Best Kayak Roof Rack for Cars Without Rails in 2024

Kayak roof rack for cars with no racks top reviewed

Why is a Kayak roof rack that doesn’t need rails beneficial? Kayaking is enjoyable, especially when you own your own and don’t have to rent them anywhere. When you own your kayak or kayaks, you will need to have a safe way to transport it between your home and where you plan to kayak.

You might think you can tie your kayak to the roof of your car with some rope and call it a day, but this is not the case. It would be best if you did not transport a kayak without a rack. That is a great way to damage the roof of your car and your kayak at the same time. To safely transport your kayak, you will need to invest in a quality roof rack.

You will be able to find a roof rack for cars without rails, so you don’t need to worry if your vehicle doesn’t have any rails to secure the rack to. The best thing about these roof racks is that you will be able to use them to transport more than just your kayaks!

TLDR; Our Favorite Kayak Rack That Doesn’t Need Rails

Kayak on car heading for the river

If you don’t have time to read this entire article, let me cut to the chase and tell you about our pick for the best kayak car rack that doesn’t require rails to be installed. Our top pick is the HandiRack Universal Inflatable Roof Rack. This universal roof rack is compatible with most cars and provides a safe cushion for your kayaks to sit on top of your vehicle. The inflatable roof rack bars mount easily to the roof of the car, and they have a capacity of 175 pounds.

Roundup Review Of Kayak rack for cars without rails of 2020

There are several options and styles available, and it can be confusing to pick one out that will be most beneficial to you. Here are some of the best kayak roof racks for cars without rails.

HandiRack Universal Inflatable Roof Rack


14.6 x 7.4 x 5.7 inches; 5.75 pounds; HandiRack.

HandiRack Inflatable Roof Rack

The HandiRack Inflatable Roof Rack provides you with two inflatable crossbars that can fit any car as long as it does not have a soft-top.

This rack is easy to install, especially on a car without rails. You don’t need any tools to get this rack ready to go on your roof. There are tie down straps that pass through your car and fastens with a heavy-duty buckle.

The best part is that you don’t need to inflate these racks yourself. You will receive a HandiPump that makes it easy to inflate the bars in a matter of seconds.

The maximum capacity of these kayak carriers is about 175 pounds, and it is certified to be used on the highway. This inflatable kayak car rack will make you feel better knowing that the roof of your car won’t be scratched up during transport.


  • Easy installation process
  • Universal design makes for compatibility with most cars
  • Cushions protect your roof
  • Heavy duty straps to transport kayaks


  • Does not hold up well in extreme temperatures

Malone VersaRail Bare Roof Rack


50 x 8 x 5.75 inches; 10.5 pounds; Malone.

Malone VersaRail Roof Rack

This kayak rack by Malone can convert a car without rails to a car with rails instantly. Besides kayaks, you can also transport bikes, canoes, and boxes with this rack.

The Malone VersaRail roof rack has a resistant coating on the outer layer to protect from any corrosion that might make the rack less durable. You do not need any additional tools to install this on top of your car other than what comes in the package.


  • Outer coating to prevent corrosion
  • Heavy-duty security straps
  • Easy to install
  • Durable


  • Straps create a gap for the rain to get into the car

Thule Hullavator Pro Kayak Car Rack


36 x 6 x 16 inches; 39.7 pounds; Thule.

Thule Hullavator Pro Kayak Roof Rack

This kayak rack is unique and extremely helpful. The Thule Hullavator is one of the best kayak racks because it offers a lift-assist. It is a one of a kind roof rack system and will change the way you load and transport your kayak, surfboards, or luggage.

The lift-assist load bars make it incredibly easy to load your car. You will be able to pull the rack over the side of your vehicle, load your kayak, and push the rack back onto the roof of the car.

You will receive bow and stern straps with quick-adjust tensioners to mount this kayak rack onto your roof. If you are a frequent kayaker, this rack will be most beneficial because you won’t have to continually reach over your head to load and unload your kayak.


  • Easy installation
  • Extremely helpful
  • Corrosion-resistant


  • Only holds one kayak
  • 75-pound capacity

TMS J-Bar Rack Kayak Carrier

#1 Best Seller


18 x 7 x 7 inches; 8 pounds; TMS

TMS J-Bar Rack Kayak Carrier

This kayak roof rack features a j-bar design that makes it incredibly easy to load and unload your kayak. This kayak car rack is made of steel and features adjustable pads that will protect your kayak from any dings or scratches while you are transporting.

This kayak rack can carry up to 75 pounds and can support a kayak that is 36-inches wide. While this kayak rack is not very easy to install when you are first putting it on. After it is initially installed, you will be able to easily take this roof rack off of your car with the quick remove hardware.

You will need to have crossbars on your car to install this kayak rack to a car without rails.


  • Made from steel
  • Wide mouth j-bar design
  • Easy load and unload feature


  • Straps are not that strong
  • Difficult to install initially
  • Needs crossbars to be installed

Thule Hull-a-Port XT Rooftop Kayak Rack


20 x 10.5 x 5.5 inches; 12.6 pounds, Thule

Thule Hull-a-Port XT Rooftop Kayak Rack

A J-style cradle kayak carrier that can be installed on just about any car roof: it has adjustable pads to achieve a custom fit for your kayak to make sure your vehicle’s rooftop won’t get any scratches.

This roof rack features a coating for corrosion resistance on top of the steel tubes and hardware, making it more durable. Because it is a j-style cradle, you will also have some extra space on the roof rack to transport some supplies along with one kayak.

This kayak car rack features two tie-downs, one each for the bow and stern of the car.


  • The best kayak rack for easy installation and loading
  • Durable roof rack transporting up to four kayaks
  • Secure
  • High-quality compared to a inflatable rack


  • Screws come loose easily

Things To Consider Before Before Buying The Perfect Kayak Roof Rack

Vehicle’s Roof Shape

It is essential to know what shape your car’s roof is before buying a kayak car rack. Different racks will work with other shaped roofs. If you buy a kayak roof rack that doesn’t fit snug over the top of your vehicle, your kayak and your roof will be in danger of damage.

Type of Kayak Roof Rack

There are four different types of kayak racks for cars without rails. The four kayak racks are J Cradle racks, Saddle racks, Temporary Pads, and Stacker. Each can be used with or without rails. This doesnt include inflatable roof racks / inflatable racks and other rack accessories that are colloquially known as mounting systems or other kayak racks.

The J Cradle kayak car racks are named so because they are shaped like a J to carry your kayaks vertically rather than having them lay flat. The J Cradle kayak carrier can carry two kayaks on your roof at a time. A stacker roof rack also carries your kayaks vertically, but it can carry up to 4 kayaks on your roof at one time.

Weight of Roof Rack

Kayak roof racks are commonly made of steel, making them extremely heavy. Kayak racks made of aluminum will be anywhere between 20 to 30% lighter with the same strength, durability, and maximum weight capacity as the steel racks.

If you don’t want kayak car racks made of metal, you can also opt for a rack made of foam blocks or inflatable ones. These kayak racks will usually weigh just a few pounds on your roof.


The biggest thing to keep in mind when it comes to the price of a kayak roof rack is the fact that expensive does not mean best. You will find some costly roof racks, but there are plenty out there at a lower price that will do precisely the same thing. Do not overpay for your kayak rack for cars.

Mounting System

You also need to consider what type of mounting system you want to use to install your roof rack. There are only a few options for mounting when it comes to a kayak roof rack for cars without rails. The most common mounting system will use some ratchet straps to hold your rack in place.

You will want to make sure the kayak roof rack you choose is easy to install. Most kayak racks for cars without rails are easy to install, but you will want to read reviews to be sure. Every kayak carrier installation will be different for different vehicles.

Each kayak rack will feature different screw bracket systems that will determine if the roof rack will be a good fit for your car roof or not. This will also determine how many kayaks and items the kayak carrier will be able to carry at one time.


Kayak carriers will be used several times throughout the year, so it is essential to make sure you purchase a kayak roof rack that is extremely durable. The corrosion-resistant coating will make for an extra durable kayak rack, so try to look out for that.

You will also want to make sure that the kayak rack you buy will be safe for your car. Some offer rubber rear pads for a barrier between the kayak rack and your car. These rubber pads will not only protect your roof but will also help the kayak rack stay in place.

Kayak roof rack for cars with no racks top reviewed


Do roof racks affect fuel economy?

There is no way to correctly determine if kayak roof racks for cars affect fuel consumption or not. Several factors go into determining your vehicle’s gas usage, and it is difficult to tell what can cause changes.

Do you need to drill any holes in your car’s roof for mounting?

No, you do not need to drill any holes in the roof of your car to use a kayak roof rack for cars without rails. These kayak roof racks are designed to be used without rails, so you will install the rack as instructed.

How many kayaks can fit on a roof rack?

This will depend on the kayak roof rack that you decide to purchase. The range of kayaks can be from one to four, depending on which rack you choose.

Do you need to add roof rails to a car?

You do not need to add roof rails to a car to use a kayak roof rack. There are plenty of options available to put on a car without rails. Kayak racks are generally easy to install on many cars, as long as you make sure the kayak roof rack system doesn’t need rails.

Wrapping Up

Band of cars with kayak on roof rack
Ive been using a malone downloader universal kayak or for long trips cargo boxes to transport multiple kayaks. But the Malone VersaRail is one i have been trialling for a long time now.

Kayak roof racks can more than just carry and keep your kayak secure; they also make it possible to carry any other gear you could need for your adventure. This gives your family more space inside your car.

The best kayak roof rack out of all the roof racks on this list is the HandiRack Universal Roof Rack. It can be installed on just about any car and can hold up to 175 pounds at one time.

A kayak roof rack system will work differently on different cars, so you need to pay attention to what you are buying. If your vehicle doesn’t have side rails, you will need to buy a kayak rack system that doesn’t need to hold on to side rails.