How To Transport A Kayak On A Small Car

Kayaks come in various lengths, and many can be around 14 feet. When you are new to the paddling world, you may not have thought about getting your kayak to the water.

Besides this, you may come to discover that kayak roof racks are made for a certain group of vehicles, and outside of this group, you could discover there are no kayak roof racks to fit your vehicle.

The good news is it doesn’t take too much DIY and come up with a way to transport your kayak on top of your car.

Small red car in front of apartment

Following are some ways you can achieve this, so you won’t have not having roof racks for kayaks as a reason not to get out on the water with your kayak. At the very least, you’ll learn how to tie down a kayak without a roof rack. (Read 5 Kayak Fishing Tips)

Can You Transport a Kayak on a Car?

Transporting your kayak is not too difficult even if you don’t have a purpose-made roof rack. The biggest concern is to make sure your kayak is secure and stays on the roof of your vehicle.

If you are traveling alone, you can put your kayak onto your shoulder and then roll it onto your roof, yet this does depend on your kayak’s weight and the height of your car.

You will find it is better to have a friend’s help, and when kayaking, it is safe and more enjoyable when there is a couple of you.

How Do You Transport a Kayak by Yourself?

If you get your kayak on the roof of your car and then off at the other end, you may want to know how you can get it to the water. You can use one of the following methods to do this, though some are easier than others.


One of the first ways to transport your kayak is to carry it. You can hitch it up on your shoulder like a heavy backpack.


If you don’t have too far to go, you can get to the water using donkey work or dragging your kayak. However, keep in mind you could damage the hull if the ground is rough.

Kayak Carts

The best method is to use a small kayak trolley. You can easily lift a kayak in place and then use these to the edge of the water.

Some paddlers even use these trolleys upside down and use the wheels as rollers to get the kayak on the back of their truck or their car. It’s quite ingenious and cheaper than a Thule carrier.

Can I Put a Kayak on My Car Without a Rack?

It is possible and quite easy to do, and you don’t require too many specialized materials to make this simplified rack system.

A couple of ratchet straps and some heavy-duty foam blocks are all you need to place on your car roof. You can also use pool noodles if you can’t get foam blocks.

You fasten the straps through your small car at the front and the back if you can open the windows to pass the straps through or have back doors.

Kayaks facing each other

It would help if you placed your kayaks on top of your car, so they sit on the blocks.

Next, you will secure your kayak or boat on your DIY kayak carrier with ropes or additional ratchet straps.

It is vital to strap the blocks down first. Without this, they will slide around as you drive along. Ropes can also vibrate in the wind as you travel along.

Finally, make sure you fasten the front and rear of your kayak as these may swivel on your racks mounting in heavy wind

How Do You Strap a Kayak to a Small Car?

If you need something a little more secure, you can up your DIY skills and make your roof rack from some simple materials.

Using the steps below, you can have an effective set of crossbars that sit on your car or the top of your truck. (Read How Many Calories Does Kayaking Burn)

Using this easy method, you will find they are useful for carrying other things also. Besides, you can change any of the roof rack parts easy if they wear.

Like the previous method, you need very few materials to make.

What You Need:


  • Electric drill
  • Small metal drill bit (#40)
  • Rasp file
  • Flat jewelers file
  • Sharp knife
  • Needle nose pliers


  • 2 x 1 in x 12-inch lashing straps
  • 2 x 3-inch diameter pool noodles
  • 1 x 1 x 1-inch aluminum plain square tube to be cut into two
  • Protective rubber tips

Setting Up the Pool Noodle Kayak Carrier

  1. Measure the aluminum tube and cut it in half.
  2. Place the tube on the roof of your vehicle and measure where the edge of your car roof is.
  3. Mark two rectangular slots on one side. Run around the line with the drill to cut out the aluminum.
  4. Cut the two rectangular holes large enough to feed the end of your rack straps through. File these, so they are smooth, and the aluminum won’t fray your straps.
  5. The straps here will secure the tubes in your car—one at the front and one towards the back.
  6. Once you cut the two holes in each aluminum tube, measure and cut your pool noodles until they reach the hole on either end.
  7. Feed the strap through the first hole until you see the end at the second. To secure, place the tubes on your roof.
  8. As you tighten the ratchet, the strap will secure itself to the vehicle.
  9. You want to get rubber tips as without them; you could damage your yak as you lift it onto your home-made vehicle roof rack.
  10. Next, as you lift your kayak onto the tube and pool noodles, make sure you secure your kayak to the ends of the aluminum tubes.
  11. Make sure to tie down the bow and stern from the side.

Because you don’t have a formed vehicle rack to hold the kayak in position. The ends may try to swing side to side as you turn corners, or strong winds hit them on your way to the kayaking spot.

The most secure method is fastening ends of straps or ropes through towing eyes at the side of your hood and also at the back of your car.

How To Transport A Kayak On A Small Car