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Best Kayak For The Money

Mark Armstrong
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You want your own kayak but you don’t want too spend much? Maybe you’re trying the sport for the first time or perhaps you just want the best inexpensive kayak so you can get out on the water and enjoy the great outdoors?

Kayaking can become an expensive sport but it doesn’t have to be, so where can you get a craft that’s not going to break the bank? We have compiled a guide on how to choose the best vessels for kayaking on a budget (the Lifetime Sports Fisher is #1 by the way). Now everyone can get their hands on a decent cheap kayak!

Best Cheap Kayaks At A Glance

How To Choose A Kayak (On A Budget)

Choosing a kayak can be difficult enough without adding a tight budget but you will still need to consider certain things. Most importantly, when looking for the best inexpensive kayak you should think about the following:

  • Where might you be hoping to paddle, for example, the types of water and the climate?
  • How often do you plan on using it?
  • Will you be using it once a week for an hour or two?
  • Do you plan to use it for long excursions or camping trips?
  • How many people plan on joining you?

Sit-On-Top Kayaks

A sit-on-top, or SOT, is a vessel where you’re seated on top of the deck instead of being enclosed within the hull. These can be a great choice if you’re in a warm climate or will be paddling during the summer.

Being on top of the craft means that you will get wet from splashes. However, some people prefer SOTs because of their ease of use. You can quickly get in and out of the craft and are easily able to jump out for a swim.

They come in a range of sturdy materials and styles, but the most affordable option is often a plastic hard shell or inflatable recreational kayak. Many of the best budget kayaks can be found in these open deck designs and are usually designed for convenience, with features such as molded in handles, storage options, and good stability for lake use and calm weather conditions.

Sit-Inside Kayaks

Man on Sit-In KayakPin

A sit-inside, or SIK, is a traditional type of yak where you sit enclosed within the vessel in a cockpit. SIKs come in a range of types, all designed for different purposes and environments, including whitewater kayaking, racing, and sea kayaking.

Racing and touring ones tend to be longer kayaks for improved hydrodynamics and increased speeds. But these types of vessels will often be high end kayaks which are usually designed for experienced paddlers.

With a sit in kayak you’ll probably require some training in order to exit the vessel safely if you capsize. SIKs come in different materials, depending on their purpose but plastic and inflatable yaks are the cheapest.

If you’re a beginner, it can be a good idea to look for one with a more spacious cockpit, as this can be easier to get in and out of. This can also be ideal if you’re a larger person and want to feel more comfortable while paddling. Smaller, narrower cockpits can sometimes feel cramped.

A benefit of an enclosed cockpit can be the all-weather paddling opportunities, as most sit in vessels can have a spray skirt attached to protect the cockpit from rain or splashes, keeping you dry.

Inflatable Kayaks

Inflatable kayaks are very durable and lightweight and can be ideal if you’re on a budget. They are usually made from sturdy materials. They’re also easy to maintain and repair, with patch repair kits available to fix any punctures.

A good inflatable kayak will also usually have multiple air chambers, which can be an added safety feature. In the event that you suffer a puncture in one air chamber, the rest of the chambers are not affected, so you should stay afloat until you can paddle to the shore to repair it.

As well as being affordable to purchase, an inflatable kayak can also be an inexpensive kayak to own, with less additional costs overall. Most importantly, they don’t require a trailer or roof rack to transport them. You simply deflate it to fit in your trunk and inflate it once you’re at the water.

Because of their compact size when deflated, you won’t need extra storage solutions in your home or garage, as most of them can be packed into the size of a small suitcase.

An inflatable kayak can also sometimes be more versatile, with increased buoyancy and stability on a wider range of waters compared to a hard shell kayak. For example, some can even be good whitewater kayaks. You may also find that an inflatable kayak can be modified for angling or other activities.

Kayaks Geared For Fishing

Man on Sit-On-Top Fishing KayakPin

With a fishing yak you’ll need to consider where you plan on fishing and the extra load capacity that you might need.

Angler kayaks can also be heavier because of their extra rigging, so think about how you plan on transporting it.

The best cheap kayak for fishing will usually have additional features that you may not find on some simple recreational boats, such as rod holders. These additional features can make it more convenient to store your equipment and allow you to keep essentials within easy reach.

You may also find some boats with features that can improve performance while fishing, such as a removable skeg, rudder system or anchor trolley.

Our guide to fishing kayaks.

2-Person Kayaks

A tandem can be an affordable kayak and a cost effective choice if you plan on paddling with a partner. Tandems come in a range of styles for different activities and environments and can be either sit-on-top or sit-in.

Some tandems may also have space for a third person or a dog, so it can be an affordable way to have the whole family out on the water at once.

Tandem kayaks are often, but not always, longer than boats designed as a one person kayak. This can make them useful as touring kayaks, with increased space for gear and sometimes faster hulls.

Video: How To Paddle A Tandem Kayak

Top Rated Kayaks For The Money

1: Lifetime Sport (Best Overall)

Lifetime Sport Fisher Single or Tandem Kayak - Best Fishing KayakPin
  • Length: 10 feet
  • Width: 36 inches
  • Weight: 60 pounds
  • Capacity: 500 pounds

This fishing craft can be one of the best value choices, as it can be used for a variety of different activities and is a beginner friendly kayak. It features two ergonomically designed seats, which are ideal if you’re spending long periods on the water. However, you may want to add a cushion (sold separately) to the seat bottom, as it only includes a padded backrest.

You’ll also find there are three molded-in seats, so there’s room for a third person or even your dog.

Its short design means it’s easy to transport in the back of most trucks and it has a durable and wide plastic hull to give it greater stability on the water; it’s even stable enough to stand up in.

It’s easy to paddle either on your own or with a second paddler, and there’s plenty of storage for all your gear, including four fishing pole holders (including two rod holders molded-in at the stern), a 6 inch storage compartment and plenty of room at the bow on the deck’s storage platform.

This cheap kayak could be a good choice for coastal bays, lakes or calm rivers. However, it may not be the roomiest option if you plan to paddle with another adult.


  • High weight capacity
  • Easy to transport
  • Stable


  • Not much legroom for two adults
  • Not the most comfortable seats

> Full Lifetime Sports Fisher review

2: Sea Eagle SE370K_P (Best Inflatable)

Sea Eagle SE370K_P Inflatable Kayak with Pro Package - Best Fishing KayakPin
  • Length: 12 feet 6 inches
  • Width: 30 inches
  • Depth: 10 inches
  • Weight: 32 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 650 pounds

This is an affordable vessel that will let you enjoy time on the water without the hassle of transportation obstacles. It deflates and packs down to just 31 inches by 19 by 8 inches so will easily fit in the trunk of your car.

Designed for two paddlers, this inflatable yak is very durable, with PolyKrylar PVC construction, which is equally suitable for both salt and fresh water and benefits from being resistant to sun damage. The complete package also gives you everything you’ll need – including two paddles – to get out on the water right away.

It takes just 8 minutes to inflate this craft, so you can be on the water in no time. Plus, it has three air chambers, so even if you get a puncture, you will still have enough buoyancy to get you back to shore.

There’s lots of room on this spacious deck, with storage areas at the bow and stern to hold your camping gear, with spray skirts at both ends to protect smaller belongings from splashes.

This could be a good choice if you’re looking for versatility and portability. It’s a stable craft that even has the benefit of two skegs to help you maintain a straight path. But it may not be the best if you’re looking for speed. The inflatable seats may not be the comfiest on long trips.

The 600 pound weight capacity can help to boost your confidence for buoyancy. Comes with a handy carry bag included for easier transportation.


  • Lightweight and compact
  • Generous capacity
  • Durable construction
  • Carry bag and foot pump included
  • Repair patch kit included


  • Not very fast
  • Inflatable seats not very supportive

> Full Sea Eagle SE370K review here

3: Lifetime Manta Recreational (Tandem)

Lifetime Manta Tandem Sit on Top Kayak with Paddles and Back Rests - Best Fishing KayakPin
  • Length: 10 feet
  • Width: 36 inches
  • Weight: 60 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 500 pounds

This compact little multi-purpose yak is ideal for family fun. With three molded-in seats, including two padded backrests for each of the two seats, this can be a great choice for enjoying the water during the warmer months. However, the seats might not be very comfy during long trips.

It benefits from molded footrests for multiple footrest positions and can also be paddled solo.

This can be one of the best budget kayaks. It is super stable, with a tunnel hull which is designed not to tip over. However, it’s not recommended for rough waters or strong currents. There is also a mast receiver receptacle, as well as lots of footrest positions to suit different leg lengths.

One thing that makes this a good value option is that it comes complete with two paddles for recreational use.

It’s small enough to fit in the back of a pickup but it has enough storage for a day on the water, including a large cargo area at the bow with bungee cord straps. But it may not be ideal for longer trips where you need to haul additional gear.

It also features front and back carrying handles for easier transportation.


  • Compact
  • Easy to maneuver
  • Stable on flatwater
  • Easy entry


  • Not the most comfortable
  • Not great for long trips

> Lifetime review here

4: Ocean Kayak Malibu Two (Tandem)

Ocean Kayak 12-Feet Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Recreational KayakPin
  • Length: 12 feet
  • Width: 34 inches
  • Weight: 57 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 375 to 425 pounds

This is a pretty spacious kayak that comes with two Comfort Plus seat backs. The adjustable padded seats are ergonomically designed to keep you comfortable for longer. There are three molded seat wells, so a child or a pet can also tag along.

This plastic and cheap sit on top is a durable and lightweight vessel that could be a good choice if you’re heading out for a day or two. There’s lots of room for your gear and even straps to keep it all secure, but there is no cargo net and no storage compartments.

This can also be one of the best cheap ocean kayaks for paddling around bays when you’re at the beach.

However, the maximum weight capacity is just 425 pounds, which is less than some other tandems. This might make it less suitable for longer trips with lots of gear, especially if you already have two large adults on board.

It’s a stable craft that’s easy to paddle with either two paddlers or on your own. It has convenient side carry handles and has the benefit of having a keel guard plate, which will keep the hull’s keel protected from damage if you drag your boat along the ground.


  • Good leg room
  • Can be paddled tandem or solo
  • Stable
  • Adjustable seats


  • No dry storage
  • Weight capacity not the highest

> Malibu Two full review

5: Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 (Sit-in Kayak)

Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 - Best Sit-in KayakPin
  • Length:10 feet
  • Width: 30 inches
  • Weight: 41 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 250 pounds

The Aruba is a durable polyethylene plastic sit-in yak that can be ideal for lake or flat water use, such as slow moving rivers, with a stable flat bottom hull. Being a shorter yak, it’s easy to maneuver and convenient to transport but there’s still lots of room for all your gear.

There is an ample storage hatch behind the seat, as well as a handy drink holder and bungee deck rigging for securing additional gear. The seat is padded and adjustable and there are adjustable foot braces in the cockpit and protective thigh pads to help you stabilize the craft.

While this is a spacious little 10 foot kayak, you might find the legroom a bit tight if you’re very tall. It also has a relatively low maximum weight capacity, which may make it less suitable in general for larger paddlers.

Because of the design of this cheap sit in kayak’s hull, you may find that it’s not built for speed or for rough water. But the enclosed cockpit means you can still head out in poor weather, as long as it’s not water dangerous conditions.


  • Easy to maneuver
  • Compact for transporting
  • Lightweight
  • Great for all weathers


  • Low weight capacity
  • Not ideal for taller paddlers

> Our full Aruba review (10 & 12)

6: Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak (For The Kids)

Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak - Best Kayak For The KidsPin
  • Length: 6 foot
  • Width: 24 inches
  • Weight: 18 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 130 pounds

The Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak is a 6 foot yak designed for children from the age of 5 and up to 130 pounds. It is a durable polyethylene sit-on-top yak, with added UV protection, that can be a great vessel for kids to learn paddling techniques in and to use on calm summer days at the beach.

It features a stable hull with reverse chine for added flip resistance. It also benefits from self bailing scupper holes in the cockpit area and a molded seat.

It features an open cockpit and the back deck is sloped to create a swim-up platform where kids can easily climb back on after jumping in the water. However, this means there is no dedicated cargo deck or bungee rigging to secure any gear.

This can be one of the best cheap kayaks for little ones, with a decent build quality for casual use but it’s not suitable for adults.


  • Built for kids
  • Durable
  • Swim-up platform
  • Stable hull


  • Not for adults
  • No storage area

> Full Lifetime Wave review

7: Vibe Skipjack 90 (Fishing Time!)

Vibe Skipjack 90 KayakPin
  • Length: 9 foot
  • Width: 32 inches
  • Weight: 46 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 300 pounds

The Vibe Skipjack 90 is a 9 foot boat with an open cockpit that is designed for stability and ease of use. It can be a great choice for beginners, especially if you’re after an affordable vessel with added features for comfort, similar to some expensive models.

The Skipjack features a Deluxe seat with a padded seat bottom and adjustable padded seat back, which can make longer paddling sessions more comfortable. There is also a center storage hatch for keeping small items dry and there are storage decks at both the front and rear, with bungee rigging.

This budget kayak is of a light weight, for easy transport. It features built-in rod holders for fishing and comes with a paddle so you can head out on paddling adventures without delay. While it doesn’t have a rudder system, you may be able to modify it with aftermarket accessories.

If you’re looking for a speedy craft for extended fishing trips or touring, this is probably not it. The short hull generally limits the cargo space. And the hull’s design is to maximize stability which can affect the boat’s performance and particularly sacrifice speed.


  • Easy to maneuver
  • Great for beginners and anglers
  • Fishing features
  • Padded seat


  • Not for long trips
  • Not built for speed


Where Can I Buy A Cheap Kayak?

Online can be one of the best places when searching for a budget kayak, as it can give you access to a wider market.

You can also find cheap kayaks locally, such as in sporting goods stores, as well as in kayak outfitters where they may have used or ex-rental yaks for sale. Kayak reviews can also help you when searching, as this can give you an idea of the best brands and models to look out for.

Can I Modify A Cheap Kayak For Fishing?

Yes, you can modify budget kayaks for fishing and other activities by adding accessories, such as rod holders and mounts for electronics. You can even usually add gear tracks for easy installation of other accessories.

There are different ways you can transform most kayaks into angling vessels, for example by drilling mounting points or using adhesives, or even adapting some of the features that your boat already has.

Some inflatable kayaks can also sometimes be modified for fishing.

Are Affordable Kayaks Good For Duck Hunting?

Yes, budget kayaks can be good for duck hunting, since they can let you get closer to the ducks with less disruption compared to a power boat.

They can be modified to make them more suitable for duck hunting conditions, such as by painting them in camouflage colors and adding accessories that will help you when duck hunting.

The Best Duck Hunting Kayaks

Do Cheap And Affordable Kayaks Last Long?

If you look after your budget kayak, it should last you a pretty long time.

The best cheap kayaks tend to be made out of polyethylene, which is a durable material. It is generally resistant to bumps and scrapes but it can be weakened by UV light, so it might be worth investing in a protective cover for when it’s not in use.

> The Most Expensive Kayaks

Summarizing Kayaks On A Budget

Now that you’ve seen some of the cheap kayaks reviews, you know what to look for in a budget kayak you’ll hopefully be able to find your own vessel so you can enjoy more time on the water.

Consider what you hope to get from your new yak and what you’d like it to offer you. If there are two of you hoping to kayak together, then a tandem might be better value.

If you enjoyed learning about budget kayaks, feel free to share this with your friends and if you have any comments, please let us know.

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