How do Malone & Thule Compare?

Just trying to get a feel for how these two brands compare. In your experience, why would you choose one over the other?

experience with both
Presently use Thule aero bars with their rubber faced saddles that have three positions. They suit rounded hulls better. I cut a foam block for my chined boat. Tried Malone J saddles in effort to transport that boat on edge with more surface area in contact. I could not get them to stay aligned for my car, boat and hull and returned to Thule.

It would appear the Malones are better suited to get two boats on car roof as they are on edge and take up less space. They also allow easier loading being on edge and able to grab coaming. J also stick up about 18 inches and make more noise empty.

About J Racks…
My experience with both is several years old so old issues may not be valid now.

I first bought Thule “Js” and within two months the padding had torn and the attachment hardware was rusting and leaving rust pools on my roof. I returned the Thules and purchased The Malone J type cradles and have not had an issue for several years.


in what aspect?
Malone only has carriers…not whole roof racks…

for boat carriers my preference list is:




What is on my roof???

Malone gullwing

Malone Stax

surfboard pads

all on Yakima hardware…

i feel that Malone’s plastic carriers conforms to cradle boats better…

yakima started with watersports carrier parts while Thule started around bike carriers…

what do you see the most???

those darn Thule hullaports…hated putting them on roofs when i worked in a shop…

Malone Cradles
While I cannot comment on Thule products, I have experience with both Yakima and Malone J-cradles. I presently have Malone J-cradles, and in my opinion are much better than the Yakima J-cradles. The Malone’s plastic flexes to conform better to the boat, as opposed to the metal yakima racks. It is my understanding that Thule’s products are similar to Yakima’s. I would recommend the Malone over the Yakima.

Thule experience
I purchased the new Thule Hullaport Pro J cradle that folds down. It’s easy to install and I love the straps, but I do get the little rust puddles on the roof. Performs very well all around. I’ve always preferred Thule to Yakima when shopping for bike racks, and now kayak racks, but have no experience with Malone’s. Plan to buy Malone when I get my second boat.

Have had both…
…and right now there are Malones on my car and Thule stackers on my husband’s. The Malones appear to be more aerodynamic and are less noisy. I feel the Malones provide a more stable platform for the boats.

Both are good and do what they’re supposed to do. The only drawbacks, easily solved, with the Malones are the straps (we use Thule straps, which seem to multiply like bunnies in our basement)and it’s a very, very good idea to tie the kayaks down NOT using the slots on the Malone cradles as the pressure from tying down could snap them, although I’ve not heard of it happening. We tie our boats down the same way we would on any other cradle and haven’t lost a boat yet.

I have no experience with Yakima but many of our friends love theirs.

Have malones, thule, yakima
When reaching for carriers - Malone J’s come first and a malone stax in between for 4 or 5 boats. If we need more then we resort to our barely used thule hullaports. Have yakima stackers but havent needed to use them yet so I cannot comment.

My personal consensus:

For carrying on their sides -

Malones are excellent as they bend slightly around the hull cradling it yet feel strong. The straps I prefer are thules or yakimas with the rubber protectors. They go thru 1 part of the carrier and around the boat and eventually the bars. We use perrycraft square bars because that is what the dealer ordered for us which are OK at best.

Thule hullaports - easier to put on with the plastic knobs but I dont care for the hard non-conforming metal as much as the malones. They work fine as extras for our boats but usually delegate them to the less favourite kayaks!

A note: about 2 years ago malone changed their design to somewhat cutout spots on their carriers with in my opinion a very poor design that you had to thread into it every time you put on/removed thus leaving way for eventual stripping of it. Ours are the generation before that with solid plastic and a different design for the nuts and bolts. I dont know if the solid plastic design makes a difference but we like the feel of them and they clean easier too. I think malone this year changed the way the bolts go thru again - we were looking at them at Dunhams or Dicks awhile back. This appeared to be an improvement and I think they put knobs on instead of the stainless nuts that are on our earlier ones, so that may or may not be to your liking.

If you want to transport them hull down, I saw an awesome v shaped rubber design by Spring creek called kayak saddles. If I were looking for that style I would definately put my money on these ones - they look well made and heavy duty and aluminum -no rust!

Your choice!


Please explain
I’m sorry, but I’m not sure I understand what you mean about tying boats and possibly cracking them. How do you tie them down?

I dont know what that means either
We run our strap through at the top with both ends coming down over the kayak and into the lower slot in the cradle so I dont see how it could snap - i dont understand how they are tying theirs down or how they use the cradle but this is how we use ours.

What I do
I have a totally mutt system — Thule bars clamped to factory VW roofrails, Yakima saddles (The good ones – they’re 14 years old & still work great), and a set of Malone Auto Loaders J-cradles.

With that setup, I can carry two kayaks, or a kayak and a canoe.

But with the J-cradles, I loop the straps through the top slots, and then the bottom goes around the load bars, not through the slots in the cradles – primarily because 2 of our boats (Foster Silhouette and BBK Recluse) are so low behind the cockpits that the strap slots in the cradles are too far out away from the boat to hold it securely. It also gives a bit more safety margin if the mounts on the cradles fail.

That said, my Malones are 6 years old, and heavily used, and they’ve been nothing but great the whole time.

forgot to mention
We use a malone “autoloader” and 2 malone J’s (autoloader takes up a bit more space on the bars with the lip but is a very nice design)- now I think they have just 1 j-style rack which looks a bit wider (not sure why) designed for more recreational boats but will hold most i guess.

Yes I agree with the above poster, it is “absolutely necessary” to also wrap the carrier and kayak to the bars and not rely on the connection to hold steadfast (just in case). we also use bow and stern lines for security of the bars to the van as that too can fail.

What I mean is…
…we loop the tie down around the rack itself and not through the slots at the top of the carrier, then around the boat, tighten the tie down, and then wrap it around the end of the carrier and tie it off. We don’t use the slots as it was pointed out to us that the actual carrier (not the boat – sorry if I wasn’t clear) could break from the pressure of the tie down through the slot.

This has worked very well for us and the boats are totally secure. We found that threading the tie down through the slots was cumbersome, took time and wasn’t particularly efficient, especially in winter when it’s cold.

We also definitely use bow/stern to fenders (my car came with an bolt that screws into the fender. Because the mfg also has another place for this bolt (I think it’s an eye bolt), I bought another one for the tie down)tie downs – wouldn’t leave home without them.

Another nice thing about the Malone cradles is that I don’t have to sit there watching the boats sway back and forth in any wind, something that seemed to happen more with the Thule stackers. I knew the boats were tied down securely from stem to stern, but it made me anxious.

Hope this is a better explanation for how we tie our boats down using Malones, which I highly recommend.

Mixed system
I have Thule bars on the van and Malone Autoloaders on that. I have hauled my boats from Florida to Arkansas and to Michigan and back. Several trips around Florida and Georgia in all kinds of weather. I have had no trouble at all. The straps hold the boats secure and the Malone racks conform to the hull very well. I have two cedar strip boats and love the Malone Autoloaders. They make it very easy to load and unload the boatts. I have enough room between them to haul a boat. I may purchase SeaWings to put in the middle.

Thank You!
I appreciate everyone’s input. You’ve been very helpful! :slight_smile:

Comments on Yakima
I know the original post asked for a comparison between Malone and Thule … but could anyone say a little more about Yakima? Does anyone have the new fold down version, I think it’s called BowDown?

How about the seawings? Does anyone have good/bad experience with them? Are they ok for glass boats?

I wouldn’t put any malone
accessories back on my vehicle. Not for all the boats on pnet.

Currently use yakima outdoorsman with yakima mako saddles on there.

I’ve seen four seperate serious issues with malone just this season alone.

Thule, I have every bit the same amount of faith in Thule as I do in yakima.

Good luck


Details, please
What kind of “serious issues” are you talking about and on which product?

As a happy user of Malone products for years, I find your statement curious. Are you affilated with or an employee of the other roof rack companies? If so, I can definately understand your concern!

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