Kayaking is one of the sports that give mental and physical freedom. As you break away from land and crash through ocean surf or slice the flat lake surface you can clear your mind and concentrate on the motions of your body.

You are probably wondering: Is that why more people are taking it up?

Well, once you are in it you will find that you want the high all the time and if you do not have your own kayak the hassle of renting or borrowing every time can become cumbersome.

But here is the kicker: You do not have to break your bank account to own your own kayak.

Whether you are starting out in the sport or a seasoned kayaker you need an affordable yet quality kayak and today I will point you in the right direction.

I have found 4 incredible kayaks on the market that are under $500. I will cover their features, construction and ability to offer a quality experience and also provide you with tips on how to make your kayaking experience exciting so you will enjoy your kayak even more.

You Don’t Have to Buy a High End Kayak to Have a Great Time

Buying the best budget kayak allows you to still enjoy a quality kayaking experience at a relatable price.

As a long time kayaking enthusiast I can remember wanting a decent kayak for myself at the beginning that would just allow me to enjoy the sport. Nothing fancy, just an affordable, high quality piece of equipment. And as I have grown in my love of kayaking and seen other people in the sport I still hold to that.

The last thing you want is a piece of equipment that takes you a long time to learn how to maneuver.

These under $500 kayaks are equipped with the most important features and are ideally meant for anyone on a budget who does not want to spend too much on a kayak.

5 Most Important Features to Look Out For in Your Kayak

Dimensions

The width of a kayak is more about giving it horizontal stability while the length determines its speed. The longer the kayak the faster it moves and the better it is at tracking which is staying in a straight line and not veering off sideways. However, it is important to note that the longer it is the harder it is to maneuver.

Depth becomes imperative if you are carrying gear. Kayaks come in low and high volume hull designs which are dependent on its purpose: Touring, light touring or recreational.

Seat options

Now: The question here is whether you want a sit in or sit on top. Sit in kayaks are designed with the prow over your legs and a cockpit with the seat while sit on models feature an adjustable seat fitted on the open shell of the kayak.

Sit in kayaks are used in colder climates because their closed shells offer more protection from the elements and they also are preferred because they have more speed.

Sit-on-top kayaks are perfect for warmer climates. The shell is wider giving them more stability and even when they capsize they don’t take in water. They are a favorite for recreational kayaking.

Safety features

Here is a bottom line you should never compromise on: Your kayak should come with basic safety features like sponsons, rain skirts and rain covers, tow lines, throw bags and signaling devices among others.

These devices will either keep you from capsizing, taking water or help you survive and stay safe should you find yourself in a situation.

Shape

The shape of a kayak’s hull will determine its performance in the water. Kayaks with a flat bottomed hull are generally more stable than the rounded and v-shaped hull kayaks. If you are after speed, the v-shaped hull kayaks cut through water faster and are great for touring. The rounded and flat bottomed shaped hulls are excellent when you just want to hang out in the water or try some fishing.

UV stabilized material

Your kayak should be made with UV stabilized material. Seeing as it is outdoors most of the time and directly under the sun, the UV protection prevents it from being compromised by the sun and water and makes it durable. All the best budget kayaks tick this quality on their checklist of features.

Tips to Keep your Kayaking Experience Exciting

Choose Exciting Destinations to Keep You on Your Toes

If kayaking is your favorite retreat try to find different places to enjoy it. Write a list of places you would love to kayak and start ticking them off one by one. Here is the best part: They don’t even have to be out of the country. Trust me, before you exhaust all the great places at home it will be quite a while. Also keep in mind that certain seasons offer better kayaking experiences and make time to jump on your kayak during those seasons.

Join a Group of Seasoned Kayakers Because Your Crowd Matters

If you want to learn something new keep a fun crowd and challenge yourself. Because of the scalability of the kayaking you can keep growing in it and do more exciting things every time. It’s quite simple: Surround yourself with more advanced kayakers who will encourage you to try new things and push your out of your comfort zone. This also equips you to be more proficient when out on your own.

Keep Up With the Trends to Enjoy the Sport

Here is the deal: keeping up with the trend does not necessarily mean investing in new, fancy, high end kayak. How about trying a new form of kayaking that is trending to see if you like it? If you love calm lake water kayaking take up ocean kayaking to experience something new and adopt the newest technique on the block while you are at it.

The Best Kayaks on the Market Under $500

  • Sun Dolphin Aruba SS 10 Feet Sit In Kayak


The 10 foot body of the Sun Dolphins Aruba makes it a short kayak with impeccable stability. Despite this it has decent tracking because of the narrow stern and its ability to slice through the water instead of pushing the water aside. Weighing a good 40 pounds, the combination of the weight and length provide a sturdy balanced form which sits nicely on the water. The cockpit has lots of room that allows you to maneuver within and it is well padded as well.

The adjustable seat and foot braces make it suitable for everyone. This adjustability allows you to get comfortable at every point of your expedition especially if you intend to be your kayak for extended periods of time. With its storage capacity you can carry a substantial amount of gear especially since it has a portable accessory carrier.

Pros:

  • Light weight and has carrying handles for easy portability
  • UV stabilized material
  • Open and roomy cockpit
  • Electronic console to store your electronics
  • Ability to bear a high load for a 10 foot kayak

Cons:

  • The cockpit entrance is small
  • Accessories including paddles are bought separately
  • Can only be used on calm water
  • It has only thigh pads

Specs:

  • Length: 10 feet
  • Width: 30 inches
  • Weight: 40 lbs
  • Weight capacity: 250 lbs
  • Materials: Fortified polyethylene
  • Advanced Elements Advancedframe Convertible Fishing Kayak


This inflatable kayak has a length of 15 feet and is one of the most popular inflatable kayaks on the market. It is versatile in use and performs well in the ocean, on flat water, calm rivers and for touring. While most inflatable kayaks have an open sit-on-top design the Advanced Elements advancedframe convertible sports a sit-in cockpit like a hard shell kayak.

It is built for 2 paddlers but it can be converted to a one person set up. The three levels of materials used on the kayak are extremely durable and puncture resistant. The seats are adjustable, padded and high backed for great comfort and support.

There is a stiffening bar included with the kayak to improve its tracking. It takes less than 10 minutes to set it up but remember to learn how to deflate it and pack it properly to ensure it last long. It is easy to maintain. Just spray the water resistant spray on the top sides and wash it with fresh water after using it in the ocean.

It has quite a number of convenience providing additions including paddle cradlers, bungee deck lacing, D-rings, spray skirt and the backbone for stability. The bow is pointy and tapered to increase its speed and tracking ability and it sits low making it easy to paddle. During tandem kayaking the person in front can turn towards the one in the back without falling over.

Pros:

  • Convertibility from solo to tandem kayaking
  • Comfortable and supportive foam seats
  • Easily portable
  • Easy maneuverability
  • Very stable
  • Comes with a repair kit
  • Plenty of storage room

Cons:

  • Cumbersome to inflate and deflate with every use
  • Takes long to dry
  • Performs better on the lake and river than the ocean
  • It is heavy

Specs:

  • Length: 15 feet
  • Width: 32 inches
  • Weight: 56 lbs
  • Weight capacity: 550 lbs
  • Materials: PVC Tarpaulin with 1000 denier polyester, polyurethane coated polyester and 30-gauge heavy duty PVC
  • Dagger Kayak Zydeco 9.0


This kayak weighs 40 pounds and is just 9 feet in length giving it excellent stability. The cockpit is generally large with dimensions of 38.5 x 21.75 inches allowing free movement even for bigger frames. It is a very responsive kayak with an excellent turning ability.

The seat and foot braces are adjustable and the knee area is padded. You can expect quick acceleration and good tracking for its size because it has a longer waterline length.

To facilitate floating it has been constructed with skinned foam on the inside. This floatation and stability allows you to twist around inlets and stay in place even when wrangling fish of the hook. The roomy cockpit is a great place to store your dry bags and bilge pump among other gear.

Pros:

  • UV stable material
  • Lightweight and easily portable
  • Knee padding in addition to thigh padding
  • Works well in both calm and mildly choppy water
  • Enough storage room
  • Excellent choice for people of a smaller stature

Cons:

  • Paddles and other accessories are bought separately
  • Tracking is great as long as you are paddling

Specs:

  • Length: 9.1 feet
  • Width: 28.5 inches
  • Weight: 40 lbs
  • Weight capacity: 220 lbs
  • Material: polyethylene
  • Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak


Fishing and kayaking at the same time? Choose the Lifetime Tamarack angler 100 kayak. It is a sit on top model with a comfortable padded seat because it is designed to be used for long periods of time on the water. In terms of storage, you have enough for even a cooler and other additional gear when you put to use the two extra hatches in the front and rear of the kayak.

It has a flat bottomed hull which makes it stable on the water and comes with a paddle. The sides are fitted with bungees to keep the paddle in place. What’s even better? It also has a paddle cradler which secures all types of paddles in place and conveniently keeps them within your reach.

It is 56 lbs which is still lightweight so you can carry it comfortably using its T-handles. Each foot brace has 5 grooves to keep your feet comfortable whatever your height.

The exterior is made from high density polyethylene which has been UV stabilized. If you are small in stature try standing up on this kayak and you will find it stable all courtesy of the stability chine rails. However, while it scores highly on stability it is not the fastest.

Here is where it gets interesting: It comes with a 5 year warrant which is not usually part of the package with kayaks.

Pros:

  • Comes with a paddle
  • Very stable
  • Well padded seat and back rest
  • Ample storage space
  • Easily portable
  • UV stable material
  • 5 year warranty

Cons:

  • Needs more accessories to make it comfortable for taller people
  • Only available in one color: Olive green
  • Only works well on calm waters

Specs:

  • Length: 10 feet
  • Width: 31 inches
  • Weight: 52 lbs
  • Weight capacity: 275 lbs
  • Material: polyethylene

Frequently Asked Questions

Q) Is the quality compromised with Kayaks under $500?

A) Just because the Kayak is under $500 does not mean there is anything wrong with it. It just caters to a client who is cost conscious. Most people buying these kayaks are looking for the important basic features like safety, durability and performance (which are all there in these kayaks) as opposed to the feature rich, ultra specific options which tend to be high end.

Q) Can one kayak fit all purposes?

A) This is a definite and resounding NO! First, kayaks are built for specific purposes which prevent them from performing well when used on the wrong water. Second, it is very dangerous to use the wrong kayak on the wrong water surface.

Q) Should I invest in comfort or construction when buying a kayak?

A) That is a tough one. You do not want a kayak that will disintegrate after one trip but neither do you want to be uncomfortable on the water. However, if I was to choose between the two I would choose comfort. This is because once you are out on the water you will have to paddle for hours and if the seat is stiff you are in for sore muscles and cramps. Having said that ensure you do not compromise on the durability either. There are excellent choices that offer a good balance of both.

Spoilt for Choice? I Am Here to Help!

All the kayaks we have showcased today are exceptional.

The Lifetime Tamarack angler 100 provides you with a smooth fishing experience and once out on the water it complements your every move. With it you can really enjoy both your favorite hobbies: kayaking and fishing.

On the other hand, the Sun Dolphin Aruba SS 10 Feet Sit- in gives you excellent stability while allowing you to enjoy good speeds. It is lightweight and can easily go with you everywhere making it ideal for recreational kayaking.

However, my top recommendation from the four options is the Advanced Elements Advancedframe Convertible Fishing Kayak.

For an inflatable kayak it performs even better than some of the hard shell kayaks on the market. It is comfortable and has great speeds. But most importantly, it does these two things very well: flawlessly converts from a tandem to solo kayak and provides excellent stability during tandem kayaking. It is also easy to maneuver whether you are solo or have a passenger.

Now it is time to get out there and hit the water!

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Phil Mansbridge
Phil Mansbridge

Phil is a retired Sport Fisherman from Florida. His passion for the last decade has been kayaking and canoeing. He spends his summers in Canada and most of the winter in California. He loves reviewing equipment for his avid readers and hopes that everyone's time out on the water as enjoyable as possible.