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Expert Shopper Camping & Outdoors

Best cheap kayak

Which cheap kayak is best?

Whether you’re maneuvering through winding rivers, cruising over rolling waves in the ocean or just calmly paddling in a still lake, kayaking is a fun way to spend the day. Not only do you get to enjoy the great outdoors, but you’ll also be getting some good exercise too. 

Suppose you wanted to pick up the hobby but were concerned that the cost of entry would be too high, not to worry. Many inexpensive but high-quality kayaks can have you out and paddling in no time. 

The Lifetime Tioga is one such example. This sit-on-top kayak won’t break the bank yet has all the features you need for a relaxing day on the water, including footrests and back support. It also has plenty of room to bring along a cooler or perhaps your four-legged buddy and a dry storage compartment for valuables.

What to know before you buy a cheap kayak

Sit-on kayaks vs. sit-in kayaks

Kayaks come in sit-on-top and sit-in options. Both sit-on-top and sit-in kayaks are suitable for ocean, lake and calm river paddling, while only sit-in kayaks are for whitewater applications.

Sit-on-top kayaks leave you fully exposed to the elements but allow you to climb in and out of the vessel easily. They are also easy to re-enter from the water. Conversely, sit-in kayaks protect the lower half of your body from cold wind and water spray but are very difficult to reboard from the water.

Another benefit of sit-on-top kayaks is that they usually offer more storage space, often with both dry compartments and open storage wells. Sit-in kayaks may have a dry compartment, which is sometimes larger than that found on sit-on-top kayaks, but lack space for open storage wells.

Beginners are often more comfortable on sit-on-top kayaks, as you don’t have to worry about extracting your legs from inside the hull if the kayak somehow tips over. Most feature scupper holes so they cannot fill with water and potentially submerge.

Inflatable kayaks

If you have limited storage space or a small vehicle that cannot transport a hardshell kayak, it may be worth considering an inflatable option. These are just as stable as hardshell options if adequately inflated, and they can be surprisingly durable, too. That said, inexpensive inflatable models won’t last as long as hardshell kayaks.

Features to look for in a quality cheap kayak

Back support

Back support is critical if kayaking for more than an hour or so, as they allow you to relax the muscles in the lower back periodically. This will help prevent pain or soreness from forming. However, not all models include back support, so it is essential to consider when choosing your kayak. Ideally, the back support should be well-cushioned and adjustable.  


As with back support, footrests contribute to a more comfortable ride. They also provide you with a way to stabilize your body when paddling, which allows you to put more power into each stroke. Footrests can be molds in the boat or adjustable attachments. 


Most people bring along some essentials and supplies when kayaking. To accommodate these items, look for a kayak that includes both dry storage compartments and open storage wells. The dry storage compartment is useful for keys, wallets, phones or cameras and other items that shouldn’t get wet. Open storage wells are for carrying coolers or other large items that the water is damage. They can also be a good place for a dog to sit if you bring your canine along on the adventure. 

Drink holder

Though not a necessity, built-in drink holders are a nice-to-have convenience. They provide you with a dedicated place to keep a cup or water bottle where it is readily accessible when needed.

Accessory holders and mounts

Kayaks are available with a variety of holders and mounts for accessories. These include things like rod holders, GPS mounts and paddle cradles. Consider the activities you want to do on your kayak and look for a model with holders and mounts that accommodate them. 

Carrying handles

Most people don’t keep their kayaks in the water. This means you’ll regularly be carrying them to and from the launch point and potentially from your garage or another storage area to your vehicle. Comfortable carrying handles make this easier.

Skid plates

Though many kayaks are reasonably lightweight and easy to carry, most people still wind up dragging theirs periodically. This most often happens when launching the kayak or pulling it back out of the water. Skid plates protect the hull from being damaged when this happens. Ideally, they should be replaceable as they wear out.

Multi-chamber construction

If purchasing an inflatable kayak, it is vital to look for one that has multi-chamber construction. This ensures that it won’t sink if a single chamber is punctured.

How much can you expect to spend on a cheap kayak

The most affordable kayaks start around $150, but these are often of very questionable quality. A more reasonable price to spend for a cheap kayak that you can expect to last through several seasons of use, if not longer, is from $250-$500.

Cheap kayak FAQ

Do kayaks require any maintenance?

A. Kayaks are fun, and they require almost no maintenance. If you take yours out in saltwater, simply rinse it off after each use to reduce the chances of corrosion. Other than that, make sure to check the integrity of the hull and the riggings periodically.

Do I need to wear a lifejacket when kayaking?

A. Though adults are not required to wear a lifejacket when kayaking in most states, it is recommended for safety purposes, doubly so if whitewater kayaking. Some jurisdictions do have laws that state paddlers of a minimum age must wear a lifejacket or dictate how many lifejackets need to be kept on board and readily accessible at all times.

What is the best cheap kayak to buy?

Top cheap sit-on kayak

Lifetime Tioga Sit-On-Top Kayak

What you need to know: This kayak is well-equipped for a budget-friendly option, with many features that contribute to a comfortable ride.

What you’ll love: There are large storage wells on the front and back with bungee cords to secure your gear, and it even comes with a paddle, so there is one less thing for you to purchase.

What you should consider: The scupper holes in the seat are a poor design choice.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top cheap sit-in kayak

Pelican Maxim 100X Sit-in Kayak

What you need to know: With a padded seat and backrests and a small cockpit table with a built-in cupholder, this sit-in kayak lets you travel in relative luxury.

What you’ll love: It is easy to maneuver in most water conditions and has a large dry storage compartment for your essentials. Plus, at only 39 pounds, you won’t have too much trouble carrying it to and from your launch points.

What you should consider: Beginners may find it too unstable.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top cheap inflatable kayak

Intex Excursion Pro Kayak

What you need to know: If you are looking for an affordable way to head out on the water with a friend and don’t have space to store a hardshell kayak, the Intex Excursion Pro inflatable kayak is just what you need.

What you’ll love: Both its footrests and backrests are adjustable for comfort. Also, it is equipped with fishing rod holders, making it a smart choice for anglers.

What you should consider: It won’t last as long as a hardshell kayak.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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