Canadian Canoe Routes

A car for carrying canoes
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Author:  Karrzilla [ June 7th, 2019, 6:40 am ]
Post subject:  A car for carrying canoes

I am looking for a second car, a used one, mostly for canoe trips.
Currently, we're a one-car family. I have an SUV that I find is too tall for me to comfortably load canoes and, in any case, I need a second car so I don't wind up in a conflict with my wife if I want to take a trip when she needs the car.
My trusted mechanic who is not canoe-savvy recommended 2 cars that he thought were reliable used cars: Toyota Matrix and Honda Fit.
I will be using standard Yakima/Thule posts and bars.
Both the Matrix and Fit are lower than my SUV, but just looking at their shape I see arched roof lines that make me think they would not allow for sufficient spacing between the bars.
My SUV allows for 2'-9" spacing. Which I think is just adequate.
I'm not sure I'd get that kind of spacing from the Matrix or Fit.
I think the roofs of station wagons like the Subarus, VW Jetta/Passat, Ford Focus, etc would give better spacing.
Does anyone have experience with the Matrix or Fit with roof racks and can you recommend them or recommend against them for carrying canoes?

Author:  Brad Thomas [ June 7th, 2019, 7:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: A car for carrying canoes

Your question seems to be mostly about roof rack spacing. I just measured the rack spacing on my VW Beetle, and it's 26". I'm not sure others would agree this is sufficient, but I've driven around with a 17' canoe on the top of it all over Ontario with no problems for at least a decade.

This car is a diesel and super-cheap to drive around carrying a canoe. For a trip with two people, if the gear won't fit behind the seats, it won't fit in the the canoe anyway. The only problem is relatively-low ground clearance.

Author:  Prospector16 [ June 7th, 2019, 7:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: A car for carrying canoes

I just recently bought a VW Golf Station Wagon Diesel version because the diesel VWs have a reputation for lasting forever with 500,000+km being the norm. I get one canoe up no problem with the shorter Thule bars, and I know my 78" bars on my Suburban would fit if I wanted them to - that would give me 2 canoes.

A buddy used to have a VW Jetta Station Wagon with 78" bars and he took 2 canoes everywhere I took my Suburban including down the 8 km dirt access road to the north entrance of Crotch Lake, North Frontenac Parklands. Something like an SUV might be a little more suitable but speaking as someone in a Suburban not many of those so-called "SUVs" are really much more than a regular car anyway.

I will have to measure the bar spacing on my Golf right now but pretty sure it is more than the 2'9" you have on your SUV. I will measure and update.

I looked at the Fit when I was buying my Golf and it sure is roomy inside. Overall I thought it was a great vehicle but I ended up going for the Golf.

Author:  Pook [ June 7th, 2019, 9:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: A car for carrying canoes

I'm with Brad and Prospector on this one- you definitely don't need a BIG vehicle to carry a canoe. And though rack spacing usually starts by recommending at least 1m or 36" at least, the bars on my BMW are less than 30" apart and no problems either. I've hauled my Pal to Prince Albert National Park, Maligne Lake in Jasper at Highway speeds with no issues. I did add a set of canoe feet from Malone to the Thule racks and use under hood mounted straps for front tie down. That gives a lot of security.
We looked at VW and Volvo wagons before replacing my wifes vehicle- she ended up with a Kia Soul. Canoe works up there too but it is a higher lift.

Lots of choices. Good luck!

Author:  Mike McCrea [ June 7th, 2019, 10:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: A car for carrying canoes

Canoes plural?

The biggest issue with rack spacing comes if you need to transport two canoes. The further apart the racks the easier it is to accommodate ()(), as the canoes are narrow towards the stems.

If you need to transport two canoes you can set them side-by-side and measure some rack spread distances and bar lengths. If you use gunwale stops those take up some bar space as well, although you can always install them on the crossbars inside the hulls instead of outside.

With 78” bars we often transported two tandem canoes on a CR-V. An older CR-V, Honda changed the rack attachment points on later models with a more Euro-styled roofline.

Author:  Neil Fitzpatrick [ June 7th, 2019, 11:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: A car for carrying canoes

As long as you fasten your boats at the bow and stern to the car itself you can pretty much fit anything on any car. I put three small canoes (9', 12' and 14.5') on my wife's Honda Fit. We put 60" bars on it as they don't extend beyond the mirrors.

I have 78" bars on my half ton truck. I'm short (5'6") and can load boats on my own. I get the boat parallel to the tuck and either get the bow on the front bar overhang then toss the stern up or try hook both bars with the gunwale and toss it up. I can get out 17' 85lb prospector up no problem. I'm not exactly careful and have many nicks on my truck. If you're not concerned about the aesthetics of your SUV, maybe you should consider changing your canoe loading methods.

If you're getting a second car anyway, I say the Fit is a great car and would be fine for loading canoes. Fuel economy with three boats on the Fit is pretty bad but it's still better than my truck!

Author:  sbaillie [ June 7th, 2019, 12:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A car for carrying canoes

I have a Prius C; no problem for the big 17ft whitewater canoe, and occasionally I tape a 72" hollow square steel tube to the standard racks and can then carry 2 17 foot canoes. Certainly reduces my mileage from 50MPG down to low 40s.

Author:  Ralph [ June 7th, 2019, 1:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A car for carrying canoes

You need to think about your needs as to canoe hauling, people hauling and gear hauling.
As others have said, you can carry one canoe on pretty much any vehicle. Two canoes makes it more difficult but if you have tie-downs attached to your car both front and back, then it's quite possible. Either you have a wider cross-bar or you tilt one of the canoes up against the other - as Neil demonstrated above.
If you are carrying one canoe with one or two people and gear for canoe camping, the Fit would have lots of room. If you have two canoes and 4 people, your gear space in the Fit would be very limited but it would probably be adequate for gear for day trips. The Matrix would be better able to handle 4 people and 2 canoes and gear for a day trip. Unless you packed very lightly, the Matrix would be tight for 4 with camping gear.
I have a friend who has a Honda Fit and he regularly carries a canoe on it. I have concerns with the very little ground clearance on the Fit. The Matrix has more ground clearance. I find the Matrix has a stiffer suspension and handles rough roads better than the Fit.

Author:  Corbeau [ June 7th, 2019, 2:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A car for carrying canoes

Mike McCrea wrote:
With 78” bars we often transported two tandem canoes on a CR-V. An older CR-V, Honda changed the rack attachment points on later models with a more Euro-styled roofline.

I have an older CR-V ('04) and I love it: big square trunk and the yakima roofrack attachments I have work well. I've also carried two 16'6" tandems on it no problem. For me, (I'm 6'2") the height of the roof makes it not too bad to either load from the rear (sliding it up on the rack), or just pop the canoe sideways onto the bars when carrying on the yoke.

I've heard good things about the Fit as well but don't have one...aside from what has already been posted about it, I have it on good authority that with the rear seats folded it makes for a really nice, flat sleeping deck in a pinch! Maybe good for those unexpected nights when shuttling or waiting for a park office to open... :D

Author:  daypaddler [ June 8th, 2019, 4:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A car for carrying canoes


This site shows you bar spacing for any vehicle.

As others have said you will be fine with relatively short spacing as long as you use bow and stern lines. That said, I also prefer a longer span if possible. Of the two choices mentioned by your mechanic the Fit has an extra 3 inches (30 inch vs 27 on the Matrix) least for the model years I looked at. As someone mentioned the Matrix may ride better on rough roads (and may be more comfy overall)...the Fit has a simple and inexpensive rear suspension. That said, Fits are slick little vehicles...sporty and fun to drive (and they have the "magic seat" in the rear that folds to provide a shocking amount of space). I've seen Fits around here carrying canoes and kayaks. I'd choose the Fit but your preferences may be different.

Author:  SteveBoal [ June 9th, 2019, 5:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A car for carrying canoes

The easiest way to extend rack spacing on short rooftops is to make a longer rectangle out of black pipe & clamp this tightly to your narrowly spaced rack bars. This will give WAY less stress & wobble for ultralight boats than strapping it to narrowly spaces bars. (And yes, of course use bow and stern lines as well).

Author:  Fritz [ June 11th, 2019, 1:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A car for carrying canoes

I have a Toyota Highlander which is pretty tall for my height of 5'6" At 70, I'm also not as strong as I used to be. I've solved the problem with a rack extender from Yakima. It's a heavy round bar that fits inside the round rack bars and can be pulled out a foot or so beyond the end of the racks. This makes it relatively easy to get one end of the canoe up on the front rack and then the other end up on the back rack. Just set the front end on the extender, lift the back end up on the back rack and then slide the front end over until its on the rack and then push the extender back in and secure it with the attached clamp.

Author:  scoops [ June 11th, 2019, 5:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A car for carrying canoes

Matrix. Handled two canoes on roof( with wider load bars) with no issues. Three guys, two canoes and all gear no problem. Fuel mileage takes a beating with the bigger loads. Put 350 k on my last one, still wish I had it.
Just did a trip with our Outback, two canoes on top, all gear for two and still got just over 10L/100k. Day to day mileage is much better with the Matrix but trip mileage is better with the Outback.

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