You don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy a day on the water. This guide will help you find a budget-friendly kayak for your next outdoor adventure.
Finding the best kayak under $500 takes some serious work. That’s where we come in, to help you find some hidden gems.
Kayaks are a great way to explore the outdoors. You can often get to places that you otherwise can’t with a “regular” boat. Even an expensive kayak will cost considerably less than other vessels. But In this article, we focus on kayaks less than $500.
Here’s a peak at the top picks:
Best Kayak Under 500
With a kayak, you can get some exercise, go fishing, or spend a quiet afternoon relaxing on a lake. You access remote areas of lakes and rivers or spend the night camping. There are so many great activities you can do with a kayak without spending a fortune.
We have chosen various types of kayaks, including sit-on-top, sit-inside, and inflatable. People have different needs, and there are a lot of options to choose from.
#1 Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak
- 5-minute setup lets you spend more time on the water
- Easy-to-carry backpack system turns into the seat
- 21-gauge PVC construction is rugged for lake use
- Tarpaulin bottom provides durable protection from punctures
- Multiple air chambers allow another chamber to stay inflated if one is punctured
- Sit on top kayak
- 5-minute setup
- Comes with a paddle and pump
The Sevylor Quikpak is one of the best inflatable kayaks under $500 because it comes with everything you need to get started.
This model includes a high-pressure hand pump, a paddle that breaks down for storage, and a backpack to carry your boat. This kayak is an all-in-one model that sets up in five minutes.
One of the cool features of this kayak is the backpack turns into the seat, which means less gear to carry. There are multiple air chambers, so if one is punctured, you need not worry. Double-locking valves make inflating and deflating easy.
There is a bungee tie-down on the front of the kayak and easy carrying handles on the bow and stern. Multiple footrest positions are great for different sizes of paddlers.
This is one of the best inflatable kayaks under 500 because it’s easy to set up, comes with everything you need to get started, and won’t cost you a fortune.
You can take this to remote areas with the included backpack. With a 400-pound weight capacity, this little guy is small but mighty.
The downside is that this kayak does not perform well in choppy, windy conditions, I can tell you that much. If you want an inflatable kayak under $500 for windy or choppy conditions, you will be better off with the Sea Eagle 370 or the Intex Challenger K2.
Comes with a backpack carrier
Paddle and pump are included
Durable bottom helps protect from punctures
Easy to store
Kind of sluggish in the water
Some users indicate the paddle is flimsy
#2 Intex Challenger kayak
- ✔ SUPER-STRONG – SuperStrong enhanced molecular formulation PVC provides superior...
- ✔ LOW PROFILE DESIGN – The Challenger K1 has a streamlined low-profile design...
- ✔ COCKPIT SEATS – Built with removable and adjustable seats, the cockpit design...
- ✔ REMOVABLE SKEG – Attached to the underside of the kayak, the removable skeg...
- ✔ 1-PERSON CAPACITY – Inflated size is 9 feet x 2.6 feet x 1.1 feet with a weight...
- up to 400-pound capacity
- Comes with a pump and paddle
- Easy to setup
You can find the Intex Challenger kayaks in many big box stores and online. There are two options in the series, the Intex Challenger K1, and Intex Challenger K2. Both are very popular models, for good reason. These inflatable kayaks are inexpensive and come with everything you need to get started.
Both inflatable kayaks include an 84-inch aluminum paddle (s), a hi-output pump, a carry bag, and a repair kit. One thing that is often overlooked with an inflatable kayak is the repair kit, so thank you, Intex.
The cockpit helps to protect your legs from water spray and weather. The comfortable, adjustable seats will allow you to be on the water for hours. A quick note about the seat: I prefer not to blow up the bottom of the seat, and just blow up the backrest.
This allows for more upper-back support, in my opinion. I sit up high enough as it is, so I don’t need the extra boost. And, since it’s an inflatable kayak, you aren’t sitting on a hard plastic hull.
The paddle breaks down into four pieces for secure storage and transport. Speaking of transporting, the K1 K2 are super easy to take with you in an RV, car, camping, or whatever.
There is a cargo net on the front of the kayak to secure your dry bag or other gear you bring with you. The Challenger kayaks have two air chambers and an I-beam on the floor for added stability.
The kayaks also come with a removable skeg, and when you paddle with the skeg on, you will be surprised how well the kayak tracks for a cheap inflatable.
Honestly, the first time my son took out the K2, he didn’t put the skeg on and was paddling in circles.
When you get these kayaks inflated correctly, so it’s nice and rigid, they perform surprisingly well, even in choppy water. The kicker is to make sure it’s all the way inflated. One day on the water, my son was paddling the K2. He was struggling in the windy choppy conditions.
I swapped him out with my kayak, and the first thing I noticed was that he hadn’t pumped the K2 up enough. So, I paddled over to the shore and pumped that sucker up. The difference in paddling was night and day!
If you are looking for a great all-in-one kayak package, the Intex K1 or K2 are great options. Everything is included to get you on the water fast. The kayak is well-priced, easy to set up, and lightweight, making it one of the best kayaks under 500.
The downside to these kayaks is getting all the water out when you are finished. There are so many crevasses that water can get into. I usually wipe it down the best I can, then bow it up and hang it upside down when I get home.
Comes with a paddle, pump and repair kit
Little back support with the seat
#3 Sevylor Fiji 2-Person Kayak
- 22-gauge PVC construction is rugged for lake use
- Multiple air chambers allow another chamber to stay inflated if one is punctured
- Airtight System is guaranteed not to leak
- Mini Double Lock and Double Lock valves use two locking points for easy...
- Spray covers block splashes to help keep you dry
- Rugged PVC construction
- One or two paddlers
- Holds up to 400 pounds
The Sevylor Fiji is another super affordable inflatable kayak under $500. With a removable middle seat, this inflatable kayak allows you to have one or two paddlers.
There is plenty of space for two people and your gear. This is a great option if you want to spend a day on the water.
This inflatable kayak comes with almost everything you need to get started, BUT it doesn’t come with a pump or a skeg (bummer). But you get a paddle and a carry bag. The paddle is good enough to get you started, but it’s something you may want to upgrade down the road.
This kayak handles well on flat water. You may want to add a skeg for better tracking. It’s easy to inflate and is reinforced with multiple air chambers.
If you get a puncture, you can still make it to shore. Storing and transporting an inflatable kayak is super easy, which is one of the main benefits.
The negative aspect of this kayak is that it doesn’t come with a pump or a repair kit. I recommend a high-flow hand pump or a pump you can plug into your car.
If you are looking for a kayak under $500, this one is worth a look. With no skeg, you will be better off with the Challenger K2 kayak, which comes with everything you need. But if you want a really inexpensive kayak for calm water, this is a solid option.
Have fun on your next kayak adventure with this kayak that is easy on your budget. Don’t forget to buy a repair kit.
Easy to inflate and deflate
Easy to store and transport
Holds up to 400 pounds
For one or two paddlers
Rugged PVC construction
Doesn’t come with a pump
Doesn’t come with a skeg (but you can buy it separately)
#4 Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100
- Constructed of uv-protected high-density Polyethylene. Multiple footrest positions...
- Adjustable padded seat back and seat pad for comfort. Two flush mounted fishing rod...
- Front and rear shock cord straps. Two 6" storage compartments in rear and center. One...
- Front and rear t-handles for easy transport. Deep hull tracking channels
- Stability chine rails. Durable high-density Polyethylene (HDPE) construction
- Very stable with a flat bottom hull
- Ample storage space
First, I want to say the Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 is pretty impressive at this price point. You get a 10-foot sit-on-top kayak that has plenty of great features.
Front and rear bungee storage are awesome. It has plenty of room for a day trip with all your gear. You can strap a cooler down to the back and dry bags and other gear in the front. There is even room for Fido 🙂
One feature I love about this yak is the covered storage compartments. You don’t always find a sit-on-top kayak with covered storage. The hatches open up to the main hull cavity.
Make sure you keep anything you don’t want to get wet in a dry bag or box. Even though these hatches are sealed, some water can still get inside.
For a “cheap” kayak, the Tamarack 100 paddles and tracks well. The kayak is balanced and stays straight. Because it’s a shorter kayak, it’s susceptible to choppy water, but it handles well for a lightweight kayak.
I love the integrated fishing rod holders behind the seat and on the side of the kayak. Super great for recreational fishing.
The kayak weighs about 57 pounds, which is a little heavy to hoist onto a kayak rack. The seat is surprisingly comfy for a budget kayak. There are plenty of footrest positions. I love to stretch my legs when I paddle, so this is a huge plus.
Given the features, this is one of the best kayaks under $500.
Large open deck
Comes with a nice seat
Bow and stern carry handles
Lots of storage and bungee tie downs
Not great in choppy water
275 weight capacity is not great for larger folks
#5 Pelican Maxim Sit in kayak
- Upgraded Features: Additional storage in this kayak includes a front hatch with...
- Stable: The shallow V-chine hull offers better manoeuverability and tracking while...
- Safe: Added floating blocks on each side of the kayak along with a flatter hull type...
- Comfortable: Paddle in comfort with an adjustable ERGOFORM padded backrest with...
- Lightweight: Our kayaks being made with exceptionally durable high molecular density...
- 275-pound capacity
- ERGOFORM seating
- Molded footrest
The Pelican Maxim is a solid kayak priced under $500. Pelican makes a lot of these types of kayaks under a variety of different models (names).
The Maxim sit-inside kayak is light at 36 pounds, and it’s not too difficult to toss on top of a roof rack. I say, “not too difficult,” but I am decently tall and strong, yet I still struggle to put this on top of an SUV. With a smaller passenger car, it’s a lot easier.
For example, the biggest challenge of putting this on top of a roof rack on an SUV is that kayaks are so awkwardly shaped. Anyway, I digress.
Paddling the Maxim is easy, especially on calm days. I struggled a bit in windy, choppy conditions with this kayak because it’s on the shorter side and it’s lightweight. To get through chop, a heavier, longer kayak is much better.
But for the average paddler, this kayak is easy to paddle and tracks well in calm conditions.
The Pelican Maxim has a covered, nice front storage hatch, but water can still sneak its way in. So make sure you seal your valuables (or anything you don’t want to get wet) in a dry bag or box.
The rear storage is nice for a pack or cooler. Front and rear carry handles are great for transporting the kayak.
The molded footrests are great. You can easily change your posture or seated position. This is also great for different sizes of people paddling the kayak.
The Maxim is durable and easy to paddle, making it a solid kayak under $500. Psssst…it doesn’t come with a paddle, so that’s an added expense.
Lightweight, easy to transport
Tracks and maneuvers well
Handle grips on front and back
Does not come with a paddle
Not great in windy/choppy conditions
#6 Sea Eagle 330 Sport
- Lashed down inflatable spray skirts w/ storage underneath
- 2 skegs on the bottom for better tracking & speed
- Removable inflatable seats
- Self bailing drain valve and Three deluxe one-way valves
- Sun & saltwater resistant hull material
- Pump, paddles, and repair kit included
- Dual skegs for tracking
- 500-pound capacity
Sea Eagle has been producing high-quality inflatable kayaks for decades. The great thing about the SE330 is the carrying capacity of 500 pounds.
You can load this kayak with people, gear, and even your dog. The Sea Eagle only weighs 26 pounds, so it’s easy to take anywhere. It fits easily in the trunk or backseat of your car or an SUV, and it’s great for RVs and camping.
The SE330 comes with everything you need to hit the water. You get two paddles, a high-output pump, a repair kit, inflatable seats, and a nice carry bag.
Inflating the kayak with the included pump takes some work. But you should be up and running in about 10 minutes.
The SE330 paddles well for a budget inflatable kayak. There are dual skegs built-in, so it tracks well or a budget inflatable kayak. Don’t expect to break any speed records paddling this kayak.
This is a great kayak for families or grandparents who want to take grandkids on the water. For the price and accessories included, this is a great inflatable kayak for under 500 bucks.
If you buy the kayak from Sea Eagle directly, different packages/options are available. Amazon also has some options, but you get more with Sea Eagle direct. For example, you can upgrade the paddles and seats to stay under $500.
Comes fully equipped to hit the water
Includes paddles, air pump, and carrying bag
Seats don’t provide much support
Kind of sluggish in the water
#7 Perception Flash 9.5 Sit Inside Kayak
- Experience Premium Performance: The Perception Flash 9.5 Sit Inside Kayak delivers an...
- Lightweight for Ease of Use: At a weight of just 41 lbs, this kayak is easy to carry...
- Versatile and Ready for Adventure: Built-in rod holders make this kayak an angler's...
- Comfort and Convenience: This sit-inside kayak offers a dry and comfortable ride,...
- Perfect for Various Water Conditions: Whether you're heading out on a calm lake,...
- Stable design
- Adjustable footrest
- Easy to paddle
Perception is a leader in the kayak industry for good reason. They design and build high-quality kayaks at an affordable price. The Perception Flash 9.5 is a great example of this.
The Flash is 9.5 feet long and very nimble and maneuverable. The kayak is 28.5 inches wide, so it’s more narrow than other kayaks on this list. Inflatable kayaks are wider and more stable. That’s not to say the Flash isn’t stable because it is.
It only weighs 41 pounds, so it’s pretty easy to transport, especially when you use a kayak cart.
There are a lot of great features. I especially like the molded handles on the front and back. The covered hatch on the back of the kayak is great for storing gear. I also love the cup holder built into the seat.
The one thing the kayak lacks is storage, but with a smaller kayak, this is to be expected somewhat. If you want a kayak under 500 bucks that has more storage, the Lifetime Tamarack is a solid alternative.
The Flash doesn’t come with a paddle, which is good and bad. Good because you can choose a paddle that fits you rather than a one-size-fits-all paddle. Bad because that’s an extra expense. With this kayak butting right up to the $500 max, buying a paddle puts you over.
Covered rear hatch
Built-in rod holders
Heavier than other models
How to Choose the Best Kayak Under $500
In this article, we focused on kayaks under $500. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to buy a good kayak. These $500 and under kayaks have a lot of great features, and you can have a lot of fun with them. You can explore the lake, go fishing, or get some exercise.
You can spend a lot more money on additional features and accessories. Still, if you are in the market for an inexpensive kayak, there are plenty of great options.
These less expensive kayaks are great for kids or beginners who are just getting started. If you are looking for a simple kayak without paying for extra features that you won’t use, there are many excellent boats to choose from.
If you have a strict budget but still want to enjoy kayaking, many boats are available. As you can see, there are options and features to pick from, even within this price range.
Durability is a crucial feature when choosing a kayak. A durable kayak will last a long time. Durability comes from the materials used and the quality of the construction. As you can see from the list in this article, there are hard-shell kayaks and inflatables. We will get into more details about these in a bit.
Just because you want to purchase a kayak for under $500 doesn’t mean you will get a low-quality kayak. Less expensive kayaks can last a long time with proper use and maintenance.
You should also be mindful that there are varying degrees of durability within this price range. Some entry-level inflatable kayaks will not last as long as hard-shell kayaks. They will not handle rocks or tree branches as well.
You must know where you will be kayaking, so you can choose the right boat that will be durable for the conditions. Also, weather and water conditions can impact the durability of your boat. UV rays from the sun can deteriorate certain materials faster than others. If you store your boat outside in the direct sun, that will impact its durability.
Number of Passengers
My wife and I went back and forth on this when we bought our first kayaks. Did we want a tandem kayak or two individual kayaks? The number of passengers is an important thing to keep in mind.
Individual kayaks give you the freedom to go where you want when you want. You can still be part of the group or paddle with your partner, but you are not 100% tied to the same boat. Single kayaks ended up working well for my wife and me.
I suppose after twenty-five years of marriage. We need a little space. I am free to go fishing with individual kayaks, and she is free to do her own thing. Mind you, we are never too far away from each other, but we still have our own space.
With a tandem kayak, you benefit from two people paddling, so if you need a break, the other person can pick you up for a while. Sometimes there will be more space for gear on a tandem, even though there are two of you.
But it doesn’t have to be you and another person. What if you want to take your dog with you? I see people kayaking with their dogs all the time. Some people have a single kayak and a small dog. Other people have a tandem kayak a bigger dog.
Remember that no matter how fast you paddle, you can never get away from your partner on a tandem kayak!
One thing to consider is portability, whether you are buying a kayak under $500 or over. How portable is the kayak? If you buy a tandem kayak, you and your partner need to load it on your vehicle, unload it and carry it to the water. Will you need a kayak cart to help you out?
If you buy a single kayak, will you be able to do the heavy lifting by yourself? One advantage an inflatable kayak has over a hard-shell kayak is portability. You can put an inflatable kayak in the trunk of your car and take it to the lake or river.
Inflatables are typically lightweight and easy to tote around with you. You can blow them up on-site, even at the water’s edge. Remember how portable a kayak will be for you and your needs.
Transporting Your Kayak
There are many different ways to transport your kayak to and from home. If you have a roof rack or a truck, it’s pretty easy. But if you don’t have a roof rack or a trailer, you may need to get creative.
Unfortunately, adding a roof rack can be expensive if you don’t already have a way to transport your kayak. So you spend under $500 on a kayak, but now you have a spend hundreds more on a rack. Your budget-friendly hobby is not so inexpensive anymore.
An inflatable kayak is easy to transport; put it in your trunk or back seat of your car. Not so much, with a hard-shell kayak. Just keep this in mind when you are shopping for your economical kayak.
Storing Your Kayak
Storing a kayak might not be the first thing you think about, but it will be once you get it home. I didn’t think much about it when I bought my first kayak, and I wish I had. We have a garage and a decent outdoor space, but two kayaks can take up a lot of space.
We used to store them under our covered patio, but my wife didn’t exactly like having them where everyone could see them. Then we tried a couple of DIY solutions to hang them up from the ceiling in the garage. Some of the contraptions were more hassle than they were worth.
We finally figured out a great solution. The moral of the story is to think about storing your kayak before you jump in and buy one.
Inflatable kayaks are very easy to store in a closet or on a garage shelf. As long as you make sure it is completely dry before you put the inflatable away. That’s one of the great things about an inflatable kayak. It’s easy to transport and store.
Hard-shell kayaks are not so easy to store. If you don’t have a garage or you have a small living space, this can be challenging. They won’t fit easily under your bed! Before spending $500 on a kayak, think about where you will keep it.
What Accessories Are Included?
If you are looking for a kayak under $500, check to see what accessories come with it. Some budget and entry-level kayaks will come with a paddle, a seat, and other accessories. This is really nice because then you don’t have to spend extra money on these items.
If you buy an inflatable kayak, make sure it comes with a pump, or you need to buy one separately. Keep this in mind when looking for a kayak, in any price range.
Type of Kayak
There are different types of kayaks, and we will talk about a few of those next. We will cover some of the pros and cons of each type. Click here for an in-depth article on types of kayaks.
A sit-inside kayak is a pretty standard or “traditional” kayak. You sit in the bottom of the boat, and your legs are undercover. The area you sit in is referred to as the “cockpit.”
- Your lower body is more protected from the weather and water spray
- You can buy a skirt to put over the cockpit to protect your lower body from water and weather
- Your legs, butt, and feet are in contact with the kayak, giving you greater control
- Harder to get in and out of than sit on top kayaks
- You have to bail water yourself
Sit on top
Sit-on-top kayaks don’t have a cockpit like sit-inside kayaks, so your lower body isn’t covered. You sit on top of the kayak. These kayaks are good for fishing or getting back on if you fall overboard.
- Lots of deck space and storage
- Easier to get back on if you go for a swim or fall overboard
- You sit up higher
- Great for warm weather
- Not great for cold weather
- You can get wet from water that enters through scupper holes
- You are more exposed to the elements and water
Inflatable kayaks have come a long way over the years. We are not talking about a pool toy here. Inflatable kayaks are durable and very portable, making them great for many people.
- Easy to transport and store
- Easy to inflate and deflate
- They have to be completely dry before you store them
- You have to inflate and deflate every time you use it
- Can puncture
Storage Space on the Kayak
Storage space on a kayak is minimal, so you must have a place to store the items you bring. Even with a kayak under $500, you will get shock cord (bungee) tie-downs on the boat’s front and/or back.
You may even get a hatch storage compartment. Sometimes there is room behind the seat to store a cooler or fishing gear. Some kayaks will come with fishing rod holders.
A dry bag is a must to keep your valuables from getting wet. You can put things like your wallet, phone, car keys, etc. in a dry bag and then secure that with your bungee cords on the boat. If you need to take extra clothing, a dry bag is critical. The moral here is to see how much storage you think you need on your kayak before purchasing one.
There are some great kayaks under $500. You don’t have to break the bank to enjoy time on the water. Remember what features are important to you when it comes to your kayak.
Also, make sure you can transport your kayak to and from the water. This is often an overlooked part of buying a kayak.
Thanks for stopping by. If you have any questions, please let me know. Always wear a lifejacket when you are on the water!