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 over $2,500.  But there are some fantastic deals on used kayaks if you are diligent.

A used kayak can also serve you well if you are an experienced kayaker looking for a good deal. 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 buying 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 buy a pre-owned kayak.

  • Condition of the Kayak: Stern condition, scupper holes condition, scratches, fading, or cracks
  • Weight & stability 
  • Comfort
  • 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 waterway for testing, and look for any 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 greatly impact the overall condition. For example, kayak hulls made of plastic are vulnerable to warping if the boat is improperly stored. 

You can assume a kayak has been stored outside if covered with leaves, dirt, or mud. In this case, examine its lines for warpage. 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 have mold or mildew if stored inside for a long time. Tarps can hold moisture which can be a breeding ground for mold and mildew. 

While you can wash off mildew using hot soap and water, this indicates how the owner took care of the vessel.

Latches & Hatches

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

If you find an issue with the hatch while buying a used kayak, make sure you can find spare parts. 

Hatch covers play an essential role in keeping your gear safe and dry. So, 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 also called a “shock cord,” gives you additional storage in a kayak. 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. 

Check the cords for brittleness or frayed edges. Make sure they aren’t overly stretched and offer enough space for extra storage.

Adjustable Foot Braces

Foot braces give the kayaker a good foothold and leverage to paddle more aggressively. It helps the kayaker sit firmly and use their bodies with efficient force in turning and paddling the boat.

Make sure the foot braces are secure and are still adjustable. If you find them broken or missing, you can replace them, which may 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 control the direction in kayaking, while skegs take care of tracking and trimming in the wind. 

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

Skegs do not have moving parts, and their depth can 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 not only plays a role in its price but also affects its durability, efficiency, stability, and performance.

Composite kayaks are formed using various materials, including fiberglass, aramid, and carbon. These kayaks are 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 are 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 polyethylene, which offers durability and impact resistance. These boats are inexpensive, but they are the most vulnerable to warpage. If you plan on buying a plastic kayak, give it a good once over to see if it’s warped.

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

Be careful if you buy an inflatable kayak. Inflatable kayaks are made of lighter materials like PVC. If buying an inflatable, pump it up and run water over it to look for leaks. 

Where to Buy a Used Kayak?

Buying used kayaks can save you a lot of money if you know the right places to look for them. There are plenty of sources where you can grab a good deal, whether 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 communities where you can buy used kayaks online:


Finding a used kayak at a local store can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. You can check 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 have gone unnoticed. You can understand how the kayak feels on paddling and if it’d be a good buy. 

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

  • Does it fit you? Would you be comfortable going 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? You should pay attention to how well the kayak tracks on the water. Apparent tracking issues might point to warping in the kayak’s hull. 
  • Are you noticing any leaks? Cracks and scratches are two different issues. You can fix minimal scratches. Cracks are a different story which leads to water leaking inside 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 might have 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 are a must. You’ll have to set some extra money aside if these two aren’t included.

How Will You Transport the Kayak?

The best and most common way to transport a kayak is by car. Accessories like racks, tracks, and crossbars are required for proper transportation and may cause damage to your car’s roof without them.

Using a kayak trailer is your best bet if you’re looking for another way. 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 another indoor storage area. 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 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, depending on the individual kayak’s 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 five years old and 15% of the original price if it’s ten years old.

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


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 make a good purchase that will last for years. 

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Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not 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.

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About the author
Steve Morrow
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not 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.