DIY Kayak Trailer Tips ,Plan & Guide

Back in the day, kayaks were mainly used for fishing. These days, kayaking is a very popular sport or activity, drawing attention from plenty of water enthusiasts who love spending time in nature. Sure, fishing is still a common activity while on the kayak, but the recreational purpose is more important now.

It’s crystal clear that a kayak offers plenty of fun in a wonderful experience. A well-planned experience will recharge your batteries and relax you. However, unless you live on the shore of a river, lake, or the seaside, chances are you’ll need to transport your kayak to the nearest water.

At this point, there are usually two options, getting a roof rack or a kayak trailer. Which option is better and why do people seem to turn to DIY kayak trailer designs?

Kayak roof rack vs. DIY kayak trailer

Kayak roof racks come in all kinds of sizes and can most likely fit most vehicles. They do have a bunch of benefits as well. They’re easy to fit on a vehicle, but just as easy to remove and store away if you’re not using the kayak for a long period of time.

In fact, most roof racks only need an Allen key for the installation or removal.

Compared to a trailer, a roof rack is also cheaper. If you have roof bars on your vehicle, you only need some J bars and straps. There’s no need to make any changes to your vehicle either, apart from the roof bars.

A roof rack doesn’t require any particular driving skills either, yet you should still drive a bit slower, especially around bends. Finally, there’s no servicing required either.

But roof racks aren’t perfect. You’ll only be able to transport one or two kayaks. The wind resistance is higher, so the vehicle will require more fuel. Plus, pay attention to the overhead clearance, which is lower. If there are low bridges in your area, you better make sure you can fit under.

Loading and unloading kayaks could also be challenging at that height.

Products like MeeFar Universal Car Soft Roof Rack, GPT Rack Adjustable Kayak Roof Rack, or TMS Kayak Roof Racks are quite popular, affordable, and easy to install.

When it comes to trailers, loading and unloading them is a piece of cake. They’re only one or two feet tall, so you don’t need to lift your kayaks too high. Aerodynamics won’t suffer either, not to mention the easy attachment to your vehicle.

The best part? You can carry more than just a couple of kayaks.

A trailer will need a tow hook though, as well as regular maintenance. Driving with a trailer requires a bit of extra skills, especially around corners or while reversing. You need a place to store it as well, not to mention the cost.

When it comes to trailers, Malone’s products are very well rated online and they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Rambo Bikes Canoe and Kayak Trailer Cart or Ironton Steel Folding Utility Trailer Kit are also worth some attention.

Other reputable brands include Blue Mountain Outfitters, AAA, Trailex, or Castle Craft Multiple. There’s pretty high competition on the market, but that doesn’t mean prices are too low.

The cost is the main consideration for most people and that’s what makes the difference. In theory, a trailer is better than a rack, but it costs more. That’s why more and more people choose a DIY kayak trailer instead.

Basically, you have the benefits of a trailer and the price of a rack.

Importance of making a proper DIY kayak trailer and sizing considerations

A single kayak trailer will usually hold a standard kayak, up to 12 feet long. Such a trailer can usually take up to 900 pounds in weight and assembly is limited. Opt for aluminum because it requires little to no maintenance. Also, adjustability is a must for arms.

Got two kayaks? No problems. Again, aluminum is a must. Four kayaks? Same story. In terms of weight capacity, you won’t be able to get it up too much, it will still range around 900 pounds. Also, adjustability is a must if your kayaks are in different sizes.

Believe it or not, your DIY kayak trailer (like the ones you find in commerce) can also accommodate 10,12 or 16 kayaks. At this point, the weight capacity should be higher. You’ll need some springs, as well as epoxy. For example, a 16 kayak trailer should take about 1,600 pounds.

Another great benefit of using a trailer is the fact that you can keep your kayaks loaded on it. Once you’re done, simply detach the trailer from your vehicle, without having to unload it. Obviously, this isn’t an option for long term storage.

Many kayak trailers have multi-kayak designs. Even if you only have one kayak, it might be a good idea to make the trailer bigger. Your future partner may want a kayak or maybe one of your kids, not to mention going out with a close friend.

A plan is mandatory when designing a DIY kayak trailer because it must be large enough to accommodate the boat. Apart from buying ready made trailers, you can also build a DIY kayak trailer from scratch using parts, not to mention getting a cheap trailer and modifying it.

For any of the last options, you need to pay attention to the weight and balance. Your kayak must be well balanced or maneuverability will be an issue. It also needs a bit of weight or it may get blown away while traveling.

What you’ll need for your DIY kayak trailer

You can buy metallic frames and wheels yourself, but you’ll need to weld things together. It’s too much hassle unless you have the tools and you know exactly what you’re doing.

When a top-notch kayak trailer costs around $1,500, your best bet is to purchase a ready made frame and customize it from there.

A utility trailer kit is at least two times cheaper than an actual kayak trailer. You can get the Ironton Steel Folding Utility Trailer Kit, for example. Ultra-Tow’s alternative is just as good but pricier. Solid steel is a good choice that doesn’t require too much maintenance.

You’ve got the platform, a solid bottom, wheels, and a hook, ready to go on your vehicle.

At this point, you can purchase as many kayak carriers as you want and install them yourself. Ikuram has a few good options, not to mention the MrHardware Heavy Duty Kayak Rack, Leader Accessories Folding Kayak Rack, or TMS Kayak Roof Racks.

MrHardware Heavy Duty Kayak Rack

  • MeeFar’s soft roof racks are designed to fit vehicles with or without gutters, making them versatile for transporting your kayak.
  • Crafted from non-slip, scratch-resistant materials, they securely grip your gear while reducing wind noise and vibrations.
  • Tool-free setup with included straps and ropes to attach pads to your car’s roof and secure your load.
  • Foldable design for easy storage in the included bag when not in use. Perfect for hassle-free outdoor adventures.

Leader Accessories Folding Kayak Rack

  • Suitable for SUVs, cars, and trucks, this kayak roof rack is a versatile choice for any outdoor enthusiast.
  • When not in use, this kayak roof rack for 2 kayaks effortlessly folds up for space-saving storage in your garage or trunk.
  • The kayak carrier’s support arms can be customized to accommodate kayaks of various sizes and shapes, ensuring a secure fit while on the move.
  • With clear instructions and all essential hardware included, even a single person can easily install this SUV kayak rack, streamlining your outdoor adventures.

TMS Kayak Roof Racks

  • Cost-effective answer to your kayak transportation needs. It stands out for its simplicity and affordability.
  • It securely holds the kayak on its side, leaving ample room on the load bar for other cargo. Moreover, it’s worth noting that you can install up to four sets of these kayak racks on a full-size truck, a real space-saving bonus.
  • Installation and removal are hassle-free, thanks to the quick on/off hardware.
  • The rust-resistant coating and powder-coated finish demonstrate a commitment to long-lasting durability.

Your options are obviously more diversified, but these are just some top sellers. Whatever you get, make sure it’s based on solid materials that will resist rust and corrosion for years.

Other than that, a few tools (mainly wrenches) are also required for a good result.

The best way to make your own DIY kayak trailer

The first step implies assembling the trailer. If you order it online, you’ll get a few pieces that must be tightened together with screws, a fairly straightforward job that doesn’t require any skills. It shouldn’t take more than an hour, regardless of how sophisticated the trailer is.

Attaching the axles and suspension may look like a more sophisticated job, but it’s not. A few pieces of hardware must be attached, so the job’s done in minutes.

While not mandatory, it might be a good idea to get a solid deck. Plywood is cheap and works without too much hassle. Besides, it won’t rust or corrode. The idea is to protect your kayak against little stones and other things your vehicle wheels may kick up from the road.

Measure the surface of the trailer and cut the plywood to the same size. Before installing it, take a look around the frame and install some hardware for the next steps. You don’t need anything major, but some lock nuts and eye bolts. They’ll help with the straps later on.

Locate the holes on the trailer and drill holes in the plywood in the exact same locations. Use some hex bolts and nothing will move the deck, regardless of the speeds you’re doing.

Get three treated wooden beams cut them in the same length and install them lengthwise the same way, one in the middle and two on the sides.

At this point, it’s up to your imagination to continue, depending on how many kayaks you want to transport. If you want to transport more than a couple of kayaks, you’ll have to build two racks. The job’s much easier if you only need to transport a couple of them.

Get two more beams and cut them in the same width. Install them at equal distances from the edges. For example, you can leave 30% of the length before the first beam, 40% between them, and 30% between the last beam and the end of the deck.

Once installed, it might be a good idea to install some pipe insulator over them. It will protect your kayaks, as they’ll sit on something soft. This insulator might get ruined with time, but it’s cheap to replace. Opt for something thick.

Use screws to connect the wide beams on top of the long beams, as well as brackets.

If you only have two kayaks to transport, your DIY kayak trailer is done. You can now load the kayaks, secure them with straps around them, and drive off.

If you have more than two kayaks to transport, you’ll need to go up with your frame design and install a second one at a decent height, following the exact same principles. Obviously, there’s plenty of room for customization as well.

Best materials for a DIY kayak trailer

There are more materials to consider when it comes to the trailer, as well as the parts you’re about to work with.

Aluminum is a common material in kayak trailers. It’s more expensive than other alternatives, but at the same time, it won’t corrode either. Aluminum based trailers are extremely durable and lightweight. However, the weight might be an issue, as you want the trailer to be heavy for balance.

Aluminum is rust-resistant, but the price puts people off. Besides, maneuvering an aluminum trailer could be a bit tricky, especially at high speeds. Winds may also blow it away, but generally, you shouldn’t be kayaking on windy days anyway.

Galvanized steel is a middle option, at least in terms of price. This type of steel is usually coated with a layer of zinc, only to improve its durability and rust resistance. When done correctly, it’s likely to resist saltwater environments too.

You can also improve its durability by giving it a layer of paint, as it adds an extra layer of protection.

Non-galvanized steel is the cheapest option on the market. It is, indeed, very strong, but it can’t resist rust and corrosion, especially in saltwater environments. However, rust won’t appear overnight. Again, coating it with paint will give it some extra protection. A bit of maintenance may also be required.

If you choose to use wood for your DIY kayak trailer and create a frame out of it, there are two options. First, opt for some type of hardwood, as it’s more durable than softwood. Then, it pays off investing in treated wood, as it will last longer.

For maximum durability, give it a layer of paint and it will support you for years with no issues at all. You may want to reapply paint every year or so, only for maintenance.

As for the deck in the DIY kayak trailer project, plywood will do. Of course, you can use other types of wood too, but this cheap option will stand the test of time and its main purpose is to protect your kayaks against little stones and other debris thrown by the wheels from the road.

DIY Kayak Trailer Video Guide

If you’re like me, someone who relishes hands-on projects and the thrill of a good DIY challenge, then building your very own kayak trailer is an exciting journey waiting to be embarked upon. It’s not just about saving a few bucks; it’s about creating a trailer that’s tailor-made to match your specific needs. Fortunately, the online world is brimming with valuable resources, including instructional videos like the one I stumbled upon below, which hold your hand through the entire process.

So, how do you dive into this DIY kayak trailer adventure? Well, you’ll need some basic materials to get started: a sturdy trailer base, wheels, and a framework designed to securely cradle your beloved kayaks. The video I found offers a visual roadmap, breaking down each step with clarity, making it easier for someone like me to grasp the ins and outs of construction. Remember, the trailer’s design and size can be customized based on your requirements, like the number of kayaks you plan to transport and the types of terrains you’ll be navigating.

Once you’ve put the finishing touches on your DIY kayak trailer, you’ll have a practical and budget-friendly solution to effortlessly transport your kayaks to various aquatic playgrounds. This project not only amplifies your kayaking escapades but also fills you with immense pride, knowing that you’ve built this handy piece of gear with your own two hands.


Still unsure how to do a DIY kayak trailer?

How long does it take to make your own DIY kayak trailer?

You don’t need too many materials and you don’t need any advanced DIY skills either. For an average DIY enthusiast, the whole job shouldn’t take more than a few hours. Just make sure you measure everything before cutting and drilling things.

Take your time and have a few breaks when you feel tired, it’s better to do everything by the book.

What kind of tools do I need to make a DIY kayak trailer?

Generally speaking, you’ll need a drill, a chainsaw (manual or electric), and a few wrenches. You’ll need the drill for the wooden structure and the deck. The wrenches are used to assemble the main trailer, while the chainsaw will help cut the deck and beams.

How fast can you pull a kayak trailer?

Driving with a kayak trailer is not a difficult job. Taking bends may require lower speeds, not to mention some extra attention when reversing. Most trailers have a speed rating of 70 MPH. When making one yourself, it’s important to be more cautious because there are no professional tests done on it.

Is it better to transport a kayak up or down?

As a general rule of thumb, a rotomolded kayak can be transported upside down with the hull up, but you can also transport such kayaks on the edge. Composite kayaks must be transported on the bottom. Otherwise, you risk causing deformation defects.

How heavy is a kayak trailer?

Kayak trailers are not too heavy and they’re mainly recommended for personal use. On average, they weigh between 100 and 400 pounds. You can weigh parts yourself throughout the project and figure out the total weight of your DIY kayak trailer. As for kayaks, the average weight is around 200 pounds.

It’s important to make sure your vehicle can pull this type of weight, especially if you use a small car to pull the trailer or your car has a small engine. Too much strain on the engine can damage it.

Final words

A DIY kayak trailer with all the parts and materials will most likely cost you at least two times less than a ready made unit. Indeed, it may not be made at professional standards and it may not look as good, but it will serve the purpose if you do it by the book.

There are all kinds of projects over the Internet, most of them written from users’ personal experiences. However, most of them involve working on a basic trailer and upgrading it yourself. After all, welding trailer parts yourself and working with metal is too challenging and not worth it.

Which DIY kayak trailer project is the best? Hard to tell, as it depends on your actual necessities, as well as your DIY skills. The good news is you’ll save money, but you’ll also be able to customize your trailer in the smallest details.

Furthermore, every project out there leaves room for customization, so you can always use your imagination in the actual design.

About the author

My name is Brock Browning. I’m the founder of I have a passion, for kayaking that runs through my veins. It has driven me to create a central hub where everything related to kayaking comes to life.

Leave a Comment