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Transporting Your Fishing Kayak on Top of a Car

Lets talk about loading your fishing kayak on your car… I would so much like to have a truck in my garage, install a truck bed extender and simply slide my kayak onto the truck bed every time before fishing trips. Unfortunately, trucks are not very common in Europe and, like gasoline, are too expensive. With an extender every German police car would stop me immediately. We Europeans simply have to come to terms with the fact that our countries are not so extensive, are dominated by big cities and that we have smaller cars as a result. So we transport our kayaks on the car roof, unless we feel like driving a trailer. No matter if I transport 1 kayak on the roof, 2 kayaks next to each other or maybe even 3 kayaks stacked; there are strict rules in Europe for roof transport and load securing.

Transporting Your Fishing Kayak on Top of a Car

What are the exact rules in Europe for the transport of kayaks on the roof rack?

Let’s start with my home country Germany. As in almost all other countries, legal framework conditions apply which serve to protect all road users. In general, the law says that the load must be stowed and secured in such a way that it cannot slip, fall over, roll back and forth, fall down or generate avoidable noise, even when braking hard or suddenly evading. The driver is responsible for this, so he should always check the safety of one or more kayaks on the roof or on the trailer. Roof racks must not be wider than the car itself (without the side mirrors!)

When transporting on a roof rack, the maximum roof load must be observed, which is shown in the operating instructions for the car (not in the vehicle registration document!). The usual roof loads are 50 to 100 kg.
Roof load = roof rack + load + fastening material

The roof racks should have a GS mark and be approved for the respective vehicle type. If you have an accident with your own construction, a verification procedure is required in court!

You also have to consider the maximum load of the roof rack.
The following applies to the load limits: The vehicle and the load together may not be wider than 2.5 m and not higher than 4 m. Up to a height of 2.5 m, the load must not protrude from the front of the vehicle, otherwise the following applies: the load overhang at the front must not exceed 0.5 m.

The load may protrude to the rear up to 1.0 m without flag, up to 1.5 m with flag.
The following exception applies: when transported over a distance of up to 100 km, the load may protrude up to 3 m.

What rules apply in the other European countries? Here are some of the most important deviations from German law:


Every protruding load must be provided with a warning sign to the rear. A reflective metal sign with red and white horizontal stripes is required that must be attached to the end of the load. The load must not protrude at the front. The rear load must not protrude more than 3/10 of the car length.

Transporting Your Fishing Kayak on Top of a Car


If the load protrudes more than 1 meter at the front or rear, it must be clearly marked with a red flag. In the dark, it must be marked with a reflective warning sign, which is attached to the rear of the load, is set vertically and is no more than 90 cm above the road.
Maximum dimensions: The load may not exceed the total length by more than a quarter of the vehicle length entered in the vehicle registration document. The load must not protrude more than 20 cm from the side if the total width of 2.55 meters is not exceeded.


Overhanging loads are to be marked conspicuously day and night. Reflectors may be no more than 90 cm above the road. If the kayak protrudes more than 1 meter, it must be provided with a reflective, red and white striped signal body. When viewed from the center of the steering device, the load may not protrude more than 3 meters.

Transporting Your Fishing Kayak on Top of a Car


The load must not protrude at the front and may protrude a maximum of 3 meters to the rear; if it is more than 1 meter, it must be marked with a reflective device (with a red light at night!). The load may only protrude from the side if it does not exceed a total width of 2.5 meters.


Load may protrude backwards and upwards, but not to the sides.
Loads that protrudes towards the rear must always be marked with a reflective metal plate with red and white horizontal stripes and a black border.


A vehicle with or without a load must not be wider than 2.55 meters, longer than 12 meters or higher than 4 meters. The weight of the vehicle, including people, luggage and other loads, must not exceed the permitted total weight specified in the vehicle registration document. Loads that protrude more than 1 meter from the front or rear end of the vehicle or more than 15 centimeters to the side must be marked. In the case of non-commercial freight transport, this can be done in daylight with a bright cloth or a flag.

Transporting Your Fishing Kayak on Top of a Car

For the numerous other countries in Europe, I cannot find any uniform information about roof transport and would abide by the German rules. Do you have any tips on the rules in these countries? Then comment below!

The Basics of Kayak Transportation

I would definitely make sure that the kayak does not protrude at the front and up to a maximum of 1 meter in the back. Basically, our kayaks do not normally violate the legal requirements if they do not protrude more than 1 meter at the back, are marked by us and we pay attention to the roof load and the maximum load of the roof rack. However, the reflective signs, which differ from country to country, are very important (special warning signs are required, for example, for Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Slovenia and Belgium). The regulations in Europe are regulated on a country-specific basis and often differ greatly.


All statements without guarantee. Please inform yourself when traveling in other European countries about the local, maybe new and different regulations. Violations can be very expensive, especially in countries like Austria and Italy, or border controls can even prohibit visiting the country.
When driving to other countries, you must also observe the other applicable traffic regulations. It is often compulsory to carry safety vests, in some cases it is even compulsory to have replacement light bulbs and replacement fuses with you. Inform yourself beforehand, then nothing stands in the way of a nice trip to great countries in Europe.

Transporting Your Fishing Kayak on Top of a Car

Gear for Transporting Kayaks

Another important topic is the tie-down straps. According to DIN EN 12 195-2, these are mandatory in Europe based on a fundamental decision of the European Court of Justice. When buying straps, pay attention to the label with this standard! The maximum age of the straps used may be 10 years. It goes without saying that damaged straps must be disposed of immediately. I have seen a number of straps that are torn in recent years. That is why it is absolutely advisable to always have at least 2 spare straps in the car!

When transporting boats, it is also very useful to have a non-slip surface between the boat and the carrier, for example rubber profiles.
The distance between the brackets should be about 1/3 of the length of the boat to prevent the boats from twisting due to lateral wind forces. Unfortunately, I know some car models without roof rails with original mounting points from the roof rack, where this is not possible at all, since the roof rack is usually only designed to transport bicycles or skis. Straps from bow and stern to the car help prevent kayaks from flying away in rear-end collisions!

Transporting Your Fishing Kayak on Top of a Car

A tip at the end:

You cannot rent a rental car with a roof rack in most countries. For this I recommend the inflatable HandiRack! Easy to transport and quick to use.

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