Loading a kayak on and off a roof rack can get old after a while. While there are some easy load kayak roof racks that can help you lift some of the weight, you could avoid that altogether by choosing one of the best kayaks that will fit in a car.
Whether you have a sedan or SUV, there are plenty of kayaks out there that will fit in the trunk of your vehicle. As you would expect, most of these kayaks are of the inflatable or folding varieties, but we have also included a few kids’ kayaks as well.
The latter may require you to fold down the back seats of your vehicle, but the best inflatable kayaks and folding kayaks will still allow you to utilize your back seats for passengers or other kayaking gear.
Today, we are going to review 10 of the best kayaks that will fit in a car. Plus, we will provide some useful buying tips to help you choose the best kayak model for your lifestyle and paddling preferences.
So let’s get right to it!
Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash
- Best Kayaks That Will Fit In A Car
- Jargon Buster
- Buying Guide
Reviews of Kayaks That Will Fit In A Car
- 1. Oru Kayak Inlet Folding Kayak
- 2. Intex Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak
- 3. Sea Eagle 330 Deluxe Inflatable Kayak
- 4. Oru Kayak Coast XT Folding Kayak
- 5. Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak
- 6. Intex Excursion Pro Inflatable Kayak
- 7. Oru Kayak Haven TT Folding Kayak
- 8. Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite Inflatable Kayak
- 9. Lifetime Youth Wave Rigid Kayak
- 10. Pelican Solo Youth Rigid Kayak
- Our Pick – Intex Excursion Pro
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- Oru Kayak Inlet Folding Kayak
- Intex Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak
- Sea Eagle 330 Deluxe Inflatable Kayak
- Oru Kayak Coast XT Folding Kayak
- Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak
- Intex Excursion Pro Inflatable Kayak
- Oru Kayak Haven TT Folding Kayak
- Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite Inflatable Kayak
- Lifetime Youth Wave Rigid Kayak
- Pelican Solo Youth Rigid Kayak
Photo by eAlisa on Shutterstock
These smaller kayaks have a few nuances that are a little different from what you would find on a traditional, rigid kayak. So let’s start by providing brief definitions for some key terms that you will see throughout the rest of this guide.
PSI stands for ”˜pounds per square inch’ and it is an important specification for the inflatable kayaks on our list. In the simplest terms, it tells you the maximum amount of air that the chambers in an inflatable kayak will hold safely.
Many inflatable paddleboards and kayaks these days can be inflated to higher pressures, which make them more rigid. In general, a kayak that is rated for a higher maximum PSI will be more rigid, have a higher weight capacity, and maneuver more easily on the water.
Drop stitching is a technology that is used in the floor construction of many inflatable kayaks and paddleboards. It involves tens of thousands of polyester threads being woven together to create an incredibly tough fabric that can hold higher air pressures.
Kayaks with drop-stitch floors maintain their shape much better when they are fully inflated. Kayaks without drop stitch floors tend to sag in the middle once you load in your kayak gear and your body weight.
This term is also specific to inflatable kayaks. These ports are located in the floor of many inflatable whitewater kayaks and can be opened and closed manually to allow water in the cockpit to drain out.
In essence, they offer the same function as scupper holes in a recreational sit on top kayak. For inflatables, they allow you to use them for whitewater paddling and on days when windy and wavy conditions make it more likely for water to accumulate in the cockpit of your kayak.
Photo by Serjio74 on Shutterstock
Now that you are familiar with some common terminology used in the descriptions of these kayaks, it is time to learn a bit more about what to look for in your buying process. While you may prioritize these factors according to your personal preferences, they are also important to consider when you are shopping for kayaks that will fit in a car.
The best kayaks that will fit in a car come in many styles. The three main types you will find below are inflatable, rigid, and folding kayaks, respectively.
So let’s start by taking a look at the pros and cons of each of these kayak types:
The best part about inflatable kayaks is that they are extremely lightweight. They are among the lightest options out there and they are also among the most affordable kayaks that will fit in a car.
The downsides include having to inflate and deflate them every time you want to go for a paddle and decreased on-water performance. Generally speaking, inflatables don’t perform as well as comparable rigid kayaks, but modern models with drop-stitch construction are coming closer to offering similar speed and maneuverability.
The only rigid kayaks that we have included on this list are kayaks for kids. That is because they are the only models that are short enough to fit in the trunk of a car while still allowing you to close it.
That being said, rigid kayaks are great because they are ready to use as soon as you get them to the water’s edge. You don’t need to inflate or set them up in any way and they are also durable enough to handle rugged use from young paddlers.
On the other hand, you will still probably need to fold down your back seats to get one of these rigid kayaks into your car. So these options really only make sense if you don’t need those seats for passengers or other beach gear.
Folding kayaks offer the same kind of space savings that you will get with an inflatable kayak, but you also won’t have to worry about carting around an air pump when it is time to set the kayak up.
These kayaks easily unfold and either snap or clip into place to provide the kayak with the kind of structure you need. The best folding kayak models out there actually perform very well on the water and are less resistant to punctures and tears than inflatable kayaks.
That being said, folding kayaks do involve more setup and breakdown time than a rigid kayak. Plus, many of these models unfortunately do not come with the other accessories that you will need to complete your kayaking gear set up.
A kayak’s packed size will tell you exactly how much space it will require in the back of your car. When you are planning adventures that include a lot of other gear that you will either pack in your kayak or leave in your car to have when you are finished paddling, your kayak can’t take up the entire back of your vehicle.
That is why it is good to note the packed size of these kayaks and make sure that you will still have enough room for your other gear and supplies. Just note that some kayaks advertise ”˜folded dimensions’, which is essentially the same thing as ”˜packed size’.
While you are noting these dimensions, it also makes sense to consider where you will store your kayak at home when you are not using it. Just make sure you have enough space at home and in your car for the kayak that you ultimately choose.
We mentioned this a little when we discussed kayak types, but some of these models require longer setup times than others. So you just need to be comfortable with the process you will need to undertake every time you prepare your kayak for a paddle.
If you are interested in an inflatable kayak that will fit in a car, we would highly recommend looking into an electric air pump to help with inflation and deflation. With the proper pump, you won’t have to spend all of your energy inflating your kayak before you even get to start paddling.
Rigid kayaks are obviously the easiest of these three types to set up. Folding kayaks can sometimes require longer set up times when you are first figuring them out, but they tend to be even faster than inflatable kayaks once you get the hang of the process.
You should also look into the weight capacity of any kayak that you consider purchasing. The ideal kayak for you should have no problem handling your weight, the weight of a potential paddling partner, and the combined weight of all the gear you load into it.
Most kayak experts recommend keeping the total combined weight of bodies and gear loaded into a kayak below about 80% of the kayak’s advertised weight capacity. For example, you should really only load about 320 pounds into a kayak with an advertised weight capacity of 400 pounds.
While your kayak isn’t going to completely sink if you exceed that threshold, its performance may begin to suffer. You will notice that you can’t achieve as much top speed and that your kayak may be difficult to maneuver when it is loaded down with too much weight.
The last thing you should consider is what additional accessories these kayaks come with. Some, for example, are sold as a singular product that will require you to purchase the rest of the essential kayaking gear separately.
Others, however, will come with everything you need to get out on the water from the moment they arrive at your door. At the very least, you will need one of the best kayak paddles to propel your kayak forward.
That being said, those of you that choose an inflatable kayak to fit in a car will need some means of blowing your new kayak up to the recommended PSI. Most of these kayaks come with some sort of pump, and those that don’t aren’t worth your time.
There are other accessories you should look for as well. This includes, but isn’t necessarily limited to, seats, repair kits, carry bags, removable skegs, and dry bags.
When it is fully assembled, the Inlet is 9’6” long and 30 inches wide. The first time, it may take upwards of 30 minutes to set up, but many users have gotten their set up time down under 10 minutes with experience and practice.
This kayak is best suited to calm lakes, slow-moving rivers, and even protected coastal waterways. The open cockpit design is also great for anyone with a dog or small children that share your passion for paddling.
When fully inflated, this kayak is 9 feet long, 30 inches wide, and 13 inches deep. It offers a maximum weight capacity of 220 pounds while weighing under 24 pounds when fully inflated.
The Challenger K1 comes with everything you need to inflate it and get out paddling. That includes a four-piece collapsible paddle, an inflatable kayak seat, a removable skeg, a repair kit, and a manual hand pump.
When deflated, the packed size of this kayak measures 26 inches by 48 inches by 10 inches. It boasts a maximum weight capacity of 500 pounds and measures 11’2” long by 34 inches wide when fully inflated.
At a total weight of just 26 pounds, it is easy to move around on land (whether you are a single paddler or a tandem). Plus, it is rated for up to Class III whitewater and comes with two paddles, two seats, a foot pump, a repair kit, and its own carry bag.
When packed up, this kayak’s box measures 33 inches by 12 inches by 29 inches and it weighs just 36 pounds. This kayak boasts a maximum weight capacity of 400 pounds and the cockpit size measures 16 inches by 30 inches.
This folding kayak is one of Oru’s newest designs and that is reflected in its aluminum cockpit latches and reinforced anchor points. It is best for intermediate to advanced paddlers and can also be equipped with a kayak spray skirt for colder weather paddling.
This one also has built-in aluminum ribs that provide more definition to the bow and stern while also improving the kayak’s tracking ability. When fully inflated, this kayak measures 10’5” long by 32 inches wide and weighs 36 pounds.
It boasts a maximum weight capacity of 300 pounds and folds down to dimensions measuring 30 inches by 17 inches by 10 inches. It also features seven distinct air chambers that provide extra rigidity and make this kayak more resistant to punctures and abrasions.
The kayak itself weighs just over 39 pounds when inflated and empty, and it includes two integrated fishing rod holders. This makes it great for fishing couples, but one seat can also be removed if you want to use it for recreational tandem paddling as well as for kayak fishing.
This is also the only kayak in the Intex line that includes inflatable booster pads for the seat. These pads provide additional cushion for your bottom, support for your back, and offer an elevated position compared to most other inflatable kayaks.
This kayak is rated for an assembly time of 10 to 15 minutes and it measures 16’1” long by 28 inches wide when fully assembled. The cockpit dimensions measure 20 inches wide by 91 inches long and this kayak’s maximum weight capacity is 500 pounds.
Before you load in any of your kayaking gear, the Haven TT weighs 41 pounds. When you pack it all up, you will have a compact kayak box that measures 34 inches by 17 inches by 29 inches to fit in your car.
When fully inflated, this kayak is 15 feet long by 32 inches wide and weighs approximately 52 pounds. It also boasts a maximum weight capacity of 550 pounds and folds down to dimensions measuring 35 inches by 21 inches by 12 inches when it is time to put it in your car.
This kayak also features those built-in aluminum ribs that are indicative of the ”˜AdvancedFrame’ nickname. These ribs provide additional structure and help the kayak track better than most comparable inflatable kayak models.
This kayak is also super lightweight at just 18 pounds and has a maximum weight capacity of 130 pounds. It is a great choice for aspiring young paddlers who love to swim just as much as they want to learn the basics of kayaking.
The stern section of the kayak is actually a swim platform that makes it much easier to get back onto the kayak after you go for a swim. Plus, the cockpit features multiple scupper holes that allow water to drain naturally if it is flipped.
Because it is a Pelican Kayak, it features their patented RAM-Xâ„¢ S technology. This technology allows the body of the kayak to naturally regain its shape if significantly dented from impacts or being dropped.
Like the Lifetime Youth Kayak, it also measures 6 feet long by 24 inches wide. It also includes that rear swim platform for easier re-entry.
Our Pick – Intex Excursion Pro
It is also a reasonably priced model for the kind of quality you are going to get. While it isn’t the absolute cheapest kayak on our list, it is also far from the most expensive (which means it represents a great value!).
Finally, this kayak is one of the few on our list with booster pads and fishing rod holders. So it is made for comfort and also allows you to do more than just paddle in circles once you get on the water!