14' Canoe on VW Golf?

I’m looking to get into canoeing in a very recreation way. I’ve got my eye on a 14’ fiberglass canoe, but I’m worried that the fact that I drive a VW Golf may lead to transportation woes. I have a Thule roof rack with 50# load bars, and plan to purchase whatever misc accessories are required, but does anyone have any experience with transporting a canoe on a car this small? I’ve searched all over the web and couldn’t find what I believed to be reliable information.

My old Buick only has 31" tween the
padded (pipe foam) Yakima bars and carries my Wen Vag K-UL 14’6" noe fine up to 70mph on the highway. Gunnel cleats on the bars would make it even more secure. Just be sure your bars are really well secured to your roof, you strap the boat down tight, and have snug bow and stern lines down to the bumpers, frame or other body fastening points. R

probably not a problem
You will probably have some overhang on one end or the other, so you will need to be careful backing up.

On a small 2-door, with the regular Thule towers you won’t be able to get your bars very far apart. This means that the canoe won’t have as much support and may be somewhat more prone to side-to-side yaw. This may not be an issue. If it is, Thule makes a “short roofline adapter” that allows you to mount the aero-towers in your door frames, but extend the rear cross-bar farther back on the roof: http://www.ems.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3663708

You don’t really need any accesories to mount the canoe other than some decent rope or cam-straps. Some people like to use the Thule gunwale brackets, though. I much prefer these Thule load stops to the gunwale brackets: http://www.ems.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3663695

When using your rope or straps, go around the belly of the canoe over both bars, but bring the straps under the bars and inside the towers so that the rope or strap cannot walk off the end of the bar, leaving the boat unrestrained.

You will also need to provide some type of front tie down point on your vehicle if it doesn’t have one, which many don’t. You can find a couple of bolts underneath your hood near the sides and front of the engine compartment. Make some loops out of 1" wide tubular nylon webbing, flame the cut ends to prevent fraying. Make a hole in the base of the loop with a scratch awl (heated if necessary) big enough to acommodate the bolt, and secure each loop under the bolt using a good-sized fender washer over the loop to keep it from pulling out from under the bolt.

If you make these loops long enough so that they stick out from underneath the side of your hood an inch or so, you can run a rope through them to the forward stem of your canoe and secure it to the bow grab loop or carry thwart. The tubular webbing anchor loops can be tucked inside the engine compartment when not in use.

Do something to prevent the canoe from sliding forward in a panic stop, especially if your load bars are both close together. If the belly straps are at all loose, the boat could slide right off the front of the vehicle. I take a rope from the stern carry thwart or grab loop and bring it straight forward, loop it around a thwart of the canoe that is forward of the rear bar, then bring it back and tie it around the rear bar.

No Prpblem
I carry a 14 foot Yellowstone Sole on a Subaru without problem. Looking out my window, I’m guessing the bars are 40" apart.

Yakima gunwale brackets
Yakima makes both gunwale brackets and load stops. The load stops are a good bit cheaper and serve the same purpose in preventing sideways motion.

Since the middle of the canoe is fatter than the part that will be between the front load stops, they will prevent forward motion as well.

I’ve carried my 12 ft 9 in canoe on both a Saturn sedan and Hyundai Elantra sedan, no problem.

solid footings/gunwale stops…will work

– Last Updated: May-05-10 9:59 AM EST –

Shouldn't have problem. Length isn't issue...just grab those gunwale stoppers = look great, but the stoppers with bow/stern ties' solidness(lack of sway) is what's the final product. Tie to both corners any way you can as the distance from each bar to end of boat is the longest..hence it's where any sway begins...anyone can see that..but you pass a couple trucks and the turbulence can reach the max. My favorite tie is always from thwarts to the bars...preventing any slight fore-aft slide really solidifies everything to the footings. Most always a PITA to reach up under to tie, but once you get the hang of it....the security is worth it. Way back when driving granddad's orig. VW Beetle = thin, soft tires....18' wood/canvas canoe...not a problem..except for some windage drifting once in a while of the Beetle, was a lot
of fun;-), but up in Maine one didn't have to drive in traffic. Footings' solidness is the key, although even with major failure...the # of tiedowns WILL get you to wherever you're going without hazard.

not a problem
I have friends that travel about a thousand miles with a 15 foot boat on top of a VW Beetle.

Well anchored. Not just belly straps but two straps aft and two front diagonal.

Duo on Mini
I’ve put a 14’ SOF and a 17’ mahogany kayak on my Mini at the same time - not really a problem. You should be fine as long as you don’t exceed the rack capacity and have everything tied down properly:


Canoe on Golf
I’ve carried 14 - 15 foot solo canoes and my 17.5 foor Bell Northwind on my GTI. My yakima racks let me space out the rack fairly far on what’s actually a fairly long roof. Thules should be similar. Anyhow, it’s no problem at all. In fact a shorter car gives better front-back triangulation. Go for it!


Canoe on Golf
I’ve carried 14 - 15 foot solo canoes and my 17.5 foor Bell Northwind on my GTI. My yakima racks let me space out the rack fairly far on what’s actually a fairly long roof. Thules should be similar. Anyhow, it’s no problem at all. In fact a shorter car gives better front-back triangulation. Go for it!


Wow, I appreciate the deluge of information. Thanks to all!!!

Just got back with our 17’ Bluewater
on Yakima racks spaced only 31" apart. Gunwale brackets helped, as well as independent bow ropes controlling side to side bow motion.

I used to carry my QCC 700X
on my Plymouth Neon. Didn’t have a roof rack even, I would just throw it on top and ratchet strap it down tight on the ends. Eventually the roof assumed a nice saddle shape that held the boat very well. Never had a problem with it. After that I did the same thing with a compact pickup. I do now have a real roof rack. Not really recommending that, just saying that it works.

Secure it well
I used to haul an 18’ Mad River TW Special on a VW Rabbit all the time. In fact, I had two of those boats on it several times. Strong crosswinds made the car lean a bit, but it never changed lanes on me unannounced.

Cheers, Alan

Just get used to
the joke about your boat beiing bigger than your car.

And use bow and stern lines, always.

longer boat smaller roof…


My car might be a tad longer, but the roof line is very short. I regularly drive over 70mph with this chatham or arctic tern 17 with no real roof rack, just foam blocks linked by plastic conduit, and tightly cinched cam-buckle straps wrapped twice around the hull and under the roof. Every thing has to be perfectly positioned and balanced, but it works amazingly well. I’ve since added extend-able straps from under the hood to secure the bow even more…


Groovy roof, I love it !!

My 14 foot Pungo rides on my VW Rabbit
I have the Thule J style holders on the VW rack I had VW put on when I bought the Rabbit.

Since I’m short I do have some problems getting the straps in the right places but once in place it rides well.

Your VW may have a place in the rear to screw in a big hook that VW should have given you. Its a very solid heavy screw about three quarters of an inch in diameter and maybe 10 inches long with a hook on the other end to tie your rope to. Mine is on the left side. In the front there is a place for a front tie down, hidden under the plastic grill crap somewhere, also on the passenger side.

Did it for years
I’ve had 3 golfs, 2 Mustangs, and 2 Camaros, and have carried 15 - 19 foot canoes and kayaks on them all.

As was said already, use quality load bars, and bow and stern tiedowns at all times. I’ve driven all the way to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia with 2 kayaks on a Golf. No problems.

Used ta carry two 17’ canoos…
on me ol’ Ford Pinto wit Quick & Easy towers an’ wooden 2x3 crossbars. Looked funny but no problems as long as yer use bow an’ stern tiedowns an’ common sense drivin’!