Thule vs Yakima

Is one brand considered to be superior overall as far as quality of materials and ease of use. There are tons of options for both of these brands so it is a bit confusing.

Specifically looking for quality rack to carry either an 18 foot sea kayak or a 19 foot surf ski depending on paddling conditions.

I fashioned a rack for my truck out of aluminum bars and pool noodles. Works quite well. Cannot do this for my car hence the search.

I am looking for a solution for my car, Hyundai Genesis sedan. I have been to both Thule and Yakima web sites and frankly don’t know which way to go.

I have read the reviews on both but there are multiple options as far as saddles, bars etc.

A bit of guidance would be helpful.

BTW: I do want to be drilling holes in my car and if racks were easy to remove and reinstall, say in 5 minutes that would be a big plus.


Both are good
But I favor Yakima, because the cross bars are sturdier. A round bar is inherently stronger than a square bar.

You might want to check out Malone.

I just picked up a Malone J-style carrier from Amazon for less than $90. Seems to me to be quite well-made. I wish I had sprung the extra $50 for a fold-down rack, but as it is it only takes me about five minutes to install.

I have no experience with Yakima or Thule kayak carriers, but I am quite happy with my Yakima bike rack.

1 vote for Thule
I have a Hyundai Santa Fe and since it is a tall vehicle and I’m short, I often prefer to use J-racks when I am loading solo (15’ to 18’ sea kayaks). J-racks and some saddles simply do not grip well and stay in place on round bars. This can make loading boats really annoying.

While it may technically be true that “round is stronger than square”, the weights of kayaks and canoes are not heavy enough to make that much difference. I have never heard of a Thule bar failing under such loads. In fact, I have hauled heavy construction materials like steel conduit, commercial grade ladders and lumber on my Thules with no issues.

I’ve used mainly Thule rack systems for 15 years and most of my paddling friends use them too. The only people I know who use Yakima for boats are those who started out with them for their bicycles.

No doubt you will get equally justified arguments from Yakima fans, but the above has been my experience with racks.

Check out Inno

– Last Updated: Aug-08-12 10:57 AM EST –

I recently had the same decision to make and decided to try the Inno system instead. I went to my local REI and looked at the Yakima and Thule towers/clips (i.e. the parts that actually hook onto your car) and they seemed very similar, in terms of mechanical design, sturdiness, etc. I ordered the Inno pieces online and the mechanics are the same on those as well. Biggest differences, imo, are price, bar shape and where they're made. (If being USA-made is important to you, Yakimas are that.)

The Inno rack I got has a square bar. It's spec'ed to 140 lb of load. The towers come with locks (they're extra $$ on other brands.) I have a Nissan Altima and installation was easy (though the installation guide I got was completely in Japanese and I had to look up the English version online.) I put Malone Seawings on it to carry a kayak. I now have a couple of hundred highway miles with it carrying a 50lb kayak and it is solid, hasn't budged.

FWIW, the Inno rack system (purchased online a month ago) was HALF the price of a Thule system. EMS was having a 20% sale on Thule which made it on par with Yakima. Yakima is normally cheaper than Thule. The "accessories", such as kayak carriers, seem to be pretty interchangeable, so you can buy a rack system from one company and buy a boat carrier from another.

One caveat, however. The square bar on my car is really noisy!

Virtually all Yakima and Thule racks, etc., are interchangeable. That is, Yakima stuff can be attached to Thule bars and vice versa. The one drawback to Yakima is that the round bars rotate in their holders. The one drawback to the Thule is that they don’t always fit rounded/sloping roof tops (the square bar is turned so it is not parallel to the ground). I prefer Thule after years of using Yakima because of the rotation problem.

Interesting. I have no idea why Yakima and Thule will cost me close to $500 for rack system. OK for Yakima made in USA is worth something but I cannot see why so much more than Malone.

I just want to do this right the first time.

The square bar on my car is really noisy
Easily solved. Wrap a bungee cord around the bar (about two turns).

I use a mix of both
I use Thule for my base rack and otherwise have Yakima J’s, skybox, and bike racks. They are both of good quality but expensive – there are usually a few 20% of sales each years at stores like EMS and REI but I have found some better deals online, such as stores like Austin Kayak.

If you do some searching, even on this site, you will find lots of people having problems with kayak racks twisting on the Yakima rounds bars. They are just plastic clamps and they all seem to eventually wear down to the point that they can’t clamp tight. When I go to kayak shows it seems that Yakima base racks are more popular with kayakers and almost all of them you can see the racks twisting on the bars. For bike racks and cargo boxes the round bars offer a slight advantage as they will always give you a flat surface but unless you have a freakish roof you probably won’t have problems with square bars.

I do like the actual racks Yakima makes slightly more then the Thule versions. Thule didn’t make any lockable versions of folding Js while Yakima did. I also like just using one key on my bike, Js, and skybox which is why I went all Yakima.

I don’t know about the other brands but people seem to like them. I would avoid any round bar system for kayaking gear, regardless who makes it. Pretty much everything out there works with either square or round so buy the kayak racks you like, on sale or just buy used on Craigslist.

Thule vs Yakima
I don’t know about Yakima but Thule has a lifetime guarantee. I have used it for stuff that was almost 10 years old.

I do try to be conscientious
I do take buying USA-made and buying local seriously but, in this case, I couldn’t justify the price difference and I only found the Inno rack systems online.

I think the Thule (with the EMS discount) and the Yakima systems (i.e. the 4 towers/clips plus 2 bars) came out to about $400 (including any taxes, shipping, etc. that might apply.) The Inno system, complete with shipping, was $200 from I did use a 15% “new customer” discount, plus free shipping and I think the Inno’s were on sale to begin with.

I bought the Malone Seawings from a local kayak shop.

Thanks for the tip!
I’m going to try that immediately!

Yakima Lifetime
Yakima also claims a lifetime warranty but I have yet to test it out.

I have an Inno Too
I’m also happy with my Inno rack. It has rectangular bars that are the same dimensions as Thule rectangular bars. I’ve interchanged Inno and Thule bars with my Inno feet. But from what I’ve read, Yakima and Thule are equal or better in quality and fit, so in general Inno’s only advantage is price. I personally didn’t like the way the rubber feet contacted my specific car (a Honda Fit) on Yakima racks, so for me it was between Thule and Inno.

Yakima NOT Made in USA
Yakima is a US company, but most of their stuff is made in Mexico. The roof boxes are made in the US because it costs too much to ship them. Thule is a Swedish company, but their stuff is made in the US. They say that is why it costs more than Yakima. Beware of that little advertising word play.

The differences between the two are round bars and square bars, although they both have an aerodynamic bar available. The carrying capacity is the same for most vehicles, maximum of 165 lbs. I have both, and the Yakima racks have never fallen apart while going down the road. Can’t say the same for Thule.

Thule has some great racks, but their boat carrying stuff is crap. Yakima is much easier to install, and the more expensive ones are lockable, while the lower priced carriers have a locking system available. Thule offers no lock for their boat carriers.

On a side note, if you want a FREE Thule rack, walk up to any car with a Thule rack and dial 1-800-238-2388 on your favorite cell phone. Give them the number you see on the lock core in the tower and for a small fee they will mail you the keys that fit it. Unlock, and you have a FREE roof rack.

Oh, wait…I just gave away the vulnerability of a Thule system. Oops.

Yup, that works

– Last Updated: Aug-09-12 1:09 AM EST –

For wind noise, Yakima has an item called the WInd Jammer that is about $20 that looks better, though.

Thanks for the correction
I think I read a review with the “where it’s made” info re Thule and Yakima and just took their word for it. My bad!

Craigs list
Bought two set of racks on CL last year. For my fruck cap I got a Yakima setup for $100. Included tower riser things, gutter clips, two sets of gunnel clips and two sets of kayak cradles. Had to buy two sets of gutter mount things for the truck cap, $35 on ebay. also bought a complete yakima exactly set up for my Accord, w two sets of gunnel clips, a side boat loader bar and locks for $100. Its great to do it right for a change. Search CL and offer a lowball, as the racks dont seem to have much demand used. find a freind that is familiar, or do the homework so you know the pricing of mounting clips etc to adapt the used rack to your application. My local paddle store dropped yakima for Thule. they cited easier fet setup. Id buy. Whatever I could score cheap!

Lost a yakima rig
For what it is worth I had a Yakima tower fail at highway speed and lost the rack and boat. That being said, I still trust Yakima as being a high quality product. Very few produce products that never fail.