Can You Put a Kayak on a Small Car? Complete Guide w/Video!


Even if you own a small car or sedan you can still enjoy and experience a great day on the water with your kayak. Many people will safely carry and transport their kayaks on top of their car without a roof rack!

You can safely put a kayak on a small car by placing the kayak on foam blocks or pool noodles to protect the kayak and car’s finish from damage. Use ratchet straps to secure the kayak while driving by passing them through the open car doors. Check straps and retighten after 30 minutes and after every hour while driving.

Now you know it’s an option to carry a kayak on top of your car without an expensive roof rack or trailer, let’s look at your options and check out the short video further below!

The Pool Noodle Kayak Rack – Quick and Easy

The best known ‘Do It Yourself’ method of carrying your kayak on your car is the Pool Noodle Kayak Rack method!

 Pool Noodle Kayak Rack Setup

With a minimum of three pool noodles, you can purchase from your local Walmart or other discount stores, place them roughly 24″ to 30″ apart on the roof of your car.

Exactly how far to place them will be determined by the roof of your vehicle. Have them far enough to the front and back of your roof to protect your car’s finish. The third noodle will go in between the other two noodles to give additional protection and padding.

TIP: You can always use additional pool noodles where you may need them!

Once your noodles are in the place where you want them, trim them to the width of your car with a pair of sharp scissors or utility knife. You don’t want the noodles to be flapping off to the side of the car, so trim them accordingly!

After the noodles have been trimmed to length, place your ratchet straps through their hollow section. Most people will place the ratchet straps through the front and rear noodle. You can use a third ratchet strap in the middle if you think you need to!

I have seen people slip a piece of PVC piping into the pool noodle for additional support. This may place additional unneeded downward force along the roof of your vehicle.

Before you tighten down and secure your pool noodles, be sure to open your car doors! Otherwise, you won’t be able to open the doors afterward!

Place the Kayak on Top of the Car and Noodles

A lighter weight kayak is easier to lift to your car top. If you find it heavier than you want to lift straight up, leave one end on the ground and lift from the other end.

Tip: Transport your kayak with the hull in an upright position.

Once one end is atop the car roof, it’s easy to lift the other end, swing it over and place it onto the car.

After your kayak is in place you’ll want to make any adjustments necessary to the pool noodles to protect both your car and the kayak.

Secure the Kayak With the Ratchet Straps

Now that your kayak is in place, use the ratchet straps to tightly secure it to safely drive down the road!

Tip: To keep your straps from whistling and flapping in the wind, give them a few twists before you tighten them down!

Place one strap over the hull at the front and another strap over the kayak at the rear. DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN THE STRAPS!!! You want enough holding power to secure the kayak while driving, but you also don’t want to deform or damage your kayak or car either!

Secure the Bow and Stern of the Kayak

Double-check that your kayak is secure and where you want it to be while traveling, and using rope or additional straps, secure your bow and stern to the front and rear bumper of your vehicle.

Since you’re not using a solid roof rack, securing the bow and stern will keep the kayak from lifting and moving around while you drive. You’ll find easy attachment points at the grab handles on most kayaks.

Tip: Stop and check your straps after 30 minutes of driving, as they’ll often begin to loosen up. If you’re traveling a longer distance, check them every hour or so to be sure they remain tight!

With a longer kayak that may hang out over the bumpers, you may want to add a red flag for safety reasons as well.

Now you have your kayak secured nicely to the top of your car! Remember to drive safely and check on your straps holding the kayak every hour or so!

Foam Block Kayak Carrier Setup – A Step Up!

There is nothing wrong with the pool noodle setup except maybe being a little heavy on the DIY look! The next step up is an inexpensive foam block kayak carrier from Amazon for your car top!


Universal Car-Top Kayak Carrier Kit with Foam Blocks

The process is the same as the pool noodle setup above, just replace the noodles with the foam blocks!

Soft Roof Rack Pads

One more option to transport a kayak on a car without a roof rack is the soft pad roof rack. They are very similar to the foam block carrier and attach to the roof of the car accordingly.


Alfa Gear Soft Roof Rack Pads

The soft roof rack pads are designed to slide over a roof rack, but they can be used similarly to the pool noodles and foam blocks. They sit a little bit lower than the foam blocks, and they store easier with the ability to squish down and come with a storage bag.

Personally, I like and have used the foam blocks years ago to carry and transport a small Water Scamp 2-Man boat many years ago. The higher the Scamp was from the paint finish, the better we liked it!

How Fast Can You Drive With a Kayak on the Roof?

It never fails when we’re out driving, whether we’re transporting kayaks or driving down the road pulling a trailer. You always want to go a little faster to get there a little quicker!

Depending upon how the kayak is secured to the vehicle, you can travel the posted speed limits. The faster you go, the more the wind force is applied to your kayak, and more things may go wrong. Check your rigging every hour or so, and you can drive at a speed that won’t impede other traffic.

The thing with driving fast, you generally won’t get there that much quicker anyhow! It is not quick enough to risk having your kayak become loose on top of your car or become damaged.

Drive safely and use common sense when traveling with a kayak strapped to your car roof!

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Have fun and stay safe out there!

Mike Rodman

Mike enjoys fishing all year round, from fly fishing small streams in Wyoming's higher mountains to kayak fishing the lower altitude lakes and reservoirs. Mike also has a passion for ice fishing and is a member of Clam Outdoors Pro Staff. When he has spare time, he'll be found building custom fishing rods.

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