2023 Guide: Best Hitch Canoe Racks You'll Want to Have!

person carries kayak from car near lake

Looking for one of the best ways to explore the great outdoors? You need to get on the water.

As someone who has spent years navigating rivers and conquering rapids, I can tell you that getting a kayak or a canoe will allow you to explore places you would have never expected to on foot.

Plus canoeing they offer numerous health benefits that will leave you feeling rejuvenated and invigorated.

But if you are in the market for a canoe, you’re probably wondering how to transport them. After all, they aren’t exactly compact.

That's where a hitch canoe rack comes in. It's the best option for safely and easily transporting your canoe to the lake or river. Unlike bike racks or ski racks, a hitch canoe rack is specifically designed to securely hold your canoe in place during transport.

Keep reading to discover why a hitch canoe rack is the best option, how to choose the perfect one for your car and canoe. From considering your car's hitch compatibility to evaluating the weight capacity and ease of installation, I'll provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision

And with the right rack, you can rest assured that your canoe will arrive at your destination unscathed and ready for your next adventure.

What Is a Hitch Canoe Rack?

Canoes are much longer than kayaks. More often than not, canoes can be longer than your entire vehicle. This makes safely transporting them an art and a science.

When transporting kayaks and canoes, you’ll need to use your car’s roof rack. However, because canoes usually extend further than the length of the roof, an additional rack is often needed to support the weight of a canoe.

Since the roof of your car often isn’t long enough to provide enough support for the canoe, the use of a hitch rack is highly recommended.

The canoe rack will mount on the hitch and provide a crossbar to support one end of the canoe. This allows you to evenly balance the weight and length of the canoe properly, so it isn’t overextended over the front of your vehicle.

Best Hitch Canoe Racks for Cars & SUVs

These are one of the top-rated hitch canoe racks on the market.

These racks have been tried and tested, and they come highly recommended for their durability, ease of use, and overall performance.

1. HandiRack Universal Inflatable Soft Roof Rack Bars (Top rated)

The HandiRack Universal Inflatable Soft Roof Rack Bars are a versatile transportation solution designed for cars and SUVs.

They are specifically tailored for hauling kayaks, canoes, surfboards, and SUPs.

The inflatable bars are not only easy to set up but also come equipped with 10Ft tie-downs and 11Ft bow and stern lines, ensuring your gear remains secure during transit.

With a robust load capacity of 175Lbs, they offer a practical alternative for those who don't want a permanent roof rack.

Why is it a top rated?

HandiRack is known for its portability, ease of setup, and affordability compared to traditional racks. There a small concern about potential water ingress during heavy rain, but this won't rbe an issue unless you are driving during a heavy rain for an extended period of time.

2. Kayak Roof Rack 2 Pairs J-Bar Carrier Holder (Bestseller)

The PIRIPARA Kayak Roof Rack is a versatile transportation solution designed for any outdoor enthusiasts.

This J-Bar Carrier Holder is tailored to securely hold canoes and kayaks atop SUVs, cars, and trucks. Made of high-quality steel, the rack boasts a total load capacity of up to 150 lbs.

It's sold as a set of 4, it ensures that you can transport multiple watercrafts like kayaks, canoes, and surfboards simultaneously, making it ideal for group or family trips.

Additional features include protective pads for the hull finish, heavy-duty construction, and quick on/off hardware for swift installation and removal.

Why is it a bestseller?

The J-Bar Carrier Holder that mounts seamlessly to almost all crossbars and load bars available in the market. It's designed to hold kayaks on their side to ensure minimal space consumption and many users finding it a cost-effective solution for kayak and cone transportation.

Best Hitch Canoe Racks for Trucks

For pick-up trucks, there is an option to strap kayaks or canoes to your bed extender.

1. MaxxHaul Hitch Mount Truck Bed Extender (Bestseller)

The MaxxHaul 70231 Hitch Mount Pick Up Truck Bed Extender is a versatile accessory designed to extend the carrying capacity of truck beds.

It's ideal for transporting longer items like canoes, kayaks, but you can also use it to transport  ladders, lumber and other materials. By attaching to the hitch mount, it provides additional length to the truck bed, ensuring safe and efficient transportation of oversized items.

Why is it a bestseller?

This rack is incredibly useful, especially for transporting kayaks and canoes.The assembly and disassembly is quick and easy. It's very sturdy to ensure safe transportation. While there's a minor suggestion to include a safety hitch pin (you can order it separately here), the overall functionality and value of this product are outstanding. If you're looking for an effective solution to extend your truck bed capacity, this is a top choice.

Most Important Factors When Choosing a Trailer Hitch Mount for Canoes

There are many different types and styles of hitch canoe racks. Here are the most important factors to consider when shopping around.

Hitch Size

First and foremost, consider the hitch size. A 2-inch hitch is the most common. So if that’s what you need, then you’re in luck, as you’ll have the most options.

But if you have a smaller or larger hitch, you’ll still be able to find a canoe rack that fits, or you’ll just need to get a hitch convertor. The 3 most common hitch adaptor options are:


Different racks can support a different amount of weight. When shopping for both a canoe and a rack, make sure you know how much your ideal canoe weighs before buying a rack. If you already have a canoe, consult your owner’s manual or contact the manufacturer to determine the approximate weight.

Lighter-weight racks can have a max weight capacity as low as 165 lbs, while stronger racks can bear upwards of 400 lbs or more.

When choosing a weight rating, consider any other possible uses for your rack. You might save money by buying the rack rated at 165 lbs for your canoe, but if you plan to use the rack to support heavier loads, you should buy the stronger rack the first time.

It’s also important to know how much weight your vehicle is designed to carry. You’ll have to factor in the weight of the canoe as well as the weight of your rack to ensure you don’t overload your vehicle.


Canoe hitch racks come with crossbars that support the canoe. Some racks have a fixed crossbar length.

Shorter crossbars will be around 48 inches. Longer bars can be up to 68 inches.

You can also choose a rack with an adjustable-length crossbar. You can find racks that can adjust from 48 inches to 68 inches or smaller racks that adjust from 28 inches to 48 inches.

Those hoping to transport multiple canoes will want a wider crossbar. If you only ever plan on transporting a single canoe, a shorter bar may save you money.


The height of the rack that you need is determined by your vehicle, not by the canoe itself. Taller vehicles, such as pickup trucks or SUVs are going to need a rack that can equal the height of your vehicle’s roof. When driving short vehicles, such as sedans or crossovers, a shorter rack is all that is needed.

Most hitch racks are going to be adjustable so that they fit with a wide range of vehicles. However, it’s important to know the distance from your vehicle’s roof to the hitch mount. Some racks intended for taller vehicles may not have a minimum height low enough to accommodate sedans.

Distance from Hitch

Some hitch racks only allow for a few inches between the center of the hitch mount to the vertical bar. This means that these racks will extend upwards directly behind your truck or truck bed.

This works for those who are supporting the canoe with the roof of their vehicle.

However, some users prefer racks that extend multiple feet from the hitch. This would allow you to store long items in the bed of the truck, using the rack as additional support behind the truck bed.

Consider how you plan to transport your canoe and any other large items. If you mainly want to use the rack to provide additional support to cargo on the roof, then no additional distance is needed from the hitch.

But if you drive a truck and want the ability to let long objects extend out of your truck bed, choose a rack that allows for this functionality. Some are adjustable and include optional extension bars, allowing you to customize the distance from the hitch.

Ease of Storage

Unfortunately, you’re not going to be using your canoe all the time. This means you also won’t need the rack on your vehicle at all times. In fact, when not in use, the rack can get in the way.

If you plan on installing and removing the rack frequently, look for a rack that folds up flat, allowing for easy storage. Those that fold into small, flat packages can be easily stored behind the seat of your car or in the trunk, ready to use whenever you need it.

But if you only plan to use the rack occasionally, this may be less of a concern.

The Right Rack Will Make Adventuring More Enjoyable

For the outdoor enthusiast, nothing beats the adventure afforded by canoes. To be able to explore by water is true freedom.

Getting a canoe is absolutely worth it. Just make sure you get a hitch canoe rack that makes moving and using your canoe as easy and seamless as possible.

And if you don’t yet have a rack for your canoe, don’t let it stop you from getting on the water.

Also check out: How to tie a canoe to the roof without a rack

Bottom Line for Hitch Canoe Racks

If you're looking for an exhilarating way to explore the great outdoors, getting on the water is the way to go.

Canoes are not exactly compact, so you'll need a reliable hitch canoe rack to make transportation simple and safe.

When selecting a hitch canoe rack, there are a few factors to consider.

First, make sure it is compatible with your car. Check the weight capacity and ensure it can support the weight of your canoe.

Additionally, consider the ease of installation and removal, as well as any additional features that may be beneficial, such as adjustable straps or padding.

To transport your canoe safely and conveniently, a hitch canoe rack is great option. Take the time to choose a rack that is compatible with your car and meets your specific needs.

With the right rack, you can start exploring the world from a whole new perspective!

Bill Nikolaou
I live for wild rides on rivers, and have passion for digital marketing. With 7 years of experience in white water guiding, I've transported more gear than most folks will in a lifetime. Need a reliable rack or carrier? I got you covered!