Malone HandiRack Inflatable Universal Rooftop Rack

Best Kayak Roof Rack for cars without rails

There are several models and types of kayak rack for cars and SUVs that don't have rails on the market today and finding one that suits your unique needs can really be difficult. In this article, we will be talking about the different kinds of kayak racks and options for cars and SUV that are available, giving you our review of these products with and without rails and what we view as the best kayak roof racks for cars without rails. 




Thule Hullavator Pro Carrier

  • Easy to use
  • Has gas struts making it easy to load and unload the kayak
  • Can accommodate kayaks up to 36 inches wide and 75 lbs


Thule 835 Hull-a-Port Pro Kayak Carrier/Rack

  • Most secured type of kayak holder
  • Has a ratchet straps that are easy to use
  • Collapsible


Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Kayak Roof Carrier

  • Has a built-in fold down system
  • Easy to use
  • Good for travel


Malone SeaWing Saddle Style Universal Kayak Roof Rack

  • Very cost-effective
  • Adaptable
  • Can fit two kayaks


Yakima JayLow Folding J-Cradle Rooftop Kayak Rack Carrier

  • Easy to use
  • Has an easy release handle
  • Prevents your kayak from scratching the paint

Kayak roof rack for cars without rails

What are the types of kayak racks available?

We will be looking at the three main types of kayaks roof racks.

  1. Saddle Kayak Rack: The saddle kayak auto roof racks are the types that are mostly used among kayakers, and this is probably because of their ease of use and because they have the most secured kayak attachment. With the saddle kayak racks, they carry the kayaks in a horizontal position, and what this means is that the kayak won’t take up all the space up on the roof of your vehicle. When it comes to aerodynamics, there is no bother with its placement and also with the special foam.
  2. Stacker Kayak Carrier: This type of kayak roof auto rack tower is designed primarily for carrying two to four kayaks at a time, this means that with the stacker kayak carriers, you’ll have more roof space to accommodate other supplies. The stacker kayak carriers keep the kayak in a vertical position on the roof of your vehicle, and when it comes to aerodynamics, this may not be a very good option for you to consider, because it just might not be as secure as you want it to be. For this specific reason, many people consider it a difficult method of carrying a kayak.
  3. J-Cradle Kayak Carrier: This easy installation rack is set up in a 45-degrees inclination, and that is just how the kayak is held. It gives good security for transporting your kayak, includes foam, giving extra space for an additional kayak. This applies only if two J-cradles are on your car’s roof with good securing.

Best Kayak Roof Racks in 2021 Review

  1. Thule Hullavator Pro Carrier 

The Thule Hullavator Pro is as unique as it’s helpful. For a kayak roof rack for cars without rails, it’s one of a kind, and it will change the way you load or unload your kayaks, SUP’s, and your surfboards and or boarding bags, with no problems.

These kayak roof racks usually extend over the side of the car where they hang in place, letting you put the boat on and strap it in place at hip-height, and transport.


Once you have the boat loaded, all you have to do next is to lift the kayak or the SUP and the rack will do the rest by retracting it, locking securely in place on top of your car. It’s quite easy to use.

There are bow and stern strap mounts that have quick-adjust tensioners that make the loading process or the unload process an easy one. If you know that you’re tired of the rigorous task of lifting the kayak and SUPs all the way to the top of your car, then you’ll want to try this. Getting kayaks up on the roof and on to the rails and bars without a hassle has never been easier.

We bought one specifically for this post and it was the best one we have ever bought for transport. You need to check it out!


  1. Thule 835 Hull-a-Port Pro Kayak Carrier/Rack

This kayak carrier is a J-style kayak rack for cars that hold a single kayak vertically. It comes with two separate vertical “J” shaped mounts that are separate to the front and rear cross bars rails.

The system has a padded j-bar and a ratchet strap system. The ratchet straps are quite easy to use, and if you use them right, they are the most secure type of kayak holder that attaches to your vehicle rails. Use the straps to cross over the kayak and secure it to the roof with the bars. Different vehicle heights can be more difficult to get on to the roof. The bars and rails on this Thule roof system will secure your kayak quicker than you thought possible.

This roof rack usually fits Thule-guaranteed rack rail systems, but they will fit just about any roof cross rails. One cool thing about this Hull-a-Port Pro is the fact that they are collapsible.

With just the pull of a lever, they will fold down so that you don’t have to rip them off on the garage door. When it comes to the Hull-a-Port Pro, this is a strong contender or even any Hull-a-Port Pro kayak.


  1. Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Kayak Roof Carrier

This is another J-style kayak roof rack carrier. Malone auto racks come with a built-in fold down system. This is a great feature that should be featured in all kayak roof racks and good for travel. Use the straps without any problems and your roof rack is easy to install on your vehicle.

Another great thing about this kayak carrier is its angled lip that is built to help you load your kayak easily. This is a great feature because it helps to protect the paint of your car from being scratched by the rack and also for travel.

The Malone auto racks Downloader kayak carriers will mount up with just about any shape, round, oval or the square factory rails with 60 mm to 70 mm mounting hardware bolts that will fit various thicknesses and good storage.

If you have a rack that is too thick, you should go down to the nearest hardware store and get a longer bolt that has the same threads. Simple as that! Just like the previous Thule rack, this rack also has a ratchet strap that helps to secure your kayak, paddleboard (SUP), and your surfboard.


  1. Malone SeaWing Saddle Style Universal Kayak Roof Rack

This carrier Malone auto racks (horizontal in shape) that holds the kayak in two V-shaped beds which adjust on to the bars to create a tower. Using bars and rails you can secure your kayaks without worrying that you’ll damage the roof of your car. Use straps to secure your kayaks to the tower. It has a slender style that makes it easy for you to fit two kayaks side by side on most racks. Although, this can be achieved depending on the width of your car, the rack, and the kayak. Awesome for travel and great storage.

The bow and sterns placement help to improve the stability of the rack. They are better than the webbing straps because they don’t take up most of your vision for travel. Before you consider getting this kayak carrier, one thing you should consider is where you will tie the bow and stern straps to if your car doesn’t have mounting hardware points.

This carrier is very cost effective and adaptable.


  1. Yakima JayLow Folding J-Cradle Rooftop Kayak Rack Carrier

This roof rack includes many different tower features as well as being easy to install. It includes the features of the other J-style roof racks, but at a more reasonable price. This alone makes the Yakima Jaylow another strong contender for the top roof racks and for storage.

There have been some minor, but significant upgrades to this rack like the slide rails that make it easier to load your kayak onto the roof of your car, also preventing it from scratching the paint of your car. This carrier also comes with easy-release handles on each one that enables the top rack to fold down.

The general look of this carrier is well put-together and very refined. Its straps come with bow and sterns tie downs. Easy to install to the rails without too much trouble on your roof.


  1. Thule Dockglide Kayak Saddle Roof Rack

This roof rack seems to be quite more elaborate than the other of the best kayak roof racks that we showed, it does come with its own advantages. It has four unique pivoting hull pads that can be adjusted to help conform to just about any size or shape. Good for travel and storage and not heavy.

It was made to fit only one kayak that is extended from back to front. What you need to do is get the front of your kayak up and slide the rest on. There are felt-lined rear saddles that are installed that allow the kayak to smoothly slide across the saddles, protecting the hull from any scratches and abrasions. This will secure your kayaks on the rails and bars making it easier to use your roof without risking damage to your roof paint.

After doing that, use the straps to tie the whole thing down with the quick straps included. The rack supports up to 75 pounds. 


  1. The Kayak Wing – Sea Roof Rack

One thing you should know is that this kayak only supports kayaks that are up to 30 inches wide. This should be great news for sea kayakers. Installed on your roof this kayak tower holds your kayak securely with a variety of rails and bars. Straps help secure the kayak to the roof.

If you’re not sure whether you own a sea kayak or if your kayak will conveniently fit, all you need to do is measure the widest part of the hull.

The quick strap is surrounded by a neoprene protector that serves as a guard against making the metal scratch the car or the kayak. When you combine the quick straps with the bow and stern, that should be adequate for you.



  1. Yakima Showboat Roof Rack

Just like the dockglide kayak rooftop rack we reviewed earlier in the article, the Yakima Showboat kayak roof rack is a back-to-front loading carrier. There is only room for one boat on top which is disappointing. Use the straps to cross over the kayak after the craft is set in the tower. The rails support the kayak easily on the roof.


The Yakima Showboat can carry a kayak or a canoe, and it has two 66 inch Yakima cross bars that will accommodate just about anything that you want with cross bars.

The carrier’s rear assisted roller helps to get boats that are heavier in and out without you bumping them against the paint. For some people, this kit may require some extra cross bars.


  1. Thule Traverse Foot Kayak Roof Rack

This is a rack system designed to make fitting a kayak on the roof of your car a great experience. It has been fused with a number of components that make it highly functional and very respected.

And some of these features are the Advanced AcuTight tensioning tool that will help you get the needed stability; there is also the patented MaxClamp Technology that increases the secure attachment to the car and the lockable outer cover that blend with the roofline of your car and to hold your kayak or leave in place when it’s used with the Thule key locking system clearance.

It has an EZAssembly design that makes for easy installation.

kayak roof rack for cars without rail

This kayak roof rack’s ease of installation and quality is one reason, undoubtedly, why many individuals prefer the Thule traverse foot roof rack. Although, there have been times when kayakers have complained about its package, saying it doesn’t match the Thule’s standard or share it.

Other complaints have been that some parts were missing or sometimes they came delivered with a dent or leave one.

We have no doubt that Thule will keep making top quality rack system for vehicles, and this traverse roof rack unit is definitely not an exception. And for this reason, the traverse foot roof rack will be getting a solid 8.5/10 in ratings.


  • This design is innovative                            
  • It gives good security to your kayak
  • Easy installation
  • Good quality



  •  There might be some noise when the car is on top speed


  1. Yakima Baseline Tower Kayak Roof Rack

If you’re in search of gear that will turn your rail-less car’s roof into a useful space, especially in terms of carrying your kayak, the Yakima Baseline Tower Rack or baseline is what you’re looking for. This rack has a triaxial DropHook clip adjustment that makes it perfect or perfectly fit onto any car roof shape and it also allows it to seat securely in place, this is after installing it. It has a toe adjustment that gives this unit some edge.

The Yakima Baseline Tower or base line Rack has a j-bar-bed that enables it to effortlessly suit rounded roof lines; this j-bar-bed can be set to a pitch of about 12 degrees. This unit is lockable to the vehicle, with the same key system (SKS) locks, and it has a carrying capacity of 100 kg. This is a rugged roof rack system. It’s compatible with the Jetstream Crossbar or corebar, and the Yakima Roundbar.

When it comes to its quality, this product lives up to standards, but when it comes to ease of installation, there are downsides, many customers are very dissatisfied with this aspect of the unit.

But the good thing is, with the difficulty encountered when installing it, there comes the assurance that it will securely hold your kayak in place. So, after all the laboring you would need to do, there is a reward.



  • It has a secure fit
  • It is versatile
  • It is very functional
  • Sturdy model




  • It is hard to install
  • Creates some wind noises


  1. INNO INA446 Car Top Kayak Roof Rack

INNO is a Japanese manufacturing company, and this is one masterpiece that they have created, the INA446 car rack top roof rack. This rack is compatible with a variety of crossbars; and this is made possible with the aid of its inflatable universal roof mounting hardware adapters, which was designed in a way that makes loading easy especially with the inflatable universal roof.

This rack was designed with a blend of top-grade rubber and metallic materials. It has adjustable rubber pads that protect your kayak from getting scratches, there is also the integrated hand knob that secures the kayak to the roof of the car, and this is advanced by its locking covers.

INNO INA446 Car Top Roof Rack

This is one rack that you can easily fall in love with, as it has everything included that is required to keep the roof of your car, your rack and your kayak well protected from any kind of damage. There are also some components that will thrill you; the crane-style spring-loaded straps that make its installation quite easy, the covers that keep you from worrying while the system holds your rack on top of your car’s roof.

This is one rack that we will recommend for those of you who want to move your rack from one spot to the other without any worries.


    • It is easy to load
    • Easy to install
    • Versatile
    • This rack is made from top quality materials
    • Comes with good protection



  1. Malone HandiRack Inflatable Universal Rooftop Kayak Rack

If you are in the market looking for kayak racks for your car rack that has no rails and, also very functional, the Malone handirack inflatable universal kayak roof top rack is the one for you. Its distinctive nature can be seen in both its makeup and in its efficiency.

This kayak rack is made from durable 420-dernier nylon, and it has a carrying capacity of about 80 kg. And its carrying capacity is something that even some metal racks cannot take. It has an integrated double action air pump, and its installation process is quite easy; you can set it up in just a matter of minutes.

It includes 5 different D-ring anchor points that give enough protection to the kayak, and it also has a cam style load strap. It has a width of 23 cm and a length of 94 cm.

Malone HandiRack Inflatable Universal Rooftop Rack

Many kayakers that have used this unit have complained of this rack’s inability to resist heat, and how it does not effectively retain water during bad weather. But if you look at the main point of this rack, the Malone handirack inflatable rooftop rack will be scored high.

It is quite good, and it is a handy alternative with no buckle. It also doesn’t make any sound when the car rack is on full speed.



  • It is quite sturdy
  • It is of good quality
  • It is affordable
  • Convenient to use and, also easy to install
  • Offers some good protection




  • It may scratch your car
  • Its air chambers are not heat resistant and are prone to quick damages


  1. Road Trip HQ Car Kayak Rack

The Malone Handirack inflatable roof rack is not the only handirack inflatable roof rack available on the market, in fact, the Road Trip car rack roof rack is a self-inflatable rack. Added to it are the necessary tools/items that you will need to successfully set it up seamlessly. Once you open the valves of the rack, it inflates itself, and is ready to use in the space of two minutes. The rack’s kit has two handirack inflatable j-bar and two separate tie-down straps that are 2.7 meters long, that secure the kayak on the roof, while the car rack is in motion. Cross the straps over the kayak to secure it.

The rack is soft but rugged, and you should assured that your car’s painting will be intact as this rack is fixed to your car’s rooftop. Its carrying capacity is about 45 kg. This is an amazing roof rack and it gets a 9/10.


  • It is convenient to use
  • It is strong and durable
  • It is easy to install and is self-inflating
  • It is affordable
  • Has a good cushion for the kayak
  • There are no cons
  1. SportRack SR1002 Roof Rack System

This roof rack unit has a carrying capacity of about 59 kg and it does efficiently do its job. This rack is made from steel, and it is coated with black plastic, keeping rust-resistant, and, also, protecting it from the UV rays. Its package comes with two square crossbars, and four roof rack feet clamps that can be fixed to the top of the roof with the help of clips that are included in the kit. There are rubber pads at the bottom of the feet that makes sure that the paint in your car is kept intact.

SportRack SR1002 Roof Rack System

This rack also features an integrated lock system that helps to keep it secure and to ward off anyone that might try to steal it. It works on just about any type of vehicle’s rooftop, but it’s vital that you check the unique numbering system, which is available on each rack, as this helps you find the best fit for your car.

The SportRack SR1002 Roof Rack System is a good gear for the safe transporting of your kayak, and work on the roof of many types of car and SUVs even when you are moving at high speed. Another thing, this rack can be considered an all-weather gear, because it has a weatherstrip that keeps water away in the rainy season. When you look at this, and its ability to resist UV rays, you will agree with the fact that gear is an all-weather one with great work.


  • It is easy to install
  • It is lightweight
  • It is affordable
  • It is very sturdy



  •  Creates lots of wind noise 


  1. Malone Versarail Crossrail System Kayak Roof Carrier

And we end our review with the Malone Versarail Crossrail System kayak roof rack. Included in the package of this rack unit are abrasion-resistant dual suctions towers, vinyl-coated steel j-bar, attachment straps and several other relevant items needed to make the installation of this unit quite easy.

This rack comes in two length types: 50 inches and 58 inches, and it will comfortably carry a load that weighs about 60 kg.

Malone Versarail Crossrail System

The Malone Versarail Crossrail System roof rack is a good rack for carrying your kayak around. But when it is the rainy season, there comes a problem, there would be a rainy mess right inside your car. And for this reason, many people have been very critical about the Malone Versarail Crossrail System rack.

To add to that, users have complained about the quality of its straps, with some suggesting that there needs to be ratchet straps and not what they currently have in use. And sometimes, accessories are found to be missing from the package.

Although this rack system has its good qualities, we have to say that there needs to be quite a few improvements made to this unit, and one of those is the gutter clips that it are missing. The absence of these clips is really messing up the quality of this rack system. After all that, we will give this roof rack a 7/10.


  • It is durable
  • It is rust-resistant
  • Quite easy to install
  • High quality

How To Choose The Best Kayak Rack

For avid paddlers, the kayak rack is a prerequisite. Most vehicles do not have space that fits kayaks which can sometimes be up to 10 feet long. Getting the best kayak rack for your car will make transporting your kayak from one place to another very easy.

For some truck users, they may look to get some extra space when they need to carry extra gear in the bed of their truck. If you have a new kayak, and you need it transported from one place to the other, you sure will need a kayak roof to make that a possibility.

But seeing as there are a lot of models to pick from, what is the difference between these individual models, and how do you pick the one that is right for you? This and many more things are discussed in this article. End to end we use the best so you don’t have to search for a way to travel with your kayaks in your vehicle.

Before Buying A Kayak Rack                                

There are a few things out of the lot of things you need to know before you buy a rack system.

  1. What is the width of your vehicle?

You need to know the width of your car. Different cars have different size roofs which impacts the way your kayak fits. How wide is your car? This is important because not all kayak racks fit all cars and buying just any one would lead to you regretting. For kayak roof racks without rails, you can look at different ways to secure your kayaks by installing straps in a secure way. And to avoid this, find out if the rack will be a good fit.

  1. Is there a rain gutter?

Some cars come with rain gutters. These are narrow channels that allow rain run off the front and rear of your car’s roof. There are a number of racks that will attach to rain gutters either permanently or temporarily. Kayak roof racks for care without rails are easy to find and install.

  1. Your budget

How much have you set aside for this item? To acquire a safe roof rack system, you would probably end up buying one from one of the reputable and popular brands out there, like the ones mentioned in the list.

  1. The weight capacity

If you plan on attaching the kayak rack to an already existing rack, then you would need to consider the heaviest weight capacity that it would be carrying. If the roof rack will be mounted on a gutterless section or in the rain gutters of your car, then you should ensure that it can accommodate the large weight.

  1. Accessories

Not a lot of all roof racks come with large accessories in their packages especially the popular ones. These accessories make it easy for you to mount the rack onto your car’s roof. So, before making any purchase, ask what accessories come with the roof rack system you are buying.

We have more tips listed on our website. Kindly leave your comment below, especially if you find it useful, leave a comment. Your search is over! Cross looking for the perfect kayak for cars without rails off your list!

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