Car Racks? Confusing and Expensive

I’ve been looking to replace my cheap kayak rack with a more reliable and permanent solution. My current rack requires me to spend about 10 minutes installing the rack every time I intend to Kayak. Putting holders on the upper side of the door frame, and tightening with nylon straps and weak metal buckles. I would like a permanent system for my 98 Chevy Lumina, but I am finding it more difficult than I thought. I’ve been looking online at the Thule and Yakima sites, but I would much rather purchase a used system. Can someone break down how I know if a system will be compatible with my car? Also, where I may be able to find either a more inexpensive solution, or a used system.

There is a middle ground

– Last Updated: May-30-09 6:56 PM EST –

Figure out which thule or yakima towers and bars fit your car, and look for a used system with them. All you have to buy new is the fit kit specific to your car.

You can usually find saddles or J cradles used, too. I bought a set of yakima saddles used 12 years ago for $35, and I still have them on my car. They're only expensive at first. If you use them for a long time, they become dirt cheap considering the amount of use they get.

cheap way
Don’t get me wrong here, thule and yakima racks are great and probably worth the money. But there is a cheap way to go. You can get a plain set of two bars for under $30. Then you can use 2x4s to make a rough approximation of the “J-curves” and similar crap to hold your $500 boat in place. It might scratch up a little, but if you’re doing your part on the water the wounds from combat will cover up the tiny wounds from transport.

If you don’t have a $500 boat but a $3000 work of art, then yeah you better stick to yakimule. But if you have a $500 boat, I’m tired of you saying you can’t afford to go yaking this weekend because you just bought a rack system that cost more than your boat.

go to their websites
speaking now of Yakima since I own it -

the Yakima fit chart will tell you what size clips you need to mount the Qtowers. You’ll usually have to buy new clips unless you get lucky & someone is selling their roof rack and has the same vehicle as you or uses the exact same clips. Ridiculously expensive for what they are, but you need the right clips as they space the weight properly for your roof line.

As for the rest of the Yakima set up, it is EASY

to find used rack bars, Qtowers,Hulley Rollers, Mako Saddles,or go the Landshark route, etc. I recommend getting tower locks to avoid your expensive system from becoming a scrap hunter’s haul.

Try Craigslist, gear swaps, garage sales, eBay, etc.

Demo and open box sales at retailers yield finds, too.

I got a 48" fairing for $16 from an open box sale at Moosejaw (got the missing clips from - cool people there).

for my set up I bought new clips, Hulleys and Makos, and still saved ~40% on the cost of everything new. With the money saved treat your car, your boat and your road safety history to some bow and stern tiedowns. In some states if you are in a motor vehicle accident and do NOT have tiedowns, you will be cited for failure to properly secure your rooftop load in addition to any other offenses. They won’t care how expensive your rack system is '-)

I have had the gamut of racks from
home made to Sears with suction cups, to Yakima. I never had a problem or a failure, but the Yakimas are the best.

Yakima better than Thule?

– Last Updated: May-30-09 11:10 PM EST –

I'm about to buy a roof rack that does cost more than my used boat. I hope to have a better boat some day. Is Yakima superior to Thule?

I know either one will keep the boat on top of the car but I'm most concerned about not damaging my paint. Second, I don't intend to keep it on my car except on weekends so I'd like one that doesn't take too much time to put on.

Yakima works…
I have a yakima rack system on my Neon. I take it off when its not in use, as it takes 5 mins tops to put back on…5 minutes is negligible for me. Definitely get tower locks, they not only prevent theft, they also ensure the towers dont somehow come undone while traveling! I Have Thule J-cradles, however. Thule’s J-cradles had beefier attatchments to fit all bars, weather round, square or factory aero.

Buy used. I have seen complete rack systems (minus fit kit for YOUR car) on craigslist for $150. Thats about $100 or so less than buying new.

DONT forget bow and stern tie downs. I dont travel without them…

Rack Atack
Google Rack Attack, and an actual person will answer your phone, and answer any questions about any rack fitting any car. Good prices too.

also River Road and Trail
independent outfitter near Kokomo Indiana. Runs the same 20% off as Rack Attack w. free shipping over $100, etc.

The owner Jeff is a paddler. Great personal service. I bought Makos and Hulleys at RR&T. He gave me max customer service on a rush order for a missing part on one of the C clips I needed in time for a long trip. Even faster than

Does the 98 Lumina have rain gutters? If so, and you want a fixed rack, just get some rain-gutter clamps and build the rest.

I know I’ve seem simpler ones without the quick-release for less.

Rutabaga in Madison-Online Sales
I bought my Yakima rack there online many years ago and got a good deal. I use my boats three or four times a week, and surfboards so it stays on my vehicle permanently.

When my son was in high school and surfing and kayaking a lot some friends gave us a yakima rack that came on a used car they bought which fit the old volvo he was driving, he is in grad school now and the rack is still good. I would check Free Cycle, CraigsList and Ebay and buy a Yakima conversion kit if you need to for your car.

Buy used . . .
. . . you can find much of the stuff here in the classified if you wait around long enough.

I like the Yakima stuff because it is modular. I got some crossbars and saddles with the kayak. The towers I got here from the classified. Go to the Yakima site and see what it takes for you car and then start shoppin’, classified, Craigslist, eBay, etc.

suggestion & comment…

– Last Updated: May-31-09 10:29 AM EST –

Hi......look in or if available,the local swap sheet, for used rack systems, you are gonna have to spend the time browsing thru the different categories to find them , if any are there. they might be listed in "boats" or " sporting goods" or "general" , ya never know where. You can also post a ad in craigslist that you are in search of used rack systems. posting there is free.
Yakima vs. Thule ......I favor Yakima......had Thule j-bars once, the securing bolts went in from top down and the bottom of the bolts were long enough to hit the roof, scraping paint off the roof. yakima j-bars , fold-down style at least, securing bolts go in from the bottom up eliminating any problems. therefore yakima is the better, smarter design. this is the kind of little things one needs to look for in hardware.

Rack attack…

– Last Updated: May-31-09 1:03 PM EST –

I also had a good experience with these people.

When my wife got her new SUV recently, the Yakima system she had been using on her pickup truck wouldn't work on the new vehicle with it's factory roof rack.

I spoke with Rack Attack on 3 separate occasions before I purchased a Thule system from them.
On two occasions I spoke with the same person; he was very helpful, and had the patience of a saint, dealing with me, a self confirmed picky b-----d.
The system he said I needed works great, is easy to mount/dismount, and the price was fair in my opinion.

I also agree that if/when you find out exactly what you need, going used can possibly save you some bucks.


I would never get Thule J cradles …
again for my yakima bars.

They are full of what makes the grass grow green when they say they will fit round bars, (unless they have changed them in the past few years).

The more I tightened their clamps, all they did was bend around the bars.

I finally had to drill a hole through my round bars and put a bolt completely through their cradle and my yakama round bar in order to keep them from rotating when I slid a yak on from the front or rear.

This is two sets I am talking about.

Also since then I have had to completely change all their clamps and hardware out to my own stainless steel nuts and bolts due to their garbage rusting up. due to it rusting.

Not too much of a thule fan here !



If you already have the foam blocks…
If you already have a set of the foam blocks (which are very inexpensive if you dont), just get a set of crossbars. I use foam blocks on my Yakama bars when I’m carrying a second boat, and they work just fine. I actually think my boat is more secure with the blocks because the straps go around the cross bars, instead of relying on the cradles as an attachment point. They also go on and off very easily, and take up little room in the trunk.

solid as a rock…

– Last Updated: Jun-01-09 10:06 AM EST –

Nice to see the rain gutter clamps angstrom linked to, granddad had very same type for his 60s VW beetle(bought in 1950s)...held an 18' wood/canvas tandem as solid as a rock for many years.
Build/Buy good used/new'll last.
My Thules stay on my Xterra 24x365...Yakima equally as good.

We are really happy with SportRack’s J Stakers. Pretty much the same thing as the Thule Hullaport. I bought 2 sets from great service and really great prices. We switch them between my Xterra and my girlfriend’s Town & Country mini van all the time and haven’t had any problems at all. I did upgrade the bow & stern tie downs from the basic rope and j hook to a ratcheting rope - far easier to tension.

Fit my car…
I just went through this process with my 92 Accord. I used the “Fit my car” tool on Yakimas website and then used the data to find a system on Craigslist. I would highly recomend this. I saved about 50%. These things were way more expensive than I thought they would be.

Check out Yakimas website to be sure, but you’ll probably need 4 “Q” towers and two crossbars (the length should be given on “fit my car”). It should be pretty easy to find the towers and crossbars on Craigslist. The only vehicle specific piece are the “Q clips” which link the four towers to your specific car. “Fit my car” will tell you which q clips you need (they may be different for the front and back ends) and you will have to buy those seperatly unless you get lucky and the guy selling the towers and crossbars has your same model car.

Good Luck


yakima rack for sale
w. locks and fairing on the Accessories board of the pnet classifieds. Could be a good deal depending on full description, condition. Always ask for pix :smiley:

Follow up w. the seller in KY for specifics. (Note I am not the seller nor affiliated w. the seller)