When it comes to cost, kayaks can go from suspiciously cheap to outrageously expensive. As a beginner, you don’t want to pay through the nose for a good kayak, but you also want something that’s going to serve you well through the novice stage.
This guide will fully explain and answer the question – how much should you spend on a kayak as a beginner?
How Much Does a Kayak Cost on Average?
To figure out how much to spend on a kayak if you’re a beginner, it’s important to have an idea of how much kayaks cost in general. The average cost of a kayak is around $400, but this is an average – it all depends on the type of boat you go for.
More specialized kayaks like fishing kayaks for example, can raise that price a lot more – upwards of thousands of dollars.
Why Do Kayak Prices Vary So Much?
Kayaks are a little bit like cars – there are different types, they’re made from different materials and they’re used for different purposes.
You’re unlikely to get a good touring kayak or more high-quality boat for under $600 because the manufacturing and materials are completely different. Also, the cost isn’t as much of a concern for the manufacturer, because these types of kayaks are made for more dedicated kayakers.
A recreational kayak can go from $150 and upwards, depending upon materials and size. Manufacturers are more incentivized to keep the costs down here due to their product being targeted towards a more broad array of customers.
Overall, kayak costs can vary considerably, and if you’re a complete beginner it can be easy to get hoodwinked into spending far more money than you need to.
How Much Should a Beginner Spend on a Kayak? Key Considerations:
Before we take a look at kayak costs, there are some key principles to understand before handing over money for any kayak you’re considering.
Remember That ‘More Expensive’ Is Not Necessarily ‘Better’
Marketing for kayaks can sucker anyone into being mesmerized by features that they simply don’t need. A good sturdy kayak doesn’t or shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg.
A higher-priced kayak might have better performance or a better appearance but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s suitable for a beginner. Sea kayaks tend to be much more expensive, for example, but their shape makes them more difficult to learn basic paddling techniques.
A touring kayak optimized for speed might sound great, but if you don’t know much about kayaking or don’t have much experience it might be a bit overkill, and end up feeling like a waste of money.
Consider Your Kayaking Goals
Thinking about what your aims and objectives are for kayaking is important when determining an appropriate kayak cost. If you’re just dabbling and want to have fun, it doesn’t make sense to fork out the money for the best gear.
Most veteran kayakers will tell you that your first kayak won’t be your last. As long as the vessel you’re in is sturdy and you can maintain good technique that’s all you need.
If you’re a beginner who has fallen in love with kayaking then it might be time to consider looking for more high-quality options.
Think about Where You’ll Use the Kayak
This final principle ties into goals, but location and geography are also important factors when considering kayak cost.
If you’re kayaking in rivers or calm lakes and waters then a fairly cheap recreational kayak is great – inflatable kayaks are great options here and the materials are getting more and more durable.
However, if you’re learning in more challenging waters, or you plan to take your kayak away from the confines of the beach and do some exploring you’ll want to look into purchasing kayaks that are much more durable. There are both hardshell and inflatable kayaks that are tough, but these do cost more.
Factors That Affect Kayak Cost
This section will break down all the factors that affect kayak cost and once you understand these, you’ll have a better grasp of how much you can expect to spend and what you should be looking for to suit your goals.
Having to pay more for big brands is an inescapable part of shopping. Most sports stores will happily up the price tag for a kayak simply because it has a popular brand name attached to it.
These are some of the brands that you should be looking out for, as they have good reputations backed up with solid consumer testimonials:
- Perception Kayaks
- Sea Eagle
- Wilderness Systems
- Old Town
There are many more and depending on where you are some brands are more popular than others or are more well-known for different types of kayaks.
You don’t necessarily have to pay for big-name brands, there are plenty of less well-known ones that produce excellent kayaks. There may even be local producers that will make you a far better kayak than anything available in the stores for your price range.
Type of Kayak
There are many varieties of kayak, but the main types that most beginners might be interested in are as follows:
- Recreational Kayaks – These are the most well-known types of kayaks and in 9 out of 10 cases the type that a beginner should purchase.
- Fishing Kayaks – These tend to be very stable, and have more room, but are bulkier and slower.
- Sea Kayak – These kayaks are designed to traverse the waves and go further out into the ocean.
- Whitewater kayaks – There are often subfamilies within this type (including “slicers” and “playboats”) but these are designed to be used navigating rapidly flowing rivers.
- Touring kayaks – Longer, thinner, and sometimes considered as an upgrade over recreational kayaks. A touring kayak is designed to track well in currents and generally handles poorer water conditions well.
An inflatable kayak can come in various forms (there are some fantastic inflatable fishing and recreational kayaks on the market). They are also excellent for beginners due to being quite stable in the water.
Kayak cost can also be affected by what the kayak is built from. There are materials ranging from cheaper to much more pricey – and this applies to every kind of kayak, even the inflatable ones (you often pay for quality).
Most cheaper kayaks will be made from polyethylene (a durable plastic) which is fine for most beginners. However, there are also more expensive materials like carbon fiber or fiberglass/composite materials.
Inflatable kayaks can be made from cheaper materials or thicker PVC and be made using drop stitch methods (which makes them both incredibly durable and lightweight but more expensive).
Used or New
Depending on what type of kayak you’re after it can be worthwhile to look for second-hand vessels. While used kayak cost statistics can vary, on the whole it’s safe to say that, when it comes to kayak prices, second-hand is cheaper. In fact, shopping for cheap kayaks that are second hand but in good condition could save hundreds of dollars, and is especially worthwhile if you’re looking for more specialized vessels, like a whitewater kayak.
However, as a beginner, there are plenty of good recreational kayaks that you can purchase from a store. Cheap kayaks aren’t necessarily bad quality, if you know what to look for, so picking up an entry-level recreational kayak for a reasonable price isn’t out of the question.
However, if you want something a little more specialized, such as a whitewater kayak or a sea kayak, then you may want to see if you can find a used model. Second-hand, used kayaks such as this (i.e. more expensive and specialized) usually come from sellers who are more dedicated to the hobby, so they’ve most likely taken good care of the boat.
When buying beginner recreational kayaks second hand it’s much easier to fall victim to a scam. Also, due to them being generally less expensive, the potential savings are lower and the potential risks are much higher.
There can be all kinds of extras thrown in with a kayak to inflate the price tag. A fishing kayak might also come with containers or gear, or some sellers try and throw in anything from paddle kits to propulsion systems – and these can add a great deal of expense.
As a beginner don’t be tempted by these distractions, you don’t need to be thinking about your perfect paddle yet. These accessories are often overpriced and nearly always not needed.
Should You Buy or Rent a Kayak?
Plenty of beginner kayakers have likely wondered about this. Is it better to buy a new kayak, or rent one instead? The main advantage of renting a kayak is that you’re not responsible for the maintenance, which might be quite appealing to a beginner (but it’s worth noting that most kayaks aren’t expensive or even difficult to maintain).
Renting can be a more cost-effective option if you kayak very infrequently (less than once a month), or if you don’t have the storage space at home to keep the kayak. However, if you plan to kayak in the long term at all then owning your own kayak will save you both time and money.
It’ll also help make you a better kayaker, nearly every beginner feels more confident and learns faster when they’re progressing through the novice stage in their very own kayak.
Renting kayaks also takes things out of your control as you can’t always be sure of the quality of the kayaks.
Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of renting a kayak, rather than buying one, is that it allows a beginner to try different kinds of kayaks before they buy. Therefore, if you’re having issues deciding between an inflatable kayak or a hardshell, or figuring out which kayak brand you prefer, renting and trying out different boats could be a good potential option for you.
Overall, there are a lot of factors that can alter how cheap or expensive a kayak is. Understanding the factors here will safeguard you from being ripped off and allow you to be more confident as you start your kayaking adventure.
Thank you for reading through – please share if you found this article handy or comment if you have any of your own hard-earned tips and wisdom in regards to spending wisely on a beginner kayak.