Purchased my first kayak, a 14’ tandem, and looking for help on roof rack suggestions. Own a 2018 Hyundai Elantra (which doesn’t have any rails, bars, etc.). Any and all suggestions of how to marry these two items are most welcome!
One thing to consider is that Thule and Inno have the option of either rectangular bars, which are cheaper but will make more wind noise, or aerodynamic shaped bars which cost more but are quieter. And with Yakima, it’s a choice of round bars or aero shaped. I’ve always had good success with Thule, using rectangular bars on my old car, and now aero bars on my new car. The new car is a 2020 Elantra GT. It’s the hatchback version, but a different design altogether from your 2018 sedan so my direct experience won’t apply.
There are also options with shorter bars that don’t extend beyond the towers that clamp to the car. Those have a more OEM look to them like a factory rack. Or there are towers that have the bars extending out beyond - this allows for longer bars giving you more space to carry additional items (another kayak, a cargo box, etc.). It can also be easier to load a kayak if the bars extend out a little further on the sides.
Once you have a rack, you’ll need some sort of cradles to support the kayak. My only useful advice there is that while J-cradles nestle the kayak on its side in a nice way, it’s harder to load J-cradles versus a system that doesn’t turn the kayak on its side.
Sorry that I can’t give you any specific recommendation, but now you at least have some things to research to get started. I expect other forum users will add some additional advice.
I have used Thule rack systems on six different vehicles. The racks date back as far as the early 1980s and are still going strong. I have found the Thule racks to be rock solid. In fact, even owners of Yakima rack systems have commented on how solid they are when shuttling with me.
Having said that the Yakima products are well-made and in the past Yakima parts have tended to be more widely available than Thule parts. I am not sure what the situation is now in that regard.
And, Marshall’s advice is good. If you’re lost with all of the things to consider, see a good dealer and take advantage of their knowledge and stock that you can actually see. And then reward him/her for the help by giving them the business.
In my experience both Thule and Yakima racks give many years of service. I’d also lean towards Thule and aero bars if buying new. If you go to rack-it.com the site walks you through which racks fit your specific vehicle. You might also look at craigslist or Facebook marketplace for a used Thule or Yakima rack, they turn up regularly. You want a crack that requires a fit kit not one made to attach to roof rails. Then you’d only need to buy a “fit kit” for your car and you might find a rack with kayak saddles or J-bars which you’ll need. Then just a pair of straps (Thule is good) and a pair of loops to attach under your hood so you can tie down the front of your boat with rope or straps (or one of the fancy systems made by Yakima or Thule, I think one is called Quick Draw).Let us know if you have any questions.
Just to clarify a bit as I found this to be a confusing point when I used to sell and install racks. There are two major components to a rack system - the crossbars which are attached to the vehicle, and the cradles and straps which attach the kayak to the crossbars.
For the crossbars you’ll have a limited number of choices, namely brand (Thule or Yakima as others have mentioned - both are good, may come down to what is available in your area) and aero or regular bars. Definitely worth finding a good local shop to advise and install, especially the first time. Please do pay attention and ask lots of questions, especially if you plan to remove the crossbars in the off season. It’s not difficult but I had a customer destroy a rack and two boats because he thought reinstalling the bars meant “just put them on and tighten them down”. Note that bike and ski shops will also sell and install racks, and may be a good option if your local paddlesports shop isn’t open in the winter or there isn’t one nearby. These shops won’t have the watercraft specific cradles but can order them for you if needed.
What you put on the crossbars to carry the kayak opens up a world of confusing options. These can range from simple bar pads (or pool noodles) to expensive hydraulic lift systems. It is hard to give absolute recommendations as each combination of vehicle, kayak and people is different. Tandems are heavy and bulky and tend to not work well in J style cradles. If it’s a sit-on-top then upside down on some bar pads may be all you need. I usually advise to go with the simplest system first and try it. You do want the loading and unloading process to be as easy as possible so that you’ll actually use the kayak.
Last piece of advice - do get a pair of cam straps to tie the kayak down. Never never use ratchet straps (you’ll break the kayak). Cam straps are inexpensive and the gold standard - Thule and NRS make nice ones.
You will find some information here and here. These are from the 2019 Chesapeake Paddlers Association SK 101 introductory classroom course for sea kayaking. Last year’s and this year’s courses have been cancelled due to the pandemic…
Thule and Yakima have long been the leaders in rack systems with the most choices and will adapt to most cars. Malone has quickly joined them and now there are even more choices. Many now have interactive web sites that will guide you to the components that will fit your specific car.
For personal preferences, I don’t recommend the Yakima round bars, especially if loading from the rear. No matter how often you tighten them up, the saddles and other components will tend to rotate on the bars. Many components, such as Yakima saddles and J-bars, will fit on either round or square bars. However, they will not always be interchangeable on the newer flatter aerodynamic bars.
If you have factory crossbars, most manufacturers make saddles or J-bars that will work with them. Just check the load capacity.
J-bars tend to be harder to solo load unless you are tall or have a shorter car. Also the boats will tend to catch more wind with J-bars. However, they may be the only solution for carrying more than one boat on a narrow car. Be aware that there have been a number of reports of off brand J-bars failing when torqued by cross winds, especially if bow and stern tiedowns are not used.
One more morsel of advice, since this a good thread for general rack knowledge. If you look for used racks you’ll find many older generation versions that don’t have fit kits for newer cars. I only checked Thule, and for OP’s 2018 Elantra there is only a fit kit for the newest EVO clamp system. So don’t buy a used rack without first making sure it can be made to fit your car.
If your vehicle sunroof only tilts upward 2" or so, not an issue the foot pack is taller so clearance to the bar underside won’t be a problem. What could be a problem is if you go with a square bar where accessories clamp around the bar. The fasteners could, I say could, interfere depending on where the bar sits. Thule provides specific mounting positions so as not to interfere with sunroof/moonroof opening
I may have been wrong about that. Just for kicks, I looked at several 2020 Honda models. My wife has a 2020 Fit, and it appears most Fits sold are the EX model with sunroof. But Thule only shows “normal roof”. Same for Civics and Accords. I doubt Thule would exclude themselves from so many Hondas that might have sunroofs. I was perhaps mislead by the fit guide results for my own car shown below. It has the option of a large “panoramic sunroof”.
I have mounted Thule racks to two vehicles with sunroofs without difficulty. You may not be able to position the towers completely in front and back of the sunroof but the pads that the towers fit on are only 2" wide. If you have 2" or slightly more solid roof to each side of the sunroof I think you will be OK.
We have a 2013 Forester with raised factory rails and a sunroof. We have Thule square bars and Yakima Mako saddles for two boats. No problems at all. There is about 3½"clearance between the cross bar and the sunroof.
If your sunroof is not very wide, you may have the option of extended crossbars where the saddle hardware will be outside of the sunroof. Assuming the crossbar clears the sunroof, but not the saddles, you also have the option of using inverted stainless rounded or square U-bolts and drilling the saddles to attach to them. The U-bolts will only protrude ¼-½" below the crossbars.
I guess the critical dimensions are how far the sunroof raises up, if at all, and what the clearance is between the crossbar and any saddle hardware is. You might have to call the rack manufacturer to find out what the rack crossbar clearance is. The should have CAD drawings for this, although customer service might have to research it.
I wouldn’t start with which roof rack to buy, but on the kayak cradles/carrier you like the best and then buy that manufactures’s roof racks.
Personally, I don’t like many of the cradles that are out there, they only cradle the bottom of the boat, so it makes it too easy to over tighten a kayak and deform it. The J cradles seem better, like the Hull a port. I personally have Thule Hullavator craddles, mainly because my vehicle is so high (1994 Land Rover Discovery) that the Hullavator is the only one that allows me to easily load and unload the kayaks, but they are an expensive option.
nooneofconsequence - You could also try joining a Hyundai Elantra forum and post a question there (or do a search to see if it has already been discussed). This forum has a subforum for the 2017+ Elantra, but a Google search finds other forums as well: