The Hullavator 898 Pro has replaced the Hullavator 897XT in the Thule Kayak assisted-lift roof rack line up. The Hullavator 898 Pro has slight design upgrades.
It is easier to source and can notably carry a couple more inches of hull. However, the Hullavator 897XT has slightly different roof rack compatibility. It is still a durable, excellent option, if you can find one for sale.
Quick Look: Comparison Table
Unlike canoes, which often carry more than one person, many kayakers enjoy the serenity and adventure of paddling solo. This can pose a challenge for loading and lowering well-loved boats onto roof racks.
Both Thule kayak rack designs are centered around creating a simple, pleasant loading process. Your vehicle’s roof racks may be higher than you can comfortably reach. Other times, your kayak weight, an injury or immobility may prevent ease of loading.
The Hullavator 897XT and 898 Pro offer an empowering solution to these problems. They are built with quality materials, brilliantly refined design and boast a lifetime warranty. Both Hullavator kayak racks rarely disappoint.
Both racks lower down the side of the vehicle by 40 inches when users engage trigger handles. They make two simple and secure motions on the load arms.
Your traditional or fishing kayak can then be loaded, with the cockpit facing outwards, onto a J-shaped cradle. A sliding cradle adjusts, using fasteners, to secure the kayak from the top.
Both racks feature easy-to-use loading straps. They have cam buckles and eight padded points of contact for kayak security. The loading arms use gas-power to lift 40 lbs. of the kayak’s weight once loaded.
Roof Rack Compatibility
There is pressure exerted on Hullavator racks because of their side-loading capacity. Therefore, it is not recommended to use them with roof racks other than compatible Thule racks. Those include the Thule Square, Aeroblade, Xsporter, Yakiomo Round Bars and Rapid Areo.
The 897XT requires an adapter for the Aeroblade rack. However, the 898 Pro does not. The 898 Pro also no longer can be supported by the Professional Series Racks (ProRacks). This is because they have since been adapted.
Replacing the racks would add a lot to the cost of getting your Hullavator up and running. So the 897XT is definitely a more affordable option for ProRack or Rhode Gear rack owners.
With an Aeroblade Rack, however, a Thule XAdapt 11 is an easy install. It runs under $40. Therefore, requiring the adapter for the 897XT on Aeroblade Racks is less of a deal-breaker.
When they first released the Hullavator 897XT, Thule claimed that it could hold a kayak with a 36-inch hull. User feedback proved that this wasn’t the case. Depending on the boat’s contour, some 36-inch kayaks did not fit easily.
In response, they created the Hullavator 898 Pro to be slightly larger. The specs on the Thule website look identical in terms of kayak size compatibility. However, users claim that the 898 Pro can comfortably accommodate a larger kayak than the 897XT.
Some kayakers fit kayaks with hulls as large as 38 inches into the 898 Pro. This isn’t a factor for most touring or sea kayaks that would fit under the 34-inch limit anyway. However, many recreational kayaks are within the 34-inch to 36-inch range.
If you are a recreational kayak owner, or if you want the option to transport a recreational kayak for a friend using your Hullavator, the 898 Pro is an obvious versatile choice.
Design and Features
The 898 Pro rack comes in at 42.1 lbs., a mere 1.2 lbs. over the 897XT, probably due to the slight added width. The 898 Pro also arguably has a slightly more sleek and modern design with a higher black to silver ratio and fewer, smaller ‘Thule’ logos.
The pads on the sliding cradle are also a couple of inches longer on the 898 Pro, which increases the contact area and security for most kayaks. However, since the shape is slightly more specific, a kayak that doesn’t fit well with the shape of the extended pads may actually have less contact. This isn’t a huge factor since the kayak will still be more than secure enough even if the fit isn’t perfect.
The Hullavator 898 comes with a plastic wedge tool used for installation that the 897XT does not. This may speed up the process of the initial installation very slightly, but the tool isn’t essential and won’t affect the day-to-day usage of the rack once the installation is complete.
According to Thule, the Hullavator 898 Pro appears to boast a locking system upgrade from the 897XT. However, don’t let it fool you.
While you should use the 897XT with the Thule SKS Lock Cylinder and the 898 for the One-Key Lock Cylinder, you can install both locks on either rack. The One-Key Lock Cylinder has the convenience of using one key for all your Thule products.
While easier to keep track of your keys, this is a gimmick if you only own one Thule product anyway. Some users also have concerns that because the One-Key Lock Cylinder has a replaceable core, you can order the keys online. Therefore, it’s possible for a thief with excellent forethought to order the matching key online.
As I mentioned, the Hullavator 898 Pro is the newer version of the Hullavator 897XT. Thule no longer sells the Hullavator 897XT online and it is no longer available on Amazon.
The 898 Pro is easily available at places that sell Thule roof racks, including outdoors stores, Amazon, the Thule website and other online roof rack suppliers.
The only way to find a 897XT is to buy one used or perhaps find unsold stock at an outfitter near you. Especially considering that there is a new model available, a used 897XT may be good for the budget, but only if you can find one for sale at all.
Ultimately, the Hullavator 897XT and Hullavator 898 Pro are very similar and both would be a dependable, practical and sleek choice for most kayakers. If you already have Professional Series roof racks or if price is an important factor, sourcing a Hullavator 897XT might be worth it.
Otherwise, there is no reason not to go with the new Hullavator 898 Pro. If nothing else is particularly notable between the two, the Hullavator 898 Pro is more readily available and keeps your options open to transport that 36-inch kayak you have stored in your garage.