Kayaking is fun, family-friendly, fairly easy to learn and a great way to get in some on-the-water exercise, so it is not surprising that a lot of people are considering taking-up kayaking as a hobby. Though a fun activity, it is no secret that this type of hobby is not as cheap as others. Apart from the cost of equipment kayaks themselves can cost a considerable amount but why are kayaks so expensive?
Kayaks are expensive due to the material that the manufacturers use to make them. Usually, these materials are fibreglass or Kevlar or rotomolded polyethylene or wood though sometimes two or more of these materials are mixed together. Wood kayaks are particularly expensive because the wood is coated with protective layer of epoxy or fibreglass. Additionally, some manufacturing processes used in making different types of kayaks are costly.
Types of kayak materials and the reasons for their costs
Although buying a kayak may seem to be an expensive investment if you intend to kayak regularly then buying your own boat will be more cost effective than renting one.
Here are the different types of kayaks available in the market:
- Fiberglass kayaks.
- Kevlar kayaks.
- Rotomolded polyethylene kayaks.
- Wood kayaks.
Let’s look at these different types of kayaks and their costs.
Fiberglass is widely used in small recreational boats as well as small commercial vessels. This material has been tried and tested in different types of water and under different conditions.
Fiberglass is durable, knock-resistant and requires very little maintenance. Fiberglass is often used to make sea kayaks because it is such a robust material.
Fiberglass is a lightweight material that will usually last you for decades. The sturdiness of this material is well-known and even though it is not as hard-wearing as a polyethylene kayak a fiberglass kayak it is durable enough to withstand light impacts.
Fiberglass is a slightly brittle material and therefore a fiberglass kayak might not survive heavy impacts undamaged.
This type of kayak is usually coated with specific gelcoats that makes it relatively scratch proof.
The cost of a fiberglass kayak is based on the manufacturing processes involved in molding and building the boat.
As fiberglass kayaks are not as mass produced as plastic kayaks they tend to be slightly more expensive.
A brand new fiberglass kayak would cost you from as low as $400 to as high as $4,000.
Kevlar is a type of material that is commonly used in the production of bulletproof vests and armored vehicles.
Kevlar is a soft, heat resistant, durable, and lightweight material. It is often used for top-end, expensive kayaks because of its strength, durability and because it is very lightweight.
Although, Kevlar is relatively soft compared to fibreglass, polyethylene, or wood this only means that the material is somewhat flexible and is able to withstand heavy impacts without cracking.
Kevlar kayaks would typically cost you more than the other types of kayaks available in the market because Kevlar is an expensive material.
Kevlar kayaks are not as mass produced as either fiberglass kayaks or plastic kayaks and this also adds to the production costs.
A brand new Kevlar kayak would cost you at from $3,000 up to as much as $5,000.
Wooden kayaks are much less common than any other type of kayak. This type of kayak is often preferred by people who like to build their own boats.
The ‘stitch-and-glue’ method of building a wooden boat is the easiest way to build your own kayak but if you have enough woodworking skills, then you may opt to do a ‘strip-build’.
Wooden kayaks are sturdy, strong, lightweight compared to other kayaks. It is easy to customize and relatively easy to repair as well.
Most wood kayaks these days are now coated with a layer of fiberglass or epoxy to protect the wood. After which, it is coated with several layers of varnish.
Building a wooden kayak is time-intensive work that is done by hand making these boats very expensive unless you build your own.
Building your own wooden kayak will probably cost you about the same price as buying a new fiberglass or Kevlar kayak. If you decide to buy a wooden kayak from someone else then you can expect to pay much more because you are paying for the craftsmanship and build-time as well.
A Wooden Kayak will usually cost between $3,000 and $6,000 though specific, or made-to-measure, boats can cost much more.
Although inflatable kayaks are becoming more common with a greater number of models available than ever before they are still not as widely mass produced as the more common types of kayak.
Most inflatable kayaks on the market are made of the same type of materials. A fabric core is used to give the kayak its easily-recognizable shape while a layer of synthetic rubber is used to cover the fabric in order to provide protection, and air tightness.
The fabric core of an inflatable kayak is essential, and therefore the cost will remain pretty universal across brands and models.
It is the way that manufacturers implement the synthetic rubber layer that impacts the price most of an inflatable kayak.
Most inflatable kayaks will be made from:
The type of ribber used will have the biggest impact on the price of an inflatable kayak.
Rotomolded Polyethylene Kayaks
Rotomolded polyethylene kayaks are the most common types of kayaks on the market.
Rotomolded polyethylene kayaks, more commonly referred to as plastic kayaks, are made by heating polyethylene powder in a mold and rotating it to form a one-piece boat.
These types of kayaks are less expensive compared to fiberglass and Kevlar ones because the production process is cheaper due to mass production.
Polyethylene is also a relatively cheap material compared to the alternatives.
Rotomolded kayaks are very resilient and perform well in rocky bodies of water. They also require very little maintenance.
As they are mass produced, plastic kayaks can be manufactured in bulk producing huge savings for the manufacturer and these savings are then past on in part to the consumer.
These benefits do not come without some disadvantages though. Kayaks made from this material will usually weigh a bit more than the other types of kayak and can be easily damaged by UV exposure if they are not given a protective coating by their owners.
Brand new rotomolded polyethylene kayaks can cost you as low as $300 or as high as $500, which is much cheaper than kayaks that use other materials.
Costs associated with different kayak hull designs
There is no one-size-fits-all kayak.
There are kayaks designed for:
- Recreational calm water use – flat bottom kayak.
- Canal use – usually a recreational kayak though not always (see our guide to kayaking on canals).
- Whitewater rapid riding- river kayak.
- Surfing – surfing kayak.
- Ocean touring – sea kayak.
- Fishing – sit-on-top kayak.
Each of these kayaks have a different hull design and hull is made specifically to allow the kayak to excel in certain marine environments. These differences will usually equate to a different in the price of the kayak.
The size and functionality of a kayak can also effect its purchase price.
For example, a sea kayak is much longer than a river kayak, is deigned to hold equipment is sealed compartments and is able to withstand some pretty challenging weather and water conditions. It should therefore come as no surprise that a sea kayak is more expensive than a river kayak.
Costs associated with used kayaks
There is no question that if you want to pay a cheap price for high-grade kayak then you will probably need to buy a used one.
Used kayaks are an acceptable alternative to buying a new one, especially when it comes to buying a plastic kayak, because these boats are so tough a used kayak will usually be just as good as a new one.
Because a used kayak, without any damage, is just as effective as a new kayak it will have a good resale value for the seller.
This makes it an expensive purchase for the buyer though.
It isn’t just the kayak that adds to the expense
If you are planning to buy a kayak, you should be also aware of the things that you are going to have to purchase with it. Kayaking as an activity is not limited to just the kayak. You need additional safety and operational equipment.
Here are some of the materials you need after you buy your kayak:
- Safety equipment.
- Kayaking essentials.
Aside from spending good money on the kayak itself, it is not only beneficial for you to spend good money on buying quality paddles and accessories but it is actually essential that you get the right gear in order to stay legal on the water. Kayaking can be dangerous and you therefore need the right safety gear.
As well as safety gear, such as a quality PFD, you are required by law to carry certain equipment. Although this can vary from state to state having basic safety equipment is a requirement across the entire US. You will also need additional equipment if you plan to kayak at night (see our ultimate guide that shows you how to kayak at night).
Likewise you will need additional equipment if you plan to kayak in the winter.