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Best mileage hauling kayaks

OK folks - here's the ultimate mileage question:

I want to get 30+ MPG while hauling 2 hard-bodied sea kayaks, 2 not so hard-bodied adults, and our assorted paddling and camping gear. My Outback averages around 24 MPG doing this with boats on the roof.

What's the magic high-mileage vehicle and kayak hauling setup? Anyone hauling boats on a hybrid Camry?



  • Options
    Hauling Kayaks
    Stick with the Outback. You might do better than 24mpg but i don't think you will find a more dependable car than the Outback. Good Luck. VF
  • interesting how mileage questions
    start to appear recently on discussion boards.
    While the average American did not used to give a sh*t until recently while the gas prices are soaring.
    And I don't believe it is because most of us have suddenly become environmentally conscious... it's the pocket that's hurting.
    Somehow it's cynical to say that I hope that the price of gas will reach $20 a gallon to finally have the consumer refuse to subscribe to the Detroit oppression.
    Alternative fuels and cars have been developed but promptly shelved to avoid a decrease in profits for the few oil companies that are screwing us and the world without mercy.
    The market might finally put enough pressure on car manufacturers to rid ourselves from oil dependency.
  • What do you propose as alternative fuels
    that would actually be better for the environment and wouldn't consume more energy to produce than they would provide and would be available / sustainable for decades to come?

    Which better option alternative fuels do you beleive that "Detroit" and the big oil companies are supressing?
  • Car-buying is still ...
    ...the most expensive aspect of driving. At current prices, a vehicle that gets 30 mpg uses about the same cost in fuel over 200,000 miles as the cost of an average car. Yes, that's a lot of money, but have you stopped to think about how much more driving would cost with alternative fuels right now? It's not "Detroit Oppression" that keeps people buying the cars they do as much as their pocketbook. Even now, the extra cost of a hybrid car exceeds the value in fuel savings, as similarly-sized cars with conventional engines are significantly cheaper to operate over the lifetime of the vehicle. Alternative fuels will find their way into the market when the technology becomes cheaper than what is already available. I don't dispute that lots of people are driving "more car" and using more fuel than they need, but to imply that truely environmentally concerned people would spend what's necessary to get into alternative fuels is silly. The bottom line is that people can only be as environmentally friendly as what they can afford.
  • here's one
    good sized wagon, 50 mpg (should be well above 30 mpg with a full load)

  • Options
    Keep the Outback
    Change your driving habits. Start off slowly, keep your speed under 60 mph, plan braking carefully and slow down early, coast downhills as much as possible, use your cruise control except in mountainous or extremely hilly areas. Fill you tank in the early AM, you get a real full tank then.
  • Vaughn, you can find a more
    dependable car than MY Outback. Repeated clutch problems, AC that refuses to stay fixed, a burned valve, a radio/CD that conked out.... all in spite of sticking to all recommended maintenance.

    Our Accords have been much more reliable, and also quieter, with better gas mileage. We've seen over 30 mpg with a canoe on top on occasion, though it takes calm wind to get it.
  • Coast downhills? Stay under 60?
    Coasting downhills is usually dangerous, and saves very little fuel. Most of us have to drive the interstates, and driving 60 when everyone else is doing 70 or over can pose some safety problems. What I do is to set the cruise so that I am doing about 69 in a 70 zone. Almost everyone else is going faster, so I can relax in the right lane, and leave them to make their passing decisions. But 60 in the same conditons? I don't think so.
  • air
    somewhere else on p.net somebody recently mentioned cars propelled by air. Funny enough that was not a joke. Those cars exist and were in production. Orders were taken for large scale manufacturing but somehow (yes, interestingly "somehow") the production was stopped. Detroit was certainly not interested in having competition from somebody that could propel the car by air. Admittedly the air had to be compressed but that was possible by a home compressor that yes would still use electric energy to pump but in minute scale compare to fossil fuel used for internal combustion engines.
    And what about Hydrogen?
    I know that at the moment producing Hydrogen seems not that viable but mainly because there is absolutely no push for the research for cheap Hydrogen production. Even if there was, again it would be shelved by the oil companies.
    Would they be fool enough to let something like cheap hydrogen happen?
    Honda, Toyota and BMW have PRODUCTION cars that run on hydrogen. Having the "government" and corporations allowing such cars is something else.
    Now, please bend over and...

  • Options
    Honda FIT

    I've had this auto Honda Fit for 2 years, zero defects. On a 580 mile round trip to DelMarVa from LI NY with 2 people, 2 sof's, paddling and camping gear and 2 hours of NYC traffic it averaged 33 MPG. Try it you might like it.

  • Options
    -- Last Updated: May-08-08 10:26 AM EST --

    You won't be run over, not even here in Texas. If you can't stand 60, 65 will save over 69. By coasting, I don't mean putting it in neutral, just don't add the juice like you probably do most of the time. If you are scared to slow down on the interstate, find another route.

  • My Audi A4
    manages => 35 mpg unloaded and about 30 with a kayak. As for alternatives, there aren't any viable ones at this time. The energy density of gas is very high. The only source for hydrogen that is currently practicle is natural gas and production in North America is in decline... not to mention that the infrastructure for hydrogen just does not cut it. The stuff leaks outta nearly every thing, ya gotta liquidfy it to transport it, you need a high pressure system to load it into your car's storage tank, the range of the vechicles suck... basically you would have to switch your gas tank for your trunk.

    While I might go for another Audi, the next gen Fit just might be the ticket.
  • Toyota Matrix
    I've been very happy with my 2007 Toyota Matrix with 5-spd manual.

    For everyday running (no roof rack or boats) I routinely get 33mpg cruising at 70. Adding the rack cuts that to 30. Surprisingly, adding two full-size sea kayaks, three passengers, and camping gear does not cut it further, and I still get a pretty solid 30mpg.

    The back seat folds completely flat and offers a hard plastic surface that's easy to clean and to slide gear around on. Add a pad and you can stretch out and sleep in it.

    Let's be honest: even among we avid paddling enthusiasts, 90% of our driving is not paddling-related but rather commuting and grocery-getting. So driving a large, inefficient SUV makes little sense for all but the remaining ten percent of our driving. I move to a new house every decade or so but I don't drive a U-Haul every day.

    There are several compact wagons and hatchbacks that make good boat-haulers, and will save you gas money year-round.

    Good Luck!

  • Economical hydrogen seems a long way off
    It currently requires a lot of energy to produce hydrogen. Don't fool yourself if you don't think many people are working on developing hydrogen as an econimical fuel source - they are.

    As for using compressed air, I wonder how much travel range you could get out of compressed air in the size cars that we Americans are partial to?
  • Mine gets around 31 while hauling...
    I have a Chevy HHR, and I love it. I get 31mpg average while towing my 8' trailer with 4 boats on board.

    It has great room inside and the seats fold easily for carrying gear. Four of us just got back from a 4 day trip to Crooked River in Georgia, hauling all of our camping gear and four boats and still averaged over 30mpg.

    The only downside is if you do not have a factory rack you cannot get one from Thule or Yakima due to the door construction. I just added a hidden hitch and trailer and have been good to go ever since.

  • You need a lesson in energy equivalence
    -- Last Updated: May-08-08 12:27 PM EST --

    You say

    "Admittedly the air had to be compressed but that was possible by a home compressor that yes would still use electric energy to pump but in minute scale compare to fossil fuel used for internal combustion engines."

    It's true that electrical energy can be produced fairly efficiently, but to say you use much less energy in the process is crap. Also, to say it won't catch on because Detroit isn't interested is wrong. Detroit is not the major power it used to be, but if there's money to be made off a new kind of car, they will build it. Building a product that will sell is the only thing that matters to them, and I would bet that a car which takes much longer to refuel than it takes to expend that fuel while driving just wouldn't sell right now. Maybe it will someday, but not right now. Don't forget that if you could speed up the re-fueling process by tapping into a huge source of compressed air, or by using an enormous compressor (rather than something powered by normal household electrical current), you aren't saving any energy, you're just using energy more quickly.

  • BMW with Trailex trailer
    I recently got 30 mpg in my 3 series BMW (with the 2.5 liter engine) pulling a trailer with one kayak on it over 700 miles. (I averaged 70 MPH.)

    I routinely get 29 mpg with a mix of highway (~70%) and city (~30%) driving, without the trailer.
  • I'm too smart to call that coasting, and
    too smart to crawl the interstates with idiots veering off to miss me, or tailgating and flashing lights. YMMV.
  • It's called the CAT, made in India, 120
    120 mile range, top speed of 70, sells for $7,000 and is licenced to TATA Motors...all according to CNN.
  • Gas
    I've been getting 29 MPG in my Nissan Altima. 2 boats on the roof drop it to 25.

    My Yukon (V-8)gets 16 with boats on the roof and 19 pulling 2 kayaks on a 100 lb trailer.

    Looked at Subaru until I realized I would only save 4-5 MPG. As it is I don't have a car payment or any need to carry full coverage insurance, both of which I'd have with a new hybrid.

    Both of my vehicles will see 300K miles or better. I doubt many of todays electric/gasoline hybrids will see that without major repair costs.

  • Options
    Again, bull, slowing down at least to
    65 won't be a significant problem. A couple of weeks ago, pulling a 12 foot trailer loaded, I never got over 55 on a interstate section that eqauls any you drive for speed and lousy drivers. No real problem over 140 miles. Its more in your mindset. As for putting the vehicle in neutral to actually coast, that's not much of a problem except in exceptionally hilly or mountainous terrain.
  • Driving under the speed limit
    Around here, most people act like the speed limit is the speed minimum. And they don't go only 5 mph over the speed limit. 10 mph over is common, and 15 over is not unusual, depending on the road. Enforcement obviously has been too lax for too long.

    Still, I sometimes can drive, say, 60 mph in a 65-mph zone without trouble. I don't do it in the left lane, of course. And if it's bumper-to-bumper speeding traffic, *that* is a dangerous time to go under the speed limit. Sad to say, when it comes to highway safety, sometimes you have to give in a little to peer pressure. But not always!

    One good thing I've noticed is that since gas prices shot up in late 2005, more people are in fact going slower than the speed limit on the faster roads. Especially on those 75-mph roads, mine is not the only personal vehicle driving at 65 to 70 mph.

    If you always give in to "everybody else does it," you are definitely part of the problem.
  • Air-Powered Vehicles
    -- Last Updated: May-09-08 12:24 AM EST --

    I must say that the concept of an engine that runs on compressed air is an interesting idea, though I guess in this case it should be called a motor, not an engine. I wouldn't be surprised if this turns out to be a viable idea for commuter use and other places where, so far, the all-electric car has seemed to be promising.

    I wonder how compressed air compares to batteries for storing energy? If it is even remotely comparable to batteries, the advantage of decreasing fuel weight with miles driven (a battery's weight remains the same even when discharged) and no dangerous chemicals to recyle or dispose of would make compressed air a neat option. As pointed out above, it currently takes all night to compress enough air to fully fuel one of these little air-powered cars, but the same is already true for the recharge time of electric cars, so that part is probably a toss-up.

  • Subaru Legacy2.2 , 5spd Honest 31 - 36
    Driving with a light foot.

    Never drove it on a long trip w/ kayaks but checked on a recent 120 mile / 65 mph trip with two skis on top and still got 31 !

  • Options
    Most common engine in Europe and Japan.
    Slow, lots of torque, can gett o and hold highway speeds but not in an exciting fassion.
    The Diesel is reliable and can be repaired by the regular mechanic that works on your what ever gas engine.
    Just over 600 KM with a 1983 TD Golf with three large guys (Shirt size) 3 boats NDK, Valey and Eastern Island. all the gear. $64.00 in fuel I have not done the math but the Diesel Fuel here was $1.48 per litre.
    The US suppliers and manufacturers may have missed the boat.
    The Japanese have it as do VW, Mercedies, and most other people that have dealt with very high fuel prices..... We are just now getting there.
  • Air Car article from Popular Mechanics
    Air-Powered Car Coming to U.S. in 2009 to 2010 at Sub-$18,000, Could Hit 1000-Mile Range

    The CityCAT, already being developed in India (bottom left), will be available for U.S. production in three different four-door styles. But it's the radical dual-energy engine, with a possible 1000-mile range at 96 mph, that could move the Air Car beyond Auto X Prize dreams and into American garages.

    By Matt Sullivan
    Published on: February 22, 2008

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    Section Archive

    alternative energy
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    auto technology
    Automotive X Prize

    The Air Car caused a huge stir when we reported last year that Tata Motors would begin producing it in India. Now the little gas-free ride that could is headed Stateside in a big-time way.

    Zero Pollution Motors (ZPM) confirmed to PopularMechanics.com on Thursday that it expects to produce the world’s first air-powered car for the United States by late 2009 or early 2010. As the U.S. licensee for Luxembourg-based MDI, which developed the Air Car as a compression-based alternative to the internal combustion engine, ZPM has attained rights to build the first of several modular plants, which are likely to begin manufacturing in the Northeast and grow for regional production around the country, at a clip of up to 10,000 Air Cars per year.

    And while ZPM is also licensed to build MDI’s two-seater OneCAT economy model (the one headed for India) and three-seat MiniCAT (like a SmartForTwo without the gas), the New Paltz, N.Y., startup is aiming bigger: Company officials want to make the first air-powered car to hit U.S. roads a $17,800, 75-hp equivalent, six-seat modified version of MDI’s CityCAT (pictured above) that, thanks to an even more radical engine, is said to travel as far as 1000 miles at up to 96 mph with each tiny fill-up.

    We’ll believe that when we drive it, but MDI’s new dual-energy engine—currently being installed in models at MDI facilities overseas—is still pretty damn cool in concept. After using compressed air fed from the same Airbus-built tanks in earlier models to run its pistons, the next-gen Air Car has a supplemental energy source to kick in north of 35 mph, ZPM says. A custom heating chamber heats the air in a process officials refused to elaborate upon, though they insisted it would increase volume and thus the car’s range and speed.

    “I want to stress that these are estimates, and that we’ll know soon more precisely from our engineers,” ZPM spokesman Kevin Haydon told PM, “but a vehicle with one tank of air and, say, 8 gal. of either conventional petrol, ethanol or biofuel could hit between 800 and 1000 miles.”

    Those figures would make the Air Car, along with Aptera’s Typ-1 and Tesla’s Roadster, a favorite among early entrants for the Automotive X Prize, for which MDI and ZPM have already signed up. But with the family-size, four-door CityCAT undergoing standard safety tests in Europe, then side-impact tests once it arrives in the States, could it be the first 100-mpg, nonelectric car you can actually buy?

    • FIRST LOOK: Air Car Coming to India for Summer 2009
    • UPDATE: New Blog From Cornell Auto X Prize Team
    • DRIVE GREEN: Test Drives, News and Video on Alt-Fuel Rides
  • Options
    Diesel Jetta Wagon
    The old models got great mileage. The brand new models are supposed to get between 50 - 60 mpg.
  • Options
    Life in the slow lane
    I have a GMC Jimmy and routinely drive at 59 on the highway. I get between 75 and 100 miles more per tank than when I drive 65-70.

    I find driving in the right lane relaxing. It frees me from the road games, jockeying for position, etc. I very seldom if ever have someone roar up behind me, and this is in SE Mass and Rhode Island, which have some of the most aggressive drivers of anywhere I've driven.

    Of course, if there are only two lanes of heavy traffic, I'll go with the flow and increase my speed. Same thing when passing a busy entrance ramp; I'll get in the middle or left lane but increase my speed. It's the self-righteous idiots who go the same speed in any lane that have people riding up their tailpipes (including me!) (grrrrrr).

    One my favorite quotes of all time is George Carlin: "Anyone that drives faster than you is a maniac, and anyone that drives slower than you is a moron." It's all relative :-)
  • Bar Spread
    Thanks- this looks like a nice setup. What kind of spread do you have between the rack bars? It looks pretty good, compared to most small cars.

  • Best?
    Probably blasting up to a symposium with the windows down, no cruise control and speeds up to about 75. There was only one boat, but I averaged just about 45mpg in my diesel Jetta!

    It's an '03 and if VW's latest gas models are any indication I won't be trading it in anytime soon. Mileage of even the Rabbit is deplorable. 22/29? We'll see what happens when the new TDI (diesel) comes out later this year.
  • Options
    Include the link

    Here's the link:


    "8 gal. of either conventional petrol, ethanol or biofuel could hit between 800 and 1000 miles"

    This works out to 125mpg. Keep in mind these are very small cars.
  • 300 mpg on diesel
    about half a gallon to get the engine and veg oil hot, then switch to veg and drove a little over 300 miles (40 gallon veggie tank). About another half gallon of disel to purge before shut down...most of which gets returned to the veg tank, so it's not really lost fuel.

    Depending on driving habits mileage varies between 40 mpg on the low end to 300 ish mpg on the high end.
  • Options
    40 mpg, fully loaded
    Dunno that it's magic but... 1996 Passat TDi wagon (1.9L diesel). With two sea boats on the roof and a full load of camping gear, mix of 80mph highway driving and bunch of very hilly 2 laners yielded 40 mpg on a trip to Canada last Summer. Regularly get a tad better than that with a bit less gear load. Tdi's are currently available only on the used market, at least for a few more months when new versions are supposed to hit the US market.
  • Options
    48" Bar Spread
    This was a DIY installation using Yakima Landing Pads and Tracks. Email me for gory details
  • 40-45 mpg
    2 kayaks on top, week's worth of camping and paddling gear inside, 2 adults, in a Toyota Prius.

  • Options
    If small carbon footprint and les gas ..
    is the issue, then I'd recommend doing a "Dubside," i.e Commando kayaking! I'd get a folding boat, check out public transportation options and feel good about yourself.

    So, far I have the folding boat, but haven't been able to grow the cool beard yet.


  • Two laws of physics. Perpetual motion
    and conservation of matter. It should be interesting to see how a tank of air charged to 4200 psi can propel a car 1,000 miles.
  • Options
    Small compressor
    -- Last Updated: May-10-08 5:52 PM EST --

    "It should be interesting to see how a tank of air charged to 4200 psi can propel a car 1,000 miles."

    There are two versions of these "CAT" cars.

    One of them just has the air tank (-that- version would not have great range).

    The other (the "dual" mode one) also has a gas-powered compressor. No "perpetual motion" needed.

    People have gotten 80mpg (or so) out of Honda Insights. So, 125mpg isn't too far-fetched. Still, it's only an stimate. And, it's not clear if this is the only way to get 125mpg out of a vehicle.


  • got a link?
    "Orders were taken for large scale manufacturing but somehow (yes, interestingly "somehow") the production was stopped. Detroit was certainly not interested in having competition from somebody that could propel the car by air."

    Do you have a link for this?
  • Options
    me too
    In my prius, with 2 kayaks, 2 people, and a lot of junk in the back, we get about 45 mpg. Add the dogs and a couple bikes and it drops to 42 mpg. You can stuff a lot of stuff in a prius--our last trip included 2 people, 2 pit bulls, one husky, 2 pairs of skis, and winter gear for a week. No kayaks on top for that trip, however.
  • Options
    Arizona! I love Arizona, can't wait
    to move out there. Then we can meet and go out new car shopping, right after we paddle Apache Lake or Roselvelt or Paridise or the Marina or dozens of other places I'd like to come back to... AND STAY THIS TIME!
  • Modern diesels
    Modern turbo diesels aren't really slow, I bought a Mazda6 diesel wagon last year and have been happy with it as a paddling vehicle. Unfortunately I don't think they are available in the US.

    A smaller vehicle is also more economical, my 1995 Nissan Micra has about the same mileage as the diesel. There are more small diesels appearing on the market here in Australia eg: Hyundai, Mazda3 so they may get to the American market in coming years.

  • Thanks for all the info
    The Subie has only 107K on it, so I'll be keeping it for now, but all these comments give me lots to investigate. I used to get in the mid-30's with a VW Rabbit and an 18' canoe on top - we'll see what VW does with the new tdi's.

    For those with the Prius - are we talking sea kayaks on top? What kind of bar spread with the rack?

  • Diesel or Hybrid
    Is the only way you gonna break the 30 mpg barrier at any reasonable speed IMO. May be the smaller cars like Yaris or Fit may do it as weel, but it will be too close to your current to warrant an upgrade.

    In my '02 Prius I manage to stay at or just above 40 mpg on the highway with a kayak on top as long as I do not go faster than 60 mph or so. Even a few miles faster and it drops below 40 into the high 30s. A few miles slower and it goes up. Take the kayak off and you gain 5-10 mpg on top of whatever you were doing with it.

    The Camry may get you in the low 30s IMO at decent speed but costs a lot of money - not reasonable from a $$$ prospective, but yes for a whole lot of other reasons.

    I'm actually looking at a Honda Fit to replace an aging Camry but after driving a Prius for a while, a fuel efficiency in the low 30s looks bad to me - I'm getting mid 40s with the beat-up Prius without trying too hard (gets me above 50 if I am careful).
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