Kayak car top carrier

Hi all. I’m a new kayaker and would like some suggestions on a good car top kayak carrier. I’m not the strongest girl in the world and would love to be able to load up my boat and go without having to wait on anyone else to help me. I’ve got a little honda with no roof rack and a moderately heavy (for me, anyway) sit-on-top. Any suggestions warmly welcomed!!

Vac U Rack
Well Kate I’m a petite girl too with a Toyota Matrix, no roof bars & a love thing for kayaking. My kayaks weigh 41 and 49 pounds & I take out one at a time 2- 4x a week in summer and 1-2x a week now that days are shorter. All by myself.

For 600 miles & countin’, half of those hwy,I’ve used the Vac U Rak suction cup system sold on eBay. Use “buy it now” today for $61 complete and shipped to your door, you’ll have it by next weekend. The placement of the four suction cups customizes to the dimensions of your kayak. Takes four minutes to set em up and they remove with nary a scratch. Also, You can move them around after your kayak is up there to perfect the fit.

It comes with two tie down racheting straps which I run under the front and rear lips of the coaming. (both kayaks are SINKS) Add Thule racheting tie downs for the bow which stops about 2 feet short of the front end & utilizes the front tow clips.

Then add a pair of rear tie downs (made mine bright red, with a set of red rags as a flag). Now you have 6 way security. I do this all in about 15 minutes total.

Whole thing was $105 absolutely complete & its very secure. Even had a helpful man at the REI store help me pick out the Thulies and a skeptical outfitter/instructor check my gear before I unloaded it. It’s ingenious. Many people ask about it watching me load out or load up.

Give it a try!

Also, get a nice big chamois cloth at an auto store, wet it down, and protect the back rooftop of your Honda when you slide your kayak on and off. Really works and gives just enough grip that you can control the boat. For transport I use it folded up under the bow to eliminate any vibration over my head as I drive. Really works!

Much love & Happy paddling - wish I was where you are : )

a bit on which small honda you have - they can come in really small…

You could also consider a kayak trailer - that really solves the loading problem.

my TIP
Tip, on pricing. By what I have seen here… Yakima and Thule are the most popular brands for cars. so this link is perfect for you. Good luck


I’m 5ft 2in and this morning I car-topped my 86lb yak by using an Oak Orchard SUV roller ( on a wagon, not high vehicle). Mostly it takes practice and determination. If the yak is over 55lbs, I stop to catch my breath.

Thule Glide and Set
I’ve been quite happy with my Thule glide and set.

Obviously this means you have to get a whole rack system, but I have to say it is really easy for me to load my boat on top of my SUV alone. The rear saddles are felt lined so the boat glides and the front saddles flex to form around the hull. Plus this setup comes with 2 straps and bow and stern tie-downs.

Just another newbie’s opinion.

Oh, and my other advice is to use a non-skid bathmat on the trunk of the car if you need to slide your boat into place. The rubber side keeps it in place better than a towel and the fuzzy side lets the boat slide right on up to the roof.

glide and set
I also use the glide and set/ fuzzy bathmat combo. I’m a short girl, and this works well for me too.

Try this
I watched a female paddler loading her Impex on her car top rack without a struggle using:


Hully Rollers
I use a set of Yakima Hully rollers in the back and a set of Mako shark saddles in the front. I have a Toyota Rav4, witha factory rack. I put a piece of non-skid over the rear of the car to protect at the top of the rear hatch door. Then I slide the boat up and roll it forward. My boat weighs 60 lbs, and I am able to roll it up by myself. I use a small 2 wheel cart after I get the boat down to roll it to the water’s edge. This way I can paddle by myself when the paddle partners are otherwise engaged. Good luck to you.


– Last Updated: Sep-25-06 3:52 PM EST –

I have used Thule racks for over 30 years. A few years ago they sold a single bar extension for single person loading. It worked. Today they have a power assisted loader that looks pretty good. However, I have not used the rack myself.

I have had good luck calling Thule America directly, they have always given me good advise. The key here is the weight of your kayak. If you have a heavy kayak you may want to move to a lighter boat in combination with the rack configuration. Lighter kayaks along with a good rack makes paddling more fun and safer. Also, Thule has a lot of component and car mounting options, I have keep my original Thule racks and changed out the mounts several times as I purchased different cars and SUVs. This saves money in the long run.

I am guessing your honda is a sedan with a trunk. Rear loading racks generally don't work well with a trunk, it gets in the way. They are great for hatchbacks and SUVs. I would consider a side loading option.

PS: I don't work for Thule. Happy paddling!!!!

Only works…
…for wagon/SUV that has rear gates to mount it.

On a sedan, there’s no place to mount it on the trunk lid.

vac u racks
what does teh boat itself rest on, if there’s no cross bars?

Huh? Boatloader is an extension bar
It only needs a crossbar to work.

Crossbars, at a minimum
If you want to transport a kayak frequently or for long distances, I’d forego any system that doesn’t involve crossbars on your roof. They clamp/bolt onto the roof instead of relying solely on friction or suction.

There are many options for for supporting your kayak once you have the crossbars. Basically, you can go with cradles (4 pieces per kayak) or J-cradles (2 pieces per kayak), or even foam blocks or tubes.

The shape of your SOT’s hull may influence which of the above you choose.

As for GETTING the kayak up there in the first place, I second the recommendation to buy a Yakima Boatloader extension bar ($60). This device bolts onto one crossbar and slides inside it (usually the front bar). You turn a knob and slide the bar out when you want to load or unload. It gives you a place to prop the bow of the kayak while you lift the stern onto the rear crossbar or cradle. Then you lift the bow onto the front crossbar or cradle. (Whether it’s crossbar or cradle depends on how wide the crossbars are, what type of cradle, how far from the edge, etc.) Because you lift instead of slide, there is little risk of scratching the hull.

I use a trailer to carry the sea kayaks but put my 10’ SOT on my truck topper’s roof crossbars, with the help of the Boatloader. I don’t use cradles for this kayak, just some inexpensive pipe foam insulation over the crossbars. I strap it down with two buckle straps, nothing more; the cockpit has two deep dips on the sides that make a perfect strap retainer. I recently took it through some horrendous Wyoming crosswinds on a 75-mph Interstate highway, and it didn’t budge. But for sea kayaks and their much longer, taller (wind-catchier) dimensions, I would recommend cradles AND painter lines front and rear.

I am 5’2" and can load the kayak onto a 4WD truck using the Boatloader, so you should have no trouble doing the same with your car.

Another alternative is to use one of the shock-assisted side-loading devices made by Thule and Yakima. But they are mucho expensive, about $400 not including the rest of the roof rack hardware you still need.