I am a kayaking beginner. We need to carry four kayaks on our Ford Econoline (2005). I’d rather not buy a $700 roof rack. Is it possible to tie them onto a more affordable ladder rack, or is that a recipe for regret? These are shorter, plastic starter kayaks. We could try pulling the seats and putting them in the back, but then we won’t have room for any passengers. The solution might just have to be two cars. We are only driving for about an hour. I’m wishing now I hadn’t sold that Harbor Freight trailer.
In short you can do most anything you’re comfortable with. If they are short plastic kayaks they are likely quite durable. Just support well and tie them down securely but don’t over tighten, ie bend the boat. Summer heat and over tightened ratchet straps can put a dent in the boat. I’ve seen boats carried on 2x4 lumber fastened to vehicles. It needs to be a system that supports the boats, keeps them from moving around and/or flying off the vehicle.
Either way vans are tall. We carry a step stool to reach the roof of our van.
You know it is possible to spend $1,300 on a ladder rack system.
Ladder rack with some sort of stacker and good straps should be fine. The stacker helps as it provides a positive lock to prevent left/right shifting. Th boats would go on their sides.