Kayaks are an ancient construct invented more than 4000 years ago by the tribes of Arctic North America for hunting. It remained an obscure activity and was sidelined as a sport until the 1970s, where it became a popular sport among the mainstream.
Whether you love kayaking as a professional sport, or you love to adventure in the great outdoors and feel like a part of nature, or you simply like to lay back in a kayak and drink in the wonderful views, then this article is for you.
To truly and genuinely enjoy your kayaking outings, you need your own personal kayak, but where to go when buying one?
Now let’s take a look at some of the best places to buy kayaks and all you need to know about them, from what makes them the best to their kayak selections and prices.
What Makes a Good Kayak Retailer/Store?
A place worthy of being called the best should, at the very least, have a wide variety of options for the users to choose from and not have them be restrained to the limited choices.
The quality and durability of a retailer’s merchandise are what count the most when building a place’s reputation. Suppose the products are second-rate or of low quality. In that case, the customers will encounter problems and difficulties, making them not purchase from that place again and advising others against shopping there.
A good retailer should know better than to break his customers’ backs with its exorbitant prices, especially when it comes to kayaks, as they’re very pricey items in and of themselves.
There should be different ranges available that would suit any potential customers and be capable of leaving them satisfied with the product without compromising the store’s integrity with substandard merchandise.
Customer Service and Helpfulness
Good customer service is essential for any organization. If the employees are knowledgeable about their store’s merchandise, then they could adequately refer the customers to the product that most suits their needs and would work for them best.
They should also be able to help the customers deal with any problems that arise from the moment of purchase, moving through the shipping process until the product is safely delivered to the customer, as well as any after-sales issues.
All of this would lead to increased customer satisfaction with the place and them recommending it to other people, which would eventually grow the store’s reputation and number of customers.
Ease of Transactions
A store should be flexible in its policies when dealing with its customers and try to leave its customers happy and satisfied with their dealings.
For example, they should have both online and in-store options for purchases and returns. They should also offer free shipping when possible and pay for return shipping if the return reason was their fault.
Best Kayak Stores and Retailers
Considering all we have mentioned, here are 7 of the best places from which you can buy kayaks, in no specific order and what they have to offer.
Amazon is an American company that was founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994 and since then has grown to be one of the most significant e-commerce and technology companies in the USA.
Kayak Selection Available
If you can think of a kayak type, you will probably find it on Amazon. There are touring kayaks, fishing kayaks, whitewater kayaks, and even kayaks for kids or whole families. There also are sit-on-top or sit-inside kayaks and kayaks with different seating capacities from 1 person and up to 4 or more.
The best part is the numerous price ranges that will suit almost everyone trying to buy a kayak. The prices can go from less than $100 to $1000 and up.
Amazon offers free shipping if you own an Amazon Prime account, even on large or heavy items like kayaks.
Amazon will usually accept returned products if returned within a time-frame of 30 days from the date of purchase.
This time-frame may vary as Amazon has different sellers in its platform, so be sure to check out the return policy for each item you buy.
Since Amazon isn’t an actual brick-and-mortar store, defective items sold on it can only be returned by mailing it back to the company. You’ll be obligated to cover any delay in the return process unless Amazon itself has committed a mistake, such as sending you the wrong product and so on.
Amazon is notorious for its extremely slow and unhelpful customer service. They can’t offer advice on what kayaks will work for you or which ones are the best. They can only provide product details, and you have to make your own decision from this and other people’s reviews if available.
- Has the most extensive selection of kayaks
- Has prices that will suit almost everyone
- Free shipping for Amazon Prime members
- No in-store pickups or returns
- Considerably short return window
- May sell second-tier kayaks that don’t have the best quality
- No guidance to help you choose
REI, aka Recreational Equipment, Inc., is an outdoor apparel and equipment business that has been around since 1938. It sells and even rents used or brand new outdoor equipment in addition to offering advice on how to better enjoy the activities provided by nature.
Kayak Selection Available
REI sells a good variety of kayaks, mostly inflatable ones with a few plastic ones. They also carry types with different tracking systems, either skeg tracking fins or rudders. They’re moderately priced, where some start at the $200 mark and can reach more than $2000.
REI offers free shipping on orders of $50 or more for the United States and international orders larger than $150, forgoing the standard $20 shipping cost.
However, you’re charged with additional shipping charges applied on large and/or heavy items, no matter the total cost of what you buy. So, presume you’re paying those charges for most kayaks.
Products can be returned to, or exchanged at REI for up to 1 year since their purchase date. The product can be returned as long as there is proof of purchase, such as receipts, packing slips, or order confirmation emails.
The products can be returned in-person at any store branch, or they can be shipped back, whether you’ve bought them from the store or online.
Since REI specializes in almost all outdoor equipment and necessities, they can offer stellar advice if you’re lost or confused about what kayak is suitable for your planned activities and your skill level.
They also offer classes and events as well as trips which you can book on their website, giving you the chance to try out your new kayak and go wild.
- Allows both online and in-store purchases and returns
- Offers excellent advice for beginners and experts alike
- Great customer service
- Doesn’t ship kayaks for free
- Doesn’t have the largest kayak selection
Walmart has been around since 1969 as one of the most popular retail corporations in the United States. It has hypermarkets, grocery, and department stores all over the country and is famous for being low-priced when compared to its competitors.
Kayak Selections Available
Like Amazon, Walmart has a decent selection of kayaks. It carries a lot of different brands and therefore has a wide variety of kayaks. Recreational, fishing, youth, inflatable, sit-inside, and sit-on-top are all available in Walmart for reasonable prices starting from around $150 and may reach up to $2000 according to the brand and model.
Just a Heads up, Walmart supports other sellers on its site, so be careful of falling into the hands of a second-rate seller with poorly made kayaks.
Walmart usually offers free shipping no matter the cost and size of your order; however, some kayaks need freight delivery. Therefore, check the delivery charge for each kayak you view as each product is a different case.
Walmart has a wonderful return policy that is easy and convenient. It will accept any products returned in a 90-day window, as long as you show your receipt or a Walmart.com order number.
You can return your items for free by mail, in-store, or schedule for a truck to come and pick up your item from your home.
Walmart has pleasant customer service and will assist you if you need help with refunds or exchanges. However, they can’t help you decide if you’re unsure about what you’re looking for, so do your research before making your pick.
- Offers free shipping in most cases
- Good variety of kayaks
- Not all kayaks are shipped for free
- International shipping isn’t available at Walmart, so if you’re outside United States territories, then you’re out of luck
- Supports second-rate sellers
Dick’s Sporting Goods is a store specialized in, well, sporting goods and equipment. It's based in the United States, with over 800 stores across the country, and has been around since 1948.
Kayak Selections Available
Dick’s Sporting Goods has a sizable variety of kayaks available for purchase and carries a range of notable brands. They’re a bit on the pricier side, but they’re all brand new with assured high quality.
The pricier tag can be slightly circumvented if you show the store a competitor’s advertisement or website carrying the model you want for a lower price. The store will offer a matching price that’s more suitable for you, so be sure to remember this tidbit of advice.
They have both sit-on-top and sit-inside designs to suit your kayak sitting preference, but they’re only suitable for fishing or recreational activities. Therefore, you’ll have to search elsewhere if you’re looking for a whitewater or a touring kayak.
Free shipping is possible for orders of $65 or more, however, oversized and overweight items are excluded, so it’s safe to assume that kayaks are out.
Also, some kayaks aren’t even available for shipping and have to be picked up at the store, so honestly, it depends on your good fortune when picking your desired kayak.
Also, know that they don’t ship outside of the United States, so international shipping is out of the question. If you desperately want a kayak from them, then you can have a third party in the U.S order your kayak and have them ship it for you overseas.
Dick’s Sporting Goods have a 90-day return policy on most of their products, as long as a receipt or pack slip is provided during the return.
Most customers have generally found customer service unsatisfactory due to the employees not being knowledgeable about the store’s products.
The best you could do is to read the product information and reviews before buying it, and maybe you’ll luck out and find a salesperson who knows enough about kayaks.
- Brand new kayaks with various features
- Easy return process if needed
- Can match a competitor's price
- A bit more expensive than other places
- Unhelpful to the customer
- Doesn't carry specialized kayaks
Cabela’ is a subsidiary of Bass Pro Shops, famous for their specialty in outdoor activities supplies and equipment. Cabela’s has been around for more than 60 years, with more than 80 locations across the United States and 9 in Canada.
Kayak Selections Available
Cabela’s has a decent selection of kayaks, which are marginally more expensive than those of other places. It offers recreational and fishing kayaks, but not whitewater ones, with numerous designs and colors.
Like other stores, Cabela’s offers free shipping for orders more than $50, but additional charges are applied to oversized and other specific items indicated in their catalog or on their website.
However, unlike most other stores, international shipping is possible as Cabela’s, for a minimum of $40 or a sum of 45% of your order’s total price, whichever is higher.
Items can be returned or exchanged at Cabela’s within a 60-day window, either by mail or at the store, necessitating the presence of some form of proof of purchase.
If you don’t have your receipt, your item will be processed at the lowest sale price.
You won’t have to pay the fee of using a prepaid return label if the shipped item is defective or not what you ordered due to a shipment error; otherwise, you’ll be paying that fee.
Cabela’s have been famous for their great customer service throughout the years and will gladly help you track your orders, get exchanges or refunds, and offer their advice whether in-store or via chat on their website.
- Great customer service
- Possible shipping abroad
- No whitewater kayaks
- Requires additional charges for kayaks
Backcountry is a relatively new online retailer specializing in outdoor recreational gear and gadgets that’s been around since 1996.
Kayak Selections Available
Fishing, recreational, and tandem kayaks are all options offered by Backcountry. They’re all a bit on the pricier side, where the cheapest kayak starts at around $400, and the more expensive ones can go up to $3000.
However, they usually come with years-long warranties and are known to last a lifetime due to their exceptional make and quality.
Free shipping is possible for orders over $50 at Backcountry, as long as your kayak doesn’t need freight delivery. Meaning, an inflatable kayak’s shipping can be free, while a plastic one needs additional charges.
Note: International shipping is available to certain countries.
Any new, unused items can be returned to Backcountry at any time and be fully refunded in the original method of payment or as store credit.
If you’ve used your kayak, but wish to return it, then you have to do so within 30 days from the initial date of purchase. The refund will be given in the form of store credit only (to expire in 1 year) and not in the form of your original payment.
If you’re shipping your kayak back, then the pre-paid return label will be deducted from your refund/store credit.
Customer service at Backcountry is genuinely extraordinary as they go above and beyond for their customers.
The people handling gear and equipment are very knowledgeable about them, similar to REI's employees or even more so. They rewrite the product description in some cases to provide better and more accurate descriptions to the customers. They also handle any problems encountered by customers efficiently and professionally.
- Extended warranties and high quality
- Possible free shipping
- Returns at any time for unused items
- Outstanding customer service
- Only online purchases and return
- Additional charges for certain kayak types
Moosejaw is an online and brick-and-mortar outdoor gear retailer based in the United States under its parent organization “Walmart”. It expanded to comprise 11 branches since its conception in 1992 in 4 different states in the USA.
Kayak Selections Available
Moosejaw has a good selection of kayaks at hand, primarily recreational or fishing kayaks for moderate to slightly high prices. No whitewater or touring kayaks are available, but you can find different designs and models as sit-inside or sit-on-top, all from well-established and well-known brands.
It has a price matching policy similar to Dick’s Sporting Goods, where they’ll reduce their price to compare with that of their rivals.
They also provide rewards on sold items, where you earn back 10% of your purchases (2.5% for discounted items) as Moosejaw Reward Dollars which can later be redeemed to buy other gear and apparel.
Unless a particular item is listed to need freight shipping, Moosejaw thankfully offers free shipping to orders above $49, including kayaks, oversized or not.
It also ships abroad for international buyers in over 225 countries, with the exception of some brand vendors that only ship to the USA.
Moosejaw has a 60-day return policy for a full reimbursement with the original method of payment. Products returned after 60 days can only be refunded via a Moosejaw gift card.
Moosejaw has an average customer service rating, with some customers finding them helpful and others that were generally dissatisfied with the level of assistance.
- Price matching policy
- Reward system on purchases
- Free shipping on most items
- International shipping available
- Doesn’t carry whitewater or touring kayaks
- Inconsistent customer service
There are many places where you can buy kayaks; you just have to figure out what matters most to you and where you can find that.
For international customers outside of the United States, Amazon is your best bet as most other places don’t ship internationally. They’re also the most probable place to have whitewater kayaks in stock.
If you want cheap kayaks, then go with Walmart or Amazon. Just be careful when dealing with them, as their kayaks’ quality may not be the best if sold by third parties.
Dicks’s Sporting Goods and Moosejaw both offer price matching systems if you want to haggle and reduce their pre-set prices.
And finally, if you’d like helpful advice on what kayaks to buy with assured high quality, then REI, Backcountry, and Cabelas are the places to go, even with the slightly more expensive tag.