What to Look For When Buying a Kayak (12 Things)

Deciding to purchase a kayak for the first time is a big decision, and the choices you now face can be a bit overwhelming. You have to consider things like the different types, sizes, and styles of kayaks. You’ll also have to find a price range where you fit in, because they can get expensive. In this article we’re going to learn what to look for when buying a kayak.

Let’s have a look!

What to look for when buying a kayak

1. Kayak type

When it comes to a beginner kayaker choosing a type of recreational kayak, it basically boils down to 2 options. The two options are sit-in vs sit-on kayaks. Both styles of kayak can work well for new kayak owners, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. When choosing a kayak, you should research the differences, read reviews, join Facebook groups, and find out why people like one or the other. This will help you ultimately make the decision that’s best for you.

2. Quality/brand

The overall quality of a brand of kayak is important. You of course want to get a good deal, but you also want a kayak that is going to last for a while and not start falling apart the first time you use it. Be sure to research the top brands of kayaks you see people buying, read through product reviews, go to manufacturer websites, and make an informed decision about the trustworthiness of a brand. Some brands make higher quality products than other.

3. Comfort

Kayaking is all about sitting in a little boat for hours on end, you want to make sure you’re comfortable. In this day and age of ordering things online, you may very well order your first kayak off the internet. That’s totally fine.

You should go into forums like Reddit, visit kayaking Facebook groups, and find out the unbiased scoop on any kayak you are considering purchasing. Sometimes simply searching the term “comfortable” in the Amazon product reviews will tell you everything you need to know about how comfortable a kayak’s seat is for people. If people are complaining of a numb butt after 20 minutes of kayaking then you may want to look elsewhere.

4. Price

Prices for kayaks can range anywhere from a couple hundred dollars for an inexpensive Pelican kayak, to over $5,000 or more for a Hobie Mirage top shelf level kayak. Just ask yourself what you’re comfortable spending, and then try to increase that amount as much as you can. Remember, the more you’re able to invest in your first kayak, the more fun you’re probably going to have. Having said that, you don’t need to go all in on a first kayak. Get something for beginners, but the nicest one you can afford in that category.

5. Size

The majority of recreational kayaks that are used for calmer waters like lakes and slow moving rivers, are probably going to be in between 9 and 12 feet long. That size range is made to maneuver around easily, but also move fairly quickly. Basically, the longer a kayak is, the faster it will go and the better tracking it has. We’ll learn what tracking is below. The width of these boats is typically between 26 and 30 inches wide, so they’re pretty snug. Make sure the one you choose has enough wiggle room for you.

6. Capacity

If you’re under 250 lbs then you probably have nothing to worry about as pretty much all kayaks aside form youth kayaks can hold that much weight. The weight capacity for many kayaks start at around 250-275 lbs and goes all the way to well over 500 lbs like this nice 11.5 ft kayak from Brooklyn Kayak Company on Amazon. You shouldn’t have

7. Warranty

A good warranty is important to many people. I think most kayaks are going to come with at least a 1 year manufacturer’s warranty, but many will come with a 5 year or longer warranty like Old Town Canoes.

8. Tracking

The tracking of a kayak refers to how well it moves in a straight line on the water. Typically the longer a boat is the better tracking it is, but that also may negatively affect the maneuverability. If you get a kayak that has a skeg, a retractable blade that drops down into the water to improve tracking, then you can improve tracking at will. For most people considering buying their first recreational kayak tracking isn’t a huge deal, even though it’s a term to be aware of.

9. Maneuverability

It’s important to be able to maneuver around well in a kayak, though we also want to be able to go in a straight line a decent speed. So in other words we want a good combination of tracking and maneuverability. Since you probably aren’t going to be able to test a kayak before you buy it, unless you have a friend that has one, you’re going to have to research. When it comes to maneuverability and tracking, you’ll need to consider things like length, width, hull, design, and if it has a skeg. Just don’t overwhelm yourself too much with all the lingo on your first kayak. Your first kayak is going to help you decide how to better choose your second kayak.

10. Stability

You should buy a kayak that is known for being stable in the water. Falling when you’re getting in and out of your kayak is embarrassing and you can also hurt yourself. Short of actually trying out a kayak, you can do some online research. Find a product page online for a kayak or kayak brand you are considering. When I visit this Pelican Sit-on-top kayak on Amazon and search the word “stable” under Customer questions and answers, I get back 5 customer reviews saying that it is a very stable kayak.

11. Storage

A kayak will usually have a couple of storage areas, one on the bow and one in the stern. These storage areas are usually very small and just big enough to store a few items while you’re on the water. This is definitely a feature of a kayak that’s worth looking at though. Each person is going to need to have different items with them, and I’ve seen complaints of not enough storage room on certain kayaks. So make sure your new kayak has the appropriate storage room for you and your gear.

12. Other features

Different kayaks are made for different types of water and different types of people. Each kayak is a little bit unique and there are a host of features and available add-ons for kayaks. Are you going to do some fishing from your kayak? Consider looking at fishing kayaks that already have rod-holders, are a little longer for better tracking and stability, and extra storage.

In conclusion

After seeing this list of what to look for when buying a kayak, you now know that there’s probably more to consider than you may have thought. Since this can be a rather large purchase, it’s best to do plenty of research before you make your final decision. You may even decide to go to the used market and save some money, which could potentially allow you to get a higher quality brand of kayak.

See you on the water!

Written by OutdoorMotives

At outdoormotives.com we talk about all types of outdoor activities. We answer common questions and recommend the best products to help you enjoy the outdoors as much as possible.


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