kayak carrying commuter car

I’m shopping for a new car (either brand new or 2 or 3 years old), primarily for commuting to work, but I want to be able to put the (18’) sea kayaks on it and gear in the back. My main three choice are: Mazda3 hatchback, Toyota Matrix, Honda Fit. Has anyone used either of these for kayaking? Is it possible? Is there something similar I should consider?

if you can find 'em
A bit older though:

Camry wagon

Corolla wagon

Mazda protege 5 wagon

Rack ratings and tie points
If factory racks are available, check the ratings. If not, make sure that an after-market rack is available that will fit.

Also check to see that there are suitable bow and stern tie points.

Check out the Pontiac vibe is the same vehicle as the matrix, but you pay more for the Toyota badge.

tie points
Ahh yes, anchor points for bow and stern lines is something I hadn’t even thought about. And they’ll be even more important when the boat is twice as long as the car!

Buy what you want and a trailer
Then no roof racks to worry about.


– Last Updated: Jan-31-08 12:17 PM EST –

i use a "X" pattern when strapping down my kayak on saddle carriers(NOT the foam block kind)..using ratchet style straps..i lop 1 strap from the rear bar around the front of the cockpit rim and then back to the rear luggage bar on the opposite side of the kayak, vice versa for the rear , so the straps pass around each end of the cockpit forming a x where they cross each other. cinch down appropiately, not too tite for poly, and the boat rides like a rock, no bow/stern lines needed. I've had the whole package up to 100 mph in tests. no problem, hardly a wiggle @ that speed. j-bars are another story, still xperimemting with them. newer cars have few anchor options for tie lines.


– Last Updated: Feb-01-08 8:00 AM EST –

We have -and are quite pleased with -our 2004 Mazda6SportWagon, bought new in January of 2005. Got an internet 'steal deal' on a VERY well-equipped mid-size for a GREAT price. If you COULD find one used, I'd strongly recommend -but they're rarer than hem's teeth: we've seen about only a dozen in the 2 years we've owned ours (one of which is a fellow South Florida paddler!), and that's not only here in Miami, but on the road to, from, and at, Iowa, Illinois, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina during that span.

Barring that, we, too, have been looking at a Mazda3 since we lost our fine '98 Jeep Grand Cherokee when a friend had an accident in it -returning it to us! Oh well... At any rate, we'd pursue the 5-door if it only got better mileage.

One of Sally's brothers has a Toyota Vibe, er, Pontiac Matrix, oh, I suppose it really IS a Pontiac Vibe, but as good ole' Swedge pointed out, they're basically the same car, maybe even produced on the same or at least parallel assembly lines, but you pay less for the Vibe and get Toyota quality. We're looking at a Vibe because it looks better than a Matrix IOHO, costs less, and it has a better mpg than the Mazda3.

As to bow/stern tie-downs: don't sweat it. Send me an email and I'll show you what it looks like with our Mazda6 Wagon -and I didn't drill any holes, or use any hooks. Simply tied a good rope in a loop around the post that holds the grill and acts as a vertical stabilizer in front -almost all cars have one. I made it long enough to hang out when I close the hood, and I clip my adjustable length, tensioned front tie-down to that loop.

On the back, I tied another loop around the inverted U-shaped bar to which the rear liftgate locks when shut. Again, I made it long enough to hang out, and just like the bow tie-down, I clip my tensioned, adjustable-length rear tie-down to that loop.

You can probably use the same arrangement with just about any car.

I would as a prior poster advised, check on roof rack load ratings, and also, on what bar spread -the fore-and-aft distance between crossbars -you can achieve by using the factory rack, and see if it can be significantly improved by using towers to hold the bars (go to Thule, Yakima, Malone, or Saris websites to see and better understand thru illustrations what these terms mean), A good spread improves stability and safety when you tote your boat, supports the boat at strong points (or if you use cradles or Js, puts a more stable hold on the boat).

After that, look into whether you want plain bars -good-to-OK for most poly/plastic boats, or if you want to add saddles or cradles for a composite boat. These will come with their own cinch straps, but next is to research your bow-stern tie-downs.

Once you've gotten all that sorted out, you'll have a fine system to tote your boat and then you can get out there, wherever there is, and


-Frank in Miami

roof racks
I think the main reason I don’t like the Vibe is that the factory rack is so short and toward the back. Where do I find rack ratings, or even roof ratings for these cars?

As heavily discussed here before:
That’s great, unless your rack goes. Some here have posted links to photographs of what’s left of their racks. B&S tiedowns ensure that the boat doesn’t go flying if that happens. . . .

roof racks
Factory roof racks are generally not all that great. Buy a car without a rack and buy a Thule or a Yakima. I drive an '03 Matrix, it’s a great car. I have a thule rack with J cradles for transporting my Tarpon 120. Works great, the low profile of the car makes cartopping relatively easy.

Rack weight limits
are usually listed on the rack manufacturers website. If you go through their configuration steps where you specify the car and what type of attachments they normally have a weight limit shown after specifying the entire system.

Going through this process also shows you which options (if any) you have in putting together a system for the car you specify.

Mark - Owner of 04 Matrix with Yakima racks (Q-towers), one set of Mako saddles and hully-rollers, and one set Malone Auto-loader J cradles.

PS - I went with Matrix over Vibe because Yakima had 75 lb limit for Vibe (using factory rack) vs 150 lbs for Matrix using Yakima racts. Not sure if there is still a difference for current models or if Thule systems have different weight limits.

I’ve had my 2003 protege’5 for 2 years and it’s been a nice little car. I put a thule roof rack on it earlier this year. I got everything I needed from ebay over the course of a couple months and it worked out to about 60% of the cost of a new rack system.

As for transporting kayaks, I only recently purchased a kayak so I’ve only transported it 4 times. I use Malone j cradles for my boreal fjord which is about 17’ long. No issues but I can’t compare to other systems as this is all I’ve used.

I’m 5’6" and appreciate the low roof of the protege. I doubt I could get my kayak onto the roof of a truck or suv without damaging the vehicle, the boat and myself.


Here’s a warning. I purchased a cheap
roof rack from Advance Auto for my 2005 Hyundai. I carried my 13.5 foot kayak everywhere but had a couple of problems. First, the feet on the cheap roof rack DENTED the roof of my car and they won’t come out.

Second, I tried two (2) kayaks up there and the rack started coming off the roof. I had to slow down to 30 MPH. Good thing it was only April on the Upper Delaware River or I would have been blown off the road by angry motorist.

You get what you pay for…some of the time.

ditto older wagons
i got a 95 camry wagon last year, its a great car. mine has 100k miles. i paid < $5000 including repairs/maintenance to get it ready for another 100k miles. its about as dependable as a brick, has plenty of room, carries a couple of yaks on the roof plus a trailer, gets 30 mpg etc. IF you can find a good one. they dont make em anymore.

Mazda 5
Bought a mazda 5 and it’s great for work and play. The seats fold down for lots of cargo space and comes with holes drilled and taped for their cargo rack. The rack is limited so I extended it with longer bars for multiple boats. Also came with lots of extras like a nav system for the same price as the others base models. Check it out.

Mazda 5 tie down
Forgot to say that the car has a pop out plug on the front bumper and a large eyebolt from the spare tire section fits there. Used to anchor the car if it needs to be towed but really works great for tieing down a boat…