Choosing the best kayak rack for your car or truck might be difficult for anyone who doesn’t know what types of kayak racks are out there and will they fit on your vehicle.

After reading this article you will have complete knowledge of what is best for you and what you should buy.


Types of Kayak Racks for Car

J-Cradles/ J-Styles

J-style kayak carriers, also known as j-cradles are those types of racks that hold your kayak vertically (45-degree angle) to your roof rack.

It is the most popular kayak carrier type because of its various perks. Like-

  • It’s inexpensive
  • It can carry two kayaks
  • It leaves plenty of space on the roof
  • It’s easy to load kayak from sides.
  • It has some models that folds down to reduce drag, noise and fuel-cost.

Examples- Yakima Jaylow, Thule Hullaport XT, TMS J Bar, IKURAM R, etc.

Saddles/ Horizontal Kayak Carriers

Horizontal kayak racks, also known as Saddles are those that hold your kayak horizontally on your roof (like a kayak on water).

It is mostly used by kayakers because it’s very stable, sturdy, and secure and it fits a variety of kayak sizes. But it’s more costly than j-racks and doesn’t leave any space on the roof.

On saddles, you have to load your kayak from the rear of your vehicle and some saddles like Yakima Sweetroll have rollers to slide your kayak on the roof.

  • Very Secure and Stable
  • Aerodynamic transport
  • Some saddles have rollers for lift-assistance
  • Costly than J-Cradles
  • Takes more roof space

Examples- Malone Seawing, Thule Dockglide, Rhino Rack Nautic, etc.

Stackers/ Vertical Kayak Carrier

Vertical Kayak Racks, also known as stackers are those that hold your kayak vertically (90-degree angle) on your roof.

It is mostly used for carrying 2 kayaks but if you have space on your roof you can carry 4 kayaks too.

But the setback of this is that it is less secure.

  • Can carry 4 kayaks
  • Folds down when not in use
  • Less Secure

Examples- Malone Stax Pro 2, Thule 830, etc.

Lift-assist Kayak Carrier

Lift-assist kayak racks are those that come down to waist level so that you have no problem loading your kayak if you are short or your kayak is heavy.

These are premium products that reduce the weight of your kayak, so it’s obvious that these are expensive.

  • Reduces the weight of the kayak
  • Very Sturdy and Secure
  • Easy to use
  • Very Expensive

Examples- Thule Hullavator, Yakima Showdown, etc.

Temporary Pads or Bars

Temporary Pads are extremely mobile. They are easy to install. You can use them whenever necessary.

They are also easy on the wallet. But the downside is the weight capacity of this thing.

  • Temporary solution
  • Easy to install
  • Bufget-friendly
  • Weight capacity is low

Examples- Handirack Inflatable, HEYTRIP Universal, etc.

Types of Kayak Racks for Truck

  • Truck Bed Racks
  • Truck Hitch Racks/ Truck Bed Extender
  • Truck Topper Kayak Racks
  • Truck Roof Racks

Truck Bed Racks

Truck Bed Racks are more like a permanent solution for truck owners. Although nowadays you don’t have to drill the rack on your truck bed, you can just clamp it.

Truck Bed Racks aren’t just useful for carrying kayaks, it can be used for much heavier objects like dimensional lumber, fence materials, and long pipes, etc.

  • Permanent or Temporary, your choice
  • You can carry other stuff on your bed
  • Very Sturdy and good looking
  • Expensive but has budget-friendly versions
  • Not compatible with Tonneau Covers

Examples- TMS Adjustable, Maxxhaul 70423, AA APX25, etc.

Truck Hitch Racks

Truck Hitch Rack, also known as Truck Bed Extender is a very simple and temporary solution for kayak racks. You can just use this when necessary and keep your truck’s good look.

When you try to carry your kayak on the bed it extends beyond your tailgate, that’s where the extender comes into the rescue. And most of all it doesn’t interfere with Tonneau Covers.

  • Temporary Solution
  • Compatible with Tonneau Cover
  • Budget-friendly
  • Takes the whole truck bed space

Examples- Maxxhaul 70231, Darby Extend-a-truck, etc.

Truck Topper Kayak Racks

Toppers are great for camping and keeping your gears safe, but it doesn’t allow you to carry your kayak. Fortunately enough, some companies build crossbars for your truck topper.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to lift your kayak that high but it can be done with external help.

  • Made for Toppers
  • Doesn’t interfere with your other gears
  • Difficult to lift the kayak

Examples- AA DX36, Vantech M1000, etc.

Truck Roof Racks

Truck roof racks are the same as car roof racks. You have plenty of options here. Just choose any type of crossbars you like and your truck is compatible with, and choose j-cradles or saddles, etc.

The roof rack option gives you room on your truck bed and doesn’t interfere with tonneau covers.

  • Leaves space on your bed
  • Doesn’t interfere with tonneau covers
  • Very sturdy and good looking
  • Difficult to lift the kayak

Things to Consider Before Buying your Kayak Rack

How many Kayaks would you like to carry?

When you are buying the rack for your kayak or kayaks you always should check how many kayaks can that rack hold.

If you have only 1 kayak and would like to travel more securely, you should look for a Saddle.

But when you and your friend are going kayaking, then Saddles aren’t going to cut it, you will need J-Cradles for carrying 2 Kayaks.

And if you are in need of carrying 4 kayaks, you should buy a Stacker but it also depends on your vehicle’s roof width. And if you are like me who goes kayaking occasionally, you might wanna use Temporary Solutions.

Types of Kayak you have and the rack’s load capacity

Often time Kayakers overlook this factor. If you have a small whitewater kayak, you can choose any type of rack.

But when you have a bigger kayak like a sea kayak or a fishing kayak, then Saddles are going to be your friend.

And also before buying check the weight of your kayak and the weight capacity of the rack. It might save you time and money.

Roof Rails on your vehicle

It is the single most important thing everyone falters at. You always should check with the manufacturer if the kayak rack is compatible with your crossbars or if your crossbars are compatible with your roof.

It’s the main reason so many kayak racks get returned and it’s behind the low-star reviews on Amazon.

If you have a naked roof then Handirack Inflatable will be your best choice and if you have any kind of factory or aftermarket crossbars, you should go for a more sophisticated solution like j-cradles, saddles, and stackers.

Distance to be Traveled

If you are using Temporary Pads or Stackers and traveling interstate or long distances, you are going to have problems.

Because these aren’t the most sturdy racks out there, they are effective yes but not the most secure way to travel. In that case, you might wanna use Saddles or J-Cradles

How often do you intend to kayak?

If you paddle more often, you should look for a rack that is easy to install and need very little time and effort to load and unload the kayaks.

Most people like to load kayak from the side, so they go for j-racks but if you prefer more easy loading and unloading, you should go for Hullavator or Saddles with rollers.

Top Brands in Kayak Carrier Industry


Yakima is one of the leading brands in the car rack industry. In the beginning, it was just a small machine shop in Yakima, Washington.

Now they produce racks in all categories, like bike racks, kayak racks, cargo racks, etc, and their products are top-notch.

They don’t just create products under their own name, they also own the popular Whispbar and Prorack brands. By earning people’s trust and respect, they still innovate new technology to keep up with the pace of new cars and gears.


Thule has become the leading brand in the car rack industry by continually producing premium quality products.

On its inception in 1942 Sweeden, it was the first brand to work on building a carriage system for cars. Now they provide solutions for different types of outdoor carrying systems for different types of cars.

T-Motorsports (TMS)

TMS company isn’t known for its innovative nature, it is rather known for producing quality products at a low price.

Most of us don’t want a fancy product with high prices, we just want a product on a low budget that can do its job properly without being fancy.

That’s where T-Motorsports comes in. TMS is gaining popularity among its users day by day.


Malone Auto Racks is one of the companies that have their fangs in all types of car racks. They have more than 20 years of experience in this industry.

They have set 3 promises (Affordable to Buy, Easy to Install, and Simple to Use) for their brand which they fulfilled excellently.

They are also the first company to introduce J-Cradles and economical load assist modules for single-person loading.


Should you go through a carwash with a Roof Rack?

No. We do not recommend you to go through a carwash with a roof rack. For a detailed article, go to carwash with roof rack.

How to Fix Roof Rack Wind Noise and Whistling?

You can get an Aerodynamic crossbar or a Wind Fairing to reduce the noise. For a detailed article, go to how to fix roof rack Wind Noise.

How to Tie a Canoe to a Car Without a Rack?

You can use foam pads or pool noodles to carry a canoe without a roof rack. For a detailed article, go to How to Tie a Canoe to a Car Without a Rack?

How to transport your kayak from your car to the launch point?

The best option to transport a kayak is using cart/ dolly/ wheels etc. In this case, to protect your kayak from damage you need the best kayak cart there is that fits your needs.

Why Roof Racks are so Expensive?

What makes a roof rack so costly, is the roof rack’s advanced engineering with all of its features and possibilities, and it’s also complicated to build.
Roof racks are designed to be Aerodynamic for reducing drag and support a large amount of weight on top of your car while looking appealing.
The differences in function between the low-cost and top-of-the-line roof racks can be seen in their construction. They are not simply two metal plates welded together.
For a detailed article, go to Understanding Why Roof Racks are so Expensive