Kayaks can be labeled as a lot of things – “fun,” “exciting,” “portable,” and “safe” – but “affordable” isn’t one of them.
Don’t let your budget restrictions stop you from entering the kayaking world, though. It’s all about heading out on the water and having fun.
If it takes the best budget kayak to get you there, that’s perfectly fine.
On that note, I wanted to shine the light on some top-notch kayaks that also happen to be easy on the wallet – and, hopefully, put the myth that “cheaper” equals “inferior” to the rest!
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In A Rush? The Winner After 39 Hours Of Research:
Are Cheap Kayaks Worth It?
I remember back when I first got into water sports and was still in the process of choosing my first kayak. I couldn’t get over how mind-blowingly expensive these things are – but I was still willing to make that investment.
I figured that only an expensive kayak could give me the stability, on-water performance, and durability that I was after. And, cheap kayaks would be interior and a waste of money.
And it’s not that I was wrong. There certainly is a significant distinction between low-end and high-end kayaks that more than justifies the more-than-evident price variations.
But, here’s what I failed to consider:
You don’t necessarily have to spend a small fortune to get into kayaking. As long as you have a vessel, a fitting life jacket, and a paddle, you can get out on the water, provided that you keep your kayak’s capabilities – and limits – in mind.
Occasional day trips on a nearby lake, exploring the potential of kayaking as a new hobby, enjoying the sun and the fresh air while getting some exercise; these are all scenarios where a cheap recreational kayak should fit the bill.
Sure, if you’re not careful, buying an inexpensive kayak might be a bad investment. Then again, the same can happen with any of the more expensive models.
My point is that you shouldn’t treat the price tag of a kayak as a guarantee that it will be the right fit. You have to consider various factors and features before buying a kayak – cheap or not – because kayaks aren’t one-size-fits-all vessels.
Top tip – If you’re worried that kayaking might be a passing phase, or if your budget is super limited then there are some great used kayaks on the secondhand market.
Buying The Best Kayak For The Money: Factors To Consider
Choosing a kayak is stressful enough without the budget restrictions. But when you have a set amount of money to spend, your chances of finding a reliable boat that will take you out on the water starts looking pretty slim – especially for a newbie.
It can be done, though. For most of us, the price will always be a factor – but it’s not the only one.
My point is if you’re already looking to buy the best inexpensive kayak, going for the cheapest possible option you come across isn’t the best way to go about it.
There are still some factors to consider here because you should never compromise quality and safety when choosing a kayak – no matter what your budget is.
Here, I’ll break it down for you!
Know Your Options: Types Of Kayaks You Can Get Without Breaking The Bank
Getting the best kayak for the money doesn’t mean that you don’t get to be picky. It’s all too easy to forget that a limited budget doesn’t necessarily mean limited options.
Sure, it’s going to be a lot trickier – and you’ll have to pick your battles wisely – but it can be done.
The first step is deciding on the type of kayak you want to get based on your needs, intended uses, and preferences.
Start by establishing whether you want a sit-on-top or a sit-inside kayak:
With a sit-on-top kayak, you sit on top of the hull, which makes it feel more spacious, allows some freedom of movement, and minimizes the risk of capsizing, which is a common concern among beginners or those looking for a cheap kayak for fishing.
On the other hand, sit-inside kayaks ones feature enclosed cockpits and are generally built for speed and rough waters. You’re sitting inside the hull, which offers protection from the elements – but at the cost of restricted mobility.
Next, ask yourself if you’d like to go with a traditional hard-shell or would you prefer the portability and convenience of an inflatable kayak.
The former may be the definition of a traditional kayak, but the latter almost always fits tight budgets, weighs less, is easier to transport and store – and is generally less costly to own.
Lastly, consider who will be joining you on your paddling excursions.
Tandem kayaks are harder to track down in the pocket-friendly price range, but they’re still an excellent low-cost alternative to buying two one-person kayaks. Tandem or not, be sure to check the kayak’s weight capacity.
Also don’t be fooled into buying an unbranded or not well known brand, based on a glossy advert offering premium features on a lemonade budget – often these kayak brands fall very short of the mark.
Materials & Construction: Cheap Shouldn’t Mean Poorly Made
When you’re out there on the water, it’s essential that you feel safe and confident in your kayak’s performance. That’s why the next step in your search for the best affordable kayak is construction – and the durability that comes with it.
But can you genuinely expect a cheap kayak to be durable? Or is this one of those “you get what you paid for” scenarios?
Well, to be frank, it’s a little bit of both.
On the one hand, it’s entirely possible to get a well-made vessel at a lower price point.
Your kayak won’t just fall apart at first sight of a wave or strong current because you didn’t fork out for an industry-leading model.
Most budget-friendly hard-shells are made from rotomolded polyethylene, which is surprisingly resilient and does create a sturdy hull. Inflatables – the most common type of inexpensive kayaks – have gotten pretty rugged and puncture-resistant, too, with PVC being the go-to material.
But on the other hand, you can’t expect to have the same choice of materials.
We’d all like to have a fiberglass, Kevlar, or carbon fiber kayak in our collection, but at this price point, that’s simply not an option. Yes, these materials are superior to polyethylene in every way, but they’re also expensive – and you’re on a tight budget here.
Kayak’s Dimensions & Everything That Comes With It
The bigger the kayak, the harder it is to transport it from point A to point B and find a suitable storage space for it when it’s not in use.
Cheap inflatable kayaks are at a definite advantage here, as they typically weigh around 30 pounds and pack down to a size of an average duffel bag.
Moreover, the hull’s dimensions and design have a dramatic impact on its on-water performance, including stability, maneuverability, and tracking. That’s why you should remember to check the kayak’s length and width.
The rule of thumb is:
Longer kayaks – 12 feet or more – offer better tracking and speed, and are best suited for more extended tours, as they cruise more efficiently. Short hulls, while not particularly fast, offer more maneuverability, and are typically lighter, more portable, and cost less.
As for the width, the broader the hull is – think 30 or so inches – the more stable the kayak feels. You’ll have to give up speed, though.
You shouldn’t overlook your body type, mainly height and weight, in relation to the kayak’s size, either.
For example, I’m a pretty big guy, standing at six foot three and 230 pounds. I have to be realistic about where I can and cannot fit.
Plus, all kayaks have specified weight limits; failing to consider this can, quite literally, make a difference between sinking and staying afloat.
Any Other Extras Worth Mentioning?
When I say “extras,” I don’t mean the bells and whistles that will add to the kayak’s price. Accessories are fun and all, but if you want something cost-efficient, you’ll likely have to settle for a more stripped-down kayak. Plus you always add those items later, the aftermarket is full of kayak mods – so save those dollars for another day.
What I’m talking about, instead, are features that might not necessarily play into the kayak’s construction, durability, or performance, but can still make a difference to you, the paddler.
Even though you don’t have a lot to invest, you shouldn’t miss out on the convenience, comfort, and ease of use that these little extras bring to the table. I’d say that’s what turns any cheap kayak into the best value kayak.
Here’s a quick example of what I mean:
- Onboard storage space for water, food, gear, and the like
- Comes with a paddle (or paddles)
- Includes a pump (if you’re getting an inflatable kayak)
- A seat with at least some level of adjustment
- Built-in carry handles for easier transportation
- A skeg or a rudder system
- Scupper plugs
Best Cheap Kayaks Reviews – Top 10 Kayaks Worth The Money
Conclusion – What Is the Best Kayak For the Money?
Okay, it’s time to bring this search for the best value kayak to an end. If there’s anything I’d like you to take away from this, it’s this:
It’s not impossible to get a quality-made kayak that’s easy on the wallet, but you have to choose wisely. Sure, you might have to pass on some bells and whistles, but other than that, you don’t have to make that many sacrifices when sticking to the low to mid-price range.
Take Perception Joyride 10, for example:
It’s 10-feet of kayaking goodness. The heavy duty polyethylene hard-shell has stability and maneuverability – even in calm coastal waters – spacious cockpit with adjustable foot braces – a substantial weight capacity with storage options to boot, and an incredibly comfortable seating system.
It doesn’t feel like you’re missing out on much with the best budget kayak when you put it like that, now, does it?