Hybrid cars and MPG kayak on roof

With gas prices going crazy I was thinking of getting a hybrid car. Maybe a Hyundai Ioniq or a Kia Nero Hybrid BUT was wondering what kind of MPG you get when a 16 foot long kayak is on the roof. I figure this might be the best place to ask. So anyone with any brand hybrid what happens with just the roof rack on and then what when a kayak is added to your MPG . I would assume its most effected at highway speeds. Is a Hybrid worth it if you have a kayak on the roof? Please nothing about EV cars just hybrids.

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Hi @dc9mm - I had a Prius for several years and frequently transported a 17’ sea kayak on it. With roof racks off I averaged close to 50 mpg - this was a 2008 Prius that was bought new and I drive relatively conservatively. Newer models get better base mileage than my Gen 2 car.

With the racks on, MPG went down by a few, but not drastically. At the time I just used foam blocks for the kayak so if the boat wasn’t on the car it was just the bare bars, and I used Aero bars. Adding one kayak took it down significantly, especially on the highway; on a 5000 mile road trip from Rhode Island to Key West in January I averaged 35 MPG, the kayak was on the car essentially the entire trip. Adding a second kayak really causes the mileage to plummet even more.

I bought the Prius in 2008 as the gas prices were going up - I was driving an F150 so that was a pretty drastic change in fuel economy! One thing I do remember was that shortly after I bought my car Priuses became very hard to find, given the chip shortages now and with the quick increase in gas prices I imagine a similar hybrid/EV car shortage soon.

Hope this helps! I really liked my Prius, it was a fantastic car. Only reason that I didn’t get another one was that I moved to Florida and felt I needed something a little zippier with all the crazy drivers here. Up in New England it was great.


A friend who calculated more carefully than me just estimated 5 mpg per kayak assuming a lot of highway for a 2021 Toyota Rav4 Prime. Which is a hybrid w a home battery charge option. For one kayak that still puts it at or slightly above the mpg for all gas if my memory is correct. And then you are not always driving w a kayak on the roof in many parts of the country.


My wife has been driving a Kia Niro for about a year. Mostly on the highway between Boston and the Cape to see granddaughters, and some city for grocery shopping.

No feedback on MPG with kayak… She doesn’t. But, her avg MPG has been around 50. Even if the MPG goes down with a kayak on top, it’s got to better than a normal gas motor car with a kayak on top, e.g my Honda Fit which gets around 29/30 MPG average without the kayak.


2021 Ford Escape hybrid with Thule Aerobars. Left side has Thule Hullaport Pro old style J bars (resembling the original Hullaports), right side has the new Thule Hullaport Pro J bars (resembling the Yakima Jaylow). Average 40 mpg w/o boats and 35-38 mpg with boats (depending whether ww boats, bulbous light touring, or composite touring). Previous ride was a 2008 Subaru Forester which typically would give about 30 mpg w/o boats and 25 mpg with boats.

Not a hybrid, but as an example, I had a Jetta TDI wagon that got 55 MPG on the highway without kayaks, and around 50 with them. Not sure if a hybrid would be affected more or less than a diesel by loads on the roof, but you definitely will see a difference of some amount.

Any car, hybrid or not, that is designed to smoothly move through the air (good aerodynamics / low coefficient of drag) is going to suffer a noticeable reduction in fuel economy when a kayak(s) is strapped to the top because it not longer has a good aerodynamic design.

Whereas, a car/SUV that has the design of a box (poor aerodynamics), like my '96 Discovery, will see very little difference in mpg with or with the kayak because the addition of the kayak doesn’t have as dramatic degradation on the vehicles aerodynamics, because the aerodynamics were fair to poor to begin with.

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Note that mpg is a terrible way to show fuel consumption. The drop from 50 to 40 mpg is much less costly than from 40 to 30 mpg. The l/100km or gallons per 100 miles would show impact much better.

Mostly high-speed driving will be impacted and that would be the same for hybrid and none-hybrid cars. Non-hybrids probably would suffer more from the added weight for acceleration and braking since hybrids re-couperate some brake energy.

Short of doing the EPA test with the kayak on the roof, all numbers will be anecdotes, but you can see a trend. In general it is good to take of stuff of the car if you don’t use it. I see all winter people driving around with their J-supports for kayaks (probably the same people complaining about gas prices…). Someone also could steal your roof equipment.

There is a good economic reason for hybrids. Also note they have much better transmission, starter, almost no brake wear and other money-saving features as part of the hybrid drivetrain. Obviously it depends on how much you drive.


It should be noted that hybrid mpg tends to drop some with cold weather. Makes sense, the car is running a bit more on the gas phase with heating systems going etc than in more moderate weather.

I went from gas to hybrid, same vehicle, and the hybrid is much easier on the pocketbook. The details of when and how are less important than the overall result.

Auto transmission on that Honda Fit? Curious because I have a six-speed Fit and average 38 mph in the winter with four snow tires. Have gotten 50 mph in the summer with a kayak on the roof.

Thanks for all the replies everyone.

it drops quite a bit for regular ICE cars as well. Probably more so. and when you sit somewhere idling in winter for a long time, the hybrid at least will intermittently shut off the combustion engine and run heating until the coolant needs heat again.

And again, the 5mpg you lose from 50 to 45 mpg are much more fuel than the 5 mpg you lose from 25 to 20 mpg.

I’m luckily not in the market for a car right now. But if you have to have a fuel-efficient ICE car, it will have direct-injection and some CVT or 8-speed transmission. Direct-injection alone will cloak up the intake valves and the tranny will… not last as long. Just google for all the people that have to remove the valves and clean them with walnut shells. Or watch some guys that take apart old engines (old, as in 60,000 miles), what you see on intake valves will make you choose a car that at least has port injection as an option. Only few manufacturers offer both port and direct-injection. Toyota, some VW, and Ford afaik. But that leaves Toyota to choose from since a Ford or VW will fail for other reasons. Just that alone would make me buy a proven hybrid like a Prius with port-injection and eCVT. That before the fuel savings.

That and soon-to-be obsolete and very expensive to fix electronics limit very much what type of car I would buy besides fuel savings. Fuel savings are fine, but my old-school car never will have those type of repairs.

I’m not advocating for you to buy one or the other, but consider the life cycle cost and how much you like the new fancy touch-screen user interfaces where you need to use a screen to adjust the temperature or turn on heaters while driving over rough roads. Don’t get me started on tiny mirrors and glass areas.

Well, I believe I know what mileage I am getting for each trip because my car has a digital readout of trip mpg. As to winter versus summer differences, I think some of that can be ascribed to heated steering wheels or heated seats (which run off the hybrid battery).

I fully agree on the change in the maintenance of the newer cars. It is not great for people who want to earn a living doing this work when what is on the road is a computer with wheels and a transmission.

Unfortunately at some point that will be the case for any but the “classic” cars. Even the non-hybrids now are more computer than traditional car in the old fashioned sense. A friend of mine insisted on buying a new cas without many of the fancy features in order to get one that she thought would be less fussy. The dealership scraped one out of somewhere that met her criteria. But during the first hard cold snap, her car had if anything more problems than mine with the battery dying if she did not drive it every day. Because it still had enough computer action that it was occupying itself even without being driven.

Aero bars may result in less of a hit in fuel consumption than non-aero. My Honda Fit has a Thule rack with square bars, and the rack alone knocks the normal 36 MPG down to around 33. That’s in mostly 45-55 MPH country driving with a bit of 65-70 highway driving. My Hyundai Elantra GT (hatchback) has Thule aero bars and its normal MPG of 33 doesn’t seem to suffer from the rack.

Yup. Auto transmission. Other negative factors on MPG also: 1) I keep the Thule rack and hullivator on at all times so I can surf whenever waves show. 2) I only drive to surf so the longboat will be on the hullivator, or the waveski in the car. 3) I made a (environmental related) decision to eschew driving long distances to “paddle” or “surf” these days. I mostly go to two local breaks within a 15 radius of me which largely involve local driving with a tad bit of highway. 4) My kayak/canoe fishing venues, either freshwater or salt, are all local driving to launches with 20 minutes of my house.


Sorry I just have too…

My diesel truck fuel mileage isn’t affected by kayaks on the racks, but put 10,000 pound trailer in the back and I loose 5 mpg.


I think that’s fine if you are willing and able to afford the fuel. It’s just annoying (at least to me) when some guy in front of me in the gasline “bitched”, while looking right at me, about how unfair that he has to paid $125 to fill up his Ford 250… Didn’t know if he wanted to pick a fight with me or what.


When I had my 4wd pickup I used for hauling a lot and snow plowing I was fueling one time and a old guy came up to me bitching about how much fuel I was buying and how could I afford it. I saw he had a pack of cigarettes in his tee shirt pocket and I told him I didn’t smoke. He said what’s that have to do with gas. I told him well what do you pay a pack about 2 bucks? He said heck no more like 6 bucks. I said wow and a pack last a couple days? He said no about 2 packs a day. I said 12 bucks a day times 7 days that’s around 80 bucks a week that’s more than I pay for gas. So I get to drive a big truck because I don’t smoke. He told me I was crazy and walked away in a huff.

An old timer I worked with used to say if you want all that economy you will have to pay for it.

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It’s definitely a choice at first and than an addiction. I started smoking in college in the 70’s. It was actually considered “cool” back then… (think of the messaging of the “Marboro Cowboy” and the concerted effort by Big Tobacco to cover up the health detriments, much like Big Oil with climate change).

I smoked from college up to about 15 years ago. Because I was/am active throughout most of my life, I really didn’t appreciate the toll on my wind that smoking was taking. In my early 50’s, I started to notice that I could hold my own in sparring matches up to the 3rd/4th round. After that, I was sucking air and then getting my a$$ kicked. Being competitive with certain aspects of my life, I went cold turkey and kicked the habit in a matter of 2 months. I still have half pack of unsmoked cigarettes sitting in my office desk drawer as a reminder of my old habit/addiction.

Of course, now I am finding that I can’t hold my own with youngers guys I coach for more than a round or two. After that, I “run out gas” and they kick my butt back to me graciously.

I can afford to buy gas more than a lot of folks lined at the pump. I choose to not to as matter of personal/social choice.


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