What if you could get the paddling gear you need—kayak included—without breaking the bank?
Good news! You can. There are plenty of great low-cost kayaks for you to choose from, so long as you know where to look.
We know how hard it can be to shop for a new kayak, only to get dismayed by the high cost of many of the top boats on the market. To help you avoid these same challenges, we’ve compiled a list of the best cheap kayaks available. For more information, check out our comparison table and buying advice.
Our Top Picks
If you’re in a hurry, here are our top picks. Or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.
- Best Sit-Inside: Pelican Argo 100X
- Best Sit-on-Top: Pelican Sentinel 100X EXO
- Best Tandem: Ocean Kayak Malibu Two
- Best for Fishing: Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100
- Best Inflatable: Intex Challenger K1
- Best Inflatable Tandem: Sea Eagle 370
Best Sit-Inside: Pelican Argo 100X
Length: 10′ | Width: 28″ | Weight: 36 lbs | Capacity: 275 lbs
The Pelican Argo 100X makes for a perfect low-priced introduction to the kayaking world with a simple design and lightweight frame.
Many kayaks that weigh less than 40 pounds are unreliable, suffering from either stability issues, poor design, or subpar performance. But Pelican knows what they’re doing, and the 100X’s twin-arched, multi-chine hull gives you the reassuring stability to head out on calm lakes, protected bays, and mellow rivers.
The shorter keel and narrower beam make it easy to maneuver and squeeze into hard-to-reach places. However, the tracking and speed are below average compared to higher-end kayaks, making it a proper recreational kayak that shouldn’t be used for longer overnight adventures.
The load capacity is on the low side at 275 pounds, but that’s not uncommon for budget kayaks of this class. A small watertight hatch is built into the bow of the 100X, while a more significant, open-air storage spot can be found in the stern.
The seat is well-padded on the back and bottom and is made of a breathable material that helps keep you cool on hotter days. However, the lower deck and narrower beam means that bigger kayakers or those with large feet may have difficulty squeezing into the cockpit.
Reasons to buy:
- Lightweight kayak and straightforward for solo paddlers to move
- Excellent maneuverability and easy to paddle
- Small amount of dry storage space
Reasons to avoid:
- Poor speed and tracking in wind or waves
- Cramped fit for large paddlers
Best Sit-on-Top: Pelican Sentinel 100X EXO
Length: 9′6″ | Width: 30″ | Weight: 42 lbs | Capacity: 275 lbs
The Pelican Sentinel 100X EXO is a sit-on-top kayak that offers a comfortable and affordable way to cruise around on flat water adventures.
Pelican engineered the Sentinel 100X EXO using its proprietary Ram-X material, which has a high molecular weight and triple-layer construction. This gives the boat increased durability without substantially increasing the kayak’s weight. The company also included a set of foam float blocks inside the kayak to improve buoyancy and performance.
As far as on-the-water functionality goes, the Sentinel 100X EXO is no slouch. It features a twin-arched multi-chine hull that offers superior stability as you paddle. Plus, this kayak includes a fully adjustable ERGOFORM padded seat and molded footrests so you can stay comfortable while on the water.
The Sentinel 100X EXO also has a spacious deck that offers a surprising amount of gear storage, despite the boat’s relatively short length. In fact, it has a large rear ExoShell 13L storage compartment to help you keep track of your most important equipment on the water.
However, the Pelican Sentinel 100X EXO is designed only for calm conditions, so there are better choices if you want to head out onto the ocean. That said, when cost-effectiveness is a concern, this sit-on-top kayak is tough to beat.
Reasons to buy:
- Twin-arched multi-chine hull for durability
- Offers a decent amount of gear storage space
- Durable Ram-X polyethylene material
- Includes molded footrests and an adjustable seat
Reasons to avoid:
- Not great in choppy waters
Best Tandem: Ocean Kayak Malibu Two
Length: 12′ | Width: 34″ | Weight: 63 lbs | Capacity: 425 lbs
The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two is a spiffy and stable tandem sit-on-top kayak that makes family fun as streamlined as can be.
Compared to other sit-on-top tandem boats, the Malibu Two’s main advantage is its hull design. Thanks to its 34″ width and mostly flat hull, this kayak offers exceptional stability on calm lakes and streams. Meanwhile, the kayak’s length helps it track well over long distances.
The kayak can be paddled both tandem and solo, so you have maximum versatility in your adventure options. There’s also some space in the boat’s center for a small child or a dog if you want to turn your outing into a full-family affair.
When it comes to features, the Malibu Two keeps things reasonably simple. However, it does have a set of adjustable Comfort Plus seats and a few gear straps for tying down waterproof bags for kayaking. It also includes molded-in footrests that can be used regardless of whether you’re paddling solo or tandem.
But keep in mind that this boat only includes a little gear storage space when it’s paddled as a tandem. Despite this, the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two is still among the best-performing tandem kayaks.
Reasons to buy:
- Can be paddled tandem or solo
- Wide, long, and flat hull is stable and tracks well
- Enough room for a dog or small child
- Includes adjustable Comfort Plus seats
Reasons to avoid:
- Limited gear storage space when paddled as a tandem
Best for Fishing: Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100
Length: 10′ | Width: 31″ | Weight: 51 lbs | Capacity: 275 lbs
Fancy yourself a kayak angler? The Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 might be the budget boat of your dreams.
Lifetime constructed the Tamarack Angler 100 out of its classic blow-molded high-density polyethylene for durability. This polyethylene is also UV-protected to help it withstand years of use in sunny conditions.
The Tamarack Angler 100 has a mostly flat hull with chine rails to give it good natural tracking capabilities without sacrificing your stability on the water.
Since it was built specifically for fishing, it is no surprise that the Tamarack Angler 100 boasts a slew of angling-centric features. For example, it comes with two flush-mounted rod holders and one top-mounted rod holder to help maximize the number of lines you have in the water. It also includes a paddle keeper for when you’re busy reeling in fish.
Furthermore, the Tamarack Angler 100 provides ample gear storage for all your fishing equipment. It features two small hatches for stashing your smaller bits of gear, as well as a rear deck space for lashing down a dry bag or kayak crate.
There are only a few notable drawbacks to this kayak, one of which is that, at 51 lbs, it’s decently heavy for a solo kayak. It also doesn’t include any built-in gear tracks for attaching accessories like fish finders or GoPros. However, as far as cheap fishing kayaks go, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option than the Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100.
Reasons to buy:
- Hull design offers good tracking and stability
- Includes 3 fishing rod holders
- Great gear storage options
- Features a UV-protected polyethylene hull
Reasons to avoid:
- Fairly heavy for a solo kayak
- No gear tracks included for mounting accessories
Best Inflatable: Intex Challenger K1
Length: 9′ | Width: 30″ | Weight: 28 lbs | Capacity: 220 lbs
Nimble, portable, and oh-so-fun to paddle, the Intex Challenger K1 is a solo inflatable kayak that’s a dream to cruise around in on calm rivers and pristine lakes.
The sleek Challenger K1 is built out of Intex’s rugged vinyl, improving puncture resistance in rocky waters. It also boasts an inflatable I-beam floor and high-buoyancy side chambers to enhance stability as you paddle.
Intex crafted the Challenger K1 with a spacious cockpit so you can be more comfortable during your adventures. In addition, the boat includes an inflatable and adjustable seat with a backrest to ensure that you get ample lumbar support at all times.
This kayak has a few other nifty features, like an integrated cargo net on the bow for gear storage. It also comes with a high-output pump and an aluminum paddle, so you have everything you need to head out on your first excursion.
But, the Challenger K1 is very short and doesn’t excel at tracking over long distances, even with its included skeg. It also has a low maximum weight capacity, so it’s not the best for large paddlers. Nevertheless, the Intex Challenger K1 is one of the most affordable inflatable kayaks and offers excellent bang for your buck.
Reasons to buy:
- Made from durable vinyl for puncture-resistance
- Inflatable I-beam floor and side chambers provide stability
- Spacious cockpit with adjustable seat for comfort
- Comes with a paddle and an inflation pump
Reasons to avoid:
- Low maximum weight capacity
- Doesn’t track well over long distances
Best Inflatable Tandem: Sea Eagle 370
Length: 12′6″ | Width: 34″ | Weight: 32 lbs | Capacity: 650 lbs
The Sea Eagle 370 is a no-nonsense 2-person inflatable kayak that provides everything the budget-conscious paddler needs to hit the water.
Engineered using super durable 38 mil PolyKrylar PVC, the Sea Eagle 370 is a rugged inflatable kayak ready for a wide range of water-based adventures. Its seams are all high-frequency welded, and it has an inflatable I-beam floor to provide you with the durability and reliability you expect as you paddle.
One of the best aspects of the Sea Eagle 370 is its incredibly high 650 lbs weight capacity. In fact, this kayak can accommodate anywhere from 1 to 3 paddlers, so it’s an excellent option for people who value versatility in their gear. Additionally, this kayak’s high weight capacity and plentiful gear storage space make it a superb choice for kayaking expeditions.
The Sea Eagle 370 also earned a spot on our list with its portability-focused design. The kayak weighs just 32 lbs, which is impressively light. It also packs down into a small carry bag that can fit easily inside the trunk of nearly any vehicle.
The only notable drawbacks of this kayak are its limited tracking ability due to its highly rockered hull. Furthermore, while relatively comfortable, the seats aren’t adjustable, making it challenging to get the lumbar support you need while you paddle. That said, if you need an affordable inflatable tandem kayak, the Sea Eagle 370 is an excellent option.
Reasons to buy:
- Can be paddled by either 1, 2, or 3 people
- Lightweight and highly packable design
- Made from durable materials for puncture resistance
- High weight capacity is great for overnight camping trips
- Very stable construction for use on flat water
Reasons to avoid:
- Included seats aren’t adjustable
- Limited tracking ability due to highly rockered hull
Cheap Kayak Comparison Table
|Pelican Argo 100X||10′||28″||36 lbs||275 lbs||1||Sit-Inside||Hard shell|
|Pelican Sentinel 100X EXO||9’6″||30″||42 lbs||275 lbs||1||Sit-on-top||Hard shell|
|Ocean Kayak Malibu Two||12′||34″||63 lbs||425 lbs||1, 2, or 3||Sit-on-top||Hard shell|
|Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100||10′||31″||51 lbs||275 lbs||1||Sit-on-top||Hard shell|
|Intex Challenger K1||9′||30″||28 lbs||220 lbs||1||Sit-Inside||Inflatable|
|Sea Eagle 370||12’6″||34″||32 lbs||650 lbs||1, 2, or 3||Sit-on-top||Inflatable|
Cheap Kayak Buying Advice: Cut Costs, Not Quality
Just because you want to avoid spending your life’s savings on a kayak, it doesn’t mean you have to skimp on the quality of your boat.
In fact, it is definitely possible to get a reliable and high-performing kayak that doesn’t come with a massive price tag. The key is to know what to look for when you shop and to have reasonable expectations of what you can get with your budget.
To get you started, we’ve put together a quick guide to the most important things to keep in mind while shopping.
- What’s the Difference Between a Cheap and Expensive Kayak?
- Type of Kayak & Intended Use
- Durability & Materials
- Features & Accessories
What’s the Difference Between a Cheap and Expensive Kayak?
Generally, kayak manufacturers strive to balance three key criteria when creating boats: affordability, performance, and additional features.
When you shop for more affordable kayaks, you often have to either sacrifice performance or a few extra features.
For example, you might be able to get a cheap fishing kayak, but it might not have all of the bells and whistles, like gear tracks, that you get on more expensive kayaks. Alternatively, you’ll find that many more affordable kayaks don’t perform as well on the water. They’re still fun to paddle around, but they might not be as fast or nimble as their pricier counterparts.
Does this mean you won’t get a good kayak if you try to shop within a lower price range?
Not at all! There are many excellent and affordable boats on the market. The point here is that you have reasonable expectations regarding your kayak’s performance and additional features.
Type of Kayak & Intended Use
As with any kayak-buying experience, your cheap kayak-shopping process should begin with a bit of self-reflection. In particular, you need to ask yourself what you intend to use your boat for, as this will determine what type of kayak is right for your needs.
For a reasonable price, you can find everything from a hardshell sit-in kayak to an inflatable sit-on-top. There are even some decently priced fishing-specific models available.
However, note that most of the more affordable kayaks on the water today are recreational boats. This means that they’re designed primarily for use in flat water, such as what you’d find on most lakes and smaller streams.
Although there are some cheap sea kayaks, touring kayaks, and whitewater kayaks available, these are few and far between. In other words, if you’re looking to venture out into coastal waters or whitewater, your budget often needs to increase, especially if performance is a key concern.
Durability & Materials
It’s a common misconception that a cheap kayak is a poorly made kayak and that any affordable boat will only last you a few seasons on the water.
Thankfully, while there are certainly a few low-quality cheap kayaks out there, finding a durable and reliable boat that doesn’t drag your bank account down into the red is more than possible.
Most affordable hardshell kayaks are made with polyethylene (a type of plastic) rather than the fiberglass or kevlar that you’ll find on some higher-end models. This isn’t necessarily bad—polyethylene is substantially more durable than fiberglass. But it does mean that your boat will probably weigh more than its pricier cousin.
Most modern inflatable kayaks are made with vinyl or PVC. Therefore, any differences you see will likely be in the thickness of the fabric used.
Some manufacturers use slightly thinner fabrics in cheaper inflatable kayaks. However, the difference in this fabric is usually negligible, and it won’t significantly impact your paddling unless you frequently slam your boat into very sharp rocks. But even then, the risk of puncturing an inflatable kayak is low when you paddle responsibly.
Features & Accessories
Lastly, it’s important to consider the various accessories and features that might come with your kayak.
As we’ve mentioned, many budget-friendly kayaks come with fewer bells and whistles than their more expensive counterparts. But you can still find many great features on a cheap kayak, like fishing rod holders and adjustable seats.
However, you need to have reasonable expectations of what you will and will not get feature-wise when you buy an affordable kayak.
One thing you can do to help with this part of the buying process is to create a list of features and accessories that you’d like to have on your kayak.
You can then rank your desired features from most to least important so you have some guidance as you shop. Additionally, you can create a list of non-negotiable features for your boat, so you can filter out kayaks that won’t work for your needs.
Affordability has long been seen as a barrier to entry in kayaking. But we’re happy to report that there are plenty of great cheap kayaks to choose from.
After identifying and reviewing the best cheap kayaks on the market, it’s clear that there’s a boat out there to suit any paddler.
For example, the Pelican Argo 100X is excellent for paddlers that want a nimble yet simple sit-in kayak. Alternatively, something like the Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 is a solid choice for keen anglers that want to keep costs low while casting lines.