Complete Guide to Buying Used Kayaks (Is it Worth The Risk?)

Kayaking is a great way to experience nature and add a little adventure to your life.  Many people in the market for a kayak consider buying used kayaks.  Here is the complete guide that’ll help you find the right kayak without the cost of a brand one. 

If you are a beginner, investing in a new boat might not be the best idea.  New kayaks can range from $500 (less for a cheap inflatable) to well over $2,500.  But, there are some fantastic deals on used kayaks if you are diligent.

If you are an experienced kayaker looking for a good deal, a used kayak can serve you well. Whether you plan to go kayaking solo, or tandem (with another person), buying used is a great way to save money.

However, it will require some research, understanding what specifications you may need, and knowing where to look to find the best option. To help you get the right boat, we’ve put together this guide to buy used kayaks.

What To Look For When Buying A Used Kayak

Generally, there are certain factors you should keep in mind when you are looking for a used kayak.  Below is a list of things to consider if you are buying a pre-owned kayak.

  • Condition of the Kayak: Stern condition, scupper holes condition, scratches, fading, or cracks
  • Weight & stability 
  • Comfort
  • Length of the tandem
  • Type of paddle
  • Storage capacity
  • Transportability 
  • Deck fittings
  • Seals 
  • Location of where the kayak was stored

If possible, take the used kayak to a nearby pond or lake for testing, and look for any existing issues in the boat. 

How was the kayak stored? 

Before you start checking the kayak’s condition, you need to know where it was stored, as it can have a huge impact on the overall condition. 

You can simply assume a kayak has been stored outside if covered with leaves, dirt, or mud. In this case, examine its lines for warpage. Kayak hulls that are made of plastic are vulnerable to warping if the boat is improperly stored. 

The kayak’s performance will be drastically impacted in the water if the shape of the kayak’s hull is bent or deformed. 

On the other hand, a kayak may grow mold or mildew if stored inside for a long time. Tarps can hold moisture in which can be a breeding ground for mold and mildew. 

While you can simply wash off most mildew using hot soap and water, these chemicals can damage a kayak’s hull.  This might also be an indication of how the owner took care of the vessel.

Latches & Hatches

Another factor to check is the condition of the hatches. Hatches are prone to corruption and can be damaged if left out in the sun. While you can replace hatches in various kayaks, most companies do not sell parts for older models. 

If you find an issue with the hatch while buying a used kayak, ensure that the boat company still manufactures its spare parts. 

Hatch covers play an essential role in keeping your gear safe and dry. Make sure they aren’t rotten, broken, or missing. The rubber seals should close tightly, so the water doesn’t have any way of getting inside.

Bungee Storage 

Bungee storage is the additional storage in a kayak made of bungee cord. If the kayak is stored outdoors, these bungee cords are exposed to UV rays and weather. Used bungee cords can also be stretched out, which leaves them pretty much useless. 

To avoid such damage, check the cords for brittleness or frayed edges. Make sure they aren’t overly stretched and offer good enough space for extra storage.

Adjustable foot braces

The job of foot braces is to give the kayaker a good foothold. It helps the kayaker be seated firmly and use their bodies with efficient force in turning and paddling the boat.

Make sure the foot braces are secure and adjustable. If you find them broken or missing, you can replace them, but it will affect the kayak’s performance.

Knee/Thigh Pads 

Knee and thigh pads make the cockpit fitting more comfortable to sit in. They are usually located along the coaming (inside a sit-in kayak hull), offering a much more secure seat for kayakers.

Make sure the original pads are in good condition, or you may have to replace them.

Skeg or Rudder

Rudders are used to control the direction in kayaking, while skegs take care of tracking and trimming in the wind. 

To check the rudder, simply get your kayak on the water and try moving it side to side using foot pedals. If you feel any stiffness or put a lot of effort into moving the rudder, it needs some work. 

Skegs do not have any moving parts, and their depth can simply be controlled by a cable that kayakers can adjust while sitting inside the cockpit. Inspect the skeg blade for erosion, cracks, or damage and its cable for proper functioning.

Different Hull Materials

The type of material used while constructing a kayak doesn’t only play a role in its price but also affects a kayak’s durability, efficiency, stability, and performance.

Composite kayaks are formed using various materials, including fiberglass, aramid, and carbon. These kayaks are a bit more expensive, but they are also lightweight. While buying a composite kayak, check for cracking, delamination, and chipping of the gel coat. 

Thermoform kayaks are not as expensive as composite kayaks, but they are definitely heavier. It is normal for thermoform kayaks to have scratches; you can get rid of them using sand, polish, and gel coats.

Plastic-hulled kayaks are made of polyurethane, which offers durability and impact resistance. These boats are inexpensive, but they are the most vulnerable to warpage. If buying a plastic kayak, turn it over and check for noticeable warping of its line.

Small scratches and gouges are expected in a second-hand kayak, but deep dents and thin points from drag damage must be avoided. 

The cheapest type of used kayaks is usually the inflatable kayak. These kayaks are made of lighter materials like nylon, vinyl, and canvas, making wear and tear a serious concern since inflatables degrade quicker than any material.

If buying an inflatable, pump it up and run water over it to look for any leaks. 

Where to buy a used kayak? 

Buying used kayaks is an easy task, only if you know the right places to look for it. There are plenty of sources where you can grab a good deal, be it online or in-person. 


The overall size and bulk of a kayak make it challenging to ship.  When buying used, it’s best to buy in person or from a reputable online source.

Here are some popular second-hand websites used by kayaking communitities where you can buy used kayaks online:


It can get a little hectic finding a used kayak at a local store, but it’s not impossible. You can check around local sports and fishing stores for used kayaks or talk to the employees about your search for a boat. They may have a seller looking for a buyer. 

The kayaking community is reasonably tight, so even if you get somewhere with no used kayaks on sale, they may know someone in your local area who does. 

Another way to find a used kayak is to post a listing on kayaking message boards. Post an ad. This will also allow you to specify exactly what you’re looking for in a kayak.

Take it for a test run

Like a test drive, while buying a car, it is essential to take the kayak on a test paddle after thoroughly inspecting it. Most kayak owners will be okay with you asking for a test run.

A test paddle can help you learn about specific issues that may have gone unnoticed before. You can get an idea of how the kayak feels on paddling and if it’d be a good buy for you. 

When you’re on the water, check for these things:

  • Does it fit you? Ask yourself if you would be comfortable there if you were to go on a trip for the whole day. The cockpit must feel secure and comfy. You should be able to stretch out your legs comfortably. 
  • Is it stable? The stability of the kayak matters just as much as its comfort. It must move at the speed you expect and suit your paddling style, as a kayak can be an investment that lasts for years. 
  • How well does it track? One thing you should pay attention to while on the water is how well the kayak tracks. Apparent tracking issues might point to warping in the kayak’s hull. 
  • Are you noticing any leaks? Cracks and scratches are two different issues. One can fix minimal scratches, but it is a mistake to leave cracks in your boat. Cracks can lead to water leaking inside of the kayak, which is not something you can avoid.

Other considerations

Below are some more points to consider while buying used kayaks.

How are the accessories?

A kayak comes with a lot of accessories and add-ons. Used kayaks can even offer extra accessories that you may or may not need. If you are looking forward to diving, fishing, and other such activities, ask yourself if the accessories meet your requirements. 

While browsing for used kayaks online, take a glance at every picture on an ad. If there aren’t enough pictures, ask the seller for more. These pictures must include the accessories that the seller is offering along with the kayak. 

A paddle and a lifejacket is a must. If these two aren’t included, you’ll have to set some extra money aside.

How will you transport the kayak? 

The best and the most common way to transport a kayak is by using a car. There are accessories like racks, tracks, and crossbars required for proper transportation as you may cause some severe damage to your car’s roof without them.

If you’re looking for another way, using a kayak trailer is your best bet. Trailers also offer double the space, where you can keep much more than just your boat. 

Where will you store the kayak?

Indoor storage is the best option for your kayak as it will protect your boat from harsh weather, direct sunlight, and many other damaging elements. 

You can store the kayak in your garage, shed, basement, or in any other indoor storage areas that you have. You can even use a spare room and house your kayak until it’s time to hit the water.

If you cannot store it inside, the best way to keep your kayak outside for an extended period is to keep it under some sort of cover. Keep it protected and secured under a deck or a tarp, covered with UV-resistant kayak cover.

How much should you spend on a used kayak? 

Unfortunately, there is no fixed answer to this question. Used kayaks can range from as low as 15% to as high as 85% of their latest retail price, but it depends on the individual kayak condition.

Knowing the kayak’s exact price when it was new is a good way to understand how much you should pay for it second-hand. The price now should be adjusted based on the present state of the boat and its accessories. 

If the kayak hull and deck are in excellent condition, and the kayak has been used no more than 50 times, you can pay around 85% of the original price.

Offer 55% of the original price if the used kayak is 5 years old and 15% of the original price if it’s 10 years old.

After you see what’s available, you can determine how much you want to spend on a used kayak.


Is buying a used kayak a good ideaPin

How a kayak feels to paddle and how well it fits your needs should be prioritized when buying a used kayak. The key here is to explore all your options and find the right boat. Remember, you are looking for a comfortable and enjoyable experience.

After reading this guide on buying used kayaks, you will hopefully have the information you need to make an informed decision. Do your research, and you can make a good purchase that will last for years to come. 

If you have any questions, be sure to let us know.

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About the author
Steve is the owner of Paddle About, a blog that's all about helping people get out and enjoy nature. He loves to kayak, camp, hike and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not out exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.