A kayak is one of the best possible watersport toys that you can have, but are awkwardly long, heavy and difficult to move about. When you throw it into your truck bed, almost half of the kayak is often sticking out and causing stress and other issues on the interstate. The best kayak hitch racks easily take away all of your problems and give you an easy answer to a difficult problem.
These hitch mounted kayak hitch racks plug right into your hitch receiver behind your car or truck bed and provide the extra platform needed to rest the kayak on. This rack will support and stabilize the boat as you drive down the highways or even on bumpy gravel roads. Brands like Thule, Yakima, Ecotric, Rhino Rack and more have put their experience to the task and created some fantastic products. In order to never worry again about the safety of your kayak, we have put together a comprehensive list of the 7 Best Kayak Hitch Racks of 2020.
Our Top 3 Choices
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Out of all the options on our list this year, the Thule Goal Post Hitch Mount comes out on top. Thule has worked hard to get itself to the top of most lists when it comes to the best of racks on the market. This simple design does way more than more others on the list and makes it easy to do as well. If you drive a truck or large SUV, this is the best option to securely and safely transport your kayak without any worries and not needing to constantly glance in the rearview mirror to make sure it’s still there.
Best Kayak Hitch Racks of 2020
1. Thule Goal Post Hitch Mount – Our Top Pick
The Thule 997 Goal Post Hitch Mount gets the top spot on our list for all of the best hitch mounted kayak hitch racks that are out there today. Thule has taken a very simple design and made it reliable, secure and adjustable to accommodate all of your needs. It works perfectly with SUVs and trucks, but isn’t the best pick for smaller vehicles.
Strap this in to a 2 inch hitch receiver and adjust it to the right height, then you are ready to go. The installation of this rack is simple and won’t take you a long time of fidgeting around with a crazy amount of tools or needing to call in the cavalry. One of the only downfalls is that you will want to have a roof rack to make the best out of this rack and that can start to get pricey.
Thule has always given high quality type products and this hitch mounted kayak hitch rack is no exception to that rule. It includes posts and straps for lateral support that helps to reduce the sway and increases stability in the system. It’s one of the heavier racks on the list, but that’s because of its high quality steel construction that can hold up to 165 pounds of boat.
Compatible with 2 inch truck hitch receivers, works with Hydro-Glide and Set-To-Go kayak saddles, anti-sway design for a more stable and safer feeling ride, telescoping mast to adjust to most truck cab heights, 2 vertical load stops and hook straps to stabilize
- Easy to assemble and use
- Easily adjustable to fit most SUVs and trucks
- Anti-wobble mechanism to help provide stability
- High quality steel construction
- Heavy weight
- High price tag for a well-known brand
2. Yakima LongArm Truck Bed Extension – Best Versatility
This lightweight truck bed extender gives you a big carrying capacity and carries a reputable brand name as well as quality construction. The Yakima LongArm Truck Bed Extension is made from a durable aluminum that makes it half the weight of most the other racks on the list. This means installation only requires you and the rack.
This rack adds up to four feet onto the back of your truck and provides sixty inches of horizontal support. It can adjust to three different positions so you can choose how to best carry your gear depending on what it is and what vehicle you drive. Tie down points are integrated into the design so you can secure your boat quickly without having to search for a good point to attach to.
Yakima is another great brand that has worked hard to bring themselves to the top of the game when it comes to car racks. You do pay for all of this experience and work with a higher price, but you will also reap all of the benefits. They make this an incredibly easy to use system that even includes a bottle opener to help you enjoy the end of a long day on the water.
Provides 4 feet of extra length with a 5 foot wide crossbar, three adjustable positions with the tailgate open, at cab level, or with a Yakima BedRock or tonneau cover, Weather-resistant design and black powder coat finish, lightweight aluminum construction, attaches to 2 inch hitches
- Extremely lightweight aluminum construction
- Easy installation
- Easy to use design
- Three different adjustable positioning
- High price point
- Requires roof rack
- Doesn’t fit smaller cars
3. ECOTRIC Pick Up Truck Bed Extension Rack – Best on a Budget
This other truck bed extender offers the highest carrying capacity and the lowest price of our entire list. The 750 pound carrying capacity is incredibly impressive, over half of most the the other racks on the list. This is the best option for those that don’t want to spend much money, but need to get a hitch rack. It will load easily and do a great job while on the road and attached to 2 inch hitches.
This rack is made from durable steel tubing which means that even with a low price point, it will last a while. One of the bigger downsides is that this truck bed hitch extender for boats doesn’t come with the pins for the hitch that you use for installation. The design makes this easy to install and use, but you need to pick up the pins before doing so. This hitch extender reportedly rattles when in use and doesn’t have a very snug connection to the hitch receiver, so be ready to hear this rattle and shake around on the back of your truck. Although, for the cheap price and impressive weight capacity is possibly worth it.
Overall, this is a great option to load two kayaks or anything even heavier. The high weight capacity is the biggest draw of this truck bed hitch extender and is worth considering. The low price can both attract you and push you away. But don’t fear, this is still high quality even if it doesn’t come with the reputable brand name like Thule or Yakima.
Impact resistant and durable steel construction, fits two inch square hitch receiver, weight capacity of up to 750 pounds, adjustable width and height, reflective tape for additional security and visibility, simple quick release installation
- Immense carrying capacity
- Heavy duty steel tubing construction
- Easy installation
- Doesn’t come with installation pins
- Rattles on the back of the truck
The Rhino Rack T-Loader Canoe and Kayak Rack is loaded with features to give you the best security when transporting your kayak. It is one of the easiest options to load and unload your kayak by yourself on this entire list. The rack mounts to a 50mm tow ball with an anti-swivel plate which means easy access and operation.
There’s no need to purchase an additional roof rack with this rack because it comes with the Rhino Rack Vertex bar. This works in place of a roof rack or crossbars and will save you from the additional purchase. The non-slip grip mat incorporated into the design helps to keep your boat stable and secure during transport, so you can drive with peace of mind.
While this rack is heavier and pricier than some of the other options, it is made to help those going out to kayak solo. It only carries around 132 pounds, but that is still more than enough when you are heading out to the river on your own. The only time you’ll need someone else is when you start up the installation because this rack can be tricky to install alone with a heavier weight.
Adjustable height and tilt with a maximum height of 1.5 meters, non slip grip mat incorporated into design, works with Rhino Aero and Heavy Duty crossbars
- Provides a massive amount of security with anti-slip mat
- Tow ball mount means you can swivel it to load with an easier angle
- Great for one person to load and unload
- Comes with Vertex bar to avoid additional purchases
- Heavier weight makes it hard to install alone
The Yakima Dry Dock Boat Hitch Mount system is one of the most stable products on the list with its Y-frame design and stabilizing straps that reach down and connect your boat to the bumper. The Y-frame maximizes support and doesn’t take up nearly as much space as other designs that kayak racks use.
The tilt-down feature makes loading and unloading your boat a breeze with this Yakima hitch mount. The size and design of this rack also makes it a great option for smaller SUVs like a Subaru Forester, while other kayak hitch racks struggle to fit smaller vehicles.
The rack itself is pretty heavy and will require a friend to come help and install it. It boasts an average carrying capacity of 165 pounds, which will be more than enough for one or two kayaks depending on their weights. This is another great option if you are wanting to go out alone because of the tilt down feature. The added stability will make you feel incredible comfortable riding with this on any car of yours.
Y-frame design for great support, fits any 2 inch receiver hitch, adjustable height to match a roof rack or any truck cab, stabilizing straps to attach to the bumper
- Incredibly stable Y-frame design with straps to bumper
- Takes up less space
- Fits smaller SUVs
- More expensive
- Heavier and requires another for installation
This system is pretty similar to the Ecotric model in design and price. What we like about this model however is that it comes in two different sizes to help accommodate to different vehicles and different boats you are transporting. Every point on the system has a quick release pin that makes operation easy and secure even while transporting.
The MaxxHaul Hitch Mount Truck Bed Extender is another great option on a budget for those not wanting to spend a pretty penny just to transport their boat. It easily transports multiple boats at one and adjusts to carry those either in your truck bed or up on top of the cab. While it comes in different sizes, it isn’t an adjustable option so you do need to make sure you buy the right size in order to properly carry your boat. If you want to carry different sized boats at different times, it may be worth looking at the other options we have chosen to put on our list.
If you are looking for a super simple, no fluff kayak rack that will definitely carry your kayak with ease, then this is a good choice for you. Most users love that it will easily carry a twelve foot kayak inside of their five foot truck bed without needing to purchase any additional roof racks or crossbars.
Quick assembly and disassembly with 4 quick release pins, adjustable length and width, fits 2 inch hitch receivers, reflective tape for additional safety and visibility, side arms fold down to give a solid space to work
- Another great option for a low price
- Easily fits multiple boats by extending the truck bed
- Operates simply with quick release pins
- Not the best brand so you don’t get as good of a warranty
- Not adjustable in the length
Here’s another great option for low budget users that will successfully do what it’s designed to do. The Darby Industries Truck Bed Extender is designed to carry both long and heavy loads that normally wouldn’t fit in your bed. It has the most simple design out of everything on the list, but works in exactly the way it’s meant to.
No frills on this one. It is a four foot wide crossbar that attaches to your 2 inch receiver hitch. The one difference is that this does fold down easily and will fit behind the seat or in the truck bed easily when it isn’t in use. The heavier design means you may want someone with you to help install it. The Extend a Truck is a great option to do exactly that. Just get partners so you don’t fall to the ground with high weight on you behind your car and boats fallen off to the side.
It doesn’t come with a hitch lock, so you’ll need to buy that separately if you are wanting to keep all of your gear and the rack itself safe from theft. This is generally a good option for super simple carrying tasks, but will also require another roof rack or crossbar if you want to use it to carry longer items on top of the cab.
4 foot wide support structure, easily packed down and stored behind the seat when not in use, adjustable height to meet the rooftop, comes with red flag for additional safety, good weight capacity
- Super simple design makes for a low price
- No fluff means less areas to go wrong
- Some reports have said quality varies in products
- Requires roof rack or additional crossbar
Buyer’s Guide to Getting the Best Kayak Rack
Kayak racks are an incredible addition to your system, but you need to know how to buy the right one. They seem pretty simple on the surface, but a kayak rack is going to be responsible for holding a rather expensive piece of gear. There’s a lot of trust in the system when setting up a rack, then set off into the distance. If you are considering getting a kayak roof rack instead, I highly recommend viewing our recent post about the 7 best kayak roof racks of 2021.
The different specs on different racks vary greatly. You need to pay attention to weight capacity, height, adjustability, and everything that will help keep your boats on top of the car.
To help you out with getting a kayak rack that isn’t going to drop your boat in the middle of the interstate, we’ve put together this complete buyer’s guide to introduce you to the best kayak racks on the market and educate you on how to choose the best one for you and your truck bed.
Hitch Rack or Trailer?
Why get a kayak rack rather than just buying a trailer and being able to load your kayaks and every other thing you could possibly need onto it? Well, a kayak rack is going to be worlds easier to drive around, load, and maneuver through the city. Driving a trailer requires a massive amount of experience and attention while driving.
A kayak rack on your hitch is going to give you that ability to carry your boat securely while not requiring you to change your style of driving. It won’t give you the same amount of weight capacity as a trailer, but it also won’t cost you nearly as much.
Just like your vehicle and every other set of equipment you’ve ever bought, every kayak rack on the hitch is only capable of so much and has a specific load capacity. Often, this maximum weight capacity will never be met, as kayaks don’t tend to be too heavy, but it does need to be known for when you are carrying around anything else on your vehicle. Kayak racks can add a lot of versatility to your vehicle to carry things.
Another thing to note is how some kayak racks are capable of carrying multiple boats at a time while some are only designed for a single kayak on the vehicle at a time. If you are planning on hauling multiple boats at a time on the vehicle, you would want a rack that can handle it. The range of carrying capacities is huge, from 130 pounds all the way up to a 750 pound capacity.
Most kayak racks are made to best fit trucks or larger SUVs or other large models of cars. As it is though, not all of us drive a huge car, but still want to be able to transport our kayaks any time we want. For this reason, we’ve found some of the best kayak racks that will also convert easily to the right size that will fit a smaller model car. Not every rack is only for the huge cars, just make sure you know which one you’re getting.
A hitch mounted kayak rack also need to include tie down points that will make your experience even easier. These will help support the kayaks on the rack and increase the stability of the loads you are putting on there. These are usually off to the side of the rack, and are required for all boats to be secures with ease.
Kayak racks that also work well for canoes, ladders, and other large equipment make great options for huge amounts of versatility. Buying an expensive product means that it should be able to do a lot more than you want it to as well.
Ease of Use
Going out kayaking isn’t always something you are going to do with a friend. There are a lot of days where a solo day is exactly what’s on the menu, but it can be difficult if the kayak rack you have bought only works well with two people and requires having partners to support you in putting on the rack and kayaks. An aluminum rack is always going to be lighter weight and still hold boats of any load. Add on solid tie down points with an adjustable height and it will be a cinch to store your boats on your truck or car.
At the end of the day, you want something that is going to be easy to use with tired and sore arms from kayaking. The easiest to use racks have made their way to the top of our list, because you should be able to do this all alone and not have to lean on someone else just to go out and have some fun. Most of these kayak racks are easy to install on your vehicle, but you need to check before purchasing.
With crazy bumpy roads under your vehicle leading up to some of the best sites for paddling, you need a kayak rack that is going to give you stability and peace of mind even on some of the roughest roads. Some kayak hitch racks have additional features that help to increase the stability for the kayaks and decrease sway of the kayaks so you can drive your vehicle comfortably. Connecting to hitches on your vehicle can be difficult to provide stability due to the low number of contact points to the car.
If you add in a tie down system to help strap down the load to the vehicle, you can carry almost any boat at any height, with great stability for the kayaks. A hitch rack as an option when looking at kayak racks is easy to install and can carry long loads while others struggle to do so. Roof racks don’t pride as much stability and will require your boats to be on your vehicle in a strange way.
Safety and Security
Fortunately there are a lot of options when it comes to security of the kayaks on your vehicle and making sure your kayaks are safe even when you are away from the vehicle. These brands offer different locks that will help to lock up the kayaks to your vehicle and feel comfortable leaving. Unfortunately, most of these items don’t actually come with these locks, they are purchased separately and you will need to carry the product around with you in the car. It’s inherent that your hitch rack locks up either to the bed or the tie downs on the vehicle.
Safety also comes down to the load capacity you have on your rack and vehicle. If your boat is 300 lbs, you can’t choose just any rack and use it with that kind of load. You need to use the correct rack for the correct height and weight of boat to increase the safety of the support system on the kayaks. A lot of the racks on the list will add a roof rack into the system to help increase the load capacity for your kayaks and give more versatility to your vehicle. Racks also come with reflective tape and flags that don’t make others have to search through the dark to find your vehicle and kayaks.
This list is filled with different products of all different price ranges and it can be easy to want to just purchase the cheapest one there is. The difficult thing is to decide if it’s really worth it to buy one of the more expensive options rather than a cheap rack for your vehicle and kayaks.
This is really up to you when buying a rack. All of the products on this list are going to perform well on your vehicle, but this is going to be carrying valuable equipment and you don’t want to cheap out by risking it with a no-name rack brand. Brands like Thule, Yakima, and Rhino Rack are also going to hold a better re-sale value if you ever decide you want to get rid of the hitch rack. It is often worth it to provide a solid rack for your vehicle that you can get rid of later rather than just toss it into the trash.
If you are going to use this kayak hitch rack for years to come on your vehicle, it’s worth buying something more expensive that you can be sure will last. The cheap brand racks are built to fall apart faster than an iPhone and you’ll find yourself spending the same amount, just on multiple racks.
Pairing a rack with a roof rack is going to be more expensive, but is again worth the investment. A solid roof rack on your vehicle is going to give you even more versatility and accompanies the racks attaching to hitches a lot easier on any vehicle. The kayaks will slide easily on the roof and have multiple points to attach to your vehicle. It distributes the load to the roof as well and helps support the boats strapped on to your vehicle. Adding the extra product is often worth it and can increase the weight capacity for a lot of different items you use with the rack.
Hitch mounted kayak racks on your vehicle are a great choice for easily transporting your sea kayaks, or you and your friend’s kayaks, or sometimes your whole family’s boats when you have a problem. Whether it is simply a truck bed extender or a fully versatile kayak rack paired with a roof rack, it will do you well to research these options for your kayaks and make sure you carry your valuable boats with security and confidence. If you are going out alone or with a group there are great options for you to get the most out of each and every kayak rack there is today.
Whether you are looking to make a real investment or just need a quick and cheap fix to transport you boats but don’t have space for a good roof rack, there is a solution for you. Look through our buyer’s guide to help you, but we guarantee the best kayak hitch for you is on this list. Some of the best brands and some of the unknown ones made the list, and every single one is on here for a reason. Don’t hesitate. Give yourself something to help move around this year.
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