Buying a Kayak Online E-mail
Thursday, 08 July 2010 05:56
emotion_factory_500 Any online research on a potential consumer purchase will undoubtedly have you stimulated with offers to purchase that product online. That “add to cart” button can look very enticing. Should buying a kayak online be any different than getting a toaster or an iPod? The answer is not an easy one.  First off, a kayak is big and will not stuff into your mail carrier’s bag and be popped into your mailbox. Kayaks are usually shipped by LTL (less than truckload) freight carriers – not UPS or FedEx.  A kayak weighing 70lbs, shipped from New York to California will cost over $200 to ship.  Online kayak retailers often absorb a significant amount of this because of the high-ticket value of a kayak purchase and the profit on it. Some companies will even offer free shipping for kayaks, though higher gas prices have hurt this practice over the last few years.  For most people, there will never be a substitute for going to a kayak shop and discussing the purchase with a knowledgeable salesperson and making sure that the choice is right. For other people who know the kayak they want, buying online can be an easy way to get the kayak, without the drive to a shop, and in some places it can be a long journey to the nearest shop to get the model you want, I live 20 minutes from the Manhattan and to buy some major kayaks brands can be a 90 minute drive from me – imagine in more rural parts of the country how far it can be to find the make and model you want.  Buying online also gives you the power to the find the exact color and configuration you want.  Let’s look at a typical Google search for an Ocean Kayak Trident 15 w/rudder and try to figure out the pricing and considerations as if we were going to buy this kayak online from one of the online retailers.

Austin Kayaks – shipped from Texas

  • Price: $1,171.50
  • Shipping: $49  (there is also an option to ship to a commercial address for $19)
  • Estimated shipping time: 5 days to go TX to NY
  • Tax: Only TX residents
  • Other Fees or discounts: 15% off on any gear purchased with kayak
  • Total:  $1,220.50

REI – shipped from Pennsylvania

  • Price: $1379.00
  • Shipping: $13.99 + 95.00 (oversized charge)
  • Estimated shipping time: 6 days from PA to NY
  • Tax: $124.62 (tax was applied to shipping also)
  • Other fees or discounts: 10% back at end of year if you join REI club (almost $140 in this order)
  • Total:  $1,612.61

Amazon - shipped from Kentucky

  • Price: $1329.00
  • Shipping: $40.39
  • Estimated shipping time: 3 days
  • Tax: $114.70 (tax was applied to shipping also)
  • Other fees or discounts: non
  • Total:  $1,484.09
As you can see by the above orders there can be some differences in prices and the way these prices were calculated.  As you can see Austin Kayaks did not charge sales tax and you see Amazon and REI did, the reason for this is that the some states are insisting that taxes be collected from online retailers so that states can get their fair share. For now, they seem to only be going after the big name companies but technically if you don’t pay during the purchase you are required to pay at the end of year when you file your personal taxes.  Some companies like REI say they will only charge sales tax if they have a physical location in that state.  In the case of Amazon if I would have the kayak shipped to NJ, there would have been no sales tax because there is no office in that state. The tax code can even get more confusing as some states require tax charged on just the item and others demand it collected for the complete order- including shipping and handling.

You will also notice some differences to what these companies are charging for shipping.  Austin Kayaks only charged $49 and even gives you a better discount if you ship to a commercial address. Some companies will give you the option of “terminal pickup”.  This means you go to the shipping company’s location and get the kayak. I have done this before and it is a pretty easy process.  The estimated shipping time seemed to be pretty comparable but other companies that showed up in the search had times listed as long as 3 weeks before delivery.

wrapped up fishing kayak

Some retailers will offer other perks and incentives that might make a difference in your purchase, things like discounts on gear purchased with the kayak is pretty common and if you plan on getting a PFD, paddle, etc, it can really add up fast.

Some Things to Remember Before You Buy Online

  • Always call to confirm all prices and return policy.
  • Just because a kayak is being sold online doesn’t mean you can’t bargain, call to see if there is any wiggle room on price, this especially holds true at the end of the season when retailers might be choked with kayaks.
  • Check to see if site has online coupons that can be used during checkout.
  • If possible choose companies that ship from states closer to you; this will lessen the chance of damage during handling.
  • If you’re anxious to get your kayak, call to get the exact shipping date.
  • Request the procedure for how to handle a kayak damaged during shipping.
  • Ask about the wrapping methods that are used to protect the kayak during shipping process.
  • Make it a point to be home during the estimated delivery date, if the shipper comes out and there is nobody to sign for kayak, it will be handled an extra time and increase the chance of damage.  The kayak is most vulnerable when it is loaded and unloaded from the truck and this will necessitate doing that 2 more times.  Remember that for the most part there is only some paper or bubble wrap protecting your kayak.
  • Always inspect the kayak during delivery, this may mean you have to rip open the wrapping, remember the driver cant leave until you sign - so take your time inspecting. The bottom of the kayak is usually where most damage occurs, so flip the kayak over and take a good look.
  • If there is a major issue like a big ding or a hole you should refuse delivery.
  • If you see that there is a small scrape you can just note it on the receipt when you sign. Most times these are the kind off things you would get on your kayak during the first day of use and should not be a big deal but having it noted is a good idea.
  • If there was only some minor damage you can still ask for a discount.
  • If you have accepted the kayak and notice a damaged area after signing for it, deal with it right away and notify the company who you purchased it from.
  • The rudder is a common place for damage; so you can ask to unhook the rudder from the post before shipping. It usually can be hooked back up in seconds after delivery.
  • Some kayak manufacturers require warranty issues be handled with the merchant where the kayak was purchased while others express you can go to your nearest dealer. This could be a concern, as you don’t want to have to ship the kayak back.  Find out before you purchase by calling the kayak manufacturer.
I have shipped kayaks and I have also received shipped kayaks and can say that the process is not for everybody and there is definitely a potential for a problem, although most times the issues will be minor. Purchasing a kayak online can be an easy way to get exactly what you want and have the convenience of it delivered to your door, but as an informed consumer you should take precautions that lessen the likelihood of an issue.

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