If you’re new to canoe buying or haven’t shopped for one in years, figuring out where to begin can be overwhelming. How do you find the canoe that will suit your needs and wants for years to come? It takes a little research and planning, but we promise it’s absolutely worth the effort. Once you know the kind of canoe you want, you can then decide whether you want to buy a new canoe or used canoe.

Here are nine easy tips to help you find your perfect match.

Step 1. Assess your needs

The “perfect canoe” depends on who you are, where you paddle and what you expect from a canoe. Some people want a canoe for whitewater, others want one for fishing, and others are looking for something to relax with at the cottage.

There are so many options out there, so which canoe is for you? Determine what type of canoe is going to best suit your paddling style. Before wandering into your local outdoor retailer or canoe manufacturer, take time to determine what type of canoeing you would like to do.

Step 2. Choose a canoe type

Can you picture yourself taking your grandchildren fishing at the cottage? Recreational canoes will be right up your alley. Have you dreamed about doing an independent voyage into the Boundary Waters? A solo canoe will help you make it happen. Do you like the idea of traveling with your family into La Vérendrye on a weekend vacation? Stuff a lakewater and touring canoe full of barrels and fun. Whitewater canoes are for the adventurer looking to get a little wet and wild. Each activity requires a very different canoe, so it’s important to know what you want.

Be wary of the “a canoe is a canoe” sales pitch or the “does it all” model. Numerous retailers and manufacturers offer test paddles, so try before you buy.

Here are some practical considerations to keep in mind:

Step 3. Set your budget

You can spend almost anything on a canoe. Take a look at our Paddling Buyer’s Guide and use our price filter to find canoes in the price range you’ve predetermined.

If you’re buying a used canoe, make sure you read this article first: How to Buy a Used Canoe: Everything You Need to Know.

Step 4. Decide if you want to buy a new or used canoe

Unlike the car industry, canoe models don’t change every year. Most innovation is in materials research and development, like the Royalex Revolution in 1978 followed by its death in 2014 (read about it in our article, Royalex Canoe Material Is Dead)

We’re big fans of both new and used canoes. Whichever you’re buying, our Paddling Buyer’s Guide makes researching every brand, make and model easy.

If you’re considering buying a used canoe, be sure to ask a lot of questions. Why is it for sale? What parts have been changed? What is its ownership history? Has it ever been broken, repaired or wrapped? When was it purchased? Where did they buy it from? The list goes on. Make sure to check it for damage and wear—think dents, scratches, worn gunwales, holes, etc. If the seller gets defensive about any of this, start to question the purchase.

Step 5. Choose your canoe material

There is a wide array of materials used to make canoes. Once you have chosen a canoe design that suits your needs, your choice of material will be based on durability, cost, weight and aesthetics.

different canoe materials layed out including wood, carbon, fiberglass and kevlar
The almost endless options of canoe materials when buying a canoe. | Photo: Canoeroots Magazine

Wooden canoes

E.g. Cedar strip, canvas, birch-bark
PROS: Beautiful craftsmanship and organic authenticity.
CONS: Higher maintenance and more expensive.
WHO? Canoeists who are willing to put in more time for maintenance and sacrifice durability and weight for beauty.

Carbon and Kevlar canoes

E.g. Kevlar, carbon/graphite blends
PROS: Lightweight and tough.
CONS: Kevlar and carbon can be quite expensive. Fiberglass less so.
WHO? Trippers and racers.

Royalex canoes

PROS: Durable.
CONS: Heavy.
WHO? Whitewater paddlers.

Aluminum, polyethylene and fiberglass canoes

PROS: Less expensive. Durable.
CONS: Often heavy.
WHO? Recreational and sport canoeists.

Step 6. What are your must-have features?

Take a look at the options available to 
you. Some trim options, such as molded, adjustable seats and sculpted yokes, affect the performance and handling of the boat. Others, such as wooden gunwales, wicker seats and cherry deck plates, serve the same function as aluminum or vinyl but improve the elegance of the canoe.

Step 7. Consider other canoes and brands

Do you have a specific canoe or brand in mind? Many paddlers do. Research and compare canoes in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide to ensure you find the one that truly fits you best.

Step 8. Find canoes for sale

Now that you’ve got the basics, you’re reading to get shopping. Start with our Paddling Buyer’s Guide to easily compare models, filter for exact specifications and features, find local retailers, and buy directly from brands. Other options include:

  • The websites of your favorite brands—just type them into your search bar and start shopping.
  • The websites of your favorite retailers—if you know them, give them a call or find their website. If you don’t, a “canoe shops near me” search in Google should get you pretty close.
  • Amazon—weird, but true. You can buy canoes and canoeing gear on Amazon.
  • Kijiji
  • Craigslist

Step 9. Get out and enjoy your new (or new-to-you) canoe

It’s important to identify which performance characteristics are important to you before taking the plunge. If you take your time and do it right you’ll be thanking yourself for a lifetime.

[Bonus] Step 10: Get the gear

Still unsure what canoe to buy? Here are our picks for the 9 Best Canoes For 2020.


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