The task of finding a canoe that will perform well and is in decent condition, all for a reasonable price may be the first balancing act a new paddler has to perform. We all want a deal on a canoe, but demand for canoes and other recreation equipment skyrocketed in 2020, when Covid-19 lockdowns forced many people to stay closer to home and spend time outdoors.
This increased demand has coupled with delays in worldwide supply chains to create a canoe shortage that may persist into 2023. Suppliers and retailers are taking orders ahead of time for canoes not built yet, so it is best to begin researching immediately, even for a budget canoe.
A so-called cheap canoe can mean different things to different people. For some, the thought of pre-ordering a cheap canoe is nonsense—cheap canoes come from garages, cabins or summer camps. A cheap canoe can be scored from a cottager who has been hanging it in a boathouse for the past decade. A cheap canoe can also be an inexpensive, off-the-rack recreational boat, flat-hulled, heavy and bomb proof. This guide applies to those shopping for both new and used budget canoes.
Top picks: Best cheap canoes for 2024
Best Cheap Canoes (Under $1,000)
Explorer 14.6 DLX
Sportsman 14 ss
Shop for cheap canoes
Wondering about the best budget canoe? Start by searching through our Paddling Buyer’s Guide. We provide all the necessary information for buying a budget canoe, including specs, prices, reviews and where to buy them. Explore the market or gain some new knowledge about a canoe you might be considering.
Keep in mind that what counts as “cheap” will vary greatly between different types of canoes. The cheapest canoes overall will be plastic recreational models, falling under the $1,000 mark. If you’re looking for a more specialized boat, or one made of a lightweight material like Kevlar, you should be aware that even the cheapest models will cost more than $1,000.
Shopping for a used cheap canoe?
For those with the patience and determination, high-quality budget canoes await on the used market. The key is knowing where and when to look. One of the great things about canoes is that their design has changed relatively little over the years. There may be small tweaks and adjustments, but an older, well-treated canoe will still paddle much like contemporary models.
The shoulder seasons of spring and autumn are typically the best times to look for a used canoe. The previous owners may be upgrading for the new season, or outfitters may be selling off their rental fleets. Scouring online classifieds like Kijiji, Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace can yield great results, but also consider taking a proactive approach.
Notice the canoe in your neighbor’s yard that hasn’t moved in the last five years? Why not ask if it is for sale? It’s surprising how many people have canoes or other equipment sitting around that they never get around to selling. They might happily part with it if asked (and offered the right price).
In other instances, the cheap canoe has some damage, and the seller doesn’t want to fix it themselves (or they don’t know how). That canoe can be a great purchase if the damage is superficial, or if you do not mind taking a bit of time to make the repairs.
Like any paddlesports purchase, be sure to test the canoe before you buy it. Even if the canoe is cheap, it needs to match the style of paddling you are looking to do. This is also a great way to test the canoe for leaks. Some leaks may not show up until the boat is not just in the water, but also loaded with gear.
For more tips on what to look for when selecting a used canoe, read our article on How To Buy A Used Canoe.
Budget canoe buying guide
A budget canoe will be selling at a lower price for a reason. Learn why the canoe is less expensive than others. Consider the style of paddling you would like to do. A wide-bottomed aluminum or plastic canoe would be perfect for taking the family for a float around the lake and can be found at a reasonable price. Look for a recreational model to meet these needs.
Close cousins to recreational canoes are canoes tailored toward fishing or hunting. These “sportsman” canoes have a wide, flat bottom for extra stability and added gear capacity.
For longer camping trips with portages, opt for a canoe that is easier to carry and has a narrow shape that allows it to move easily through the water. These would fall under the lakewater or touring categories, and may be slightly more expensive, but are better suited to extended wilderness tripping or travel down fast-moving rivers.
It can be a hard decision to make but spending a bit of extra money (and doing research) will ensure the canoe you purchase is going to be the only one you need for a while.
Where can I buy a cheap canoe?
Cheap new recreational canoes will be available at big box stores or on Amazon. For higher-end boats, floor models at outfitters or outdoors stores may be sold at discounted rates. Outfitters will often sell off canoes from their rental fleets at the end of the season at a reasonable price as well.
What is the cheapest canoe?
Some of the cheapest new canoes on the market are Pelican and Sun Dolphin recreational canoes. These are canoes suitable for day paddling on calm waters. A good cheap canoe for tripping is a plastic 15- or 16-foot canoe, produced by popular canoe makers such as Old Town, Nova Craft or Esquif.
Why are canoes so expensive?
Lighter canoes are often more expensive. Boats constructed from lightweight Kevlar or fiberglass materials will cost much more than a budget aluminum or plastic canoe. Keep this in mind if you hope to use your canoe for portaging trips—sometimes the extra money is well worth it.
What is a good price for a canoe?
Canoes hold their value quite well. Used touring or expedition canoes will rarely sell for less than $700. Be wary of any used canoes selling for less than that, especially if they have been on the market for a while. Often cheap wooden canoes will be listed very low, but they will require significant amounts of time and money to be adequately restored.
Cheap canoe reviews
Begin your research with reviews to help find the best budget canoe for your paddling needs. These reviews highlight each canoe’s strengths and weaknesses; use them to gauge a model’s suitability for the type of paddling you intend to do.
- Canoe Review: Old Town Saranac 146
- Inflatable Kayak Review: Sevylor Colorado
- Solo Canoe Review: Old Town Discovery 119
- All-Around Recreational Canoe Review: Pelican 15.5