Buying a used kayak

Hello All,

I am a newbie here so please be patient. I am looking for a used kayak, I have “test driven” quite a few and have narrowed the search down. My question is, what types of things should I be look for at when I check out a kayak. The obvious ones would be cracks or repairs in the hull. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.



A few things to check:
1. the bulkheads (for leaking or damage)

2. the hatch covers (for leaking)

3. Rudder - check for frayed cables, and make

sure all the hardware is in decent shape.

Check the rudder slides to make sure they are

not cracked or broken

4. some times on a older poly kayak there is

permanent oil canning (denting) and if it is

it will be hard and possibly impossible to fix

As you mentioned yourself, check the obvious if it is composite for cracks and holes.



What Jack said +…
Hidden stuff.

Get your head in there and look under the seat for wear from small pebbles, grit or a seat rubbing constantly against the hull. Push on the outside edge of the cockpit rim to see if it is unbonded from deck … if it is it will sort of peel or lift off on the vertical part of rim showing itself in the form of a gap … can be rebonded do no worries. Look for ‘white spots’ along the seam on the inside too. Wear in foot area from use can thin things out. Are the ‘points’ along the keel @ the very ends worn thin or flat ? Look or feel for soft spots on rear deck behind the cockpit, foredeck etc…

Look for a DEMO stamp
usually on the stern of the hull. These are boats that typically do not pass production standards, but make into the supply loop usually at a significant discount. on the used market should be cheaper than similar non-demo boats

good point
I worked for a company that got DEMO kayaks for instruction and attempted to sell them at a discounted retail price. If it’s got a stamp saying DEMO you shouldn’t be paying over 1/2retail for it even if it’s in great condition.

Great Advice
Thank you all for your input. Some really great feedback. This seems to be a really great forum. I think I should spend some time here.

Thanks again,


the Tempest 170 I bought was a rental with the demo stamp on the stern.

Yes I got it below 50% of retail and as a rental it had some scratches. However, I checked it out thoroughly, and saw that they had fixed the kink in the skeg line, resealed the bulkheads, and that there was no issue other than minor cosmetic markings from its life as a rental.

Not trying to sound as if I am defending my personal choice to purchase a demo here but I do want to say that I got much more boat in terms of performance characteristics and ability to grow into the sport than if I had not looked at this option. One of the frustrations I had when studying and demoing out boats was that you lose your “beginner” status pretty quickly if you are serious about pursuing the sport. You find yourself thinking of the possibilities that a higher end performance boat can do for you. I certainly don’t claim to intermediate status yet unless there is a “junior wanna be intermediate” label out there but I don’t think I am a rank beginner anymore either.

Sometimes it is hard to make the determination that this is the sport for you and putting out thousands of dollars for a boat that you may or may not be as enthusiastic about 6 months from now is a gamble I did not want to take initially. but just as importantly, I did not want to fall into a situation where I would outgrow a boat too quickly.

All indications are that I will be going to the glass Tempest 170, but until I can turn on a dime, roll effortlessly, paddle for 10 to 20 miles at a stretch without needing a crane to get me out of the boat, and talk my wife into it, (6 months for all but the wife part) I am ecstatic about the boat I have as I never would have been able to have this much boat with the necessary safety equipment with the budget I was willing to commit to.



– Last Updated: Aug-05-05 7:46 AM EST –

I bought a "demo" by accident. After I bought it I saw the "limited warranty" stamp on it. I called the place I bought it from and they were mortified. They offered to exchange it. Actually they demanded that they exchange it. The store was 60 miles away. They offered to bring me a new one on their truck so I wouldn't have to travel.

I really wanted to keep it as I liked the color, and the had only made a batch of "demos" in that color. They didn't offer that color in their actual line that were for sale.

Finally the store agree to let me keep it and I got a letter from the manufacturer stating that the kayak would be fully warranted.

They also assured me that the quality of the kayak was the same as a non demo unit.

Now I was dealing with a VERY reputable store, who's name a lot of folks here would know. I can't vouch for other stores, so yeah, be careful out there.

I agree with jeffh129 as far as dealing with a reputable dealer. I bought mine at Florida Bay Outfitters and I can’t tell you how confident I am that I got a quality boat that had been fully checked out. This boat was actually the favorite boat of one of the employees until his “glass” 170 came in.

jeffh. does your boat have DEMO stamped into the plastic at the stern? Kinda wondering how the dealer couldn’t have known as they pay significantly less for these boats too.


manufacturers offer dealers and EDU programs fleet vessels at reduced costs by stamping demo in the boat and reducing or removing the warrenty.

many times these are first quality boats many times they are cosmetic 2nds. NO structural issues, imagine the liability?

dealer are ‘suppose’ to use the boats in program for a season before selling. dealers who regularly sell fleet boats are not dealers long. they generally sell for 30-60% off retail, depending on make and condition.


that is precisely what FBO did. They had the tempest 170 as a demo / rental for exactly a year and then they sold their fleet for new stuff coming in. Boat is great. no defects taht I can see other than a few scratches.


Small Gelcpat repairs not important.
repairs necessitating use of fiberglass or kevlar are much more significant.