Best Kayak Cart of 2018 & Buying Guide

Kayaking takes a lot more than just a kayak: you have to consider safety gear, paddles, car mounts, and other accessories that help your experience run as smoothly as possible.  One of these accessories is a wheeled kayak cart, which lets you roll your kayak from your tent, home, or car down to the water’s edge.  

It’s much easier than carrying the boat yourself, and better for the kayak, too: accidentally dropping your kayak could result in scuffs, dents, or other damage.Some kayakers choose to make their carts themselves, but most purchase them online.  

Because carts look very similar in photos and often share identical specs—such as materials, tires, and weight capacities—it’s hard to tell which ones are high-quality, and which would be best left in a scrap heap somewhere.  In this buyer’s guide, we’ll analyze four popular and durable cart options, and answer common questions that will help shoppers make their decision.

Buyer’s Guide:

What kind of tires do I need?  Do some have advantages over the other?

Tires are one of the most important aspects of a kayak cart—after all, that’s what helps you move your craft from the car or house to the water.  

There are a few tire types you’ll come across when searching for a kayak cart, each with its own pros and cons:

TMS Kayak Cart Trolley

TMS Kayak Cart Trolley

  • Plastic:
    • Pros: Lightweight and easy to carry or store on board the kayak; cheaper; never go flat.
    • Cons: Usually wear out faster; suitable for use on paved surfaces, but not good on sand or other terrain types.
  • Pneumatic:
    • Pros: Air-filled tires with tread; air can be added or let out to suit the terrain type; lighter than foam or balloon tires.
    • Cons: Can sustain flats or punctures; if pressure seal malfunctions, tire needs to be replaced.
  • Foam-Filled:
    • Pros: Similar to pneumatic tires in appearance and tread, but filled with foam instead of air; can’t go flat.
    • Cons: Heavier; more expensive; can’t regulate tire pressure as needed.
  • Balloon:
    • Pros: Large, round tires can navigate sandy areas with ease.
    • Cons: More expensive; not ideal for rocky/rough terrains, where punctures are likely; tires are larger and harder to store on the kayak.

Can I attach my cart to my bike and use it as a kayak trailer?

Can I store the cart on board the kayak and take it with me?

While some people leave their kayak carts on the shore until it’s time to unload the boat, others prefer to take their carts with them.  

Models can be bungee-corded to the hull in a pinch for most kayaks, but the majority of kayak carts break down and/or fold to fit into your hull’s pre-existing tankwell storage.

Bonnlo Boat Kayak Cart Carrier

Bonnlo Boat Kayak Cart Carrier

I think I want to build my own kayak cart, instead.  Is this possible?

Paddleboy Molly Kayak Cart

Paddleboy Molly Kayak Cart

DIY-ing your own kayak cart is definitely possible, but does require some skill and know-how to do so properly. Most people who build their own cart use PVC pipe, then outfit the frame with an axle, tires of their choice, and segments of foam pool noodles to protect the hull.  

One bonus of PVC pipe—besides its low price—is how easily it can be taken apart and stored on board your kayak or in your car.  It’s lightweight, but durable, as well.

The largest motivation to build your own kayak cart would be money: some can be built for as low as $20 to $30, while purchasing one can cost anywhere between $20 and $150, depending on the materials.

There are downsides to doing it yourself, however.  If you aren’t particularly handy, you may not have the tools or abilities to get the job done properly.

 For beginner kayakers, it can be hard to understand how your craft is supposed to fit on the frame.  If your kayak is heavy or large, a home version could have trouble maintaining too much bulk.  Lastly, there’s the issue of your time.  

Seattle Sports Original End Cart

Seattle Sports Original End Cart

For some shoppers, the extra cost of purchasing a cart from a manufacturer is worth not having to build one themselves.If you like the idea of building your own cart and are pretty handy, however, doing so can be a quick, easy way to save yourself some money.

Top 5 Best Kayak Cart 

1.  Seattle Sports Original End Cart Review

This option from Seattle Sports can fit most kayaks, with an adjustable design and higher weight capacity than you’ll find from most carts (typically, kayak carts can handle 100-150 lbs.; this model carries up to 200 lbs.).  

It’s low maintenance, with air-free tires you’ll never need to inflate or worry about popping, which comes off to store the cart on your kayak once you hit the water.

Pros

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    Suitable for canoes and wide kayaks.
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    Rubber tread tires; no inflation needed, flat-free.
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    Maximum carrying weight: 200 lbs.
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    Can be broken down for storage.
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    Upright tubes; adjustable from 10” to 17”.
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    Cart weight: 7 lbs.
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    Black with cobalt accents on wheels.
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    Wheels can be removed to stow cart on board kayak, if desired.

Cons

  • Wheels are best for paved or packed surfaces, rather than rougher terrain or sand; air pressure can’t be adjusted.

2.  TMS Kayak Cart Trolley Review

For a cart that’s both lightweight and able to navigate uneven terrain, consider this model from TMS.  It has a strong aluminum frame and large, rugged tires, yet manages to be pretty compact and easy to carry at the same time.  Its price is perfect for very low budgets, or kayakers just looking for the best possible deal on a quality cart.

Pros

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    Aluminum frame is durable and features foam bumpers on arms to avoid scuffing canoe or kayak.
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    Pneumatic tires; 9½” with thick rubber tread and all-terrain capabilities; stainless steel fasteners, chrome lynch pin.
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    Can be broken down and folded for traveling and storage.
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    Spring-loaded stand; helps cart stand upright for easier loading and unloading.
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    Cart weight: 8.9 lbs.
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    Maximum weight capacity: 150 lbs.
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    Incredibly affordable.

Cons

  • Some shoppers have experienced the strap slipping off; might require upgrade.
  • Might be a little bulky to store on board kayak while paddling, but doable.

Our favorite feature of the TMS cart is its spring-loaded stand.  This lets it stand upright on the shore, which means unloading your kayak from the water to the cart is easier than ever.  The tires are large enough to cover sand, dirt, and even gravel without a problem, but don’t stick out too far or weigh the cart down.  Depending on the kayak, this model could fold up and store on board, too.

3.  Bonnlo Boat Kayak Cart Carrier Review

The Bonnlo cart shares quite a few similarities with the TMS model: a spring-loaded stand, folding design, bumper arms, and durable rubber tires.  It comes at a higher price, but includes bungee and tie-down straps that should perform much better.  

In terms of weight capacity, it’s able to haul just a tiny bit more—which might make all the difference, to some shoppers.

Pros

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    Solid aluminum frame with foam bumpers to protect hull. Will fit most kayaks.
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    Spring-loaded stand; keeps cart standing on shore.
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    Breaks down easily for storage and transport, without the use of tools.
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    Solid rubber tires (10”) for sand or gravel use; no “tire” smell; yellow accent.
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    Includes 5’ bungee cords and hook, as well as an extra tie-down strap.
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    Cart weight: 7.28 lbs.
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    Carrying capacity: 165 lbs.

Cons

  • Despite rugged tires, shoppers have reporting difficulty rolling cart over rough surfaces.

We recommend the Bonnlo to kayakers who need to roll their kayak over paved or sandy surfaces, but not much else; reviews consistently rate the tires as underperforming on gravel or uneven landscapes.  Other than that, this cart is a good contender.  The spring-loaded stand, similar to that found on the TMS, will help when unloading your kayak from the water, and its included straps should do a much better job of securing your watercraft.  

4.  C-Tug Kayak or Canoe Trolley Cart Review

Pros

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    Axles are enforced with stainless steel; tires are air-free with large rubber tread for multiple surfaces. Frame is constructed from engineering polymers (plastic) designed to resist corrosion and fading or cracking over time.
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    Unique design with broad, adjustable rubberized pads for hull; can fit a wider range of kayaks than traditional metal arms.
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    Maximum weight capacity: 300 lbs.
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    Cart weight: 10 lbs.
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    Straps buckle closed for easy loading and unloading.
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    Made in New Zealand.

Cons

  • Expensive.

If you’re surprised to hear a mostly-plastic cart can be one of the most durable models on the market, you’re not the only one.  We were initially skeptical, as well, but C-Tug has clearly put the best into their design.  The engineering-grade polymer is definitely not your typical plastic, and should resist sun, wind, water, and impact damage just as well as aluminum or steel models.  We especially love the rubberized pads that give your kayak a broader resting spot, and can be adjusted within seconds for multiple watercrafts.  The only downside is its price: at two to four times the cost of most carts, the C-Tug won’t fit every budget—but does seem to be worth every cent.

5.  Paddleboy Molly Kayak Cart Review

The Molly cart is one of the lightest and most compact carts you’ll find, with a simple plastic body, rubberized tires, and a narrow design that can be stowed on your kayak without breaking down the cart or folding it first.  

Of course, this convenience comes with a price: not in dollars—in fact, the Molly comes at a standard cost for carts of this nature—but in versatility.  According to consumer reviews, most sit-on kayaks won’t stay attached to the Molly.

Pros

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    Compact design allows for stowing without breaking down or folding.
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    Plastic tires with thick rubber tread; good for multiple surfaces. Steel axle.
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    Maximum weight capacity: 150 lbs.
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    Cart weight: 3.25 lbs.
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    Includes 9-foot strap with side-release buckles.

Cons

  • Shoppers have reported difficulties for use with some sit-on-top designs; cart is best for sit-in style kayaks.

We recommend the Molly to kayakers with a sit-in style watercraft that’s on the small side.  Besides the fact many sit-on kayaks won’t be compatible with this model, we do think it’s got a smart design for the right boat, since it’s lightweight and easy to store without folding the frame or removing its wheels—a feature most cart manufacturer’s can’t claim.

To Conclude:

Kayak carts make transporting your watercraft much easier, saving your arms from cramping—and your boat from accidental drops and scuffs.  Buyers should consider the type of terrain they’ll need to roll their kayak over, the weight and size of their boat, and whether the frame can be folded or broken down for storage (both in the car, and on the boat, if needed).