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?

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.

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.

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

I wish they still made the Accord or Camry wagons.

If You Can Find One…

– Last Updated: Dec-13-10 8:24 AM EST – 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

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.