how to transport a kayak on a small car [Answered]


Transporting a kayak on a small car can be a challenging and intimidating task, but with a little know-how and preparation, it can be done safely and efficiently. Whether you’re planning a day trip to a nearby lake or a multi-day camping trip, the key to a successful kayak transport is ensuring that your kayak is securely fastened to your car’s roof rack. In this post, we’ll provide you with tips and advice on how to transport a kayak on a small car using a roof rack, as well as alternative transportation methods for those without access to a roof rack. Let’s dive in!

Assess Your Car

Before you begin transporting your kayak, it’s important to assess your car’s roof load capacity. Your car’s roof load capacity is the maximum weight that your car’s roof can support, including the weight of any roof racks, cargo boxes, and kayaks. Exceeding this weight limit can cause serious damage to your car’s roof and compromise your safety on the road.

To find your car’s roof load capacity, consult your car’s owner’s manual or look it up online. If you’re unsure whether your car’s roof can support a roof rack, consult a professional for advice.

If your car can’t support a roof rack, consider alternative transportation methods, such as a trailer or kayak cart.

Choose a Roof Rack

Once you’ve determined that your car can support a roof rack, it’s time to choose the right one for your kayak. The type of roof rack you choose will depend on the size and shape of your kayak, as well as your personal preferences and budget.

There are a variety of roof rack options available, including:

  • Universal roof racks – these are typically the most affordable option, but may not fit your car as securely as other options.
  • Vehicle-specific roof racks – these are designed to fit your car’s specific make and model, and often provide a more secure fit.
  • Inflatable roof racks – these are a portable and affordable option, but may not be as durable as other types of roof racks.
  • Kayak cradles or J-bars – these are specifically designed to hold kayaks securely in place.

Consider the weight capacity of the roof rack you choose and make sure it can accommodate the weight of your kayak. Prices for roof racks can vary widely depending on the type and brand – generally, expect to pay several hundred dollars for a good quality roof rack.

Properly Secure the Kayak

Properly securing your kayak to your roof rack is essential for a safe and stress-free transport. Here are some tips to help you secure your kayak:

  1. Begin by padding the areas of your car’s roof rack that will come into contact with your kayak. This will help protect your car’s finish from scratches and dings.
  2. Place your kayak on the roof rack, ensuring that it is centered and evenly balanced.
  3. Use tie-down straps to secure the kayak to the roof rack. Pay close attention to the manufacturer’s instructions for proper tie-down procedures. In general, you’ll want to:
    • Secure the bow and stern of the kayak first, to prevent it from shifting or flipping up during transport.
    • Use at least two tie-down straps to secure the kayak to the roof rack.
    • Cross the tie-down straps over the kayak to provide additional stability.
    • Make sure the straps are snug, but not so tight that they damage the kayak or roof rack.

Double check that the kayak is secured tightly before hitting the road.

Alternative Transportation Methods

If your car can’t support a roof rack or you prefer not to use one, there are alternative transportation methods available that can accommodate the transport of your kayak. Here are a few options:

  • Trailer – If you have a hitch on your car, a trailer is a great option for transporting kayaks. Trailers come in various sizes and can accommodate one or more kayaks. Make sure to check your car’s towing capacity and adhere to proper hitching procedures for safety.
  • Kayak Cart – If you’re transporting your kayak a short distance, consider using a kayak cart. Kayak carts are portable and can be easily stored in your car’s trunk or hatchback. They’re also affordable and easy to use.

Each of these alternative transportation methods has its own set of benefits and drawbacks, so weigh your options carefully before making a decision.

Related: Kayak Fishing Humor: 5 Tips to Keep You Laughing on the Water


Is it safe to transport a kayak on a small car?

Yes, it is safe as long as you follow the instructions and secure the kayak properly.

Can I transport my kayak without a roof rack?

Yes, you can use a trailer or a kayak cart as an alternative.

What is the maximum weight limit for a roof rack?

This varies depending on the roof rack and the car’s roof load capacity. Check the manufacturer’s specifications.

Can I transport more than one kayak on a small car?

Yes, as long as you choose a roof rack that can support the weight of multiple kayaks.

Do I need to use tie-down straps?

Yes, tie-down straps are necessary to securely fasten the kayak to the roof rack.

Can I transport a kayak with an inflatable roof rack?

Yes, inflatable roof racks can work well for short distances, but they may not be ideal for longer trips.

How can I prevent my kayak from getting scratched during transportation?

Use foam padding or pool noodles to cushion the kayak’s contact points with the roof rack.

Can I transport a whitewater kayak on a small car?

Yes, whitewater kayaks can be transported on a small car as long as they are secured properly.

What can I do if my car’s roof load capacity is not enough for a roof rack?

Consider using a trailer or a kayak cart as an alternative transportation method.

How do I know if my kayak is securely fastened to the roof rack?

Gently shake the kayak to ensure it is not shifting. The kayak should be held in place securely.

Real experience

John had always loved kayaking, and he was determined to take his kayak to a new lake he had discovered just outside of town. However, he had one problem – he didn’t have a large car to transport his kayak.

As he searched the internet for solutions, he stumbled upon a blog post that caught his attention – “How to Transport a Kayak on a Small Car.” John immediately began reading, impressed by the wealth of information the article provided.

Following the instructions, John assessed his car’s roof load capacity and chose the perfect roof rack for his kayak. He was a bit hesitant at first, but as he strapped down his kayak with tie-down straps, he felt confident that it was securely fastened.

With the kayak safely secured to the roof of his car, John set off on his journey. The ride was smoother than he had anticipated, and he was amazed at the stability of the kayak on the roof rack.

When he finally arrived at the lake, John couldn’t wait to get in the water with his kayak. He easily unloaded it from the roof rack and was on the water in no time.

John had an amazing day on the lake, enjoying the tranquility of the water and the beauty of his surroundings. As he packed up his gear and re-secured the kayak to the roof rack, he realized how grateful he was to have found that blog post that had helped him enjoy his favorite hobby in a whole new way.

From that day on, John became an expert at transporting his kayak on his small car, thanks to the tips and tricks he had learned. He even shared that blog post with his kayaking friends, so they too could take their kayaks to new and exciting destinations.


Transporting a kayak on a small car can be a daunting task, but taking the time to assess your car’s roof load capacity, choosing the right roof rack, and properly securing your kayak can make all the difference in ensuring a safe and stress-free transport. Remember to always double-check that your kayak is securely fastened before hitting the road.

If a roof rack isn’t feasible for your car, alternative transportation methods such as a trailer or kayak cart are available.

By following these tips and taking the necessary precautions, you’ll be able to transport your kayak to your destination with confidence and ease, ready to enjoy a day out on the water.

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