Cheaper Dick’s kayaks from manufacturers like Sun Dolphin and Pelican often feature bare bones outfitting. Higher-end, more expensive recreational kayaks from Perception, Ocean Kayak and Old Town will have more comfortable and ergonomic seats. Regardless of the make and model, take a close look at comfort features like the seat (is it padded and supportive for your body type?). Foot rests are critical to give you purchase on the kayak to paddle efficiently and are often absent in lower-priced kayaks; if they’re present, make sure they’re functional and not damaged by grit or sand. Some sit-inside Dick’s kayaks are also equipped with a bulkhead, a critical feature for safety and seaworthiness that will keep a swamped kayak afloat: make sure it’s solid and intact.
Outfitting is the critical interface between the paddler and kayak, including the seat, back support, thigh rests and foot rests. Often these features lack refinement in budget-priced Dick’s kayaks. You will find more ergonomic seats and other comfort features in higher-end Dick’s kayaks manufactured by Perception, Ocean Kayak and Old Town. Examine these components individually and consider how well they work together as a whole—the easiest way to achieve this is by sitting in the boat (and ideally paddling it) to make sure it feels comfortable. Think about how long you’ll be sitting in the kayak. If it’s uncomfortable in a quick test, how will it feel after an hour? Outfitting often comes down to personal preference; there’s no one-size-fits-all.
Take a close look and consider investing in a more expensive kayak if you plan on more serious paddling. If you’re handy, outfitting is easily modified with some glue, foam and DIY time; consider any upgrades you could make to save a few bucks and get a custom fit.
On the water
The only way to fully appreciate the comfort and performance of a kayak is to try it before committing to a purchase. Arrange a meeting place with the seller that allows you to take a few moments on the water. Bring your usual paddle and dress in what you plan to wear while paddling. With a sit-inside kayak, be sure to assess how easy the boat is to enter and exit.
Make a deal
In general (that is, before Covid-19 put a premium on outdoor equipment) the typical starting point for a used kayak in moderate condition was about half its retail price. All that’s changed in the wake of boat shortages brought on by the pandemic, but you can use it as a starting point in haggling a fair price.
Add some accessories
Accessories are key elements of fishing kayaks; if you want to do some kayak angling, make sure you examine features like rod holders, gear tracks and live wells.
If you’re offered a PFD as part of a used kayak sale make sure it’s in good shape, fits properly and is Coast Guard-approved for the location you’ll be paddling.