Transporting 16' Canoe on Subaru Rack?

We’re about to buy a 16’ Canoe (used) but we’re unsure whether or not we’ll be able to carry it on our Subaru (the only car we have that could handle it). It has a stock rack, and simple measurements look like it’ll be close. Width is the real problem, though until I really put it up there, I’m not 100% sure if it is a problem or not.

Does anyone have any experience with this? Or, do you have any suggestions as to what we can do to make it safer/more secure? We’re on a limited budget, which is why we’re buying a used canoe in the first place :slight_smile:



I had trouble
When I tried to put an 18’ long canoe on my Forester. The canoe was too wide to sit stablely. I broke down and purchased an aftermarket rack with substantially longer crossbars. More expensive, yes, but gave me piece of mind.

Depends on what Subaru and what rack
I have a 98 Forester and a 03 Outback. While you can get canoe brackets from a Subaru dealer, I highly recommend an aftermarket rack system. I’ve been using Yakima products for 20+ years, but Thule would work too. With a Yakima system, the Forester easily handles a 17’ canoe. The Outback has more of a problem since the top of the car is narrower. With the Outback I have to put one of the brackets outside the Yakima tower, making either my 16’ or my 17’ canoe sit to one side.

I always use 2 straps over the belly (middle) of the canoe. If I’m going to drive at highway speeds or for any farther than 15 minutes to my local pond, I use bow and stern straps too. My Forester has nice tow hooks on the front to tie to, but there just isn’t anything handy on the Outback. Instead I use webbing straps attached to one of the bolts under the hood. I pull out the straps when I need them and tuck them back inside when I don’t.


Get some 2x6s and slot them to drop
over the arc on your Subaru rack. Improvise a clamping system. You should be able to handle a wide canoe that way. I have Yakimas for my Outback, but later on I realized I had spent a lot of money on something I didn’t need.

We’ve had success
We carry a 16 footer on our 2004 Forester. It has essentially a 36 inch beam at the gunwale. It fits comfortably within the width of the standard rack (Ihe crossbars are still set as they arrived from the factory). We use straps to tie down to the rack; and we use ropes (inverted “V”) for the bow and stern. (The inverted “V” works well because the Subaru has convenient brackets on each of its corners.)

One disconcerting thing about the Forester is that when you center the canoe on the rack, the stern of the canoe is 4 feet behind the car and the bow is less than halfway across the hood. After a few times you’ll learn to make sure everything is in the trunk before you tie the canoe on!

2005+ outbacks
Have towhooks underneath the front bumper corners, which is what I use for my bow strap for my kayak. I will run the strap through the front grill too to keep it from sliding off to the wheel well. The 05+ outback has one towhook in the back which is what I will use for the stern strap. One can crisscross the front straps for 2 boats this way also. I don’t know about the older Outbacks.

I have 58" wide Thule crossbars on mine which is surely wide enough for a canoe.


Thanks for all the fantastic advice everyone! I really appreciate it!

Bow & stern lines are for safety only
Don’t tighten them down too tightly or you’ll risk damage to boat. Use 2 straps rather than ropes over belly of boat. These you can really snug down. (unless you’ve kevlar, graphite or fiberglass hull) Once you get an “expensive” treasured boat & cartop it any distance you’ll likely invest in a dedicated rack system but until then anything that’ll get you on the water …

Tandem on Subaru
Should work well. A good percentage of our customers drive Subarus.

  1. get a set [4] of cross cut blocks that snap over the Subaru cross bars and have indents for the gunwales.

  2. get 2 1" nylon straps with caming Stainless buckles. Get them longer than you will need, its pretty easy to cut them and burn the new edge, real hard to make them longere.

    They go under the crossbar on the far side, then wrap the loose end once arounf the neer side before slipping it through the buckle. and tightening

  3. Open the hood, tier 24 Inch lengths of web around the sides of the frame that cradles the top of the radiator. These should then be able to project from under the hood when its closed.

  4. Tie two seperate ropes from the bow of the boat to each web loop.

    No need for a stern lone, you probably won’t be backing up at sixty miles an hour.

    Better info and photos at

I am relativly new to the canoeing world, and was wondering if a subaru WRX, the wagon version, would be able to safely carry a 16ft canoe over long distances at highway speeds. And if so, any recomendations for what kind of rack i should purchase. I didnt want to start a new thread since this question is related, but all the answers seemed to mention outbacks and forresters. Although i am pretty sure that an outback and WRX are fundamentaly the same, i just want to be sure. Thanks!