Choosing the Best Kayak Rack for Truck: Ultimate Guide

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The struggle of finding the right kayak rack for your truck can become a headache. Trust me, I’ve been there, tangled in straps, struggling to secure my kayak, and feeling the frustration of an inefficient rack for my truck

In this ultimate guide, we’re diving headfirst into Choosing the Best Kayak Rack for Trucks to smoothen your outdoor escapades. From personal experience to the comprehensive insights we’ve gathered, we understand the pain points that come with choosing the right rack.

This blog post isn’t just another gear review; it’s your key to unlocking seamless adventures. We’ll explore the different types of kayak racks, dissect essential features, and guide you through the selection process.


Do I need a kayak rack for my truck?

Getting a kayak rack for your truck will provide a secure and designated space for your kayak during transportation. This helps prevent potential damage to your kayak and ensures a safer journey. 

Also, a kayak rack frees up space inside your truck, you can now use the interior for other gear or passengers. 

Finally, loading and unloading you kayak from the truck becomes so easy with a rack, making the overall kayaking experience more convenient. 

How do you transport a kayak in a truck?

Transporting a kayak in a truck can be done effectively with the following steps:

  • Ensure that your kayak is a size that can be accommodated in your truck bed without overhanging excessively.
  • Use a Kayak Rack or Carrier to provide a secure and stable platform for your kayak during transport.
  • Tie down the kayak to the rack tightly but not overly tight to avoid damaging the kayak.
  • use padding or foam blocks between the kayak and the rack or truck bed to prevent scratches or damage. 
  • Ensure that the kayak doesn’t obstruct your rearview mirror or any lights. Also, confirm that it doesn’t hang too far over the front or back of the truck bed.
  • Drive Cautiously taking turns and making maneuvers carefully to avoid any sudden shifts.
  • Stop and check the straps periodically during your journey to make sure they remain tight and secure.

Before Buying Kayak Rack for your truck

Before purchasing a kayak rack for your truck, consider the following factors:

Your kayak size and shape

Take note of the variety of kayaks you own, including different sizes and shapes. Consider if you have sit-on-top, sit-inside, or tandem kayaks, as each may require a specific type of rack.

Are you using Tandem vs. solo kayak?

Determine whether you’ll be transporting tandem (two-person) kayaks or solo kayaks. This influences the width and length of the rack needed.

Frequency of kayak transport

Consider how often you’ll be transporting your kayaks. If it’s a frequent activity, investing in a durable and convenient rack becomes more crucial.

Your truck model and bed size

Evaluate the specifications of your truck, including the model and bed size. Different trucks may require different types of racks, and the size of the bed will determine the length of the rack needed to accommodate your kayaks securely.

Types of Kayak Racks

Bed Extender Racks

Bed extender racks provide an extended platform beyond the truck bed, allowing for the transport of longer kayaks with greater stability.

They offer versatility, accommodating kayaks of different shapes and sizes, including tandems.

Bed extender racks are designed to be compatible with a range of truck bed sizes, making them a flexible option for different truck models.

Check the specific dimensions of your truck bed to ensure a proper fit and functionality.

Installation typically involves securing the bed extender to the hitch receiver of the truck. Follow manufacturer guidelines for proper installation to ensure stability and safety during transportation.

Hitch-mounted Racks

Ideal for truck owners with hitch receivers, as they provide a convenient and secure attachment point for kayak racks. Hitch-mounted racks are easily accessible, making loading and unloading kayaks more straightforward.

Consider the class of your hitch receiver (Class I, II, III, etc.) to ensure compatibility with the hitch-mounted kayak rack. Different hitch classes have varying weight capacities, influencing the type and number of kayaks the rack can support.

Use hitch-mounted rack with features like tilting or swing-away designs for easier access to the truck bed.

Try to get additional accessories such as loading ramps for smooth kayak loading and unloading.

Roof-mounted Racks

Roof-mounted racks offer a versatile solution for various vehicles, including trucks. However, they may pose challenges in terms of accessibility and aerodynamics, impacting fuel efficiency.

Roof-mounted racks can be a suitable option for trucks with bed covers, providing an alternative if the truck bed is not available for rack installation.

Key Features to Look For in a Truck Kayak Rack

Material and Durability

When choosing a truck kayak rack, go straight for Aluminum or steel as the primary options, each has its own set of pros and cons. Aluminum racks are lightweight, making installation easy, but steel racks boast sturdiness and durability. I always go for steel.

Don’t forget to check for rust-resistant coatings to enhance the rack’s lifespan. Knowing the longevity of the chosen material is good, but maintenance prolongs its durability. 

Adjustability and Compatibility

Look for racks that offer adjustability to accommodate various kayak sizes. This feature allows flexibility in transporting different types of kayaks without the hassle of purchasing multiple racks. Moreover, consider compatibility with various truck models. A versatile rack that fits your specific truck ensures a seamless and secure fit.

You can decide to go for universal or model-specific racks. While universal racks offer broader compatibility, model-specific ones are designed with precision. 

Security Measures

Prioritize security features to safeguard your investment. Look for locking mechanisms designed to prevent theft. A secure locking system gives you peace of mind when leaving your kayak unattended.

Evaluate tie-down options that contribute to stability during transport. A well-secured kayak prevents unnecessary movement, reducing the risk of damage.

My Top 3 Picks of Kayak Racks for Trucks

Overall Best: Malone SeaWing Saddle Style Universal Car Rack Kayak

Price: $134

Load Capacity70 Pounds
Mounting typeSaddle Mount,Rails
Fitmentcars, trailers
Dimension28 x 8 x 6 inches
Weight10 Pounds

This carrier’s unique mid-point mounting not only leaves ample room for a second kayak (just grab another SeaWing), but it also combines a single saddle design with hassle-free setup, offering you extra roof space for added convenience.

What sets the SeaWing apart is its unmatched versatility. It’s the only bottom-down carrier on the market that encourages you to transport a second kayak on the same roof. The low-profile design ensures a smooth drive with minimal air resistance, and the gentle flex of the SeaWing cradles your boat securely throughout your journey.

Whether your cross rails are round, square, or factory oval, the SeaWing does the job.


  • Saddle-style cradle securely holds kayak
  • Universal fit for versatility across different car models
  • Bow and stern lines enhance kayak stability
  • Tool-free installation for user convenience
  • Corrosion-resistant and UV-protected construction for durability
  • Integrated boarding ramps facilitate easy kayak loading


  • Not be suitable for wider kayaks or canoes

Best Budget: TMS Universal Kayak Roof Racks for 2 Kayaks

Price: $74

Load Capacity75 Pounds
Mounting typeRoof
FitmentUniversal fit for cars, trucks, and SUVs
DimensionJ-17.5 x 12 x 6.5 inches 
CompatibilitySuitable for kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards
MaterialAlloy Steel
Weight16 Pounds

With this Kayak Carrier, you can easily mount it on virtually any crossbar or load bar available in the market. Designed for convenience, it securely holds your kayak on its side, saving valuable space on the load bar.

Crafted from sturdy steel, this carrier ensures both carrying strength and protection for your kayak. With the wide-mouth J bar, Loading and unloading become a breeze and the quick on/off hardware ensures a swift installation and removal process.

This carrier is designed to work seamlessly with most crossbars and load bars.

Equipped with a powder-coated finish for rust resistance, this kayak carrier comes complete with all the necessary mounting hardware and two straps for added security. It accommodates kayaks up to 36 inches wide and 75 pounds, making it the perfect companion for your kayaking adventures. 


  • Universal fit for cars, trucks, and SUVs
  • Easy to install with J-Bar style carriers
  • Dual kayak capacity
  • Durable 
  • Includes two sets of straps for secure attachment


  • Not be suitable for larger kayaks or canoes

Best Folding: DRSPORTS Universal Foldable J-Bar Kayak Rack 

Price: $99

MaterialHeavy-duty steel with rubber coating
Capacity1 kayak up to 150 lbs per pair
CompatibilityMounts to most crossbars
Includes2 pairs of J-bar racks, mounting hardware, 2 ratchet straps, 2 bow/stern tie-down straps

The DRSPORTS Two Pairs Universal Foldable J-Bar Kayak Rack is a very affordable kayak rack for trucks, especially considering that it comes with all the necessary hardware and straps. While the rack may not be as strong or secure as more expensive options, it is a good value for the money for casual kayakers who need a simple and easy-to-use rack.


  • Affordable
  • Easy to install and use
  • Foldable for easy storage
  • Universal compatibility with most crossbars
  • Can carry multiple kayaks, canoes, SUPs, surfboards, and skis
  • Includes all necessary hardware and straps


  • Not very strong or secure
  • For only lighter kayaks
  • Rubber coating wear off easily
  • Folding mechanism can be difficult to use

Maintenance Tips

Cleaning and Rust Prevention

Keep your kayak truck rack in top condition by regularly cleaning it. Remove dirt, grime, and salt residue, especially after trips near coastal areas. Consider using a mild detergent and a soft brush to prevent scratches. Pay special attention to areas prone to rust, and apply a rust-resistant coating as a preventive measure.

Bolts and Fasteners

Ensure the stability of your rack by routinely inspecting bolts and fasteners. Tighten any loose components to prevent issues during transport. Periodic checks help identify potential problems early on, maintaining the structural integrity of the rack.

Moving Parts

Keep moving parts in optimal condition by applying lubricant. Hinges, joints, and any adjustable elements benefit from regular lubrication. This not only ensures smooth operation but also reduces wear and tear over time. Choose a lubricant suitable for outdoor use and varying weather conditions.

Wear and Tear

Regularly inspect your kayak truck rack for signs of wear and tear. Look for cracks, dents, or any damage that could compromise the rack’s strength and stability. Addressing issues promptly prevents further damage and extends the overall lifespan of the rack.

Storage Tips During the Off-Season

When not in use, consider proper storage to protect your kayak truck rack. If possible, remove the rack and store it indoors to shield it from harsh weather conditions. If outdoor storage is unavoidable, use a cover to shield the rack from the elements. Storing the rack properly during the off-season contributes to its longevity and ensures it’s ready for action when needed.

MY TOP Kayak Racks for Trucks PICKS

MALONE SeaWing Car Rack for Kayak

Our Rating


Author’s Choice

TMS Universal Car Kayak Rack

Our Rating


Highly Recommended

DRSPORTS Foldable Kayak Rack

Our Rating