Kayaks come in a variety of forms, suitable for different activities and skill levels. Some kayaks are designed solely for the purpose of riding waves in the sea, whilst others are suited to flat-water paddling or white-water riding. Once you have decided what use you want your kayak to have, you can start looking for the right one. Buying a second-hand kayak is the cheapest option and as long as you follow these buying tips, there is no reason why you can't enter the water without drowning your wallet.
The first thing you should do is ask the seller about the history of the kayak. What has it been used for? How much use has it had? And have there been any repair jobs on the kayak? A good seller should be able to give you detailed information about the kayak's history and if they can't, it may suggest they did not own the kayak but are just selling it on.
Seek out any damage yourself by first turning the kayak upside down and inspecting the underside. Run you hand over the bottom surface and around the sides of the boat. Both should have smooth lines and be free from large dents, creases, cracks or punctures. All used kayaks will pick up scratches and bumps but anything that changes the shape of the boat or allows water to penetrate should be avoided.
Inspect the inside of the kayak as well. Some cracks or holes are not always visible from the outside but with a strong light you can give the inside the all clear as well. Look also at the hip and back padding if the kayak has them. These should be in good condition, and if they aren't it's a good indication the kayak itself hasn't been looked after properly either.
Pay special attention to any repairs on the kayak. Like with almost all water sports equipment, good repair jobs can mean performance is hardly affected. Bad repair jobs on the other hand can completely undermine the integrity of the vessel and may make it unusable. Any repairs should inconspicuous, not change the lines of the kayak and be watertight.
Lastly, often the best way to determine the condition of a second-hand kayak is to get it in the water and try it out. We advise letting the seller demonstrate first. If the kayak is not watertight you will soon know about it when they refuse or sink. If it proves to be sea worthy then get in and give it a good paddle. Check the steering, glide and buoyancy to make sure it handles as it should, and don't be afraid to rock the boat quite hard to gauge stability.