Warm weather means more time for watersports but it also means you need to know the best places to buy a kayak if you don’t already own one. Kayaking is a rewarding and versatile hobby that almost anyone can enjoy. There are many types of kayaks available, both new and used; you just need to know where to look.
Online research can go a long way when narrowing down your gear selections, but nothing can beat seeing the equipment in person and being able to chat with a knowledgeable gear representative. Whether you’re looking for a brand new kayak or want a quality used option, we put together a list of the best places to buy kayaks to help you on your search.
Things to Consider Before Choosing Where to Buy a Kayak
Before you even start your search for a kayak, it helps to narrow down the options. It is easiest to start with identifying two things: the intended use and your overall budget. Then, you can move to the type of kayak, features, and places to buy a kayak.
Before purchasing any piece of equipment, it always helps to narrow down your intended use to find the right one for your needs. Various kayak options are available, from sea kayaks, whitewater kayaks, and even pedal kayaks. They all have their intended purposes, and they won’t all work that well in the same types of water.
The two primary categories of kayaks are flatwater and whitewater kayaks. These can be broken down into several other categories to suit specific types of paddling. Flatwater kayaks are boats that have better tracking for calmer waters like lakes, ocean shorelines, and some stretches of rivers. These boats work well for casual paddles, touring, recreational kayaking, and fishing.
Whitewater kayaks are often much shorter than flatwater kayaks and are designed to be very maneuverable. They will be easier to turn, but they will not work as well in long, flat stretches of water.
Once you know what type of paddling you want to pursue, you can identify some must-have features. For instance, if you want a fishing kayak, you may want a paddle holder, plenty of storage, and a sit-on-top option. Some things like a fish finder for kayaks can always be added later or as an add-on with purchase.
While online research can go along to learn about what kayaks may be available near you, it can be helpful to utilize staff knowledge and see what is in stock if you go to a store in person. This gives you a chance to ask questions and see what some comparable options may be. We recommend going to a sporting-specific store instead of a big box store for that reason alone. Sporting goods stores will have knowledgeable staff who often only work in the department they know most about, making it one of the best places to buy a kayak.
How much money you plan to spend on a piece of gear always plays an integral role in the final decision. When it comes to a bigger ticket item like a kayak, it helps to do some planning beforehand so you can invest in a quality boat.
One of the best ways to stick to your budget without cutting corners in terms of quality is to buy used equipment. Kayaks are one of the main items that I would always recommend looking for used first and then only buying new if you can’t find what you need.
Some of the best kayaks for beginners can be found used, and even many used whitewater kayaks are sold in popular boating areas. When buying used, it is helpful to look locally first to avoid shipping costs (especially for such a large item). Look at places like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or local online paddling groups.
Your area may have a used gear consignment shop or a paddling outfitter. Gear consignment shops tend to stock season items, and many of them are very reasonably priced. Gear outfitters can be trickier to find things for sale, but many outfitters that rent paddling equipment sell some of their gear at the end of the paddling season. Staff in either type of store are bound to be knowledgeable and can be a great resource if you are just getting into paddling or are new to the area and want local tips.
Best Overall: Local Retailers
Why It Made the Cut: Shopping local is always an excellent way to support your community and find good deals. Local retailers often have specific knowledge of the paddling in that area, will carry kayaks that fit the local scene, and may even carry used kayak options.
- Return Policy: inquire with each store
- In-Store or Online: usually in-store but may have some online options
- Types of Kayaks: varies with location and season
- Knowledgeable staff
- May have used kayaks
- Supports local economy
- You don’t have to travel far
- May not have as many options in stock
- Return policies vary
Shopping local can mean going to the locally owned sporting goods store, the local outfitter, or even the local gear consignment store. If it isn’t a storefront, it could mean buying a kayak from a neighbor or a kayaking friend you met at a local paddling meetup.
If you live in an area where paddling is popular, the likelihood of having a paddling specific shop or local paddling groups is greater. These are excellent resources for anyone just getting into kayaking or people new to the area.
The only real downside to going to a local retailer or buying a used kayak in your area is that they may not have as many options. Most locally-owned stores have the ability to special order equipment for customers, so that may be an option as well.
Best Online: Amazon
Why It Made the Cut: Most stores have some online ordering service, but Amazon continues to have the widest reach, best selection, and fastest delivery times.
- Return Policy: 30 days
- In-Store or Online: online
- Types of Kayaks: foldable, inflatable, fishing, sit-on, and flatwater
- Easy to navigate and order
- Affordable prices and shipping options
- Large selection of kayaks
- Can be difficult to return items
- A lot of cheaply made kayaks listed
Amazon is an online shopping giant that everyone has likely heard of and bought at least one item from in their lifetime. It happens to be one of the best ways to buy a kayak if you are strictly looking to purchase one online.
While they do have a large selection of kayaks available, most of these will only work for recreational purposes on flatwater. The most common type of kayak on Amazon is probably the inflatable one. These are affordable and very popular for leisurely paddlers that are low on storage space.
Unfortunately, there won’t be many whitewater or touring options to be found on Amazon. So, if you are looking for a specialty kayak, look elsewhere. If you are someone looking for a fishing kayak, an inflatable kayak, or a standard recreational kayak, Amazon can be a decent place to start. At the very least, Amazon is an excellent place to find verified customer reviews on products.
Best for Used Kayaks
Why It Made the Cut: Play It Again Sports is a sporting goods store with over 300 locations in the United States, selling both new and used equipment.
- Return Policy: 14 days
- In-Store or Online: both
- Types of Kayaks: varies by location
- Many locations
- Availability online
- New kayaks are available as well
- Usually a knowledgeable staff
- Short return window
- Limited options in some areas
Buying a used kayak is an excellent way to get a quality boat at a lower price. There are many ways to find used kayaks, including Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and local gear consignment shops. We narrowed down the options to Play It Again Sports because of their widespread availability.
They have over 300 retail locations in the United States, and they offer new options alongside their used ones. They have many of their used items listed online, making it easy to browse and check to see what they currently have in stock. It may not be the only place you look when shopping for a used kayak, but it is a good starting point available in most areas of the country.
Why It Made the Cut: Walmart and Costco are great locations to look if you simply want a cheap kayak with no frills and aren’t overly concerned about quality or performance.
- Return Policy: anytime with receipt of purchase (90 days for some items)
- In-Store or Online: both
- Types of Kayaks: mostly recreational
- Generally accept any returns as long as you have a receipt
- Most cities have at least one or both stores
- Great options for recreational kayaks
- Run a lot of sales on kayaks throughout the year
- Many low-quality options
- Limited variety
If you want an affordable kayak option that isn’t used, we recommend checking out Walmart or Costco. Head in-store or look online, and see what they have to offer. Remember these big box stores have products that are so affordable because they are cheaply made.
There will be some more reputable brands in these stores, so do some research ahead of time. If you want an even better deal on kayaks in these stores, look around major holidays like Memorial Day or Labor Day. They usually have items like sporting goods on sale specifically around those times of the year, and you’re sure to find a great deal.
What’s even better is that you will be able to stock up on all of your kayaking accessories in-store. You’re likely to find some of the best kayak coolers and even some fishing equipment as you shop around.
Best for Fishing
Why It Made the Cut: Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops are great places to find a variety of quality fishing kayaks at affordable prices with knowledgeable staff to direct you to a kayak that fits your fishing needs.
- Return Policy: 90 days
- In-Store or Online: both
- Types of Kayaks: recreational, fishing, flatwater
- Great selection of fishing kayaks
- Can find fishing accessories at the same time
- Free in-store pickup for orders
- Online orders available
- You have to pay for shipping on returns
- Limited whitewater kayak options
It makes sense that you’d be able to find some of the best fishing kayaks at Cabelas or Bass Pro Shops. It fits the clientele, and you can easily stock up on all your fishing gear and paddling accessories at the same time.
With a longer than average return policy, online shopping available, and in-store pickup, it is easy to see why they were among our top locations for kayak shopping. You can also find some decent deals in both stores in their online bargain sections and during major sales events throughout the year.
Another thing we love about both Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops is that they generally have excellent customer service (even online). Their staff in-store is knowledgeable, and if you are looking for specific features in a kayak, they seem very willing to help match you up with the perfect option.
How We Made Our Picks
The best place to buy kayaks comes down to the type of kayak you want to buy. To narrow down the shopping options, we chose locations based on overall in-store availability, quality, staff knowledge, customer service, and the return policy.
For many of these locations, they will only provide fairly general kayaks best suited for beginners or specific recreational activities like fishing. We recommend shopping at kayak-specific retailers or manufacturer websites if you are looking for a specialty kayak, a whitewater kayak, or a touring kayak.
Specialty kayaks can also be bought used, but it helps to know precisely what you are looking for and to be a part of a paddling community.
Q: What is a good all-around kayak?
A good all-around kayak is different for everyone. A beginner may be interested in a kayak like the Old Town Heron 9XT, whereas someone passionate specifically about fishing may prefer the Atak 120 Fishing Kayak. A good all-around kayak fits your specific paddling needs and is one that is durable enough to be functional for several years of use.
Q: What size kayak do I need for my height?
What size kayak you need for your height is more important for tall people. Shorter people won’t have much issue finding a kayak that works for them, but taller folks may have to aim for kayaks at least 10’ or longer. Height is not the only determining factor in choosing the size of a kayak, but it can impact the choice. Sit in kayaks also have a cockpit, so you need to make sure you fit inside. The taller you are, the more likely your search should start with high-volume kayaks, but we recommend seeing them in person and renting a few to see what works best for your body.
Q: What is the easiest kayak to get in and out of?
The easiest kayaks to get in and out of are sit-on-top kayaks. These do not have a cockpit and can often be more stable. Getting into a kayak from a low point makes it easier and more stable, so we recommend getting in on the shore or from a low dock.
Q: Where can I buy a cheap kayak?
The best place to buy a cheap kayak is from a gear consignment store or from people in your local area selling an old kayak. Some outfitters also have used gear sales at the end of their rental seasons. Buying used gear is one of the best ways to find quality equipment at a lower price.
Q: What stores sell kayaks?
The best places to buy a kayak are usually big box and outdoor stores. These may include but are not limited to stores like Walmart, Sportsman Warehouse, Cabelas, Scheels, REI, Costco, and Dicks Sporting Goods. Several other shops may only sell online or are run locally. We recommend checking out a local retailer or used gear shop to see what they have available first and then branching out to other stores if you can’t find what you need there.
The best places to buy kayaks often come down to your intended use and budget. There are so many options for purchasing a new kayak, and that is why we recommend starting somewhere local first. Checking out local outfitters and online marketplaces for used equipment is also an excellent way to save money while still getting a quality kayak. If you still can’t find what you need there, you can always search online or at sporting goods stores.