Best Kayaks Under $500 in 2020 – Buyer’s Guide


Kayaking is generally one of the best sports that you can take up in order to exercise both your body and mind. It allows you to get some serenity out on the water by yourself, and it can be incredibly helpful for your mental state.

Additionally, according to whether you want to go out by yourself or with a friend, you’ll be able to either enjoy your alone time without interruptions or spend a few hours socializing and sharing experiences with your friends. Also, it’s a great way to meet people and form new friendships. 

We can easily go on and on about the benefits of kayaking, but to enjoy all of these advantages and more, you’ve to actually own a kayak. The thing is, purchasing a kayak can easily cost you anything from $200 to $3000-4000. 

Today, we’re going to focus on digging up the best kayak under $500 so that you can go about your kayaking experience without spending an arm and a leg on it.

Comparison Table:

ModelTypeMaximum CapacityWeight
Intex Explorer K2Inflatable – Sit-On-Top400 lbs.30.6 lbs.
Intex ChallengerInflatable – Sit-Inside220 lbs.23.9 lbs.
Sea Eagle 370 ProInflatable – Sit-On-Top650 lbs.32 lbs.
Sevylor Quikpak K1Inflatable – Sit-On-Top400 lbs.18 lbs.
AIRHEAD MONTANA KayakInflatable – Sit-On-Top300 lbs.27.7 lbs.

The 5 Best Kayaks Under $500 in 2020

Without any stalling, let’s move on to our list of products as we show you why each model rightfully deserves its place here.

1. Intex Explorer K2 – Best Overall

Intex Explorer K2

Our first pick for the best kayak under the $500 price tag has to be the Exploring K2 by Intex. This is an excellent vessel that’ll take you through multiple seasons actively. This sit-on-top inflatable kayak weighs 30.6 lbs and can hold up to 400 lbs in capacity. The ability to support such a capacity also comes from its massive frame and remarkable construction. 

The Intex Explorer K2 is made entirely out of waterproof and puncture-proof vinyl. Hence, you’ll be comfortable, and you’ll enjoy long adventurous trips out on any waterfront. Moreover, it’s quite known that valves are constantly a source of problems with inflatable kayaks. 

However, this doesn’t happen with the Explorer K2 as it comes with two Boston valves; one on each side. So, it’s entirely secure. Another impressive detail concerning this model is the yellow/gray design, which makes it easily spottable in case of an emergency, plus its all-inclusive package. 

This package features two grab lines, which enhance portability a great deal, two 86-inch paddles, a high-output pump, carry bag, and removable skeg. Hence, stability is all taken care of. 

Sadly, just like any product, this kayak has its disadvantages. The included paddles tend to be quite shaky, and you might need to replace them with paddles of your own.

Pros:

  • Large frame
  • Stability 
  • Great package
  • Great capacity

Cons:

  • Wobbly paddles

Final Verdict

The Intex Explorer K2 is an incredible choice, delivering exceptionally well on comfort and stability, while providing you with a large frame, great capacity of 400 lbs, and portability. If you have paddles of your own, then you’re good to go.

2. Intex Challenger – Runner-Up

Intex Explorer K2

Our runner-up is also by Intex; however, this is the Challenger kayak. This fantastic inflatable kayak weighs only 27.2 lbs and is capable of carrying 220 pounds in storage. 

It’s a sit-inside kayak that has been designed with a lot of concepts in mind, most prominently, safety. The outside of the kayak has bright, colorful graphics, capable of attracting attention whenever help is needed. 

Moreover, it’s constructed out of rugged vinyl, which allows for strength, durability, sturdiness, and flexibility. Furthermore, it comes with a cargo net that boosts its storage quite a few notches.

Adding to that, the kayak has inflatable doors, an inflatable seat, and an inflatable backrest, which are all removable. This works tremendously for the benefit of both the kayak’s storage and the kayaker’s comfort. 

Lastly, it comes with an impressive package including two grab lines, an 86-inch paddle, a high-output pump, repair patch, and carryback, which are all quite handy. 

Unfortunately, including the pump in the package was mandatory as this water vessel has some serious problems with its valves, which tend to let the air out.

Pros:

  • Rugged vinyl construction 
  • Attractive graphics
  • Great package
  • Extra storage space

Cons:

  • Valve troubles

Final Verdict

To wrap up this water vessel, it’s durable, flexible, and quite safe. As long as you keep the air pump on you, you’ll be just fine.

3. Sea Eagle 370 Pro – Best Capacity 

Sea Eagle 370 Pro

The Sea Eagle 370 Pro is one of the best kayaks on the market today. It comes with a lightweight of 32 lbs, carrying a whopping capacity of 650 lbs. This vessel is your best choice for large-party trips. 

Now, let’s get onto the practicalities of this kayak. It’s designed entirely out of polykrylar, which makes for an incredible frame. Plus, even if you wish to take your pets with you on this trip, you’ll have nothing to worry about as it can easily withstand the scratches of paws and claws.

Furthermore, it’s quite versatile as you can either choose to have either friends, pets, or no one with you on this kayak. You can either have the seats up or remove them, giving yourself a lot more storage. Disclaimer: both seats are removable, not just one. 

One more thing is that this inflatable sit-on-top kayak is designed with not one, but two skegs, which boosts its manageability and trackability, making it an excellent choice for beginners as well. 

As we have seen with the previous two models, they came with an impressive package of useful accessories. However, that’s not the case for the Sea Eagle 370 Pro. You only get the kayak for your money, so if you want anything else, you’ll have to pay for it separately.

Pros:

  • 650 lbs capacity
  • Removable seats
  • Straightforward 
  • Two skegs

Cons:

  • No accessories 

Final Verdict

If you’re up for taking people or pets with you on your kayaking trips and need an accommodating water vessel, then the Sea Eagle 370 Pro is the best choice for you. Just be prepared to purchase anything extra that you’ll need separately.

4. Sevylor Quikpak K1 – Best Lightweight

Sevylor Quikpak K1

The Sevylor Quikpak K1 has rightfully earned its place on our list. It’s the lightest kayak here at only 18 lbs. It’s an all-inclusive investment boasting comfort, security, and durability. 

First of all, it’s an inflatable sit-on-top kayak that can hold up to 400 lbs. in capacity. You can definitely utilize these 400 lbs. in any way that you’d like, whether you’d like to take someone with you or use it all for gear and necessities. 

As for the kayak’s construction, it’s entirely out of 21 gauge PVC. Furthermore, it also comes with the tarpaulin bottom for maximum support. 

This kayak is versatile as it comes with its backpack where you can deflate and store it while camping and hiking. Additionally, this bag can be turned into a back seat when needed, which is a great way to multitask. When you do inflate the vessel, the air inside will be completely secure due to the two valves installed. 

Last but certainly not least, the Sevylor Quikpak K1 has been designed with various separate air chambers, supported by the revolutionary airtight system. All of that work together towards keeping you safe and afloat in case the kayak capsizes. 

Although this kayak comes with its skegs, they’re flimsy and almost useless, which can prove to be quite a bother.

Pros:

  • Lightweight 
  • Durable
  • Airtight air chambers
  • Double-lock valves

Cons:

  • Flimsy skegs

Final Verdict

To wrap up this product, it’s the epitome of versatility and comfort, as you can easily deflate anywhere, put it in its backpack and move on to your next spot where you’ll do the process in reverse. Also, when you’re not using the backpack, you can use it as an extra backseat.

5. AIRHEAD MONTANA Kayak – Best Construction

AIRHEAD MONTANA Kayak

The Airhead Montana inflatable kayak is our last pick, and it’s genuinely one of the most robust kayaks present on the market today. Firstly, it’s an inflatable sit-on-top kayak that has an impressive maximum capacity of 300 lbs. 

The weight of 27.7 lbs. is moderate in relation to its robust construction as this vessel is made out of heavy gauge PVC and reinforced with tri-laminate, plus neoprene elbow guards. So, it’s not just strength but security and comfort as well. 

Speaking of comfort, the seats are adjustable and come with a supported backrest. As for safety, the Airhead Montana has been designed with three different air chambers, covered by rugged 840-denier nylon and steam. 

Moreover, in order to improve trackability, it comes with not one, not two, not even three, but four bottom fins. Storage has not been forgotten when designing this vessel as it comes with a stretch net in the bow and a mesh pocket on the backrest for your belongings. 

Other details include a threaded drain plug to prevent losing it, grab handles for portability, and 6-D rings at the bow and stern for securing all of your gear. 

Unfortunately, just like the Sea Eagle 370 Pro, this vessel also comes solo. So, if you need any accessories, you’d have to purchase them on your own.

Pros:

  • Great construction 
  • Three separate air chambers
  • Orange design
  • Comfortable 

Cons:

  • No accessories included

Final Verdict

Suppose you’re up for something that is going to last you ages and is almost incapable of tipping over due to its superior construction and three separate air chambers. In that case, the Airhead Montana is an excellent choice for you.

How to Pick the Best Kayak Under $500

We’ve finished reviewing our top picks for the best kayak under $500, and now we’ll walk you through the general criteria that you must keep in mind whenever you’re in the market for a kayak.

Type

Kayaks come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. They can be tweaked to suit fishing, camping, or swimming. They can also be designed for kids. Moreover, they can be used on either white or flat water.

Needless to say, there are a plethora of kayak varieties on the market. We’ll first go through the two main differences between the water vessels, which is the sitting position. You’ll find sit-inside and sit-on-top; after that, we’ll discuss the sub-categories the kayaks can come in.

Sit-Inside

Sit-inside kayaks are more suitable for longer kayaking trips. They keep your lower body dry and warm, and if you choose to add a skirt, then you’ll be protecting your upper body from the elements as well. 

Naturally, they’re more stable, comfortable, and easier to paddle due to the presence of several contact points inside the kayak; knees, feet, thighs, and backside. However, when using a sit-inside kayak, you must first learn how to do a wet exit in order to save yourself if you capsize. 

Also, it’s always a better choice to have a kayaking buddy with you so that you’re not alone. This becomes mandatory with sit-inside kayaks as you won’t be able to right your kayak by yourself.

Sit-On-Top

Sit-on-top kayaks are a much easier choice; they’re simple in both design and operation. Still, they’re not much of a fit for white water or longer trips. 

The best thing about these water vessels is that if you capsize, righting your kayak and getting back on it’s a much simpler task. Yet, bear in mind that they’re generally heavier than sit-inside kayaks, therefore less portable. 

One last thing, you don’t need to worry about water draining out of them as the inbuilt scrubber holes they come with perform that job efficiently, and without needing any effort from you.

Recreational

Recreational kayaks are our simple basic model. They’re suitable for moderately-timed trips, come in both sit-on-top and sit-inside varieties, and are quite stable. This category is incredibly varied; each kayak comes with its additions, making it more suitable for its specific purpose.

Inflatable

Inflatable kayaks are the option if you want to save space and, at the same time, get a lot of value for your buck. Mostly, they’re made out of rugged vinyl and are designed with a lot of support, making them quite durable. 

Some manufacturers even produce some inflatable kayaks that are strong enough for competition with touring kayaks. Moreover, they’re quite fast and have a better collision-management mechanism as they tend to bounce rather than crash.

Touring 

Touring kayaks are mostly on the sturdier and larger side in relation to recreational ones. Since they’re sit-inside kayaks, they offer a lot of protection and stability. Consequently, they’re a lot more suited for long-distance trips and white water. Additionally, they normally come with skegs and rudders, which help a lot with tracking and stirring.

Tandem

This kayak is designed to have two people in it. Hence, before you decide on purchasing this specific water vessel, you have to be sure that you’ll always have a buddy that is willing to go kayaking with you. 

Tandem kayaks are incredibly stable and give you the ability to take even your kids or pets out with you on the water. Moreover, they’re versatile and adaptable as they boast significant storage space, plus the ability to increase it throughout removing a seat when not needed.

Foldable 

Folding kayaks are sort of a compromise for people with little storage space. They offer you superior portability and plenty of storage space anytime, anywhere. Still, always keep in mind that they’ll not be as sturdy and robust as hard-shelled kayaks.

The fact that you can take it with you on any occasion, whether it’s a hike or camping trip, and then be able to start your kayaking adventure whenever you want, without the need for a pump as you’d with an inflatable kayak, is a great incentive. 

Pedal Powered

Kayaks that are pedal-powered are an entirely different category from everything that we have spoken about. They give your arms and upper body freedom for you to be able to enjoy the scenery, maybe do some videography, photography, sightseeing, or even birdwatching. 

Although they give you a lot of room, stability, storage place, and longer trips, since you’ll be depending on your much stronger lower body muscles, they’re a lot heavier and harder to handle. Moreover, their price is top of the hierarchy, and their maintenance procedure is a lot more complicated. 

Consequently, before purchasing such a kayak, think about your wants and needs, and if they are suited for this vessel, then definitely go for it.

Build

The build of your kayak is essential and detrimental to how much use and value you’ll get out of your investment. There are some basics that you have to know in order to not be surprised in certain materials. Mainly, kayaks are either made from polyethylene, PVC, ABS, or fiberglass.

Polyethylene 

It’s the cornerstone of the basic recreational kayak. Polyethylene is a type of plastic that’s very tough, can take quite a beating, and still do its job. You don’t have to worry about rocks or strong currents here. 

Nevertheless, this comes at a price which is heavyweight harmful sun exposure. The UV light rays are definitely a threat to polyethylene, so we always advise you to store your kayaks in a dry, shaded place.

ABS

ABS is the upgraded version of polyethylene. It’s designed to be a lot lighter and, therefore, a lot more portable. Plus, it’s, to an extent, protected against UV light rays. Consequently, an ABS kayak will survive a lot better on these hot summer days.

PVC

PVC is the main sponsor of inflatable kayaks. Manufacturers do their best to strengthen it and make it as puncture-resistant as possible. In fact, this works pretty well as inflatable kayaks do take a considerable share of the kayak markets today, mostly because of their strength and durability. Still, always prepare for the worst, and have your repair kit on you at all times.

Fiberglass

Premium, luxurious, superior are all words to describe fiberglass kayaks. A disclaimer, though, the price tag on these kayaks is incredible, as they are the star of the show. 

Fiberglass kayaks are lightweight, stable, fast, strong, and they’ll last you a lifetime. However, since we’re speaking about kayaks under $500, you’ll probably not be able to find one that is fiberglass in this price range.

Maximum Capacity

One of the most important factors that go into your decision of which kayak to purchase is its maximum capacity. We’ve to say that under no circumstance should you surpass the given maximum capacity, as such a move can be catastrophic. 

In essence, the market is quite varied in this regard; you can find solo kayaks that can take around 200-300 lbs, which is quite enough for you and your gear, while on the other side of the spectrum, you’ll find tons of tandem and pedal-powered kayaks that can take up to 600 and 700 lbs. Lastly, always make sure to calculate the weight of your gear and needed supplies first.

Accessories

Accessories for your kayak can either be related to tracking, or to another sport that you’d like to enjoy while kayaking, such as fishing rod holders. Nevertheless, we’ll be speaking about the first option, which includes rudders, skegs, and tracking fins, which will all help with managing the kayak and directing it.

Skeg

It’s a structure that resembles the shape of a fin. This skeg keeps the kayak stable and going in the same direction by preventing side winds from rocking the kayak too much. 

The thing about skegs that makes them different from their peers is the ability to remove them while paddling if you feel like you don’t need them.

Tracking Fin

It’s a lot similar to skegs; however, you don’t have the option of removing a tracking fin while paddling. You’ve to choose whether you want it on your kayak or not before you start your trip. A tracking fin will mostly be found on an inflatable kayak.

Rudder

A rudder still does the same job of directing your kayak and making it more stable. However, you can place it wherever you want; on the rear, or the front of your water vessel.

Air Chambers

On a kayak, air chambers are your leverage against it sinking, if it does not have scrubber holes. Thus, the more, the merrier with air chambers. However, make sure that they do not come in the way of your storage. It’s a fine line between enough air chambers and enough storage space.

Storage

Learn to pack intelligently when going on a kayaking trip. Only pack the essentials and coordinate your cargo with the available storage space on your water vessel. This space can either be in the stern or the hull of the kayak. 

It’s typically in the form of watertight wells that keep your belongings safe from water damage. With sit-inside kayaks, you have a lot more storage space than the sit-on-top ones. If you want to add more space, you can always add a bungee strap or aftermarket crates.

Seat

A comfortable, padded, adjustable seat can make a world of difference for your kayaking experience. Seats can be designed with 4-5 different settings in order to accommodate different individuals. Furthermore, if you’re using a tandem kayak, one seat might be removable for extra storage/comfort.

Final Words

To wrap up this article, kayaking is one of the greatest hobbies/sports you can take. It provides you with a wholesome exercise, plus another level of serenity and peacefulness. Consequently, to get out onto the water, you’ll need a trustworthy vessel that fits well within your price range. 

Our first recommendation for the best kayaks under $500 will have to be the Intex Explorer K2. It’s an inflatable sit-on-top kayak that can take 400 lbs in capacity. It’s designed to be safe, secure, plus it comes with an impressive, all-inclusive package. 

Moving on to our next recommendation, that’ll be our runner-up, also by Intex; however, it’s the Challenger Kayak, which is all about safety and flexibility. It’s entirely made out of rugged vinyl and comes with an extra cargo net for maximum storage efficiency. The package here is also extremely satisfactory. 

Our last recommendation will be the Sevylor Quikpak K1, as it’s the lightest one on our list, and one of the lightest on the market today. It can hold up to lbs in capacity and is made to last with its 21-gauge PVC construction.

Categories Kayaks