How to Buy Kayak Roof Rack for Car without Rails [Buying Guide]

Not all cars have a railed roof; some come with a bare top. Many people would think they miss the opportunity to install a pair of roof rails; it might not be the case.

Fortunately, you can mount a pair of rails to a car with a rail-less roof. Yes, you read that right.

Mounting a kayak roof rack for a car without rails generally involves the edge of the doors. The bar is placed between the thresholds and the roof edge with a unique kind of clasp.

These cinches are given an elastic covering to the goal that your car’s paint doesn’t get scratched. The roof bars come without a lock, but you always install an additional lock for extra security.

You can also browse various materials like stainless steel or aluminum and designs that of the best with your car’s roof design.

Here are some Important Points to Consider before Buying Kayak Racks

Installing a kayak rack on a bare car roof is possible, but there are some things you need to keep in mind, so you do not compromise the integrity of the roof’s structure and avoid any damage or mishap.

Examine the Car’s Roof

First of all, check the top of your car and the size and type. It is an essential pre-step as it will help you understand the kind of rails that would fit perfectly on there.

Mounting System

Since the rack goes on the car’s roof, it is critical to understand the mounting system of the rack you are going to purchase.

What is a mounting system? Get this; there is a particular orientation of a rack and different from the other. Similarly, the points where screws go also differ in additional shelves and rails.

Furthermore, there are two types of mounting systems. First is the permanent one who stays on and goes a long way.

The second type is for short-term usage. These are temporary ones, and you’ll have to detach them when you are done using them. Each offers the utility of its own. Go for the one that meets your needs.

When it comes to the mounting system, make sure younker what design fits your vehicle the best as it determines how the kayak will be loaded on the roof.

Weight Capacity

One of the most important things to consider before everything is that the roof rack’s weight capacity.

The more the rack’s weight capacity, the higher the amount of weight it can handle without falling apart.

If kayaks are what you intend to load on it, then the weight capacity matter, but the rack’s design is also something you would want to keep in mind. It is, so the stand supports the kayak well.

Number of Kayaks

As I mentioned earlier, weight capacity is an important consideration to make before purchasing a kayak rack for your car.  However, it’s also crucial you know how many kayaks the rack would transport and if that number meets your needs.

A j-type or a saddle-type rack would work correctly for you if you only have one kayak to transport. Nonetheless, for two or more getting a stacker type is a more suitable option.


If you are to buy a permanently mounted rack on your car’s top, then opting for a sturdy and durable rack is the wisest choice.

As it will bear the wear and tear of being in the open air, direct sunlight, etc., it is crucial to keep in mind the durability.

The durability is determined by the material so always choose between aluminum and stainless steel. These ought to last pretty long and maintain good-as-new condition for a fair amount of time.


You need to know the purpose of getting the rack, as it determines the shape and size of the rack you should be getting.

For example, if you are to buy one for transporting kayaks and skis, then getting sturdy car racks is a far better option, and it’s cheaper than leasing a van especially when you have to do it now and again.

Ease of Use

Looking for a kayak rack for your car’s roof that offers easy installation and detachment, especially if you are getting a temporary one.

The aim is not only to add ease to your life but get top-notch quality equipment. Wouldn’t it be great if you get all of that in a single deal for your car’s roof racks?

Therefore, always pick sturdy and easy to install design over any other.

Let’s Talk about Different Types of Kayak Roof Racks

Having many options in something you want to purchase is exciting, but at the same time, it can create confusion as to what would suit you’re the best and what to pick.

Here are some types of kayak racks and what each type has to offer. This guide will help you decide what goes with your car’s roof.

Saddle Style Kayak Rack

The most common type of kayak rack for car roofs is saddle type. The main reason is the ease of use, and the strong structure keeps the kayak in its place.

On these racks, kayaks are loaded horizontally, which does not cause a problem with the car’s aerodynamics.

It occupies significantly less space on the roof and is way more compact than a stacker rack. It is the best choice if you have one kayak and you drive in a place with uneven land.

A Brand You Can Trust on in saddle type rack is Malone. See the latest Price.

A single saddle design and mid-point mounting system provide easy installation and do not take up a lot of space.

The design is unique and helps in improving the mileage as it flexes to the cradle of the boat. It has a weight capacity of 72 pounds, this low-profile kayak rack would work for you, especially if you have a passenger vehicle.

J-style Kayak Rack

This type can be installed securely without compromising the car’s top, including the structure and the paint.

With a j-type rack comes easy installation as well as spaciousness. It leaves quite enough space to fit your luggage perfectly.

Thule is the best among J-style kayak rack. See the latest Price.

This rack’s j-shaped design will help you fit in a kayak of about 34 inches wide and offer a weight capacity of 75 pounds.

The mounting system is super easy, and you can easily install it yourself. The best feature of this rack is that it is sturdy yet not too heavy so you can quickly load your kayak on it.

Stacker-Style Kayak Rack

If you are in search of a Double/dual kayak roof rack for cars without rails that can support more than one kayak, then this rack will be your best friend.

As a stacker kayak rack, you can load up to four kayaks on it. Due to its high capacity structure, it leaves room for other supplies and the primary load, i.e. the kayaks.

However, a stacker rack might mess with the aerodynamics of the car as it loads kayaks vertically. It does save a lot of space but at the same time can be problematic if you are driving at high speed.

It might not be very secure due to vertical structure but works perfectly for carrying a lot and short rides.

Here is a good option if you are looking forward to buying a stacker rack, i.e. Rhino-Rack. See the latest Price.

It works ideally for SUVs, passenger cars, and trucks, but you can use it with almost any vehicle type. Perfect for a drive on uneven tracks.

When you have used it, you can fold the arms, save the surrounding space and keep the arms from any damage.

All the mounting parts and ratchets are included along with a pair of high-quality straps to hold your kayaks in place, especially when you’re driving on uneven land.

Inflatable Roof Rack for Kayak

If you cannot find the best fit rack or a pair of rails for your car’s top, then an inflatable roof rack / universal roof rack is perfect for you.

A lot of people are not in favor of permanent racks. I always suggest the inflatable ones for them as they come off whenever you want and give just the right fit. Attach and detach whenever you want.

However, foam or inflatable racks aren’t that durable. You can consider them a short-term temporary solution to your problem.

No one beats HandiRack in Universal Inflatable Roof Rack. See the latest Price.

These inflatable roof rack bars are made of heavy-duty 400D Nylon that works the best for SUVs and family cars. Each bar is filled with air and support weight up to 175pounds.

Its best feature is that it is multi-purpose, which means kayaks and load canoes, surfboard pads, and much more.

It offers easy installation with all the parts of the mounting system included in the package. As this design works for almost any model of any car, you do not have to be worried about the “perfect fit”.

How to Put a Kayak on a Car Without a Roof Rack?

If you do not have a roof rack then what will you do to transport a kayak? Do not worry about that whenever you load any kayak on your car roof, you need to make sure that it does not damage anything.

Therefore make sure to use foam as padding below the kayak. For this purpose, you can also use old cushions or pillows at home.

Once you are satisfied with the padding, tie up the kayak with ratchet straps from the front to the back; take your time to ensure it doesn’t move around so you can drive hassle-free.

If a roof rack does not work, you can always go for a trailer to transport your kayak or canoe. It gives you more space and ease for your trip.

Specially designed Ironton Trailer for Kayak. See the latest Price.

This trailer’s durable steel structure offers 1060 pounds of loading capacity, which would work great if you want to transport more than one kayak.

It comes with wheel fenders which is the best part as these will keep the rock debris from damaging the cargo. For better visibility at night, it has taillights and turns signals.

Do You Need a Roof Rack for a Kayak?

So, Do You Need a Roof Rack to Transport a Kayak? I believe in safe priority so you should have a roof rack if you have to transport a kayak or similar marine transportation.

It is crucial to have one as it provides easy cargo and does not disturb the car’s aerodynamics (minimizing the air drag).

Another benefit of a kayak roof rack is that it provides an appropriate yet compact space for cargo, so the kayak is secured in its place and doesn’t move around while driving.

Can You put a Kayak on a Car without a Roof Rack?

Putting a kayak on the car without a roof rack; many people do that is the answer is yes, you can do it, however, and you should not.

It is quite dangerous to load a kayak on the car without rails or a rack to secure it in its place. It can lead to accidents. Therefore, it is not safe to do.

Nonetheless, if you do not have another choice at the moment, make sure to tie and secure it right before getting on the road. Always use ratchet straps for tightening the kayaks. Spend extra time with knotting and drive slow to avoid any mishap.

Products You May Need

Ratchet Tie Down Straps. See Price.

Foam Blocks for Kayak. See Price.

Related Article: Can I add Roof Rails to My Car?