lift-assist kayak

Thule Hullavator Pro Review

Bill Nikolaou
Bill Nikolaou
January 5, 2024

The world of kayaking offers both serenity and excitement, but one hurdle remains consistent: transporting the kayak.

I'm Bill Nikolaou, an experienced kayaker with over 7 years in the sport. I've perpetually been on the hunt for the perfect transport system and have tried various kayaks along the way. And the Thule Hullavator Pro? It's in a class of its own.

Also check out: Best Lift-Assist Kayak Racks

Thule Hullavator Pro Review

Thule Hullavator Pro Review

4.6/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨
If you're someone who frequently transports a kayak and finds the process of getting the kayak onto the roof of your vehicle to be strenuous, the Thule Hullavator Pro can be a great solution. It reduces the physical strain and ensures that the kayak is transported safely and securely.


  • Waist-level loading and unloading.
  • Protective padding ensures kayak remains pristine.
  • Corrosion-resistant build for enhanced durability.


  • Premium price, making it a significant investment.
  • Bulkier design can be challenging for smaller vehicles.
  • Potential compatibility issues with non-Thule crossbars.

Product specs


I've appreciated how the Thule Hullavator Pro's gas-assist struts effortlessly lift 40 lbs of the kayak, allowing me to manage it on my own.

Its double-extending arms brought the kayak down to waist level, making loading and strapping hassle-free.

The kayak sits snugly with 8 padded touch points, ensuring its safety.

Its wide cradle accommodated even my broader kayaks, and the corrosion-resistant aluminum and steel construction promised longevity.

Plus, it came with Thule QuickDraw tie-downs, simplifying the process for single kayak transportation.

Technical specs

Maximum load 77.1lbs (35kg)

Dimensions (LxWxH) 35.35x5.98x16.65 inches (89.7x15.2x42.3cm)

Weight 38.5lbs (17.5kg)

Material Constructed from high-quality aluminum with a corrosion-resistant coating

Vehicle fit

The Thule Hullavator Pro is compatible with most cross bar systems including:

  • Thule Wingbar Evo
  • Thule ProBar
  • Thule SquareBar

It's not compatible with the Thule Wingbar Edge crossbar.

Does it fit other cross bars?

If you're considering using the Thule Hullavator Pro with non-Thule cross bars, you'll want to ensure that:

  • The bars are round or have a round option to accomodate the rack's clamps or mounting system.
  • The bars have enough length to allow for that extra 4"-8" on each side, beyond the kayak rack's mounting feet.

In-depth research

A Personal Dive Into The Hullavator

Having grappled with multiple carriers over the years, I know the struggle of hoisting a kayak overhead.

The Hullavator Pro's gas-assisted struts are transformative, reducing the kayak’s weight during the lift by up to 40 pounds, making the entire process almost effortless.

Besides the lift-assist feature, the waist-level loading capability of the Hullavator Pro is its standout feature. This eliminates awkward overhead lifts, a feature that many other racks lack.

Who Is This For?

The Thule Hullavator Pro is best suited for individuals who love kayaking but struggle with the weight and height challenges of traditional roof-top carriers.

Solo trips: If you're someone who often sets out on solo kayaking trips, the Hullavator Pro can be a game-changer. It simplifies the loading process, allowing you to spend more time on the water and less time wrestling with your equipment.

Aging folks that keep active: For those passionate about kayaking but find the physical challenge of loading a kayak increasingly difficult due to age or strength constraints, the Hullavator Pro provides an ergonomic solution.

Love convenience? If you and your partner love to kayak but dread the hassle of loading two kayaks onto a compact car, the Hullavator Pro can streamline the process. It ensures that your trips start on a positive note, focusing on the adventure ahead rather than the challenges of preparation.

Also check out: Different types of kayak racks

How We Tested

Price, Value & Resale 8/10
Performance & Features 9/10
Reviews & Reputation 9/10
Ease of Use & Installation 8/10
Durability & Maintenance 8/10
Safety & Security 9/10
Versatility & Expandability 7/10
Design & Appearance 8/10
After-Sale Service 7/10
Storage & Portability 8/10

Learn more about our testing & scoring methodology.

That Price Tag - Value & Resale

Look, I won't beat around the bush: the Hullavator Pro comes in at a cool $949. Pricey? Maybe. Worth it? Absolutely.

Here's the scoop—its unique lift and quality are top-tier. So, when you consider reselling, which (let's face it) gear junkies often do, expect to get back a sweet 70% in the first couple of years. Not too shabby, right?

Performance & Nitty-Gritties

Here's the standout feature: the ability to reduce perceived kayak weight by 40 pounds during loading/unloading. (Your back will thank you)

Compatibility-wise, it meshes well with many vehicles and cross bars - especially those with Thule rack systems.

Watch a brief overview of the Hullavator features below:

User feedback & brand standing

With an impressive average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars on major retail platforms, the Hullavator Pro doesn't lack in accolades.

Thule, as a brand, has long held a reputable position in the outdoor gear market—a testament to its quality offerings.

Making it Work - Installation & Use

In terms of daily functionality, it excels; the product is efficient and user-friendly.

However, the initial installation has been noted by some as being somewhat involved—a one-time challenge that leads to ongoing ease and a bit of a learning curve there.

Tools Required for Installation

The installation of the Thule Hullavator Pro requires the following tools:

  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Adjustable wrench

Step-by-Step Installation Guide

The installation process of the Thule Hullavator Pro can be broken down into the following steps:

  1. Attach the cradles to the arms of the carrier using the provided screws and nuts.
  2. Mount the carrier onto your vehicle's roof rack, ensuring it is securely fastened.
  3. Adjust the position of the cradles to accommodate the size and shape of your kayak.
  4. Attach the straps to the carrier, making sure they are tight and secure.

This is the best video I've seen that demonstrates how easy is the setup and removal- it can be done under a minute.

Tough Love - Durability & Maintenance

This Hullavator Pro is made of stern stuff—corrosion-resistant materials that laugh in the face of wear and tear.

Whether it’s sun, rain, or a bit of both, this product stands tall.

And maintenance? A quick wipe-down (with your rag of choice) is all you need.

hullavator pro durable material
The Hullavator Pro is engineered for durability

Safety measures & assurances

With a sturdy weight capacity for kayaks up to 75 pounds and 36" wide, this isn’t some flimsy piece of kit.

It's about waist-level loading—no more pesky overhead lifting—and solid straps to keep your kayak snug.

Worried about theft? Fear not. Thule's got you covered with their One-Key lock system.

Versatility - One Trick Pony or Swiss Army Knife?

Designed predominantly for kayaks, the Hullavator Pro can accommodate certain canoes within its specifications.

While versatile in its primary function, it's not particularly expandable in terms of adding additional features or modifications.

But, as for expanding its capabilities? Well, it's more of a specialist than a jack-of-all-trades.

canoe mounted to hullavator pro
You can mount a canoe to the Hullavator Pro, not just kayaks

Look & Feel - Because Aesthetics Matter

Crafted with a mix of steel and aluminum, it's as sturdy as it is sleek.

It's a looker, complementing modern vehicles rather nicely.

And its footprint? In terms of size—it's considerate, not commandeering all the roof space.

Two Hullavator Pro kayak racks on the truck
The Two Hullavator is a modern transportation solution

After The Purchase - Service & All

If you ever hit a snag, Thule’s customer service team is on point—responsive and ever-helpful.

And with a limited lifetime warranty in your back pocket, you can rest easy.

Over the years, the Hullavator has evolved, with the Pro model squashing many a gripe from earlier iterations.

Cleaning and Upkeep

To keep your Thule Hullavator Pro in top condition, it is recommended to clean it regularly.

Use mild soap and water to remove any dirt or debris.

Inspect the carrier for any signs of wear or damage, and address any issues promptly.

Lubricate moving parts, such as hinges and gas-assist struts, with silicone spray to maintain smooth operation.

Storage & Moving Around

When you're not out conquering water bodies, its arms fold down all neat and tidy.

Should you wish to move it between vehicles or locations, the product is designed with portability in mind.

Alternatives and competitors

While the Hullavator Pro stands tall, products like the INNO INA453 offer vertical loading.

However, they miss out on the lift-assist mechanism, a unique feature for those who frequently kayak alone or have back constraints.

Compare lift-assist kayak racks

Looking for compare different racks? Try our comparison tool.

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User reviews

Impressive Functionality, Could Use Better Instructions and Locks

Rating: 4/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I'm no stranger to assembling and installing gadgets, having a background in mechanical repairs. That said, the Hullavator Pro seemed like the perfect answer for my struggles with lifting my kayak. The standout feature is the gas assist struts that effortlessly bring the kayak down, negating any need to reach up or pull out. However, the instructions were quite underwhelming for a product that nearly touches the thousand-dollar mark. Had to resort to YouTube to find clarity. Also, for the hefty price, I expected locks to be included. It's a little irksome to see them sold separately, especially when the product is already a significant investment. Though it performs well, the lack of clear instructions and absence of locks stopped it from getting a full 5 stars from me.

Reliable and Robust, Once You Get Past the Setup

Rating: 4.5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨

I won't lie, the initial setup was a bit daunting, especially given the lack of clarity in the instructions. Having said that, once I got into the groove of things, installation was straightforward, even with some rain trying to complicate things. The Hullavator Pro works wonders with my new, heavier kayak. However, the fact that locks aren't included in the package is a bit of a letdown. I don't fancy the idea of uninstalling and reinstalling it frequently, so it's mostly a permanent fixture on my vehicle now. It's sturdy, reliable, and a game-changer for solo kayakers like myself.

A Blessing for Aging Kayakers, but Oh, That Price!

Rating: 4.5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨

Age has started to creep up on my wife and me, and our beloved ocean kayaking was getting challenging, mostly the part where we had to lift our heavy tandem kayak. The Hullavator Pro seemed like the lifeline we needed. Now, the system is pretty ingenious, and the gas assist mechanism is a savior, allowing us to enjoy more seasons on the water. But the whole setup burned quite a hole in our pockets. The assembly instructions, laden with multiple languages and tiny pictures, weren't the easiest to decipher. Even for someone with a mechanical background like me, it took a while to get things right. The overall cost seems a bit high for what it offers, but the relief it brings to our shoulders is undeniable. If you can stomach the cost, it's a worthy investment.

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Expert Q&A

Here are some tips & insights on the Thule Hullavator Pro and answers to pressing questions I hear the most.

Q: Can I Use Two Hullavators on My Vehicle?

A: While Thule doesn't explicitly prevent users from mounting two of these carriers on their roof racks, it's crucial to consider the specifications of your roof rack. If you're working with a vehicle like the Ford Escape, the crossbars should be spacious enough to host both sets. And if you're utilizing a Thule roof rack, you can generally expect a decent weight capacity. However, always cross-check with the model specifics to ensure safety and prevent any potential damage.

Q: What's the Weight Capacity and Which Racks Are Compatible?

A: Diving deeper into the specifics,  the Thule Hullavator Pro has a load capacity of 75 lbs. It comes fully equipped with all the necessary straps and tie-downs, ready for the task. And in terms of compatibility, you're covered with AeroBlade, SquareBar, and even some factory racks. But remember, combining the weight of two carriers and the kayaks could put you over the limit of many Thule roof rack systems. It's not just about fitting them; it's about ensuring safety during transit.

Q: How Wide a Kayak Can the Hullavator Pro Accommodate?

A: A standout feature of the Hullavator Pro is its ability to fit kayaks with a hull width of up to 36 inches. But what truly impresses is its design—it can offset up to 40 lbs of a kayak's weight, easing the loading and unloading process significantly. As always, measure your kayak before purchasing to ensure compatibility.

Resources & references


The Thule Hullavator Pro is more than just a kayak carrier—it’s a solution to a problem many kayakers face.

While its price might be steep, the benefits that include it's convenience, safety and durability, in my view, outweigh the costs.

Ready to redefine your kayak transportation? The Thule Hullavator Pro might just for you.

Bill Nikolaou
I live for wild rides on rivers, and have passion for digital marketing. With 7 years of experience in white water guiding, I've transported more gear than most folks will in a lifetime. Need a reliable rack or carrier? I got you covered!