Advice for beginner used kayak purchase

We recently purchased a lake home and I would like to find a used kayak. Large damn controlled lake, sometimes choppy but not rough at all. Right now this would be for occasional, recreational use only as we do not live there full time. I need something fairly easy to paddle. In my area the main used kayaks for sale are perception, pelican, sun dolphin and tamarack. I know these are not top tier brands, but as I am a beginner and won’t be going out much now, that’s ok. I’ve come across a Perception Tribute and a Perception Conduit 12 on marketplace that are priced at less than $500 and seem to be in good shape. Curious if anyone has experience with these. I understand that more money means a better experience, but I don’t have that right now. I just want something to enjoy on the lake until I gain more experience and decide if I like it upgrade. Thank you.

You can buy plenty of nice rec kayaks for 500 and less. I’d look for 12’ minimum.

Are you familiar with the Perception tribute or conduit? Both are 12’ and for sale in my area.

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Perception is a cut above the others you listed, or they were in the past.
Both look like good boats . Not sure about flotation in case they capsize. Per the descriptions, both say it’s positive.
Can you sit in them at a minimum?

I and my wife got into kayaking only 2 years ago. In Wyoming kayakers are mostly of the White Water type and rivers are where we see most of them. However we were more interested in lakes and not much white water. Since she bought out first two we found there were other folks around that liked to try our kayaks and so I started going around the states in the rocky mountains and clear over to western Nevada to buy other kayaks. I have bought them in Wyoming Colorado New Mexico, Montana, Utah and Nevada. Since Anna bought our first 2, we have now bought a total of 28 of them. We kept 6 and sold the other 22 to friends. So now we have started a “kayaking club” around the middle of Wyoming.

Depending on your use, the choices of type are wide and varied. But I see them divided into 2 main groups. #1 Kayaks for transportation to locations (on shore or on the water) to preform a task,

And #2— Kayaks for paddling just because you enjoy paddling. The kayaks themselves overlap those 2 groups quite a bit.

In the 1st group I see Fishing Kayaks but also touring kayaks and many recreational kayaks. (Canoes fit well here too) In this groups you have activities that are totally dedicated to a task (like fishing) but also kayaks to go hunting, camping, wildlife photography trips, exercise, and several other activities.

In group #2 we see those kayaks that are used for the paddling experience alone. Paddling for the focus of paddling. White Water, racing/speed and going along shores to go along the shores. Nothing additional – other then the traveling on the water itself.

I believe most people who get bit badly by the kayak bug will end up with 2-3 kayaks and sometimes more. The reason is that no one kayak does everything well.

What I and my wife have ended up with are ;
The 1st 2 kayaks she bought. Old Town Loon Rec kayaks. We use these for trips up-river and across the lake to go out for picnics and to take our dogs along. I was very surprised at the ability of the Old Town Loons to handle fairly rough waters if you have a spray skirt, but as we acquired better kayaks for waves and wind we don’t use them in big chop much now.
We also have a Piranha Everest white Water kayak. Good for fast current in rivers and OK for trips across the lake if there is not a lot of wind. In wind all WW kayaks will weather cock easily and are a fight to get moving in straight lines.
I have a 16.5 foot Perceptions Sea Lion Shadow with a rudder. It’s 24" across the beam and is good for longer trips, wind and waves. Good for 3 hour morning paddles before work all the way to multi day camping trips. Does very well in rough water.
I have a 17 foot 3" Necky Chatham17 with a skeg. It’s 21" across the beam and is my fastest kayak. Once I learned to put it on a hard edge I found I can turn it well and pretty fast. Also good for morning paddles before work all the way to multi day camping trips and rough conditions . I do like the Chatham17 for some trips because it moves easier at speed, and I tend to like the skeg a bit more then I like the rudder on the Sea Lion, but both are good to have when dealing with winds.

Most of my friends seem to like rudders a bit more then skegs, so you’ll have to make your own choice there.

Anna also has a Prijon 15 foot “cross water” kayak. It’s like a large WW kayak but set up to deal well with for open water and camping/touring. It’s got a rudder so it’s easy to handle in open water and it’s super easy to paddle but fairly wide and so it’s slower then the Necky and the Perception. It’s quite maneuverable however and a fun kayak to use. Handles big chop very well.

The other 22 kayaks we have bought and sold have ranged from a fishing kayak to an 18.5 foot X 20 inch P&H sea kayak, and a whole lot of other in-between. I have paddled all of them before I sold them.

If you are going to buy a kayak to start out I might recommend you start with your “3rd kayak first”. A slim kayak is less stable then a wide rec kayak, but like riding a bike — you’ll learn to feel in-balance in a short time if you dedicate yourself to learn. So starting with something 24" wide or less (I like less) and about 15 feet long or more will teach you to control the edging, as well as the paddle strokes and learning to brace intuitively. If you learn on a slimmer kayak and then step back to a wider shorter kayak you’ll find everything feels easy and natural. In short: a kayaker that is at ease in a slim boat is also in full control and at ease in a wider boat, but going the other way takes longer and costs more money in time.

No matter what you get 1st start by learning how to do a wet-exit and re-entry (team and solo) before you learn anything else. Practice that until it’s easy for you. It may save your life.

Anyway…that how I see it.
Others may disagree.

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12 ft Wilderness Systems Pungo is a very stable open cockpit rec boat at 29 inchs wide. The 125 Tsunsmi is 12’9" and only 26 wide, but its equally stable, sea kayak style cockpit, tracks well, closed bulkheads front and rear, comfortable hig back seat, handles rougher water and you can turn around to look at things without feeling like you’re on a balance beam. I consider it to be a rec boat with sea kayak features and would still enjoy taking it out, but my 145 Tsunami is better in every way.

My 14 year old grand daughter used it until Ingot her a 140 Tsunami that’s 24 inches wide and more seaworthy in open tidal water. Other brands have similar models, but I think the Wilderness line is more stable and has more comfortable seating.

My absolute favorite rec boat is the 140 Pungo in Duralite that’s very light (I think around 43 lbs) but wide, exceptionally stable and fast for a rec boat. The Pungos have an optional consol that fills in the forward portion of the open cockpit to place items.

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The boats you said are available are fine for normal sized people.
12’ boats are ok for people who weigh less than 200/180 lbs and not real tall.
My first was a 12’ and I had a great time with it but was kinda cramped. I was 6’6" and 240#. Now I’m 6’5" and 220. Better fit but not great. My son has that one.

Going back to some basics before you buy, it might be good to read an article in California Kayaker Magazine of the basic types of kayaks. Issue #10 at California Kayaker Magazine - South West's source for paddlesports information

Likely you will be looking for sit on tops or recreational class kayaks.


You can’t go wrong with a Pungo, OP. I’ve owned the 120 and 140. The 140 is my go to boat because of my size.
Pungos have been around a long time in kayak model years for a reason.

If there are two of you I would suggest looking for two boats. As it is more fun paddling together rather than taking turns there is safety in numbers and in a lake often assistance in returning into your boat or getting one person to shore along with the capsized boat is much simpler with more than one person and boat.

Many of the cheaper rec-kayaks you see around for sale lack the weight capacity you may need and also are underrated in the weight capacity specs you may find.

We paddle in our good size river and also many lakes similar to what you are describing. I have a 14’7” Old Town solo canoe and she has a 10’ OT Rec-kayak. Her kayak has a sealed hatch compartment behind the seat and I added a small yoga ball blown up under the front deck for added floatation. In my canoe I added two peanut yoga balls laced into each end. In both cases they are for additional capsize floatation and they make the difference in getting back in and being partly swamped but also being able to bail and get going again.

Longer most of the time is better but we have found the 10’ OT rec-kayaks handle very well and track ok on open water.

SOT kayaks are becoming more of the craze lately here but the vast majority are still sit in.

Personally I’m older and less flexible and a little heavy, and for a long day on the water I do much better with canoe seating than kayak.

@string, can’t go wrong is the key. I like the seats and the console gives an option to get in and close it up frim sun ans waves.

@bud16415 has a good suggestion about having two for companionship to share the experience. The canoe would be another option, but they can be troublesome in high winds unless you learn the strikes and technique.

I haven’t seen either of those kayaks in person, but they both look like capable 12 foot recreational kayaks. The Tribute is narrower than the Conduit and also has a smaller cockpit. While neither is for rough water, the Tribute’s cockpit could take a spray skirt while the Conduit’s is too big. The Tribute is rated for up to 240 lbs versus 275 for the Conduit. I think the Tribute would be more fun to paddle and while neither would be unstable, the Tribute might feel a bit more “tippy”. The Tribute also weighs less than the Conduit.

If they’re both in comparable condition, I’d prefer to the Tribute unless you need the extra stability and weight capacity of the Conduit.

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My take is you could buy any decent used kayaks 12’ or longer, as long as they feel good to you to sit in. If you end up getting into kayaking, you will want to sell them and buy ones that you’ve determined fit your needs better.

But it’s hard to go too wrong in the beginning if you buy used. Another alternative is to rent and try out a few different kinds before deciding.


@Doggy_Paddler hard to argue against that as well, but the more you try out first, the better the fit. I found an event hosted by a vendor and tried out the Perceptions, Neckys, Old Towns and Wilderness Systems. The testing area was in the area I paddle on a day with moderately high waves. That’s when I realized I needed a 14 ft boat. I tried the sea kayak models of Necky and Perception, as well as a rec model Old Town, but I didn’t feel as comfortable or confident as in the Pungo 140. I should have tried one more boat that was available, the 145 Tsunami, which is as stable as the Pungo but with sea kayak features. I bought a second used Pungo and a 125 Tsunami in the meantime. Moral of the story, buy used if you can find a good one, and try as many as you can. I encourage everyone I know to try out my “boneyard fleet” before buying a kayak, but for some reason, many people don’t ask for advice. They typically try to validate preconceived notions.

With so many people on the forum, you’ll get lots of advice. You might get hooked on kayaking which could then change where you want to kayak. Lots of folks have purchased a kayak which ended up being the first of many. My advice:

  1. Get a used kayak. There are plenty out there that are in very
    good shape, but you may need guidance on how to discern ‘good’.
  2. Ensure that the kayak has intrinsic flotation e.g. watertight bow and stern compartments.
  3. Sit in the boat to see if it is comfortable … trying it out for several hours in the water would be ideal … usually a ‘tippy’ kayak doesn’t feel that way after sufficient butt time
  4. Although your intended use will avoid capsize, still learn self and assisted rescue techniques - this can be fun and will limit you less. This suggests lessons which, in fact, are wise - for safety reasons, but also financially smart long term.

There are many other issues which are too early to worry about e.g.

  • skeg vs. rudder vs. neither
  • for a skilled kayaker, long and narrow are typically more stable in heavy seas than short and wide - the latter feeling more stable to a beginner
  • composite vs. rotomolded vs. thermoform etc.

In my own case, my first kayaking was on the ocean so I knew I’d want a semi-serious sea kayak. My first kayak was a 17’ composite Seaward Endeavour. The advice above is NOT pointing you in this direction, but rather is meant to be useful for your intended use.

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Look for a boat with a comfortable seat! Whether you’re out on the lake every day or only a few times a year, nothing diminishes enjoyment more than backside pain. I’ve never owned a Pungo so I can’t comment on the seat, but I’ve had a couple of Old Towns (Cayuga 160 and Camden 120) and quite liked the seats. For the same money, I’d go for a good used Loon (or Pungo) over a new big box brand.

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Not to diminish the value of flotation, but most paddle boats will float, even if marginally, and the critical safety device is a good PFD. In recent years, I see more paddle boards than any other recreational craft. Half of them are typically out in the channel with the paddler swimming around the board without any vest in sight . . . I remember diving off cliffs on the Susquehanna River as a kid. No PFD in sight. I like the idea of educating, and regulating, such as mandatory floatation, but how do you keep people from body surfing or swimming in the ocean.

The safety advice is helpful, thank you

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As we move quickly into senior adulthood, I agree that comfort is key!


We will be trying them out soon.

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