So you’ve decided to take the plunge and buy your own paddleboard to maximize fun on the water. This is an exciting step in your paddling journey, and the good news is you don’t have to spend a fortune to get into paddleboarding. Even spending just $500 can get you a quality budget paddleboard that performs well.
When you are shopping on a shoestring, knowing where to find cheap but good paddleboards is essential to maximizing your experience. Finding the best cheap paddleboard means first identifying your goals and the types of water you plan to paddle. A good cheap paddleboard is one that is fun to paddle, while ensuring your safety and comfort on the water.
Whether you are shopping in-store or online, there is an overwhelming selection of inexpensive, beginner-friendly paddleboards to choose from. In general, these recreational paddleboards should only be used in sheltered, calm water conditions with minimal exposure to wind and waves. If you’re looking to develop more advanced skills in open or rough waters, consider investing more in a higher performance SUP that offers dedicated users a better—and safer—experience on the water.
Paddleboards under $500 come in a variety of sizes and materials. Most are categorized as all-around boards, and you’ll primarily find a mix of inflatable (blow-up) paddleboards and soft-top (foam) paddleboards in this price range. Cheap inflatable paddleboards are good for those with limited storage space or if you’re looking for a board that’s easy to transport in any sized vehicle. Foam paddleboards are ready to go with no set-up time, and offer a more rigid platform for better performance on the water.
Do your research and be honest with your expectations—there are plenty of cheap but good paddleboards for casual fun on the water, but these boards often lack the speed and handling performance of more advanced or specialized paddleboards. Make sure you’re also prepared to purchase the necessary safety accessories, including a personal flotation device and leash. Look for great value packages priced less than $500 that include a full kit with paddle, leash, pump (for inflatable boards) and storage bag.
What is the best cheap paddleboard? Read on to discover more advice and in-depth reviews for our top picks in this comprehensive cheap paddleboard buying guide.
Top picks: Best cheap paddleboards for 2024
Best Cheap Paddleboards Under $500
Inflatable SUP 11'
Hydro-Force Fastblast Tech 12'6"
X3 X-Rider Epic 12'
Inflatable SUP 10'
New Tiki 10'6"
Shop for cheap paddleboards
Are you shopping for a good cheap paddleboard and overwhelmed by all the choices, options and places to buy? Follow the links below to discover what’s best for you based on your paddling aspirations. Links will take you to our comprehensive Paddling Buyer’s Guide, where you’ll find every cheap paddleboard on the market, including specs, prices, reviews, comparisons and where to buy.
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How to buy a cheap paddleboard
Paddleboards can range in price from $100 box store inflatables to $4,000 models constructed with the finest craftsmanship and composite materials. In general, boards at the very cheapest end of the spectrum might float but do little else. When buying a paddleboard for less than $500, expect to make some compromises in performance, features and weight. However, for the average casual paddler, $500 can buy a budget paddleboard that will suit many types of calm-water environments, from playing at the cottage to exploring flatwater rivers and small lakes.
Cheap paddleboards priced under $500 are typically either inflatable (blow-up) boards or rigid PVC (plastic) boards. Rigid boards are usually constructed with an expanded polystyrene foam core that provides buoyancy, and may also feature a full foam deck, known as a soft-top. These models are great for beginners because they are more forgiving for unexpected tumbles, and more comfortable for bringing along a child or pet.
Either way, a cheap paddleboard will likely be an all-around board from 10 to 11 feet in length with a flat bottom and rounded nose. All-around boards are generalists, suited to a variety of waters and paddling styles, including short tours, SUP yoga, paddling with your pup, or even catching your first ankle-biters (small waves).
The considerations of what is a good cheap paddleboard are the same whether you’re buying new or used, or from a paddling shop or private seller. However, buying used can be a great way to maximize the value of your money. Wondering how to buy a cheap paddleboard on the used market? Here are some things to watch out for.
If you’re shopping used cheap paddleboards, be scrupulous about checking the condition of the board to make sure you’re not buying someone else’s problem. Overall condition reveals a lot about the quality of the board. Examine the deck (top), bottom, nose, tail and sidewalls of the board for chips, cracks, dings, deformities or repair jobs. Be sure to ask where the board was stored—fading indicates prolonged exposure to the elements and a breakdown of the materials.
Many beginner hard boards—paddleboards that don’t pack down for storage or travel—are made from durable plastics that can withstand plenty of abuse. Some damage is fine, especially if the shape of the board remains intact. However, any damage that shows the interior of the board is concerning. Ask when the damage happened, what repairs have been done, and if it has taken on water. A leak could result in the buoyant foam core that keeps the paddleboard afloat becoming waterlogged on your first outing.
Be especially cautious when buying a second-hand inflatable paddleboard. Many cheap paddleboards are inflatable designs that are convenient to store and transport; these boards can be rolled up to fit in a compact car or on public transit. Better quality inflatables are durable and extremely impact resistant, but cheap inflatable paddleboard quality varies widely.
In most cases, you get what you pay for—a cheaper board can be sold at a budget price because it’s made with lower grade materials and constructed using a simpler process. This means the board will be more susceptible to damage and often less fun to paddle. Inflatable boards with single-layer drop stitch cores, which is typical construction for budget boards, won’t be as rigid. The less rigid a board, the less stable and efficient it will be. Inferior materials and valves are also more prone to damage. Many of the cheapest box store or online “no-name” inflatable paddleboards are little more than pool toys destined for the landfill after just a few uses. Stick to more reputable brands, if possible, especially when shopping used.
Additionally, all inflatable paddleboards require an extra measure of care during storage and inflation. Inflatable boards that are stored damp could show signs of mold or mildew. If left inflated in full sun, the air chambers or valves could rupture from the air expanding inside. Inspect all valves carefully, checking for dirt and debris and listening for leaks. Fully inflate the paddleboard and feel for deformities, then wait to see if it holds air. Even better, take it out on the water for a test paddle; an inflatable paddleboard should feel stiff and remain firm—a board that becomes squishy indicates a leak. Learn more about the pros and cons of inflatable paddleboards and hard boards.
Basic outfitting on a good cheap paddleboard includes the foam deck pad, leash plug, deck bungees and—most importantly—the fin or fins underneath the board at its tail. Many paddleboards have a single center fin to aid with stability and paddling straight, while some surf-focused boards also have two smaller “thruster” fins to assist with carving on a wave. Examine these parts individually, paying special attention to the fins to ensure they are not bent or damaged and feel secure with no screws missing.
Many cheap paddleboards come in a kit from the manufacturer, including “all the accessories you need.” Most kits include a carry bag, an extra fin or fins, a leash, a paddle and, if it’s an inflatable board, a pump. Some include useful extras, like a repair kit. Ask the seller if these accessories are included with the used board; if they’re not, negotiate a lower price.
On the water
It’s always best to try before you buy to make sure the cheap paddleboard performs the way you like. Arrange a meeting place with the seller that allows you to take a few moments on the water. Dress in clothing that will keep you warm for the water temperature, should your test drive include an unplanned swim!
Remember: Wear a life jacket. Everyone, even strong swimmers, needs to wear a life jacket at all times when on the water. It is extremely difficult to put a life jacket on once you fall into the water. Even a light wind can blow a paddleboard away from you, faster than you can swim. Use an ankle leash and always wear a USCG-approved Level 70 or Type III life jacket designed for paddling. In addition to a PFD or belt pack, the U.S. Coast Guard requires paddleboarders to also carry a whistle and, if paddling between sunset and sunrise, a flashlight.
For more tips on what to look for when selecting a used paddleboard, read our article How To Buy A Used Paddleboard.
Cheap paddleboard buying guide
Buying a paddleboard anywhere begins the same way: figuring out what type of board you need and your budget. The next step is to browse the type of boards at your price point and start comparing. Use the filters in our online Paddling Buyer’s Guide to help you narrow your search.
If possible, the absolute best way to buy a budget paddleboard is by visiting a paddling or outdoor shop and chatting with knowledgeable sales staff. You can even test paddle some boards to get an idea of what different board shapes, sizes and constructions feel like.
Still have questions? Check out the most commonly asked questions about how to buy a cheap paddleboard below.
Are cheap paddleboards any good?
Whether cheap paddleboards are any good depends on your expectations and application. Budget paddleboards are a solid choice for light-duty, calm water use at the beach or cottage—especially for families and other casual paddlers. However, if you want to develop your paddleboard skills and spend more time on the water, you’re better off spending a bit more money at a dedicated paddling retailer—or shopping used to score a deal on a quality second-hand board.
Cheap vs expensive paddleboards
Paddleboards can range in price from $100 inflatables to $4,000 models constructed with the finest craftsmanship and composite materials. In general, boards at the very cheapest end of the spectrum will feel slow and sluggish in the water, and their durability will be little better than a pool toy. When buying a paddleboard for less than $500, expect to make some compromises in performance, features and weight.
Most sub-$500 boards are all-around designs suited to short tours, yoga or playing in small waves. Options at this price range include inflatable models and foam (also known as “soft top”) boards, which are stiffer and move more efficiently in the water. Bear in mind that all of the cheapest paddleboards are entry-level boards, meant for beginners and occasional use.
More expensive paddleboards—whether they are top-end inflatables or sleek hard boards—offer a far greater range of specialized designs for touring, racing and surfing, with much enhanced performance for dedicated paddleboarders.
How much is a cheap paddleboard?
The cheapest paddleboards are available from box stores and online sellers like Amazon for as little as $100. In general, paddlers on a budget will do better to spend $300 to $500 for a good cheap paddleboard that is safer and more enjoyable on the water.
Best cheap paddleboard brands
You’ll find countless manufacturers of cheap paddleboards, both in-store and online. Just like any type of consumer product, some manufacturers are better than others and each will have its own characteristics. In general, you get what you pay for.
As the market grows and becomes saturated with mass-produced, low-quality, single-layer inflatable boards, it becomes difficult to know which cheap inflatable paddleboard is right for you at a price you can trust. Avoid the cheapest box store or Amazon inflatable boards; a poorly manufactured product equals a poor or unsafe time on the water—and a quick trip to the landfill.
Where to buy cheap paddleboards?
There are many places to buy cheap paddleboards for under $500. Options include paddlesports retailers, directly from the manufacturers, sporting goods stores, big box stores, online shops and online used marketplaces.
Whenever possible, it’s always a great idea to buy from a local paddling shop. The staff are usually paddlers themselves and can offer first-hand advice and knowledgeable tips on the best paddleboard for the type of paddling you want to do, as well as advice on essential safety accessories and the best places to paddle in the area. Your local shop likely has demo opportunities to try out different boards, and might even host get-togethers to connect you to the local paddling community.
Where to buy cheap paddleboards online?
If you’re shopping for cheap paddleboards online, popular options include Amazon, sporting goods chains, big box stores and online used marketplaces. Many paddleboard manufacturers also offer helpful websites with buying advice, board comparisons and direct-to-consumer online sales.
Why buy a cheap paddleboard?
Buying a cheap paddleboard is a good option if you are new to the sport and not sure whether you’ll stick with it, or how much use you’ll get out of your board. Cheap paddleboards are also popular for families and casual users who want an inexpensive board to play around at the beach or cottage.
Why not to buy a cheap paddleboard
Keep in mind that cheap paddleboards are meant for casual paddlers looking to go for short paddles a few times a year—and only in calm conditions and warm weather. These boards lack durability and rigidity, which makes them more difficult to paddle and might be discouraging to new paddleboarders. Similarly, if you are already an avid paddleboarder—or aspire to develop your skills on longer tours or surf—then a cheap paddleboard will provide a disappointing performance. Spend a bit more on a mid-range board to enjoy faster, more responsive handling and better durability.
Safest cheap paddleboards
The safest cheap paddleboard is one that provides enough flotation and stability for your skill level and body weight, and suits the type of paddling you will be doing. Inflatable paddleboards are a great option, because their uniform thickness from side to side and nose to tail makes them considerably more stable than similarly sized foam boards. For the safest cheap inflatable paddleboard, invest in a well-reviewed board from a reputable brand that stays firmly inflated during use.
Whatever board you’re paddling, always wear a properly fitted life jacket and use an ankle leash securely fastened to the leash plug on the tail of your paddleboard.
Cheap paddleboard reviews
For the best insight into a cheap paddleboard’s performance or how it compares to other boards in the same category and price range, look for the honest assessments of real-life paddlers. You’ll find our expert reviews below.
Feature photo: Zinaw Photography/Pexels