Kayaks can be labeled as a lot of things – “fun,” “exciting,” “portable,” and “safe” – but “affordable” isn’t one of them.
Don’t let your budget restrictions stop you from entering the kayaking world, though. It’s all about heading out on the water and having fun.
If it takes the best budget kayak to get you there, that’s perfectly fine.
On that note, I wanted to shine the light on some top-notch kayaks that also happen to be easy on the wallet – and, hopefully, put the myth that “cheaper” equals “inferior” to the rest!
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In A Rush? The Winner After 39 Hours Of Research:
Perception Joyride 10
Why is it better?
- Comfortable seating system and thigh pads
- The 275-pound weight capacity makes it suitable even for a larger paddler or additional gear
- Onboard storage options include a hinged, easy-access hatch in the back and front bungee deck rigging
- Has two molded recesses for attaching aftermarket accessories
- The Selfie-Slot that allows you to take photos with your smartphone while on the water
- The molded-in handles make this 50-pound kayak easier to carry and serve as locking points for added storage security
Are Cheap Kayaks Worth It?
I remember back when I first got into water sports and was still in the process of choosing my first kayak. I couldn’t get over how mind-blowingly expensive these things are – but I was still willing to make that investment.
I figured that only an expensive kayak could give me the stability, on-water performance, and durability that I was after. And, cheap kayaks would be interior and a waste of money.
And it’s not that I was wrong. There certainly is a significant distinction between low-end and high-end kayaks that more than justifies the more-than-evident price variations.
But, here’s what I failed to consider:
You don’t necessarily have to spend a small fortune to get into kayaking. As long as you have a vessel, a fitting life jacket, and a paddle, you can get out on the water, provided that you keep your kayak’s capabilities – and limits – in mind.
Occasional day trips on a nearby lake, exploring the potential of kayaking as a new hobby, enjoying the sun and the fresh air while getting some exercise; these are all scenarios where a cheap recreational kayak should fit the bill.
Sure, if you’re not careful, buying an inexpensive kayak might be a bad investment. Then again, the same can happen with any of the more expensive models.
My point is that you shouldn’t treat the price tag of a kayak as a guarantee that it will be the right fit. You have to consider various factors and features before buying a kayak – cheap or not – because kayaks aren’t one-size-fits-all vessels.
Top tip – If you’re worried that kayaking might be a passing phase, or if your budget is super limited then there are some great used kayaks on the secondhand market.
Buying The Best Kayak For The Money: Factors To Consider
Choosing a kayak is stressful enough without the budget restrictions. But when you have a set amount of money to spend, your chances of finding a reliable boat that will take you out on the water starts looking pretty slim – especially for a newbie.
It can be done, though. For most of us, the price will always be a factor – but it’s not the only one.
My point is if you’re already looking to buy the best inexpensive kayak, going for the cheapest possible option you come across isn’t the best way to go about it.
There are still some factors to consider here because you should never compromise quality and safety when choosing a kayak – no matter what your budget is.
Here, I’ll break it down for you!
Know Your Options: Types Of Kayaks You Can Get Without Breaking The Bank
Getting the best kayak for the money doesn’t mean that you don’t get to be picky. It’s all too easy to forget that a limited budget doesn’t necessarily mean limited options.
Sure, it’s going to be a lot trickier – and you’ll have to pick your battles wisely – but it can be done.
The first step is deciding on the type of kayak you want to get based on your needs, intended uses, and preferences.
Start by establishing whether you want a sit-on-top or a sit-inside kayak:
With a sit-on-top kayak, you sit on top of the hull, which makes it feel more spacious, allows some freedom of movement, and minimizes the risk of capsizing, which is a common concern among beginners or those looking for a cheap kayak for fishing.
On the other hand, sit-inside kayaks ones feature enclosed cockpits and are generally built for speed and rough waters. You’re sitting inside the hull, which offers protection from the elements – but at the cost of restricted mobility.
Next, ask yourself if you’d like to go with a traditional hard-shell or would you prefer the portability and convenience of an inflatable kayak.
The former may be the definition of a traditional kayak, but the latter almost always fits tight budgets, weighs less, is easier to transport and store – and is generally less costly to own.
Lastly, consider who will be joining you on your paddling excursions.
Tandem kayaks are harder to track down in the pocket-friendly price range, but they’re still an excellent low-cost alternative to buying two one-person kayaks. Tandem or not, be sure to check the kayak’s weight capacity.
Materials & Construction: Cheap Shouldn’t Mean Poorly Made
When you’re out there on the water, it’s essential that you feel safe and confident in your kayak’s performance. That’s why the next step in your search for the best affordable kayak is construction – and the durability that comes with it.
But can you genuinely expect a cheap kayak to be durable? Or is this one of those “you get what you paid for” scenarios?
Well, to be frank, it’s a little bit of both.
On the one hand, it’s entirely possible to get a well-made vessel at a lower price point.
Your kayak won’t just fall apart at first sight of a wave or strong current because you didn’t fork out for an industry-leading model.
Most budget-friendly hard-shells are made from rotomolded polyethylene, which is surprisingly resilient and does create a sturdy hull. Inflatables – the most common type of inexpensive kayaks – have gotten pretty rugged and puncture-resistant, too, with PVC being the go-to material.
But on the other hand, you can’t expect to have the same choice of materials.
We’d all like to have a fiberglass, Kevlar, or carbon fiber kayak in our collection, but at this price point, that’s simply not an option. Yes, these materials are superior to polyethylene in every way, but they’re also expensive – and you’re on a tight budget here.
Kayak’s Dimensions & Everything That Comes With It
The bigger the kayak, the harder it is to transport it from point A to point B and find a suitable storage space for it when it’s not in use.
Cheap inflatable kayaks are at a definite advantage here, as they typically weigh around 30 pounds and pack down to a size of an average duffel bag.
Moreover, the hull’s dimensions and design have a dramatic impact on its on-water performance, including stability, maneuverability, and tracking. That’s why you should remember to check the kayak’s length and width.
The rule of thumb is:
Longer kayaks – 12 feet or more – offer better tracking and speed, and are best suited for more extended tours, as they cruise more efficiently. Short hulls, while not particularly fast, offer more maneuverability, and are typically lighter, more portable, and cost less.
As for the width, the broader the hull is – think 30 or so inches – the more stable the kayak feels. You’ll have to give up speed, though.
You shouldn’t overlook your body type, mainly height and weight, in relation to the kayak’s size, either.
For example, I’m a pretty big guy, standing at six foot three and 230 pounds. I have to be realistic about where I can and cannot fit.
Plus, all kayaks have specified weight limits; failing to consider this can, quite literally, make a difference between sinking and staying afloat.
Any Other Extras Worth Mentioning?
When I say “extras,” I don’t mean the bells and whistles that will add to the kayak’s price. Accessories are fun and all, but if you want something cost-efficient, you’ll likely have to settle for a more stripped-down kayak. Plus you always add those items later, the aftermarket is full of kayak mods – so save those dollars for another day.
What I’m talking about, instead, are features that might not necessarily play into the kayak’s construction, durability, or performance, but can still make a difference to you, the paddler.
Even though you don’t have a lot to invest, you shouldn’t miss out on the convenience, comfort, and ease of use that these little extras bring to the table. I’d say that’s what turns any cheap kayak into the best value kayak.
Here’s a quick example of what I mean:
- Onboard storage space for water, food, gear, and the like
- Comes with a paddle (or paddles)
- Includes a pump (if you’re getting an inflatable kayak)
- A seat with at least some level of adjustment
- Built-in carry handles for easier transportation
- A skeg or a rudder system
- Scupper plugs
Best Cheap Kayaks Reviews – Top 10 Kayaks Worth The Money
Best Cheap Starter Kayak
Intex Challenger K2 Kayak – 2 Person Kayak
The twin seated sibling to the K1 kayak, the Intex Challenger K2 has to be one of the cooler-looking cheap inflatable kayaks I have seen recently. The sporty graphics help the Challenger avoid looking like a kids’ kayak and pull off a bold, rugged look. Plus, it improves the kayak’s visibility, which is a nice touch safety-wise.
The 11.5-foot kayak’s vinyl, two-chamber hull weighs a comfortable 39.6 pounds, but still offers a 400-pound weight capacity for two passengers and whatever gear they store in the front cargo net.
While I appreciate the overall construction, I noticed that the material takes unusually long to dry, and can get quite hot.
A perfect beginner kayak, you’re getting a good bang for your buck since the Challenger K2 comes with two paddles, a hand pump, a detachable skeg, a carry bag – albeit a flimsy-feeling one – and a repair kit.
- Inflatable sit-inside tandem kayak
- Vinyl construction with tarpaulin bottom
- Measures 11.5 x 2.5 feet
- Weighs 39.6 pounds
- 400-pound weight limit
- Designed with two air chambers for added safety
- Reasonably light and easy to transport
- A front cargo net act as storage compartment
- The graphics improve visibility
- Paddles, hand pump, and repair patch kit included
- An excellent beginner kayak choice
- The carrying bag likely won’t last
- Hard to dry it completely
- The cockpit gets uncomfortably warm
- Lots of side to side movement when paddling, not suitable for sea conditions.
If you’d like to give kayaking a try, a complete cheap kayak kit like the Intex Challenger K2 should give you a taste of the action.
Best Cheap Inflatable Fishing Kayak
Intex Excursion Pro Kayak
Excursion Pro is the second tandem to establish Intex as a fierce competitor in the low-cost inflatable kayaks market.
The Excursion Pro’s three-chamber hull is constructed out of three-ply PVC and is lightweight – especially for a 12.6-foot kayak – clocking in at 39 pounds. You’ll have to battle winds and stronger currents due to the light construction, though.
It’s also better equipped than the previous Intex inflatable kayak, featuring convenient onboard storage – in line with its 400-pound capacity – with the bow and stern storage, and D-rings. It even has rod holders and an adjustable mounting bracket if you’re into fishing.
Two paddles, pump, pressure gauge, carry bag, two skegs, and floor-mounted footrests are also included, although you’ll probably have to trade in the paddles for something longer.
- Inflatable sit-on-top tandem kayak
- Three-ply PVC construction
- Measures 12.6 x 3.1 feet
- Weighs 39 pounds
- 400-pound weight limit
- High-pressure inflation ensures rigidity and stability
- Front and rear storage and D-ring tie-downs
- Two removable skegs for shallow and deep water
- Essential accessories included
- The paddles are short and not that well made
- The included carry bag feels flimsy
- It doesn’t handle wind and currents that well
When it comes to ridiculously cheap inflatable kayaks, Intex is king – and the Excursion Pro is an excellent choice for anglers on a budget.
Best Sit-Inside Budget Kayak
SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Aruba 10
If an inflatable kayak isn’t your thing, but you still want a lightweight, stable and portable yet affordable kayak, one way to get what you want is to sacrifice a bit of length.
Sun Dolphin Aruba 10, is a perfect hard-shell example of what I mean:
The UV-stabilized, high-density polyethylene hull measures 9.6 feet in length and weighs a tolerable 40 pounds.
Despite being on the shorter side, it doesn’t feel cramped or lacks storage space – except for taller paddlers, that is – and it has a 250-pound load capacity. It features shock cord deck rigging with a front bottle holder and a storage hatch in the back.
However, it doesn’t have any additional accessories, and you don’t get a bottom seat cushion, either.
- Hard-shell sit-inside kayak
- Fortiflex polyethylene construction
- Measures 9.6 x 2.4 feet
- Weighs 40 pounds
- 250-pound weight limit
- A UV-resistant polyethylene hull
- Relatively lightweight and portable for a hard-shell
- Deck rigging and a storage hatch
- Roomy cockpit for a sit-inside kayak
- Doesn’t come with a paddle or other accessories
- There’s no bottom cushioning on the included seat
- Won’t be as comfortable for taller kayakers
A reliable, reasonably-priced hard-shell – and from a respected brand, too – that shines in lakes and rivers? The Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 has the potential to make some budget-conscious paddlers very happy!
Best Cheap Recreational Kayak
Perception Rambler 13.5
You don’t have to spend big bucks as a recreational paddler that frequents lakes, slow rivers, and not-too-choppy bays. The Perception Rambler – 13.5-foot tandem hard-shell – is here to prove it.
The single-piece rotomolded hull weighs 78 pounds and has a 550-pound capacity. It’s more than enough for two. Besides the two padded seats – that, by the way, aren’t particularly comfortable – there’s a third, molded-in one for a child or pet!
The kayak features ample storage well in the back, complete with bungee rigging for securing your gear. While that’s the only dedicated storage space onboard, the Rambler’s large, open cockpit is spacious enough to fit a few essentials.
- Hard-shell sit-on-top tandem kayak
- Rotomolded polyethylene construction
- Adjustable padded seat
- Measures 13.5 x 2.8 feet
- Weighs 78 pounds
- 550-pound weight limit
- A UV and abrasion-resistant hull construction
- Built-in foot braces for adjustable foot positioning
- Padded seat for superior comfort
- A two-plus-one configuration suitable for families
- Stable and steady on-water feel
- Molded-in handles make it easy to carry but also serve as locking points
- The rear well is the only storage space available onboard
- The seats aren’t comfortable or supportive enough for longer rides
- Doesn’t come with paddles
When it comes to recreational tandem kayaks worth the money, the Perception Rambler is an excellent choice – especially if you’d benefit from a two-plus-one seating configuration
Best Cheap Kayak For Families
Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person Kayak
If you’re hoping to get your family hooked on kayaking, you’ll need something like the Sevylor Big Basin – a PVC-constructed, multi-chamber, 12.3-foot inflatable kayak made for three.
Light, portable, spacious – and perfect for family trips!
I was expecting more in terms of weight capacity, but you can still make the 490-pound limit work. You don’t have many storage options, anyway; you’ll have to share the cockpit with your gear.
The highly-portable, 34.8-pound kayak has integrated carry handles that make it easy to carry to the water. Best of all, they fold down nicely when not in use. It comes with a pressure gauge and carrying bag, but paddles and pump aren’t included.
- Inflatable sit-on-top three-person kayak
- PVC construction
- Measures 12.3 x 3.1 feet
- Weighs 34.8 pounds
- 490-pound weight limit
- Constructed with multiple air chambers for added safety
- Heavy duty puncture resistant material
- Comfortable adjustable padded seat
- Lightweight and easy to transport
- Comes with three adjustable seats
- Feels stable and tracks well with a removable skeg
- You’ll have to buy paddles and a pump separately
- It has minimal storage space behind the back seat
- The weight capacity could be better
If your little family is into kayaking, the Sevylor Big Basin might be worth giving a shot. There is a good reason why it is one of the best cheap kayaks on our list; as you don’t often come across super affordable inflatable kayaks that can fit up to three people!
Best Inflatable Tandem Kayak
Intex Dakota K2 2-Person Kayak
I already said that, when it comes to inexpensive inflatable kayaks, Intex is a brand that deserves your attention. Don’t be too surprised to see another one of its tandem inflatables in my best cheap kayaks round-up!
The Dakota K2’s design has a similar design to the Intex Explorer K2 – a highly popular budget tandem – boasting the same 10.25-foot length, three-chamber vinyl flat bottom hull construction with an I-beam floor, and the 30-pound weight.
They even share the same 400-pound capacity, although the storage’s limited to whatever little space you have behind the seat.
The Dakota K2 comes with everything you’ll need, with the paddles, pump, and two skegs – short and long one – included in this cost-effective package. The carry bag is a convenient touch, too, even if it’s a poorly-made one.
- Inflatable sit-on-top tandem kayak
- Puncture resistant Vinyl construction
- Measures 10.3 x 3 feet
- Weighs 30.6 pounds
- 400-pound weight limit
- Three-chamber hull for safety
- Simple, portable, and beginner-friendly
- Has two different-sized skegs for tracking and maneuverability
- Comes with paddles, pump, and carry bag
- The seats lack support and have to be readjusted frequently
- The included carry bag is poorly made
- Limited behind-the-seat storage and no bungee rigging
Today’s all about value kayaks, with the Dakota K2 being the cheapest one of all. If money’s tight, this tandem inflatable kayak by Intex is worth considering.
Overall Best Inexpensive Kayak
Perception Joyride 10
Joyride’s 10-foot high density polyethylene hull weighs a hefty 50 pounds, but the molded-in carry handles make it manageable, without them it would not be easy to carry. They serve as locking points, too.
A sit-in kayak that is built for comfort, stability, and maneuverability in lakes, ponds, slow-moving rivers, or calm coastal waters. Moreover, it’s feature-rich and oh-so-fun:
You get ample onboard storage – a hinged, easy-access rear hatch, bungee deck rigging, and a drink holder – coupled with a 275-pound capacity. The Zone Deluxe seat and thigh pads ensure comfort, while the two molded recesses make attaching aftermarket accessories easy.
Plus, it comes with a unique Selfie-Slot to allow you to capture those Instagram-worthy moments.
It genuinely is a lifestyle-inspired recreational kayak, although it would’ve been nice to see a paddle included in the package.
- Hard-shell sit-inside kayak
- Heavy duty Polyethylene construction
- Measures 10 feet x 2.5 feet
- Weighs 50 pounds
- 275-pound weight limit
- An easy-access rear hatch and bungee deck rigging
- Two molded recesses for accessories
- Super comfortable padded seat
- Adjustable foot braces to suit all of size of paddler
- The Selfie-Slot for your smartphone
- Molded-in handles act as locking points
- You’ll have to buy the paddle and accessories separately
- Some may find the 50-pound hull too heavy
- It doesn’t come with a drain plug
If you want a hard shell kayak that will fit your budget and lifestyle, this could be it. All I could think of when I took it for a test ride was: “Joyride – how fitting!“
When it came to picking the winner for our best budget kayaks review, the Perception Joyride 10 was an obvious choice because it fulfilled all of the necessary criteria; it’s well-made, has fantastic handling, is comfy, and excellently priced.
Best Budget Kayak For Fishing
Perception Pescador Pro 10
The Pescador Pro – a 10.5-foot sit-on-top polyethylene-constructed fishing kayak – could be the answer for those interested in an affordable kayak for fishing.
It may not be winning any light kayak awards, it’s slightly heavier than the previous Perception kayak, clocking in at 57 pounds. But, this comes with higher load capacity. I’m sure anglers will put its 325-pound weight limit to good use.
It’s a sit-on-top kayak with a spacious cockpit, so plenty of room for all of your fishing gear; containing two large storage areas, with bungee cord lashes in the back and a mesh cover in the front, and drink holders.
It’s fully equipped for kayak fishing and features a fish finder console and two gear tracks for added accessories, on top of the two molded-in fishing rod holders.
On the flip side, although affordable it doesn’t include the basics, like scupper plugs or a paddle.
- Hard-shell sit-on-top fishing kayak
- Rotomolded UV resistant polyethylene construction
- Measures 10.5 x 2.7 feet (classed a 10 feet)
- Weighs 57 pounds
- 325-pound weight limit
- Adjustable and removable lawn-chair style seat
- Large front and rear open storage compartments
- Features two rod holders, a fish finder console, and accessory rails
- Built in skid plate making it easy transport to the water’s edge
- Doesn’t come with scupper plugs
- You’ll have to get a paddle separately
- It’s on the heavier side for a one-person kayak at 57 pounds
Anglers who prefer hard-shells over inflatable kayaks can’t go wrong with the Perception Pescador Pro; it’s very well equipped, surprisingly light for a fishing ‘yak – and super comfortable, too!
And at this price range there aren’t many fishing kayaks you can say that about – if you find any, please let me know.
Best Budget Hybrid Kayak
Ascend H12 Kayak
Now, I’d like to introduce you to one of the newer hybrids from BassPro’s Ascend kayak lineup – the Ascend H12. What exactly do I mean by “hybrid,” you ask?
Well, for one, it’s a jack-of-all-trades kind of ‘yak that delivers both stability and maneuverability in one all-purpose package. And two, it’s technically a sit-inside kayak – but it has an oversized cockpit opening, so it looks more like a cross between a SOT and SIK.
This 12-foot kayak also comes with a 450-pound load limit and great storage solutions to boot. You’re getting bungee tie-downs, under-gunnel saddlebags, front and back mesh cargo covers, and accessory rails.
Pretty neat, huh?
The fact that it weighs a staggering 76 pounds might be a deal-breaker for some of you, though – and that’s perfectly understandable. But other than that, this is a darn good kayak – and you’ll be more than happy with it.
- Hard-shell sit-inside hybrid kayak
- Rotomolded polyethylene construction
- Measures 12 x 2.7 feet
- Weighs 76 pounds
- 450-pound weight limit
- The hull is designed for improved stability
- There are multiple onboard storage options
- Oversized cockpit opening for convenient entry
- Two rod holders and accessory rails
- At 76 pounds, it’s incredibly heavy and hard to transport
- The seat tends to slide around
A wide and spacious cockpit, excellent stability ensured by the hybrid tunnel hull design, and the ridiculously high load capacity all make the Ascend H12 worth considering – especially for bigger paddlers.
Best Cheap Tandem Kayak
Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Kayak
Finally, I’d like to mention Ocean Kayak’s Malibu Two – a reasonably priced recreational kayak designed for a paddling duo.
This polyethylene-made 12-footer boasts a 34-inch beam and an open, sit-on-top deck. And that brings me to its most significant advantage:
The spacious and oh-so-roomy deck makes getting in and out of it incredibly easy.
It gets even better, though. Malibu Two also has an adjustable configuration with three seating positions. So, you’re essentially able to go from a single-seater to a tandem, with enough room to add a third, smaller passenger – be it your child or the family pet.
Malibu Two’s usable weight capacity clocks in at 362 pounds, so it’s safe to say that you won’t have much room for additional gear with two adult paddlers already onboard. But if you hit the waters solo, it will be more than plenty.
- Hard-shell sit-on-top kayak
- Single-layer polyethylene construction
- Measures 12 x 2.8 feet
- Weighs 57 pounds
- 425-pound weight limit
- Can be configured for solo or tandem paddling
- Spacious deck with enough room for a child or dog
- Comes with Comfort Plus four-way-adjustable seats
- Easy to get in and out of
- Doesn’t feature any onboard storage options
- Only offers about 360 pounds of usable weight capacity
- Might be heavy to handle alone
If you’re looking forward to spending time on the water with a friend, your little ones – or maybe your four-legged companion – Ocean Kayak’s Malibu Two is the best kayak for you
Conclusion – What Is the Best Kayak For the Money?
Okay, it’s time to bring this search for the best value kayak to an end. If there’s anything I’d like you to take away from this, it’s this:
It’s not impossible to get a quality-made kayak that’s easy on the wallet, but you have to choose wisely. Sure, you might have to pass on some bells and whistles, but other than that, you don’t have to make that many sacrifices when sticking to the low to mid-price range.
Take Perception Joyride 10, for example:
It’s 10-feet of kayaking goodness. The heavy duty polyethylene hard-shell has stability and maneuverability – even in calm coastal waters – spacious cockpit with adjustable foot braces – a substantial weight capacity with storage options to boot, and an incredibly comfortable seating system.
It doesn’t feel like you’re missing out on much with the best budget kayak when you put it like that, now, does it?