Looking for ideas for transporting a 19 ft canoe

Hi everyone!
I recently got a vintage 19 ft Grumman canoe, and I’m dying to try it out, but discovered that it’s actually too big to fit on the rack of my 2017 Subaru Outback (it’s just a little too wide for the factory installed roof rack.) I’m looking for ideas to help me transport it: I’ve looked at canoe trailers but the longest I’ve seen say they’re for boats up to 17’. I see photos of 19 ft Grummans online with trailers, I just can’t seem to figure out where I can try to buy one (I have seen a couple for sale, but most were far away from. me–I’m in the Pacific Northwest–and most were being sold with a canoe, which I don’t need.) I know someone here can help me: give me you best ideas/recommendations! I’m also open to ideas for DIY utility trailer options or bigger roof rack suggestions, if somebody has successfully gotten one of these on top of their car (I know it can be done!)
Thanks in advance for your time and suggestions!

I have always piggy-backed Thule aftermarker racks on my cars with factory racks. Bt the Subaru factory rack was a bad idea for them – I know a lot of people frustrated with the limitations of that design because there is apparently no way to augment the rack. I wish car companies would just have sturdy longitudinal racks to which owners could affix crossbars of their choice to best suit what they need to all.

But back to your problem: if you could add longer crossbars you could haul it but you will have to completely remove the factory set up and invest several hundred dollars in a new rack. A trailer will run you over $1000. You need at some point to weigh the economic reality of spending a lot of money just to be able to use a rather low end canoe that I presume you got free or cheap. I would suggest you pick a clear sky day when you are CERTAIN it will not rain and load the canoe right side up on the Subaru rack (get a couple of hard foam “pool noodles” to duct tape to the crossbars to give it a cushion to sink into before you securely strap and guy it to the car – guy lines to the bumpers front and rear, please). Then take it to the closest water and try it out. Decide if it is worth keeping and making the necessary investment in adapting your vehicle for transport OR if that money would be better used in buying a narrower canoe that will fit what you have.

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Could you clamp some longer 2x4 bars on top of your factory bars? Because the factory bars are somewhat arched, you’d need a spacer near each end of the 2x4 (just inboard of the rails) to raise the 2x4 a bit. Then use U-bolts to bolt the 2x4 and spacer to the factory bar at each end.

If that’s feasible, another forum member ( bud16415) has a nice DIY canoe loading system he invented to get a heavy canoe up onto the 2x4 cross bars.


I went old school and made my own rack and extra long crossbars to extend the width to 86” so I could haul two wide canoes hull up side by side. I think I have less than 50 bucks in the whole thing and it has worked out fine for a couple years now. I used pressure treated 2x4 and painted the parts that stay on the car gloss black and they don’t look too bad and better even don’t make noise at highway speeds. Mine go on a tiny KIA Soul and it handles the load fine.

It looks like @Wolf beat me to the punch line. LOL.

I was going to say the weight for loading alone can be a problem and even if you can lift it some protection for the car is a good idea. My loader makes it an easier lift and keeps the boat away from the car.

I will post a couple pics and I have more documented in a thread.

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Thanks for the suggestions and information! We certainly have not been big fans of the Outback’s factory rack. :frowning: You’re right that I’d prefer not to sink a ton of money into this transport system, but I’m a little attached and I’d be willing to sink a little, plus my time and energy (still, re-selling and buying a smaller canoe is always an option.)

Brilliant!!! This idea for the win! And big bonus that it also solves the loading-a-heavy-boat issue, too. Thank you so much for sharing!

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This is exactly the type of expert suggestion I knew I’d get from this forum. :slight_smile: I love this idea, and I really appreciate the specific how-to to over come the arched factory bar problem. Thank you!!

A 19 foot Grumann is going to be at least 120lbs. If you fabricate a roof rack extension, make sure the factory anchor points are up to the task.

A trailer may be a better option. Getting it loaded/unloaded onto a car top will be a challenge.

Sometimes you can find used boat trailers that need a little work for decent prices.

Your budget will also be a factor.


Hope I stimulated some thoughts on how you can make something Subaru Outback specific. I have no idea what you have to work with on your rails or cross bars. My KIA came with nothing but the roof and four plastic covers that snapped over where a rack could be added I guess. There were four 6mm threaded holes under the covers so that is what I started with. The main (black) rack I made 48” wide and it works for a single boat ether our rec-kayak or my canoe. I add the extended rack for 2 canoes or 1 and 1 or even 3 kayaks possibly. I rounded and painted the ends blaze orange to warn people not to wack into them.

They are held on with four bolts that are counter bored for the head and washer and that makes the top a flat smooth surface for sliding the boat across, and I don’t drive around with them on unless the boat is on or going to be on in short order.

Our local cop pulled over one day when the boats were loaded and grabbed the bow and pushed on it rocking the whole car and the boat was solid. He looked at the straps bow and stern and the main hold downs. He told me he stopped with the intent to tell me he didn’t like what he saw with the boats hanging outside the body line, but I changed his mind and he saw it as one of the safer setups he had seen. We live a block from the launch site and he sees a lot of car toppers.

There is two ways to use the ladders when alone. After you tip it over and it rests on the ladders you can stand between the boat and the car and hitch it up one step at a time till you are about half way up. Then you come outside putting the boat between you and the car and slide it up and over. Starting 3-4’ off the ground and having it stabilized by the slope makes it a lot easier than lifting from the ground up. The other method is to go from end to end and walk it up the ladder a step at a time. With two people you can each take an end and go right up. 99% of the time I have the extensions on and do the lift solo. The biggest problem is it draws attention at the take outs and there is always someone that wants to help and they push on one end and get me going crooked despite me saying I got it and please don’t help.

On your car depending on the width of your cross bars you may need to use a 2x6 to get a bolt on each side of your crossbars if you don’t want to drill a hole thru them. You could then make a clamp bar with two tapped holes across the bottom. I think I would just drill thru the crossbars myself. U-bolts might work as suggested but you will maybe end up with something sticking up.

Our other car is a KIA Sportage and I added aftermarket crossbars as it came with rails only. So far she just uses it for her OT rec-kayak when she goes without me. I have thought about extensions for it as then we could leave one car at takeout and take the boats to put in with the other rather than shuttling. Where we boat it is only about an extra 20 minutes doing the shuttle where we have to leave the boats sitting alone. It is a safe location and I haven’t set the other car up for it yet. If you post some pics maybe you will inspire me to make a second extension and ladder setup.

Good luck.

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Willowleaf brings up a great point. Make sure this is a boat you want to keep before throwing money at transport solutions.

A 19 foot Grumman would probably be a barge to paddle but add a small outboard and it would be a lot of fun!

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I thought long and hard about a trailer as I could use a trailer for other stuff as well now that I sold my pickup truck. We would need a trailer and both our cars would need hitch and lights wired. The reason I didn’t go with the trailer is most of locations we put in and take out are not trailer friendly and I would end up parking a long ways away. If your good with backing up a trailer and you have ramp boat access a trailer is a great solution.

I did buy a kayak dolly thing for about 40 bucks on line and we love it. I put her kayak in the canoe with all our gear and roll it to the water and then toss the wheels in the canoe and they ride downstream with us.

This is a 23’ C4 being tranported on a Subaru Forester from NY state to Whitehorse. it is on two long standard Thule bars attached to the factory rails on the Forster, plus a custom home made support attached to a trailer hitch carrier. Normally I will easily carry this same canoe and two 18.5’ C2 canoes (one at a time) onmoderately long over road distances without the trailer hitch attachment, but for a 3,000 mile each way trip out and back, I added the extra security. The bow is always tied down to webbing straps fastened under the hood.

here is another photo of a cedarstrip 28’ voyageur canoe from NY similarily affixed on a GMC Yukon SUV overlooking Dawson City, YT.


Check out Malone’s options. I have a MicroSport LowBed trailer with 4 J-racks, and they are supposed to work for up to 20-foot kayaks. Mine are 15.5 and 16.5 with plenty of room to spare. They have a lot of different solutions.

Malone Auto Racks

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You just need crossbars that are wide enough. My canoe is 35" wide and I have no trouble fitting it on the crossbars.

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I don’t use a rack with my pickup. I use noodles and strap it through the doors. Not the best, but an option.

I just picked up a Reese one person canoe loader. I can get my 74lb Tripper on the roof of my truck by myself, but hopefully this will make it much easier, especially when I have the 5th wheel hitch in place. They are 39 and some change from Amazon right now. One of these may make your life easier.


For really big canoes a trailer is best. You can modify an old power boat trailer. You can buy a ready made one but make sure you get the tongue extension for a 19 footer.

Many good roof top solutions on here. Cars used to have rain gutters and mounting racks was easy. I have hauled two or three canoes a long way on 2x4s.

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As a lifetime user and lover of Grummans, I have to take friendly exception to your assumption that this is a low end canoe, and probably free or cheap. The 19 foot Grumman is a legend, and vintage used ones in good shape often go for 1-3 thousand. I’m assuming it’s a square stern. Will take a motor nicely and haul an enormous load. If it’s double ended ( should then be 20 feet) then it’s a rare beast. Obviously not for all people or situations, but a serious, and for many, beloved, boat.

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I don’t think they make a trailer big enough for this 34’ voyageur canoe we raced on the Yukon River. This photo is in a hotel parking lot in Fairbanks.

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Daaaaaaa . . . aaaaang! I almost had a boat like that. It had a steering wheel up front and one in back.

This one does too. they are called bow paddler and stern paddler. I initiate draws, bow rudders and post to carve us around turns from the bow when entering a turn, the guy in back does draws and rudders on my lead.

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