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How To Build A Kayak Trailer (DIY Style)

Mark Armstrong
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Ready-made trailers can be expensive but a DIY kayak trailer can be a good option if you want to stick to a budget and you think you’re good with your hands.

We have put together this quick how-to guide to help you build your own kayak trailer at home.

However, there are a few things you’ll need before you can get started and one of them can be a little pricey if you don’t already own one: the Harbor Freight trailer. But you might be able to find a used one for a decent price on sites such as Craigslist or Ebay.

Just want to buy a kayak trailer without the fuss?

How To Build A Kayak Trailer (DIY Style) - PinterestPin

What You Need To Build Your Own Trailer

  • Harbor Freight Trailer – the 48 x 96 inch trailer with a load capacity of 1195 pounds can be an ideal option. This folding trailer can be purchased directly from Harbor Freight or you can pick up a used one from Ebay or Craigslist.
  • 16 millimeter Combination Wrench – a wrench such as this Craftsman one, can be useful for securing the various nuts and bolts on the trailer.
  • 17 millimeter Combination Wrench – there are different sizes of nuts and bolts so this one, along with the 16mm wrench, can let you easily access hard to reach spots.
  • Tie Down Straps – straps such as these ones can let you secure your kayak to the trailer.
  • Kayak Carriers (optional) – J-Style kayak carriers, such as these Malone ones can be useful for safely and securely adding more kayaks to your trailer. You may only need these if you plan on building a two tier trailer.
  • Plywood – this is for your base. You can get this from your local hardware store. Plywood that’s the same size as your trailer (48×96 inches) and ½ inch thick can be ideal.
  • 3 x 8 foot 2x4s – these can be purchased from your local hardware store. These are to create a rack.
  • 2 x 6 foot 2x4s – these are so that you can build crossbars on your rack. You can buy these at your local hardware store.
Different Ways Kayaks Are Transported - Pie ChartPin
Courtesy: americancanoe.org

How To Build Your Own Trailer For Kayaks

Step 1: Build Your Trailer Frame

Start by assembling your Harbor Freight trailer. Follow the instructions that came with the trailer package. The wheels should be the last thing you install.

Step 2: Build Your Deck

Place your plywood or similar material on top of the trailer frame so that it fits the length and width of your trailer. There are pre-drilled holes on the frame so you can drill your holes into your plywood so that they align with the holes on the frame. You can then bolt the plywood to the trailer.

Step 3: Add Your 2x4s

With your three 8 foot 2x4s, place them lengthwise on top of the trailer so that you have one at either side and one in the center. Once they’re in place you can bolt them to the trailer frame. 

Step 4: Build Your Crossbars

Grab your two 6 foot 2x4s. These are to become your crossbars. Place them across the deck of your trailer. It can be useful to place them so that the thinner side is secured to the deck as it should be stronger this way. These can be secured to the deck 2x4s using L-shaped brackets.

Cutting open a pool noodle and securing it over your crossbars can give you additional padding on these 2x4s.

Step 5: Secure Your Kayak(s)

You can load up to two kayaks on your newly built trailer, making sure you secure them to the cross bars using your tie down straps.

Step 6: Build A Second Tier (optional)

If you want to carry up to five kayaks, you can continue to build a second tier using additional 2x4s and PVC pipes to create an exterior and center frame.

Video: DIY Harbor Freight Kayak Utility Trailer

The six additional 2x4s should be around 28 inches in length or long enough to account for the load on the first tier/deck. You will also need an additional 2×4 for the center that will attach to your existing deck crossbars. Two PVC pipes can become your crossbars for the second tier.

By making a second tier you can use your J-Style kayak carriers attached to the PVC pipe, giving you room to add up to three kayaks on the second tier, depending on their sizes.

In Conclusion

Building your own kayak trailer can be less expensive than buying one that’s ready to roll. But it may not be for everyone and if there are some items that you don’t already have or if it’s going to cost you more to purchase the individual items, then it might not always be worth it financially to make your own.

A kayak trailer can be a great tool for getting your kayak from A to B and can make loading and unloading a little easier compared to a roof rack. Do you have a DIY kayak trailer of your own? Or maybe you’ve given ours a go? Let us know. And if you think this tutorial could help anyone else, share it.

3 thoughts on “How To Build A Kayak Trailer (DIY Style)”

  1. I recently built my own Kayak trailer that holds up to 8 kayaks or two canoes and 4 kayaks. I’m interested in checking out accessories for my project. I would like to share some photos, without my time I have less than 100. Bucks into it lol no wood either.

  2. The most valuable element of the Harbor Freight trailer is the certificate of origin that is used for licensing. In Washington State, it is prohibitively expensive to license a homebuilt trailer. The certificate of origin/VIN enable one to create a specialty trailer, which can be “upgraded” into an entirely different trailer (e.g., square tube instead of stamped sheet metal frame, heavier axle, etc.). Without the COE/VIN, you have to pay more than the Harbor Freight trailer to jump through hoops.


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