Need advice on car heights and loading

I have a shoulder injury and I mostly kayak on the ocean/bays where there are sometimes riptides and strong currents, and I like the ability to go long-distances to fishing spots, so I added a battery powered motor to my 14’ Pescador yak.

With my shoulder injury it’s impossible to get the yak up on my Hyundai Tucson b/c of the height, and I’m ready to replace it with a new car for lots of other reasons. I read a thread here in the winter, and a poster said that a 58” high car would be significantly better than a 63” car like the Soul. No matter the height, I can’t lift my yak overhead so I will need to slide one side up. I’m fairly new to transporting yaks by car. How much difference do you think 4" or 6" makes?

I’m primarily looking at the hatchbacks of the Fit, Soul, Accent and Sonic, based on benefits for the price, which needs to be below $19k since I work for a nonprofit. Also maybe the Versa, Suzuki SX4 and Scion xD. I had ruled out several models because their hatchbacks seem to curve significantly such as the Yaris, Rio and Fiesta.

Two people said it’s possible to get racks for any car model. But for models with fairly curved roofs like, do the racks look strange assuming the rear parts need to be a few inches higher than the front?

Does it also help if the rear cross rail is close to the rear fender - because it seems to me that if I lift one end of the yak up, it would help if I only need to slide it several inches to place it on the rear rail? If the rear rail is 15 inches in, I’d have to slide it further - for example the Rio -

I’m guessing the somewhat flatter roofed models will let the back rail be closer to the rear? Are there any tricks for getting yaks up and down from car tops if you’re solo?

I’d really appreciate input on this. I’m rarely kayaking because of the loading issues. I need to replace the car anyway, but want to get something that will let me load and unload the yak on my own so I can go kayaking. Thanks.

car heights
Use a Roller Loader and you can easily roll your kayak up on your car

I have earlier posted photos here of my 5’ 3" wife rolling our 20 ft tandem kayak on to her Honda ELement with TPS roof rack

Honda Fit
One of our vehicles is a Fit base model. I am short and have a bum shoulder as well. If you get a cheap rubber backed bath rug to lay over the back of the car, all you need to do is prop the bow on the back and slide the boat up from the rear. Works like a charm.

This method might be tough on a rear spoiler, which is why we didn’t get the Sport model.

The Fit is great. Good luck with your search.

Thule Hullivator?

– Last Updated: Sep-28-13 8:41 AM EST –

There are one for $200 and one for $300 on the used market right now...

Also, the rear is usually lower than the front! Even on that photo you provided of the Fiesta - you can't mount them way forward on the front doors usually. You will be lucky if the rear is at the same level and not lower on most cars with curved roofs.

As for cars, small cars with curved roofs do best with a custom installation of Yakima landing pads or rails. This gives you a nice front to back spread between the bars, which also helps with loading a kayak from the rear, if you also install some sort of rak extension such as GoodBoy V-racks, or make your own like I have 5-6 foot long, with Yakima Mako saddles on both front and rear.

As for low roof cars, also consider a base Honda Insight - mine was a 2011 model bought new in 2011 for $16.8K or so before taxes and fees, $18.2 out the door (i.e., registered with tags and ready to drive), which was less than a Fit Sport at the time. And gives me about 40 mpg in warm weather with a "I'm late for a meeting" driving style, 50mpg on the same commute if I settle down with the average traffic, rather than be in a hurry...

Lot’s of good options available
as already mentioned. Here’s another, we have a member well past 80 who put a hitch extender vertically just above his trunk. He put a set of Hully rollers on it and on his back rack. He only has to lift the front of the boat about 3’ to set on the extender, then pick up the stern and roll the boat up onto the car. This won’t work as well with square backed cars.



Should racks on curved roofs be level?
Thanks for the replies. My Tucson came with a flat rack and I just tied it down. For cars with fairly curved roofs, do the roof rack systems slant downwards, and if yes, does this increase the risk at all of the kayak gradually sliding off while driving or is that not a factor to worry about? Or do the rack systems end up having the kayak level?

A bit of up or down

– Last Updated: Sep-28-13 6:06 PM EST –

Should not matter much. But I would begin to worry if it is more than a few inches difference from horizontal at the ends of your boat (meaning perhaps no more than one inch or so at the rack). I would also be even more worried more about the front being much higher than the rear as that might create uplift at speed, trying to fly the kayak and rack off your roof.

I personally like mine level - with a 21' surfski on top I don't want it sticking-up its nose too much. 1" difference off from level on the rack bars in this case would result in one end of the ski being almost a foot higher than the other... It just looks ugly to me if nothing else...

The way you tie down your boat should eliminate any chances of it moving fore or aft due to incline in the rack or a sudden stop. Even on a flat rack you do not want any such movement. So no, if you tie it down right, a bit of a tilt should not cause it to slide.

Car quality
I’ve been looking at many of the same cars as you. I think the mechanical reliability of the car must be just as important as ease of loading a kayak. As far as I know, the best cars on your list are the Fit and the Versa. The Fit is one of the most mechanically reliable cars on the market and number one on my list. The only drawback I can see is that it looks low to the ground, which is a disadvantage on rough back roads to remote lakes.

Most hatchbacks have two problems for loading a kayak from the rear—the rain thing over the back window and the antenna. The antenna can be removed. To clear the rain thing a rolling loader might work.

Curvy roofline…
doesn’t seem to be too much of a hindrance. Folks rack the Prius and Insight. My racks on the '12 Focus hatchback really do fall very near the same height from the ground, although looking at the naked roofline you may not think they would.

If you use J cradles, you can further trim the angle of your kayak by moving it forward or backward.

An added benefit of using J cradles with a hatchback is the extra clearance when opening the hatch.

For sheer ease of loading a boat, I think a sedan with V saddles would be the easiest of all. Put your mat on the trunk lid, place the nose of the boat on the mat, and slide it up.

You’ll find a way.


C tug cart or bath mat.
First I would like to say that a lower roof line is always easier.

However, I often through a bath matt over the back of the car and just slide the boat up onto the racks. It works really well. Some cars need a longer bath mat than others.

For my Dodge Caliber there is a weird plastic fairing the extends from the rear of the roof that does not look like it takes the weight of the boats well when sliding up onto the roof from the back so I slide from the front or the sides sometimes.

C tug carts has a you tube video showing how to use their cart as a loading device.

Good advice. The finalists are -
I’ve narrowed down to the Fit, Sonic, Soul and Versa. I like them all about the same in terms of features/quality for their price. I think the deciding factors should be which is the easiest (or least expensive) to add a yak rack to and which has the best compatibility for streaming bluetooth music and phone calls from the iphone 5/5s.

If you have any of those cars and can tell me how much your roof rack cost and what kind it was, or how well your iphone 5 wirelessly streams music, calls and driving directions to the stereo (and if the music/caller info gets displayed on the screen), that would be very helpful.


get rectangular foam block…

– Last Updated: Sep-29-13 1:05 PM EST –

and dig a hole to fit the kayak's tail.... Take the block with your and when returning...throw block down on ground, plant kayak tail in it and rest the bow up on the rear bar...go to rear and lift & push kayak onto bars/saddles/cradle...etc. No reason to become The Great Alexiev and lift the whole thing. Find the appropriate Thule or Yakima bars...and take a look for those Malone rollers if they'll fit & you can find em'. The only curve in the roof is in between the racks...y/n?..and even with a little height of the bow, when riding, a kayak's aerodynamics is close to its hydrodynamics = pretty efficient, won't catch much wind. THAT is why you want rugged, dedicated bars...not some car maker's accessories for bars.
Put as much space between the bars as you can. The significant area is the footing rigidity. Get a tight fitting cockpit cover to keep air from getting in & grabbing. It'll be fine....

I’ve also heard
the Fit is mechanically reliable. I drove one yesterday and it is low to the ground. The Korean companies like Kia and Hyundai have much better reliability than 10 years ago. I didn’t have a single problem with two different Hyundais that I owned 5 years each. I have a 2012 Versa hatch that I share with my parents in another state that I have to fly to for work. It’s very sparse in terms of features but I heard that the new 2014 has more features. Do you happen to have an iphone, and if you do, do you know how well it wirelessly streams to the Fit, Versa or others?


– Last Updated: Sep-29-13 9:51 PM EST –

We got an Inno rack system for our Fit, and I believe it was less than $280 for bars, towers, fit kit, and locks. The bar profile is rectangular like Thule. I see that ORS Racks currently has them on sale for $256.

I mentioned before that our Fit is the base model, which does not have the rear spoiler, so I can easily load my boat from the rear, sliding it up on a rubber backed bath rug.

Can't help you regarding the iPhone stuff though. I'm still in the world of CD's.