How To Transport A Kayak With A Small Car

How To Transport A Kayak With A Small Car

The old saying, “Where there is a will there’s a way,” has a lot to do with outdoor adventure when you don’t have a pickup truck or a larger car.

For people with small cars you just have to get creative, but you can still really enjoy the outdoors. One such struggle is to figure out how to transport a kayak on a small car.

Advantages and disadvantages using a small car

While it can seem customary to have the big car, like a pickup, if you are going to be an outdoor adventurer, it just isn’t necessary. You can achieve all kinds of crazy feats if you are knowledgeable and creative with your approach.

Whether traveling with large items, full vehicles or just tackling tough terrain, you can modify almost any vehicle to make it better at achieving all of the above.

The case is no different with a small car. Of course, there are real disadvantages to having a small car, too.


  • Great Gas Mileage
  • Cheaper all around
  • Fits into tiny spots and nooks for parking


  • Some terrain is impossible to navigate
  • Weight Limits
  • Limited Towing Capabilities

Methods of transporting a kayak in a small car

Even with a small car there are several methods of transporting a kayak. From strapping to the roof to shoving it halfway in the trunk, you will find that the limits of transporting a kayak are truly left up to the resources and the creativity of the person taking this task on.


Whether your vehicle has roof racks or not you can transport a kayak, even on a small car. The rooftop of a vehicle is exceptionally smooth so if you do not have roof racks to strap a kayak to you might want to add something like a folded quilt.

One simple item you can use to transport a kayak is a pool noodle. This pool noodle can be cut and used to sit kayak on top of before strapping it down. This will protect your car from the kayak scratching it and keep the kayak from moving around on the roof.

Finally, you will need to strap this kayak down. Ratchet straps are great for this, but you can even tie the kayaks down if you are good with knots and have lengths of reliable rope.

Investing in roof racks and kayak roof top carriers should be considered if you are a regular kayaking enthusiast. This makes the whole process much easier.


Depending on your car, its level of available storage space and your kayak, you could also use your trunk to transport your kayak. Even a small car has serious potential when it comes to storage and travel. Trunks space is one aspect of this but so to is the ability to put the seats down and extend that.

With most vehicles you are going to be able to put the back seats in your vehicle down and create a nice space for feeding your kayak through the trunk and into the car.

Touring kayaks and sea kayaks are starting in the 12ft length which is quite the burden for a small car. This is particularly true of traveling these kinds of kayaks inside the vehicle. It would be my advice that you avoid these two types of kayaks if you are trying to transport a kayak using a small car.

Especially, if you are attempting to use the trunk as a main method of transportation.

Don’t forget that the trunk method is going to have some overhang and you will want to have rope to secure the trunk down on the kayak and to keep it from obstructing your view. Securing the trunk is the most important part of safely traveling your kayak in this way.


When transporting a kayak in a small car you also have an option for towing. Now, most small sedans are not worth the trouble of attaching a hitch to. They simply don’t have the horsepower to get it done. However, there are kayak towing devices that are lightweight and perfect for a small car.

For short trips you can use a kayak cart to tow your kayak to the desired location. Most kayak carts are designed for towing by bike, which is also a great option! However, a durable kayak cart could be just what you need to tow your kayak, a short distance, to the lake or river.

These are three great ways to transport a kayak, but they are hardly your only options. You can get as creative as you like and as long as you are keeping everyone safe and arriving at the destination, well, it works!

 How to Transport a Kayak on a Small Car

Type of kayaks suited to small cars

The best kinds of kayaks for small cars are going to be the smallest, of course. The smaller the kayak the easier it will be to transport. You should refer to our different types of kayaks article to understand what you are giving up using a smaller kayak or what you might stand to gain, depending on your

Folding Kayaks

Did you even know there was such a thing?! Folding kayaks, well, they fold and offer up a lot of options for the average kayaker with a sedan. A small car might be able to house something like a folding kayak without having to tie it to the roof or tow it at all!

People have even built their own folding kayaks which is astounding but possible. Remember, transporting a kayak in a small car.  is a process that is ruled by those with the creativity and drive to make it happen.

Inflatable Kayaks

Inflatable boats have come a LONG way. I remember one trip down the Brandywine River in Delaware with a beautiful girl on an inflatable boat. The duration of the ride was spent wondering which bump on the bottom would tear the boats thin hull and how far we would have to walk back!

The inflatable kayaks of today are absolute marvels of technology with hard bottoms and thick, durable hulls that not only protect it from being puncture but give it true kayak style maneuverability.

Another huge benefit of the inflatable kayak is that you can transport a larger, two seat style kayak that would be far too long to travel inside a vehicle or maybe even on top.

Deflated, these kayaks are easy to move around and only require a quick blow up at the waters edge. Some even come with carrying cases so you can literally walk back to your car if you have no transportation help but really wanna get a kayak trip in.

Flat Water Kayaks

Another important style of kayak to consider is the flat water. These are designed for, well, flat water. Lakes and calm rivers are great spots to pilot these kinds of kayaks. The big benefit with these kayaks is the length. These are much shorter than any other type of kayak.

While they do not fold or deflate, they are the most compatible with a small car. Of course, they are not designed to conquer rough waters, but you can still have a great kayak trip with a flat water kayak.

If you are planning on shoving a kayak in the trunk or strapping one to the roof these are going to be one of your best options for doing that. It’s not to say these are your only option but they are going to be the smallest option you have.

How do you transport a kayak on a small car?

Transporting a kayak on a small car is about much more than just how the kayaks are affixed to the car. Let’s look at some reasonable steps you should take throughout the process.


You should plan every kayak trip and be sure you understand where you are going, how far, what roads you will travel and where your final destination will be. All of this information will help you understand what your small car is capable of as a transportation vehicle.

In the planning phase you should also consider transportation from the takeout location. Is someone coming to pick you up to take you back to your vehicle.

If you are traveling on high speed roads for a long time you will need to secure your load accordingly. That is a particularly important part of planning. Which method you choose will likely be determined by the distance traveled.

Prepare the Vehicle

After the planning phase is over you should begin the process of prepping your vehicle for your trip. This will include a number of things. You should clear out your car except for things that are essential to the trip. If you are going to store a kayak in the trunk of your car than you should be sure that they trunk is cleaned out.

If you are going to transport your kayak on the top of your car with racks than you should be sure that those racks are securely in place on the vehicle. If you are using any kind of straps or rope than these should all be gathered today as well.

Attach and Secure

Finally, you are going to secure the kayaks before your trip. Now is the time to place your kayaks in the places they are going to be secured and make sure they are tightly secured. If you are securing to a roof, make sure the kayak is not slipping.

If you are settling the kayak into kayak roof racks make sure they are set firmly into position. If you are using a trunk storage method just be sure you secure the trunk with rope if the kayak is poking out of the back.

Now that your kayak is secure, plans are set and all your resources are hard at work, it is time to transport that kayak.

 How to Transport a Kayak on a Small Car


How do you put a kayak on a sedan?

There are a number of ways that you can put a kayak on a sedan. The great news is it really comes down to the creativity of the user to see how far they want to take modifying the car. You see, you can strap a kayak down with open windows and rachet straps if you want. You can invest in some quality roof racks and kayak roof rack attachments.

This is kind of the Alpha and Omega of kayak transportation. They will both get the job done but I would prefer the kayak roof racks if I were traveling a long way.

Can a kayak fit in a car?

This really depends on your desire to make this work and the type of kayak that you own. Modern sedans all have the ability to put the back seats down in a four door. If your kayak is small enough you can run it through the trunk and into the back seat area. This will eat up most of the kayak. Some of it will be sticking out the back of your car but you can tie down the trunk and even weigh down the kayak.

With the right sized kayak, you will be able to literally empty the trunk, put down the seats and stuff that bad boy into the back.

Can you put a kayak on a car?

You can easily fit most kayaks on a car. There are a bunch of measures you can put in place to assure the kayak is stable and that your car is protected during the ride. This will require some focus and some planning, but it is very possible.

You can also manipulate your vehicle to make this easier by adding things like roof racks.

Can you fit 2 kayaks on a car?

Kayak roof racks are J shaped racks that allow you to transport a kayak on its side. The kayak roof racks attach to one roof rack, so you have the ability to install these racks on both sides of the cars roof.

With one setup on the left and another setup on the right you would be able to carry 2 kayaks on a car.

How many kayaks can you fit on a car?

I think attempting to fit more than 2 kayaks onto the roof of a car would be pretty irresponsible and dangerous. However, you could get away with 2 on the roof in the above mentioned racks and then another in the trunk of a small car.

That’s a lot to manage and I wouldn’t want to travel at high speeds for great distances with this setup. However, it could get the job done.


Kayaks and sedans are an example of: Where there is a will there is a way. While it might not be ideal to transport a kayak on a small car, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it. As you can see there are a number of ways you can get that kayak from point A to point B.

In most cases it all comes back to how much modifying of your vehicle you plan on doing and how far you plan on going. You can get away with a lot  10 during a 10 minute ride on 35 mph roads. Only when you get on the highway do things start to get nerve racking.

While you might find yourself looking longingly at those nice pickup trucks on the road and considering all that they could do for you. Save yourself $30,000 and see what you can get when you push the limits on what you assumed your sedan was capable of.

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Single Kayaks vs. Double Kayaks

Sit-on-Top VS Sit-Inside Kayaks

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