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Best Car for Kayaking

I imagine this topic has probably been discussed before, but then new cars are always coming out...

Any thoughts or experience on what you think may be the best car for kayaking (?)- this includes carrying kayaks, traveling down rough roads to landings,etc.

I am partial to a reasonably low roof, which, to state the obvious, makes loading and unloading easier. Also, some decent ground clearance is also a plus.

I have been very happy with my 2004 Subaru Forester, but am starting to consider a newer vehicle and would welcome opinions.


  • Subaru Outback
    pre 2010 for the good roof rack.
  • Buick Roadmaster Station Wagon
    No better paddling vehicle has ever been made.
    Low rook Comfortable seats for eight. 24MPG on the highway with boats on the rack. I think the best year was 1996.
  • Jetta Sportwagen
    I switched from a Subaru to a Jetta Sportwagen which has a great roof rail system along with unmatched fuel economy(I average 37-38 with yaks on the roof). I actually used the same towers from the Subaru and bought a new set of 58" crossbars.
  • You're probably right.
    -- Last Updated: Dec-12-10 8:03 PM EST --

    It's gotta have the vinyl panelling, though!

    I'd put the Volvo 760/960/V90 rear-wheel-drive wagons right up there in the Euro category for similar reasons.

    Won't somebody please bring to market a functional and decent size station wagon with a US badge?

  • Options
    We are using a 2005 Subaru WRX 5 speed AWD turbo wagon. 227 hp from the factory, 280 hp with mods. Thule cross bars with pads.
  • Check out the Ford Flex
    It isn't as low as the Subaru but not as high as most vans. You can get it with all wheel drive and a decent roof rack. I don't own a Flex but have looked them over and found them a reasonable possibility. We currently have a 2005 Outback and a 2010 Ford F150 and carry kayaks on both. If we pull our travel trailer we use the Ford.
  • Subie/VW
    I'm mulling over the same question as my '02 Outback passes 155K. My leading candidates are the Jetta Sportwagon (pricey, low rack height, great mileage) and the Subie Forester (higher rack, not so good mileage, perhaps a little more roomy).

    I really want to buy something with really great mileage, but I worked the figures on the two models above. If I'm looking at it right, it would be 86,000 miles to break even on the higher purchase cost of the VW.

    I wish I could like the new Outback, but that rack (uugh!). Why can't Ford make something kayak-friendly?

  • I've got an '02 WRX Wagon
    Pretty good kayak car, great ski car. Going to miss it when I eventually replace it, probably with something like a Honda Element...
  • One that runs.
  • HUH? NONE!!!
    You don't kayak with cars, friend... Try a kayak to go kayaking! It's REALLY a lot easier to use a kayak to


    -Frank in Miami
  • Truthfully
    I wish they still made the Accord or Camry wagons.
  • If You Can Find One...
    -- Last Updated: Dec-13-10 8:24 AM EST --

    ...in decent shape, the Saturn SW1 wagons are the bees' knees - low flat roof, great gas mileage and ours has been very reliable. Did a 6,000 km. trip thru Atlantic Canada this summer in our '99 with nary a hitch, carrying two jam-packed sea kayaks and full camping gear. Only caveat is ground clearance - NOT a good machine for navigating rough backcountry roads...

  • You beat me to it Frank
    Yesterday I posted one of the first replys, which never made it with the stupid reception we are getting down here, so I gave up, but I said; " I visualize the OP sitting on top of his up side down vehicle padlling merrily along without a care in the world"

    Jack L
  • yep
    my daughter got a 8yr old 5spd manual Accord wagon with 150k miles in incredible shape, not high ground clearance but adequate for all the dirt roads she's been on.
    -- Last Updated: Dec-16-10 10:43 PM EST --

    ...a Toyota Camry, a Honda Accord, or a Nissan station wagon. Heck, I'd even had a nice experience with a Ford Focus I'd had for a week on a business trip.

    But back in '04 when we began looking, all of these but the Focus Wagon had already gone the way of the dodo bird...

    So we checked out the Subie Outback, the VW Passat, the Audi A3 and A4 Wagon, and the Focus -and even considered used Bimmers an Benzes. The latter two were rare -few Benzes, fewer BMWs -and more money than we really wanted to spend, with more miles than we wanted to start out with, and the Focus and the A3 were a tad too small for what we wanted in a hauler. The regular Passat required premium fuel for its turbo, and the Passat diesel was pricey, and tho' the former drove well, at that time it had a pretty poor service record per Consumer Reports, and pretty bad recs from a few friends of ours that had had them. The Subaru Outback had -and still has -a world or admirers, especially among the outdoor set, and particularly among paddlers -but the straight 4 had little performance, and the turbo 4, or regular 6, with satisfactory performance, required premium fuel; additionally, I was quite underwhelmed by it's overall handling -it felt to me more like a plodding mainstream US sedan...

    We'd just about given up when I saw an article in Car & Driver or Road and Track, not sure which, that noted how much fun and how pretty well-designed the Mazda 6 was, and how they really got that "Zoom-Zoom" stuff down just right. So we checked the M6 out, and lo and behold, they had... ...a station wagon!

    So we took one for a test drive, and I was impressed with the handling, interior layout, roof height (nice and low, especially compared to our late, lamented, wrecked (by a friend...!) wonder hauler but getting taller every year Jeep Grand Cherokee), and the purchase cost was great after I'd finished negotiating for a brand new '04 early in the '05 model year.

    We're soon to remove the kayak racks because we're prepping up now for our trek to the wintry north in Illinois as we take a 'Home for the Holidays' Christmas trip to Sally's family in downstate IL about 40 miles north of St. Louis. I look forward to another enjoyable trip in a car that does road trips very, very well.

    We've had it 80,000 miles so far, and it's been a terrific car for us. I'd heartily recommend it, except...

    ...that Mazda, too, has stopped producing station wagons...!

    So good luck with your search, may you find a nice ride and an even better hauler to take you around, and your boats to and from the water, when you


    -Frank in Miami

  • yep, and it's stylish too!
    There's nothing like driving a beast to the put-in with boats piled high.
  • There is something alluring about
    that long flat roof! The price is a budget-buster, though.
  • Or Maybe
    Civic or Corolla wagons.
  • Checked out Mazda, Toyota, Honda, etc. .
    (and have owned these brands in the past) . . . ended up with a Kia Sorento. Best price. Best value. Mine seats 7. Lots of nice extra features. Check it out.
  • To high
    "ended up with a Kia Sorento. Best price. Best value. Mine seats 7. Lots of nice extra features. Check it out."

    I think the O.P. was looking for something where you do not have to use a step ladder to secure your boats. That's the only problem with the Sorrento as a friend of mine has one.

  • Amen
    on the Mazda reliability. Have a 2006 Mazda 6 sedan with 110k as my sales car and absolutely NO problems..not one. Wish I would have purchased the wagon as the sedan is skimpy on long roof line..the wagon would be perfect. Someone above mentioned the Buick wagon..our daughters grew up in the 1985 Buick Estate Wagon, nickname "Wally Wagon", complete with fake wood paneling...but oh would this baby haul 2 17' canoes...lol. Swear the rack would hold a dozen yaks as it was strong. Mileage was 19mpg regardless of how fast you drove..would get one again if I could fine one in good condition. Oh, and tie downs? Heck anywhere on the heavy steel bumpers was fine.
  • Flex mpg
    is not to good. I have a 2007 and 2011 Hyundai Sante Fe. Thule makes an excellent rack system for this car and yes the front crossbar can be set all the way forward on the rails. Drawback to Sante Fe - high roof, but other than that I love the car.
  • Options
    Dodge Grand Caravan
    has been working well for us for several years. We're on our second one now, using the factory rack rails and Yakima cross bars, spaced almost 5' apart. The height may seem intimidating at first, but sliding the kayaks up over the back is pretty easy for one person loading. Used ones are readily available at a good price. More than makes up for the 22-23 mpg.
  • No ladder
    The O.P. did state "low roof" AND "decent ground clearance." That is some skinny vehicle! It's hard to have both.

    Anyway, I do load long kayaks without a step ladder by pushing them on from the back.
  • 2003 Toyota Tacoma super cab P/U
    Or the newest full size pick up of your favorite flavor. Mine's Ford. Decent hwy mileage, big comfort and safety.
  • Low roof line and high ground clearance
    limits the feild a lot. Subaru pretty much wrote the book. Volvo XC70 is nice. Suzuki offered the SX4, I think it was, but Suzuki seems to have gone away, at least around here.
    I really like the sport wagons, BMW, MB, Mazda,Saab, etc. but about four or five times a year I find myself badly abusing my car, or giving thanks that I brought the truck.
    So many choices,
  • Second the sport wagons
    My Saab 95 is a fantastic boat/gear/people hauler. With 4 snows and front wheel drive, it also goes almost anywhere.
  • Elantra Touring
    I don't know if it has enough ground clearance for you. Mine's been great so far. Very nice price. Good gas mileage and Consumer Reports says it shouldn't need much repair... and not too ugly.
  • Options
    Audi A4 wagon
    -- Last Updated: Dec-16-10 5:01 PM EST --

    or a used COP Audi Allroad.

  • ditto ET
    Roof rails with a higher weight capacity than Yakima or Thule (which is rare), what Kudzu said and pretty fun to drive.
  • Just
    returned from a paddle trip with my 15' kayak on top of friends Volvo xc70?? Has a well made STRONG factory rack, all wheel drive, lots of ground clearance and seems built very well...I'm impressed. If well maintained, I would love to have one.
  • Options
    Mazda 5
    Someone earlier in this thread mentioned that Mazda no longer makes a wagon. I suppose that's true, but the Mazda 5 is a great vehicle with most of the attributes of a wagon. The roof line is a little higher than a wagons', but it has all the room and is a very versatile car. We've had ours for about 1 1/2 years and love it. Haven't put a lot of miles on it, but so far it certainly fits what we were looking for.
  • Volvo XC70 Wagon
    Excellent performer all-round - Good handling, on and off road; low-enough to load kayaks on very strong factory (Thule-made) roof rack; outfitted to carry loads (tie-downs, etc.) inside and outside; reputation for safety and ruggedness and cruises in luxury.

    We bought ours second-hand in the same price range that other, cheaper, smaller, less-long-lived wagon brands cost new.
  • Audi
    Had one of these (Allroad) and loved it--expensive to buy, operate and fix. Figure on leasing or giving it back to dealer at 80K or spending a fortune for off warranty repairs. I gave my back on the second replacement transmission. Otherwise, can't beat an Audi. Now drive an Accura TL with a Yakima roof rack. Works very well on all but the stoniest mountain roads.
  • taurus wagon
    I have had excelent success with taurus
  • Jeep Cherokee Sport
    -- Last Updated: Dec-20-10 10:08 AM EST --

    2001 wuz de las' year made. WELDED RAIN GUTTERS! Need ah' say more....

    Crappy gas mileage, but dems never die.


  • Dodge or Chrysler van
    Dodge or Chrysler van with a Hullavator. Easy to put the kayak up, and (with a few seats removed) loads of space for gear. I travel with a small stool inside and can change from paddling garb to street garb without being arrested for public nudity.
  • Dave, this might be one of the few
    -- Last Updated: Dec-23-10 10:19 AM EST --

    things we agree on. I've had 3 Sable/Taurus wagons. After the first, I took a serious look at a 2 yr-old Volvo V90 w/ traction control - nice car. Almost did it until I stopped by the Ford dealer and he had 3 loaded late-model Sable wagons with under 12K on them for less than half the price of the Swedish car. I simply couldn't justify the difference in the projected cost/mile ratio. I'm gonna miss this last one (135,000 mi.) when it's gone.

  • The best car would be a belly tank
    racer like those used on dry lakes or the Bonneville Salt Flats. Made from a surplus airplane belly fuel tank, these cars are shaped like a fishform kayak. You only have to get rid of the wheels, engine, etc., seal the hull, and put in a cockpit. BUT don't expect much initial stability.
  • Mazda6 wagon in Australia
    I find it strange that they no longer have the mazda6 wagon available in the U.S. as they are in available in Australia. They are also available here with a diesel engine which gives excellent economy.

    I've had one for 3 years and my only complaint is the lack of ground clearance.

  • Scion xB
    I am looking at the Scion xB.

    For those that wanted a Camry Wagon, since 2008, the xB is on the Camry platform with the Camry Motor and Tranny.

    I just recently found that out, and decided to give it another look.
  • Top Gear Show
    Top gear test a few discontuinued GM products and the Road Master kicked butt!
  • Options
    You can paddle an amphicar

    and I imagine a double-bladed paddle would be even better.
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