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The 10 Best Kayak Roof Racks for Cars Without Rails in 2022

Last updated May 24, 2022| Gear

You are ready for a long weekend of water adventures. The paddles are secured, fishing rods are stacked in place, camping gear packed, and the kids are lit with excitement. Now you wonder how to safely secure and transport the kayak without endangering other people or getting a ticket for traffic code violations.

Kayak’s irregular shapes make them difficult to strap onto a transport vehicle. The task is easier in vehicles fitted with roof rails that you can secure the kayak to but transporting kayaks in cars without roof rails can be challenging.

Third-party kayak roof racks designed to fit all types of cars, including vehicles without factory roof rails, are an excellent but pricey option. We have compiled an extensive list of purpose-built roof racks for cars without rails that fit every budget. Our expert list of purpose-built kayak rack models is designed to protect your vehicle and safely secure your kayak during regular or occasional use.

The 10 Best Kayak Roof Racks for Cars Without Rails in 2022

Types of Kayak Racks

There are four main kayak racks available for cars without rails. They include J-cradles, saddles, stackers, and temporary-pad roof racks. Temporary-pad-style pads are primarily for vehicles without side rails or crossbars, while stackers – as you’d guessed – can carry multiple kayaks.

  1. J-Cradles: or J-style racks provide space to secure and transport your kayak and other fishing or camping gear on your car roof. J-cradles do not take up much space on your car roof, so you can install a pair of them and carry two kayaks simultaneously. J-cradle racks require pre-installed crossbars to mount correctly on your car, and they have a side-loading mechanism for sidewalk kayak loading and unloading.
  2. Saddles: also known as horizontal racks offer a secure method to transport a kayak using single or double interconnecting adjustable cradles that fit vehicle roof width. During transportation, saddles provide a broad base to secure your kayak hull, preventing it from shifting at high speeds.
  3. Stackers: also known as vertical roof racks, allow you and your buddies to secure and transport several kayaks on a car. They are versatile kayak roof racks for cars without rails due to their ability to carry one or four kayaks. A stacker rack requires crossbars to install correctly on your car roof.
  4. Temporary foam or inflatable pads: is ideal for short trips to the lake, and It is one of the best kayak roof racks for cars for paddlers who indulge in occasional kayaking. Temporary pads consist of foam or inflatable padding with the straps installed inside and outside the vehicle to secure the kayak. They do not require pre-installed crossbars to mount correctly.

Tips for Choosing the Best Kayak Roof Rack for Your Car

Identifying the most appropriate kayak roof rack requires careful research, and there are several vital factors to consider. Here are some essential tips to follow when choosing the best kayak roof rack for your car.

Your vehicle roof rack assembly

The type of factory installed rack setup on your vehicle determines the type of kayak roof rack you can successfully install on it. You can install kayak rack types like temporary pads on bare roofs without rails, while other kayak racks like J-style racks can only mount on a pre-installed factory or aftermarket crossbars.

The 10 Best Kayak Roof Racks for Cars Without Rails in 2022

Regular or occasional use

It is not a good idea to invest in an expensive roof rack if you are a recreational paddler and seldom take your kayak to the water. On the other hand, keen paddlers, on the other hand, will need a reliable kayak roof rack for regular use.

Distance from your home to the lake

Investing in a durable kayak offering excellent high-speed protection for strapped kayaks is a good idea if you need to travel long distances to your favorite lake or river. However, paddlers living close to their local lakes or rivers may need temporary pads for short trips.

The number of kayaks you regularly transport

All the kayak roof rack types mentioned in the previous subtitle, except Stacker racks, can only carry a single kayak. Stackers can carry multiple kayaks, and they are excellent for paddlers who make regular or occasional trips to the lake with their family and friends.

The 10 Best Kayak Roof Racks for Cars Without Rails in 2022

The Best Roof Kayaks For Cars Without Rails In 2022

#1. WOOWAVE Kayak Roof Rack Pads

41NaGsNHQ2L. SL500 - Heart for Outdoor
  • Brand: WOOWAVE
  • Type: Foam Pads
  • Material: Polyester

The WOOWAVE kayak Roof Rack Pads are a pair of premium lightweight, universal car kayak roof racks for cars without rails. They are designed to fit all vehicle types, and the product has a grade EPE foam padded interior with a durable UV-resistant nylon cover protecting your roof and kayak from scratches. The high-strength buckle and strap setup is easy to attach to your car, and it is designed for optimum performance under extreme outdoor conditions. Available with a Money-Back Guarantee and a one-year free replacement exchange, the WOOWAVE Kayak Roof Rack Pads are the most affordable and convenient way to safely secure and transport your kayak for a fun day at the lake or beach.

Product highlights:

  • Available with all-weather capable pads, polyester straps, and padded metal buckles with water, corrosion, and abrasion resistance.
  • The lightweight, aerodynamic design reduces drag and firmly secures your kayak.
  • Manufacturers 1-Year Quality Warranty.
  • Available with a storage bag.

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Last update: 8 hours ago

#2. Best Marine Kayak Roof Rack Pads

41rBRcFwl9L. SL500 - Heart for Outdoor
  • Brand: BEST Marine And Outdoors
  • Type: Foam Pads
  • Material: Polyester

Best Marine Kayak Roof Rack Pads are crafted to provide a mix of affordable and satisfying kayak transportation for paddlers aching to get their kayaks to the local lake or river. Designed for short trips, they are an excellent option for conventional roof racks, offering similar levels of strength and durability as steel crossbar roof racks. Attaching Best Marine Roof Rack Pads to your car roof takes mere minutes as the product comes with all the necessary accessories you need to secure your kayak and the pad to your car. Made from durable, shock-resistant EPE foam and 600 Denier polyester fabric, Best Marine Kayak Roof Pads offer long-term value and remain one of the best kayak roof racks for cars without rails.

Product highlights:

  • Designed for vehicles with over 48 inches in width.
  • Quick installation using adjustable straps, two ratchet straps, trunk anchors, and bungee accessory cords.
  • Built-in D-rings, bow, and stern anchors to safely secure different size kayaks to your car roof.
  • Available with a storage bag.

$66.66

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Last update: 8 hours ago

#3. Alfa Gear Universal Kayak Soft Roof Rack Pad

413D733PRJL. SL500 - Heart for Outdoor
  • Brand: Alfa Gear
  • Type: Foam Pads
  • Material: Nylon

The Alfa Gear Universal lightweight anti-vibration kayak roof rack for cars without rails offers class-leading design and features unseen in most conventional kayaks. In response to a significant customer gripe about excessive noise, the Alfa Gear Universal Kayak soft Roof Rack Pad has reinforced tie-down loops eliminating flapping during transportation and increasing the strap breaking strength to 600lbs. Also gone is the long straps inside of the car cabin, a design eliminating water leakage. Made from heavy-duty strong nylon fabric with a 1,200lbs breaking limit, the Alfa Gear is an excellent kayak transport choice for paddlers who love to enjoy a relaxed recreational paddling lifestyle.

Product highlights:

  • Fits all types of vehicles, including compacts, sedans, minivans, trucks, and SUVs.
  • Anti-vibration multi foam design reduces vibration during kayak transport.
  • Maximum 200lbs weight capacity.
  • Different strapping methods for various watercraft models. Consult operations manual during application.
  • Available with a storage bag.

$55.96 $59.96

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-7%
Last update: 8 hours ago

#4. HandiRack Universal Inflatable Kayak Roof Rack

5179ybnNLLL. SL500 - Heart for Outdoor
  • Brand: HandiRack
  • Type: Inflatable Pads
  • Material: Nylon

Hauling your kayak just got easier with the HandiRack Universal Inflatable Kayak Roof Rack for cars without rails. This system uses a pair of inflatable pads instead of foam pads which offers increased protection for panoramic roofs, car paint, and kayaks during transport. Made from premium quality materials, the HandiRack is installed within minutes using adjustable straps, which thread through your vehicle’s cabin. You then inflate the rack with a pump, and it is ready to be loaded.

Product highlights:

  • It is made from rugged non-abrasive 400 Denier nylon with coated metal parts to prevent corrosion.
  • The inflatable kayak rack assembly can be deflated and folded into a minimal size for storage when not in use.
  • Fully assembled, the unit can take up to 175lbs load, including kayaks.
  • Available with a storage bag.

$79.95 $99.95

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-20%
Last update: 8 hours ago

#5. Seah Hardware Universal Kayak Roof Rack Cross-Bars

41mJVWBihqL. SL500 - Heart for Outdoor
  • Brand: SEAH Hardware
  • Type: Cross Bars
  • Material: Alloy Steel

The Seah Hardware Universal Kayak Roof Rack Cross-Bars offers excellent value for paddlers desiring a durable and conventional kayak rack at an affordable price. It consists of two 47-inch long crossbars produced from heavy-duty steel secured by waterproof ratchet straps that thread through your car cabin. The Seah Hardware Universal roof rack system fits almost all vehicle types and supports up to 150lbs loads or two kayaks when used with J-cradles. Also available with a set of footpads for vehicles without rails, you can install this device on factory-installed crossbars. Our only gripe with the Seah Hardware Universal Kayak Roof Rack Cross-Bar assembly is that it is incompatible with coupes (2-door vehicles). The crossbar’s short length restricts your ability to carry wider kayaks.

Product highlights:

  • Compatible with two pairs of J-cradles.
  • Polished high-grade heavy-duty steel.
  • Versatile and affordable.
  • Available with a pair of durable waterproof ratchet straps.
  • Easy installation and disassembly in minutes.

$76.99

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Last update: 8 hours ago

#6. MeeFar Universal Car Soft Roof Rack Pads

41zltEYkmIL. SL500 - Heart for Outdoor
  • Brand: MeeFar
  • Type: Strap Mount Foam Pads
  • Material: Eva

Made from top-grade Eva foam-padded interior core and a durable 700 Denier nylon fabric exterior cover, the MeeFar Universal Car Soft kayak roof rack for cars without rails is a secure and convenient product for transporting your kayaks to your next adventure spot. It features anti-vibration technology with a built-in non-slip mat scratching or scuffing to prevent damage and reduce overall wind noise. You do not need any special tools to install the system, and it takes only a few minutes to attach the pads to your car roof and tie down your kayak in place. The MeeFar Universal Universal Car Soft Roof Rack Pads have a foldable design that stores inside a bag when it is not in use.

Product highlights:

  • Available with two units of 15ft adjustable straps with padded cam locks and two units of 15ft bow & stern tie-down straps securing the kayak to your vehicle.
  • Quick loop strap without lashing point to lash and secure kayaks to cars.
  • Available with a storage bag.

$69.99 $79.99

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-13%
Last update: 8 hours ago

#7. Malone VersaRail Bare Roof Cross Rail Rack

31w8f ASBUL. SL500 - Heart for Outdoor
  • Brand: Malone
  • Type: Railing Mount
  • Material: Stainless Steel

Considered the best overall kayak rack for cars without rails, the Malone VersaRail Bare Roof Cross Rail Rack offers a durable and secure method for transforming your family sedan or SUV into a formidable kayak transport machine. The Malone VersaRail is made from high-grade stainless steel with suction cups that attach securely to your car roof for a firm grip, and non-breakable nylon attachment straps thread through your car cabin, securing the entire system. Malone VersaRail kayak roof rack system has anti-corrosion protection, and it is J-cradle compatible, allowing you to carry up to two kayaks at once. It is quick to install and dismantle, making it the perfect kayak roof rack system for your next paddling adventure.

Product highlights:

  • Only suitable for four-door vehicles. Not for use with 2-door cars.
  • It can carry two kayaks when fitted with J-cradles.
  • Equipped with non-marking silicon pad suction cups for better grip.
  • Available in 50 or 58 inches non-corrosive two load bar length options.
31w8f ASBUL. SL500 - Heart for Outdoor

#8. XGeek Universal Soft Roof Rack Pads

$33.99 $39.99

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-15%
Last update: 8 hours ago
  • Brand: XGeek
  • Type: Strap Mount Cotton Pads.
  • Material: Cotton.

Head out for your next extreme paddling adventure with the XGeek Car Soft Kayak Rack Pad with confidence, and enjoy the reliability, convenience, and high-speed stability offered by this premium kayak roof rack assembly. Designed for cars without rails, the XGeek Car Soft Kayak Rack Pad is compatible with nearly any car type and model and comes with eleven accessories to secure your kayak while you drive. The inner core consists of 3.2-inch high load-bearing pearl cotton with a durable nylon outer cover and a PVC anti-slip bottom mat adhering tightly to the roof surface. Installing the XGeet rack assembly takes a few minutes, and the unit folds away into a storage bag.

Product highlights:

  • Comes with four buckle tie-down straps, two tie-down ropes, two quick loop straps, and two hood loop straps.
  • Easy to install within minutes without tools.
  • 3.5-inch thick pearl cotton inner core protects your kayak and roof paint from scratches.
  • A storage bag.

$33.99 $39.99

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-15%
Last update: 8 hours ago

#9. WONITAGO Soft Roof Rack Pads

41RQag 0n4L. SL500 - Heart for Outdoor
  • Brand: WONTIAGO
  • Type: Strap Mount Foam Pads
  • Material: Foam

The NEOLIFE kayak soft roof rack from WONTIAGO is a masterpiece design highlighting the simplicity, effectiveness, and durability of soft foam kayak roof racks for cars without rails. Produced from heavy-duty 600 Denier polyester, this waterproof kayak soft rack unit is designed for all-weather applications with anti-UV and corrosion-resistance properties. The NEOLIFE soft roof rack 19/28 inch pads fit all car types, and with over 12ft of strap length, it secures your kayak for transport over long distances. NEOLIFE soft kayak roof rack pads are easy to install and disassemble. They offer paddlers a convenient and secure option for moving kayaks from the home to the lake or ocean, allowing them to indulge in their favorite outdoor activities.

Product highlights:

  • Lightweight and compact design allow easy installation and storage.
  • Anti-slip protection prevents your kayak from slipping off at highway speeds.
  • Waterproof polyester straps with coated metal buckles provide optimum performance in rain, sun, or snow.
  • 24-hour professional after-sales service.

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Last update: 8 hours ago

#10. HEYTRIP Universal Soft Roof Rack Pads

41 qPLj4qrL. SL500 - Heart for Outdoor
  • Brand: HEYTRIP
  • Type: Strap Mount Foam Pads
  • Material: Eva

HEYTRIP Universal Soft Kayak Roof Rack Pads are proof that you do not require a costly roof rack system for carrying your kayak to the lake. HEYTRIP Universal kayak roof rack pads fit almost every type of car, and it is rated for a weight load of 80 kg. It features reduced noise and anti-vibration technology, and a built-in anti-slip mat protects your roof paint from scratches. Produced from high-quality EVA foam, the pad’s inner core provides a soft cushion for kayaks. The durable nylon exterior cover is fade-free and corrosion resistant with all-weather application. You can attach the entire assembly to your car roof within minutes, and its folds into a bag for storage. An excellent sales service guarantees paddler’s satisfaction, ensuring your outdoor moments remain memorable.

Product highlights:

  • Two 15 feet adjustable tie-down straps with padded cam locks, two 15 feet bow, and stern tie-down cables.
  • Easy installation and removal.
  • Accompanied by a storage bag.

$69.99 $99.99

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-30%
Last update: 8 hours ago

Conclusion

Paddlers need a good kayak roof rack, especially if they drive a car without roof rails. We prefer the roof crossbars for cars without rails reviewed in the article because they offer similar versatility and strength as a more expensive permanent factory or aftermarket installation. They also allow paddlers to carry more than one kayak for a day of paddling fun with their buddies. Soft roof rack pads are cheaper and easier to install, and store. Plus, they also fulfill the needs of most recreational kayakers who paddle occasionally.

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