Can I Fit a Kayak in My Car?

Transporting a kayak is one of the biggest challenges that many paddlers face. Moving your boat from place to place can be a problem if you don’t have a trailer or a pickup truck. But can you fit a kayak in your car?

Even the smallest kayak is about 6 feet long. That means fitting it inside your car requires that you fold both the rear and passenger side seats if you want to close the hatch or trunk. It is still possible to fit a kayak inside, but there are factors to consider.

Continue reading to discover more details about fitting a kayak in your car for hauling.

Can I Fit a Kayak in My Car?

Kayaks fit in SUV car
Kayaks fit in SUV car | Credit: ISLAND OF TREES /

Yes. Some small-sized kayaks can fit in your car if there is enough room to contain them. But it all depends on the length, width, and depth of your boat relative to the vehicle.

Once the kayak fits inside the car, you should secure it to the anchor points to avoid sliding back and forth or moving side to side when driving.

Larger kayaks may not completely fit inside your car. That means they will protrude outside, preventing you from closing the hatch or trunk.

In such a case, the golden rule is to let at least two-thirds of the boat sit inside the car. Also, you should notify other drivers about your oversize load by sticking a red flag behind the vehicle.

Transporting a kayak inside your car is not the safest option, especially if the trip is relatively long. Consider a roof rack or using a pickup truck with a large bed.

These options are safer and more secure than fitting a kayak inside your car. You also have enough space in the cabin for passengers and gear.

Consider the chart below for a reference of general recommendations about the boat sizes that can fit different car types.

Chart the boat sizes that can fit different car types

Chart the boat sizes that can fit different car types

What Size of Kayak Is Fine to Carry on a Car?

The response to this question depends on your car. So, the first step is to determine the length of your vehicle. A kayak you can put inside your car should be shorter than the car itself.

For example, a recreational kayak measuring 10-14 feet in length can only fit inside a full-size 17 feet car. You cannot put it in a subcompact or compact car and close the hatch or trunk. A portion will be protruding outside.

In other words, most kayaks can only fit inside full-size cars or SUVs if you fold the rear and passenger side seats. If you have a smaller car, consider foldable or inflatable kayaks. These are more compact and take up less space in the cabin.

When Should You Transport a Kayak In Your Car?

Kayakers are advised to use a roof rack, truck bed, or trailer to transport kayaks over long distances. You can only transport your boat inside your car when you have an inflatable or foldable kayak.

Even if the kayak fits inside your car, it still poses risks.

First, it blocks the rear-view mirror, making driving on a busy highway difficult.

Secondly, a kayak can ruin your car’s interior, especially if not tightly secured. We are sure you don’t want any of these to happen to you.

Is It Legal to Drive With The Trunk Open?

Kayak is too big to fit in a small car.
Kayak is too big to fit in a small car | Credit: Nightmare On Fish Street /

Yes, but it depends on your location. Some states allow drivers to have an oversized load in their cars and drive with the trunk open. However, they should put a red flag at the back to warn other drivers about your large cargo.

This law is not universal. You should confirm with the authorities what applies to you, especially if you will be crossing the state lines. Some states allow you to drive with the trunk open, while others don’t.

Keeper – 18″ x 18″ Bungee Safety Flag

How to Secure a Kayak in Your Car

The next big task after loading your kayak inside the car is securing it. The back-and-forth and side-to-side movements are not desirable. They are risky and may ruin the car’s interior and the boat itself.

So, how do you ensure you reduce these risks when transporting a kayak inside your car? Consider the following:

  • Measure the length and width of your cabin to know the best place to fit your boat. It will also help you determine whether the kayak can be put inside or not.
  • Ensure the sharp edges of the kayak do not pose any danger to you, the passengers, and the car itself. You may need to cover them with rugs or soft boards to reduce the risks.
  • Fold the back seats and find the anchor points inside your car where you will secure the boat.
  • Place a rubber mat between the kayak and the vehicle’s floor or truck bed to prevent possible scratches on the boat and the car.
  • Load the kayak inside the car, ensuring the hull is facing down and buckles or straps to secure it to the anchor points to restrain its movement.
  • Ensure the kayak is tightly secured inside the kayak and ensure all doors close correctly.
  • Secure the rear door and stick a red flag at the back to alert other drivers if you can’t close it as usual.


If you have to buy a new kayak that you want to transport inside your car, go for inflatable or foldable ones. These kayak types easily fit and are much safer to carry inside your car. Otherwise, consider the following alternatives:

Your choice of the above alternatives depends on the vehicle type and the number of kayaks you want to transport. For example, a roof rack is best suited for one or two kayaks and not more.

Consider a utility trailer or truck bed extender if you have many kayaks. There is enough room in these carriers for many or longer kayaks.

Multi-Sport Multi-Rack Kayak Trailer


Can I put a kayak on my car without a rack?

Yes. You can transport a kayak on the roof of your car without a rack, but you should be experienced in loading and securing the boat on a vehicle. You need straps and pool noodles to help you hold your boat in place without scratching your car.

How do you mount a kayak by yourself in a car?

You can load and unload a kayak inside your car without help. Put the kayak parallel and close to the trunk, and lift one end of the boat onto the vehicle’s rear end.

Lift the other end and gently push the kayak inside the car. Ensure the rear seats are folded and that a space exists for your boat before carrying out these steps.

Can you put a kayak on a small car?

Yes, but it depends on the kayak type. Inflatable and foldable kayaks can fit in any car. But other types will not get inside a small car, even the smallest boat available. You need a full-size car to transport a kayak inside the vehicle.

Can you fit a 10 ft kayak in an SUV?

Yes. A 10-foot kayak can fit inside an SUV, but you should fold or remove the seats. It will also not be possible to close the rear door. So, check with state laws if you are allowed to drive on highways with the trunk door open before attempting it.

Can a kayak fit inside a Subaru Forester?

Yes. If you fold or remove the seats, you can fit a kayak inside a Subaru Forester. You may be forced to leave the rear door open depending on the kayak’s type and length.

Wrapping Up

Smaller kayaks can fit inside a full-size car and allow you to close the hatch or rear door. However, you should not use this approach of transporting your boat if you have alternatives. Only inflatable and foldable kayaks pose fewer risks when put inside a kayak. Transport your boat on the vehicle roof, a truck bed, or a kayak trailer for safety reasons.

Thank you for your time and for reading this article at Windpaddle. We appreciate you and invite you to share it with fellow paddlers. You can also explore the website for related posts.