Lift-Assist Kayak Racks (Ultimate Guide for 2021)

Lift-assist kayak racks are one of the four main types of kayak racks. Lift-assist kayak racks help those who have difficulty lifting their kayak onto the roof of their vehicle, therefore they can be extremely useful. This article provides all the information you’ll want to know about lift-assist kayak racks.

If you want to skip to our top recommendations for lift-assist kayak racks, click here or view the table below:

Thule Hullavator Pro (May be unavailable due to popularity)Best Overall Kayak Lift-Assist
Seattle Sports Sherpak Boat RollerBest Affordable Kayak Lift-Assist
INNO INA453 Kayak LifterBest Side-Loading Kayak Lift-Assist

What is a Lift-Assist Kayak Rack?

A lift-assist kayak rack makes it easier to lift a kayak onto your vehicle’s roof. They come in many different designs, styles, and levels of lift assistance.

Lift-assist kayak rack designs vary depending on the type of kayak rack. There are different types of lift-assist for j-style racks, horizontal racks, etc.

Some lift-assist racks are complete rack sets that include everything you need, while others may simply be an attachment to an existing kayak rack.

Many lift-assist systems are simple and make the job of loading your kayak slightly easier. For example, some lift-assist racks have a rolling system, that allows you to easily slide the kayak onto the roof.

There are also advanced lift-assist kayak racks available that make it very easy to load your kayak. For example, the Thule Hullavator Pro lifts up to 40lbs of the kayak’s weight, which is often more than half of the entire weight of the kayak rack!


Advantages of Lift-Assist Kayak Racks

Lift-assist kayak racks have great benefits which makes them very popular.

Most importantly, lift-assist kayak racks allow people who are not capable of loading a kayak on a vehicle to enjoy the sport of kayaking. Often, loading a kayak by hand can stop someone from kayaking in general, since this is a very physically demanding task.


Disadvantages of Lift-Assist Kayak Racks

There are two main disadvantages of lift-assist kayak racks: compatibility and price.

The main disadvantage of a lift-assist kayak rack is compatibility. Most lift-assist systems only work with certain brands or styles of kayak racks. It may be difficult to find a compatible lift-assist system if you’ve already purchased your kayak rack or crossbars.

Although it isn’t technically a disadvantage, price is an important factor to consider when purchasing a lift-assist kayak rack.

Some lift-assist kayak racks can cost more than $600, depending on the complexity of the lift-assist system. This isn’t necessarily bad, since lift-assist kayak racks are extremely valuable to those who can’t load their kayak by themselves.


Lift-Assist Kayak Racks: Pros and Cons

PROS:

  • Makes it easy to load your kayak
  • Reduces the lifting weight of the kayak
  • Easy to use
  • Sturdy
  • Wide range of lift assistance levels

CONS:

  • Limited compatibility with racks and crossbars
  • Some models can be very expensive

Should I Buy a Lift-Assist Kayak Rack?

If you struggle to load your kayak or are completely unable to load it, you should definitely invest in a lift-assist kayak rack. They are also great if you are physically capable, but often need to load your kayak by yourself.

Lift-assist kayaks will also benefit those who own larger, heavier kayaks, since lift systems will help reduce the weight of the kayak.


How Much Does a Lift-Assist Kayak Rack Cost?

Since there are so many different types of lift assistance available on the market, the prices of lift-assist kayak racks vary greatly.

Lift-assist kayak racks can cost anywhere from $100 to $650 or more, depending on the type of lift assistance offered.

The most expensive lift-assist kayak racks carry the majority of the kayak’s and drastically reduce the effort needed to load a kayak.

Cheaper lift-assist systems may feature simple attachments to make it easier to load the kayak by hand, such as rollers or bars that extend out from the crossbars.

Recommended: How Much Do Kayak Racks Cost?


Best Lift-Assist Kayak Racks

With a wide variety of lift-assist kayak racks available on the market, it can be difficult to choose the best one for your situation. We’ve researched and chosen our top 3 lift-assist kayak racks to help you find the best lift-assist system.

1. Thule Hullavator Pro – Best Overall Lift-Assist Kayak Rack

The Hullavator Pro is one of Thule’s most notable products. This lift-assist kayak rack handles up to 40lbs of the kayak’s weight so you can load and unload on your own. It extends from the crossbars and down the side of the vehicle, allowing you to load the kayak at waist level!

The Hullavator Pro fits kayaks up to 36 inches wide and 75lbs heavy. The system features dual extending arms that lower the kayak as much as 3 feet. It’s made of strong, durable materials and the kayak cradles are heavily padded to keep your kayak safe. The rack also includes bow and stern tie-downs.

People who purchased the Thule Hullavator Pro were very impressed with the lift-assist feature. The system is very easy to use and allows people to enjoy the sport of kayaking when they previously couldn’t due to physical limitations.

There aren’t many negative points associated with the Hullavator Pro, but there are a few important points to consider before purchasing.

When the rack is attached, it will add an extra 18 inches to your vehicle’s clearance. This is important to remember when driving under low structures, such as garages.

Additionally, the Hullavator Pro is only compatible with Thule crossbars. You should verify that the rack fits your vehicle before purchasing.

Overall, the Hullavator Pro by Thule is an outstanding product that has improved the loading and unloading experience for many people’s kayaking trips. Its quality and lift-assist technology make the Hullavator Pro our pick for the best lift-assist kayak rack available on the market.

2. Seattle Sports Sherpak Boat Roller – Best Affordable Lift-Assist System

The Sherpak Boat Roller by Seattle Sports is a rear-loading kayak lift assist system that suctions onto your rear window/roof which allows one person to easily load and unload kayaks, canoes, and more.

The Sherpak Boat Roller attaches to your car using suction cups. It has a foam roller that you use to slide the kayak onto the roof.

This lift assist system is not something you use while you’re driving. Rather, you attach it temporary to load your kayak then remove it once the kayak is on your roof.

People who purchased the Sherpak Boat Roller were very impressed with the results and highly recommended it. The only major issue people had was using this product with a curved rear window. If you have a curved rear window, the suction cups may not get enough suction to the window.

Overall, the Sherpak Boat Roller is great because it is one of the cheapest lift-assist systems available on the market and it works very well.

3. INNO INA453 Kayak Lifter – Best Side-Loading Lift-Assist System

The INNO INA453 Kayak Lifter is a kayak lift-assist system that loads from the side of your vehicle.

It is more expensive than the Sherpack Boat Roller that we mentioned above, so why might you want a side-loading lift-assist system?

A side-loading lift-asset system will allow you to load your kayak when you may need to park bumper-to-bumper.

Side-loading may not seem like a huge benefit, but if you park your car on the street you may have cars parked behind yours, so you’ll need to load from the side. Additionally, if you’re unloading your kayak on a road pull-off, parking is often in a “bumper-to-bumper” layout.

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