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Reviews for Thule Hullavator


Rated: 7.31/10 Based On: 51 Reviews

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10-01-2014
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     After 4 years of using my Hullavator, I still like it. A lot! It has made my adventures much easier and less taxing on this short, little, ol' lady. I am short and I've learned, once the boat is fastened to the "J's"; to get my shoulders and head just under the edge of the boat when it's down, grab the handles, then lift slightly and it practically finishes the rise by itself. Piece of cake! Much easier than putting a rug on the Explorer, lifting, the 50-60# boats onto the roof, even with Hully-rollers. Works for me and I've had absolutely no problems with this unit. IMO, well worth the money.
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09-28-2014
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     Good product - better than the rest if you really have back/shoulder problems. Other products (like the boatloader or outrigger or hully roller ones) all work fine too, but require a bit more effort. Only major downside to Hullavator (aside from cost) is you must lift your entire boat's weight up to waist height, which I'd argue if you can do that readily, then you'd probably be able to make do with the much cheaper extender bar products (Yakima Boatloader, Thule Outrigger). That's why I give it an 8 out of 10. First thing Thule should modify in the future is this - revise the Hullavator to allow a step-wise loading method, so you can raise the bow then the stern, or reshape the cradles to allow sliding the boat forward onto the cradles. As it is, you must lift your boat from a dead-lift to put it on the cradles - this is tough for heavier (60lb) kayaks.

I've got a more detailed review of the Hullavator here if anyone is interested:
http://enviroyak.blogspot.com/2014/09/thule-hullavator-review-with-tip-on-how.html

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08-20-2014
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     What a dull life without the Hullavator. It enables you to kayak when you do not have someone to help you load kayak on car. Only drawback is sometimes rack will return to roof when you are removing kayak from it.
I still rate it a 9 for the freedom it provides.

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07-02-2014
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I'm a solo paddler, and love long touring yaks. I couldn't get them loaded or unloaded without the assistance of the Hullavator. It makes tie down on the top of my BIG SUV easy, as it's done at door handle height. Best, most secure way to haul a yak!
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01-28-2014
Submitted by: VickiSend Email
Rating: 7 of 10

     I purchased a Hullavator 3 years ago and am very disappointed. Bought the rack in April, by November it was rusting. All of the powder coating on the black base bubbled with rust. I now have to sand it each year and give it a few coats of Rustoleum. Not a good time. The pads started fading by the end of the first season and now look terrible. Replacements run about $50/set. The functionality of the lift system has stayed true, otherwise my Hullavator would be scrap by now. My set up cost about $700. Not a lot of quality for the price.
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01-08-2014
Submitted by: PatrickSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I purchased my Hullavator for $65 from a Thule dealer that had not been able to move it. Given the dealer didn't have a demo set up I wasn't surprised as it is quite expensive and I couldn't justify the full cost on anything I had not had a chance to try first. However, I'll try anything for $65.

I used the Hullavator to replace my 30 year old Thule kayak saddles on my old Land Cruiser. Never had an issue loading my single sea kayak with the old set up but my recent purchase of a tandem Loon made me consider different options. Glad I did.

The Hullavator works exactly as advertised. It is easy to load and lifts the kayak onto the rack with little effort. I leave it on my vehicle through the paddling season and have had zero problems with it. It is very robust and if I ever wear out the gas struts they are easily replaced with ones from my local auto parts store.

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07-24-2013
Submitted by: Becca C.Send Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I recently bought a Jackson Rivi-T (tandem kayak) to paddle solo and with my five-year-old daughter. The boat is 76 lbs. and nearly 14 ft. long, so it's a bit massive to handle on my own. The Hullavator makes it a piece of cake! I can have the boat unloaded, car parked, and boat launched in ten minutes. Loading up takes about fifteen from start to finish. I've only used the system three times thus far but I feel completely confident out on my own. I love how quick and easy it is to use!
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07-08-2013
Submitted by: IMCSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I have now had this rack for 3 weeks has made all the difference. I own a 13 ft kayak and now can load it with little or no help onto my SUV. Did a lot of research before getting it and found the best deal was at EMS and they install free. Sales people wonderful instructions and out of there within one hour.
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05-19-2013
Submitted by: ABSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I purchased my Hullavator from HumblePower for $470, it was shipped free to my home. For a short female doing your own loading, this system is AWESOME!!! Some call it pricey, but hey...you get what you pay for. It makes loading a kayak soooo easy! The only thing I have problems with is getting the loading arms correctly positioned on the frame. It's difficult to line up the holes so one can insert the pins that hold the arms to the frame. I'm 5'4" and have a tall car (Hyundai Santa Fe) so holding the arms up (each one weighs about 25#)and trying to align all the holes can be a little difficult. That is the ONLY drawback for me, but a taller person might not have this issue.

The system comes with a video on how to load it, straps for securing the kayak to the arms and extra fore and aft tie-downs. The roof rack bars have locks, but the arms don't so I bought a couple of long cable locks for when I leave the car to kayak.
Every time I use it I find myself saying out loud, "I LOVE this thing!"

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05-19-2013
Submitted by: Bob HeadSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I went to Roof Rack World Artarmon to look at the Hullavator. I had reservations about it taking the load my large double kayak. The technician there invited me to return with he kayak and have a Hullavator fitted. If I or my wife didn't feel comfortable, he would not try to sell it to us. We did that and he explained everything about the gear and installed it, demonstrated it and then left us to 'play' with it. We were impressed and bought it and immediately used it 'for real'. It really does make kayak trips less of a hassle and (for me) takes a lot of risk out of loading etc. I would never have bought it from someone who just wanted to 'sell' it to me. The technician was a rare example of a quality salesman -- VERY rare.
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04-12-2013
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     I have one season of use of my Hullavator rack system and I do recommend it. I bought it after tearing my rotator cuff made using my other rack difficult and painful. The rack does what it is advertised to do, and it is quite ingenious. I was very pleased to see that Thule offers an inexpensive adapter kit that allowed me to mount the Hullavator onto the new Thule AeroBlade bars I bought halfway through the season to replace the horribly loud Thule square section bars I had been using.

Mounting the Hullavator bases to the AeroBlades takes a bit of measuring and cutting of the rubber strips on the bars, but it is a one-time thing. Note that with the Hullavator you will mount metal base pieces onto your bars that are not easily removed. Certainly you will not remove them with each use--they are meant to be there semi-permanently. They have some protruding metal tabs on them which I think pretty much rules out using a car wash with your bars mounted, even if you "remove" the Hullavator cradles. Touchless car washes are the ticket.

Also, removing and mounting the cradles is not for the weak as you have to catch a rod in the heavy cradle piece onto a small tab protruding from the base that is mounted permanently on your bars, all the while holding the heavy cradle vertically, trying not to have it come down on you. You then have remove one hand from supporting the awkward cradle to pull the cradle away from the base just slightly to insert a retention pin into some holes, working against the return struts in the cradle mechanism and being careful to pull down the whole time. Lift it even a nudge and the heavy cradle assembly can unhook from the small tab and come crashing down on you and the side of your vehicle. It's not hard, but you do need some strength and you have to be careful. If you want to leave the cradles in place you don't have to worry about this after the first time mounting them, but they are VERY tall and on my SUV they prevent me from going into any garage when mounted. Plus, as expensive as these are, I prefer storing the cradles with their gas struts, linking and locking mechanisms indoors when not in use.

So I rate them an 8. They work and are unique, but they are expensive and in some ways finicky. There is nothing that in my mind is a good alternative if you need or want these, including the competitor product that has you hanging stuff off the side of your SUV for loading to "walk" your kayak up alternating front to back. That might work, but not as elegantly as the Hullavator.

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12-03-2012
Submitted by: HankP88Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     This is my third comment/review about the Thule Hullavators since 2006. My two sets are still going strong and working fine. I attribute their longevity to the maintenance I "lavish" on them, and just would like to pass on what I do - not that it's anything out of the ordinary, but it's extra time and energy expended after each paddle. Let me also say that I paddle 99.9% of the time in salt water, so "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

After EVERY use I rinse the Hullavators with fresh water and wipe them off with a chamois or old towel--not til bone dry by any means, but just to get the excess water off. Every few uses--and definitely at the start and end of the paddling season here in NJ--I spray WD-40 on all the metal parts and wipe off the excess. (I have NO rusting on any hardware and attribute that to the WD-40 treatments.) I also store my Hullavators in my garage between uses, which also helps maintain them. (I have them permanently mounted to my load bars, which I just snap [and lock] on and off the Tracker feet when I go out paddling.

To anyone who has, or is thinking about buying Hullavators, the prices are much more expensive now than what I paid in 2006, so they're a real "investment" in gear. I strongly advise maintaining them, and they'll last and work well for a long time.

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07-30-2012
Submitted by: amandaSend Email
Rating: 1 of 10

     This might be a great rack but don't know if I will ever find out! Bought in early June- many parts missing so couldn't install. Have sent multiple emails and called multiple times to get missing parts. Count on spending at least 30 minutes per phone call. They might act like they are helping and the parts are on the way, but here it is- almost August- empty promises, dreadful customer service and useless rack that cost $550- (not to mention cost of base racking system -over $100)I will boycott Thule forever!!! Consider this before you order!!!
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04-12-2012
Submitted by: Paddle WhispererSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     As an avid paddler, for more that 50 years, I've had to make changes over the years. The Thule Hullavator has changed my life! It makes loading, transporting, and unloading my kayak so easy! Everyone that sees it, wants one. I should have bought one, years ago!
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01-13-2012
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I have had my Hullavator for some time (see early review here; June 24, 2010) and I love it. I have a full sized Chevy van...if I tried to get my yak on it I would probably end up with a hernia or bad back. As far as cracks...and mounting. I have a Hurricane kayak which uses a ABS like plastic and also a Old Town Dirigo fishing kayak. Both have had no problems with damage from the mount. For attaching I just use the straps that come with it front and rear snugged down. I don't need the front or rear straps...it is rock solid and even driving at high speed over all kinds of terrain I haven't had any problem. If you are getting some sliding, go to a hardware store and get the rubber material used to line tool drawers..it is a very grippy material and if between the kayak and mount I can guarantee it won't move. It may be enough to prevent any cracking of the gel coat although if you are getting cracking of gel coat with that little pressure it makes me thing the composite isn't thick enough or done correctly.
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01-09-2012
Submitted by: BISSend Email
Rating: 5 of 10

     Like many, I bought my Hullavator because of shoulder surgery (both). Was initially pleased even though the latching was a slight issue. However, it does not fit my composite kayak very well, and seems to be designed more for white water boats. Hairline cracks developed where the hull sat on the hard plastic pieces. I pad those places with foam, now, but sometimes they work free at freeway speeds. I have not found a way to permanently secure them while allowing the mechanisms to operate. I am very careful to wash ALL my gear after paddling, and thoroughly rinse my car and rack system, however it was only a short time before the Hullavator system began to rust. The dealer replaced the parts at their expense after I was unable to get any response from Thule. I went back to using Yakima "J" racks (which also began rusting very shortly after purchase). I am going to have to use the Hullavators, again, because my next vehicle has a high roof. Better than nothing, but they could do better.
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07-13-2011
Submitted by: DfosterSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     We got the Hullavator because my son is leaving for college and my wife isn't tall enough to help lift our tandem kayak onto the roof of the Suburban. The racks work great. The only thing I can't figure out is why the little brackets that hold the racks to the cross bar (also Thule brand) don't fit the cross bar better. The Hullavator wants to twist a little and that makes it so that when we put the kayak up the rack has to be fiddled with to make it lock in place.
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08-18-2010
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     As one who frequently travels various distances, to meet my female paddling friends, the Thule Hullavator has given me the opportunity to continue to enjoy kayaking without having to lift my OT Castine (12'9") or Chatham 16 to the top of my Ford Explorer. I am 5'2" and still need a very short folding stool to reach the initial grab of the handles but once released, I am set to go! I can easily load my boat onto the holders, tie it down, raise the unit, put in the pins, secure bow and stern ends, and off I go.

For those who are horizontally challenged, getting older and less spry or just plain want an easier and faster method to get moving to the water -- this unit will fit the bill.
Hubby said to buy 2. Didn't argue with him and he likes them too.
Purchased from EMS at 20% off original price.

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06-30-2010
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I have had the hullavator for 4 yrs now. I been going out by myself..I love it; it's the best thing ever. all you have to make sure the handles are locked. Thats all you have to make sure, and there wont be problem having the one of the arms go up.We are now getting a second hullavator. You can also go on Ebay and find a hullavator.
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06-29-2010
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I bought the original version of the Hullavator on sale for $275 in August 2005. It was great for the next few months but the following spring I began to experience the problem with the arms not locking and springing up whenever they felt like it, which made loading and unloading an interesting challenge.

I spent the next 3 YEARS trying to get Thule to respond to my complaint and honor their guarantee. I had given up all hope until I ran into a Thule representative at a paddle sports show last year in NH. Very dismayed at the lack of customer service response, he actually came out to my car with me, checked out the racks and agreed that Thule had redesigned the system due to the problem I was experiencing. Then he told me he was not actually a sales rep, but the engineer who did the redesign! Within 3 days and 2 emails from Thule I received a complete new rack system with a prepaid voucher for the return of the old one.

I am so happy with the new system. I no longer take my life in my hands while unloading my kayak. Somehow I became immune to the whistle while driving, but at times it does make passengers crazy. I do have the problem with the load arms twisting and not latching easily if I forget to place them in a neutral position after the kayak is loaded.

Without this system, I would not be able to kayak as I am too short...and old... (even with a Subaru Outback)to pick up a 48 lb boat over my head to load it. I have driven, kayak overhead, all over the northeast for countless miles. I have never had a problem (even at 75 mph) with my kayaks shifting or wobbling with them fully secured, front and back included.

The Hullavator has enabled me to get into a sport to which I would otherwise not readily have had access.

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06-24-2010
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I have a full sized Chevy Van and getting either of my two kayaks (each 50#) on top wouldn't be possible without causing a bad back or hernia.

I had read the reviews and main issue was the latch issues on earlier releases and key latch. Both seem to have been cured in the current versions and mine has been trouble free. I did want to make an effort to test and report on these two areas for potential future owners.

It works as advertised and it is nice to be able to raise and lower the kayak easily..often with no more strength required than a one hand tug. I did get some advice from others that I think is sound:
First...to make sure the latch mechanism catches in the down position you should make sure that after placing the kayak on the two padded arms that you haven't twisted one or the other arms. After lashing the back side down I slightly lift the kayak front from the arm so it can naturally take its neutral position. Now lash it in place.

After swinging the kayak to the side in preparation for removal make sure each is latched in place. You can check this by pressing the upper hinged part towards the car. Now try raising each arm a bit to see if it is latched or not. On mine that hasn't been a problem but I can see how it could be if care isn't taken. It is also important to place the two basic roof racks square to the roof and equally distant apart to avoid twisting and resultant difficulty in latching. When installing the roof rack itself make sure you don't spread them so far apart that you can't reach both handles and release them at the same time. I suspect that any issues with the latch are more due to user operation than product issues. To make sure I always put the roof rack in the same place I used a permanent marker to make a small dot at the correct location for each rack riser on the car roof at the rain gutter attachment place.

I did check the key locks and they have been trouble free. I have locks on both the Hullivator and the Thule roof rack.

Features not mentioned in other reviews....
When the Hullivator is in the loaded position you can remove the entire unit from the roof rack by removing one steel lock pin...no tools required. This takes a few seconds and means you don't have to leave your Hullivator permanently mounted on your car. WORD of warning though... before removing lock the handle so you and others can't accidentally hit the release handle and collapse the unit. If you do it will swing closed which could be dangerous but even if not...getting it open again requires great care so you don't pinch your fingers, etc.

Finally...the strut used in the Hullivator is a standard strut that is used to hold the hatch open on hatch back cars. They use compressed fluid as a spring/damper. The piston shaft must be kept clean and free of rust. If you use it a lot in salt water environments you may want to clean that strut off occasionally and/or not leave it on the car all the time. If you get rust on the shaft it can cause a failure of the unit...pressure and oil is released by the bad seal.

Final comments...after 6 months of nearly daily use it has been a great device that saves my back. Since it is outside the vehicle it is exposed to weather, dirt etc. so should be kept clean, especially the strut sliding piston shaft.

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04-07-2010
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I got the Hullavator last summer after I cracked my windshield loading my kayak inside my car. I LOVE IT. I have not had any of the problems mentioned in other reviews. If I didn't have this, as a 50 something woman, it would be impossible for me to load by myself. I enjoy kayaking alone at times and this allows me to have the freedom to do it. I can still put 2 more kayaks on top of my car with the Thule Stacker.
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10-27-2009
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     Yes the Hullivator takes some getting used to. Yes it's assembly and installation takes time and patience. Yes you must be cautious that it is locked in the up and down position. Yes it whistles (tape up some foam and place it under the middle of your boat on the front rack). Yes watch out for your head on a low vehicle.

Yes yes yes to all the complaints, BUT, say no more bad back. Say no more banged up car. Say no more banged up boat. Say that was the easiest I ever loaded my kayak. Say it's a Hullivator to all those people watching on enviously.

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10-07-2009
Submitted by: GMSend Email
Rating: 1 of 10

     I ordered my Hullavator shipped from a gear shop out of the area as there were no local kayak/Thule dealers close to my town (cautionary tale!). Ordered all the system (rack, custom foot kit, 58" bars, etc.) as Thule had specified.

After meticulously assembling the rack and Hullavator, testing it without a kayak (seemed to work ok), then loaded up my kayak, but the gas struts did not engage - the second pivot point would not bend. Tried repeatedly, on the phone w/ Thule, dealer over the course of the last three days, have sent photos in etc. etc. but no success. Have made certain the system is locked down, handles are fully squeezed, and on and on – but am getting a different story, suggestions each time I speak with someone and am increasingly concerned I have made a very expensive mistake.

Will update this review if I'm able to resolve anything, but suspect at a minimum I'm out shipping charges and a LOT of time. Disappointed.

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04-13-2009
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     Now that I have had the Hullavators for a couple more years since my original review--August 2006--I'm still satisfied with the product and the functionality/service it has given.

I agree with most of the other reviewers that on occasion one of the the supports/cradle arms will release and spring up on its own; but only rarely and never has it caused a problem for me. I recently spoke to a Thule rep at a kayak expo here in NJ, and was reminded that if EVER there is a problem of any kind with the product, there is a lifetime warranty on parts and/or the entire unit and that I could send/bring it back to where it was purchased for a replacement.

Just a couple of more thoughts for potential buyers: these units weigh about 40 lbs.--PLUS the weight of the load bars--so be aware of the load limits of your vehicle's roof. By my putting two Hullavators and two kayaks on my 2005 Ford Escape's roof, I'm probably "pushing it" as far as the total weight on the roof goes. (In fact, I sometimes carry a third boat between the two Hullavators by using Hullaports on the factory crossbars!) I believe most car manufacturers recommend the weight to be carried on factory racks be limited to 125-150 lbs., so the load I carry could cause a problem.

I have had no problem with the Thule system at all, and would recommend the products to anyone. I usually paddle with my son, and we can mount the racks and then load and secure our two boats in 12-15 minutes. (I don't keep the load bars on my rack all the time; I just leave the foot pack(s) mounted in the factory tracks and capped with the TKCAPs. We snap in the load bars on which I have permanently mounted the Hullavator supports; then attach the four cradle "arms"; then load and strap down the boats. We usually also use the bow and stern ratchet tie downs, unless we're just paddling locally.)

Overall, I'm still very pleased with the product and would definitely recommend it. Actually, I think the biggest drawback to the product is its price. It is a very expensive system (as is most everything else that has anything to do with kayaking!)

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09-08-2008
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     Just a follow-up on my June 2006 review.
We have two Hullavator's on our truck and two heavy Prijon Kayaks. Over two years and they have never missed a beat. Never had a latch or locking problem. They click into the down position and stay down until I release them with the handles. I have been able to handle heavy boats with relative ease and couldn't be much happier. The suggestion mentioned by one of the other users cured the whistle issue.

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09-06-2008
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 2 of 10

     The hullavator is advertised to be a system that would allow anyone to load a kayak alone. I am too short to reach my roof rack. I am not strong enough to lift my 65lb boat over my head.

The load bars on the hullavator won't lock in the down position. I spent several hours after installing it thinking I was doing something wrong. I let go, it goes flying back up. I can in no way get it to lock. So, I need someone to hold the rack while I remove my kayak. Seems dangerous, and I can't use it by myself.

I called the outfitter and the manufacturer. They had no suggestions. For a piece of gear costing over 400.00 you think this company could provide a product that works.

There are serious design flaws in the hullavator. As everyone else has stated, the locking mechanism needs a lot of work.

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07-11-2008
Submitted by: Doug ManfredSend Email
Rating: 1 of 10

     The Hullavator is a piece of crap. After three months of use the latching mechanism failed. Yes, pushing forward to lock it into place is just symptomatic of a serious design flaw in this product. I am seriously thinking of going to the consumer safety board and have Thule pull this unsafe transport from the market. Call me crazy but for $400 you would think Thule would provide a product that works like advertised.
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07-09-2008
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     This is my second review, first one in 2005. My wife and I love our hullavators. We have had the latching issue and have learned to double check to be sure it's latched.

We also have the whistling issue described in a previous post. I can't wait to test the tape solution. I could not figure out what was making the noise. I didn't realize that there was a new model.

I would definitely buy this again even though I could suggest some improvements.

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04-21-2008
Submitted by: ASSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I paddle solo, I am smaller than the average bear. The Hullavator is a lifesaver for me. The cradle will ride up on its own sometimes, you need to be careful to check and give it a push toward the vehicle before loading or unloading. I have Yakima bars, we stabilized them with self tapping screws. I like mine, I can see where others may look elsewhere. You need to know what you what. I am not comfortable swinging my kayak around while on a stool to get it on top, and go off-roading in places where you cannot trailer. The best for me was using a Chevy Avalanche, which my husband took control of. It is OK though, the price of gas is so high he can have it.
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11-05-2007
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I bought a Thule Hullavator a couple years ago, and added a second one this year. I'm a paraplegic, so they're very handy in enabling me to get boats on top of my Ford Freestyle.

The hullavators are a fantastic product, but it is true that they sometimes don't latch in the down position. Another annoyance is that they often whistle while driving at highway speeds with a boat in place. I figured out that the whistle came from wind across the slot for the sliding saddle's adjuster. With a boat in place, there is a venturi effect. When the rack is empty, there is no whistle. Anyway, I fixed the situation by adding grey duct tape between the saddles. It matches the grey hullavators exactly.
Just add duct tape. No more whistle.

I gave the hullavators a 9 because they truly are a great product. There's still room for improvement though.

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08-01-2007
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 7 of 10

     I'm glad to see that others have experienced both the joys and trials I'd had with the Hullavator. However, after this weekend's excursion I'm taking it off my rack and back to REI. I could deal with the trouble in locking the arms in the down position, and other quirks, but it's gotten to the point that one of the units' hydraulic assist is not longer working well and the boat does not lift properly - I have to enlist the aid of another person, which defeats the entire purpose of the Hullavator - to safely load and unload my kayak solo.
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08-23-2006
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     In late June my wife and I and bought two kayaks--a Hobie pedal drive SOT for her and a Wilderness Tsunami 145 for me--and also bought two Hullavators. Because the initial outlay for all these items was a big hit for our budget, I shopped around and tried to save some money where I could. The result was that I picked up a Hullavator (last year's model) and a Hullavator XT (newest model) at really good prices on sale at two different L. L. Bean locations. (Best prices I found--even better than e-bay auctions!) I put the systems onto Thule load bars, which I then mounted onto the OEM vertical supports of my Ford Escape's roof rack (which I disassembled to remove the original Ford load bars.) The whole setup is very sturdy and there is no problem supporting the weight of the bars, hullavators and boats.

Initially I had a problem with the new XT model in that the arms would not stay locked in the down position when unloading a boat. One (or sometimes both) would dangerously snap up without warning once the weight of the boat was removed. I disassembled this unit and exchanged it for another via Bean's great customer service, and the replacement works perfectly.

As to the older model Hullavator, that one has always worked perfectly, so I'm very pleased with that one. The only thing about that one was that when I opened the box, Thule had erred in packing the parts and sent 3 upper supports with pads and only 1 lower support with pad. So, I had to call Thule directly. They sent the correct part, and I returned the incorrect one.

So all in all, I'm very satisfied with the two Hullavators I have now--and how well they work--but I knocked down the rating a couple of points because of the hassles I had to go through because of Thule's quality control.

Finally, in response to another reviewer saying how cumbersome it is to leave the Hullavator system on her car, I must say that I remove mine when I'm not using it; and also can remove my entire roof rack very easily in two units when I know I'll not be using it for an extended period of time. (Plus, I keep my Escape in a garage, and the Hullavator support arms are too tall for the garage door when in place.)

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08-23-2006
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I love my Hullavator XT!! I am barely 5' and to get a kayak on top of a Honda Pilot by myself would be impossible. We have a 65# tandem, and a LiquidLogic 10' boat that I take out by myself. We have not had any real problems with the unit. We plan on getting another one soon for the other side. We have them mounted on Thule LB on our factory rack. One reviewer had a problem with the arms freezing up...all you have to do is push the arms towards the car a little, while squeezing the release handles. I think the Hullavator is a great system!!
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08-07-2006
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 1 of 10

     I put my hullavator on my vehicle, thinking this would be the most awesome solution for me when i paddle by myself. I am only 5'1", and i have an suv. HOWEVER, as the directions state, you're supposed to see how they work before loading your boat. When I lowered the front hullavator, it locked in the down position and would in no way disengage. I tried everything to get it to release, even called my dealer, but I ended up having to take the front hullavator off the car in the "stuck" position and ship it back to the dealer. I must say, I am very glad I checked it before loading my boat and getting stuck with it that way while I was out. This thing is also massive-looking on the vehicle. I have now gone to the Glide and set system and I use a stool to load and unload. Works just fine, and I don't have to worry about anything locking up on me. I, too, would hope that Yakima comes up with something like the hullavator - but with a better design.
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08-07-2006
Submitted by: dgSend Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     I have had my Hullivator for the past 8 months andreally have had no problems w/it. It does fit Yakima racks/bars; I'm sure it would do better on Thule racks but no problems so far. It has been a life saver putting a 65# boat on top of an SUV (Honda Pilot). It hasn't been perfect. The locking mechanism did require a little adjustment and lubrication. I do have a heavy boat and it does require a little coordination between both hands when the handles are released, but...so much easier.
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06-14-2006
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     I waited for the new Hullavator XT's to become available and received two sets a couple months ago. I mounted them on my Yakima bars with Q-Towers since Yakima is the only rack for my F-150 Supercrew. The first outing went pretty good until the we were on our way home. When we stopped, we couldn't open the doors without damage to the paint at the top of the doors... The Q-Towers had come loose on the bars and the clips had pulled the bottom of the Q-Towers down over the top of the doors. This was caused by the weight and leverage of the Hullavators twisting around on the bars and the Q-Towers working loose. I called Thule and Yakima. The tech rep at Yakima was both helpful and understanding. My Q-Towers were about a year to a year and a half old and locked on the bars with a cam action turned by an allen wrench. He said Yakima had since changed the design of the Q-Towers and they now held the bars more securely. He sent me an updated set of Q-Towers (my clips and locks transferred from the old Q-Towers). I put everything together and although we haven't been out on the road yet, I can't imagine any more serious trouble. The new Q-Towers clamp securely around the bars without any 'travel'. The twisting/torque on the bars shouldn't have any effect on the bars and towers.

The Hullavator's do what they are supposed to do, you just have to learn to let them help raise and lower the kayak. It takes a little getting used to, so don't panic or be hasty. One area I would like to see improved is a faster tie-down of the kayak to the Hullavator cradle bars. They are also heavy, so you will want to unhook and remove the Hullavator's before removing the rack system. It's actually quite easy. Another advantage of the Hullavator system is that it is easy to drop a boat down to access the cockpit, install covers, or clean the boat.

After our next outing, I'll report back if we have any more problems.

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06-13-2006
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 2 of 10

     I bought my Hullavator in April and was excited to have what sounded like a great solo loading system. I just got around to installing it and it DOESN"T fit Yakima bars regardless of what Thule says!!!! BEWARE! You could potentially jimmy-rig it to work but I rely on safety and don't feel comfortable doing so. Hopefully Yakima will come out with a similar product ASAP.
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09-08-2005
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     Ordered two sets of Hullavators after shoulder operation in April -- Doctor said I would be able to paddle but "forget lifting kayaks to roof of my Honda CRV."

Had problems with latching in down position, but this has been greatly improved by suggestion from Thule product manager. Grasp top of carrier frame in left hand, bottom of frame with right hand, and rotate by pulling out on bottom and pushing in on top -- you should hear the latch snap into place.

Locking has not been a problem, as we loop a locking cable around the mounting foot of the bar and use bar locks.

I also hope they will extend any fixes to us beta testers. I would not have purchased a new product in its first year, except that the operation would have kept me off the water otherwise.

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09-07-2005
Submitted by: scmcgSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I’m not being smart but I just use a trailer for my large kayak. Only 1 metre off the ground. No problems at all.
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09-04-2005
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I have owned 2 Hullavators for about a month now. I was not aware of any problems when I bought, but I am now experiencing both of the main problems people are mentioning. The cradle does not always lock in the down position and must be checked carefully, which I am now in the habit of doing. Also, the locks are of dubious value. I always use Lasso Cables when the boats are on the roof so loss of boats is not an issue. My concern is loss of Hullavators.

In spite of these problems, the ease of loading our boats on top of our Chrysler minivan is just fantastic. The speed and ease of boat handling far outweighs any equipment problems.

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08-31-2005
Submitted by: hollySend Email
Rating: 5 of 10

     I was all ready to buy a Hullavator at the REI 20% sale, until I found these product reviews.

So I called Thule to inquire about improvements and retrofitting and got a terrific customer service rep who gave me the following information:

1. They are releasing a new and improved model later this fall. Her recommendation was that I wait, because there won't be retrofits.
2. REI has 20% off Thule sales each August and April.

Probably not good news for the folks that already bought one, but it was great news for me - I can survive until April. Customer service is alive and well and living in Connecticut!

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08-29-2005
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 7 of 10

     I also just got my Hullavator, and I'm thrilled I can get out on the water by myself. Here are my thoughts on it:

Pros

  • solo loading is possible
  • cradle unit detaches and attaches easily, so no locking has been required
  • securely holds my boat regardless of distance

    Cons

  • the lower cradle has scratched up my boat minorly during loading
  • locking in the down position is not great, but this problem was solved for my by pushing the top of the cradle in to engage the locking mechanism
  • craftsmanship isn't great, but it does the job for me
  • sits off over the edge a bit much, but it hasn't caused any problems for me thus far. (and with it sitting so far out, getting in and out of the car can be a head hazard sometimes)
  • the attachment bracket took some ingenuity and muscle on my Yakima bars, especially with a fairing on my front bars

    So all in all it's a great idea, as with new product it has some kinks that I hope Thule will improve on and sort out with defects for existing owners.


  • 08-23-2005
    Submitted by: ssSend Email
    Rating: 6 of 10

         I've had two units atop a Honda Accord all summer, and, for the most part, they've worked well. The engineering does seem a bit crude (see other reviews); in particular the locking devices are unpredictable when the unit is side-loading (or unloading) position. I've solved this simply by hooking a bungee cord to each handle when it's down. I, like others, have had no way of locking the whole unit to the bar -- the cores don't work. Still, I've had no back soreness from lifting my boat overhead as I did with my old Hullaports.
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    08-22-2005
    Submitted by: Send Email
    Rating: 2 of 10

         I just bought a Hullavatar. I read the directions and I'm taking it back. I'm 5'2". My RV Van is 8'. The directions do not say how far apart the loading bars can be. Mine are further away than my arms can reach to simultaneously squeeze the handles. I'm also not tall enough to reach them. Does anyone know of a system that might work on a tall vehicle with a solo paddler? I'm going to retire in 3 years and I want a system that I can handle alone. It's amazing we can go to the moon and can't design a simple kayak loader.
    Submit your own review!

    08-21-2005
    Submitted by: Send Email
    Rating: 7 of 10

         I was one of these folks that was really stoked when I heard of this. I have a Chevy Trailblazer and like to Kayak solo. So now I have it.

    The good: Putting the kayak on top has improved…wind and wet boat when trying to load solo was scary.

    Not necessarily bad but a challenge: Getting both arms to release at same time to get the lift. I use my head to get the initial push.

    Bad: Locking the arms down to put the kayak on and take it off. Tricky as you can get the arms to lock but it does not always work. Also once you have the kayak on top working the bars so that they lock. Also the screws that hold the braces in place are a pain to use. One of mine broke already and I have only used it about 4 times.

    Summary: I hope that Thule comes up with some fixes and then passes that on free to existing owners.

    Submit your own review!

    08-17-2005
    Submitted by: ---
    Rating: 1 of 10

         Hullavator - follow up:
    Hullavator is too dangerous to use at this time. Sad to say...but the problem with the arms not locking in the down position is getting worse with each use (about 4). The one arm that had been working pretty good release the other day when I was loading my kayak. (already - had a friend holding the other arm that couldn't be trusted) I almost lost control of my kayak and hurt my back in the process.

    Unless you have 3 - 4 people to load and unload your kayak, the Hullavator is too dangerous at this time. Thule states they are aware of the problem and promise a "fix" by October. I think it is irresponsible of them and their dealers to sell any units right now without disclosure of the known problems. Sadly, I am returning my Hullavator.

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    07-31-2005
    Submitted by: ---
    Rating: 8 of 10

         Hullavator is a mixed blessing. The idea gets a 10+. The problems and workmanship maybe a 6 -7. But I am thankful to have it. I broke my back last fall so getting my kayak to the top of my Ford van would be impossible without the Hullavator.

    Pro - Simple to install. Only need to lift kayak about waist to chest high, easy to secure.

    Cons –

    1. Trouble with locking mechanism when loaded on roof...a little bending seems to pretty much fix that.
    2. Releases too easily when in the down position - Thule is aware of this problem and has promised a "fix" by October.
    3. A little difficult to bring arms down evenly...practice and being careful will make this better.
    4. Found it difficult to get enough leverage to pull arms down (van is tall)... compensated by trying strap to lower part of cradle and pulling on that instead of the Thule handle. This allowed me to step back from the van and get better leverage. I don't think this would be a problem for a car or a taller person.
    5. Kayak almost wants to fall out of cradle when you first load it before you have a chance to get straps on....I just clipped a bungee to the top of the cradle and hooked it on the lower part of the cradle before letting go of kayak to grab straps.
    6. Thule pads don't fit my kayak very well and the pads that the kayak sits on are hard rubber. ....I added extra, softer padding that fits my hull better.
    Hullavator is a new product and has a few problems....BUT ... I love only having to lift my kayak to waist to chest height. Nothing else like it around!!

    Submit your own review!

    07-11-2005
    Submitted by: Send Email
    Rating: 4 of 10

         1) There is a known defect in the lock core holder/cylinder on the Hullavator. Thule confirmed it was a design error, and expects newly designed lock cylinder holders this fall. The lock core spins within the Hullavator and will not secure the Hullavator. This is not an installation problem, but a manufacturing defect. The result, any key will open the Hullavator. And at $379 that is a big risk. Thule is issuing cable locks to customers until a fix is worked out. This is not a lock core issue, but a lock core receptacle issue on the Hullavator.

    2) I have found that the hull of my 16 ft Perception Carolina distorts/bends/sags when transported on the Hullavator on a sunny day. And the sagging even occurred without the bow a stern straps attached. This never happened with my J-bars. I have had to lay the kayak in the sun to get the hull shape back.

    3) I have a very high vehicle, and the Hullavator makes it much easier to get the 16 ft boat up, but the way it supports the boat flat does not seem to agree with my boat and I will be returning the Hullavator. The Hullavator is a great idea, just needs some more time for improvement.

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    06-21-2005
    Submitted by: Send Email
    Rating: 3 of 10

         I have received several inquiries related to my earlier review, so I need to post an update. I ended up sending the unit back.

    As far as a loading unit, the Hullavator worked well. I made the job of loading our double on our Subaru easy.

    The trouble was how it carried the load. The way the Hullavator works is your load bars must extend at least 4" outboard of their mounts. The cradles actually extend a little beyond that. Instead of balancing the boat on the centerline of your vehicle, it carries it out over the side of the car several inches.

    It doesn't make for the most aerodynamic setup. It felt like the kayak, which weighs 95 pounds, was pulling the car sideway. Having that much weight up high is bad enough, but it behaves much better centered on the direction of travel. It also raised the load about 4-5 inches above the load bars and actually had quite a bit of play or wiggle.

    I have decided to go back to foam covering the load bars like I use with my singles. With the foam set up I will be able to carry the boat on the centerline of my car and reduce the height and "wiggle".

    Your experience may be different, but it just didn't work out for my boat/car combo.

    Submit your own review!

    05-16-2005
    Submitted by: Send Email
    Rating: 9 of 10

         After being backordered for over a month, I received my new Thule Hullavator side loading system. It came with a DVD manual that does a great job of showing the installation and operation of the unit. After watching the DVD, it took about 20 minutes to install on my Subaru Outback.

    The unit swings down to the side of the car and you load your boat into modified J cradles. The unit then helps you lift the boat, still vertical, with gas assist struts. Once the unit is at roof level, you ease the boat down to level and attach the bow and stern lines. I added straps around the load bars as well.

    The unit makes loading our 95-pound double a breeze very easy to lift and control. I probably won’t bother using it for our singles.

    Although it is expensive at $379, my girlfriend and I are not very tall and not getting any younger. That’s cheap compared to bodywork on the car or an injury from lifting the double over our heads and losing control.

    Submit your own review!

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