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Fit Kayak Inside SUV

Nicola Burridge
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An SUV makes life easier, especially for smaller paddlers looking to safely transport a smaller kayak. After all, it’s not called a sport utility vehicle for nothing. 

If you’re looking to carry a kayak inside SUV models then this guide will give you the safety tips and general inspiration on how best to transport your kayak inside your vehicle.

> Best cars for hauling kayaks

Will A Kayak Fit Inside An SUV?

The good news is, yes, a kayak will fit inside an SUV. 

However, it will depend on the size of your kayak and the size of your SUV. For example, a large touring kayak is unlikely to fit inside an SUV, no matter how big the SUV is. 

If you ask me, shorter kayaks will typically be better suited to being transported inside an SUV. For most SUVs and most compact kayaks, you will usually need to fold down the rear and center seats. You may also need to fold down the front passenger seat, depending on the length of your SUV and the length of your kayak. 

Generally, you shouldn’t have trouble fitting a small kayak (under 10 feet) inside a large SUV. 

If you have an inflatable or foldable kayak, you will be able to fit it inside your SUV with no trouble at all. Foldable kayaks and inflatable kayaks can fit either on the back seats or in the trunk. 

How To Transport A Kayak Inside An SUV

How you transport your kayak inside your SUV will depend on the size of both your kayak and your SUV. However, the basic requirements are the same.

Step 1: Prepare The Interior Of Your SUV

Start by getting the inside of your SUV ready to haul a kayak. If you have a seven or eight-seater SUV, fold down both the rear and center rows of seats. This should be sufficient space for a compact kayak, in my opinion. 

If you have a smaller SUV, you should fold down the rear seats.

If you think you might struggle for space, you could slide forward the front seat on the passenger side to create a little extra room without folding it down. 

Step 2: Locate Your Anchor Points

Next, you want to find solid points inside your SUV. Most SUVs will have metal D-rings inside the trunk and these are ideal. 

You should also locate solid anchor points on your kayak. If you know where the anchor points are on both the kayak and SUV before you load, it’ll be easier to line them up when loading. 

Step 3: Load Your Kayak Into Your SUV

Load the kayak into the SUV and slide it all the way forward. Shorter kayaks may be able to go in straight. Longer ones may need to be positioned at an angle. Point the bow toward the front passenger side for more space.

At least two-thirds of the kayak should fit inside the vehicle for safe transportation. If your kayak sticks out your vehicle’s rear end, you’ll need to attach a bright signal flag (red flag) to alert other drivers to the extended length of your vehicle. 

> Kayak safety flag guide

Step 4: Secure The Kayak

Using the anchor points inside your SUV and on your kayak, secure the kayak to the interior of your vehicle with cam straps. It’s easier to thread the strap through the attachment points so that they can be tightened by pulling toward you rather than away from you. 

Ratchet straps can also be used but cam straps are often easier. Remember to tie up the loose ends of the straps to avoid them flapping around or getting tangled in other things.

The kayak should be secured so that it doesn’t slide back and forth during the trip. Just like when it’s on your roof, the kayak shouldn’t move at all. 

Step 5: Secure Your Rear Door

If your kayak fits completely inside your SUV, great! You can close the trunk as normal. If not, you should close the door until the door makes contact with the kayak. 

You might want to use a blanket or foam padding to protect both your door and your kayak. 

Secure the door of your SUV with a cam strap. You can thread it through the handle on the inside of the door and secure it to the latch at the bottom (where the door is normally held shut). 

Which Kayaks Best Fit Inside An SUV?

  • Inflatable kayaks
  • Folding kayaks
  • Whitewater kayaks
  • Small recreational kayaks

There are various types of kayaks that are likely to fit inside most SUVs. 

Folding and inflatable kayaks, for example, will fit in any SUV without having to fold down your seats or modify your interior. Folding kayaks and inflatables will usually fit in the trunk or on the back seats. The advantage of a folding or inflatable kayak is that it will also usually fit in smaller vehicles as well. 

Whitewater kayaks are among the shortest kayaks on the market and many of them will fit inside an SUV. If you have a particularly short kayak and a large SUV, you might find that the kayak will fit in the SUV completely without having to keep the back door open.

Small recreational kayaks, generally up to 10 feet in length, will often fit inside large SUVs with the seats folded down and the back door closed. Kayaks that are longer than this may require you to drive with the rear door of the trunk open a little. 

Some kayaks and SUVs may require you to fold down the front passenger seat so you can get the rear door closed, which may not be possible if you want to bring a paddling buddy with you. This is where a foldable kayak or inflatable kayak may be better.

Kayaks Inside SUV FAQs

Can I Use A Roof Rack Instead?

Yes, you can absolutely use a roof rack instead. Most car roof racks are compatible with SUVs. However, with a roof rack on an SUV, clearance could be an issue when accessing some parking lots or your garage at home. Folding racks can work best. 

You may also find it tricky to load a kayak onto an SUV because of the added height of the roof of an SUV compared to a sedan, for example. Load-assist roof racks can be ideal. 

Check out these kayak racks for SUVs

Is It Safe To Drive With The Trunk Door Open?

As long as your door is secure and won’t fly open while you’re driving, it’s usually safe. You should also make sure that everything inside your vehicle is secure as well, otherwise, it could fall out of your vehicle (which is not safe).

If your kayak extends out the back of your SUV, you should use a red flag to alert other road users. 

I also recommend checking your local and state regulations about driving with the trunk open to make sure you adhere to the rules (and laws). You don’t want to be in violation of the law, especially if you cross state lines. Rules and regulations vary between states.

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