Since the dawn of kayaking and canoeing, paddlers have been buying and selling canoes and kayaks from one and another.
It makes perfect sense, one woman’s outmoded cast-off is another man’s ideal beginner kayak to use and abuse while he’s learning.
Throughout time there’s been a booming trade, propped up by a steady stream of supply and demand.
Sometimes after a few years of paddling a specific boat something will change, you’ll get better, lose weight, gain weight or just alter your preferences slightly and suddenly you’re using the sale of your current paddle craft to finance the purchase of your new one.
Conversely, if you’re in the market for your first boat, it’s unusual to go straight out and buy a state-of-the-art, brand new model before really acquiring a taste for exactly what it is that you’re after.
The market is huge, and it’s pretty much a given that at any one time there’ll be a buyer out there for your boat, and a boat out there suited to your needs. It is just a matter of looking round a bit.
We are fortunate in the paddling community that the second hand market is also a pretty safe one – it’s certainly nothing like trying to get a fair deal on a second hand car!
There is a much smaller pool of people in the paddling world for a start, and as such word of mouth reverberates very quickly around internet forums and the like if somebody isn’t playing fair.
And then, of course, there’s the fact that on the whole paddlers tend to be decent, honest people!
Nevertheless, there are some potential pitfalls and downsides to second hand kayak & canoe trading, all of which are easily avoidable if you know what to look out for.
With this in mind we’ve put together the following guide to help ensure that any second hand deal you enter into is safe, convenient, fair to all parties and that you end up with what you wanted at the end of it.
We’ve also got some top marketing tips for you if you’re looking to make a quick sale, so that you can re-invest the funds in your new canoe or kayak as soon as possible!
Kayaks & Canoes – What’s For Sale?
The simple answer to this is anything and everything, and it’s more than just kayaks.
Look at the private sales section of any paddling forum and there’ll be all manner of kit being bought and sold, although it has to be said that ‘soft’ kit is much more liable to ageing, and so turns up more rarely.
Items such as paddles aren’t uncommon, though, and sometimes if you’re after a particular accessory or piece of outfitting it’s worth having a look what can be gained second hand first.
Canoes are traded second hand too, although not nearly so prolifically as kayaks. This is for a number of reasons.
If you think it’s hard to transport kayaks up and down the country cheaply, try doing it with canoes.
Also, unlike kayak design, which over the last 20-odd years has been undergoing a full-on renaissance in which technology and new ideas have driven some very innovative and frequent updates, the tried and tested design of the traditional Canadian canoe has remained relatively steadfast.
For this reason, once a good quality canoe is owned it becomes very much part of the family for many, and a companion for life.
This is not to say that none are traded second hand, though, and most of the advice in this guide will still apply if one of these is what you’re buying or selling.
Also comparatively rare to find bought and sold second hand are top-end composite sea kayaks.
These things are often bought new with custom options making them fairly specific to their paddler, and such is the quality of most of them that they don’t tend to age to the extent that an upgrade is required.
And again here, the changes in design of sea kayaks since their own design renaissance in the ‘70s have been not on the scale of how whitewater kayaks have evolved in the last couple of decades (with a possible exception of some developments in the last few years that might be signalling a return to a sea kayak design innovation gold rush), so there is less impetus for sea kayakers to feel the need to ‘upgrade.’
Again, though, this is not to say there’s nothing at all out there.
Main Considerations When Buying a Second Hand Canoe or Kayak
When you make the decision to buy or sell a second hand kayak (or, indeed, canoe) there are a few key considerations for you to make.
Where to Trade?
Many retailers now deal in second hand boats.
Often they will sell ex-demo boats, in near brand new condition, but at quite a competitive discounted rate.
These sales tend to be episodic rather than all the time, though, and bargains are understandably snapped up quickly, so you have to be on our toes!
If you’re lucky, you may find that a centre or coaching provider is having a clear out of old boats and there are some still very functional craft going for incredible prices.
Keep your eyes and ears on the online airwaves for this sort of thing if you’re after a second hand steal.
Some larger retailers may buy your kayak from you to sell on if it’s in good condition, or accept it on a part-exchange basis if you’re buying a new one from them.
This could be great if you’re looking to make a quick sale, but bear in mind that you are in effect introducing a ‘middle man’ where there wasn’t one before, and so you aren’t likely to get as much as you could selling it direct.
Sometimes retailers, rather than buying your kayak outright, will advertise it in their second hand section on their website, and charge a fee or take a cut when you do sell it.
This will eat into the cash you ultimately pocket for your kayak, of course, but it could make all the difference between making a quick sale if that’s what you’re after.
For an entire swathe of the population, the first port of call when buying or selling anything second hand is the trusty internet.
Websites such as eBay, Gumtree, and others are guaranteed to help your kayak appear in other people’s searches, and with a worldwide audience your chances of making a quick sale – or indeed finding the exact kayak you’re after for yourself – are statistically very good.
There are of course downsides to doing business this way, the main one being that websites such as these make it harder to arrange seeing and demoing a kayak before you buy, and unless you want to pay a courier or are prepared to travel, you often have to restrict your search to the local area anyway, restricting the pool of potential buyers or sellers anyway.
What is perhaps a more flexible and personable way of trading kayaks online is in the private sales areas of kayaking forums.
There’s a great one on www.canoekayak.co.uk, for example.
Here you get to ‘meet’ whoever is buying or selling you your kayak, and you can arrange viewings, request more information more readily.
If you’re selling, you may find you have a more captive and informed audience here than you do on online auctioning and classifieds sites.
If you have no luck with your local retailer, and don’t want to get involved in potentially long-distance sales using the internet, there’s often plenty of scope for kayak trading amongst your local paddling community.
Clubs are often on the look out for second hand boats to update their fleet with, and may be willing to buy yours, and often by asking a club secretary or just speaking to some regular paddlers you can find out who in the area has a boat for sale.
Price & Condition
Pricing second hand kayaks is no exact science.
It can depend on all variety of factors, not least of which is the condition that it’s in.
All kayaks, although especially whitewater kayaks, that have ever seen use will have superficial scratches on them, and the presence of these unless very severe and deep shouldn’t have too much of a bearing on price.
What would make a huge difference is if there’s ever been a breach to the hull that has been repaired, or significant hull misshaping that could have compromised its integrity.
These should be pretty obvious when you take a look a kayak, the telltale signs are welds and white fatigue marks in the plastic.
These don’t necessarily mean the end of a kayak’s life – although it is only fair that it significantly reduces the price a seller can ask for it – if it’s going to be used on placid water with little or no chance of sustaining impact.
For whitewater kayaks, anything like this is definitely cause for early retirement, or at least consignment to the lower grades.
Always consult a coach or another expert before getting on moving water with a kayak you have doubts about.
Other than apparent damage and repair made to the kayak, it’s important to gain as full a history of its life as you can if buying it, details such as its age and what it has been used for in that time are a good place to start.
In the same way that manufacturers and retailers will drop the price of older models slightly when they are replaced by new ones, as a general rule you might expect to pay a bit less for an older model.
This is true to an extent, you may ask less for a kayak brought out five years ago than for one brought out last year even if they are in identical condition.
Condition is certainly the more important of the two factors, a functional kayak is a functional kayak, whether the design is brand new, five or even ten years old.
Accessories and fittings are an instrumental factor in gauging condition.
Provided a kayak has suffered no major traumas (pinning or heavy impact while loose on a whitewater river, falling off a roof at high speed etc.), then the hull integrity tends not to degrade over time.
What does show the wear and tear more, however, are the fittings.
Second Hand Kayak or Canoe Fittings Checklist
The following is a useful checklist to use when examining a potential purchase.
Check that everything is present, in full working order, not showing signs of corrosion and not wobbly.
- Backrest and ratchets (if applicable).
- Bolts, particularly around the footrests.
- Central buoyancy, is it secure?
- Grab handles, loose? Contorted? Frayed?
- Foot plate (if applicable).
- All plastic bolts for foot plate adjustment.
- Deck lines (touring/ sea kayaks).
- Skeg/rudder (touring/ sea kayaks).
How a second hand kayak is priced is dependent on so many factors, it is hard to give a general rule for what to expect to pay or charge.
As with any market, second hand kayaks’ prices reflect supply and demand, and rarer, out of production models that are popular may well fetch more than kayaks in similar condition of which there are many.
Whenever deciding on an asking price or sizing up a potential buy, look around the internet to get a sense of what is deemed reasonable by consensus.
Delivery or Collection
This is one to bear in mind when buying and selling kayaks online.
How much it costs to courier them varies depending on length – and a touring or sea kayak may well prove considerably more than a shorter freestyle or whitewater one.
Make sure how the kayak is transferred is part of the negotiation when transacting a sale.
More often than not this is at the buyers’ expense.
The above assumes that you are buying a kayak having not seen it first, which we’d advise against anyway.
Often a good way of handing the sale of a second hand kayak is to arrange to meet at a mutually convenient paddling spot.
This may be an artificial whitewater course, or just a stretch of touring river, depending on the type of kayak in question.
Either way, a place to test the kayak before agreeing a deal, and then taking it away with you if you are happy is always a good way to do it if it can be arranged.
How to Market Your Kayak
There are a few things you can do when trying to sell a kayak second hand online to make sure that your post is taken seriously and that you’re able to transform interest into a sale.
Disclose everything in your initial post.
By withholding information, such as about some damage a buyer should know about etc. earlier on, you’ll just cause them to mistrust you when they do find out, even if it wouldn’t otherwise have affected their decision.
To be clear and concise, clearly list:
- Make and model.
- Other specifications (i.e. size, spec etc.).
- General condition.
- Reason for selling.
- Your location.
- Delivery and/or collection terms.
- Contact details for more information.
- Price and if this is negotiable or non-negotiable.
It could be helpful for buyers if you link to the manufacturers’ product page for the boat, so that they can research it further.
Even if you are selling on an online auction or classifieds site, it’s always worth linking these to private sales areas on paddling forums, where you’ll have a more interested, albeit smaller, audience.
Top Tips on Canoe & Kayak Trading
By way of a recap, here are our tips for buying and selling canoes and kayaks second hand.
- ‘Meet’ the seller – not necessarily in person, but it’s good to start up some sort of interchange, rather than doing everything anonymously through an online auction or classifieds site.
- Do your own assessment of condition – check first for hull integrity and obvious signs of repair or fatigue to the plastic. Then work your way through the checklist of fittings and accessories (see ‘Condition and Pricing’).
- Get a full history – age and usage are a good place to start.
- Demo the kayak where possible – this isn’t as important as looking it over though if you’re already confident that it’s the model that you want.
- Be wary of bargains that are too good to be true – unfortunately stolen kayaks sometimes get sold by thieves posing as paddlers. If anything raises your suspicions, look into it. Thefts of kayaks are often well-publicised on the same forums as you can buy and sell kayaks on.
- Strive for a fair deal – this is for both parties. Negotiate if you think the price is too high, but don’t try to drive it unreasonably low.
- Advertise on paddler forums – your audience, although smaller, will be more informed and interested.
- Disclose everything in your initial advert – make sure you show how trust-worthy you are (see ‘How to Market Your Kayak’ above).
Conclusion & Choosing Your Kayak
This article has been all about how to go about buying a second hand kayak once you know exactly what it is that you are looking for, not how to make sure you’re choosing the right kayak for you. For great advice on this subject, please browse some our other kayak related articles.