cheap kayak

7 Reasons Why Buying Cheap kayaks is a Bad Investment

In this post, I’ll share my 7 reasons why buying a cheap kayak is a bad choice.

So you have recently taken up an interest in kayaking and are starting to see kayaking instructors. All you need now is a kayak and you can hit the water with all your friends. However, as you click into an online dealership, you will be stunned by the sheer number of kayaks there is, with prices ranging from less than 250 to even 1000 dollars! So which one will you choose?

If I were you, I would definitely not choose the cheap ones, and by cheap, I meant the ones whose price is below 150-200 dollars. Want to know why? Stick around, and I will show you why buying a cheap kayak could be a really bad investment.


Stolen Kayaks

Yes, you read that right. The first thing you have to consider is that your potential first-buy has to be a legit one, and some cheap kayaks on shady websites are contrabands. Kayak thefts have been on the rise nationwide, and more and more people are reporting to the authorities about their missing kayaks, leading to more alerted dealerships. This means that thieves will lower their prices and sell their contrabands on online platforms such as Craigslist, etc. If you see a cheap(abnormal price) kayak being listed here, do not give in to the temptation, it could be an illegal one. 

Now, if you are determined to follow up on that lucrative, I cannot really stop you. However, I can give you some really helpful tips to make sure that the deal is legal. First off, check the boat’s HIN (Hull Identification Number). This number, which is inscribed at the stern, is used by the police to track stolen kayaks, so if you find any kayak without this number, cast some doubts and discreetly call the authority immediately.

Also, if the dealer insists on meeting at your place or some shady location, just politely decline the offer. It is definitely not worth it. See more: Best Way to Keep Your Kayak from Stolen!


Poor Comfort

What they say about expensive purchases is quite true.

You will always get what you pay for. Cheap kayaks simply do not offer you the same level of comfort that an expensive one does, and this is really important. In fact, some cheap kayaks do not have seatings at all, replacing them with just a hollow space for you to sit in.

Furthermore, for more expensive kayaks, you could even get a backrest and foot pedals, ensuring comfort for a whole paddling day.

This difference in comfort level is much very like in cars. For short trips, it might not make a difference, but for longer ones, you will definitely feel the discomfort and your back will start to ache. See more: Kayak Seat: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

Since we are here, let’s talk a bit about seatings so that you will know what to choose among the throngs of kayaks out there. There are two main types of seatings: sit-on-top and sit-inside, both having their own advantages. The biggest difference between these seatings is that there is an enclosed area called the cockpit in sit-inside kayaks, allowing for more heat insulation in cooler water. Meanwhile, sit-on-top kayaks do not have this enclosure, so they are more user-friendly. Both of this types of seatings are available to most reasonably priced kayaks. See more: 17 Reasons Why I’m Choosing a Sit-on-Top kayak (and NOT a Sit-in!)


Poor Hull Design (Maneuverability)

There is one undeniable fact about cheap kayaks: they are not made for rough waters.

For this reason, the design of these boats is often abysmal. Some expert on kayaking I know, who have braved both expensive and cheap kayaks, usually complain about issues such as they kayaks being filled with water that just does not drain, hull too low compared to water level, etc.

In some cases, this poor design will lead to frustrating handling in which your boat wriggles and moves in zig-zags instead of a straight line. Eventually, you will get too tired to continue paddling and will abandon kayaking altogether before you even get a shot at trying the real thing.

In short, a cheap kayak might look good on the outside, but once you drop it into the water, the bad design might just ruin your day. A perpetrator of this kind of error is the 13′ Advanced Elements Expedition inflatable kayak, which, allegedly, gets flooded easily. Check out here: Short cheap kayaks – good or bad?

However, that is not to say any expensive kayak will fit your needs. You have to find the right design for you before you can start looking for brands. To keep it simple, there are three main designs for kayaks. The first one is recreational kayaks, which are generally spacious, easy to control, and more comfortable. This type of kayak is usually for new beginners and one-day trippers who generally just want to enjoy the fun.

Naturally, recreational kayaks are suitable for calm and serene waters such as a lake or a languid river. The second design is sea kayaks, which are more durable, harder to control, but which also offers the best handling experience. Sea kayaks are best suited for sea trips or rough waters. In between the two, you have touring kayaks, which are your average jack-of-all-trades, balancing all the characteristics. Knowing which kayak design suits your purpose most will definitely save you a lot of time and a lot of money.

Poor Materials

When you are out there in the middle of a vast tract of water, it is essential that you have to feel safe, and a sturdy kayak which could withstand the thrashing of waves and storms will definitely a comforting sign.

Sadly, most cheap store-box kayaks are simply not like that. They are usually made of cheap plastic parts welded together in an unstable manner, and, thus, are prone to wears and tears. Just a slight touch with a stone and your cheap kayaks might have a permanent scratch or a huge tear.

In rougher water, this is even more dangerous, as there is no telling when your flimsy boat reaches its limit and comes apart amongst the thrashing of the waves. Therefore, even though they might look nice, the materials used to construct a cheap kayak are certainly not reliable.

At this point, some of you might start to wonder which material works best for you. The good thing is that, like ship designs, there is a wide variety of materials for you to choose from, and it all depends on how you want to use your kayak.

If you want a kayak that looks aesthetically good with nice handling, opt for a wooden one. The only real downside is that these wooden kayaks are difficult to build, often requiring expert carpenters, and are only suitable for softer trips because woods do not fare well against rapids.

The next choice is for people who can afford a bit more: composite kayaks. These kayaks are made of fiberglass composition (think of Kevlar), so their sturdiness is guaranteed, and their handling is top-notch. Plus, they are also easy to repair as well! If you opt for a more budget-friendly choice, rotomolded kayaks are the ones you should consider.

All in all, knowing which materials suit your needs the most will save you a lot of time and money. It will also help you to distinguish a cheap kayak from a reasonably priced one, as there is probably no one who will sell a wooden kayak for less than $200. Learn more: Types of Kayak Materials


Poor Safety Measures

Everyone knows that you cannot set sail without the most basic safety kits. Without these safety measures, there will be little hope for you if the worst happens. Sadly, this is where some cheap kayaks fall short.

Even though every boat should have a good pair of paddles and life jacket, some cheap kayaks lack these components altogether making them extremely unsafe for you to paddle on. While it is true that you can buy these safety gears separately, you can buy a reasonably-priced kayak pre-packed with safety gears for just a tiny extra, saving you a lot of dollars.

Since we are talking about safety gears, let’s go over some basic safety measures you need before you can hit the water. Firstly, you will definitely need a lifejacket. For your own safety, never ever cut down on this equipment, as it is essential in keeping you afloat and keep you insulated from cold water. There are a hundred of brands out there, but generally, you should only choose an approved lifejacket.

Secondly, on some occasions, you might also need a helmet and a first-aid kit in order to avoid life-threatening injuries. Finally, you will need some sort of communication devices in order for rescuers to locate and evacuate you. The most readily available ones are flashlights and strobes, but you need to know basic Morse code to use them effectively. You could also prepare a flare or two to aid you, but remember to keep them at dry places.

High Maintenance Cost

When you buy a kayak, you should consider not only the buying cost but the maintenance fee as well.

No matter how sturdy your boat is, sometimes it needs a little repair here and there to keep it afloat. However, you might potentially have to spend a lot more maintaining your boat if you opt for a cheap kayak. Because they are made of poor materials, cheap kayaks, especially Chinese-imported ones, deteriorate rapidly.

A good kayak can last for years without any noticeable tear, but a cheap kayak will not last for even three months before you find some scratches on the hull or discolored patches on the paint, and getting them fixed will cost you a lot of time, money, and frustration. Therefore, even though they might save you some cash early on, the maintenance cost, in the long run, will certainly annul any benefit it might have.

However, even if you buy an expensive kayak, you still have to be a bit crafty at maintenance in order to cut down on costs.

In this paragraph, I will show you how to effectively fix and maintain your kayak. First, you should regularly check your kayak for damage. Hidden spots under the hull or near the cockpit should be the places to examine. Also, if your hull is depressed because of a collision, the heat from the sun is more than enough to inflate it back to its original shape.

Besides thoroughly examining your kayak, you should also take care to use a kayak cart when lowering it into the water, as abrasion and friction from dragging it can cause some serious troubles. Finally, keep your kayak dry and away from the sun after you’re done with it. Wet kayaks will be a huge nest for fungi and bacteria, and the sun is the main source of UV light, all of which will seriously damage your kayaks in the long run.


It won’t Foster Your Love for Kayaking

This one might sound strange, but cheap kayaks are definitely not the ones you should go to if you are considering kayaking as a long-term hobby. On their own, cheap kayaks can be good for recreational purposes, meaning if you simply want to enjoy a simple day trip with your friend, it could probably work.

However, because they are so limiting in so many ways, you will not be able to use them in other environments at all. This will negatively affect your love for the hobby, and soon enough, you will get bored because there is hardly any challenge left at all. Therefore, if you really want to learn kayaking, you should definitely start with a sturdy kayak which you use in many situations. That way, you will quickly learn to adapt to many different waters, and you will find kayaking much more enjoyable.

Other than preparing a good versatile kayak, there are other things you should consider if you want to stick around with this hobby for a long time. First of all, you should definitely consider finding a group of fellow hobbyists. They will be much more experienced than you are and you can learn a lot about kayaking from them. Secondly, kayaking takes a lot of effort, so make sure that your health should always be in good condition, or you won’t be able to keep up with the sport. Finally, remember to prepare ample supplies before every trip. A kayaking trip does not contain only a kayaking; sometimes there could be camping and all, so it is always good to be prepared. Follow these tips, and your love for kayaking will definitely bloom after a while.



Buying that cheap kayak (at Walmart…) could be a really bad investment. You will earn yourself a lot of frustration, trouble, and, in some cases, might put yourself in life-threatening dangers when you enter a cheap kayak.

Plus, for just a bit more dollar, you could get yourself a reasonably-priced kayak which could brave a lot of different terrains and which is fitted with all the safety gear you need. For this reason, before you seal the deal for that cheap kayak, ask yourself if it is really worth it. As for me, the answer will probably be a big no. Hope you find this post helpful.

If you find anything wrong or outdated, please leave your comment below. I’ll update it as soon as possible.

Thanks for reading, Happy kayaking.

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5 years ago

Jim Hill, thanks for the article post.Really thank you! Great.

Joe Blow
Joe Blow
2 years ago

I got mine at Tractor Supply and I love it. You work for Hobie?

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