trailer vs. roof

It’s about having the right tool for the
job. When I’m home, I use the trailer. It’s just easier. It takes me less than five minutes from when I decide to go and when I can be on the road. All my gear lives in the boats, the boats live on the trailer. When I come home, I take everything out of the boats, hang it on the trailer and hose it all down in place. Let it dry and then drag it into the garage until the next time. I love my trailer.

That said, I wouldn’t take my tailer to Baja, or down to the river, or down any road that I can’t be sure I’ll be able to turn around in. I wouldn’t take my tailer into most cities looking for a place to park.

I don’t have any additional insurance expense, just a bit of maintaining bearings, tires and electical.

1 Like

Oh, and one more thing…
I have no problem going kayaking without my husband, because the trailer is no problem for me to move and hook up by myself. I would not be able to get my boat on my car alone.

I car topped for
twenty years before I tried a trailer. Now I trailer 95% of the time; about five years now.

I like the freedom of being able to run around without the boats when I’m traveling.

River runs make up about 35% of my paddling and much of this is solo. Anyone with a small utility hitch can shag me and these are pretty common out here due to snow machines, ATVs, etc. Now I don’t have to go all the way back to my put-out. Never had any issues with parking while running the western rivers but we’ve got plenty of elbow room out here.

Travelling on the highway is where the real difference is for me. My primary vehicle is a full sized Wagoneer so roof topping a couple of 18 footers is no big deal, but on the highway the trailer is much less affected by the winds that are so common in my region.

While its true there are still vehicles that will roof carry with respectable spacing for the bars, there are many more modern vehicles that really are not well suited for this. Local short distance travel minimises this issue but longer drives at freeway speeds make me nervous with the often seen narrow bar spacing. The trailer allows me to set the spacing where its best for the boats with very little compromise.

Smoking a bearing or blowing a tire is not the fault of a trailer and can generally be attributed to improper maintenance. Takes me but a few minutes to pack the bearings annually and check the tire pressure and condition each trip.

Learning to drive with a trailer is not particularly difficult but it must be done.

Light weight kayak trailers can also make great carts for the long walks at some of the popular launches. I’ll often leave the car up above and load the boats with my gear than walk them on the trailer down to the ramp. I can get everything in one trip and stay out of the way of the ‘real’ boats… you know, the ones with the loud smelly motors on 'em!

Upgrading this year to a SportsRig trailer. A bit pricey but they are an incredible piece of eequipment. Can’t imgine ever needing another trailer.

I got into the trailer thing due to a female companion who wanted to fitness paddle alone and wasn’t strong enough or tall enouh to easily roof load/unload. I picked out her unit and set it up for her. We usd it when paddling together and in no time I found myself completely spoiled!

I guess I must be one of those trailer zealots!

Pleasant waters to ya.


Sounds to me…
…reading between the lines that you want a trailer, so why on earth did you ask the question to start off with?

What is the lengths of your kayaks?

One of my many daughters is 4’-9" tall and carries her 14 foot kayak in the bed of her pick-up truck.

She made an extended removable wooden cradle that she slides in the bed and then puts the yak on top of that. If she had two kayaks she could very easily fit them there also.

I can only assume that the truck bed is about the same height as the trailer.

Buy your trailer, and then after you reap all the advantages come on back and tell everyone what they are.



Just driving.
Driving a trailer takes some practice, that’s all. Of course I say this with a Trailex alum. trailer loaded with 10 Impex kayaks from yesterday’s pool class, so I do get some practice moving a trailer about.

My experience is that it’s always nicer not to have to lift a boat above chest level. Physics I’m sure but I’ve only got one cup of coffee in me. To accomodate this, boats not coffee, I’d recommend Trailex. Their littlest one weighs just 100 lbs. at most and comes in 2 UPS boxes (yeah aircraft alum.) and assembles in about 2 hours. Costs $700 or so and they do make a 2-4 boat trailer at about $850 - $900, UPSable too. Keep in mind I’m rattling off prices from memory and not in the showroom looking at the price list.

The trailers ride great without sway and I have a big one that when it is empt, hooked up to the truck I can lift the entire trailer and move it around by myself.

Definitely worth upgrading the wheels to the larger galv. rims for a more efficent highway ride.

See you on the water,


Hopefully I can offer my two cents worth without getting involved in this little pissing match that’s been going on. We’ll see…

Trailer/rack: I also use both at different times, as I’ll explain. I tend to use my trailer when I’m hauling 3 or more boats. With one or two boats I usually opt for just the roof rack – it’s just less bother. Trailers are great when I’m hauling 3 or more boats and lots of tripping gear. They’re also handy when I’m paddling/shuttling with a group (don’t do that often, but on occasion). A trailer is overkill for just a couple of boats in my experience.

Trailers can be a bit of a hassle for road-side parking, if you’re pulling one you have to be creative sometimes. It can take some time to find an appropriate parking space, but as has been mentioned you can take the trailer off the tow vehicle and maneuver it by hand. If you do you probably should lock the hitch and chain the trailer to something substantial.

As to backing up with a trailer, the way I see it that just takes a bit of practice. In time that becomes second nature.

As to mileage… I have kept track of this and it’s a fact that pulling a trailer loaded with boats eats into my fuel economy. On the other hand so does a really big stack of boats on the top of a truck… so that’s a wash from my experience. At least with a trailer I don’t get blown around from being top-heavy like a big stack of boats on top of a truck. Now if you’re comparing trailering one or two boats versus roof-topping one or two boats your fuel economy will obviously be better without the trailer.

You’re obviously less likely to run under a low overhang and hurt your boats with a trailer than with a roof rack.

As has been mentioned you’ll get more mud, dirt and general road grime on your boats if you trailer than if your roof rack your boats. If you travel a lot of rough gravel roads hauling boats on a trailer you can do some serious damage to gel-coat. Using a trailer with full fenders and having mud flaps on the trailer and especially on your tow vehicle helps. Your boats will take a beating from trailering unless you exercise some care.

As far as theft goes… sometimes the thieves strike no matter what you’re driving, that’s just life. I don’t think you’re at more risk with a trailer - a person can get locks for both trailer hitches and wheel lugs. In my opinion trailer tires are not more likely to get stolen than car/truck tires, actually trailer tires are worth less. I’ve been paddling for years and going to some fairly remote places and only once had any theft problems. That problem occurred in a designated parking area at a fairly well used canoeing area in Ontario near Algonquin (of all places). The damn thieves broke into the cap of my pick-up truck and stole a few fairly worthless things. Just goes to show that sort of stuff can happen anywhere… Ya never know…

A couple more points: With a trailer you’ll still have to lift your boats, but not as quite as high. Even when I use my trailer I take the boats off when I get home and properly store them – I don’t leave my expensive boats on a trailer – or on a roof rack - to degrade with UV.

No need to read between lines.
My intention should be very clear. I WAS seriously considering a trailer instead of a roof rack system! Why else would I have bother to ask for pro’s and con’s? But I was by no means decided. Or I wouldn’t have even bother to ask but went ahead and got a trailer already!

In fact, I’ve already been convinced to change my mind. The overriding factor is almost everyone who has a trailer also have roof racks! If the cost of the trailer is to be in addition to the racks, it will be a lower priority. Simple as that. Add to that I just scored a used fiberglass yak at no more than the price of a new plastic. The daunting task of loading a 60 lb boat onto a roof rack had just been reduced to a managable level.

Given the positive report of the majority trailer owners and their added advantage in gear organization and storage, I WILL be getting a trailer at some later point, in addition to the roof rack.

I do appreciate most of the response offered here. But when I see a one sided opinion, I can tell it’s nothing but a rant.

You understand me perfectly
More over, since I could sprain my ankle walking down the street, I really need not worry about running on ice, and might as well dance on wet tile floors! ;o)

abc, welcome to the "family"
Like you, I also made the mistake of assuming that this well-moderated board was a place for civil conversation and the exchange of ideas and information.

Compared to my introductory hazing, you got off pretty easy because you did a good job of keeping the discussion on-topic.

For some of these people I don’t know if their societal dysfunction led them to the near-solitary sport of paddling or whether the near-solitary sport of paddling is responsible for their societal dysfunction. Either way, they shouldn’t be allowed access to a keyboard, but since we have no control over that, we’ve learned how to share this board with them.

To understand how this P-Net board works, just pretend you’re back in 4th grade on the playground during recess and all the teachers are in the faculty lounge sneaking cigarettes. You’ll quickly learn who the bullies are, but be warned, many of them are subtle and they will set you up so they can feign outrage and innocence as they howl and whine whenever someone pull’s back the wizard’s curtain and calls them out.

Fortunately, if one ignores and reprimands the trouble-makers – like you’ve already done – there is a lot of good information available from the rest of us.


Back on topic: I grew up in a sailboating family where I learned at an early age to hate trailers for all of the reasons posted above. Paddle with a buddy or get a light boat and you’ll never think about a trailer again.

Ever try to lift a heavy boat way up there and hurt yourself? or have it blow off before it was tied down? I have graphite boats that weigh 25# to 30# and a taurus that is nice and low or else would definitely have a trailer partly because of smelly pfd in car sometimes because am afraid it will blow out of boat. And the the other downside to racks is cars are not made to have a long span with their curved roof so had to pop rivit under the rain gutter to get the span for a 21 ft boat. A trailer would be nice if traded cars often but I do not so who cares if car is badly scratched but not being able to see real well out of windshield because of water spots in the sun make trailering seem more appealing. A trailer would be handy but would go with big wheels for interstate.


– Last Updated: Dec-12-05 12:11 PM EST –

I have both, for all the reasons listed, except for me at 6'3" 240, putting my yacks on the trucks is no big deal. However I do like having them ready to go on my trailer at a moments notice, just hitch up and go! BTW when parking a vehicle with yacks on it be careful of the over hang the UPS guy ran into the rudder of one of mine once. also when the boats are on my trucks by looking at the guy wires I can tell what the yacks are doing. On the trailer its hard to see them while underway. Also my trailer rack IS my roof rack, it just detaches from my trailer and attaches top the roof of my trucks.

Trailer vs Rack
I go both ways

Pros: Trailer is good for longer camping trips when extra gear fills up the car.

And multiple canoes on a trip (as already stated).

Box of trailer can be very useful for other projects around the house: compost, gravel, bicycles, lawnmowers, furniture…

Cons: Long term storage - Do you have space in the driveway or behind the garage?

Parking - not much of a problem, you will park farther away form everything.

Theft - get some locks (hitch locks, trailer locks, cable locks) I am happy I have.

Maintence - Take the bearings out and pack them with grease once a year.

I rebuilt and converted an old boat trailer for $300-400. Can carry 4 full size canoes and 500lbs of gear easy.

ferry cost
getting off long island ,n.y. on the ferry is $3.00 per foot, starting at bumper to the end ,$ 120.00 just for trailer round trip, plus your car and passanger.another $90.00 bucks…plus tolls,so i load up my ford tauras with 3 kayaks and gear for a 10+ day trip .packed in like sardines.i was looking at a new car,{suv too much fuel and cost }alot of cars being made today can not take a roof and or a trailer hitch,the ford 500 and crown vic can not take a roof system,

I may be (relatively) new to this forum but I’m not new to the internet. I was on it before it’s called by that name!

I also work in an environment that grown adults act like 10 year-olds yet still expect respect in return. So this board is, after all, reasonably civilized. I learn quickly to stick to the topic, AND still manage to doll out a few quickies along the way.

I could tell Jay was still harbouring injury from the “hazing” he received from the “trailer zealot” from 4 years back! The rest of the groups are really terrific. Thanks to all!

years with a trailer
well I have been keeping my little yak in my truck camper, but with this years new canoe purchase quickly approching I am thinking about trialers. I drove an 18 passenger van with a 12 foot trailer around the eastern sea board for years for my old job. I miss having a trailer on the truck nowdays. I also feel that making a decent, soild single unit for transit and staorage makes sense. I helped my buddy make a camping trailer where we store his family’s camp only gear, and when it is time to go we can pack the kids bikes and the coolers and the like in about an hour (15 min. if the kids don’t “help”). I will be trying to get an old trailer for myself.

You can always thow some foam blocks and noodles in the storage boxes in case you can’t fit a trailer down some little path.

I am also only 27…so maybe my opinons will change with age…or get more stuborn. I just think that a multi use trailer seems like a good idea.

and on one little note…I did once dent a nice Suburban while jack-knifing the trailer, dented it right by the gas cap with the ladders we had attached to the outside of the trailer…my buddy still won’t leave me live it down!


Bullies? Troublemakers? I don’t think so
I read the same posts that both of you did, and I don’t see that at all. In my opinion, I feel that abc overreacted to (or misunderstood) Jay’s post. I read it as a tongue-in-cheek post with some valid opinions regarding the question about trailers. I certainly don’t understand how abc interpreted it as a “rant” which only served to antagonize the situation. Perhaps Redneck Paddler had a bad experience with some other posters in the past, but to call these posters bullies and troublemakers was not appropriate either, and certainly didn’t make the playground a friendlier place to play.


Spread between bars
Looks like I missed some real fun on this higher up - thank heavens. Anyway, one huge consideration that was mentioned but may have gotten a litle lost was what kind of spacing there is between the bars on a roof rack. (We have Yakima mounts and bars with some Thule components.)

We are on our third Mercury/Ford station wagon, and are leaning towards replacing the ‘97 with a Subaru wagon when the time comes, because we get a low enough roof and enough spread between the bars to feel that it is secure to carry 17+ foot boats on the roof over distances. We have had no trouble even driving in coastal storms with considerable wind and driving rain. Plus, we can see the bows of all of our boats (day boats too) while we drive in case so we can see if anything may need tightening up. And with the car-type roof height, I can handle my boat alone if need be with a few extra wheeled devices, padding and allowing more time.

However, we have seen some awfully precarious car-topping when someone had a very long boat and a very short run between the front and rear bars. The most extreme was probably an 18’ glass sea kayak on top of a sub-compact sedan - the distance from front to rear strap seemed to barely make it around the cockpit. Honestly, it didn’t seem that even front and rear tie-downs could have saved that one in a high wind because the potential for rotation was so high.

Sorry Celia…

– Last Updated: Dec-13-05 8:10 AM EST –

I am putting you back in the middle of this. (no fault of yours) I sat quiet as long as I could. Finally chewed through the leather straps and had to come back for one more call out. ABC, Redneck, I want to thank you both. You have made an attempt to paint me as a “Bully”, “Troublemaker”, “Hazer”. You forget that when you walk into a room full of people you don’t know, and start talking about somebody in the room, you run the risk of really looking bad. There are dozens here on Pnet that know me like family. They know me as a very soft, sensitive, (to a fault) over courteous friend who would take a bullet for most. (self serving? I know, but the truth is the truth)

The reason I want to thank you is that I always wanted to be the “Bad Seed”. I never could quite pull it off though. Kind of like a chubby, freckled faced kid in a leather jacket and chains. It just don’t work. But, you two have managed to get me as close to being a “Troublemaker” as any have. And I might add, made an ass of yourself in the process. Keep up the great work.


You’re my favorite troublemaker…
… but ya ain’t no bully!

What’s Going On Here?
Jboyd posted a simple reply expressing his view on trailers vs. roof racks. I mean afterall, it’s not chunky vs. smooth peanut butter, or rudder vs. skeg, or, God forbid, canoe vs. kayak. Lighten up folks or it’s going to be a looong winter.

I’ve known Jay for some years now, both on the board and paddling Ozark rivers. Never viewed him as a bully, and I didn’t interpret his post here as ranting or hazing.

You want ranting or hazing, try stepping over to the B&B board. I did that by mistake once, and in my opinion it is a dark and dangerous place.

Oh, by the way, I prefer roof racks to trailers. Less expense and easier to get around with. Besides, I don’t have enough room to store the gear I already have, not counting the canoes I would like to buy yet, let alone a trailer.