Ultimate Guide To Buying Used Inflatable Kayaks (2018 Updated)

Buying a used inflatable kayak can be a way to save several hundred dollars. Or, it can be a way to waist your time and money. Here are some helpful hints for you!

huge inflatable kayak

Photo by Jessica Martin

Why Buy A Used Inflatable Kayak?

There are two primary reasons people consider getting a used inflatable kayak:

  1. You want to get a better boat with the money you have to spend.
  2. You know the boat you want, you just want to save money.

The quality of inflatable kayaks increases dramatically with cost. There are exceptions, but in most cases this is true.

For example: The kayak A cost about three times as much as the Kayak B, but it is at least 10 times better.

Buying a used inflatable kayak can sometimes get you a much better quality boat than paying the same amount of money for a lower quality new boat.

Do Your Own Research

Learn about the different brands. Get an idea of what you are looking for.

If you don’t know anything about paddling or inflatable kayaks, it might be a good investment to take a class or go on a guide-assisted trip with an outfitter.

Review our section on “Inflatable Kayak Care.” It will help you in your research.

Trust: The Seller, The Experts, The Brand, &/or Your Gut

Trust the Seller

If you trust the seller, then you don’t have to be too concerned about other issues. This is the way I buy used boats and used cars.

Yes, check the boat out; but there are lots of good and fair people in the world. If you’ve found one, go with it.

You can’t always get enough info to establish trust with the seller. This does not mean they can’t be trusted. It just means you personally have not been able to establish trust with them.

Trust the Experts

If you can’t establish trust with the seller, then trust the experts. Outfitters, retailers, and some private boaters have lots of knowledge and experience with inflatable kayaks. Ask.

With any expert: Trust what they know. Respect what they know that they don’t know. Be on the lookout for what they don’t know that they don’t know.

Trust the Brand

If you can’t establish trust with either the seller or through an expert, then you may be able to trust the brand.

Trust Your Gut

Last, but certainly not least, trust your gut. More often then not, your gut reaction is right.

Questions to Answer

  1. How was the boat stored? Improper storage is the number one source of damage to used inflatable kayaks from private individuals. More details below in the “Problems” section.
  2. How old is the boat? This is not necessarily an indicator of the quality of the boat, but it does help you get a good picture of the boats life. Combine this information with information on the boats usage and storage.
  3. How much use has it had? Just because it was just used once, doesn’t mean it’s a great deal. How was the boat stored when it wasn’t being used?
  4. Does it hold air? My test to see if an inflatable is holding air good enough is simple: I inflate it in the shade and leave it in the shade for four hours. If it is still holding air good then, it will work good for me.
    As long as an inflatable is in the sun, the air inside the tubes is heating up. Heated air expands. Just because an inflatable stays tight in the sun, does not mean it is not leaking air. It has to be tested in the shade.
  5. Any damage or repairs? Most damage can be repaired. A good repair job can outlast the rest of the boat. But you do need to know.
  6. Is there anything I should know about the boat? This open-ended question gives the good guys a chance to tell you something they forgot. And, it puts the bad guys on the spot and may encourage them to share important info.

Possible Big Problems

  1. Improper storage. If stored rolled up for a long period of time, there could be damage from moisture, mold, mildew and even rot. If the boat was stored rolled up and subjected to periodic freezing and thawing, then it could cause weak spots and cracks in the material.
  2. Blown Seam. A blown seam is bad news. It can be very difficult to repair. On a low cost boat, it could make the boat worthless. On a good quality boat, you could have the repair done by a professional raft repair shop.
  3. Ultra violet damage. This is less of a problem now than it was a few years ago. Materials are now more resistant to sunlight. And, there are protectants that can be applied. If you can brush the outer material and it starts to flake off. Or, if it is badly cracked, run. Far and fast. You will have nothing but problems from the boat.
  4. Is it stolen? It happens. Use common sense.
  5. If the deal looks to good to be true, there probably is a problem. Check it out thoroughly.

What About A Puncture?

Punctures to a used inflatable kayak can usually be repaired. A good repair job will often outlast the rest of the boat. Don’t be overly concerned about a small puncture.

Large punctures or long tears may need to be repaired by a professional raft repair shop. In an inexpensive boat, it’s probably not cost effective. In a good quality boat, it may be worth it.

Where Can I Find Used Inflatable Kayak?

In general, demand for good quality used kayaks exceeds supply. If you are patient and persistent, you can probably find a good used inflatable kayak at a fair price.

Be satisfied with a fair deal or a good deal. Finding a great deal on a good quality used inflatable fishing kayak is rare.

  1. Check online. Check Ebay. I check every month or two just to satisfy my curiosity. I always find lots of good ones for sale. There are also a lot of groups on Facebook for this.
  2. Check with rafting outfitters. They use inflatable kayaks and at some point they get new ones. See the section “Buying a used inflatable kayak from an outfitter.” It will give you some hints and tips.
  3. Check area want ads and bulletin boards.
  4. If there is a retail paddle shop that rents or sells inflatable kayaks near you, check with them.

Buying A Used Inflatable Kayak From An Outfitter

Rafting outfitters can be a great source for buying a used inflatable kayak.

You can get a great boat at a good price, but you can also get a boat that is worn out.

Outfitters almost always use commercial grade rafts. These are built to take years of heavy use.

An inflatable kayak near the end of its usefulness to an outfitter could still have a lifetime of use left in it for you.

Take a good look at the boat before you buy it. If there is a known problem, talk with the outfitter about it.

Some Final Thoughts

If you can inspect the boat in person and do the four hours in the shade air test; then you should be able to make a good decision.

If you can’t see the boat in person, get what details you can from the seller. And, have the seller do the four hours in the shade air test.

Trust either the seller, the experts, the brand, or your gut.

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