayaks. Seems to work well with any car rack but if not you can purchase a compatibility kit.

Pros: Sturdy, Quality materials, Paddle attachment

Cons: Price

TMS® J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier Top Mount

Comes with 2 sets of J-style racks so you can setup two kayaks with the contents of the box. It only works with kayaks up to 75 lbs. Mounting hardware works with most car racks including round and oval racks.

The low price matches the quality because they’re not exactly heavy duty racks and they are designed for transporting up to 75 lbs. therefore it’s not ideal for larger kayaks. Accommodates most car racks.

Pros: Price, Vehicle Compatibility

Cons: Quality, Doesn’t work for larger kayaks, Mounted on crossbars

Yakima JayLow Folding J-Cradle Rooftop Kayak Rack

The Yakima JayLow racks can function as either J-racks, allowing you to transport one kayak, or adjust the bar to make vertical racks, allowing you to transport two kayaks. This rack also folds down when not in use. The Yakima JayLow is to install and it doesn’t require any tools.

The ability to transport one or two kayaks with one set of racks is great but if using the vertical setting, loading the second kayak will be difficult. The rack is designed to work with multiple car racks and is heavy duty.

Pros: Vehicle Compatibility, Installation, Functions vertical or J-style

Cons: Price

Thule 884 Roll Model Kayak Carrier

The Thule rack only works with Thule square load bars. However, there are other Thule models that work with other racks. The design makes it really easy for almost anybody to load any kayak. This also means that the rack itself is capable of carrying large kayaks. The rack folds down when not in use.

This is a very reliable and sturdy rack but the fact that it only works with Thule square racks is a drawback. However, if you are willing to buy a Thule square bar rack or already have one, this is a great rack and it makes loading and unloading really easy for even one person.

Pros: Durability, works with seemingly any sized kayak

Cons: Price, Only works with Thule square bar rack

As you might expect, the right rack depends largely upon the kayak and the kayaker. If you are using a 10 ft. recreational kayak, the Thule model is probably more than you need. However, if you’re having trouble loading a 10 ft. kayak, the Thule model would certainly solve that problem. Another consideration is the trip itself. If you are traveling across the country or need to make space for additional items on your roof, that would eliminate some of the options.