A top end fishing kayak can come with a list of baffling features and a price tag almost as long as the hull. It’s off-putting for any beginner, especially one who doesn’t want to risk wasting money by making the wrong purchase.
Switching the focus to budget kayaks isn’t much easier. Cheaper kayaks come with fewer extras, but how do you know what you're buying is going to be safe and easy to use?
The difference between a terrible kayak and a high-end kayak is immense. The difference between a well-chosen budget kayak and an intimidatingly expensive one is less so, and can be practically negligible.
Especially for a beginner or casual user, who won’t feel the benefits the very best are offering.
With a high quality budget kayak the only thing you’ll be missing out on are added extras, not essentials. By saving money on the kayak itself you leave yourself room to splash out on the pricey additions as and when you need them.
If it’s your first time using a kayak, or your first time using a kayak regularly, you’ll soon learn what features are important to you and what you can do without.
We’ve rounded up the best fishing kayaks for people with a budget. They’re all safe and reliable, without the huge costs that make kayaks such a pricey option.
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
Designed for fishing, the Perception Sound Sit Inside Kayak has many features to make a day out as easy and comfortable as possible.
Both the ergonomic Zone seat and the footrest are adjustable, and the roomy insides means even the tallest of fishermen can relax comfortably.
Sit-inside offers you extra protection against the elements. A little cold won’t keep you from fishing with the Perception Sound.
The Perception Sound has all the features necessary for an avid fisher. The exposed rear storage compartment is large, and keeps your gear cool throughout the day.
The molded dashboard allows for better organization, keeping all your essentials handy and reachable.
The front and rear molded in handles are perfect for getting in and out of the water, and for locking away should you need to leave your kayak.
With two molded-in fishing rod holders the Perception Sound has all the basics covered. Apart from one - there is no paddle included.
- Tri-keel hull - Creates smooth steering and adds stability.
- Molded in Dashboard - A convenient storage space for essentials and added extras.
- Front and Rear Molded Handles - For ease of transport out of water, and locking your kayak away.
- Adjustable seat - If you like to spend a long day out on the lake the Perception Sound is designed for comfort with an adjustable backrest and adjustable footrests.
- 46 lbs - Heavier than the inflatable kayaks, the Perception Sound is harder to transport outside the water.
- No paddle - A paddle has to be purchased additionally before use.
The benefits of a sit-on-top kayak for a fisher are immense. Without being confined to a molded seat, movement becomes significantly easier.
Sit-on-top also has the benefit of feeling more secure on the water.
This kayak is perfect for an avid fisher. The three mounted fishing rod holders and two 6” storage containers are stand out features.
The adjustable seat allows you to spend the day in comfort. It’s a kayak that’s fun to use.
Designed with safety as a priority, the stable flat bottom, deep tracking channels, and stability chine rails means the kayak sits comfortably in the water.
The addition of multiple footrest positions also makes it suitable for different heights, and gives the user firm footing.
Made of a durable high density polythene and UV-protected, the Lifetime Tamarack Angler can be used time after time without wearing out.
Particularly good for those with some experience kayaking, who are interested in doing it more.
- High Density Polythene - A durable material that stands up well to regular use.
- Adjustable seat - For comfort, the padded seat is adjustable.
- Flush mounted and top mounted fishing rod holders - With three separate fishing rod holders, two flush mounted and one top mounted, an angler has multiple options to ensure the very best catch.
- Sit-On-Top - A greater range of movement. Ideal for any fisher.
- No paddle - Not included in the cheaper price are paddles. A good buy if you already have a set, or if your particular about what you use, but not ideal for a first timer eager to get out on the water.
With the Intex Excursion Pro, all you need to do is inflate and head out. With two paddles, a Hi-Output pump, and a travel bag all included, it makes a great option for beginners.
Especially as the adjustable two seats present an opportunity for both teaching and learning. If you’d rather go out alone, the kayak is easily steerable by an individual.
The Intex Excursion Pro really has covered all the basics. The standard directional and shallow skegs improve tracking.
There are two fishing rod holders and a mounted bracket to hold all your gear. Plus, the spring-loaded high-pressure valves allow for quick and easy inflation and deflation.
The strangest downside is it also comes with a seat booster - but only one.
So if you are heading out with a friend try and make sure you’re of different heights to avoid an argument.
- 2 Skegs - Shallow water and standard directional skegs are included to keep the kayak moving straight and add an extra layer of protection to the rudder.
- Paddle and pump included - Once you’ve bought the Intex Excursion Pro you can essentially get on the water as soon as you’ve got it inflated, which shouldn’t take very long at all.
- Integrated fishing rod holders - Perfect for long trips.
- 400lb max capacity - Although the Intex Excursion Pro is designed for two, it has a smaller max capacity than some. So if you were planning on heading out with a friend and a lot of gear, some things may need to be left behind.
The Sea Eagle SE370 is designed for ease of use. Easy to inflate, easy to deflate, easy to carry, and easy to adapt.
Although not designed specifically for fishing, it can be adapted for fishing with no problems - honestly, there’s not much this versatile kayak can’t be used for.
Weighing only 32 lbs, the Sea Eagle SE370 can hold up to 650 lbs. That’s up to three people, or one person and a massive catch of the day.
The 38 millimeter polykrylar hull is strong and extra thick, durable enough that a dog can safely ride without worrying about claw damage.
If you want to go out alone, the lightweight makes it easily steered by just one person.
With the longer length, the SE370 does lose some of it’s ease of movement, This is counteracted by the addition of two molded skegs that allow for greater tracking and steering.
If you’re looking for a kayak exclusively for solo fishing, then the Sea Eagle SE370 isn’t ideal. However, if fishing is just one of the intended uses, the versatility of the Sea Eagle is unbeatable.
The high-frequency welded seems and lightweight make it suitable even for river use - up to Class III whitewater.
- Foot pump inflatable - Easy to inflate even with a relatively basic foot pump
- Skegs - The molded skegs improve speed and tracking.
- 32 lbs - A lightweight option that holds up to 650lb, making it easy to store and transport.
- Adjustable seats - For added comfort over long trips.
- No storage - There is a huge amount of space on this kayak, and sadly not much of it used for storage space.
The Sevylor Coleman Colorado has an NMMA certified, 18-gauge PVC construction, with a 1000D tarpaulin bottom and an 840D nylon cover.
What does all that mean? Essentially, that if you’re taken by surprise in lower water, rocks won’t present a risk of puncture.
The multiple air chambers mean that even if one does leak, the others stay inflated. So you get home safely, no matter what.
This is a fishing kayak, and with that comes Berkley Quick Set Rod Holders.
Not to mention the paddle holders, so you can keep your paddles tucked away when they’re not being used.
The real advantage of the Sevylor is that it comes equipped with the capacity to easily attach a motor.
Although not for everyone, a motor allows you the opportunity to take a break, and are especially useful if the other person you want to travel with on the kayak is a young child.
- Trolling Motor Fittings - The kayak comes with the option of fitting your own motor (although motors are sold separately). A motor gives you the opportunity to take a break from paddling.
- Paddle holders - If you do attach a motor, the Sevylor comes with paddle holders, to keep the oars out of the way as you relax. Especially useful during fishing tips.
- Double threaded Boston valve - Easy to inflate and deflate, allowing you to get in and out of the water quickly.
- No paddle - While there is a paddle holder, the paddles themselves are sold separately.
- No pump - A pump is necessary for an inflatable kayak, but isn’t included in the price.
Best Budget Fishing kayaks Buying Guide
Before buying a budget kayak you might be unsure of what constitutes necessity and what’s an added extra.
Our buyers guide should help you ensure what you buy really is worth the money.
A good kayak is never going to be a cheap purchase. The reason for this is safety. The most important feature of any kayak is how safe it is to use, and safety comes with a necessary price.
Trust us, you don’t want to be thrown overboard because you were too caught up in getting a bargain to consider what you were paying for.
Safety is an essential, not a feature. The most important part of any kayak is that it’s safe to use on the water. If you don’t feel safe using it, then it’ll never get used.
The most stable of the kayaks are the wider options, so keep that in mind when considering your options if you’re feeling nervous. When shopping with a tight budget it’s tempting to go for the lower priced ‘no brand’ options.
Unfortunately, with kayaks that’s not a good choice as they’ve rarely gone through the same level of testing. Trust the big-name brands to understand what they’re doing.
Additionally, the safety extras, such as life jackets and kayak pumps, are always worth spending full price on.
Features to consider before buying
A budget kayak is going to come with a smaller range of features. It’s what you sacrifice in order to get the better price. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to go without entirely.
Look for storage, seating, skegs, handles, and comfort before buying.
Adjustable seats and comfort
The comfort level of a kayak might not be the first thing on your mind, but if you want to be fishing regularly that’s a long time to spend in the seat. Low priority comfort moves up the list rapidly after a day sore from an uncomfortable molded chair.
Comfort is a necessity: if you don’t enjoy sitting in your kayak, you’ll never take it out. When you shop look for adjustable seats and adjustable footrests. If you’re on the taller side, check the fit of the inside as well.
Onboard storage is more likely to come standard in a hard shell kayak, where it’s molded into the design. Storage space is important for any fishing trip, as gear needs to be stored correctly.
It’s a feature that is easy for a first time buyer to overlook. Other types of storage include bags and netting, and are generally included as standard.
Outside of fishing equipment you may need to take food, spare clothing, and personal items, all of which need a safe place to go.
Should I buy sit-on-top or sit-inside?
There is no great advantage to either sit-on-top or sit-inside kayaks. The enclosed seating of sit-inside protects from the elements, which is a particular advantage on cold days or in rougher water.
However, it does restrict movement, which is a disadvantage for fishing. Sit-on-top does allow for a greater freedom of movement and tends to feel more secure, but doesn’t stand up well to the elements.
Should I buy hard shell or inflatable?
The traditional kayak is the hard shell. Made of molded plastic, a hard shell offers greater speed, maneuverability, and durability. With that comes a higher price tag. The inflatable options are nearly always cheaper, which makes them a good option for beginners.
Inflatable is also much easy to store, as they can be deflated down to the size of a bag. If you think the kayak will spend a lot of time in storage, inflatable may be the better option.
Check the weight capacity before purchasing any kayak, but especially before buying a tandem or double kayak. While some kayaks can hold a great amount, there’s much variety.
Also, check the weight of the kayak itself. Some, especially hard shell, can weigh a great deal. It’s important to know as you will need to carry the kayak outside the water.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are cheap kayaks any good?
Yes, but be careful with what you buy. The most important feature of any kayak is its safety. If you want to shop cheaper, then stick to well known brands, look for good deals, and shop smart.
A budget kayak is only as good as it’s limits, so don’t go cheap and then try to stretch the kayak beyond its use.
What’s the difference between a cheap kayak and an expensive kayak?
More expensive kayaks will be longer lasting and generally can reach higher speeds and handle better. Cheaper kayaks are mostly inflatable and won’t come with the same range of features.
Any quality kayak should be safe in calm waters, and hold the weight of a full-grown adult.
When is the best time to buy a cheap kayak?
Shop around the season, which runs from spring through summer. If you want to get a discounted kayak look for end of the season sales, typically starting in late-August.
Alternatively, try the winter months, when retailers will be trying to clear out their old stock to make room for the new.
How do you choose a budget kayak?
Know what features you want before you start shopping. Stick to recognizable brands rather than taking a risk on something unbranded, no matter how inexpensive it may be.
Don’t just shop price: prioritize weight capacity, high durability materials, and good reviews.