Difference Between Cheap and Expensive Kayaks (Pick the Right One)

What is the difference between cheap and expensive kayaks? What are the differences in price, durability, design, comfortability, and more?

This blog post will answer all of these questions for you. I’ll walk through what to look for when buying a kayak and how to find one that suits your needs best.

There’s no need to spend hours sifting through reviews online or asking friends on social media any longer.

Cheap kayaks vs expensive kayaks on the lake's beach

Cheap kayak vs. expensive kayak

I remember the first time I got into a kayak. My family has a tradition of going to Lake Tahoe and spending some time together paddling around the water. It was such a beautiful day, and we had rented two kayaks to make it even more special. There were already people waiting in line for their turn at the paddle boats when we got there.

We reached the shore without them noticing. We were there too soon because they looked at each other and tried to decide what to do. That was one of my favorite memories from childhood.

After spending time on the lake, I learned a lot about kayaks. Kayak fishing helped me know more about that sport. The difference between cheap and expensive kayaks? It can be hard to understand if you’re not careful with your purchase. I’ll try to make things more transparent before you go shopping.

What is the difference between cheap and expensive kayaks?

Expensive kayaks are more durable and have higher quality paddles, seats, gear, etc. They’re also designed to be faster than cheaper kayaks that can only go a certain speed before they start hitting the rapids too often or sinking in deep water.

Cheap kayaks are made of plastic. They are also easy to carry around. If you need to move it or if you’re a beginner who doesn’t know how to sail yet, this is great. But they won’t be as durable as expensive ones. Be careful not to bump into anything with your kayak while on the water because it will get water inside the boat and break.

The inflatable kayaks are usually made of rubber, and you can use a pump to blow air into them. They are not as stable, so beginners should use these before they know how to sail. They also last longer because they have space between each layer, which is valuable for beginners.

But if you want an expensive boat that will last a long time, this isn’t it. You need to be more careful with these boats because they may break if you hit something hard or let water inside the boat by accident.

One of the most effective ways to save money on your next kayak is to buy a used kayak. You can buy a lot of things at second-hand stores. This way, you don’t spend too much money on something that might not fit well. You can also go to the store and try it out first, and then if you like it, you will also get a good deal.

There are many different kinds of kayaks. Some are made out of plastic, and some are made from carbon fiber. The most expensive ones are carbon fiber, but these can be hard to find at second-hand shops, so you would need a lot of money if you want one, and there might not be many options for them.

Wrapping up

Expensive kayaks will typically last longer because they’re made with denser, more rigid materials that are more resilient. Cheap vessels are more likely to have shorter life spans because they’re made with less resilient materials.

If you want a cheap boat, don’t go out into rough water or speed up. It can break the more affordable ships quickly. If you need a cheap boat for calm waters like lakes, then buy one without hesitation.

Affordable paddles are available at second-hand stores. They are easy to find, and it is easier for people who want to buy new paddles later on.

Buying a cheaper kayak will mean you can use your money for other paddling equipment.

Keep in mind that cheap and expensive kayaks can both be equally fun because it is the person who makes it so.

Why are some kayaks more expensive than others?

Many factors go into the price of a kayak. Some cheap models can cost as little as $150, while other more expensive models may cost up to $1500.

The big difference between expensive kayaks (typically over $1000) and cheaper ones (typically under $500) is the construction. Expensive kayaks are made of solid material built to last, which means they will be heavier, slower, and more comfortable.

The more inexpensive kayaks are designed for beginners or lighter use but come with plenty of downsides, like being less durable and uncomfortable.

What makes the price tag:

  • The point of inflatable kayaks is to make them cheaper than hard kayaks. The material used and the transport costs are less expensive, making rigid one a more costly option. Inflatable kayaks are also much smaller in size, making them easier to ship abroad through air freight services.
  • Expensive kayaks are typically longer with an elongated shape. This design is suited for long trips but labors stability in more open water. Cheap kayaks are usually shorter and have a more stable bottom. That means that they offer less room, and they are not as appropriate for some areas like rivers or rapids. For beginners, the appeal of a cheap kayak will often outweigh the other factors due to its familiarity.
  • The types of materials that kayaks are made of influence the longevity, robustness, and weight of the kayak and its price. The material used is reflected in the price. Advanced kayakers who want to go fast should get a GRP or carbon boat. Beginner kayakers who might not be carrying their boat far and prefer a more stable ride should get an inflatable vessel instead. Polyethylene vessels are less expensive but more difficult to transport due to their heavyweight.
  • A seat that can be comfy for the whole kayak trip is usually better than a cheap one.
  • Expensive kayaks offer a wide range of equipment for different boating styles, but many cheap “all-rounders” work well for fishing and paddling as well.
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As experience shows, the demands on kayaks also increase, and other factors are added. For beginners, it’s best to focus on these factors for a first purchase.

Are cheap kayaks any good?

Cheap kayaks are an excellent way to start kayaking. They usually are not expensive. But there is one problem: they don’t have good storage space for people who want to use them as a professional boat. If you plan on using your kayak recreationally, then a cheap one is OK.

Is it OK to buy a cheap kayak if you are a beginner?

Many people think they can’t afford an expensive kayak since they don’t know if it will be worth the cost. But there are some advantages to buying one that is not so expensive.

You may learn how to paddle your boat before you spend more money on equipment. That way, you won’t buy a lot of equipment at once when it could just be as fun with less gear in tow.

Are cheap kayaks worth it?

No. I have never regretted buying a more expensive kayak. I would rather spend more money and have less trouble with it than buy a cheaper kayak that ends up being hard to use.

When you buy a cheap boat from a store like Walmart or Target, it will not be good. It will not move much, and it might break easily.

The most significant difference between cheap and expensive versions of the same kayak is quality. In this day in age, higher quality craftsmanship does not come cheap – and that’s why a costly family canoe will generally cost as much as three cheaper ones.

Some high-end models can be a bit of a hassle and are pricier than the cheaper variety when it comes to kayaks.

A good way to tell if a kayak is right for you is how often you will use the kayak? If it’s just going to be used once in a while, then any cheap model will probably work. But if you will use it more often, make sure your kayak has all the features of an expensive one without costing too much money.

A cheap kayak is not a very good one. It does not work well in the water, and it is terrible for you. It has low-value materials, and you cannot sit there for long without wanting to get out of the boat.

People say that the worst thing about these boats is that many people think of them as beginner or starter kayaks. If you look online at any kayak forum, you will see hordes of intelligent people saying that it is reasonable for people to buy one to see if kayaking is something they would enjoy. 

I have talked to many people who told me that their experience was so awful that they would never consider trying it again. All of these people had one thing in common. They all bought their first kayak at a large retail store.

For a similar price as one of these low-quality boats, you can get a used, good kayak. If you then find out that the sport does not suit you, your old boat in trade for what you paid.

Cheap plastic kayak on the water

Do low-cost and affordable kayaks last long?

Cheap can be durable, but it is not as good in quality as the more expensive ones. A cheap kayak breaks easily and does not last long when used for challenging situations.

When you buy a cheap kayak, it is only qualified for calm water. So if somebody wants to go in rapids, they need a more durable and heavier kayak. But beginner paddlers must be careful and protect their equipment from breaking.

A beginner who is not as careful would want the best quality possible, so they end up spending more money after all for better quality materials.

Buying cheaper models is a good idea for people who do not want to use their boat that much. They are more affordable, but they are also less durable. Other models are just as good, and you can use them in more conditions.

Cheap models have fewer features than more expensive ones. They are also lighter and easier to carry, which is beneficial for people with a hard time moving heavy objects. It also won’t break if you jump off little falls like it might if it were more expensive.

If you buy a kayak for a low price, what should you expect?

Some people sell stolen kayaks

Do not buy a kayak from a website you don’t trust. That is because some people might be selling stolen ones. So if you see one that looks suspicious, do not buy it because it could be illegal, especially when it comes to Craigslist offers.

If you want to buy a genuinely expensive boat, I can’t stop you. But be careful. Check the HIN number on the back of the boat. If it doesn’t have this number, call the police right away and tell them about it.

Avoid buying any expensive kayaks from shady dealers.

Cheap kayaks usually provide poor comfort

What people say about expensive purchases is true. When you buy the more costly kayaks, you will always get better quality and comfort than a cheap one. Cheap kayaks often lack seats and have space just for you to sit in.

Furthermore, more expensive kayaks may offer backrests and even foot pedals which are very desirable for comfort while paddling for many hours without taking a break.

Much like in cars, the difference in comfort level between a cheap and expensive kayak is something that dramatically impacts your experience. On short trips, you may not notice this much of a difference. However, if you’re planning a more lengthy journey, it will likely be evident as soon as you start paddling.

There are two main types of seats for kayaks: sit-on-top and sit-inside. Sit-on tops do not have a cockpit, which is an area inside that can protect you from inhaling cold water vapor when it’s cold outside. These kayaks cost less money than the other kind of seat, which is a bit more expensive.

If you want to paddle on colder waters, you should buy a thicker bottomed boat with more insulation. It will protect you from the cold.

Poor kayak design makes it hard to maneuver

There is one fact about kayaks that I know for sure. Cheap kayaks are not made for rough waters. They might fill up with water, or the boat might be too low to the water, and the water will come in. It means that they are not satisfactory for rough waters.

In cheap kayaks, the design makes it difficult to go in a straight line. It is not like authentic kayaking. If you are tired, you’ll give up before even starting the real thing now. That’s an authentic experience.

A cheaply-made kayak may start with a lovely exterior appearance, but the lousy construction will become apparent once you take it on the water.

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However, not every expensive kayak will suit you. You need to find the right design for your needs before looking at brands. There are three main designs of kayaks: recreational kayaks, which are roomy and easy to control. Sea kayaks, which offer speed and precision but take some time to get used to. And touring kayaks, which are sufficient for long paddles in big waters.

Recreational kayaks are best for calm waters like a lake or river. They are less durable and hard to control, but they offer the best experience. Sea kayaks are fair for rough waters like a sea trip or other type of water with waves. Touring kayaks have all the characteristics, such as being average and easy to control in all water types. If you know the kind of kayak you want, it will save time and money in your search.

Cheap materials make kayaks break

Families who go on kayaking trips with kids need more stability and safety, and a durable kayak is essential.

Low-quality kayaks are usually not worth the money. They may be made of cheap plastic parts welded together in an unstable manner and are vulnerable to damage. Only a minor touch with a stone or bump, and the kayak is sure to have permanent scratch marks or massive tears.

Cheap kayaks are not a good option for those who enjoy rougher, more dangerous waters as the boats may collapse mid-trip.

Wooden kayaks are aesthetically pleasing and offer a better paddling experience than cheaper boats. Wooden kayaks, however, aren’t durable for use in rapids because of their susceptibility to rocks damaging the hull and splintering at weak points.

The next choice is for people who are willing to spend more: composite kayaks. These kayaks are strong, and their handling is good, and they also take less time to fix. But if you want a cheaper choice, rotomolded kayaks are the ones you should buy.

Kayaks are priced on a sliding scale. Cheap kayaks may only be made of plastic, while an expensive kayak can have both inflatable and hard parts.

Cheap kayaks don’t have sufficient safety measures

Keep safe when on the water with a good paddle, life jacket, and other safety kits. Some cheap kayaks lack these safety measures altogether, making them very unsafe.

You can buy all the things separately, but if you want to get it all together and save money, you can buy a pre-packaged kayak.

When we talk about safety gears, let’s go over some basic safety measures you need before you can hit the water. Firstly, you will need a lifejacket.

Never use a cheap, unstable, or damaged kayak to protect your safety. This equipment can be life-saving, as it will keep you floating and insulated from the cold water that surrounds you. There are many kayaks out there, but they should all come equipped with adequately sized life vests.

Helmets, first-aid kits, and communication devices like flashlights and strobes are also necessary. You need to know Morse code to make them work. You could also use a flare or two if you need help.

The cost of a kayak is high if it requires a lot of maintenance

When you buy a kayak, you should think about the cost of buying it and how much it will cost to take care of it. You may want to consider an inflatable one if it is more affordable, but be careful because you need to take care of it to get ruined.

However, when you buy a boat that is made from good quality material, there is less chance that something will break and make the ship not work anymore.

So even though those boats cost more money upfront, in the long run, they are cheaper because you won’t have as many repairs.

Cheap kayaks might save you some upfront cash, but they will not last as long and will always need to be repaired. An expensive kayak is a wiser purchase in the end.

To fix a deflated kayak, look for two holes in its hull (toward the front and rear) and cover them with marine-grade fabric. For buoyancy, inflate it with a compressor and self-heating gas or sun heat.

Besides checking out the kayak before purchase, you should also avoid dragging it across any rough surfaces while lowering it into the water. Finally, make sure to keep your kayak from getting wet and direct sunlight after usage. The results will be faster deterioration of your kayaks due to fungi growths and bacteria and damage caused by UV rays.

It won’t make you love kayaking

Kayaking is a wonderful hobby when you invest in the right kayak. Cheap kayaks are not convenient for long-term use. You may only use them for recreation. They don’t have the features necessary to make them practical for intense paddling over time.

If you only want to use your kayak in one environment, it probably doesn’t matter whether or not it is cheap or expensive. However, because it is limiting in so many ways, a sturdy kayak will be better if you want to learn kayaking.

That way, you can adapt to many different waters and soon become an experienced kayaker.

Buy a kayak that is good for many different things. If you want to do it for a long time, find other kayakers and learn from them. Be healthy and take care of your body so that you can keep up with the sport. Always have enough supplies when you go on a trip.

A kayaking trip is not only about kayaking. Sometimes there are other things like camping and all, so it’s always a good idea to be prepared. Follow these tips, and you will love kayaking even more.

To sum up

Some people say that spending more money on a kayak will make it better. But really, you can tell if something is good or not just by looking at it. Some companies sell high-quality things for cheaper, too.

When it comes to shelling out a bit more for an expensive boat, you also get the distinction of being able to enjoy a lot of variations in terrain. For this reason, before you decide to buy a cheap or inexpensive kayak, ask yourself if it is really worth it. My point is that it is doesn’t worth it at all. The answer is no. I hope this part has helped.

A woman on an expensive fiberglass kayak among the mountains

Can you turn a cheap kayak into a fishing kayak?

Yes, but it may affect the design and performance. Cheap kayaks are not designed for fishing like an expensive or quality model would be. An affordable boat will most likely have a narrow hull that can’t accommodate as much gear, so storage space is limited.

Additionally, there’s no need to worry about durability since cheap models’ initial focus is affordability. That means they’re made of lower-quality material than higher-end boats, which could mean more repairs down the line.

The size of the paddle can make a big difference. You might want to have different sizes for different times. For example, if you will use your kayak for racing, you might need a more large paddle.

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And the seat is important too. It will not be very comfortable if it is cheap, and you will get tired more easily.

When you are fishing in saltwater bays or near mountain towns, the high-end models are perfect for you. They can withstand harsh conditions and water.

Cheap kayaks are sometimes not as good as more expensive ones. But, if you only want them for recreation with friends at a lake house, then they will be fine. Cheap kayaks are very popular because they are less expensive than more expensive ones.

A notable difference between cheap and expensive kayaks is which one will make you happy. You can get a kayak that is good for fishing or one for paddling in calm water. There are even some that are made just for rapids.

Why are kayaks so expensive to buy?

Buying a kayak can be difficult because there are so many types, brands, and price ranges. For beginners or those who only want to paddle around on the lake, an inexpensive kayak just for leisure could be ideal. But what does it mean when we say an expensive kayak?

More than just a piece of plastic

Kayaks are not just simple plastic boats. There is a lot of design that goes into them. A cheap kayak will have fewer features and might break easily, but an expensive one will have more features and be more durable and easy to use.

A kayak is more than a plastic hull. It’s an investment that will last for years! Consider these features before you buy:

  • A kayaker needs to be comfortable. It should also stay dry in the rain.
  • A drink holder is always helpful, and cup holders are too.
  • Dry storage space is also a good thing because you can put something like jackets, life jackets, cold water tanks, and extra food on it to not take up space when you are paddling around the lake.
  • You can use cushioned paddles and grips for your hands to help you. These will make it less painful to take breaks from paddle boarding.

Many different manufacturers make kayaks for a variety of tasks. Generally speaking, you should consider the following when choosing which kayak to buy: purpose, features, and price.

There are many types of plastics

Many people think of plastic as an inexpensive, low-quality material that is typically associated with cheap goods. But there are many different types of plastics used to create a variety of items.

Kayaks are made from solid material. If they were not, then they would break easily. Do you want your kayak to break on you when you are miles away from home? Sure not!

That is why higher-quality kayaks are typically more expensive because they are made of a better type of plastic than cheaper models. If you don’t care too much about durability, the price may be more important to you.

Kayaks that are not plastic

More materials besides plastics are used to make kayaks; high-end kayaks are often made of fiberglass, while lightweight carbon is a material frequently found in modern-day models.

The expensive kayaks are strong and will last for a long time

Kayaks are expensive because they last a long time. Most cheaper kayaks need to be replaced every few years, but more expensive ones last much longer.

They’re also lighter, which is because of new methods of production that aren’t available to most manufacturers.

The type of kayak changes the cost

People buy expensive kayaks to use for different things than people who buy cheap kayaks.

Cheap kayaks are more basic and more inexpensive. Expensive boats usually correspond with activities in deeper water with an ampler skill requirement, such as scuba diving or fishing.

The range can depend on what you want it for – if it’s just going around lakes, they’re less expensive, but some people pay so much money that it could put them into debt.

You would never want to use a small, lightweight kayak on the ocean. The difference in materials and design means you’re more likely to flip over because they’re not durable enough for the greater range of conditions.

Similarly, you should never go whitewater kayaking without an appropriate kayak that can withstand rough conditions and take a beating.

Expensive kayaks also cost more for their paddles

Shopping for a kayak can be complicated because there is a big difference between expensive and cheap paddles.

Some people might think that these high-quality kayaks are too expensive, but they last longer than cheaply made models and have more stability. Others may find them pricey, but they more than make up the price by staying afloat better when on the water.

Regardless, make sure that you own good-quality paddles, and outfitting them with floatation devices so they do not get lost easily is essential.

What influences the price of a kayak the most?

It is crucial to have excellent quality plastics and a strong hull to make the kayak last. There is also an impact of materials on the price of a boat, such as nylon or fiberglass that each have their advantages and disadvantages.

As is the case with many outdoor activities, you need to know that your boat will work well before you go on a trip. I’ve gone on several long trips in wilderness kayaking and whitewater kayaking, and if I rely on safety gear like my boat, I want to make sure that it works well.

A good way to test whether a boat is stiff or not is to examine the sides of it. If there are scrapes, then the boat will be able to go fast. Scrapes from serious rapids or falls would also count.

Other people have said that kayaks last a long time. The costs to produce quality plastic boats are high. For example, it’s $10,000 just to create one mold type made of plastic.

Many types of PVC are available for different purposes, and kayaks are specifically designed for these purposes when experts are building them with knowledge and experience in their field.

The manufacturing process also means that you have to transport kayaks. That is not cheap because it means allocating storage space during shipping, which many people traveling with one or two paramotors have trouble with.

What’s a fair price for a kayak?

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Kayaks are a great, low-impact exercise. You can paddle around in calm water or brave more turbulent waves. Kayak is an excellent activity that anyone of any age and skill level can enjoy.

When buying your first boat, think about what type of water conditions you want to use it in.

If you want to buy a kayak, make sure it has stability, weight capacity, and maneuverability. It will be better for you.

If you have questions about where to start shopping or need advice from an expert before deciding, feel free to ask any questions in the comments.

Last updated on June 19, 2022 by Duncan Barrett

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