7 Mistakes To Avoid When Buying A Kayak On Ebay

Paddling Buyer’s Guide

Buying a kayak on Ebay could be considered a high-risk activity. It was once common to find plenty of used and brand-new kayaks for sale on Ebay. Though it’s a less common platform for purchasing paddlesports gear today, kayaks still show up regularly from private and retail sellers.

The most important caveat when shopping for a kayak on Ebay is that, unlike most other places to buy a kayak, Ebay purchases usually lack the option to try before you buy. By shopping here, you’re essentially forgoing the best advice for any kayak shopper, which is to take a test paddle.

But where there’s risk, there’s also reward. Ebay used kayaks can be a great option if you don’t want to break the bank to get into paddling. Purchasing an Ebay kayak for a steal of a deal could be the perfect way to get started with paddling, especially if you want a low-cost trial period to make sure you like kayaking before making a larger investment in a new boat.

For more experienced paddlers looking for a second boat, searching used kayaks for sale on Ebay is also a good way to try out a new style of paddling for cheap, or to grab a great deal on a familiar model.

However, for as many great deals that you’ll find on Ebay, you’ll encounter as many rip-offs. It’s important to be a smart buyer when you’re considering kayaks for sale on Ebay. Doing your homework will help you avoid the kayaks that aren’t worth buying—because of poor fit, performance criteria that doesn’t match your needs, and safety issues that make some Ebay kayaks hazardous.

Even though you aren’t paying big money for a new kayak, you should still start your search for a used one armed with the proper knowledge needed to take a critical look at what’s for sale. We’ve outlined the common mistakes to avoid when buying a used kayak on Ebay.

7 mistakes to avoid when buying a kayak on Ebay

1 Buying the wrong kayak for the job

Kayaks fall into a variety of styles depending on their primary application. Each category has its own performance characteristics. Buying the wrong style of kayak for your desired paddling experience is certain to spoil your time on the water. The best Ebay kayak shopper is an informed one.

Our comprehensive Paddling Buyer’s Guide is a great place to start your research. Here you’ll find out more about how each style of kayak is most easily defined by its specifications.

Recreational kayaks

Recreational kayaks are short (less than 12 feet long), wide, stable and great for beginners, casual paddlers, children and those nervous about being on the water. While many have a sit-inside cockpit with a seat, backrest and foot supports, some recreational kayaks (known as sit-on-tops) have more basic open cockpits, which are great in hot weather.

Sit-on-tops are also the norm for fishing kayaks, a sub-genre of recreational kayaks that are distinguished by standard angler-oriented accessories like rod holders and tackle storage areas.

Recreational kayaks are by far the most popular type of kayak on the market. They’re great for flatwater paddling and short trips in benign conditions, such as those found on small lakes, quiet rivers and sheltered coves. Don’t expect to enjoy much glide, speed or paddling efficiency. Recreational kayaks are safe to use on calm, protected water but they can be extremely dangerous in exposed, open water conditions because they lack safety features.

Check The Weather
  • Plan for changing weather conditions. Prepare for the worst case.
  • Don’t forget to check tide, currents, or river levels.

Some recreational kayaks on Ebay are inflatable (brands include Advanced Elements and Sevylor), which are convenient for travel, transport and storage in small spaces but often lack paddling performance. Popular manufacturers of used recreational kayaks on Ebay include Lifetime, Hobie and Ocean Kayak.


Touring kayaks

Touring kayaks are longer (14 to 18 feet long), narrower and have more storage than recreational kayaks. They are designed for longer trips and come equipped with storage for food and equipment, and hatches with covers that can be removed.

Most touring kayaks are sit-inside designs. They are designed to move straight and efficiently in the water and some will have a skeg or a rudder for directional control. Perception is one common brand of shorter touring kayak available on Ebay, though this style of kayak tends to be less common on this platform.


Whitewater kayaks

Whitewater kayaks are very short (6 to 8 feet long) and have extreme rocker, meaning that they’re shaped like a banana with upturned ends to maximize maneuverability in moving water. Consequently, they are slow and inefficient to paddle on flatwater.

Popular brands on Ebay include Dagger and Jackson Kayak. Buying a whitewater kayak when you would be better with a recreational kayak is a big mistake when shopping on Ebay.


Knowing the characteristics of these broad categories of kayaks—and which category best suits you—is the first step to making an informed decision.

2 Missing out on critical safety features

Along with choosing the right kayak for your desired use, it’s essential to purchase a used kayak that matches the environment where you’ll be paddling. Recreational kayaks are by far the most common kayaks for sale on Ebay. This style of kayak is great for beginner use in sheltered conditions, but they’re dangerous for use on open water.

If you want to paddle in open water, cold water or any environment with the potential for wind and waves, it’s critical that you choose a kayak that’s meant to be seaworthy in more advanced conditions. For example, most recreational kayaks lack bulkheads (essentially walls inside the kayak that create watertight chambers for floatation). As a result, when a cheap recreational kayak floods with water, it’s likely to sink.

In contrast, touring kayaks are designed to float even when swamped, to facilitate open-water assisted rescues (an important skill you will want to learn in a kayaking course). Some of these details may be difficult to pick up in Ebay photos, so it’s imperative to ask the seller critical questions about the boat to learn more about its safety features.

Dress For Immersion, Not Air Temperature
  • Your body loses heat much faster when immersed in cold water than it does when dry.
  • Avoid cotton clothing like t-shirts and jeans; they retain water and accelerate cooling when wet. Synthetic fabrics, or wool, are generally a better choice. If the water is very cold (60° fahrenheit or less), you should wear a wetsuit or drysuit.

3 Trusting the photos and description

Relying on product descriptions and photos also makes buying a kayak on Ebay a gamble. It’s often tough to discern any significant damage in photos, and these critical items could be easily glossed over in the description. A detailed inspection of a used kayak is imperative—and it’s tough to make this sort of assessment from photographs and a description.

Perhaps the best alternative for an Ebay transaction is to ask detailed questions—and then follow your instinct when it comes to trusting the responses. Here are some main points to consider:

  • Examine the deck (top) and hull (bottom) of the kayak for damage including deep gouges more than 3 mm or 1/8th of an inch deep; obvious abrasion (especially if the worn areas are a different color from the rest of the kayak); and deformities (which will make the kayak paddle less efficiently). Recreational kayaks and some touring models are often made of durable plastic that’s meant to withstand plenty of abuse; some damage is fine, so long as the shape of the kayak remains intact. Cracks in a composite (fiberglass or Kevlar) kayak often reveal that the kayak is old or received rough treatment.
  • The best way to check the integrity of outfitting items (including the seat, backrest and foot supports) is to take a seat in the cockpit and make sure the outfitting works properly. For example, if the kayak has ratchet straps, crank and loosen them. Again, that’s difficult in most Ebay transactions. This is where asking detailed questions is key and trusting the seller—as well as Ebay’s pledge to hold sellers accountable for accurate product descriptions.
  • Ensure the inventory is complete. Are all parts intact and included? Confirm that the hatch covers, seat, rudder, et cetera, are all part of the sale.
  • Do your best to get a good photo of the bottom of the kayak to see if there is any warping in the hull; any waves or lumps in the bottom of the kayak will impact paddling efficiency and may be the sign of an old, worn kayak.

There is a difference between a well-used boat, and an abused boat. Sometimes these differences can be hard to spot or read. Broken items are a giveaway that a kayak didn’t receive proper treatment; by reading between the lines an informed buyer can weed out the lemons when shopping for a used kayak on Ebay.

4 Not trying the kayak before you buy

The only way to fully appreciate the comfort and performance of a kayak is to try it before committing to a purchase. If the seller is local, try to arrange a mutually agreeable meeting place for a brief test paddle. (Of course, you’ll have to do this within the time frame of the auction.) Bring your usual paddle and dress in what you plan to wear while paddling. With a sit-inside kayak, be sure to assess how easy the boat is to enter and exit.

5 Forgetting about shipping

As with any Ebay purchase, it’s critical that you consider how your new kayak will be delivered should you win the auction. It would be a huge mistake to get what you think is a steal of a deal on a kayak—and then get dinged by a steep shipping and handling fee.

Make sure you read the fine print; if shipping options are listed, consider offering to pick up the kayak instead if it’s a reasonable distance from your location. Also, beware of additional brokerage fees if you’re considering purchase from an international seller.

6 Not buying the right gear to go with your kayak

The mistake of buying your kayak on Ebay but not looking into what else you need to be safe on the water could have grave consequences. Safety on the water starts with a properly-fitted, Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device (PFD). A PFD designed for paddling offers both floatation and enough mobility to move your arms and rotate your torso to paddle efficiently. If you’re offered a PFD as part of a used kayak sale, make sure it’s in good shape, fits properly and is Coast Guard-approved for the location you’ll be paddling.

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 any paddlecraft away from you, faster than you can swim.
  • Always wear a USCG-approved Level 70 or Type III life jacket designed for paddling.

Sit-inside kayaks (recreational, touring and whitewater) are meant to be used with a sprayskirt, which seals the paddler in the kayak and keeps spray out. It’s recommended that you take a paddling course before using a sprayskirt to learn the proper technique for exiting the kayak should you capsize.

Another key factor in paddling safely is dressing appropriately for the water temperature, which may involve investing in gear like a wetsuit or drysuit if you paddle in cold water conditions. A bilge pump is another important safety accessory for sit-inside kayaks, allowing you to empty water from the cockpit. Similarly, a 15-meter (50-foot) buoyant heaving line can be used for rescue.

7 Rushing a decision

Possibly the biggest mistake when shopping for a used kayak on Ebay is to rush into buying something that isn’t right for you. As with any purchase, only act on something that feels right. Ebay’s competitive atmosphere can make this more difficult, but it’s critical to remind yourself that the world is flush with used kayaks. Take your time and do your due diligence and, with patience, you will find the right boat for you.


This content was made possible with the support of Ontario Creates.

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