Buying a Used Fishing Kayak E-mail
Sunday, 27 September 2009 17:54

Used kayaks offer a terrific value for the kayak angler. When anglers, looking to get into the sport, ask me about which model to purchase I often make this recommendation. That’s because it’s hard to go wrong with the purchase of a used kayak. You’re going to save money and there are some real bargains out there. Generally like with most things the more in demand a particular model is the higher its value. Some kayaks are very scarce on the used market. There can be a number of reasons. Most common is it’s either a very new model or its HOT. If it’s new there hasn’t been enough time for anglers to upgrade to a newer model because it is the upgraded model. If it’s hot that’s because it’s a very popular model and most purchasers are very pleased with it. There isn’t any reason for anglers to sell a kayak they like. If you have your heart set on one of these models you’re probably better off buying new. You might wait a long time to find one used and then it’ll be top dollar. You don’t want to lose all that fishing time waiting to find one. If you’ve decided that you really must have a hot or recent model buy it at the end of the season when the kayak shops have sales. However in the meantime you could have been fishing if you got something else. You can always consider it an interim kayak and most important you won’t miss the season. The best reason to buy used is you’re going to save a nice chunk of money. As a general rule you should be paying approximately 50-60% of full retail value for a kayak. You might pay as much as 70% for a HOT model and every once in a while a 25-30% bargain appears.

It’s obvious saving money is a great reason to buy used. Another is if you’re unsure whether kayak fishing is for you or not. Most anglers love it but not all. It would be a shame to spend a bunch of money and then discover this. Like most things as soon as a kayak leaves the store it’s used even if you never use it or only it’s only hit the water a few times. Just like a car when it leaves the showroom it’s going to lose some value. Whereas a used kayak is going to be worth essentially what you paid for it. So your financial risk is very low or non-existent.

Purchasing a used kayak is fairly low risk. There are going to be two major sources; dealers and private individuals. Unlike mechanical items like a car a kayak is fairly simple. There isn’t much that can go wrong or be wrong with one. However there are a few things to look for and that’s where buying from a dealer can practically eliminate them all. The dealer knows kayaks and should have inspected it. If there were any repairs or maintenance required they should have done so. Make sure you ask and I’m sure they will give you a guarantee. The only downfall is you will probably pay a bit more money from a dealer than you would when purchasing from a private individual. However the peace of mind many be well worth it. Dealers end up with used kayaks a few ways. Some will take trade ins from customers getting a different model. Just like the car dealer they give less on trade than the kayak would get on the open market. That’s because they need to turn a profit on it. Another source of dealer used kayaks is rentals and demos. At the end of their season many dealers will sell off these kayaks. That’s because there isn’t any reason for them. They prefer to sell them and then replace them the following season. The third used or value kayak is a blem. Blems are kayaks that are new but there’s some issue with them so that they aren’t sold at full retail. Some come from the manufacturer. I use to buy blems that were cosmetically imperfect. They cost me less and still had the same warranty. I simply passed the savings on to the customer. Some manufacture blems are kayaks that were repaired. As long as they have a warranty you’re fine. There are also blems that aren’t from the manufacturer. Usually something happened at the shop. Maybe the installation wasn’t correct or something. Sometimes they get nicked up in shipping and a deal is made with the shipping company for partial compensation. So ask the dealer, you never know. There are some real bargains available. I remember Scott called me one day. A dealer near him had a Hobie Outback that had a crack by the rudder. When I determined that I could repair it Scott bought the kayak for $700 and I fixed it. New the kayak was $1600. Scott did well. Even purchasing from an individual is low risk but you are the buyer and it’s your responsibility to make sure you make a good decision.

Most kayaks are sold because their owner either isn’t using it or wants to get another model. In the present economy there are also people selling because they need the cash. Whatever the reason it’s a windfall for you. Even though there isn’t much that can be wrong with a kayak there are some things to look for. Some kayaks get sold because the seller made a mistake when installing an accessory; usually its rod holders with the most common being they were placed too close to the body. In the front of the kayak they don’t take into account the paddle stroke and the rod holder is too close and the paddle hits the holder or rod. In the rear deck a flush mount holder can be too close and your elbows might hit the rod. Always check the front because even if it’s been placed properly for the owner you might be taller with a greater reach and it might not work for you. This issue is most common on side mounted holders. Ones mounted in a center console rarely are too close, but still check.

Most kayaks used for fishing are made out of plastic. Plastic is tough stuff but it has an Achilles Heel, that’s UV rays. Just like it does too many things UV will break down plastic. It takes a long time for plastic to break down completely but excessive UV exposure will weaken the hull making it brittle. When this amount of damage has occurred the kayak won’t be of value. The best way to tell if a kayak has had too much exposure is if it’s badly faded. That’s what you need to look for. It will look old and worn out. This takes many years and is only going to apply to models that are several years old.

The major problem with kayaks is leaks. Although most can easily be repaired you don’t want to buy a leaking kayak unless you’re getting a great deal. Then you can fix it but this depends on the nature of the leak. A puncture below the waterline is the most common leak. They’re easy to repair with either a welding gun or G-Flex epoxy. The other type of leak is a scupper hole or related design flaw leak. All kayak manufacturers have at times had these problems. Probably the best way to find out if a particular model and year you’re considering has had an issue is to get on the Internet and visit a kayak fishing manufacturer specific forum. Ask about the model and year. If you don’t know the year that’s OK, you can determine it from the serial number of the kayak. Some kayaks don’t have serial numbers and normally I’d be suspicious but when I was a dealer I had a number of brand new kayaks that didn’t have one. So it happens. What’s great about asking on the forums is if there’s been an issue with a particular model and year(s) members will let you know. Just like other manufactured items there have been recalls. For example several years back Hobie had an issue in the front area of the mirage drive well. The area wasn’t handling the stress and on some of the kayaks they cracked. Hobie redesigned the area but the kayaks that were already out there needed something else. They came up with a fix it kit that used a shim to reinforce the area and this fixed the defect. The dilemma became that many owners of the models and years in question weren’t aware of the problem. There were two ways most owners learned of the issue. One was direct notification by Hobie and the other was online in the forums. Direct notification only worked if the owner had sent in their registration information, which many don’t. While on the subject this something I highly recommend. Besides important info like this the manufacturer will send you a catalog each year and other things you may be interested in. Even frequent forum participants can miss these alerts and discussions. My friend Terry is a good example. I first met Terry when she purchased a Hobie Outback from me. She lives in Florida and we shipped it to her. Terry found a used Hobie Adventure and decided to buy it. Ironically it was a kayak that had been bought from me too. Terry brought the Adventure to the ’08 Everglades Paddle In. I inspected the kayak for her and told her it didn’t have the upgrade kit and she should contact Hobie to get one. Terry is a forum regular on a site that has an excellent Hobie forum where the issue was discussed but she never picked up on this. Hobie would replace the hull if it cracked but the problem becomes neither Hobie or the dealer is responsible for replacing all the stuff that has been accessorized or installed in/on the kayak. This could result in quite a bit of labor or dollars. So it’s best to put the prevent fix it kit in rather than wait for a failure and get a new hull.

Again it’s your responsibility since it’s going to be your kayak. While the dealer can be an asset you can’t always count on it. Recently my buddy Jimmy and I were fishing. When we landed he spent some time messing with his kayak, so I went over and asked what was up. He said he was dumping some water from the hull. I asked how much. He said not much, just a few gallons. That was way too much. Jimmy thought because it had been a rough day on the water that this was an acceptable amount of water to get in the hull. I told him it wasn’t as I had only a few ounces. Then I asked if this was his original Adventure that he had purchased from me. It was. Jimmy had a second year model which was definitely one of the years when the problem occurred. I looked at the suspect area and there was an obvious crack. What’s ironic Jimmy had just had the rudder up/down upgrade and a fish finder installed by a Hobie dealer. Unfortunately they hadn’t picked up on the problem. Probably because it’s a new dealer and this issue was rectified long before they became one. Whereas I had been one of the largest dealers in the country I dealt with the issue with a number of kayaks. So I always check every Hobie I come in contact with. This new dealer probably wasn’t even aware of the potential problem.

Like I said earlier I’m certain all manufacturers have had issues at some time. Several years back both Ocean Kayak and Wilderness Systems had scupper hole issues. The OK Prowlers and the WS Tarpons were the kayaks I sold most of from those manufacturers. Roto-molded kayaks, which most plastic kayaks are and especially Sit on Top kayaks, which are two halves that are combined have a seam. This seam is an inherent design weakness in manufacturing. The seam runs down the middle of the kayak. A natural weak spot is where the seams meet inside the scupper hole. On the Prowlers this is where the leaks were. They’re easy to fix though should you end up with one. Just clean the area and use G-Flex Epoxy. On the Tarpons the problem was always holes in the scuppers behind the seat. Again they’re very easy to fix. The rear hatch gives excellent access to the area.

This brings up an important issue. For the neophyte it might sound like you need to be an expert in kayaks to buy used. This isn’t so. Leaks from either holes or scupper issues are easy to spot. A hole on the bottom of the kayak is obvious and in a scupper easy to spot. Put a flashlight in the scupper and you’ll see the light shining out the hole when you look in the hatches.

When buying used, especially as a first time kayak fisherman, don’t be an experiment. By this I mean, it’s best to buy a kayak that has a fishing pedigree. Choose a model that is used by other kayak anglers and has proven itself to work well for fishing. My first kayak wasn’t a model that I would recommend for most people wanting to fish from a kayak. When I sold it I had a number of people who wanted it for fishing and I told them I was selling it because I didn’t like it for fishing and they probably wouldn’t either. The first kayak I purchased used was the exact same model I was fishing at the time, a Cobra Explorer. I wanted a second kayak to take family and friends along. That’s how I met Joey as he was the seller. He was moving up to an OK Scupper Pro TW as he only fished saltwater and the Explorer was a bit short for this. The Scupper was a much better choice. I fished a wide array of environments and the shorter size worked well for me. So this purchase was based on knowledge. In this particular sale Joey kept his seat and paddle. So I essentially bought a hull with a center hatch and I believe one rear rod holder for $300. I’m not even sure if it had the rear holder. It was a basic kayak. I added a front ‘A’ hatch, another rear flush rod holder, paddle keepers, an internal accessory pulley, an anchor pulley, a front bungee, a Scotty rod holder up front and one in the rear, and an STS fishing seat. I kept the kayak a year and then sold it with everything I mentioned plus a paddle for $600. It was a good deal for the guy who got it as the kayak was loaded. This brings up a good point. Know what you’re purchasing. Do a bit of research. The first guy who looked at the kayak thought I was trying to rip him off because he knew Joey and what I had paid for the kayak. He probably thought the $300 included everything but I added over $350 of items without considering labor as I did the installs myself.
So what kayaks should you look for? When I got started in the sport there were fewer than a dozen kayaks everyone seemed to be fishing from. Now there are more but still there are certain models that predominate. In Cobra there’s the Fish in Dive, Tourer, Explorer and Navigator. Emotion there’s the Fisherman, Exhilarator, Mojo and Grand Slam. Hobie has the Quest, Outback, Sport, Outfitter, Adventure and Revolution. Legacy has the Redfishes, Manta Rays and Natives. Malibu has the Explorer, X Factor, Extreme, Mini X, X13, Ocean Kayak’s popular models are the Prowlers, Scuppers, Scramblers, Drifter, Caper, Malibu’s and Tridents. Wilderness Systems you’ve got the Tarpons and Pungo. These are the companies I’m most familiar with because I was a dealer. I know Perception has some nice models like the Castor, Illusion, Bimini and Swing. There are a few others as well but I’ve listed the major models you’re going to come across.

As I said earlier the newer models or hot ones are going to be more expensive. The Hobie Revolution is a great example. It’s a very nice kayak and in high demand. Many owners of Outbacks and Adventures have either sold theirs or are interested in doing so to purchase the Revo. Revos tend to be rare used and go for top dollar. However if you want a Hobie the Outback and Adventure usually go for 60% of new or less. They offer an excellent used value. The same can be said for Ocean Kayak. The Trident line is the new fishing kayaks from the company. OK has some models that have been around well over a decade. The Scuppers, Scramblers and Drifters have been around a long time. OK tried to discontinue them but people continued to want them. So they created a classic line and put these models in there. They’ll probably stay in production until the molds wear out. Prices can be very low on some of them. The Scupper is one of the best paddling SOT kayaks around. The Scuppers evolved into the Prowlers which evolved into the Tridents. Because of this the two earlier model series can be found at nice prices. It is the same for the Tarpons from Wilderness Systems. While the Tarpons are still the same model they have evolved over the years. Some years the changes were subtle or nonexistent but other years there were major design or accompaniment changes. WS incorporated better seating a couple years back. The hatches have evolved. The 140 use to have too low a deck and paddlers over a certain weight flooded the cockpit, so that was addressed. Basically the older the Tarpon the less you’re going to spend. Prices can run less than 40% of what a new one would cost if you go back to the earliest years.
Now that you have an idea what you’re looking for where should you look? As to where to find used kayaks the easiest places are kayak dealers, especially if they specialize in kayak fishing or the Internet. On the Internet again the easiest is kayak fishing websites that have for sale forums. However purchasing is often more competitive too and you may not get as good a bargain. Sometimes more out of the way places can produce real bargains. Try Craig’s List and search around. I remember several years back Polo found a barely used Cobra Tourer for only a couple hundred dollars. He stole the thing but he looked all over the Internet and had to drive a few hours for his bargain. My second used kayak was an OK Scupper Classic. I bought it from a dealer clearing out the previous season’s models at half price. Another great way to find a kayak is advertise that you’re looking for one. Put a post up on a kayak fishing website what you’re looking for. Often someone has a kayak that they’ve considered selling but haven’t gotten around too. Having a willing buyer makes it easy and it also eliminates competition as the seller will contact you directly via private messaging or email. That way the transaction stays private and it’s up to the two of you to work out a deal. Just the other day one of the members of my fly fishing club posted that he was looking for a Hobie. I knew another member who wanted to sell his Adventure and get a Revolution. So I posted that he should contact the member with the Adventure. This morning I received an email from the Adventure owner asking me to appraise the value of his kayak. I expect the sale to go through in a few days.

See you on the water.

 

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