It’s tax refund time, and many anglers are thinking about buying their first kayak. If your budget allows, certainly consider purchasing a brand new kayak. Kayak fishing has continued to increase in popularity, and so have the prices for new kayaks. Getting a new model provides all the latest features and a warranty — but don’t let sticker shock keep you off the water.

Like many other sports items, kayaks regularly come on the market for a wide variety of reasons. Oftentimes, kayak owners find they just don’t have the time they thought they would to get on the water. A host of other reasons can account for the sale of a kayak, including upgrading to a newer model, a change in family situation or physical issues. So with a little preparation and research, you can be ready when the right kayak comes on the market.


Do your homework

Start by doing your homework and pick out a few models that fit your needs. Know the features you’re looking for, and those that fit your intended use. Also, know your budget. And if at all possible, make arrangements with the seller for an actual test ride to check things like fit, comfort and stability. Take the ‘yak to a nearby pond, ditch, or even a swimming pool, if that’s the only option.

Thoroughly look over the kayak for any damage or broken parts. Hatches should be in good working order and latch securely. While a reasonable amount of hull rash and scratches are normal, check for deep cuts and cracks that could allow water intrusion. Severe fading is a sign the kayak was kept outside and uncovered. While this detracts from the appearance, it may not necessarily affect performance. However, prolonged sun exposure can cause the plastic to become brittle and crack.

It is always best to purchase a kayak that has been stored indoors — or at least under cover. Shopping around lets you see a variety of models and conditions to help know when you have found the right one. 

And while good deals on used kayaks usually come from individual sellers, don’t overlook kayak dealers. Most dealers have a stock of demo boats they sell off once the new models come out. These kayaks are usually only a model year or two old, and are often only used a few days a year. Deep discounts over the new-boat price can usually be found.

Good deals from private sellers also come around often, but they don’t last long. The used kayak market is robust, so understand you aren’t the only one scouring the classifieds looking for that sweet deal. Online sales sites like Craig’s List, kayak club sales listings and the Louisiana Sportsman classifieds are all great places to shop for used kayaks. Check these sites regularly — and be prepared to drive a reasonable distance if necessary. Have your cash ready, because most sellers are looking to take the best offer  — and often won’t hold a kayak and potentially miss out on a sale waiting on payment.

While a used kayak may not be in perfect condition, it still may be the perfect kayak for you. If you are prepared to make minor repairs and upgrades, you can often get a great kayak at an even greater price. Oftentimes buying a gently fished, higher-end kayak is preferable than purchasing an entry-model new one. 

So what is really the best kayak? That’s easy — the one you can afford and gets you safely on the water.