Trailer vs Car Top?

OK folks. I am interested in your opinions. I am debating between purchasing a car top kayak rack setup vs having a trailer hitch installed on my smaller automobile and purchasing a trailer. Any comments plus or minus from other kayak or canoe owners who have done either are greatly appreciated. I own a 12’ SOT fishing kayak BTW. My third option is to purchase a newer smaller truck but that is another entire discussion for another day. Thanks so much in advance.

It’s really up to you…
and how you feel about car topping your boat. My heaviest boat is around sixty pounds. I’m still in reasonable condition and I’m six feet tall. Loading a boat on a rack is fairly easy for me. Finding parking spots and turning around on forest roads is definitely easier without a trailer.

That said, if my boat was heavy, if my arthritis was worse, etc. the trailer would be so much easier. I’d never lift it over waist high. A light weight trailer is easy enough to move around, a lunker like my old trailer, not so much. Trailers are easier to stack an extra boat or two on, yet harder to store.

Something to think about,


Tjalmy nailed it
I have both but only trailer when I need the stowage. On the other hand I load 14 ft poly boats on a tall SUV by myself by grabbing the combing for and aft and picking the boat up and setting it in the J’s.

I went with trailer
I just bought a new truck and wanted to carry my boat using it. I had previously used my wife’s SUV to carry. I debated trailer vs. roof rack. I had decided on roof rack and purchased all pieces needed. When I went to install, it would not fit (not even close) although manufacture said it would. So I returned all the parts and found a custom trailer maker to build me a trailer. We used designs that he had previously built and I tweaked to my needs (minor). He had it built in about a week and the price was way cheaper than the Yakama or Malone trailers. I’m so glad that I went this way. I traded for a fishing kayak and there’s no way I could have put it on top of my vehicle.

Do a search or ask around for trailer builders. You could find a design from another builder and take it to a local shop.



you have to be comfortable towing one

you have to have a place to park it


limited utility

high load height

If you have the storage area and the vehicle equipped to pull a trailer, it’s always handy to have a flatbed utility trailer that can easily be converted for hauling kayaks and a whole lot of other things. I bought my trailer to haul my kayaks, but I often use it for hauling firewood and many other chores.

plus, towing isn’t that hard
Much easier than a camper, for instance.

If I didn’t have a rack and a good low roofline, and had a place to store it, I’d be looking into trailers. As you say, they’re useful for more than hauling boats.

I trailer
I use a converted boat trailer to haul my kayaks. The racks are removable and can be used as a utility trailer. I can throw the bikes in the trailer and the kayaks on the racks plus the camping equipment. But the thing I like most is you can see the boats in your mirrors when you’re driving down the road.


I have a 2012 Scion xB that I had a permanent roof rack installed as well as a trailer hitch. Because I have just one car and have a two car garage, its easy for me to store my kayak on my Malone trailer, hitch it up in a minute and be gone down the road. Plus, mine is rigged to carry three kayaks, so easy to bring and extra and pick up a friend.

There are times when I’m meeting up with peeps in areas that I know have limited parking, then I car top. That’s more of an issue for me as I’m old, short and fat, but I use the trailer as a lift-off point and can do it after much huffing and puffing.

As far as being able to turn the trailer around if you come to a deadend etc. Easy. Just unhitch the trailer, put you rig in position, and then rehitch the trailer. Or, learn to be really good at backing, which I swear I’m going to do…someday.

Unless you are comfortable pulling a trailer, and not worried about potentially getting into some tight situations, a trailer is sometimes a bit much.

Yes, I have customized a trailer that I use when both my wife & I are using our “lake” kayaks. It is a breeze to load/unload, and I am usually in places with plenty of room (I am also quite comfortable backing up with almost 20 feet of “stuff” sticking out behind my truck’s back bumper). I’m also fortunate to live in the country, with plenty of room to store the trailer (it actually lives inside my shop, but could easily sit outside and not be in the way). Lots of folks living in a more suburban/urban environment will find storing a trailer a huge hassle, considering it has to sit somewhere year round, and is only used a handful of times.

On the other hand, if I’m hauling our shorter boats for floating the smaller rivers, they go straight in the bed of my truck. That is the ultimate in convenience! :slight_smile:

I have loaded them on top of my wife’s SUV, and while not hard, it could be a handful for a shorter person, or heavier boats.

As others have said, it all depends on you and your circumstances.

Having towed 40’ offshore race boats, 30,000 pound construction equipment, cement mixers (which are short) and hard to backup because they are short I’d rather put it on a roof. I have an Ford Excursion a very high SUV and my biggest kayak a Libra XT 100 lb. and 21’-6" long. I am 63 but in decent shape. If I want to go park with a trailer it could be a PITA like a restaurant or a store. If you figure out the proper way like I have with my Libra I can load it on the roof myself. Best know how to to fasten it on either to be safe. Friend tied his and ran over a strap which pulled the nose of the Thermoform kayak nose down and ruined it beyond repair.