If you’re looking to get into kayaking, what’s the first thing you’ll need?
Well, obviously, it’s the kayak. I could hear that “Well, duh!” all the way from here. The answer to that question was obvious enough.
However, the answer to a question like “Where to buy a kayak?” might not be, mainly because you have quite a few options – from visiting your local outdoor gear store to ordering one online. Oh, and buying a second-hand kayak is also an option.
Where you decide to buy a kayak generally depends on what you need and how much you are willing to spend – among other things, of course.
Anyway, be sure to stick around for some highly recommended retailers and stores with kayaks – online and offline!
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Where Is The Best Place To Buy Kayaks?
If there’s one thing you need to remember when choosing the best place to buy kayaks, it’s that not all stores and retailers are the same.
In fact, there’s quite a bit that sets them apart, including the type of kayaks they carry, their price range, and customer service, to name a few. And depending on what you’re after here, not all of these stores will be able to meet your needs – or budget.
So, before you do anything and hand over your hard-earned cash, you need to check if you can, indeed, trust that particular retailer.
Here are a few factors I’d typically take into consideration when choosing where to buy kayaks:
- Selection – You can’t expect one retailer to carry every single ‘yak that’s currently on the market. That’s impossible given the number of companies, models – and types of kayaks – out there. So, if you are looking for something specific or certain kayak brands, check if the retailer has these models or brands in stock. Please be aware that the more “niche” you go, the lower the chances of third-party sellers carrying it.
- Price – I’m sure you are aware that kayaks aren’t exactly cheap. Of course, that depends on the type of ‘yak you’re getting. A specialized one – like a whitewater or touring kayak – will cost a lot more than a generic, recreational kayak or an inflatable one. With that said, the best retailers will have a wider selection and pricing range, offering kayaks that will fit anyone’s budget and need
- Return Policy – Last but not least, you should check the store’s return policy – especially if you’re purchasing a kayak online. Most stores will have a 30-day return window, but it’s possible to find retailers that offer a 90-day return policy.
Besides these three crucial factors, it’s generally a good idea to check the store’s online reviews to get an idea of how they treat their customers and how they handle complaints – among other things.
A Few Tips Before We Start
Buying the right kayak requires quite a bit of research; I’m sure you’re aware of that. Otherwise, you probably wouldn’t be here, trying to figure out where’s the best place to buy one.
Since I know (from first-hand experience) how confusing – and, at times, flat-out frustrating – that process can be, I want to discuss a few things and share some tips before getting into the actual stores with kayaks.
I won’t necessarily go into the details of how to choose the right kayak – mainly because I talked about it (A LOT) in another guide. Plus, given the sheer volume of information that I would need to cover, it would take this whole guide off its course – and down a totally different rabbit hole.
Anyway, enough with the chit-chat.
Here are some basics to take note of when shopping for a kayak.
Understand Your Needs
The first – and, by far, most important – rule of choosing a kayak is taking the time to understand your needs, think about your current skills, intended use, and what you hope to get out of a new kayak.
Regardless of everything else – branded or generic, online or in-store, new or second-hand, and all that – it is crucial that you know what you need as a paddler and which type of ‘yak can meet your needs.
That part is non-negotiable.
Why Kayak Brand Matters
While I don’t necessarily believe that branded is always better – nor that the higher price tag that typically comes attached to branded stuff is always worth it – there are some benefits to buying a kayak from a reputable brand.
Generally speaking, purchasing a branded kayak means:
- Buying from a reputable manufacturer, known for its expertise and consistency, and the high quality of their kayaks
- Being confident in the reliability and general safety of your new kayak because it’s made according to national – and even international – standards and regulations
- Getting a better warranty and customer service
- Knowing that they didn’t cut any corners during the manufacturing process and that they used higher quality materials and tested their designs
Are You Buying New Or Used?
Some will be willing – and able – to shell out for the full price of a kayak because they want to get a brand new one. Others will be perfectly happy with a second-hand kayak.
That choice is yours – and I’m not here to convince you that one is better than the other. In fact, I do believe that buying a used ‘yak makes a lot more sense in certain scenarios, like if you’re just getting into paddling and want to try it out before committing.
But if you do decide to purchase a second-hand kayak, be sure to do your research and visually inspect it for signs of hull damage and wear and tear.
Oh, and don’t be afraid to ask questions:
- How old is the kayak?
- Is the manufacturer’s warranty still valid?
- Where was the kayak stored?
- Did it suffer any extensive damage or repairs?
- Does it come with any accessories?
You can’t simply count on the seller to be honest and tell you everything you should know about the kayak. So, research everything – and ask away.
Buying Directly From The Manufacturer – Or Through A Reseller?
There aren’t many manufacturers that sell their kayaks directly. More often than not, they’ll opt to sell them through an authorized dealer.
That’s not necessarily a downside:
You can score some pretty great package deals through the local brick-and-mortar retailers and get everything you need – kayak, paddles, seat, and all – at a relatively reasonable price.
Remember what I said about buying highly specialized, “niche” kayaks and how most third-party sellers may not have them in stock, though?
Well, that’s when buying directly from the manufacturer makes more sense – and might even be your only option if you need a speciality kayak.
Buying A Kayak Online Or In A Store?
Some stores offer online shopping; others don’t. It really depends on the store.
Now, I won’t try to convince you that one is better than the other. That is a matter of preference – and as such, it is entirely up to you. But I feel it is crucial to note that shopping for a kayak online – rather than in a physical store – does have its challenges.
The main issue is that you can’t get a real feel of the kayak and check how it “fits” you when you sit in it, paddle in hand. It’s similar to buying shoes online:
You’ll make sure to get the right size and all, but sometimes, the fit just feels “off.”
Then again, buying kayaks online has its perks – mainly in the sense that it’s easier to find great deals, compare prices, and do extensive research before making the final choice.
Best Time To Buy A Kayak
Yup, there’s a right – and wrong – time to buy a kayak. Shocking, huh? But it’s not necessarily an issue of availability, though.
It’s more a matter of getting a better deal.
You see, if you manage to time your purchase just right, you could end up saving quite a bit and getting a fantastic bang-for-your-buck bargain.
I recommend keeping an eye on the latest sales and discounts year-round for that exact reason; you never know when a bargain might pop up.
With that said, the best time to buy a kayak would be:
- Near the end of kayaking season and during pre-season sales
- During the holiday season
- During Black Friday and similar shopping events
- Following the release of a new kayak model
Best Place To Buy A Kayak Online
Below, you’ll find some of my go-to places for buying kayaks online – although, as you’ll notice, a lot of these online retailers also have physical stores scattered throughout the US.
So, whether you prefer shopping online or in the good, old brick-and-mortar stores, I’m sure you will find something that meets your shopping habits and preferences here.
How could I not open this list of best places to buy a kayak with Amazon as the most significant – and widely known – online marketplace to date?
When you think of “online shopping,” you think of Amazon.
I mean, I don’t know about you, but whenever I need something – and plan on ordering it online – nine times out of ten, Amazon is the first place I’ll look. The one time I don’t is usually when I am ordering directly through the manufacturer’s website.
My personal preferences aside, Amazon is worth checking out because:
- It carries a large selection of kayaks from many different brands – including specialized categories, like touring and whitewater kayaks – and all sorts of paddling gear
- The prices are typically lower than anywhere else
- It has a 30-day return policy
And if you have Amazon Prime, you’ll get free shipping – which is a huge relief, considering how expensive shipping a full-sized kayak can be – especially extra long tandem kayaks or super heavy fishing ‘yaks.
That said, Amazon’s kayak inventory is a bit iffy these days – but I’m hoping the situation will get better.
REI is, quite possibly, the most well-known and trusted outdoor retailer in the world – and one of the best places to purchase kayaks, period.
REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.) was founded back in 1938, so it’s one of the oldest names in the industry. It’s safe to say that their reputation, backed by decades-long history, expertise, and stellar customer service, is well deserved.
The one thing you can always count on when shopping at REI is exceptional customer service – no doubt about that. Even more so, REI offers one of the best return policies out there, with the ability to return your items within a year of purchase – be it online or in-store.
Oh, and REI’s selection is wide and varied, too – ranging from recreational and fishing kayaks to touring and folding kayaks. They also have a good selection of inflatable kayaks from manufacturers such as; Aquaglide, Advanced Elements and STAR.
Backcountry is another highly recommended option, especially if you’re looking to get more than just a kayak:
Now, Backcountry’s primarily an online retailer. However, you’ll find their brick-and-mortar stores in Boulder, Colorado, and West Valley and Park City, Utah. So, even if you’d prefer to pick a ‘yak out in person, Backcountry might still be worth considering as your go-to place.
Oh, and they offer the Lowest Price Guarantee, promising to beat the competitor’s price by 5%!
Cabela’s is yet another major player in the outdoors-related and sporting goods game. If there is one thing you can count on here, it’s their wide selection of kayaks.
Given that Cabela’s has 169 different locations in 45 states – along with an online platform – their extensive offering (online and offline) shouldn’t come as a surprise. Even more so, Cabela’s has a 90-day return policy – which is better than what you’d get from most other retailers.
If you are mainly interested in Ascend kayaks, you’ll be glad to know that Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shop deal almost exclusively with kayaks from this manufacturer.
Bass Pro Shop is another major outdoor retailer in the US – and I’m sure you’ve heard the name before. Here’s what you might not have realized, though:
Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shop are actually under the same ownership now, and it’s been that way since 2017.
So, you can generally expect Bass Pro Shops online selection of kayaks to be lined up with Cabela’s, focusing primarily on fishing and hunting kayaks – and also stocking the full Ascend kayaks range. There is virtually nothing that differentiates the two retailers – except for their names, that is.
On a related note, you can get a fishing license at most Bass Pro stores, too.
So, if you’re shopping for a fishing ‘yak, maybe you could kill two birds with one stone here and get both the kayak and your license at the same store.
L.L.Bean’s been in business for over a century now – even since Leon Leonwood Bean made the Maine Hunting Shoes in 1911.
Its headquarters are currently situated in the small coastal town of Freeport, Maine, but over the past hundred years, the company continued to expand. Today, L.L. Bean has stores in 19 states across the US, mainly northeast and midwest.
Besides the physical stores, L.L. Bean also supports online shopping.
So, you can order a new ‘yak and have it shipped anywhere in the US – and even internationally, if you live abroad. Plus, it has a fantastic one-year return policy – which is better than what you’d get with most other retailers.
If you’re ever in the neighborhood of their brick-and-mortar stores, though – especially the one in Freeport – know that it’s definitely worth a visit.
Austin Kayak Now Known as ‘The House’
One of the biggest, most notable perks of shopping for a kayak at Austin Kayak would be their annual Demo Days:
Each year, paddlers have a chance to test out more than 90 kayaks, canoes, and SUPs. And to make matters even better, representatives from leading manufacturers usually participate in the event, answering questions and helping those shopping for a kayak.
There’s one thing I should mention, though:
Finding an Austin Kayak store nearby could be tricky; there are only eight stores throughout the US. Four of them are in Texas – and the other four are in Michigan.
If you happen to live nearby, good for you. But if not, you’ll have to order one online – which, due to the shipping costs, could be more expensive than you thought.
Best Place To Buy A Used Kayak
There is actually a TON of great deals on used kayaks – as long as you know where to look, that is.
While I do believe that buying a used ‘yak is a great way to score a deal and save some money, I should warn you:
The second-hand market is generally filled with people who are just looking to get rid of an older kayak. Some of them will be unrealistic about their asking prices, while others will try to hide the kayak’s current condition – or straight-up lie about it. Used boats and kayaks sold privately (as opposed to through a dealer) also don’t come with any sort of warranty, so if you do end up with a lemon, you’re pretty much out of luck.
That being said, there are still plenty of great deals to be had – you just have to know where (and how) to look.
So, if you do choose to go second-hand, be sure to do some digging.
With that said, where’s the best place to buy a used kayak?
You can try typing something like “used kayaks near me” or “second-hand kayaks for sale near me” in your browser. I’m sure one of the following marketplaces will pop up in your search results:
I have to be honest here; I haven’t bought anything from eBay in quite some time now. As I said earlier, Amazon has become my go-to place.
But that doesn’t mean that eBay isn’t worth considering.
Sure, the whole “bidding vs. buying” thing might take some getting used to – eBay is essentially an online auctioneer – but I’d argue that it adds an exciting touch to the process of shopping for a kayak.
Plus, if you happen to place a bid that’s lower than the seller’s “Buy It Now” price but higher than that of other bidders, you could end up buying a kayak at a drastically lower price!
eBay also earns some major bonus points as an online marketplace that protects its buyers with a money-back guarantee. If you don’t receive the item you purchased – in this case, a kayak – or it doesn’t match the seller’s description, you can get your money back.
Facebook Marketplace is, if you ask me, the online equivalent of a garage sale. And let’s be real – who doesn’t love a good garage sale?
You can find anything and everything there – including second-hand kayaks and, if you’re lucky, other kinds of gear and accessories for paddlers.
The whole process is simplified, and most of the stuff you find here will be from sellers in your vicinity – meaning you could save some money on shipping costs.
Do note that Facebook Marketplace doesn’t offer any form of buyer protection, though.
Oh, and while I’m on the topic of social media, consider joining online kayaking groups. I’m sure you’ll find people who would happily sell their old kayak to you – or point you in the direction of someone who’s currently selling theirs.
Bar none, Craigslist is the best place to buy second-hand… well, anything, really. I’m yet to find something I couldn’t get on Craigslist for cheap.
That said, Craigslist isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. I’ve had my fair share of flaky – and flat-out sketchy – sellers on the platform. And since there’s no rating system, you can never be sure who you’re dealing with when making a purchase.
But even with these “red flags” in mind, Craigslist is hard to beat when it comes to bargains.
Local Paddling Clubs & Kayak Outfitters
Another option that should not get overlooked – and I’m saying that because many people won’t even think of it when shopping for a used kayak – are local clubs and kayak outfitters.
Outfitters will often sell their older rental boats at the end of the paddling season and make room for newer ones. And for you, that means yet another great option for purchasing a used kayak at a fraction of the cost – in fact this is where we brought my son’s sit-in kayak.
So, be sure to call – and ask about these kinds of end-of-season sales.
Even if you don’t end up buying anything, you’ll still get a chance to test a few models out to see how they “feel” and if they’ll work for you.
Where To Buy Kayaks Cheap?
Kayaks are expensive; let’s just get that out of the way. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t find one that would fit your not-so-big budget.
Besides, if you’re a beginner or just a casual, once-in-a-blue-moon kind of kayaker, spending an absurd amount of money on a kayak wouldn’t even make sense.
The good news is:
Even if you’re looking for rock-bottom prices, you’ll have some decent options. Most, if not all, of the so-called big-box department stores have entry-level recreational and cheap fishing kayaks – some even for less than $500.
And that will be more than enough to get you on the water – without breaking the bank.
Many of you are probably already shopping at Walmart – and continue doing so because of the convenience of getting all these different household items, supplies, and groceries in one place.
There’s one thing you may not have realized you can add to your Walmart shopping list, though – a kayak.
Walmart began selling kayaks sometime in the mid-2010s as part of the store’s sporting goods department. Today, Walmart carries a surprisingly wide range of options, including sit-on-top and sit-inside kayaks, recreational kayaks, inflatables, tandems, and even kayaks for kids – both online and in-store.
That said, you’ll typically find a much larger selection on their website, with some items only available via their online store.
Oh, and Walmart also gets bonus points for its generous 90-day return policy and buy online with free in-store pickup option.
Costco is a warehouse-style department store that is generally known for its low prices and bulk products. And yes, they sell kayaks too – in fact they carry a variety of affordable kayaks and paddle boards.
In fact, Costco sells inflatables, recreational and fishing kayaks, and even some SUP hybrids at pretty low prices.
But don’t expect to find any high-end sea kayaks or racing kayaks here. It’s very much “Kayaks for the masses” – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing as their huge buying power means they can sell kayaks at very competitive prices.
On top of that, there are usually sales going on throughout the year, so your chance of scoring a good deal is relatively high here.
I should add that you must be a member to buy kayaks from Costco. The membership is not too expensive, though – roughly $60 for an annual membership – and it gives you access to low-cost items and deals on groceries and other items year-round.
So, overall, shopping at Costco seems like a pretty neat bargain.
I’m sure that you are familiar with Dick’s Sporting Goods – and that the store doesn’t require any previous introductions – mainly because it’s one of the largest sporting goods retailers in the US.
Dick’s Sporting Goods stores can be found in 48 states throughout the US.
That said, if you’re looking for specialized categories or high-end ‘yaks for more experienced paddlers – like whitewater kayaks, for instance – you won’t find them here. Their offer is limited to recreational and fishing kayaks.
On the plus side, the store has a price-matching policy and a 60-day return window.
Dick’s Sporting Goods also offers in-store pickups. That could save you a lot on delivery fees – which, by the way, are pretty high for larger items, such as kayaks.
Where To Buy A Kayak: Summary
From Amazon and eBay to REI and Cabela’s, you definitely have plenty of great options when it comes to where to buy a kayak. It all depends on what you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to spend.
Large online marketplaces and outdoor gear retailers are your safest bet. That said, don’t forget about other options – such as buying a used kayak online or from the local outfitters.