Roof Rack/Trailer Options-Can't Decide

Like every decision I am facing right now, there are almost too many options. My wife passed away 8 weeks ago.

My daughter and I have always enjoyed kayaking (rentals in many locations around the world), so I bought 2 12’ used Kestral 120’s. I used a U-Haul trailer to pick them up.

I now have two very different vehicles which gives me several transport options.

2004 Lexus GX SUV - It has factory crossbars, and I bought a Malone Stacker but found the setup too tall for me solo even though I’m 6’1". My daughter is too short to help. This vehicle already pulls a boat trailer. Option here is finding a trailer to convert to kayak hauler.

2013 Prius - no trailer option. Much newer vehicle for road trips. Been looking at racks and the Inno system seems to be the most reasonable for a base setup. I’ve been looking on Craigslist, but haven’t stumbled on the right deal. Downside is wind noise

It seems the cost is going to be right around $400 either way at a minimum.

So - trailer vs. racks?

just my $0.02 - I’d rack the prius
But check around for used crossbars and components. The fit kit for the specific car, you might ave to buy new. OTOH there are ore and more…Prii, so you might find those used also. And you already have the stacker.

A trailer to me is something else to have to futz with and store when you’re not using it. And not every put-in I use has room for one. But you’ll get other good opinions here to help you decide.

I’m really sorry for your loss. Good on ya for getting out paddling with your daughter.

There are pluses and minuses to using a trailer, but I think the pluses outweigh the minuses for me. I use a flat-bead utility trailer with removable bunks that I built out of 2 X 4 lumber. The bunks are padded with carpet wrapped over carpet underlayment padding for a nice soft ride.

The advantage of the trailer is that while the boats still need to be secured, they don’t have to be cinched down as tight. Loading is as easy as it gets. Parking has never been a problem and even if it is, the trailer can be detached. Be sure to provide a good lockup system to discourage theft of the trailer. I use a big chain locked through a wheel, but I hardly ever park my rig where there is much chance of theft.

I’ve even thought about building a Harbor Freight folding trailer and customizing it for kayaks.

Magooch - would you mind sending my a picture of how you set up your trailer?

I’d rack the Prius.
In fact, I just made the same decision under similar circumstance. After mulling it over I concluded that storing the trailer, registering the trailer and maintaining the trailer, (lights and bearings), would be a major hassle for me. It would be nice in many ways, but he storage issue is the killer for me.

I just put a new base Yakima rack on my 2012 Prius. It fits extremely well. You do get noise when it is empty but it is very easy to take on and off for trips. The newer model yakima q towers have an improved method of installing the q towers - no more cams - just gradually tighten with a allen headed screw system. It works very well.

I found this Sportrack setup on the Costco website. The reviews there and Amazon are pretty good. Looks like a good pricepoint.

Rack plus kayak flat
I far prefer to transport a kayak lying flat, cockpit up. I tried J racks and found it quite a bit more difficult to load the kayak.

My preference is Thule square bars with Thule Glide n Set pads. With this setup you can load from the rear. The kayak slides over the felt rear pads and is gripped by the rubber front pads. You can add a rear roller loader if that would help, like the Thule Roll Model. Cover your trunk with a heavy carpet.

All of these items are ridiculously expensive. I have purchased all of them on Craigslist for half price or less. They are frequently available on Craigslist. There’s no reason to pay full price for them.

There are other decent brands. See for example the options at They are good folks to talk to and will steer you toward cheaper but good options. But I still think Craigslist is your best bet.

Thanks Waterbird. ORS has the same Sportrack system as the prior link. Even cheaper and they don’t add sales tax. I’m going to call them tomorrow and ask them the diff. between these and their Thule cousin.

Trailer or roof
I have a trailer that I have used for several years now. It was an inexpensive investment that I can also use to haul 16 foot mouldings and other building stuff. I aint much to look at but it works great. Yes bearings and elect. can be a pain every once in a while because it stays outside. I also have a roof rack on top of my truck with a hitch T bar on the back. Getting a canoe up there and tied down does take more time, but it does have the advantage in crowded parking lots. They all have advantages and disadvantages. Sorry to hear about your wife. I have been married to same woman for almost 30 years. I couldn’t imagine what I would do with out her.

Thanks Flippin. We were married 24 years and she was 48. It was a shock to everyone. There was little warning and no time to prepare. It was a complex situation but basically an infection that attacked her blood.

My only caution with roof racks that
don’t bolt securely into the roof/rack somehow is to be very sure to tighten the racks up before and during trips. A friend with a Prius had one loosen up and at 55 mph lost both the rack and yak resulting in over $500 in repairs. Luckily it didn’t hit another car. R

In the Sportrack system
The width of the cross-bar is adjustable by sliding one section inside another and securing with a bolt. This is inherently weaker than the one piece bar of Thule. That said, the rack’s feet attach to the car in pretty much the same way as real Thule racks and the rack itself is rated up to 130 lbs, a value that can surpass the max-load for certain cars.

Sportrack was a Canadian company and the racks are pretty common around here in Quebec. I’ve used one for the past couple years on a 2005 Corolla. Not as hefty as as my old van’s Thule rack, but sufficient for hauling around one or two 45 lb kayaks…