Roof rack - Distance between cross bars

My current vehicle can accomodate a roof rack distance between cross bars of 48 inches. I use such positioning for my 16.5 feet, 58 pound tandum canoe. I am considering the purchase of a smaller vehicle. What do you all think about a distance between cross bars of 40 or 44 inches

Welcome, don90630,
That distance is still quite good for hauling canoes.

For comparison, I use a Subaru Impreza hatchback to haul canoes 18.5 ft./53 lbs. and 17 ft./68 lbs. and the distance between rack bars is only 30.5 in., which isn’t great but it is what it is. I’ve traveled at highway speeds of 65-70 MPH without problems, though I tend to stay off the interstate when hauling a canoe if I can. Getting buffeted by a passing semi-truck going 75-80 MPH can be a bit unsettling. :wink:


1 Like

Over lots of years of installing Thule racks, 27” is the minimum bar spread for hauling over length items like canoes and kayaks.

See you on the water,
Marshall Seddon
The River Connection, Inc.
9 W. Market St.
Hyde Park, NY. 12538
845-229-0595 main
845-242-4731 mobile
Main: []
Store: []
Facebook: []

1 Like

Thank you all for replies. I tested 44 inches in on my current PT Cruiser. The roof of the car I am considering, the Mazda 3 hatchback, will accommodate a 44 inch distance between crossbars.

We have a Subaru Forester and have hauled a 16’ and 18’ kayak as far south as Key West and north to Ontario multiple times from Maryland without incident. We go to the Adirondacks every year. Always use bow and stern tiedowns and double up on all the straps for very long distances at highway speeds. We have a 42" distance between the crossbars.

The main thing is to make sure the center of gravity for the boat is between the bars.

I have a Nissan Frontier with a six foot bed. Because of the bases on the Thule rack, I get less than 5feet between the bars. I regularly carry 19 and 21 foot kayaks on it.

I have a 2011 ford explorer. One of the reasons I got that SUV is that the side rails end all the way up towards the windshield, rather than between the front and rear doors like most SUVs. Not sure what the distance between the crossbars is, but it’s been sufficient to keep any front to back rocking from happening when everything is cinched down properly. Unfortunately, the newer model Explorers (2020 and forward) have a sloped roof that might be worse than having crossbars that are closer together.

Thanks again to all who have replied. My 2008 PT Cruiser has a sloping roof, and due to the resulting pitch of my 16 ft canoe, I am not able to lower my canoe from the hoist to the car and back out of the garage. Now it is hoist to cart - cart to alley - cart to roof of car.