Buying Used Kayaks – Read This Before Hitting The Second-Hand Market

Sure, renting a kayak is always an option – but nothing beats owning one. Unfortunately, the prices can be insane; some models can cost well over a thousand bucks – or more. Not everyone has that kind of money. Could buying used kayaks be the answer you’re looking for – ...
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Sam OBrien

Founder, Kayaking & Paddle Boarding Expert

Sam is the founder and editor of WaterSportsWhiz. With over 20 years of experience across various water sports, he provides trusted reviews and expert advice to help others pursue their passion for getting out on the water. When not working, you can find him kayaking, paddle boarding, or planning his next water-based adventure with family and friends.

Sure, renting a kayak is always an option – but nothing beats owning one.

Unfortunately, the prices can be insane; some models can cost well over a thousand bucks – or more. Not everyone has that kind of money.

Could buying used kayaks be the answer you’re looking for – a way for you to have your cake and eat it, too?

Yes – but don’t just settle for anything. You can buy a used kayak for cheap without making too many compromises – if you know what to look for, that is.

And that’s where this guide can help! 

Should I Buy A Used Kayak?

Used Kayaks for Sale

Yes, buying a used kayak is definitely worth it – but it involves some additional considerations.

I’ll cover them in this guide, so don’t stress about it too much. For now, keep in mind that there are a lot of factors you should keep an eye on when buying second-hand boats.

Don’t get me wrong, though.

Buying used kayaks is not complicated – it’s just different.

Before You Buy A Used Kayak Or Paddleboard, Watch This

There are tons of convincing reasons to buy a used kayak – more than I could cover in a single post. With that said, a few are crucial, underlining the benefits of buying used and making the second-hand market a tempting option.

So, if you’re deciding between buying a new kayak and buying a second-hand one, here are a few reasons why buying a used kayak might be a practical – and sensible – move:

  • You’re looking for an affordable introduction to kayaking and reap all the benefits of kayaking without digging deep into your pocket
  • You have your eyes on a model that’s no longer available – because newer isn’t always better
  • You want a kayak with all the bells and whistles for the same amount of money, rather than settling for a cheaper kayak or one from a less known brand or manufacturers
  • You’re not sure if kayaking will be a passing interest and don’t want to overspend until you’re confident that paddling is something you want to pursue as a hobby
  • You’re buying a kayak for a growing child and don’t want to spend a lot on a brand new ‘yak they’ll most likely outgrow by the end of the year
  • You want to try a new style of kayaking – kayak touring, for example – and you hope to do so for cheap

Best Place To Buy A Used Kayak – Online & In-Person

Garage sale in an american

If you’re hunting for a used kayak, there are a few different places you can look. You can search online classifieds websites, visit your local sporting goods store, or even go to a garage sale. But to help you narrow down your search, we’ve compiled a list of the best places to source secondhand kayaks, both online and in person.

You also can also find more details and top tips in our complete guide on where to buy a kayak.

Buying Used Kayaks Online

We’ve all had at least one terrible online shopping experience. So, if you’re a bit hesitant about it – I get it.

Then again, nothing beats the convenience of shopping for used kayaks online. You get access to a range of kayaks, it’s easier to get in touch with sellers and do research – and you don’t have to spend your weekends going from one garage sale to another.

Online shopping has its perks – so, be sure to check out the following resources:

  • Online Marketplaces – Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, eBay; you get the idea. The online second-hand market is booming year-round, and given the advanced search and filter options, you should have no trouble finding used kayaks.
  • Kayaking Forums – Paddling communities tend to be tight-knit. Join kayaking message boards and share that you’re looking to buy a used kayak. There’s a good chance you’ll find kayak owners who can help – or, at the very least, point you in the right direction. 

Buying Used Kayaks In Person

If you’re set on buying a used kayak the “old-fashioned way” – as in, in person – that’s great. I have to warn you, though – it’s going to be a bit of a hassle:

Asking around, visiting retailers and paddling clubs, going to flea markets and garage sales; it’s not something you can do from your living room. And it certainly takes a bit more time.

That said, if you still prefer to shop in person, do some initial research online, arm yourself with knowledge, and then check out the following resources:

  • Local Paddling Clubs – Getting in touch with local kayaking clubs works pretty similarly to paddling forums. Talk to members and ask if they may have any used kayaks for sale or know someone who does.
  • Garage Sales – Garage sales can be a great place to score a fantastic deal on a used kayak. However, they’re not as dependable; not every garage sale you come across will have used kayaks for sale.
  • Flea Markets & Swap Meets – Put your bargain-hunting shoes on, learn how to haggle like a pro, and hit the flea market – but remember that, as with garage sales, there’s no guarantee that you’ll find second-hand kayaks. Check out local water sports swap meets and try your luck there.
  • Local Retailers – Customers often trade in old ‘yaks for newer models, so it’s possible to score a great deal in these small, local shops. Plus, you’ll have access to the shop’s staff and can ask them to keep an eye out for used kayaks on your behalf. 

When’s The Best Time To Buy A Used Kayak? 

Best time to buy a used kayak

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as a right and wrong time to buy a kayak.

Timing your purchase the right way will not only save you money – but could help you come out of this with a better kayak, as well. It’s true for used kayaks as much as it is for brand new ones.

Now, the prices on the second-hand market will remain more or less consistent year-round – but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bother with the timing. 

Think about when most people go kayaking – during the warmer months, right?

That’s when the majority of people go looking for kayaks. The growing demand drives the prices up during that time of the year – and that’s something you want to avoid.

Instead, it’s best to wait until the end of the kayaking season – which would typically be late August or early September – or until the winter months and hit the second-hand market then. Very few people will be in a hurry to buy a kayak during the off-season – but a lot of them might be looking to sell theirs.

And that’s your chance to swoop in and get a great deal on a used kayak! 

How Much Should I Pay For Used Kayaks?

Collection of kayaks for sale

You’re likely buying a used kayak because you can’t afford a new one, so it would be silly to tell you that price won’t be a factor. It most certainly will – but I’d generally advise you not to go into this with a fixed price in mind.

That way, you’ll avoid buying a kayak that doesn’t quite meet your requirements only because it fits your budget. In the long run, spending a bit more will seem insignificant if you end up with a second-hand kayak that’s in near perfect condition and does everything you want it to do.

That’s not to say that there aren’t a few guidelines regarding how much you should pay for a used kayak, though.

Generally speaking, expect to pay around 50 to 75 percent of the kayak’s original retail price – how much it would cost if it were new, that is.

So, if you have an exact model in mind, it would be best to research the current prices of a new one. Then, consider the used kayak’s condition, age, and damage, among other things, to get a good feel of whether or not the seller’s asking price is realistic. 

What Should I Look For In A Used Kayak? Your Guide To Buying A Second-Hand Kayak 

Secondhand kayak sale

#1 Research The Kayak Model: Does It Fit Your Kayaking Needs? 

When it comes to how to choose a kayak, first and foremost you need to decide what type of kayak you’re looking to get. Not all kayaks are the same – it’s a versatile sport and they are certainly not designed with the same purpose and environment in mind.

Do you want a recreational kayak, or are you looking for something a bit more specialized, like a touring kayak? Are you interested in used fishing kayaks? Or maybe you’re scouting for whitewater kayaks?

When it comes to the type of kayak you’re getting, know what you want – and don’t make any compromises.

You still have to check all the features and specs you would usually check when buying a kayak; that part doesn’t change. Making an informed purchase decision is every bit as crucial now as it is when you’re shopping for a brand new kayak

So, research the kayak’s out-of-factory specs – and pay attention to things like:

#2 Be Sure To Research The Seller

In an ideal scenario, you’d be buying a used kayak from a friend, someone in the local paddling club, a family member – someone you can trust.

But we both know that’s not always the case. In some instances, the seller will be some random person on the Internet – which doesn’t sound very confidence-inspiring, huh?

That’s why it’s essential to – again – do your research. The more info you gather about the seller, the better. 

#3 Pre-Visit Questions: Ask Before Proceeding 

To add to my previous point, don’t be afraid of asking questions.

You’re there to determine if this is the right ‘yak for you and if you’re getting good value for your money. Buying a used kayak doesn’t mean that you don’t get to make an informed choice – and the seller should be open to answering your questions and helping you in the process.

Here are some examples of the type of questions you might want to focus on before scheduling an actual in-person inspection:

  • How old is the kayak? When was it purchased?
  • Is the ‘yak still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, and can the paperwork be transferred?
  • Why are they selling the kayak?
  • How and where was the kayak stored in the past?
  • Is there any damage to the kayak’s hull – minor and major – or any repairs you should be aware of before buying?
  • What else is included in the sale? Does the kayak come with a paddle or a kayak seat, for instance?
  • How much are they asking for it?

Again, this isn’t about you being nosy or annoying. It’s about gathering info about a kayak you’re interested in before going any further so that you can avoid wasting each other’s time. 

#4 Check The Kayak For Wear & Tear: Inspection Checklist For Buying Used Kayaks 

Yellow kayak ready for inspection

A thorough visual inspection will, hands down, be the single most crucial part of this whole buying-a-used-kayak thing. Taking a good look at the kayak can tell you a lot about its condition, wear and tear – and could ultimately make or break your purchase. 

Buying a Used Kayak Tips - Recreational Kayak Inspection

When examining a kayak, you’ll need to work your way along the hull, going from bow to stern – and take note of the following different factors:

  • Hull Damage & Signs Of Repair – Some scuffs are to be expected; it’s a second-hand kayak, after all. However, evident signs of UV damage, cracks in the gel coat of composite kayaks, or significant warps in polyethylene plastic kayaks, and hull deformation in thermoform kayaks are a no-go. Repairs won’t necessarily be a deal-breaker – but make sure they’re done correctly.
  • Hatches – Check if the hatch covers opens and closes properly. If not – or if they’re missing entirely – can they be replaced? Is the seal in good condition and capable of keeping the water out of the hatch?
  • Scupper Holes – Scupper plugs are easily replaced, but check if the scupper holes, an essential component of a sit-on-top kayak’s self-bailing design, are in good shape. Some cracks can be repaired; others spell leaks.  This is a very common issue with tandem kayaks or recreational kayaks transported using a scupper cart
  • Bulkheads – If you’re inspecting a sit-inside kayak, check the bulkheads – sealed rear or front compartments inside the hull – to ensure they’re in place, intact, and working as they’re supposed to.
  • Hardware & Fittings – As you inspect the kayak, take note of the attachment points – and the bolts and screws that may or may not be there. Are there signs of corrosion? Is any of the hardware missing?
  • Bungee Rigging & Tie-Downs – As a part of the kayak’s external storage system, tie-downs and bungee deck rigging are prone to sun damage, erosion, fraying, and brittleness. If the kayak weren’t properly stored or maintained, these cords would show it.
  • Rudder & Skeg – Check rudder lines for signs of deterioration and test the mechanism to make sure it’s still functional. If the kayak features a skeg with no moving parts, check the blade for signs of damage.
  • Cockpit Outfitting – Foot pegs, knee pads, thigh braces; inspect the cockpit outfitting to see if everything is still there, in good condition, and preferably, adjustable.
  • Kayak Seat – Most kayak seats are removable and can be easily replaced further down the line. However, if you’re buying a used kayak and it comes with a seat, check for any signs of UV damage and fraying, and see if you can adjust it for a customized fit.
  • Extras & Accessories – Anything else that comes with the kayak, including rod holders, carry handles, gear tracks, and the like, should be checked, as well. Otherwise, you may think you’re getting a fully rigged fishing kayak, only to find that half of the extras don’t work or are missing altogether.

Extra Considerations for Buying Used Inflatable Kayaks

Here are some extra considerations that need to be taken when buying a used inflatable kayak or boat;  

  • Check how the item has been stored; if it wasn’t property cleaned and dried after each outing then it can cause damage, decreasing its lifespan.
  • Examine the kayak for cracks in the material, from where it’s been folded, inspect the integrity of the seams and that the valves are in good condition.
  • It’s also a good idea to check the kayak for holes or leaks by submerging it and inflating it with air.
  • Small leaks are easy to patch, but a larger tear, especially around the seams, may be cause for concern.

With the explosion in popularity of kayaking and shortages in the supply chain, counterfeiters have seen an opportunity to make a fast buck.  Some scammers will sell these clones as ‘used’ or ‘seconds’, but they may actually be brand new.  Counterfeit items tend not to last as long and often come with defects that compromise their safety features- so steer clear of these scams at all cost!  If it’s too good to be true then it probably is!

#5 Take The Kayak Out For A Test Paddle

Orange kayak read for test paddle

A thorough visual inspection can tell you a lot about the kayak’s current state. However, nothing can replace a good old test drive.

That’s when you catch all those problems that may not be easily visible from a once-over but can still affect the kayak’s performance on the water. Plus, it gives you a chance to see how the ‘yak feels and if it fits you in terms of available space, comfort, and stability, among other things.

Generally speaking, a test paddle can help you determine the following:

  • How comfortable is the seating, will it be suitable for longer paddling sessions and overnight trips – especially important when buying a touring kayak or sea kayak!
  • Do you have enough room inside the cockpit, or does it feel cramped
  • Can you rest your hips and knees against the inside of the cockpit comfortably 
  • Is the outfitting, such as knee pads and thigh braces, adjustable 
  • Does the kayak feel stable enough for you and suit your paddling style 
  • How easy it is to get in and out of the kayak 
  • If there are any leaks (always check inside the hatches to see if they have a water-tight seal) 
  • Are the rudder cables in working order, and does the skeg function without jamming 
  • How good is the kayak’s tracking performance 
  • How maneuverable the kayak is and how easy it is to handle in general 

If the seller won’t allow a test paddle, that’s a red flag you do not want to ignore – and there’s probably something they’re not telling you. 

Bonus Tip: Know When To Walk Away & Avoid Getting Ripped Off

Know When To Walk Away & Avoid Getting Ripped Off

You’ve spent so much time browsing the online marketplaces, comparing prices, and looking at all these ads, pictures, and whatnot – and you’ve finally found what seems to be the ‘yak of your dreams.

And yet, something doesn’t feel quite right. 

Sometimes it’s better to walk away empty-handed than to buy a kayak that doesn’t quite live up to your expectations. 

It should feel like money well spent – not like you’ve got ripped off. 

Here are some instances when walking away might be the smartest thing to do:

  • You’re making way too many compromises because you’re in a rush, or you’re letting money burn a hole in your pocket 
  • There’s something “fishy” about the seller, the listing – or the whole thing in general – in which case, I recommend trusting your gut
  • The pricing seems way off, as in, someone’s trying to sell you a used kayak at up to 95 percent of the initial value
  • The seller is unwilling to compromise, refuses to let you inspect the kayak or take it for a test paddle, and goes back and forth on your negotiations
  • The kayak is way too cheap, which could indicate that it’s stolen and someone’s trying to make quick money, or that there’s significant damage they’re not telling you about 

Buying A Used Kayak: Quick Summary

Buying used kayaks requires you to be prepared and well-informed above all else. So, do your research, be thorough about it, and keep a few crucial things in mind – including:

  • Gather information about the exact model’s specs and features, including length, width, weight, and capacity
  • Ask about the kayak’s age, warranty, where and how it was stored, and whether it has any notable defects or imperfections
  • Perform a thorough visual inspection of the kayak and take it out for a test paddle to see how the ‘yak “feels” and performs on the water
  • If you’re buying online, ask for additional pictures and videos
  • Expect to pay between 50 and 75 percent of the kayak’s original retail value 
  • Know when to walk away and avoid getting ripped off 
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Sam OBrien

Sam is the founder and editor of WaterSportsWhiz. With over 20 years of experience across various water sports, he provides trusted reviews and expert advice to help others pursue their passion for getting out on the water. When not working, you can find him kayaking, paddle boarding, or planning his next water-based adventure with family and friends.

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