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Old 02-22-2012   #1
Placerville, California
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 40
Buying a New Car - Roof Rack Advice

Okay, so I know nothing about roof racks for kayaks... So, I'm hoping you can help me out.

I'm looking at buying a compact SUV and I can pretty much get any features I want for the car. However, I'm not sure how I want it outfitted to best accommodate my kayaks. So, I'm assuming I need the roof rack rails but do I want the factory-installed crossbars? It seems that most folks use Thule type racks... Not sure if that's because they just didn't buy a car that had crossbars or if it's because the Thule racks are longer and seem like they would hold more kayaks. Also not sure if you want to put stackers on factory installed crossbars.

I'd appreciate any help here! Clearly I have no idea what I'm doing. Thanks!

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Old 02-22-2012   #2
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Buena Vista, Colorado
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Aftermarket rack systems (Thule, Yakima, etc.) have heavier duty rails than a factory rack. The factory rack would probably work ok if you only boat occasionally. You can throw 1 or 2 up top and go.....but if you're into doing roadtrips with lots of gear or carpool to and from the river with other boaters you will be happier with a Thule or Yakima system with stacker bars. It will hold up better over time and allow you to carry more gear. I regularly rack 5-6 kayaks on top of my Subaru Impreza with a Thule system with stackers.

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Old 02-22-2012   #3
st2eelpot's Avatar
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Thule and Yakima kayak racks

I agree with Imyers.

That being said, you can add a Thule or Yakima system to most every car with or without the factory roof rails. If the car has no rack of any sort on top, there are little feet that attach to the Thule/Yakima racks that clamp inside the top of the door frame. You don't have to have the roof rack rails from the factory, though they are convenient and possibly more secure? I never had problems with their racks on the Honda's I owned when I was younger, for example, that had no roof rack from the factory.

In my observation, Thule racks seem to sit slightly lower on the car (which I like), though their mounting system has several small parts to assemble to get it to mount to your car.

Yakima racks seem to be engineered so everything lives together/one piece (less small pieces to lose if you're like me and take the rack on and off), but it sits a couple of inches higher. Simpler/less fussy to work with in my opinion.

My girlfriend and I each own Subaru's. I have Thule cross bars. She has Yakima cross bars. This is where I've seen this. shrug.

As far as the actual device to carry the kayaks, I have Yakima Big Stack (got a deal on it), though I really prefer something more like Thule's 830 The Stacker:
Thule*-*830 The Stacker

The main reason I like the Thule version is it's hollow, and on the older one like this it was a great place to shove paddles on the drive there (strap them down of course). Haven't used this one I put a link to, though I'd guess it would still be a place to shove paddles for the drive.
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Old 02-22-2012   #4
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A1 Wildwater's Avatar
Fort Collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1981
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I think it depends on the car. My Volkswagen brand rack system is way more bomber than the Thule or Yakima products I compared it to. It's also sharper looking and doesn't make much noise, because it's tested in the wind tunnel with that model car. If you check these out at the dealership you can usually find them for about 1/2 the price on eBay. Just go with something that actually attaches to bolts, not the clip on tension type. I had a Thule go flying with 2 snowboards on it in Denver once!
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Old 02-22-2012   #5
Placerville, California
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: Sep 2010
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Thanks for the great advice so far! I am actually looking at a Volkswagen Tiguan so perhaps I'll visit a dealership and ask about their rack systems...

It sounds like I'm hearing that I definitely need the rails and having the crossbars wouldn't necessarily interfere with getting an after-market rack system... Good stuff to know!
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Old 02-22-2012   #6
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NOCO, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1990
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Posts: 582
You'll likely pay more for factory/manufacturer racks vs. Thule or Yakima, but that may not be an issue if buying a new vehicle.

If you end up going with Thule or Yakima racks, find the model you need by visiting the Thule or Yakima website, then save a some money buying a used set locally on Craigslist. You should be able to find a good used set to fit your vehicle for around 1/2 of retail price. You can also order replacement parts via Thule/Yakima directly.

If you go with Thule or Yakima, I suggest getting factory installed roof rails. The Thule/Yakima sets that attached to factory rails (in my opinion) are easier to setup and less likely to damage the vehicle's roof.
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Old 02-22-2012   #7
st2eelpot's Avatar
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Oh, forgot about mentioning this earlier-
I had a rental subaru in NZ that I requested to have cross bars. The car I got had bars directly drilled and bolted into the roof rack rails that were built into the car. This worked fine, but the weakest part of the system proved to be where roof rack rail attached into the roof.

After lots of runs with many different kayakers strapping their boats down (some pull harder or lighter than others), I noticed that we had actually ripped off the rack rail from the roof on one corner. Oops.

Fortunately, when I turned the car in they failed to notice this or didn't care.
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Old 02-22-2012   #8
Beaverton, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 569
A fair number of the factory systems are made by Thule or Yakima, btw. The Tiguan bars look a lot like Thule's aerobars. I'd go aftermarket just so that you can use wider bars. It looks like the factory pieces are around 40" wide, while the aftermarket bars range up to 78", expanding your capacity from 3-4 to 6-7. It makes a difference.
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Old 02-22-2012   #9
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 98
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Should have bought a truck.
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Old 02-22-2012   #10
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Moab, Utah
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 245
only one thing to know for roof racks: yakima

Roof Rack for '06 Civic LX? - several posts by yours truly

something like the yakima rail grab towers may work with your factory rack. i have the older style low rider towers on our subaru outback factory roof rack, and they do ok. since installation in 2004, i have had to re-adjust the low riders once due to them creeping around a little bit.

if your new vehicle comes with factory rail tracks and the yakima control tower will fit into those tracks, that would be my top recommendation. the control tower mechanism locks directly into the track, and looks to be a more solid connection than the compression clamp style of the older low rider or the new rail grab tower.

my 2c fwiw.

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