Old Town is one of America’s original canoe manufacturers. Their Maine factory has shipped tens of thousands of boats out of its doors. The Old Town Canoe Company’s history began in 1898, just as wood-canvas canoes emerged as a modern alternative to birchbark crafts. They exploded in popularity, in part because they could be mass-produced and required less maintenance.
Wood-canvas dominated the canoe market until other options emerged post-war, beginning with aluminum canoes. In response, Old Town adopted fiberglass and Royalex as durable canoe materials. Today, they’ve shifted to exclusively building polyethylene plastic canoes. If you’re okay with the extra weight it brings, this is a durable material that requires very little maintenance.
Alongside their polyethylene canoe production, they also build rotomolded polyethylene kayaks. Long-established and secure in their market niche, beginner-friendly Old Town canoes are found across the continent.
They design their canoes with an emphasis on primary stability, making them ideal for new paddlers, anglers or families who want the reassurance of a steady canoe. The priority here is stability and comfort over speed or rough-water performance. Old Town canoes have wide, flat hulls that feel remarkably steady in flat water, making them dog-friendly, among other things.
The seating systems of many of their canoes extend beyond traditional bench seats, offering lumbar support with the backrests. With Old Town’s line of pack boat-style solo canoes, users can use a canoe or kayak blade.
This article will help you decide on the best Old Town canoe to buy. Here, we’ll give an overview of the types of Old Town canoes available, as well as some tips for buying new and used ones. Along the way, you’ll find links to specific models and pertinent information about them. Read on to learn more.
Top picks: Best Old Town canoes for 2023
The following Old Town canoes have received the highest star ratings by reviewers in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide. See and review all Old Town canoes here.
Best Old Town Canoes
Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman
Shop Old Town canoes
If you’re ready to begin browsing, use the links below to see Old Town canoes listed in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide. They’re filtered by type, size and the stores where you can find them. The guide contains every Old Town canoe on the market, as well as others from renowned canoe brands.
All the critical information—specifications, prices and reviews—is presented in a standardized format so you don’t need to jump from site to site while you choose your next canoe. Follow the links below to begin exploring.
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Shopping for a used Old Town canoe?
Old Town makes canoes for beginners. The canoes are inexpensive, making them attractive to folks who don’t yet know if paddling is for them. As they fall in love with the activity, they may sell their heavy polyethylene canoe and upgrade to a lighter composite one. Or, they may decide that canoeing isn’t for them, and again, the canoe goes up for sale.
Either way, you’ll have opportunities to buy these used canoes, as long as you know where to look for them. Once you find a used canoe, there are certain things you’ll want to look out for, and of course, you want to pay a fair price.
Here are some tips to help:
1 Know where to look
Online classifieds make it easy to search for used canoes. Find a used Old Town canoe on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or Kijiji by setting up notifications or experimenting with different search terms. People may not include the specific brand or model of the canoe in their posts, instead they’ll simply list it as a “16-foot canoe” or something similar.
Try casting a wide net, using general search terms, and then sifting through the results. It’s harder to search online auction sites like eBay for Old Town Canoes. There’s less selection, and the shipping costs you may incur could wipe away any savings you’ll get from buying a used canoe.
2 Know what to look for
If you’re looking at an Old Town canoe built pre-2014, check if it is Royalex or polyethylene. It’s usually indicated on the registration plate or with an “RX” in the model name. Royalex is lighter and more durable than polyethylene and resists sun damage better. In 2013, the company that made Royalex sheets ceased production, and Old Town shifted to making canoes exclusively with polyethylene.
If you find a used Royalex Old Town canoe, you will likely see some dents and dings along the hull. These are superficial and will not compromise the canoe’s performance. If any gouges are cut into the ABS layer, they may need to be repaired. You can buy repair kits from Old Town or your local paddle shop.
All Old Town canoes made from 2014 to the present are polyethylene. Polyethylene is also a rugged plastic material that can withstand repeated impacts. Damage to these canoes is more likely to happen off the water from improper storage. Leaving the canoe upright on the ground, or hanging from its thwarts can stretch the hull shape and stress the gunwales.
Try to infer how it was stored from the photos you see or ask the owner. If you see any significant discoloration or deformities, you may want to steer clear of that canoe.
3 Know how much to pay
The pandemic caused many people to stay closer to home and pick up new hobbies. Outdoor recreation, including canoeing, exploded. At the same time, delays in supply chains and production slowed the distribution of what little stock there was. As a result, the market for used canoes jumped significantly as well.
Used Old Town canoe prices will vary depending on demand as well as the boat’s condition. Canoes always hold their value well, and traditional buying advice dictates that used canoes generally don’t sell for less than half of their original price. When demand is high, expect to pay a premium for used canoes, like in the summer.
If stock is low, the alternative to overpaying for a used canoe is to have no canoe at all. Plan ahead and shop in the shoulder seasons, fall and spring, to get the best price. Fewer sellers will be looking to make a buck rather than just make space in their garage or yard.
For more tips on what to look for when selecting a used canoe, read our article How To Buy A Used Canoe.
Old Town canoe buying advice
Old Town organizes their canoes based on the activities they’re suited for. Within each of these categories, there are different models in varying lengths and widths. You also have the choice between solo or tandem canoes.
Match the category to the type of canoeing you plan to do, and from there, explore the available models. We’ll touch on each of them, as well as the materials used to make them.
Wide, flat bottoms offering exceptional primary stability are the signature of recreational canoes. Old Town’s Discovery line embodies these characteristics in a range of lengths. Discovery canoes have standard bench seats. They range from the Discovery 119 solo canoe (measuring 11’9”), to the tandem Discovery 169 (16’9”). The Discovery Sport 15 has a square-stern for easily mounting a motor.
Old Town’s Guide canoes are wider than the Discovery models, with backrests on their molded seats. They’re available in 14’7” and 16’ lengths, and the extra width gives these canoes even more stability.
The Saranac is the single layer polyethylene iteration of the Guide series. They are about 25% cheaper than the three-layer set ups, but share a similar design. Single layer polyethylene is not as stiff as the triple layer, making the canoes less responsive on the water. It is also slightly lighter, and less durable than the triple layer, although still fairly resilient.
The NEXT is a solo boat which blends canoe and kayak elements, similar to the pack boats popular in the Adirondacks. It has an open deck like a canoe, but the paddler sits in a low, reclined position like they would in a kayak. Users can paddle it with either a canoe or long kayak paddle.
You can fish from any of Old Town’s canoes, but the Discovery Sportsman 118 solo canoe has additional features suited for fishing or hunting. This canoe has the same hull as the Discovery 119, but an adjustable kayak seat is added instead of a bench seat.
Flush-mounted rod holders behind the seat allow for easy rod placement while you paddle. There’s also dedicated storage space for gear and tackle. If you’re buying a canoe exclusively for fishing, this is an excellent option.
Any canoe can be used for overnight tripping, but the design elements of the Penobscot make this the most suitable Old Town canoe for paddlers hoping to explore interior waters. This canoe comes in 16’4” and 17’4” lengths.
With its shallow-arch hull, the Penobscot can handle rougher waters. This hull shape helps the canoe stay steady even when it is on edge, providing more secondary stability than other Old Town canoes. This design feature is valuable for canoeists using their boats in chop or current.
What length should I buy?
Once you’ve decided on the model that suits your needs, you’ll need to choose an appropriate length. The easiest decision is whether you want a solo or tandem canoe. If you plan to paddle with two people, you’ll need a canoe with two seats. Old Town’s Discovery and Penobscot models have symmetrical hulls, and with their bench seats, they can be paddled solo.
To do this, the solo paddler sits backwards in the bow seat and paddles stern-first. A dedicated solo canoe is much easier to control if you’re exclusively paddling alone. These are shorter, like the Discovery 119.
Canoe length influences the boat’s performance. Generally, longer boats are faster, while shorter ones are easier to turn and maneuver. The Penobscot 164 is a good canoe for both solo and tandem paddling, with storage space for weekend trips. For longer trips, consider the storage capacity gained with extra length.
Also, for families or people paddling with medium-large dogs, a 14-foot canoe can quickly become crowded. Sixteen feet or longer is best to give everyone space in the canoe. It comes at a cost, both financially and in additional weight. If you aren’t planning to portage the canoe, prioritize the extra space.
Does Old Town make good canoes?
Old Town makes inexpensive canoes that are good for fishing and recreational use.
Old Town canoe models
Presently, Old Town offers five canoe models in different sizes and iterations: the Discovery, Guide, Penobscot, NEXT and Saranac. Old Town has introduced and discontinued other models throughout its history. If you don’t see your canoe online, you can use the registration number stamped inside it to look up the specific model history of that Old Town canoe.
Discontinued Old Town canoe models
A company with a long history, such as Old Town, will see models come and go. You can still find information about these discontinued canoe models, like the wood-canvas Guide 17.
Old Town canoe specs
Old Town canoe specs are provided in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide. Compare them alongside other canoes on the market.
Old Town canoe sizes
Old Town makes solo and tandem canoes. They are a variety of shapes but tend to be wider than other companies’ canoes as they prioritize stability.
Old Town canoe length
Old Town canoes range in length from the Discovery 119, which measures 11’9”, up to the Penobscot 174, at 17’4”. As you can see, the number in the name of each Old Town canoe model represents that boat’s length in feet and inches.
How wide is an Old Town canoe?
The width of an Old Town canoe varies by the individual model, but as canoes go, they are some of the widest on the market. This reflects their goal to make comfortable canoes for beginners, who appreciate the stability wider canoes provide.
Their recreational canoes are among their widest, with the canoes in the Discovery series stretching to around 40 inches at their widest points. Contrast that with the Penobscot 164, which is 37 inches at its widest.
Old Town canoe material
Old Town canoes are made with single- or three-layer polyethylene. The Saranac models use single-layer polyethylene, with the layer shaped into place by thermoforming. All other current models are three-layer polyethylene. Three-layer polyethylene is much stiffer than the single layer material and makes a canoe that is more durable and responsive.
Why did Old Town stop using Royalex?
Like other canoe companies, Old Town stopped using Royalex when the material was discontinued in 2013. As an alternative, they now use polyethylene in single or triple-layer iterations to build their canoes.
Old Town canoe weight capacity
Weight capacities range based on the canoe’s shape and size. Solo Old Town canoes have a minimum weight capacity of 350 pounds, and tandem canoes can hold at least 670 pounds. Longer canoes like the Penobscot 174 have higher weight capacities, accepting up to 1,500 pounds.
Old Town canoe prices
Old Town canoes are some of the most affordable canoes on the market, all costing less than $1,900 USD. View the prices of each specific model in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide.
Old Town canoe dealers
You can buy Old Town canoes through dealers, online outlets or direct from the company. Find the dealer closest to you using the dealer locator.
Who owns Old Town canoe?
Johnson Outdoors owns Old Town canoe. Johnson also owns Ocean Kayak and Carlisle Paddles, which are also made in the Old Town location.
Are Old Town canoes made in the USA?
Old Town canoes are made in the U.S., in their factory in Maine.
Where in the state of Maine are Old Town canoes made?
Since the company’s 1898 inception, Old Town canoes have been made on the shores of the Penobscot River in Old Town, Maine.
Lightest Old Town canoe
The Discovery 119 is the lightest Old Town canoe, weighing 50 pounds.
Most stable Old Town canoe
Old Town’s recreational canoes are their most stable, especially the Discovery models. Choose a length according to your needs—whether you are a solo paddler or planning on bringing the whole family along, there are different boats to choose from that are all exceptionally stable.
Will an Old Town canoe sink?
A three-layer Old Town canoe has foam sandwiched between layers of polyethylene, adding some degree of flotation. However, like any canoe, if it is filled with water, it will ride uselessly low in the water. Single-layer polyethylene canoes will float even lower when swamped.
Compare Old Town canoes
Grumman vs Old Town canoes
Grumman revolutionized recreational canoeing with their mass-produced aluminum canoes. If you paddled in the 1970s or 80s, chances are good it was in an aluminum canoe. They gained popularity because they are inexpensive and indestructible (so long as you don’t wrap them around a mid-current rock). The downsides are that the metal is noisy and frigid on colder days.
Plastic emerged as a replacement for aluminum, rivaling the durability and reliability, but being much quieter on the water and softer to paddle. Plastic boats are more susceptible to UV damage and warping, but otherwise, plastic is the superior option. If you’re looking for a simple canoe that you can leave outside at a cottage or hunt camp, Grumman aluminum canoes will suit you just fine. For a more enjoyable paddling experience, choose an Old Town plastic canoe.
Old Town vs Mad River canoes
Mad River’s canoes are comparable to Old Town’s in price and performance. Like Old Town, Mad River makes entry-level recreational and tripping canoes. Choosing between some of these recreational models comes down to personal preference. If you can test paddle available models, you’ll be able to better decide which one is best for you. Mad River uses T-Formex for the Explorer 16, the highly-acclaimed Royalex replacement.
It’s as durable as three-layer polyethylene, but lighter and stiffer. T-Formex is also more UV-resistant than three-layer polyethylene. This is a good choice for dedicated canoeists who want the added performance of T-Formex or canoe trippers who intend to run rapids. It costs more but will pay off on the water.
If you’re a solo paddler, choose from Old Town’s canoes shorter than 15 feet, or if you want a longer tripping canoe, the Penobscot 174.
Old Town canoe vs Coleman canoes
Coleman no longer makes canoes, but you may find used canoes for sale. These are cheap, sturdy canoes that should be heavily discounted. If you can find one for a few hundred dollars, grab it. They make good canoes for puttering around without costing much. If you want a new canoe, Old Town’s boats are a high-quality choice for a relatively low price.
Pelican vs Old Town canoes
Pelican builds canoes using their RAM-X material. They have three models, measuring from 14’6” to 15’6” in length. The twin-sheet thermoform construction and wide, flat bottoms makes these canoes comparable in design to the Old Town’s models. RAM-X is heavier than single-layer polyethylene, but slightly lighter than the burly three-layer polyethylene used for Old Town’s Discovery Series.
Old Town has more variety among their lineup, and more aesthetically-pleasing outfitting like the wooden thwarts and seats. Pelican canoes do not have yokes, making them difficult to portage. A Pelican is sufficient if you’re looking for a cheap canoe for light recreational use. Look toward Old Town for more versatile canoes in a variety of designs.
Canoes in Old Town’s Discovery series are extremely durable and reasonably buoyant thanks to a layer of foam between plastic layers. These canoes are a few pounds heavier than Pelican’s models, but carrying them is easier, thanks to the yoke. The Discovery Sport is a square-stern comparable to the now discontinued Pelican Bayou 160. Small motors can be mounted on these canoes, making them popular with anglers.
Old Town vs Ascend canoes
Ascend is Bass Pro/Cabela’s in-house brand. They offer two canoes, the C14 and DC156. These canoes might be cheaper than Old Town canoes, but they are much heavier at 84 and 104 pounds, respectively. Old Town has been building canoes for over 100 years and focuses exclusively on building boats. These American-made Old Town canoes come with a guarantee of high quality that a mass-produced big-box product can’t match.
If you’re looking to save some cash, Ascend canoes are adequate, but if you’re looking for a high-quality boat, spend the extra money on a canoe from a brand like Old Town. Old Town has more options as well for solo canoes or trippers.
Sun Dolphin vs Old Town canoes
Sun Dolphin makes two square-stern canoes, the Scout and Mackinaw 15.6 SS. If you’re going to be using a motor, these are good options comparable to the Old Town Discovery Sport 15. The main difference is in the price and construction.
Sun Dolphin canoes are cheaper, while Old Town’s has a sturdier build, thanks to the three-layer polyethylene used. If you aren’t planning on using a motor, any of Old Town’s other canoes are lighter and better-performing canoes.
Old Town canoe reviews
Read reviews to get an in-depth understanding of how Old Town canoes perform. These are the next best thing to paddling the boats yourself. Pay attention to the details the reviewer describes, as some things cannot be communicated by just looking at specs. How the canoe handles in certain conditions is telling. Also, compare the type of paddling that you’ll do to what the reviewer describes. Don’t be put off by criticisms—instead, decide if they are things that would be deal-breakers for you.
- Solo Canoe Review: Old Town Discovery 119
- Canoe Review: Old Town Penobscot 164
- Boat Review: Old Town Canoes Discovery 169