Best roof rack for under $300?

-- Last Updated: Sep-25-16 9:54 AM EST --

I tried the $40 Swiss Cargo kit w foam blocks from Dick's and the setup fell apart in transit. I ended up going w the 12 ft Old Town Dirigo 120. I had to get off the highway twice to re-tighten it, the boat was literally sliding off my car. I got there and the straps had been almost burned through and they cut into the kayak. I'm pretty pissed, returning it to Dicks. You get what you pay for. Would like a long term solution that is fast and easy and above all SAFE for highway travel of any speed and distance. I have a 2008 Acura TSX. Is my car too small? It was disturbing to see the boat sliding off on the highway. Thanks!

Also - it was incredibly loud when I got over 50 mph. I'm assuming this was caused by the air going into the cockpit creating a milk jug instrument kind of effect. If I put a cover over the cockpit will this solve the noise? Thanks again.


– Last Updated: Sep-25-16 12:00 PM EST –

Go to the Thule site and find out which combination of components are specified for your car model. Write down the part numbers and then look on Ebay for used ones. They are quite common because people end up with rack components that don't match their cars when they trade the old ones in (car dealerships don't want aftermarket racks on cars they except in trade and many private buyers don't want them either.) I've bought most of my Thule racks over the year this way, even finding the exact setup for my new Mazda last year on Craiglist from a guy less than 2 miles from me, which was $350 worth of rack parts for $170.

In fact, I just checked and your car needs the 480 base units. With a pair of 50" bars it would be $399 new. So I checked Ebay and found at least a dozen listed, several in bidding and many with "buy now" prices under $150. There are also pairs of the 50" bars for between $50 and $100. So you could easily get a Thule set up on Ebay for under $300, even with shipping. If you want to take a chance on bidding and are successful, it could be well under $200. I've never had any problems buying used Thule components. Even if sets are missing things like the locks or bar ends, you can buy them cheaply from Thule or a Thule dealer. Also buy Thule's good straps or the similar ones from NRS. They are much heavier and more secure than other straps and will last for years. I have one pair that are at least 20 years old with some fading but no signs of wear, though I have hauled boats with them hundreds of times.

There are several ways to reduce wind noise. One is to twist the straps when you fasten the boat to the car -- avoid the temptation to make them "neat and tidy". Flat straps tend to flutter and hum but if they are twisted the wind is diverted around them. Also, get a hank of braided nylon cord (parachute cord or even 72" braided nylon hiking boot shoelaces) and wind it around the crossbars of the rack, tucking the ends into the open ends of each bar. The rubber plugs that go in the end of the bars will hold them in place. Having the cord wrap also breaks up the air flow over the rack itself.

I've found over the years that it's best to carry the boat hull side up and cockpit down. Having the hull resting on the crossbars during a long hot drive can cause dents in the hull. Even if you get some dents in the deck from carrying it upside down, they won't affect performance like hull deformation will. You should not get any dents if you use regular buckle straps and don't crank them down too hard -- NEVER use ratcheting cargo straps for a kayak. Also, this upside down hauling allows water to drain out of the boat after using it and the boat won't collect rain if you end up driving in a storm. If you choose to use a cockpit cover to reduce turbulence, be sure to secure the cover to the decklines somehow, or it can be torn off by the wind and go flying into someone's windshield.

You also need to ALWAYS secure the boat not just to the roof rack but to your bumpers front and rear. If there is no point under your bumpers to do this, you can buy or make loops of sturdy nylon 1" webbing that fasten under your hood or trunk to which you can tie off the stern and bow. I suspect you did not do that when you were using the cheapo carrying kit or you would not have had so many issues. I used one of those foam block and strap arrangements for the first 2 years I had a kayak (a 14' touring model) and I drove several thousand miles with the boat on it, including several long distance interstate trips. But I always had the boat tied to both sides of both bumpers to keep the wind from shifting it laterally.

Awesome, thanks!
That was very helpful. My friend mentioned Thule too. I just went to REI but the bars + rack was $700 new. I am going to check ebay, could you link me to what I need exactly bars and all?

As Willowleaf said…
“Go to the Thule site and find out which combination of components are specified for your car model. Write down the part numbers and then look on Ebay for used ones.”

As I said, your car needs the 480 “foot” base units and a pair of 50" bars. If you go to the Thule link it will tell you that. List price for the kit is $400, which is just the total of the separate price of the feet and bars ($200 each).

I don’t know what you could have seen at REI for $700 unless you were looking at the Hullavator side loading mechanism. You just need a basic rack to haul a kayak like you have, not fancy saddles or j-racks.

The bars alone were $500
Then the rack was $1-200

Check Craigslist, too

– Last Updated: Sep-26-16 8:48 AM EST –

I've gotten some killer deals on racks there and you don't have to pay for shipping costs, which can be pretty high for items like crossbars. You may end up needing to buy the clip kit for your car locally or online, but that's a minor expense.

Try Yakima

– Last Updated: Sep-26-16 9:01 AM EST –

I have been using Yakima racks for over 30 years. I rate them for 80mph with my kayak, less with the canoe.

Wrong stuff
If you’re being quoted $500 just for bars, then you are looking at the wrong stuff. The most expensive Thule bars I could find on REI’s website were aero blades for $219 ea/$438 per pair. Basic, rectangular 50" load bars are $99 a pair and can be found cheaper if you do a little Googling, or as others noted, go on Craigslist or eBay.

Oh ok
So the entire setup including everything shouldn’t cost me more than $2-300?

The options have been laid out for you pretty clearly. A Thule setup is about $400 new, less if you find pieces used - what’s so hard to figure out? Going cheap on a rack for a $10,000 car seems pointless.

Do you not listen??

Do you have some kind of cognitive issue or ADHD? I explained IN DETAIL exactly what you need for your car and where to get it within your budget. Yet you keep asking the same questions?

This is also what I did when you were anxiously begging us for recommendations for a kayak within your budget – I sent you links to available boats and reasons why you should consider them instead of what you were fixated on. BOTH times you’ve completely ignored everything I, and several others, told you.

READ THE ANSWERS. People are losing patience with you, and with good reason.

why do you keep asking?
I told you in the FIRST answer to your post that you could get the entire Thule rack for your car new for $399 or get the parts used for around $200. What about that was not clear to you?

I’m laughing so hard
I’m crying Tsunami tears.

(This is stuff the Halifax Comedy festival only dreams of…)

Is only a bargain if the towers come with the correct clips which is unlikely. He can get a brand new Yakima setup without any worn or missing parts for $330.

you can get the fit kits used

– Last Updated: Sep-27-16 9:04 AM EST –

I did. I paid under $200 for a complete Thule setup.

Mazda (not the most commmon manufacturer)


Used Thule crossbars: $50
Used Thule Fit kit for Mazda 3: $45
Used Thule Feet or Towers: $78

He keeps asking because he is trolling you guys. This is NOT a real guy with a real problem. This is an internet clown having his fun doing what internet clowns do. Actually he is REALLY good at it. Spinning second and third threads off of the original is kinda brilliant in a Troll sort of way.

Its too bad
people do take their own time to make really good detailed explanations of their recommendations.

We might think before wasting our collective time. Sometimes less is more

Craigslist karma.
I paid the extra tariff to have the factory side rails added to my Mazda CX5 when I bought it last year, then immediately checked local CL for rack components: Bingo! A guy had just traded in his own Mazda (different model but same rack design) for an Audi (what a dummy!) and was selling the crossbar clamps and rails for $175. They turned out to be like new and he only lived about 10 minutes away from me.

I seem to have the most bizarre CL karma. No matter how obscure some item might be that I seek to buy, it seems to turn up within days on there within my price range or better.

Thanks for info!

Thanks for the info regarding buying off Ebay. I’ve been trolling Craigslist for awhile now and not finding anything in Thule to fit my car.

I looked up part numbers like you suggested, but a lot of items on my local Craigslist are lacking model/part numbers and when contacting people they don’t know what they have. I do prefer the Thule over Yakima because of the square bars.

I went with a Sportrack summer 2015, but in loading my kayak, it got knocked loose and isn’t real easy to get back on. And since knocking it loose, it scared me into realizing I need a better rack with foot pads that are specific for my car.


Newbie here