12 Best Cheap Kayaks for Summer Fun 2021

best cheap kayaks

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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 – experiencing the fun of playing in the water and paddling, exploring shorelines and rivers and streams.

If you’re ready to leave your pool and patio behind and make a real splash this summer (or any time of the year, for that matter) here are some fairly easy-on-the-wallet options for great beginner boats. Check out our latest recommendations for the Best Cheap Kayaks and snag a floating cooler to go along for the ride.

And if you’re looking for more deals and gift ideas for lovers of the outdoors, find them here.

These Are the Best Cheap Kayaks

small sit in kayak Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Affordable
  • Easy to paddle
  • Lightweight
Price: $337.93 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
brown sit on top fishing kayak Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Has mounted pole holders
  • Roomy hatches
  • Really durable
Price: $350.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
yellow two person inflatable kayak Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Comes with a pump
  • Includes paddles
  • Very portable
Price: $153.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
blue three person inflatable kayak Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Three paddler capacity
  • Stays afloat even if punctured
  • Easy to navigate
Price: $381.12 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
inflatable sit in kayak Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Touring design
  • Tough and durable
  • Supremely portable
Price: $380.91 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
tandem sit on top kayak Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Solo or tandem options
  • Extra jumpseat
  • Heavy duty construction
Price: $484.66 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
inflatable single sit in kayak Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Easy for portage
  • Solid weight capacity
  • Inflates fast
Price: $278.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
sit in lake kayak Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Very affordable
  • Lots of features for the price
  • HDPE construction
Price: $466.55 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
orange and gray hybrid kayak Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Super portable
  • Very durable
  • Puncture resistant
Price: $539.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
green youth kayak with paddle Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Perfect first boat for kids
  • Very stable
  • Includes paddle
Price: $142.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
sit in sea kayak Amazon Customer Reviews
  • High quality boat
  • Deck top rigging
  • Adjustable foot pegs
Price: $964.05 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
green sit on top fishing kayak Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Tracks well
  • Has three mounted pole holders
  • Adjustable fit
Price: $799.25 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. Best Cheap Beginner Kayak: Sun Dolphin Aruba SS 8-Foot Sit-in Kayak

    • 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

    The Sun Dolphin Aruba 8 Foot Sit In Kayak is a great kayak for any water enthusiast or beginning kayaker. This kayak is crafted with 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. With a weight capacity of up to 260 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.

  2. 2. Lifetime Tamarack Sit-On-Top Kayak with Paddle

    • 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

    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.

    This 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, with 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. Don’t forget a paddle leash to ensure you never lose your paddle in rough water.

    Looking for a duck hunting kayak? Check out our recommendations here.

  3. 3. Best Cheap Inflatable Tandem Kayak: Intex Explorer Two Person Inflatable Kayak

    • Easy to pack and take anywhere
    • Among the most popular inflatable kayaks
    • Extremely affordable
    • Not appropriate for whitewater
    • Seams can tear after limited use
    • Not suitable for rough or rocky beaches
    • Seat backs not as supportive as some

    The Intex Explorer K2 Kayak is sporty and fun with a streamlined design for easy paddling. The bright yellow color and hip graphics make 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 inch aluminum oars and an Intex high-output pump, for easy inflation and deflation.


  4. 4. Sevylor Big Basin(TM) Three Person Kayak

    • 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

    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.

  5. 5. Aquaglide Nolo Inflatable Kayak

    • Great value for a lightweight boat
    • Inflatable design makes it supremely portable
    • High pressure drop stitch material and simple design make it durable
    • Not as bombproof as a regular hard body kayak
    • Easier to dump than a sit inside boat
    • Seat isn't as supportive as a traditional sit in kayak

    Not all inflatable kayaks are created equal, and if you’re looking for a touring boat that’s perfect for a beginner to feel safe, but that’s also easily storable and haulable, the AquaGlide Nolo is the one you’ll want. It features traditional touring kayak lines but doesn’t limit you by price or portability. This boat is made with tough 1000 denier high-pressure drop stitch material and a hard-bottom floor design that makes that’s nearly as stiff as a standard touring boat. This is an expedition grade boat that will let you tackle meandering rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water with confidence.

    Designed for recreational paddling, it features a quick-release fin, drain plug, Boston valve, zip-open dry compartments for storage, accessory strap, molded handle, and D ring. The price is right, and you can’t argue that high-quality paddling fun doesn’t ordinarily come in a bargain package – until now.

  6. 6. Lifetime Kokanee Sit-On-Top Kayak

    • High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) makes it suitable for rocky beaches
    • Can be configured for single or solo paddles
    • Comes with an optional third jumpseat
    • Lots of footrest options for different body sizes
    • Very heavy
    • Not enough storage space
    • Doesn't include oars
    • Seats aren't super sturdy

    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 the Lifetime Kokanee sit on top kayak is a fun way to get on the water together. This 10′ 6″ kayak has a 425-pound weight capacity, so it will easily hold both you and your sweetie, along with lots of carry-on gear. We also love that it can be configured for solo paddles as well.

    It comes with two seat backs with a third jump seat option, just in case you need to bring a child along for the ride. It includes one six-inch storage hatch, two quick-release straps, and two ditty trays with shock cord straps to secure miscellaneous items or dry bags. Multiple footrest positions mean it’s a comfortable paddle for people of all different sizes. 

    • Constructed of UV-Protected High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE), it features a hull design that’s solid and stable on the water. Since it’s a bit on the heavy side at 76 pounds, 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.

    If you’re wondering about the different reasons to get a sit on top versus traditional kayak, check out this informative article.

  7. 7. Sevylor Quikpak(TM) K5 Inflatable Sit in Kayak

    • Easy to pack anywhere
    • Less expensive than many
    • Inflates quickly with multiple chambers to keep you afloat
    • Convenient front mesh storage for gear
    • Not so sporty from a performance standpoint
    • Comfort may be an issue on longer paddles
    • Only good for flat water paddling
    • Included paddle is of moderate quality

    Get closer to the water, fish, and outdoor beauty when you explore lakes and streams in a Sevylor K5 Sit-In QuikPak Kayak. This inflatable kayak works just like a traditional sit-in 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 it has an optional stow space behind the seat as well. 

    You can easily portage this kayak over rough and rocky areas and shallow water with an efficient 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 make quick work of inflation and deflation.

    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.

  8. 8. Lifetime Cruze 100 Sit-in Kayak

    • 275 weight capacity for paddler and gear
    • UV protected HDPE construction that's durable on rocky shores
    • More storage than many this size
    • High quality seat for comfort
    • Does not include a paddle
    • Not as stable as some
    • Rear hatch leaks reported

    When you’re looking for a solid paddle at a pretty darned affordable price, we couldn’t leave the Lifetime Cruze 100 off our list of cheap kayaks. At less than $500, you get a lot of features of more expensive boats but stay within your budget. This little kayak Is made with high-density polyethylene making rocky shores one less thing to worry about. 

    It has a really solid seat pad and quick-release seat back, so you can adjust it for hours of paddling comfort. Multiple footrest positions also allow people of different sizes to easily use this boat. It has an oval storage hatch directly behind the seat for all those items you want to be sure stay dry and more gear storage available inside the cockpit. 

    This kayak tracks in the water like a dream thanks to the deep hull channels and chine rails. And when it comes to getting it in and out of the water, it features front and rear toggles to make for easy transport.  Weighing in at 46 pounds, this kayak can accommodate up to 275 pounds of human and gear. 

    While it’s built primarily for flat water, many people use this for ocean shorelines and rock gardens. 

  9. 9. Best Hybrid Kayak: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Kayak

    • Many features of hard side kayaks with the portability of an inflatable
    • Super durable three layer material resists puncture
    • Adjustable padded seat for comfort
    • Built in ribs in the bow and stern make this kayak track well on the water
    • More pricey than other inflatable kayaks
    • Slower on the water than a hardside boat
    • Not enough leg room for tall people
    • Inflation specifics make it more difficult to use

    This snappy red Advanced Elements inflatable one person kayak combines the latest technology, to seamlessly blend many of the advantages of a hard side boat with the portability of an inflatable. Built in ribs define the bow and stern, which means this kayak tracks easily, even in fast water.

    Made with three layers of puncture resistant material, this 10.5 kayak can be set up in just ten minutes – less time than it takes to unstrap and unload a traditional hard side. With inflatable coaming around the cockpit, you can even attach a spray skirt if you’re braving whitewater.

    The adjustable back support system means you can paddle in comfort for hours, and the bungee deck rigging gives you an easy option to slip dry bags under, for easy carrying. While the multiple layer, ripstop shell is incredibly durable, this inflatable kayak also features multiple air chambers to keep you safe on the water in case of a puncture. And for even more assurance, each and every boat is inflated and pressure tested before it ever reaches you. That adds some serious peace of mind.

    VideoVideo related to best hybrid kayak: advanced elements advancedframe kayak2019-04-22T12:22:27-04:00
  10. 10. Best Cheap Kids Kayak: Lifetime Youth Six Foot Wave Kayak

    • 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

    You want to get junior out on the water, but in a kids kayak that’s right for 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. 

    For fun family adventures, consider a pedal kayak. We’ve got a great list of suggestions here.

  11. 11. Best Sea Kayak: Perception Expression Kayak

    • Great price for a quality kayak
    • Front and back deck bungees
    • Good starter kayak for smaller adults and kids
    • Small and easy to portage
    • Not suitable for whitewate
    • Small size limits usability
    • No sealed storage hatches
    • No option for a rudder

    Perfect for entry-level paddlers, the Perception Expression 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, and the one in front can even keep your ultralight fishing setup quick at hand. Thigh and knee padding ensures that you stay comfortable, no matter how long you’re on the water. Storage behind the seat 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 that space 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.

    Wondering what size paddle you should get for your boat? Here’s an easy-to-understand paddle sizing guide.


  12. 12. Sun Dolphin Journey 10 Foot Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak

    • Three fishing pole holders
    • Huge hatch for stowing gear
    • Adjustable seat and foot pegs for a more comfortable fit
    • Stable on the water and easy to maneuver
    • No paddle included
    • Needs a padded seat bottom for all day comfort
    • A little heavier than some other sit-on-top kayaks
    • A bit too small for tall or very heavy people

    There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to maneuver your spin casting outfit or fly pole in a kayak. While you’re working on not losing your paddle, you’re often missing that big bite you’ve been waiting all day for. That’s what makes this Sun Dolphin sit on top fishing kayak the perfect solution for us angling paddlers.

    This ten foot boat tracks well in the water, and paddles with ease. But what makes it ideal for fishing is its three pole holders – two flush mount and one swivel. That makes it easy to change out different types of gear, without a snarl. Because it’s a sit on top, there’s enough room between your legs to switch lures and flies, and with a huge rear storage compartment, you can easily stow your tackle boxes without worry.

    This lightweight boat comes in at just 44 pounds, which makes portage along difficult stretches of rivers and streams doable. It also features shock cord deck rigging, so you can slip your paddle underneath if you haven’t yet bought a paddle leash. (Get one ASAP.)

    In terms of comfort, this cheap kayak comes with lots of amenities including adjustable foot pegs, an adjustable padded seat back, knee pads, and even a water bottle holder so you’ll stay hydrated.

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, we've specifically selected boats that are in the more affordable range - with many costing substantially less than $500.

With so many styles of kayaks, you'll want to weigh out the factors before choosing your boat. There are sit-in kayaks with traditional cockpits and sit-on-top kayaks where your legs and body are more exposed to the elements. There are play boats and creek boats, geared more toward whitewater versus casual paddling.

Sit In or Sit On -Which Is Better?

In our opinion, it really depends on just how aggressively you want to paddle, and what body of water you plan to paddle in. Sit on top boats are easy and approachable, requiring a bit less finesse and managing mostly smooth water and smaller creeks and rivers well. 

Sit in kayaks are definitely more appropriate for busier bodies of water, especially larger lakes that can blow up into big white caps and waves or for the ocean's currents, waves, and unpredictable tide activity. 

What Should I Buy a Fishing Kayak?

Not that you need any excuse to buy a kayak beyond the fact that they're wicked fun, if fishing tops the list of your favorite activities, fishing kayaks can give you access to deep holes and deeper water where those little devils like to hide.

If you're shopping for a fishing kayak, look for those that offer the right rigging to make switching poles, lures, and flies a lot simpler. (We've included several in our list.)

Are Inflatable Kayaks Worth the Price?

If you care about easy transport, inflatable kayaks might be the perfect option for you, because they're lightweight and store small, so you don't need an SUV or truck to haul them. They also offer advantages in terms of price in addition to portability. You'll notice they're definitely more affordable than the HDPE kayaks.

On the downside, you can approach rocky shorelines with the same ease you might with a hard side boat, and if you're serious about getting your paddle on, inflatables aren't quite as nimble or speedy in the water. 

And, if you're looking to get your little ones into the paddle game with you, kids kayaks are a whole other category to consider.

See Also:

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