There’s nothing like a day on the water, especially if you’re paddling your own kayak. Kayaking can put you in a zen state of mind, one where you’re more focused on the calm and quiet of the water, being attentive to each stroke of your paddle. On the other hand, kayaking can be an adrenaline pumping adventure sport for the truly brave at heart. Then there’s that place in between, where most people land. The fun of play and water and paddling…exploring shorelines and rivers and streams.
While you can spend a lot of money on a kayak, you certainly don’t have to do that to get a great boat that’s just right for your style, size and needs. Since we’re talking about cheap kayaks in this particular instance, I selected boats that were under $500 – many substantially less than that. I also picked kayaks that were highly rated, each with a minimum of four out of five stars.
With so many styles of kayaks, you’ll want to weigh out the factors before choosing your boat. There are sit-in kayaks and sit-on-top kayaks. There are play boats and creek boats. If you’re looking for a fishing kayak, find one with the right rigging. If you care about easy transport, inflatable kayaks might be perfect for you. And if you’re looking to get your kids into the paddle game with you, kids kayaks are a whole other category to consider.
No matter what you’re looking for, you’ll need to plan for your time in the outdoors. That means packing plenty of sunscreen, and wearing polarizing sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare off the water. If you’re ready to make a real splash this summer (or any time of the year, for that matter) here are some easy-on-the-wallet options for great beginner boats. Check out our Top 10 Best Cheap Kayaks.
1. Best Cheap Beginner Kayak: Sun Dolphin Aruba SS 10-Foot Sit-in Kayak
The Sun Dolphin Aruba 10′ Sit In Kayak is a great kayak for any water enthusiast or beginning kayaker. This kayak is crafted of a tough polyethylene hull and features a deluxe adjustable seat with high back support and adjustable foot braces. There are carrying handles for easier portage and a convenient storage hatch and water bottle holder. At just 40 pounds, this sweet little boat is easy to hoist onto your car racks or into your pickup bed. The storage hatch can easily fit a small soft cooler and dry bag so you can carry lunch and a towel on your paddling getaways.
- Reasonably priced compared to many
- Roomy cockpit
- Light enough to lift into your car racks
- Substantial load capacity
- Not suited for more advanced paddlers
- No rudder system
- Not for use in whitewater
- Doesn’t come with a paddle
2. Best Cheap Fishing Kayak: Lifetime Tamarack Sit-On-Top Kayak
The Lifetime Tamarack 120 Angler Kayak is a “sit-on-top” (SOT) kayak with a 275 pound weight capacity. This model comes with a padded seat back, front and rear shock cords, two six inch storage hatches in the rear and center, two flush mounted fishing pole holders, one top mount rod holder, a paddle cradle with shock cord and front and rear T-handles to make for easy portage. The kayak has a super comfortable padded seat backrest for longer paddling and fishing adventures. It has been designed for extreme safety and stability, with a stable, flat bottom with deep tracking channels and stability chine rails. This boat is constructed of blow-molded, high-density polyethylene, (HDPE), making it durable, UV-protected, and impact resistant. The 52-pound design and front and rear carry handles make it easy to transport to and from the waterfront. In fact, this kayak has plenty of “extras” to enhance all your paddling and fishing experiences. Get a lightweight paddle to propel your new kayak, and don’t forget a paddle leash to ensure you never lose your paddle in rough water.
- Great for fishing with two mounted pole holders
- Storage hatches keep gear dry
- Big enough for larger body sizes
- Durable construction, even on rocky shorelines
- Kind of heavy to lift and carry
- Could use larger storage hatches
- No rudders
- Does not come with a paddle
3. Best Cheap Inflatable Tandem Kayak: Intex Explorer Two Person Inflatable Kayak
The Intex Explorer K2 Kayak is sporty and fun with a streamlined design for easy paddling. The bright yellow color and hip graphics makes this inflatable kayak highly visible in the water. Great for experiencing lakes and mild rivers with a friend, this “Sports Series” kayak is perfect for two adults. Lightweight and compact, it’s a snap to assemble, and allows you to take the fun of kayaking wherever you go. Made with rugged vinyl construction, this sturdy kayak has an inflatable I-beam floor for comfort and rigidity. A removable skeg provides directional stability, while two adjustable, inflatable seats with backrests are included for comfort. Quick inflating or deflating is a breeze with a Boston valve on each side. A grab line and grab handle at each end is provided for your convenience, as well as a U.S. Coast Guard I.D., and a repair patch kit. The Explorer K2 Kayak provides added accessories including: two 86”aluminum oars and an Intex high-output pump for easy inflation and deflation.
Price: $117.99 (20 percent off MSRP)
- Easy to pack and take anywhere
- Amazon #1 Bestseller
- Among the most popular inflatable kayaks
- Extremely affordable
- Not appropriate for whitewater
- Seams can tear after limited use
- Not suitable for rough, rocky beaches
- Seat backs not as supportive as some
4. Best Cheap Sit-In Kayak: Old Town Heron 9XT Recreational Kayak
Old Town created the Heron 9XT Kayak for recreational boaters who want to feel comfortable and confident on the water without breaking the bank. This boat features just enough stern storage for an afternoon on the water, adjustable seating to accommodate a range of paddlers, and a hull that feels rock-solid in all types of conditions. You get a few extra bells and whistles and a simple, reliable boat that will bring you and your family years of fun for seasons to come. The polyethylene shell means this baby is pretty much bomb proof on rocky beaches and shorelines, and at just 39 pounds it’s light enough to easily hoist this kayak onto your roof-top racks. Get some kayak tie downs to keep it secure, and for ease of carriage, J Bar kayak holders work pretty slick.
Price: $459 (8 percent off MSRP)
- Awesome for rocky shorelines
- Good sized rear storage hatch
- Flex-seat with extra padding means comfortable paddling
- Affordable compared to many in the same category
- No front webbing to hold additional gear
- On the high-end of cheap
- Drink holder isn’t particularly functional
- Color can fade when exposed to the sun
5. Best Cheap Tandem Kayak: Emotion Spitfire Tandem Sit-On-Top Kayak
If you’re looking to play on the water as a couple, but you’re reticent to paddle a boat by yourself, you might want to consider this Emotion Spitfire 12 foot tandem kayak. With a 500 pound weight capacity, it will easily hold both you and your sweetie, along with lots of carry on gear. It comes with self-bailing scupper holes, two quick-release seat backs, four carry handles, easy-roll skeg wheel, rear tank well with cargo net lacing system, and two paddle keepers. This tandem sit-on-top kayak is stable for play time and has amazing speed and tracking to get you to your destination super fast. The quick Release CRS + ultra-light seats, freedom foot wells (big enough to fit any size paddler,) center hatch for storage, rear tank well and cargo net lacing system, make this a great kayak for a playful day on the water. And it’s a great value since you’ll only have to buy one boat. Since it’s a bit on the heavy side, you might want to get a kayak cart to help you portage your boat to the water. Because it’s a sit-on-top, plenty of dry bags will ensure that your gear, towels and lunch stay dry.
Price: $474.57 (14 percent off MSRP)
- Great for rocky shores and coastlines
- Perfect for couples
- Cargo net lacing system securely holds gear and dry bags
- Good sized center storage hatch
- It’s really heavy
- Back support is lacking for longer paddle excursions
- Not suitable for use in big waves or whitewater
- Does not include paddles
6. Best Cheap Whitewater Kayak: Dagger Zydeco 9.0 Kayak
Put yourself in command, from flat-water cruising to taking full control in moving water of rivers and inlets in this Dagger Zydeco kayak. The Zydeco design has been completely overhauled for even more maneuverability and faster acceleration than ever before. It’s more responsive than many other recreational kayaks. The comfortable cockpit is roomy enough for relaxation, without sacrificing performance. CFS-R outfitting rounds out the experience with multi-adjust options for better fit and overall function. This boat is a cross between a play boat and a creek boat. It is lightweight for easy transporting. The slide lock foot brace system is easy to adjust and fits a large range of users. This kayak also features bungee deck rigging for stowing gear. If you’re planning to attack some whitewater in this kayak, be sure to outfit yourself with a helmet, spray skirt and the proper paddle. For a bigger, more stable model, consider the Zydeco 11.0.
- Stable and comfortable
- Small enough to transport easily
- Sturdy polyethylene construction
- Can double as a play boat
- Smallish size doesn’t work for everyone
- No storage hatches
- On the high side of cheap
- Doesn’t come with a paddle
7. Best Cheap Sea Kayak: Perception Sunrise 100 Kayak
Perfect for entry-level paddlers, the Perception Sunrise 100 Kayak provides worry-free manageability and easy handling to make it an ideal choice for smaller framed adults and children looking to paddle calm water. The padded seat with adjustable backrest offers comfort and support, while the foot brace system allows for quick and easy adjustment for a variety of leg lengths. This kayak’s bungee deck rigging is perfect for holding a small dry bag. Thigh and knee padding ensures that you stay comfortable no matter how long you’re on the water. The storage hatch makes for a convenient place to keep your lunch secure and dry along with any other necessaries like your phone, sunscreen and car keys. Find a soft-sided lunch cooler that fits in the hatch and you’ll be set to go for the day. And don’t forget to wear a paddling hat to protect your head, face and shoulders.
- Great price for a quality kayak
- Storage hatch keeps small items dry
- Good starter kayak for smaller adults and kids
- Small and easy to portage
- Not suitable for whitewate
- Small size limits usability
- Minimal deck bungees
- No option for a rudder
8. Best Cheap Three Person Inflatable Kayak: Coleman Big Basin(TM) Three Person Kayak
Take your family on their next water adventure in the Coleman Big Basin 3-Person Kayak by Sevylor. The heavy-duty PVC construction and rugged tarpaulin bottom makes it ready for anything from a calm lake to easy whitewater. Just in case you do hit a snag while you’re out there, the multiple air chambers will help you get back to shore without totally deflating your day or your boat. The adjustable seats make the ride more comfortable no matter how far you explore, while the spray covers help keep you dry during your trip. This is one of the few three person inflatable kayaks that allow for more people and more fun. Don’t forget to order three kayak paddles, and a powerful but easy to use pump.
Price: $335.72 (16 percent off MSRP)
- Room for three paddlers
- Multiple air chambers keep boat afloat even when punctured
- Stable in the water
- Tracking fin makes navigating simpler
- Not so great for rocky beaches and shorlines
- Middle seat doesn’t offer enough leg room for an adult
- Not much gear storage space
9. Best Cheap Kids Kayak: Lifetime Youth Six Foot Wave Kayak
You want to get junior out on the water, but in a kids kayak that’s more their size. This six foot Lifetime Wave Kayak is specifically designed for kids ages 5 and up, or up to 130 pounds. The wide stance provides a stable paddling platform to keep your child safely in the kayak. Its sloped back end and swim-up step allows your little paddler to easily re-enter this kayak from the water. With scupper holes that drain the cockpit, multiple footrest positions for different size riders and reverse chine for enhanced stability, the Wave is perfect for kids just getting into recreational kayaking. This super reasonably priced option even includes a black double-sided paddle. Make sure to get an appropriately sized life jacket for your kids and a kayak paddle leash is a great idea to make sure their paddle doesn’t get away from them.
Price: $88 (45 percent off MSRP)
- Highly rated by purchasers
- Stable and easy for first time paddlers
- Light enough for your child to pull on shore
- Comes with a kid sized paddle
- Needs a backrest or seat cushion
- Bow drain hole plug can come out and get lost
- Not suitable for kids over 130 pounds
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10. Best Cheap Inflatable Sit-On-Top Kayak: Coleman Quikpak(TM) K1 Inflatable Sit on Top Kayak
Get closer to the water, fish and outdoor beauty when you explore lakes and streams in a Sevylor K1 Sit-On-Top QuikPak Kayak. This inflatable kayak works just like a traditional sit-on-top kayak, except when you’re ready to pack up, it folds up into its integrated backpack with padded shoulder straps. It fits inside any car or truck, and it all sets up within five minutes. While you’re in the water, you’ll paddle in more comfort with a design that allows you to stretch your legs, back and arms more easily. Pack food and gear in the cargo net on the front and keep your drink close in the cup holder. You can easily carry the kayak over shallow water and in and out of the water with the lift handle. The rigid floor, flat bottom and three-chamber design keep the boat’s solid shape and offer added security if you get snagged. The thick PVC and reinforced bottom are part of the Airtight System that’s guaranteed not to leak and the Double Lock Fast Valves and Mini Double Lock Fast Valves makes quick work of inflation and deflation. This eith foot, seven inch kayak holds up to 400 pounds and it even includes a paddle that breaks down for compact storage, plus it comes with a high-pressure hand pump. For even quicker inflation and deflation, get a pump that plugs into your car cigarette lighter.
- Easy to pack anywhere
- Less expensive than many
- Inflates quickly with multiple chambers to keep you afloat
- Convenient front mesh storage for gear
- Not as great for very heavy paddlers despite weight ratings
- Comfort may be an issue on longer paddles
- Only good for flat water paddling
- Included paddle is of moderate quality