Malone Kayak Racks Reviewed

Having the freedom to explore waters with your kayak is such a pleasure, but you know what isn’t? Trying to haul and secure your kayak onto the roof of your car without the help of a kayak rack.

Using homemade solutions for kayak racks for your car can be risky business sometimes, especially if you’re unsure of what you’re doing.

That’s why it’s important to get a specialized kay rack for your car roof so you can easily and safely take your kayak to whatever waters are calling you. 

Today we’ll be reviewing one of the most popular kayak rack brands around, Malone. They are a specialized rack accessory and leading sports trailer company based just outside of Portland in Maine.

Malone’s goal is to create affordable, easy to install equipment for outdoor enthusiasts all over the world, whilst also minimizing their carbon footprint. They’ve created industry ‘firsts’ that have changed the game for transportation gear.

We’ll be focusing on a few of these revolutionary kayak racks today in our reviews.

OUR TOP PICK

Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Universal Car Rack Kayak Carrier with Bow and Stern Lines

Malone was one of the first brands to introduce the J-style kayak carrier in North America and since then it has grown to be one of the most common styles that are sold across the world.

This Downloader rack is made from a sturdy corrosion-resistant aluminum material to withstand all weather conditions whilst you’re out on the road.

The construction of the rack is sturdy yet still lightweight enough that it won’t add extra weight to your car. The rack is a universal mounting system and can fit all of the most popular kayak racks and crossbars out there.

This Downloaded carrier comes with a built-in boarding ramp for easy loading and unloading on the roof of your car without the help of anyone else.

The built-in boarding ramp will also reduce the risk of scratching your vehicle whilst trying to haul your kayak on top of it. Shorter people or those with taller cars may reap the benefits of this boarding ramp more.

The J-Style rack is also compatible with MPG351 Telos Load Assist for customers who have heavy kayaks or who struggle to load it onto their car on their own.

You also get bow and stern tie-down straps to keep your kayak secure throughout any journey. You should note that if you don’t use these straps with your rack, then Malone will void your warranty on this product as it counts as misusing the product.

So don’t cut any corners and make sure to strap up your kayak, to avoid any accidents and to make sure you can keep your warranty.

Malone does think of everything and that’s why they included two sets of hex bolts to help mount the hardware on a variety of crossbar sizes. The rack will fit various crossbar shapes including oval, round, and square.

If this will be the first time installing a rack onto your car for your kayak, then Malone’s detailed instructions will be able to guide you through each step to ensure you secure installation.

The rack also features fold-down technology that increases overhead clearance when you’re not transporting your kayak, which is extremely practical as you won’t have to remove and reinstall the rack wherever you want to use it.

The rack features extra cushioning over the metal arms to protect your kayak during transportation. This cushioning is also replaceable, you should need to swap them out due to wear and tear from extended use.

Malone offers a lifetime warranty on their product and is super efficient at handling any problems that may occur when owning your Downloader rack.

Whilst many users have found the rack compatible with most crossbars, there are some occasions, primarily where the crossbar is flat at the bottom and round at the top where it doesn’t fit as well.

Customers have worked around this by using non-slip tape to ensure a more accurate fit. 

Pros

  • Extra cushioning on metal arms to protect your kayak during transit
  • Made from corrosion-resistant aluminum so the quality won’t decrease in adverse weather
  • Comes with built-in boarding ramps to make loading your kayak even easier
  • Compatible with the Telos Load Assist which helps with heavier kayaks
  • Lifetime warranty for any issues you may find with the product

Cons

  • Some instances where the rack doesn’t fit certain crossbars

EDITORS CHOICE

Malone SeaWing Saddle Style Universal Car Rack Kayak Carrier with Bow and Stern Lines

The SeaWing is one of Malone’s distinctive designs that’s easy to install and secure hold your kayak from its base onto the roof of your vehicle.

The design of the SeaWing saddle will allow you to secure two kayaks bottom down onto your car when you buy an additional set of carriers, a great feature if you love to kayak with friends.

The low-profile carrier will enable you to still park your vehicle in your garage without having to remove them each time to clear the garage entrance. This design will also improve gas mileage as it is more streamlined and doesn’t resist as much against the wind.

Speaking of wind, the SeaWing carrier will keep your kayak nice and secure even during blustery conditions, but if extra strapping on longer journeys is recommended to ensure increased reliability.

Some customers who drive on rough terrain have noted that some minor hairline cracks have started to show from the kayak bouncing on the carrier, however, after a brief phone call with a customer service agent, replacements were sent out immediately.

The customer service from Malone is faultless. Aforementioned above, their racks come with a lifetime warranty which truly shows how highly they regard their products and customers.

The Malone SeaWing has a long life cycle which is ensured by the corrosion-resistant construction which will last regardless of what weather conditions you drive in or store your vehicle in. This feature is also hugely beneficial when you have to place your wet kayak back onto the roof when you’re finished.

The SeaWings secure properly onto any crossbars without the need to adjust or retighten them after periods of use. The jaws mounting hardware on the carrier will fit most shaped crossbars without the need for readjustment.

However, more obscure-shaped crossbars will require some alterations to secure the carrier properly.

This design of the rack is better suited for shorter people or single-person loading as you can slide the kayak into position from the rear of the vehicle, without having to lift the entire weight of the kayak.

Easy-to-set-up mid-point mounting takes up minimal roof space

If DIY isn’t your thing then you can breathe a sigh of relief as there are no tools required to assemble this carrier onto your crossbar.

It comes with the bolts and screws that you need along with a detailed instruction guide to help you each step of the way.

Pros

  • Low profile design so no need for removal to store vehicle in garage
  • Corrosion-resistant nylon construction for increased durability
  • No tools required to install it onto your roof
  • Bow & stern safety tie-downs included to secure your kayak on installation
  • Lifetime warranty offered to cover any possible defects

Cons

  • Driving on rough terrains which causes wings to flex slightly

BEST VALUE

Malone Auto HR20 Inflatable Roof Rack

If the thought of having extensive hardware permanently on your vehicle puts you off, then you may be more inclined to go for the Malone Inflatable Roof Rack.

The design of this roof rack allows you to store a kayak or any water equipment on your vehicle without the need for a crossbar.

The carrier only weighs in at 3.3lb and with that combined with the low profile design will improve your fuel efficiency when carrying a kayak on your vehicle.

When you’re not using your roof rack, they can easily be stored in the trunk or glove box of your car so you can keep them to hand whenever you might need them, which may not always be just for kayaking. This feature makes it a great option for those traveling and using rental cars.

The rack is easy to install by putting the straps through passenger doors (can be done on 2 door and 4 door vehicles) and only takes around 8-10 minutes to inflate. The harnesses included are very strong and durable and will be able to last you through all your kayaking journeys.

Customers who take their kayaks on longer journeys comment on the need for extra strapping to make sure it stays put, but those who only take it short distances say the provided strapping is more than enough.

The rack comes with tie-down straps, an air pump, and a bag so everything you need can be kept in one place. The inclusive air pump is hugely beneficial as you won’t have to go out and purchase an additional one.

One of the downsides of this inflatable roof rack is that it can only carry boats of up to 50lbs which is just fine if you own a single person kayak, but those who have a tandem kayak or fishing kayaks will want to go for a more heavy-duty rack for maximum security.

The instructions included are a little basic, but there are videos on YouTube that will help you install the rack properly and give you tips on how to keep it secure. 

Pros

  • Durable 3 ply nylon construction that’ll maintain its shape in any weather
  • Low profile design offers better fuel efficiency
  • Features 2 durable D-ring anchor points for maximum security
  • Lifetime limited warranty covers you for any defects that may need replacing
  • Portable enough to travel with to put on rental cars

Cons

  • Can only carry up to 50lbs of equipment

FAQ's

Where are Malone racks made?

Malone racks are made in the USA.

What is the best kayak rack?

Some of the best kayak racks are by Malone, including the Malone Inflatable Rack, the Malone SeaWing carrier, and also the Malone Downloader carrier. Some other good brands are Rhino and Yakima.

How do I make a kayak rack for my car?

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to make a kayak rack for your car would be to get your hands on some pool floats, preferably the noodle-shaped ones.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to making a kayak rack from scratch for your car.

  1. Cut your pool noodles into the width of your car roof. You should need about 3 roof width-sized noodles.
  2. Place your cut noodles equally spaced apart on your car roof.
  3. Place your kayak on top of the noodles and make sure the weight is evenly distributed across your noodles.
  4. Use strong strapping (specialized carrier strapping is recommended) to secure your kayak onto the roof. You’ll have to do this by tossing the strap over the roof and then pulling it through the passenger doors until you secure it with the buckle on the other side.
  5. If you want to add extra security, you can use a bungee cord to secure the rear of the kayak to the front by threading it underneath the vehicle. The cord will be positioned in the center of your front screen.

Question: Can I put a kayak rack on my car?

Yes, it is completely safe to put a kayak rack on your car as long as it is completely secured and the condition of the rack is still suitable enough to transport your kayaks on journeys.

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

Yes you can put a kayak on a car without a specialized rack, however, you should not put your kayak directly on your car to be attached.

Try using pool noodles to balance your kayak on and then attach through the passenger doors.

Should a kayak be transported upside down?

Rotomolded kayaks should be transported upside down or on their edge, whilst composite kayaks transported on their bottom.

Can I fit a kayak in an SUV?

Yes, if you can find a kayak small enough or an SUV that will fit your kayak in comfortably then you’ve already got your answer.

When fitting your kayak into your SUV, make sure that it is not obstructing your driving position or view. Do not drive with the rear end of your car open with the kayak inside

Do you need crossbars for a kayak rack?

It will depend on the kayak carrier that you have, but if you’re going to use a heavy-duty solid construction rack carrier for your roof then you will need to as the carrier mounts onto the crossbars.

Most carriers will be compatible with major kayak carrier brands.

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