Whether used for bikes, kayaks, or simply as a means of additional storage space for the gear that will not fit inside the vehicle, every outdoor enthusiast has likely considered having roof rack tracks added to the top of their vehicle. When exploring the options, two names likely show up at the top of any search: Thule and Yakima. But are these two names for the same type of track?
Thule and Yakima tracks are not the same. However, they are extremely similar products, with a high degree of interchangeability existing between the companies’ tracks and accessories.
Rather than looking at the brand of the tracks, it is important to consider the shape of the tracks and the attachment style of the accessory you are trying to mount. When doing this, I’ve found that there is very little difference between Thule and Yakima roof rack tracks. Read on to learn more about what those subtle differences are.
Are Thule Tracks the Same as Yakima Tracks?
Thule tracks are not the same as Yakima tracks. Although nearly all accessories from both companies, such as kayak racks, bike racks, roof baskets, and cargo boxes, will fit with either type of track.
There are a couple of distinguishing characteristics between Thule and Yakima tracks:
- While similar in price, Thule tracks will be slightly more expensive than Yakima tracks.
- Crossbars on Thule tracks are rectangular in section, while crossbars on Yakima tracks are round in section. Users have reported that it is easier to load kayaks onto the rectangular Thule tracks.
Are Thule Tracks Better Than Yakima Tracks?
In the game of car stowage accessories, Thule definitely holds a premium place. The company has been around longer than Yakima, and its products tend to be a bit pricier. Without a doubt, you will not go wrong installing Thule tracks on your vehicle.
However, Yakima has emerged as a strong option for those who do not require the premium name brand. Yakima tracks are very subtle in appearance, which is an important consideration for those who do not want their vehicle to look awkward when the tracks are not being used for storage. They provide the same benefits as Thule at a slightly lower cost.
Are Thule and Yakima Tracks Compatible?
You can use storage accessories from either company with either type of track. Rather than looking at the brand of the track, it is essential to consider the attachment of the accessory and see if it will be compatible with the tracks you have chosen in terms of size and shape.
Although there are advantages to using tracks and rack accessories from the same brand—you will only need to have one key to lock all parts of the system—you can intermingle Thule and Yakima, provided that you have examined the crossbar and determined that the accessory will be a fit for the system.
Are All Roof Top Storage Tracks the Same?
As Thule and Yakima are extremely similar systems, you may be wondering if any type of roof track is as good as the next. Although there are several different universal, one-size-fits-all track systems that are marketed to be compatible with any vehicle, it is best to exercise caution, as they have been known to cause damage to vehicles’ roofs when the fit is not correct.
Thule and Yakima provide roof rack fits for the vast majority of vehicle makes and models. Even still, it is crucial to consider a few points before installing tracks on your vehicle:
- Check the fit guide. Both Thule and Yakima will provide information about the size of the tracks that will fit your vehicle in terms of the distance across the vehicle and the space between the front and back tracks. The latter is known as “bar spread,” and the greater the bar spread, the longer the items you can tote.
- Consider the weight limits. Although Thule and Yakima tracks and crossbars will be rated to support the same amount of weight, it is essential to find the option that allows you to tote as much as possible, provided that your vehicle has a strong enough engine and the extra weight will not damage the chassis.
- Check accessory compatibility. Although it has been mentioned that there is cross-compatibility between the two brands, it is important to check the tracks before installing to see if they will fit the type of accessories you plan on using.
- Look at any manufacturer notes. Whether you choose Thule or Yakima, it is essential to check the manufacturer’s notes to see if any special instructions may influence functionality. For example, cars with sunroofs may not be compatible with all types of tracks.
Thule and Yakima tracks are not the same. However, both are extremely similar in terms of appearance and functionality. They also have a high degree of cross-compatibility, meaning that you will more than likely be able to use your accessories with either type of track, regardless of brand.