Hullavator - is it worth the money?

Yes and No…
A lot of $$$ and noisy as heck when empty and rust fast and bad. Then looks terrible. I had trouble with the rack not locking down into place when in the load position and then it would fly up…scary and dangerous, don’t be in the way when this happens. Thule replaced a part on it, but it was miserable to get them to do it. Now i sometimes have trouble with the other one flying up, now i just use a bungee cord. It is enormous looking and heavy when taking on and off (seasonally). It was a gift so i am not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, but if i was buying i would probably go with the new fold down j type racks that Thule has and just use a load bar to assist and a step stool. Have done something similar in the past and it works just as well. Technique is the key, think smart and work less. Some goes for loading the kayaks.

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While Thirsty has had poor experience with what sounds like an early iteration of the Hull-a-Vator I’ve used them successfully and have a number of local paddlers that’ve used them just fine.

Another mechanical system would be Kari-Tec Easy Loading Rolling Rack

If you don’t want to reinvent the wheel then a pair of Marco Kayak Saddles for a hull-down-slide-up-from-the-back approach and a pair of Thule Hull-a-Port Pros as hopefully if there’s a second boat involved you will have a second set of hands to help load.

Other options abound.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

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If you can’t get your boat(s)
On the roof and you have the bucks, then by all means it is worth the money.

A friend has two and likes them, but he got a good deal on e-bay.

There is one step in the loading process that to me looks like you could possibly strain your back

I wouldn’t pay the big bucks for them, even though I can afford it.

Jack L

It is well worth the money when used on a full size 4X4. I use my boat more now that it is so easy to load. I’ve had mine for over a year with no problems.

I’m glad I invested in mine.

– Last Updated: Mar-14-12 10:08 PM EST –

I am 5'2", drive a Ford Explorer and can put them on and off the rack by myself.
My husband puts the racks on my vehicle for me. I am blessed to have a man that does such nice things for his wife. He's been around our place for several decades and he's a keeper.
I could put them up, but would still have to use a ladder, as does he. It's easier that way. He's taller.
Mine are the updated version. I was lucky and got them from EMS for 20% off. I'm not sorry I made the move.

Another Option - Malone
I use Malone auto loaders (j-cradles) with the Telos load assist system. Not as easy as Hullavator, but much less expensive. And they stand by thir product. I had a problem with one j-cradle cracking in cold temps, windy day, and they replaced it.

first generation
Sound like you have a first generation model which is voluntarily replacing all of them. I’m not sure where the gift of your Hullavator came from, but if you can work through a local shop, they can help you. the second generation fixed the lock-down issue and the third generation fixed the rusting problem.

Wow…great info…it was mail order
That’s all i remember. Thanks for the info.

Great for short people
Shea is barely 5’ and drives a big jeep (she almost needs a ladder to get into it) so loading boats on the roof was a pain and we had to get her a step-ladder to help.

Then she got the hullivator (lots of discounts and tickets and such at REI gave her more than 50% off) and she loved it!

I saw the problems as being these:

  1. If you have only one and the wind blows from the other direction, it becoms a sail and turning a corner at speed is dangerous.

    Buying a second one (50% off floor model) solved that problem by balancing the weight.

  2. locking it down is sometimes a problem as the clips sometimes do not line up as they should.

    This is solved by simply raising and allowing it to drop. no problem!

  3. She stores her jeep and boat at my place so it is sometimes difficult to find a parking garage or any garage tall enough to let it in without scraping ceiling.

  4. Getting it on and off the roof is a problem because of weight and mass and awkwardness.

    I CAn do that alone but last night I got a tall girl to help out!

    If you are planning to remove them occasionally, assistance is a good thing.

  5. leave it on and your gas milage is shot!

    Plus noisy on the freeway!

  6. cannot open the sun-roof with them in place.

    Still, I am glad she got them as I age, I find the ease of loading boats with the Hullivator outweighs the problems.

One big advantage not yet noted:
When mounted on a wagon (such as a Subie) the boat can be left in the side position to allow full opening of the rear lift gate.


I love mine
Great on my taller trucks…I don’t use it on the mini. They are VERY easy to remove off the rack when not being used, one pin. Soon as my boat is off, the hullavator is next, saves on wind noise and mpg, rust, wear and tear.

I might have a brand new one in the box for sale, email me privately if interested.

Best kayak purchase I’ve made.

wow…mine is 5 yrs old and a real bear
to unclip…so they stay on 90% of the time…the new ones sound sweet!

Mine is also 5+ years old. Works great. Unfortunately it does not fit on my new truck and I will be selling soon.

Needed mine on my Ford Expedition because of height.

Amen to that
I initially had a couple problems and Malone promptly shipped parts with no charge or hassle.

Have two atop Jeep Liberty.

If you’re old and fat like us, and love to kayak, it makes life much easier! I have a big heavy tandem Tarpon sit on top for water rescue training with my big Newfy and we can load it easily on the Hullavator, 70 pounds and 100 pounds with specialized dog gear.

Have the new Hullavators, installed by Rack Attack in Portland, good price.

Super worthwhile purchase!

Jeep Liberty Roof Weight restrictions?
Hello Cascadians,

I am thinking about getting 2 pairs of Hullavators for my Jeep Liberty as well. However, it looks like the max weight rating for the factory roof rails (not the cross bars) is 150 pounds. - with your two kayaks and the weight of the 2 sets of hullavators - did you upgrade your factor side rails?



Early Hullavators had some bugs, meaning they didn’t work as advertised. This is a complicated bit of engineering so some mistakes were made. No excuses for Thule and their poor customer service, but it is overall a good concept. We had one 89XT or something like that and a Pro and had no problems until they were stolen…long story.
So now we bought two sets lightly used of Pro’s for a grand and had to buy longer bars and we are content. We are in our 60’s and '70’s and lifting 50lb kayaks over our shoulders on an Odyssey van is too much these days and for that, Hullavators are worth it. Wind noise? We have music. Parking garages, home garages…we don’t use them.
So…the design has improved over the years and they are getting more expensive so it all boils down to expense vs old muscles. Bottom line–if you can afford it and don’t mind if your rig has elk antlers growing out of it, then go for it.