Best Kayak Roof Racks for Cars Without Rails – Expert Reviews and Comparisons

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best kayak roof rack without rails for cars

In order to safely and conveniently carry their kayak, kayaking enthusiasts need a roof rack. An individual can transport a kayak safely and securely on top of their automobile with the use of a roof rack system, eliminating the need for a trailer. 

In this post, we’ll go through the most useful features, pros and disadvantages, and vehicle compatibility of the top kayak roof rack alternatives for vehicles without rails. Whether you’re a seasoned paddler or just starting out, a solid roof rack system may make a world of difference when it comes to the security and ease of your kayaking excursions. Kayak enthusiasts understand for a good paddling experience, the need for a secure and reliable kayak roof rack is mandatory. 

So that they can transport their gear safely. However, not all vehicles come with built-in roof rails for installing a kayak rack. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when browsing through various models and brands of kayak racks for cars without rails. But worry not, as we have done the research and testing for you. Below are our top picks for the best kayak roof rack for cars without rails.

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Best Overall: Malone VersaRail Bare Roof Cross Rail Rack

Best Kayak Roof Rack for Cars Without Rails

Our research led us to conclude that the Malone VersaRail Bare Roof Cross Rail Rack is the best kayak rack for car without rails. This adaptable rack is made for cars that don’t have factory roof rails, such as sedans. Silicon pad suction cups won’t leave any marks on your car’s roof as they secure the cross bars in place. The construction is reliable. To further strengthen the suction cups’ security, 1.5-inch-wide, heavy-duty nylon safety attachment straps are woven into the car’s interior.

In order to accommodate your kayak transport requirements, you can order the Malone VersaRail with either 50′′ or 58′′ long corrosion-resistant metal load bars. The load bars are similar to a kayak rack for a car with rails in that they allow you to carry multiple kayaks at once using a set of J-cradle position (not included). The rack can be set up in a flash, making it ideal for impromptu excursions.

A 2-door sedan isn’t the best choice because the kayak rack system is made for 4-door vehicles only. It can carry up to 130 pounds, which is something to think about if you have heavy kayaks. The Malone VersaRail, on the other hand, is an adaptable rail system that can be installed on the roof of a car in place of the factory rails.

Reasons to buy:

  • Quick and easy installation
  • Can be used with J-cradles (not included)
  • 2 load bar length options
  • Durable materials
  • Can transport more than 1 kayak

Reasons to avoid:

  • Relatively low weight limit
  • Not for use with 2-door sedans

Car Rack with bow-stern tie-downs

Best well packed – AUXMART Universal Roof Rack

auxmart universal roof rack

There couldn’t be any more convenient options than this one. You won’t be sorry you bought this kayak rack for car without rails when it arrives. While there are a lot of systems out there, only a few offer customization like this. You can confidently manage a high volume of data, all of your information will be encrypted, and the system will last for a long time. In the end, it outperforms all the others. Many customers who tried it had a very favorable experience. Due to this, the system is highly regarded. Examine the following list of benefits to get a sense of why it was so well received. People love this kayak rack for car without rails. This definetly is what it’s name suggests a universal roof rack for cars without rails. 




Weight capacity of this universal roof rack for cars without rails is up to 150 pounds Rubber feet for stabilityand with Width adjustment. Don’t resort to hacking and drilling Clamps for attachment. All-Purpose Design  to Put Together with Directions which makes up for a Great Kayak carrier.

Best Value: Seah Hardware Universal Roof Rack Crossbars

Seah Hardware Universal roof Rack for car and kayak

The Seah Hardware Universal Roof Rack Crossbars are the best kayak roof rack for cars without rails due to their optimal balance of price and performance. This rack is meant to look like the conventional crossbar-equipped roof racks found on rail-equipped vehicles. However, padded feet are included so that it can be used on the roof of a car even if it doesn’t have rails. Another wonderful universal roof rack for cars without rails.

The universal roof rack crossbars from Seah Hardware are simple to set up and modify. The set includes two crossbars, each measuring 48 inches in length with a maximum width of 52 inches to accommodate a variety of vehicles. Most kayaks will fit on the crossbars, and they can hold as much as 165 pounds. This kayak rack for car without rails definetly suits most.

The Seah Hardware Universal Roof Rack Crossbars do have one drawback, however, and that is the fact that they can make a fair bit of noise while driving, especially at higher speeds. If you rearrange the crossbars on your car’s roof, you can significantly lower the amount of outside noise entering the cabin. Anyone would recommen this as one of the best kayak rack for car without rails

Reasons to buy:

  • Affordable
  • Easy to install and adjust
  • Compatible with most types of kayaks
  • Can support up to 165 lbs

Reasons to avoid:

  • This kayak rack for car without rails can be noisy on the road

Best Versatile : Thule Hull-a-Port Aero Rooftop Kayak Carrier

thule hull a port aero rooftop kayak

The Thule Hull-a-Port Aero Rooftop kayak rack for car without rails is designed to securely transport kayaks and stand-up paddleboards on the roof of a vehicle. Options for transport include one kayak in either a J-style or a saddle configuration, or up to two saddled Stand Up Paddleboards. You can feel confident transporting your watercraft on this carrier because it has thick rubber saddles and a padded upright. 

In addition, this kayak rack for car without rails comes equipped with a StrapCatch, a handy accessory for keeping track of straps during loading. In order to store the carrier, it can be folded into a compact size. The carrier’s mounting hardware is compatible with a wide variety of rack configurations, and it can accommodate kayaks with a width of up to 36 inches. Weighted at 20 pounds, the carrier can hold up to 130. The dimensions are 32 by 7 by 19 inches. This facilitates the loading process for kayaks greatly.


  • Multiple carry options for kayaks and stand up paddleboards
  • Thick rubber saddles and padded upright provide maximum protection for watercraft
  • Integrated StrapCatch helps manage straps while loading
  • Folds down flat when not in use
  • Quick and tool-free installation
  • Fits most rack systems
  • Can accommodate kayaks up to 36 inches wide
  • Has a high load capacity of 130 lbs


  • This kayak rack for car without rails may not fit all types of kayaks or SUPs
  • Carrier may be heavy and difficult to lift onto the roof of a car
  • This kayak rack for car without rails can be expensive compared to other kayak carriers on the market
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Best Minimal: Malone J-Pro 2 J-Style Rack

Malone J-Pro 2 J-Style Universal Car Rack Kayak Carrier

The Malone J-Pro 2 J-Style Universal kayak rack for car without rails Carrier is a high-quality rack that can accommodate a variety of kayaks. The e-coating on the steel makes it resistant to corrosion, so it will last for years even in harsh environments. 

The carrier’s universal JAWZ mounting hardware allows it to work with a wide range of vehicles, including those with round, square, and factory oval cross rails (making it nearly ideal for any kind of roof space). 

The kit of this kayak rack for car without rails comes with 60mm and 70mm pre-coated mounting bolts, two 12-foot cam buckle straps, bow and stern safety tie-downs, and a vertical upright position for added convenience. The limited lifetime manufacturer’s warranty provided by the carrier gives customers peace of mind that they are investing in a high-quality product. In the end, it’s a fantastic investment for the safe transport of your kayaks.


  • E-coated, corrosion-resistant steel construction for durability and long-lasting use
  • The kayak rack for car without rails Universal JAWZ mounting hardware fits a wide range of cross rails, making it compatible with many vehicles
  • Set includes bow and stern safety tie-downs, two 12-foot cam buckle straps, and both 60mm and 70mm pre-coated mounting bolts for added convenience
  • But this kayak rack for car without rails has limited lifetime manufacturer’s warranty provides added assurance for customers


  • Carrier may require some assembly and installation time
  • J-style carriers may be more difficult to load than other types of carriers
  • Carrier may not be suitable for very heavy kayaks or other watercraft.

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Best Inflatable: Malone HandiRack Universal Inflatable Kayak Roof Rack

HandiRack Universal Inflatable Soft Roof Rack Bars

Malone’s HandiRack Universal Inflatable Kayak Roof Rack is a fantastic choice if you’re in the market for a simple, inflatable roof rack system. It’s ideal for the occasional kayaker because of the great value it provides.

The Handi Rack can carry up to 180 pounds, so you can easily transport any kayak, thanks to its high-quality construction and long-lasting materials. The rack set includes two inflatable racks with twin tubes that fit on your car’s roof and are fastened in place with a variety of straps and buckles.

The HandiRack is a convenient alternative to conventional roof racks because it is lightweight, compact, and simple to set up. This makes it perfect for canoeists and kayakers who don’t want to permanently attach a roof rack to their car but still need a place to store their gear. And since we’re discussing paddlers, you might be interested in reading some kayak paddle holder reviews.

The HandiRack’s limited compatibility with other kayak rack systems is a major drawback. Because of its inflatable construction, it may not be as stable as a conventional roof rack when transporting multiple kayaks. But if you only need to transport your kayak occasionally and are on a budget, the HandiRack is an excellent option.

Reasons to buy:

  • Inflatable and easy to install
  • Affordable
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Durable construction
  • Maximum load capacity of 180 pounds

Reasons to avoid:

  • This kayak rack for car without rails can only transport one kayak at a time
  • May not be as stable as a traditional roof rack

Best Foam Pads: Best Marine Kayak Roof Rack Pads

Best Foam Pads: Best Marine Kayak Roof Rack Pads

Transporting kayaks on foam pads is a convenient alternative to using a kayak rack for car without rails. Top-rated and highly protective, the Best Marine Kayak Roof Rack Pads are a great choice for your kayak and your car. Also, this is the best kayak rack for SUV.

These foam pads are made to rest atop your car’s roof and offer a comfortable landing spot for your kayak while you drive. Each is designed to fit most cars, SUVs, and trucks, and comes in two sizes: 24 inches and 30 inches to accommodate kayaks of varying lengths.

High-density, weatherproof foam is used to make the Best Marine Kayak Roof Rack Pads. Two tie-down straps are included to help keep your kayak safe during transport. These can be fastened to the car’s door frame or other solid anchors.

The installation process for the Best Marine Kayak Roof Rack Pads can be challenging for first-time users. Once you’ve mastered how to use one, however, you’ll find that it’s much faster and less complicated than using a conventional roof rack, not to mention much cheaper.

Reasons to buy:

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Durable and weather-resistant
  • Provides excellent protection for your kayak

Reasons to avoid:

  • Tricky to install
  • May not be as secure as traditional roof rack systems

There are also some types of racks which are average grade  you can find on the internet like,

1. Yakima Car-Rack
Yakima is a well-known brand in the outdoor sports industry, and their car-rack systems are top-of-the-line. The Yakima JayLow J-Style kayak rack for car without rails is a popular choice for kayakers looking for a sturdy and easy-to-use option. It can hold one or two kayaks in a J-style position or a vertical position, making it suitable for different types of kayaks and vehicles.

2. Thule Compass
Thule is another reputable brand that offers a wide range of kayak rack for car without rails options. The Thule Compass is a versatile option that can carry different types of kayaks and paddleboards, thanks to its adjustable width and load capacity. It also has a fold-down design for easy storage and a sturdy construction that ensures safe transportation ultimately amazing paddling experince.

3. Thule AeroBlade & Thule Dockglide
The Thule AeroBlade and Thule Dockglide are two separate accessories that work together to create a reliable kayak rack for car without rails. The AeroBlade is a crossbar that attaches to your vehicle‘s roof, while the Dockglide is a vertical support that holds your kayak in place. This combination allows for a secure and aerodynamic setup that can transport your kayak with ease.

4. J Style Kayak Roof Rack
The J Style Kayak Roof Rack is a popular option for kayakers who want to transport their kayak in a horizontal position. This type of roof rack is easy to install and provides a secure hold on your kayak, even at high speeds. It’s also suitable for vehicles with a lower roof clearance.

5. Best with Bow: Malone SeaWing Kayak Saddle Style

Some important Tips for you 

Luggage Rack
If you already have a luggage rack on your vehicle, you can use it to transport your kayak with the right kayak accessory. The Thule Stacker is a popular choice that can hold up to four kayaks on a luggage rack, while the Thule Dockgrip can hold one kayak in a vertical position.

Truck Bed Rack
For kayakers who prefer to transport their kayak in a truck bed, there are several options available. The Thule Goalpost is a heavy-duty strap system that attaches to your truck’s bed and provides a secure hold on your kayak. The Thule Xsporter Pro is another option that can be adjusted to fit different truck bed sizes. It really is one of the best kayak rack for car without rails.

Stand Up Paddle Board
If you also have a stand-up paddleboard, the Thule Sup Taxi XT is a great accessory that can carry both your kayak and SUP on your roof rack. It has a sturdy design and can hold up to two SUPs or a combination of one SUP and one kayak.

Additional Accessories
There are also several additional accessories that can enhance your kayak roof rack system. The Thule Load Straps are heavy-duty straps that can secure your kayak or other outdoor gear to your roof rack. The Thule Hullavator is a lift-assist accessory that can make it easier to load and unload your kayak from your kayak rack for car without rails.

Type of Vehicle
Before purchasing a kayak roof rack, it’s important to consider your vehicle‘s make and model to ensure compatibility. Most roof racks come with a fit guide to help you find the right option for your specific vehicle.

Many people likes to know about suitable activities for the type of roof racks: here is a table comparing different ones.

Roof Rack Suitable Activities Features
Thule Hull-a-Port XT Recreational kayaking, Touring Adjustable padding for different kayak shapes and sizes, easy to install and remove, can hold up to 2 kayaks
Yakima JayLow Fishing, Touring J-Cradle design for easy loading and unloading, tilts down for better clearance and access to rear of the car, can hold up to 2 kayaks
Malone DownLoader Recreational kayaking, Fishing Low profile design for easy loading and unloading, corrosion-resistant construction, can hold up to 1 kayak
Inno INA450 Touring Universal mounting system fits most crossbars, easy to install and remove, can hold up to 1 kayak
Rhino Rack Nautic 571 Fishing, Touring Rear loading design for easy loading and unloading, fits most kayak shapes and sizes, can hold up to 1 kayak

This comparison table provides information on the type of kayaking activities each roof rack is suitable for, as well as their specific features that make them stand out. By considering your intended use and comparing the features of different roof racks, you can make an informed decision that best meets your specific needs for kayak rack for car without rails.

How to Choose the Bestkayak rack for car without rails?

So, you’re in the market for a kayak rack for car without rails, but you’re overwhelmed by the sheer variety. Fear not, my friend! With a little guidance, you’ll be able to identify the best system for your needs.

Tower Base:

First things first, you need a tower base that acts as a mounting tower for the crossbars. Think of it as a sturdy foundation for your kayak rack. Without it, you’re risking damage to your car’s roof – and trust me, nobody wants that.

Cushioning or pads:

Next, you’ll want to look for a system with cushioning or pads to protect your car’s roof from the weight of your gear. And if you’re really serious about security, go for a system with a lock feature. No more worrying about your gear getting snatched by sneaky thieves!

Complete System:

But why stop there? Go for the complete system that includes all the accessories you need. You won’t even have to buy screws separately. And while you’re at it, make sure the bars are made of heavy-duty steel so they can handle the weight you’re putting on them.

Inflatable System:

Now, here’s where things get interesting. If you want the best of the best, you’ll want an inflatable system. Why, you ask? Well, it’s all about convenience, my friend. With an inflatable system, you can store it in a small space by reducing the length of the crossbars. It’s like a magic trick for your kayak roof rack!

Adjustable cross bars:

And finally, go for a system with adjustable crossbars so it can fit many cars. That way, even if you decide to trade in your old jalopy for a shiny new ride, you won’t have to replace your trusty kayak roof rack. It’s like having a best friend who’s always there for you, no matter what.

If you don’t know, To safely move a kayak from one location to another, a cross bar system is one sort of kayak car rack that attaches two horizontal bars to the roof of a vehicle. The cross bars can be purchased in a variety of lengths (both short and long) to suit the needs of various cars and kayaks. The kayak is secured to the cross bars using a cradle or J-hooks so that it doesn’t move around while being transported.

You might still have some doubt, that’s why here are some additional information:

  • Best kayak roof rack pads: Kayak roof rack pads are an essential accessory to protect your car’s roof and your kayak during transportation. To choose the best ones, look for pads made of durable materials, like neoprene or foam, and with a non-slip surface to keep your kayak in place.
  • Kayak roof rack for small car: If you have a small car but still want to transport your kayak safely, look for a kayak roof rack specifically designed for smaller vehicles. These racks are typically lightweight and easy to install, and may feature adjustable straps to secure your kayak in place.
  • Suction roof rack kayak: Suction roof racks are a popular option for transporting kayaks without the need for permanent roof rack installation. These racks use suction cups to attach to your car’s roof, and can support the weight of your kayak securely.
  • Kayak roof pads: Kayak roof pads are a type of cushioning that you can add to your roof rack to protect your kayak and your car’s roof during transportation. They come in a variety of sizes and materials, so be sure to choose ones that are compatible with your roof rack and kayak.
  • Best roof rack pads: When it comes to choosing the best roof rack pads for your vehicle, look for options that are made of high-quality materials and offer excellent protection against scratches and dings. Some popular materials include foam, neoprene, and rubber.
  • Seah hardware universal roof rack: The Seah Hardware Universal Roof Rack is a versatile and easy-to-install option for transporting kayaks, canoes, and other gear on the roof of your car. This rack features adjustable straps and can support up to 165 pounds of weight, making it a great choice for all your outdoor adventures.
  • How to install roof rack on car without rails: Installing a roof rack on a car without rails can be a bit tricky, but it’s not impossible. One option is to use a suction cup roof rack, which attaches to your car’s roof using powerful suction cups. Another option is to use a clip-on roof rack, which clips onto the door frames of your car. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully and take your time to ensure a secure and safe installation.
  • Kayak and bike rack for car: If you’re an avid kayaker and cyclist, you may want to consider a kayak and bike rack combo for your car. These racks allow you to transport both your kayak and bike on the roof of your car, saving space and providing a convenient solution for outdoor adventures. Look for racks that are adjustable and can support the weight of both your kayak and bike.


Transporting your kayak can be a challenging task, but with the right equipment, it doesn’t have to be. Kayak Roof Rack choosing depends on the type of vehicles Whether you’re looking for an affordable, easy-to-use option or a more versatile system that can transport multiple kayaks, there’s a kayak rack for cars without rails that can meet your needs.

What is a kayak roof rack for cars without rails, and why do I need it?

A kayak roof rack for cars without rails is an accessory that attaches to the roof of your car, allowing you to safely transport your kayak. If your car doesn't have roof rails, you'll need a roof rack to carry your kayak on top of your car. It is an essential accessory for any kayaker who wants to transport their kayak without damaging it.

How do I choose the best kayak roof rack for my car without rails?

When choosing a kayak roof rack for your car without rails, you should consider the weight capacity of the rack, the type of kayak you own, and the ease of installation. Look for a roof rack that is compatible with your car's make and model, and one that is made of durable materials to ensure it can handle the weight of your kayak.

Can I install a kayak roof rack on my car without professional help?

Yes, you can install a kayak roof rack on your car without professional help, but it depends on your level of experience and the complexity of the rack. Some roof racks are designed for easy installation and come with clear instructions, while others may require more advanced installation techniques. If you're unsure, it's best to seek professional help.

Can I put kayak directly on roof rack?

When securing a kayak to the crossbars of a roof rack, always do it with the kayak inverted. Although the indentations made by storing a plastic boat hull-side down can be erased, doing so will compromise the boat's straight-line performance.

What is the best way to secure a kayak to a roof rack?

The kayak can be fastened down with either a cam buckle or ratchet straps. The straps will go over the top of the kayak from the longer J Hooks (at the rear) to the shorter hooks (in the front). They need to be swung under the rack, not just the J hook.

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