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You don’t need to break any bank to enjoy boating season this year. If you can spare $250 to $500, then you can have yourself a ride on the water with no limits. Kayaks give you a much more intimate experience with the environment around you and allow you to explore secluded areas that motorized boats can’t access. If you have a few hundred to spare, we can help you cull your kayak selection down to the top 10 best kayaks under $500.

We chose these kayaks for their straightforward practicality, thoughtful features, and good ratings. They prove that you don’t need anything fancy or expensive to get into the water this season. In fact, one of these incredible finds will only set you back $65! Read to find out which kayaks made our top 10.

For more of our top kayaking gear recommendations, check out these popular articles: 

Lake Kayaks | Sea Kayaks | Touring Kayaks | Sit In Kayaks | Kayaks for Beginners

Kayaks for Kids | Kayaks for Dogs | Sit-On-Top Kayaks | River Kayaks

Kayaks for Women | Canoes | Tandem Kayaks | Lightweight Kayaks

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Kayaking Gift Guide

 

Quick Answer - The Best Kayaks Under $500

  1. Perception Access 9.5 Sit-On-Top
  2. Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame
  3. Pelican Sentinel Sit-On-Top
  4. Perception Sound 9.5
  5. Intex Challenger K1
  6. Emotion Kayaks Spitfire 9
  7. Driftsun Rover 120
  8. Lifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top
  9. Sun Dolphin Aruba
  10. Emotion Kayaks Revel 10

 

Comparison Table - Best Kayak Under $500

PictureNameWeightTypeWeight LimitPriceRating
Perception Access 9.5 Sit-On-Top50 lbsSolid Sit-On-Top250 lbs$$$4.7
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame36 lbsInflatable Sit-Inside300 lbs$$$$4.3
Pelican Sentinel Sit-On-Top43 lbsSolid Sit-On-Top300 lbs$$4.2
Perception Sound 9.538 lbsSolid Sit-Inside300 lbs$$$4.5
Intex Challenger K127.2 lbsInflatable Sit-Inside220 lbs$4.3
Emotion Kayaks Spitfire 945 lbsSolid Sit-On-Top350 lbs$$4.0
Driftsun Rover 12022 lbsInflatable Sit-On-Top300 lbs$$$4.8
Lifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top38 lbsSolid Sit-On-Top250 lbs$$4.4
Sun Dolphin Aruba40 lbsSolid Sit-Inside250 lbs$$4.1
Emotion Kayaks Revel 1048 lbsSolid Sit-Inside275 lbs$$4.0
PictureNameWeightTypeWeight LimitPriceRating
Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.

Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.

Reviews - The Best Boats Under $500 for Kayaking

Perception Access 9.5 Sit-On-Top

Specs
  • Length: 9 ft
  • Material: Polyethylene Plastic
  • Paddling Style: Flatwater
  • Type: Solid Sit-On-Top
  • Weight: 50 lbs
  • Weight Limit: 250 lbs
Features
  • Comes With an Aluminum 2-Piece Paddle
  • Padded, High-Back Seat for Comfort on Long Trips
  • Multiple Footrest Position to Brace Your Legs
  • Two Molded Rod Holders for Fishing
  • Front and Back Bungee Storage Tanks to Store Essentials

BEST FOR: CRUISING WITH THE OCCASIONAL SIDE OF FISHING

The Access just looks like your quintessential kayak, doesn’t it? The bright representative colors stand out on the water and the shape provides a super stable ride. The sit-on style offers you greater freedom of movement and easier entry, even if it gets flipped, than the sit-in kind. If you have a sense of adventure that’s not limited by a bunch of non-essential features, then you’ll enjoy the lighthearted experiences this kayak offers.

The kayak holds everything you need for your ride with its cup holder, fishing rod holders, and front and back storage tanks. It’s not meant for speed, but it provides an enjoyable way to explore the water. For the price, you even get a paddle so it’s ready and set to go!

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame

Specs
  • Length: 10 ft 5 in
  • Material: Polyester Shell and Aluminum Frame
  • Paddling Style: Flatwater
  • Type: Inflatable Sit-Inside
  • Weight: 36 lbs
  • Weight Limit: 300 lbs
Features
  • Triple-Layer, Multi-Chamber Shell That Stays Inflated if One Section Pops
  • Aluminum Frame Reinforces the Kayak
  • High-Back Adjustable, Padded Seat for Long-Range Comfort
  • Bungee Tie-Down Storage and D-Rings for Personal Items
  • Comes With a Storage Duffel and Repair Kit

BEST FOR: IMPROMPTU WEEKEND ADVENTURES

Look at any one of our “Best Kayak” lists, and you’ll likely find the AdvancedElements on most of them. There’s a reason for that. This staple kayak is well-received for both its engineering and its portability. The kayak stores well in small-space environments but has a built-in aluminum frame system that gives it the durability of a solid kayak.

When you get the urge to be in the water, the AdvancedFrame Kayak is ready when you are. Simply fill with air and push it off the shoreline and you can get moving. If you want to be able to kayak in a reliable vessel whenever the desire strikes, this ‘yak is your go-to.

Pelican Sentinel Sit-On-Top

Specs
  • Length: 10 ft
  • Material: Polyethylene Plastic
  • Paddling Style: Flatwater
  • Type: Solid Sit-On-Top
  • Weight: 43 lbs
  • Weight Limit: 300 lbs
Features
  • Adjustable, Padded Seat for Comfort on Long Rides
  • Multiple Footrest Points So You Can Find Your Best Position
  • Rear Bungee-Corded Storage Tank to Carry Supplies
  • Bottle Holder to Keep Hydration Within Reach
  • Ergonomic Carry Handles to Take the Boat In and Out of the Water

BEST FOR: LEISURELY PADDLING IN CALM WATERS

Summers are rife with waterplay, and the Sentinel gives you another way to splash around for an affordable price. With the 300 lb capacity, you can even set Fido between your feet to ride like a new-world explorer. You can drop the ‘yak in slow-moving lakes and rivers and check out new territory every time you ride.

The multi-chine hull design (see Features Explained) makes you feel steady and secure as you glide across the sun-glinted water. As soon as you land on shore, you’ll wish you were in the water again. So, ditch your schedule and climb aboard.

Perception Sound 9.5

Specs
  • Length: 9 ft 6 in
  • Material: Polyethylene Plastic
  • Paddling Style: Flatwater
  • Type: Solid Sit-Inside
  • Weight: 38 lbs
  • Weight Limit: 300 lbs
Features
  • Rear Bungee Storage Tank to Hold Your Essentials
  • Knee Pads and Adjustable, Padded Seat for Long Distance Comfort
  • Molded Storage Compartments and Paddle Rest on the Dashboard
  • Two Molded Rod Holders Within Reach Behind the Seat
  • Molded Carry Handles at Both Ends to Lift the Kayak

BEST FOR: FISHING AND RECREATIONAL FUN

Put in on grandma’s pond or the campground lake and take a leisurely ride around the perimeter. The hull shape makes this kayak feel ultra-stable if you’re still on the water when the wind picks up.

If you can’t fathom being on the water without doing a little fishing, you’re also in luck. The Sound provides built-in rod holders for minimalist fishing. You can certainly mount more fishing add-ons to accessorize the kayak, but simple is nice sometimes too. There’s plenty of room onboard for your tackle box, bait, and lunch box. Otherwise, throw your water, sunscreen, and snacks inside and take a slow ride downstream.

Intex Challenger K1

Specs
  • Length: 9 ft
  • Material: Heavy-Duty Vinyl
  • Paddling Style: Flatwater
  • Type: Inflatable Sit-Inside
  • Weight: 27.2 lbs
  • Weight Limit: 220 lbs
Features
  • Heavy-Duty, Puncture-Resistant Material and Multiple Air Chambers to Prevent Sinking
  • Cargo Storage Net For Your Gear
  • Inflatable Removable Seat and Rigid Floor
  • Comes With an Aluminum Oar, Carry Bag, Repair Patch, and Hand Pump
  • Grab Lines on Both Ends to Push And Pull Offshore

BEST FOR: FREEWHEELING ANYTIME, ANYWHERE

At under $100, The K1 makes kayaking accessible to everyone who wants to make it happen. And the reliable construction belies the price. Although you wouldn’t want to take this inflatable into choppier waters or expect it to travel at full speed, it offers you a solitary day on the water any time without any reservations. 

You should be able to carry the kayak by yourself as well, since it only weighs as much as a small child. Just pump it up with air with the hand pump and you’re ready to push off into your next adventure.

Emotion Kayaks Spitfire 9

Specs
  • Length: 9 ft
  • Material: Polyethylene Plastic
  • Paddling Style: Flatwater
  • Type: Solid Sit-On-Top
  • Weight: 45 lbs
  • Weight Limit: 350 lbs
Features
  • Fully Padded Fold-Down Seat for Long-Distance Comfort
  • Between-Legs Storage Hatch and Rear Bungee Storage Tank for Belongings
  • Multiple Footrest Points So You Can Find Your Best Position
  • Luggage-Style Handles for Carrying To and From Shore
  • Paddle Holders to Free Up Your Hands

BEST FOR: CALM AND MILDLY CHOPPY LAKES AND RIVERS

The Spitfire looks unassuming, so its performance might surprise you. The kayak feels nice and stable for beginners but maneuvers with agility. It may take some getting used to the higher center of gravity, but many paddlers find the sit-on-top style more freeing. 

The center hatch gives you access to full-length, below-deck storage, so make sure you keep smaller items in a bag or bucket. Otherwise, keep your necessities in a bag and strap them under the bungee holders. You may want to add your own cup holder, fishing mounts, and a skeg to really make it your own.

Driftsun Rover 120

Specs
  • Length: 8 ft 6 in
  • Material: Layered PVC
  • Paddling Style: Whitewater
  • Type: Inflatable Sit-On-Top
  • Weight: 22 lbs
  • Weight Limit: 300 lbs
Features
  • Front Action Camera Mount for a GoPro or Similar Device
  • Rocker Profile for Better Maneuverability in Unpredictable Water
  • Adjustable, High-Back Padded Seat for Long-Distance Comfort
  • Comes with Adjustable Aluminum Paddle, Hand Pump, Tracking Fin, and Storage Bag
  • Multiple Tie-Down Points to Secure Your Gear

BEST FOR: WHITEWATER KAYAKING

If your sense of adventure calls you to try whitewater kayaking, then this kayak offers a budget-friendly way to learn the skill. The Rover takes little effort to set up and handles Class III to Class IV rapids with responsive handling.

You might think inflatable kayaks are a questionable choice for whitewater kayaking, but the Rover is reinforced and layered to resist puncturing and contains three separate chambers, all the protection possible against logs, rocks, and other snags. If one chamber gets punctured (which would take quite a lot), the other two will still keep you afloat.

Lifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top

Specs
  • Length: 8 ft
  • Material: Polyethylene Plastic
  • Paddling Style: Flatwater
  • Type: Solid Sit-On-Top
  • Weight: 38 lbs
  • Weight Limit: 250 lbs
Features
  • Rear Storage Tank With Bungee Cording to Keep Belongings in Place
  • Multiple Footrest Positions So You Can Find the Most Comfortable Spot
  • Comes With a Paddle So You Don’t Have to Add the Extra Cost
  • Adjustable Seat Back for Reclining or Kneeling

BEST FOR: FLATWATER PADDLING AND SANDBAR DIVING

The Lotus is the perfect diving board if you like to get into the water and swim near shore or sandbars. The ‘yak provides a nice, stable platform to return to when you want a break or to explore some more. The sit-on-top style is easier to re-enter after you jump in than a sit-inside model because the inside doesn’t fill with water.

This design also provides a means to get closer to nature. You can dip your feet in the water off the sides or contemplate your life’s purpose while you lie back and float. This simple boat is a straightforward way for beginners, teenagers, and campers to learn how to kayak or simply enjoy their time outdoors.

Sun Dolphin Aruba

Specs
  • Length: 10 ft
  • Material: Polyethylene Plastic
  • Paddling Style: Flatwater
  • Type: Solid Sit-Inside
  • Weight: 40 lbs
  • Weight Limit: 250 lbs
Features
  • High-Back Padded Seat and Padded Thigh Pads for Comfort
  • Adjustable Foot Braces to Help You Find the Right Position
  • Spray Collar that Reduces Backsplash
  • Bungee Cord Storage Hatch and Water Bottle Holder for Your Essentials
  • Front and Back Carry Handles for 2-Person Carry

BEST FOR: THREE-SEASON PADDLING

If you want to kayak in the cooler spring and fall months as well as the summer, the Aruba makes that possible. The roomy cockpit and splash guard keep you sheltered from the water so you don’t get too cold. With a wetsuit or other proper coverings, you can extend your kayaking season further than ever.

This kayak is mostly suitable for flatwater paddling, so if you’re seeking calm rather than testing your endurance, then you’re on the right track. However, the kayak doesn’t come with a seat cushion, so be prepared to add your own if you plan to stay out for awhile.

Emotion Kayaks Revel 10

Specs
  • Length: 10 ft 3 in
  • Material: Polyethylene Plastic
  • Paddling Style: Flatwater
  • Type: Solid Sit-Inside
  • Weight: 48 lbs
  • Weight Limit: 275 lbs
Features
  • Stability Chine Rails to Make it Feel Less Tipsy
  • Padded Seat Back, Seat Pad and Thigh Braces for Long-Distance Comfort
  • Adjustable Foot Braces So You Can Find the Best Position
  • Skeg Wheel and Carry Handle for Wheeling to the Shoreline
  • Rear Hatch and Front Bungee Storage Compartments

BEST FOR: LONG RECREATIONAL ADVENTURES

When you paddle for any extent of time, you want a kayak with a comfortable seat, plenty of room to adjust yourself, a reliable construction, and enough storage space for all your gear. The Revel fits the bill. The seat and roomy cockpit are padded to enhance your comfort and the storage hatch and front bungee tie-downs leave plenty of space for food, clothing, and equipment. 

Solo adventurers appreciate how the skeg wheel and handle setup allow them to carry the kayak to the beach by themselves.

 

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING A KAYAK UNDER $500

COST

This list only includes kayaks under $500, but the difference between a $65 kayak and a $500 kayak can be quite different and depending on your budget, might limit your options. Kayaks on the higher end of the price range tend to have a higher-quality construction and offer more features. However, if you’re looking for simple and uncomplicated, then a lower-cost kayak might be right for you.

 

PASSENGER SIZE

Your height and weight affect how well you fit inside the kayak and how well it steers. It’s important to stay inside the recommended weight limit to avoid sitting too low in the water. You also want to test how well the footrests accommodate your height. If you can’t reach the foot pegs or your knees get too cramped on the furthest setting, then you may need a different size.

 

TYPE

The kayaks on this list come in both sit-on-top and sit-inside models as well as solid and inflatable versions. Your choice depends on both your preferences and practicality as all options have their advantages and disadvantages. For example, inflatable kayaks are much easier to store and transport while solid versions feel more reliable to some. Sit-inside kayaks sometimes feel more stable while sit-on-top versions allow for more freedom of movement and direct contact with the water.

 

FEATURES

Decide which kayak features are most important to you and what would be nice to have and then make your selection from there. For example, a cup holder might just be a nice detail for you but essential for someone else. If you know you need lots of storage space or a spot for your dog, then find a model that offers those provisions. Ultimately, choose what makes you happy.

 

FEATURES EXPLAINED

FOOTRESTS

Paddling a kayak works best when you have something to brace your feet against. Most kayaks either come with movable foot pegs or footrests molded into the plastic where you place your feet. When you sit, your feet should rest in a position that allows you to brace with the balls of your feet and have a comfortable bend in the knee. Proper positioning is crucial to your comfort and paddling ability, so it pays to get it right: here’s how.

HULL

The bottom of any boat, including a kayak, is referred to as the hull. The hull shape is pertinent to how well the kayak rides and how stable you feel inside of it. A sharply-angled hull usually rides faster but feels more tipsy. A flat-bottom hull or multi-chine hull tends to feel more stable. For a visual, use this detailed guide to learn more about hull shapes.

CHINE

If you cut a hull in half, the chine is the portion of the hull that goes from the center to the side of the boat. As described above, the angle of the chine affects how fast and stable the kayak rides. A multi-chine hull is a hull with several chines that form a step-like appearance from the center to the sides of the boat. A multi-chine hull provides a nice compromise providing both speed and stability. Similarly, chine rails are flattened sections of the hull that add stability.

ROCKER PROFILE

The profile of your kayak is the shape it takes from front to back. The greater the curvature, like the shape of a banana, the more rocker the kayak has. A rocker profile can rock front to back, just like a rocking chair. The rocker also helps with maneuverability, because less of the boat’s surface area is in the water as resistance.

SKEG

A skeg is a fin-like attachment on the bottom of the boat that helps maintain your paddling direction. Some skegs include a wheel so you can pull your kayak on land instead of having to pick the entire boat up.

MULTI-CHAMBER SHELL

Inflatable kayaks often come with more than one air chamber to fill, which means it has a multi-chamber shell. This important feature means that if one air chamber gets a hole in it and deflates, the other chambers aren’t affected and stay inflated. Otherwise, a kayak with a single chamber that gets punctured could deflate completely and leave you stranded in the middle of the waterway.

GRAB LINES

Grab lines (aka deck lines or deck rigging) are just what they sound like: cords or ropes you can grab onto. Why would you need to grab these cords? For one, you can use them to pull your kayak onto shore or up against a dock. Second, you can tether gear, such as flippers or tackle to the lines. Third, you can use the lines to hold two kayaks together or pull the kayak in a rescue situation. You can use the lines for several other uses, but these are some of the most common.

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