Roof Rack or Trailer?

I am new to kayaking - just purchased 2 12’ and now need to figure out how to move them. Seem like the two choices out there are between getting a trailer or roof rack for a car - any suggestions on what way to go? I have plenty of room for storage of a trailer.

Any suggestions would help.

We have both, but my preference is
the trailer. Only thing is my husband wanted something to hold several boats and ours will hold 10-12 kayaks. Very nice unit but I’d prefer one that fits 1-2.

I have racks for my car to carry two boats, and due to being vertically challenged (5’2"), it’s a bit of a chore to put boats on the rack. Of course, it helps that I also have a “Roller loader”. Great little invention.

Trailer has to be registered
and then taxed, and maintained.

Another problem with a trailer is launching at rivers or lakes where there is no place to park it.

I have launched at lots of road side places where there is no room for a vehicle and a trailer attached to it

These are the only draw backs that I can see.

jack L


– Last Updated: May-13-10 10:34 PM EST –

If you want to tow a camper (we have a pop up), you can't do it unless you have a roof rack or a rack on the camper. Two trailers won't work. A trailer needs maintenance, and can be a hassle to park, puts more strain on your vehicle.

Trailer vs Roof Mount
Hands down, a light weight trailer dedicated for kayak transport is superior. Our Malone trailer ( can be unhitched from the vehicle and moved around by hand so parking is a non-issue. It has required “no” maintenance in nearly two years. We keep our kayaks on it so prep time to go paddling is zero. We don’t need to worry about parking garage clearances for roof racks. I could go on but will keep this as short as possible. Buy a trailer!

I do both and hands down trailer is my first choice. Maintenance on a trailer is minimal. I don’t know what it costs to register in your state but minimal here. Parking can be a problem, again depends on your location and there are a couple of places that I put the boats on the truck.

What I love, you load the boats quicker at the launch. No lifting over head. Everything is easier and quicker. When you get home you don’t have to unload the boats. Just park the trailer and your done. Mine stays inside most times and gear stays on the trailer. I just hook up and go.

ever been in a car accident

My husband and I started kayaking last spring, so we needed all the transport equipment.

We felt that a trailer would pose more risk for the kayak to be hit by an diver not paying attention.

How many times have you heard “I did not see the you” as a reason for causing an accident. Just hated to loose two brand new kayaks over some distracted driver.

I vote trailer
Bought a Harbor Freight cheapo f0r just over $200 and put some 2x4s and padding on it (and a deck). I can haul 4 boats on it flat and store them that way in the back yard. I think the boats are about 30 inches off the ground, so loading and unloading is a breeze, especially my 65 lb behemoth.

Trailer tag and taxes are about $23 a year. So far, no maintenance other than putting some air in a tire every now and then and checking to see if the hubs warm up.


I have always used roof racks, love mine and have nevery had any trouble with them. We have made several cross country trips (FL-WA) and have driven to some launches on unimproved bumpy roads that I would have concerns about a trailer and boats bouncing around. BUT, my wife and I are reasonably strong and tall enough that loading and unloading is no problem. A trailer is most definitely easier to load and unload, And, if you plan to store the boats outside, it can be you storage rack.

PS A trailer is pretty easy to steal (sometimes with the boat on it), so invest in a good lock!

Trailer is safer for your body
I know three people who dropped kayaks while roof-loading in strong wind. Bad for the boats, potentially bad for the car, potentially disastrous for your body.

A light-duty trailer is cheap to register, insure, and maintain. Just keep the tires up to pressure, grease the hubs now and then (easy and cheap to do yourself if it accepts a grease gun), and take it to a trailer place maybe once every year or two for repack/replacement of axle seals and safety check. This costs about $100 for a one-axle trailer.

The cons are fewer parking options, though kayak trailers are light enough to detach and hand-maneuver for more options.

For me, the biggest con has to do with our particular driveway and terrain (I have to hand-wheel it uphill on a dirt path, which I can barely manage). But on fairly flat pavement, it’s very easy, and anyway our trailer weighs about 3 times what dedicated kayak trailers do.

Other than that, the only major con is if I want to go someplace by ferry.

I would like to get the MPG savings
from using a trailer, but my concern is evasive maneuvers. I attach my boats very firmly to the car, and I know from experience that I can make a moderately severe evasive maneuver and the canoe will stay put. With a trailer? I don’t know.

More dangerous
I’ve been in a serious accident towing a horse trailer. The lady fell asleep and came across the double yellow line. I was nearly able to miss her - she knocked the bumper off the truck and went into the wheels of the trailer. Killed her, knocked the axles and floor out of the trailer. The mule was forward of the axles so he lived, just knocked a hole in his forhead into his sinuses. Had I not been towing a trailer, I would have been able to avoid the accident and the lady possibly would be alive, although she likely would have gone off the road.

Depends on which evasive maneuver
Swerving in general is not something I would not want to do with a trailer. You just learn to drive more conservatively while towing and hope the frickin’ tailgaters stay away. I’ve actually put on my emergency flashers to get rid of them; this makes them think I’m going to go really slowly, so then they finally pass.

But if I had to swerve and there was a drop off the side, I’d rather be towing a trailer than have a roof that’s top-heavy from a sea kayak or two. Then you’re flirting with a rollover, even in a car.

don’t forgat about the parking
Most of the places I paddle it would be very hard to bring a trailer. Taxes and registration can vary widely from state to state. I think all the other issues have been mentioned above. I’ve had both but gave up the trailer.

Bearing Buddy
I wouldn’t have any kind of trailer without them, boat, kayak, utility, snowmobile, etc.

I’ve been using one for 4 years and love it:

  • Salt water doesn’t drip on my car
  • I don’t have an empty roof rack on my car the 95% I don’t have a kayak with me.
  • When I get home I can clean the kayk right on teh trailer
  • I can use the trailer to hold the kayak to work on it.
  • I don’t have to put the kayak away as soon as I get back from a paddle, it can sit on the trailer.

    I use a Trailex MUT-200 but would buy one with better suspension if I was going to transport my kayaks longer then a few hundred miles or on poor roads.

    My tailer works for one or two kayaks, or SUPs, or lumber.

Better the trailer then the car

– Last Updated: May-14-10 12:57 PM EST –

The trailer would absorb some of the impact. The kayaks can be replaced.

I'll take the easy way out and say both. I use the rack when it is just me or a couple of people. For weekend camping with the family I'm hauling the trailer. It will hold 6 canoes, all camping gear and 4 bikes. With rack the trailer is only 6 ft tall so all boats are easy to load and all camping gear is stored in 30gal blue barrels. I can fit 6 of them. The trailer was a former popup camper frame. Thank god my friend knows how to weld!!


I do both
Honestly, they both are good.

With most lakes in Arizona, the trailers get to park near the water but the roof-tops have to park a long distance from the water.

Trailers are easier to load and unload but had extra lights and tires to worry about.

I can carry more gear if I haul a traielr, but i have to LOAD and UNLOAD and WASH all that gear.

This weekend i am roof-topping. BUT if Bonnie had decided t ogo and keepme warm at night, I’d have trailered tocarry more comfortable gear and an extra boat.

personal chopice and I like them both.

Nah, just bring your lighter with you
Y’know, so you can fire up your vaporous “gift for your honey” under the covers (ref. the “New Marital Aid” thread). KaBOOM! That oughtta generate some warmth, alright.

Get a Chevy Avalanche. I let the back seat down any carry two 12’ kayaks w/o anything extending from the bed. For my trip to the Keys last year I usde a p/u bed extension and hauled three kayaks, camping gear and two teen aged boys on the twenty hour trip.