Rack for smal truck that is affordable?

Hello everyone,

Yes new to kayaking. I have a small toyota truck, 6 ft bed, 1994. It did not have a name in those days. Now the closest one is the Tacoma I would say. (hopefully these links work)


I have looked everywhere!! for the right rack for my truck. I’ve seen at least 10 different ones that might work, take a look


But no matter how many combinations I did, it comes down to $400.00 take and give a little. I was almost ready to get the Mirage Rack because it looks attractive in the pictures and also least expensive.


but then I saw horrible reviews here on it. (…Flimsy, shaky, shoddy…) and I would not be surprised since it’s the cheapest at $250.00

So I am resigned to bite the bullet and spend the $400 give and take. After all it’s only $150 more, but for something much better…I think :slight_smile:

The question is then, WHICH ONE? should I simply choose between Yakima and Thule since they are the most popular and seemingly the best quality?

For instance this one at REI retails normally at $500, but they a labor day sale at $400.





eBay Rack

– Last Updated: Sep-01-06 12:35 PM EST –


See my rack in the post above (linked) from this guy aalio with 100% feedback on eBay. Heavy duty nice racks (don;t get the flimsy, collapsable ones, you'll always regret it).

Then, couple it with these:

two custom racks front and back, including all shipping and taxes, are $300 -- but they are sturdy nice looking racks. Add the kayak saddles at $90 per pair (ie one kayak), but you can use these saddle on any future rack system... much cheaper than Thule saddles. So, for $390 you're good to go for one yaka/canoe, and for another $90 for more saddles, good to go for two.

Another tip: I was going to drill my truck and put in these aalio racks, but wished I didn;t have to because my truck does not fit in the garage with these racks instlled. Solution? I use heavy duty c-clamps to keep the racks dowm. I know, it sounds flimsy (and it is ab=dmittedly prone to theft if you live in a high theft area), but it really keeps those racks on my truck rails well and I never had to drill the rails or fool with large nuts and bolts. Something to consider.

Good luck.


– Last Updated: Sep-01-06 1:22 PM EST –

when in use, who cares what it looks like? (Paint it with Krylon Fusion Paint to match the truck if you like).

At home it serves as your storage rack, just slide it out of the back.....


Rack for smal truck that is affordable?
SuperTroll: Uaoo… totally impressed with your idea !.. I am sure I could design my own but do you have any plans? how much did spend on it about?.. looks sturdy… and it could be painted if you wanted to.

CoolDoctor: Thank you for your feedback as well but still a little pricy and the hassle of not knowing if you can return it if you are not satisfied with it etc. You know the thing is, these are basically two pieces of pipe that should not cost more than $120 each, really. Still I am considering it.


– Last Updated: Sep-01-06 4:39 PM EST –

"So I am resigned to bite the bullet and spend the $400 give and take. After all it's only $150 more, but for something much better...I think :) The question is then, WHICH ONE? "

I see, you are still looking for a cheaper alternative, you are not really resigned. Well, I was trying to give the best advice for the amount I thought you resigned yourself to spend. Note that the on sale Thule rack that you link still does not have the kayak saddles, which will set you back $110-$120 each kayak.

If you are looking for the cheap way out, PVC rack should last you a season or so before the UV light breaks down the plastic. Don't cinch the kayak down too hard or it'll break quicker than even that, esp at the joints. Park in low theft areas, anyone with a hacksaw can cut the PVC and steal your boats--or the rack itself. And of course, don't count on resale; with aalio rack, or especially with Thule or Yakima racks, you can get at least 1/2 your initial investment back anytime with a resale on eBay.

If you're a rec kayaker, just planning to go out once in a blue moon, then spending $100 on PVC and about 6 hours of your time to make the cheaper rack may be worthwhile for you.

Good luck. I'll watch your post to see if anyone has other great ideas.
The number for the Rack-It company that makes the racks on eBay is 800-445-7666 (I went outside and got it off my rack).

Yes still looking :slight_smile:
CoolDoctor: Yes, I am still looking :)… and I was very impressed with SuperTrolls’ just because of the IDEA if nothing else. The thing is… I was no expecting these racks to be so expensive… but they are.

The magic of shopping. When the guys at REI told me about this rack for $450 a week ago, I was shocked.


But after looking around it actually compares very nicely to others. The ones you recomended are nice, but they are $165/each. The ones at REI are $200/each. But I would rather have the Yakima set instead. Yakima has a reputation for good stuff, they are very nice looking, adjustable (down or up) and you can remove them as well. But the best of all is getting them from REI. Their policy is unbelievable! truly… If you are not happy with anything you can return it at ANY time (a year or two years later) that is fine with them. They want you happy and this is not a slogan with them. I KNOW.

So, that is why the magic number has to be right. If the ones you recomended had been at $120/each I would have bought them in a second. But I am open to ideas… there must be more entrepeneurs making these products.

Go to the local junkyard
and get a lumber rack. Should be able to get one for $75-100.

lumber racket… hmmm…
hmmm… can you provide a Pic of what they look like? I guess you mean a rack for lumber but can’t picture them. a PIC would help. And you are right, is not just the $400 of the rack set but the other two pieces ($100/each) at REI on sale this weekend. Total bill $600.00 w/o taxes!!.. Ouch… It’s just a big bite of my kayaking budget, so I am considering all options.

How much do you think to build the one in PVC? do you really think is that fragile? but I must tell you it’s intriguing :slight_smile: I mean from $100 to $600… that’s money I could spend in equipment.

SuperTroll - More details please
I assume you build it yourself?

Did you follow any plans whatsoever?

How long have you had it? is it durable?

Please give more details. :slight_smile:


Also check your local auto trader or ebay. I am using a shell that has crossbars on my 1990 Toy p/u. Got that for $100

Initally, when looking for a way to carry my kayak I too built a PVC rack for my PU.

The problem I had was, with the kayak on the rack, there was a large amount of movement side to side while going down the road. After the first trip, I decided that that type of rack was not sturdy enough to do the job.

NOTE : That was a rack I built, another rack built of PVC might work for you.

I modified mine with short braces to the sides of the truck both at the top and bottom of the bed and it helped a bit. In the end, I thought that there was just to much movement to trust it.


I looked at racks for many months and finally bought the System One from Christensen Mfg. It is all AL, absolutely rock solid and the brackets are easily removal. When you put on a canoe or kayak, it’s not going anywhere even with the “Utility” version. You can convert to the “Contractor” version later if you want and although it is more than you have quoted, it’s still very competitively priced with other commercial racks. I have NO regrets with this product. It even has built in ratchets as an option which are great.


I think I found it! $192 the 2 racks!!
Hi everyone,

First of all (Otis, the two chucks (wood and tsunami), thanks for your help. It’s nice to get several ideas and to know that others have gone through the same pain.

OTIS: I am still intrigued by the PVC idea… if you want cheap… well, you can let your imagination go wild and make something interesting. HOW MUCH did you spend on it? IOW, how much do you think it would cost now? $100, $150? - Also, what did you get instead of the PVC?

WOODCHUCK: Thanks for you recomendation. Yes I looked at them but I think I found a better deal for budget. Take a look, what do you think?

TSUMANI: (What Tsunami do you have?)

Thanks for the suggestion of AUTO-TRADER/EBay… you’r right I might get lucky too and get a shell with the crossbars on it. I used to have one for my previous truck. But I will definetely look at trader for the next two weeks… I might get a deal. But if I don’t, take a look at the link. What do you think?

Ok guys here it is at $96 a piece (+ $13us shipping probably = $110/each), IT IS VERY REASONABLE… assuming of course it is as good as it looks. Even the one with the “horizontal bars” (more stable I am sure) at $285, still reasonable. I am tempted to the the horizontal bars but… I don’t know… since my Tsunami 140 only weights under 60 lbs, the racks alone should handle it… don’t you all think?


Notice it is a commercial unit (for carrying ladders), rated at 500 lbs. Also notice the tube sizes:

OD=Outside Diameter. The second should have been Inside Diameter, don’t you think?

• Outside Tube Size: 1.625" O.D.

• Inside Tub Size: 1.375" O.D.

Cheap - Rack/foam block combo…
Oak Orchard Canoe (http://www.oakorchardcanoe.com/racks.htm) makes custom truck racks that use Yakima cross bars. Their base model is $150, and it bolts to the bed walls. On the front (cab) I use a standard Yakima Q-tower setup, but you can use foam blocks until you have the $$ to upgrade. It’s seems a good way to start because the crossbars are compatible with all Yakima and Thule accessories. You can upgrade with some saddles/rollers as you go.

Here are some pictures of my setup:


Note: my rear rack is designed to fit under the rails of my tonneau cover (allows me to open and close the cover without removing the rack - which is the main reason I purchased this setup).

As far as quality, it has worked well for me so far. When I first used it, I was a little nervous because it swayed back and forth a bit. This is likely because the plates that bolt under my rails are made (IMO) of a thinner gauge steel than they should be. The style that bolts to the inside of the bed rails may or may not have the “sway” problem. This said, I have carried 2 boats (14.5’ & 17’) on 3-4 hour trips (each way) numerous times, and have had no problems. After this season, I will have to spray the mounting plates with some Rustoleum because they are getting some surface rust (they are not powder coated like the upright bars).

Anyway, good luck!!


– Last Updated: Sep-02-06 10:01 AM EST –

Been there, done that... Yep, I understand all the reasons but for me, I didn't want to drill holes in the top of my side rails. If I were looking at buying a used PU truck, I would not want holes in the top with plugs in them. Just my feeling. With the System One, you drill 7 1/4" holes along each side wall which is much more desirable for resale. If you weren't looking, you would never see the hole plugs if you removed the rack. I personally had a hell of a time trying to physically look at a System One rack before purchasing but after doing so, there were no more questions to be asked. It is simply the best system out there, period. Be sure to examine the accessories like the mounting rings, etc. that can be located about anywhere on the vertical or horizonal rails. IMHO, it has so much flexibility you can't appreciate it until you own it.
If your in the SE MI area, you can come see my rack anytime...
CYA, Joe

$60 for shipping? Ouchhh :slight_smile:
Hi Woodchuck,

Well you convinced me… I mean, I trust much more what regular people have to say than slogans or salesman pitches. But when I went to order it, the shipping turned out to be $58… almost $60… OUCHhhh… don’t these people have a heart? :slight_smile: That is a lot just for shipping…

So I am back to square one. thinking, calculating. But the unit does look solid and with your testament… I am still interested in it. Thanks for your help.

Studying your rack - great pictures!
Hi Telelounge,

Thanks for the information. Great pictures!.. just by looking at them (since I have NEVER trasnsported a Kayak on rack like this on my truck)… you can almost tell that with the weight of the boat and wind hitting it, even at 60mph on the freeway… the rack BETTER BE ROCK SOLID… right?

I am still looking at yours and again thanks for your help. Keep tuned :0


For ideas on pvc truck racks, look at
kayakfishingstuff.com and texaskayakfishing.com. Both have search engines. To prevent a pvc rack from sliding around, you either build it tight to the dimensions of the truck bed or tie it down. If your truck has tiedowns at the top side of the bed, that makes for a very steady rack. Also, the size of the pvc pipe used makes a difference. Nothing less that 1 1/4". I’d use 1 1/2". Very inexpensive rack, though a bit on the bulky side.

You can also use EMT electrical conduit. Get the thin wall, its less expensive than the heavy duty stuff and will hold up. Its going to be more expensive and more difficult, but it works. Too bad you don’t have stake holes in your truck bed. My EMT conduit rack uprights, 1 1/4", fit nicely in the holes, though I’ve bolted them to the bed sides for extra security. I was lucky, I had 78" Yakima bars left over from canoeing days in the 80’s when cars still had gutters. Stored the towers, used the bars.

Steel tubing
You can build a rack similar to Super Trolls out of 1" EMT electrical metal tubing and corner fitting from canopies for $100 or less. It will come apart for storage. Google Tarpman for the fittings. The 1" EMT is the same diameter as Yakimas bars. Another option is Unistrut which is avaliable at Home Depot or Lowes. With the proper fittings, you can build any style rack you want. Also check with local welders as I have seen some custom racks at resonable prices.

My Set-Up
This may not be right for you but this works great for me, and allows me to have all of my bed for whatever. It seems that you can rack almost anything for under $250 (before you add stackers and cradles and the like). I have racked 4 vehicles in the last 5 years ( the cool thing is that after you go through this a couple times you start building an inventory of stuff that can be used from one vehicle to another and the cost starts going down each racking.

Personally, I do not want you to skimp. I may be following you some day and want your stuff secure. Get what you want. Life is too short to be running around 2x4s and pool noodles and bailing twine (honest to god i have seen bailing twine and bungees holding boats - YIKES!"


Good Luck