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Best Kayak For The Money – Affordable Budget Kayaks

Mark Armstrong
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Believe it or not, an amazing kayak experience doesn’t need to drain your funds.

To prove it, we’re going on a thrilling journey into the realm of cost-effective kayaks, unearthing those gems that deliver top-notch maneuverability and features, all without giving your wallet a heart attack.

We’ve culled the best from the rest. Brace yourself as we reveal the crème de la crème of budget-friendly kayaks available right now.

Want the quick answer to best cheap kayak out there?

The Pelican Sentinel 100X offers the perfect combination of stability and maneuverability, without compromising on space and comfort.

Best Budget Kayaks At A Glance

The Best Kayaks For The Money

1: Pelican Sentinel 100X Exo (best Sit On Top)

Pelican Sentinel 100X EXOPin
  • Length: 9 foot 6 inches
  • Width: 30 inches
  • Weight: 42 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 300 pounds

The Pelican Sentinel 100X is, in my opinion, the best kayak out there for the money. It offers exceptional stability, with a twin-arched multi-chine hull that is ideal for recreational paddling on lakes, calm bays, and slow-moving rivers.

This is a great sit-on-top kayak for beginners because of its high level of initial stability. It’s a wide kayak in terms of its length, making it feel less tippy than some of the longer kayaks. It’s also very easy to maneuver and control. But it’s not the fastest.

I think one of the best features of this little kayak is the padded deck. This anti-slip carpet provides added traction and is perfect if you’re bringing your dog with you.

The ErgoLounge seating system provides an adjustable high-back seat with added width for a roomier feel.

Another great feature of this sit-on-top kayak is the storage space. There’s a small cargo area with bungees at the bow and a larger cargo deck at the rear, also with bungees. Additionally, there’s a removable storage compartment.


  • Extremely stable
  • Great for beginners
  • Space for a dog


  • Not built for speed

2: Pelican Brume 100XP (best sit-inside)

  • Length: 10 foot
  • Width: 28 inches
  • Weight: 40 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 275 pounds

The Pelican Brume 100XP is an affordable sit-inside kayak that offers excellent value for money, as it comes complete with a two-piece paddle.

This is an ideal starter kayak for paddlers who are new to sit-inside kayaks. The cockpit is large and spacious, making it easy to get in and out of. And it doesn’t feel cramped to sit in. You may even find there’s room for a small dog to join you.

A downside to the large cockpit is that you’ll probably struggle to get a spray skirt to fit.

This is a stable kayak that’s built for flatwater. It’s crafted from durable Ram-X material, which is resistant to impacts. And it features an adjustable padded backrest and ErgoForm seat cushion.

There’s a large rear cargo deck with bungee rigging to keep belongings tied down. There’s also a cockpit table with storage compartments and a bottle holder. Additionally, you’ll find a QuickLock storage hatch at the bow to keep items dry during your trip.


  • Stable
  • Good storage space
  • Large easy-entry cockpit


  • Not compatible with spray skirts

3: Sea Eagle SE330 (best inflatable)

  • Length: 11 foot 2 inches
  • Width: 34 inches
  • Weight: 26 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 500 pounds

The Sea Eagle SE330 is the best inflatable budget kayaks out there in terms of durability, load capacity, and ease of use.

This is a lightweight inflatable kayak that’s easy to carry and quick to set up. It takes just 10 minutes to inflate. It’s also extremely versatile.

This can be either a solo kayak or a tandem kayak, with a two-person or 500-pound load capacity. It can be ideal for larger solo paddlers, or solo paddlers looking for extra space for camping equipment.

This can be an excellent kayak for all skill levels but it’s better suited to beginners because it can be a little slow to paddle. It’s rated for up to Class III rapids, so it can handle just about any type of condition most beginners will tackle.

The durable PVC material is resistant to sun and saltwater. It’s also tough enough (and stable enough) to handle a four-legged passenger.


  • Generous capacity
  • Lightweight and easy to set up
  • Very stable


  • Not very speedy

4: Perception Expression 11.5 (best touring kayak)

Perception Expression 11.5 KayakPin
  • Length: 11 foot 6 inches
  • Width: 25.75 inches
  • Weight: 44 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 255 pounds

The Perception Expression 11.5 is an affordable kayak built for long day trips and multi-day tours. While it’s not necessarily a cheap kayak compared to the rest, it is a budget touring kayak.

This kayak is crafted for comfort and efficient paddling over long distances, with a long, narrow hull for increased speeds on open water. There’s also a drop-down skeg for improved tracking.

However, it’s not as long as most touring kayaks, making it a more convenient length for river trips and small bodies of water. But it can also handle coastal waters and large lakes.

The cockpit is designed for comfort, with a padded adjustable seat with leg lifters on the bottom. You’ll also find adjustable thigh pads and adjustable foot braces for added support.

This is probably not the best choice for new paddlers because it won’t feel as stable as some of the wider kayaks.


  • Comfortable
  • Fast and efficient
  • Affordable touring kayak


  • Not ideal for beginners

5: Sea Eagle SE370 (best tandem inflatable)

  • 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

6: Pelican River Gorge 130X (best tandem kayak)

Pelican River Gorge 130XPin
  • Length: 13 foot
  • Width: 34 inches
  • Weight: 73 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 500 pounds

The Pelican River Gorge 130X is a durable tandem kayak that offers excellent stability and a spacious deck.

This can be an ideal kayak for beginners and families.

The twin-arched multichine hull offers a high degree of primary stability, making it feel more comfortable and stable for new paddlers in flatwater conditions, such as lakes and bays. It can also be ideal for slow-moving rivers and up to Class I/II rapids.

There’s plenty of room to store gear, including two hatches plus a large rear tank well with bungees and a smaller cargo area at the bow. There’s also a bottle holder for each paddler.

The River Gorge 130X comes with two ErgoFit G2 seats that are cushioned and offer decent ventilation. There’s also a molded seat in the center of the kayak that can be perfect for a child.

One thing I don’t like about this tandem kayak is that it’s heavy. So it’s not the easiest to carry or car-top.


  • Spacious
  • Good storage
  • Very stable hull


  • Heavy

7: Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 (Best Fishing Kayak)

Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100Pin
  • Length: 10 foot
  • Width: 31 inches
  • Weight: 52 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 275 pounds

The Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 is a budget fishing kayak. It can be a good choice for new kayak anglers looking for a basic kayak with essential fishing features.

This one features two flush-mount rod holders and a deck-mounted swivel rod holder, so you can keep your fishing rods organized easily.

There is plenty of room for the rest of your fishing gear, with a spacious rear tank well with bungee cords and a bow cargo area. Additionally, there are two six-inch storage hatches to keep items safely below deck.

The center hatch can be easily accessed while you’re on the water.

The seat features a cushioned seat bottom and a separate padded backrest. The backrest is adjustable but it’s not the most comfortable kayak seat, especially if you plan to spend a long time sitting.

This is a stable kayak for flat water. It has a molded rear skeg for improved tracking but this kayak is not designed for standing up.


  • Three rod holders
  • Stable
  • Good storage options


  • Basic seat
  • Not the most comfortable

8: Lifetime Sport Fisher (best tandem fishing kayak)

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

This tandem fishing kayak 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

9: Airhead Montana Two Person Inflatable Kayak (best whitewater kayak)

Airhead Montana Two Person InflatablePin
  • Length: 12 foot
  • Width: 36 inches
  • Weight: 36.3 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 500 pounds

The Airhead Montana is a budget whitewater kayak that can be a great choice for families looking for an affordable way to enjoy river kayaking. It can be a good option for kayaking with a child.

The Montana comes with two inflatable seats for tandem paddling. But this can also be paddled solo, making it an ideal choice for larger paddlers looking for more room.

At 12-feet long, this is not the most spacious tandem but it’s generally not designed to hold a lot of extra gear. However, there is space for gear at the bow and stern. With two adults in the kayak, there’s limited bow storage.

This is a wide, stable kayak that’s ideal for lakes and up to Class III rivers. It doesn’t have a self-bailing floor, so it’s best to avoid big rapids.

There are three air chambers for added safety. And the nylon exterior features a UV-resistant coating for added durability.

This is also lightweight and easy to maneuver on land and on the water.


  • Good for paddling with a child
  • Good for mild to moderate whitewater
  • Easy to maneuver


  • Not self-bailing

10: Pelican Maxim 100X (best recreational kayak)

Pelican Maxim 100XPin
  • Length: 10 foot
  • Width: 28 inches
  • Weight: 36 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 275 pounds

The Pelican Maxim 100X is a sit-inside kayak made for recreational paddling.

It’s an ideal choice for new paddlers because of its oversized cockpit. This makes it easier to get in and out of. It can also feel less enclosed compared to a standard sit-inside cockpit.

This is a stable kayak that’s a little narrower than comparable sit-on-top kayaks. This can make it more efficient to paddle and a little quicker. It has a shallow V-chine hull for combined tracking and maneuverability.  

There’a a large rear tank well with a mesh cover to help keep items secured to the deck. There’s also a bow hatch, a cockpit table, and a bottle holder. So there’s plenty of room for essentials for a short day trip.

The seat is not the most comfortable for long trips but it has a backrest with adequate support over shorter distances. You’ll also find molded footrests to help you control and stabilize the kayak.


  • Good starter kayak
  • Efficient hull
  • Oversized cockpit


  • Not the most comfortable seat

11: Intex Explorer K2

Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak Set - Best Tandem KayakPin
  • Length: 10 foot 3 inches
  • Width: 36 inches
  • Weight: 35 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 400 pounds

The Intex Explorer K2 is a very affordable kayak. It’s a tandem kayak that offers exceptional value for money, as it comes with two aluminum paddles and a hand pump. It also comes with two inflatable seats.

This is a portable kayak that can be more suitable for one person than two. The length is pretty short for a tandem kayak, so if there are two adults paddling, you might find leg room is very limited, particularly for the front paddler.

The kayak has a decent capacity for its compact size. And it’s pretty stable. It’s designed for recreational paddling on flatwater. It wouldn’t recommend riding rapids in this kayak.

There are carry handles at the bow and stern to make it easier to haul to the water.

This is a very basic kayak that’s built for calm waters and short trips. The inflatable seats have inflatable backrests but these may not offer adequate support for longer trips.


  • Portable
  • Very affordable
  • Two paddles included


  • Not for rough waters
  • Not ideal for two adults

12: Intex Challenger Kayak

Intex Challenger K1 KayakPin
  • Length: 9 foot
  • Width: 30 inches
  • Weight: 24 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 220 pounds

The Intex Challenger K1 is one of the cheapest kayaks you can buy. It’s a solo inflatable kayak that features a sit-inside cockpit, so it can help to shield your lower body from the elements.

It features an inflatable seat, which is basic. It has a backrest but it’s not the most supportive. However, this kayak is not built for comfort or long trips. This is made mostly for portability and convenience.

This is a compact and lightweight kayak that can be great for hiking into remote backwaters. It’s designed for flatwater and I wouldn’t recommend it if there are strong currents, wind, or choppy water.

There’s limited space for gear. But you will find a mesh cargo net at the bow to stow a small dry back.

Being a compact sit-inside kayak, this can be better suited to smaller paddlers. If you’re tall, you might find there’s not enough leg room to paddle comfortably.


  • Very portable
  • Good for remote waters
  • Very cheap


  • Not for tall or large paddlers
  • Not for long trips

13: Lifetime Lotus

Lifetime Lotus 80 KayakPin
  • Length: 8 foot
  • Width: 30 inches
  • Weight: 38 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 250 pounds

The Lifetime Lotus is a budget-friendly sit-on-top kayak. It’s a basic kayak that can be ideal for kids and beginners.

This is an incredibly stable kayak, with deep channels along the flat hull and twin molded skegs for improved tracking performance. This is built for flatwater paddling and can be perfect for ponds, lakes, calm bays, and slow-moving rivers.

There’s a small rear cargo deck with bungees. The seat is a basic molded seat with a plastic backrest, so it’s not built for comfort or long trips.

Being just 8-feet long, this is very easy to maneuver, particularly in smaller bodies of water. It can also be an easy kayak for kids to control.

However, its compact length may be a little too short for taller adults.

A great feature of this little kayak is that it’s easy to transport. It can fit in the back of most pickup trucks and even inside some SUVs with the seats down.


  • Great for kids
  • Compact for transportation


  • May be too small for some adults

14: Sevylor Big Basin

Sevylor Big BasinPin
  • Length: 12 foot 3 inches
  • Width: 37 inches
  • Weight: 44.5 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 490 pounds

The Sevylor Big Basin is an affordable three-person kayak. It’s inflatable so it’s easy to carry and transport.

This comes with three inflatable seats with backrests. This lets you and your paddling partners sit slightly elevated off the deck for more comfort and a drier ride.

While there is room for three adults to fit in this kayak, it can be better suited to two adults and a child or a dog. It’s not the most spacious when it comes to leg room, especially if you’re on the taller side.

This is a durable kayak, with PVC construction and a heavy-duty tarpaulin bottom. It also features three air chambers for safety and is NMMA certified.

This can be an ideal kayak for exploring lakes and slow-moving rivers. It can also handle mild whitewater. However, it’s not self-bailing, so you may not want to hit big rapids.


  • 3-person capacity
  • Great for lakes and rivers
  • Inflatable seats included


  • No scupper holes for drainage

15: Intex Excursion Pro K2

Intex Excursion Pro K2Pin
  • Length: 12 foot 7 inches
  • Width: 37 inches
  • Weight: 39 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 400 pounds

The Intex Excursion Pro K2 is a budget-friendly inflatable kayak that comes with two paddles, two seats, and the added bonus of fishing features.

This makes it an affordable choice for kayak anglers looking for a portable boat for fishing in flatwater environments. It has a tracking skeg but it’s not the most efficient kayak.

It comes with two detachable fishing rod holders. And there’s a separate mounting bracket that you can use to attach additional rod holders or electronics (not included).

The seats are inflatable and, while they’re not the most supportive, there are adjustable footrests to help with your posture.

While there is space for two adults to fish from this kayak, there’s not much room for fishing gear. However, it can be paddled solo if you want to bring more fishing equipment.


  • Fishing rod holders
  • Mounting points


  • Not the most comfortable
  • Tracking is not great

How To Choose A Cheap Kayak


Budget hardshell kayaks tend to be made out of plastic, usually polyethylene. This is generally very durable and is not easily damaged. Plastic kayaks are often used by rental outfitters and beginners because of their resistance to impacts and abrasions.

Inflatable kayaks can be just as durable. They’re often made out of PVC, which is flexible and strong. The good thing about inflatable kayaks is that they can usually be easily and cheaply repaired.

You’re probably not going to find carbon fiber or fiberglass construction in a budget kayak, as these materials are more expensive.

Intended Water Conditions

If you plan to paddle in a particular place, it’s best to check that the kayak is suitable for that specific water. For example, if you want to paddle on whitewater rivers, don’t opt for a flatwater kayak.

Most budget kayaks are usually designed for recreational paddling, so they should all perform well in flatwater environments.

Longer, narrower kayaks will usually be faster and will often be easier to paddle in a straight line. Short, wide kayaks will offer greater stability and maneuverability, particularly for beginners. But they will usually be slower.

Comfort And Convenience

Most affordable kayaks will have basic features. So don’t expect a budget kayak to have all the bells and whistles.

Budget kayak seats are usually not the most comfortable, which can be fine if you’re not paddling for an extended length of time.

You’ll find that many budget kayaks have molded footrests rather than adjustable ones.

Most cheap kayaks will also have some storage space, such as a bottle holder and usually a cargo deck. But they may not offer sufficient space for an overnight trip.

Another thing you might find with some budget kayaks is that they come with a paddle included. This can be useful if you’re new to kayaking, as it can let you get on the water quickly.

Dimensions And Specifications

The length and width of a kayak is important no matter what your budget. You should make sure the kayak is big enough to hold you and whatever else you plan to bring with you.

You should also make sure the maximum load capacity can accommodate you plus all of your gear.

The size and weight of the kayak is also something to think about. Make sure you have a suitable place to store a kayak at home. Inflatable kayaks take up less room than hard shell ones and they can usually (but not always) be lighter and easier to carry.

Video: How To Paddle A Tandem Kayak

Cheap Kayak FAQs

Where Can I Buy An Inexpensive 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.

> Ideas on modifying kayaks

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

Kayaks On A Budget: What Is Our Affordable Kayak Pick?

After hours of research, the winner of the best budget kayak is the Pelican Sentinel 100X. This is an ideal kayak for beginners looking for a comfortable and stable vessel that has enough room to bring a dog.

If you’re after something a little more efficient, the Pelican Brume 100XP is my runner-up pick. It has a large cockpit and ample storage options.

However, if you prefer versatility, you can’t go wrong with the Sea Eagle SE330. This can handle all recreational waters and Class III rivers. Plus it has the space and capacity for a solo kayak camping trip.

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