Just not clear on how best to deal with kayak purchase. When buying a high dollar item such as house or car it is acceptable to negotiate a price. I even negotiated a couple of hundred off my mountain bike.

What about kayaks. I have no idea of the margins the dealers are working with.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to support my local merchants!!

Clearly if they are making a couple of hundred on the boat I do not feel it is proper to ask for a better price. They have rent, salaries etc.

If on the other hand the markup is major I see no problem asking for a lower price.

What do you all think? Pay the MSRP or deal? Again, not looking to squeeze my local merchants just not sure of how it works with a kayak or canoe.


Asking is free
They can always say " sorry, I can’t go any lower."

This topic is a hand grenade on the board.

IMO, kayaks are most definitely on the want list and not need. If the shop has helped you and given good advice I would pay what they are asking.

My rule of thumb is, if a person is given me a hard sale then I will negotiate, but if they are nice, helpful and low pressure I’m not going to pressure them back. Of course, this is as long as the price is in line with other places.

But no, margins on nice boats from a local shop are not very high.

Ryan L.

I doubt that it has changed much since I worked for an outfitter (including doing much of their purchasing) many decades ago. The margin back then was about 25 to 35% for quality marques of canoes and kayaks. Considering that overhead for an independent outfitter runs from 15% to 25%, that is a slim net profit. NO dealer could survive selling only boats.

In fact, due to the fact that they hog so much floor space, are labor intensive to inventory and to sell and don’t turn over very fast, they would be a net financial drain on the store if they didn’t generate more profitable income like the sale of paddles, PFD’s, paddling clothing and other outfitting, as well as people paying for classes and buying items for other recreational pursuits at the store.

To their credit, our last remaining excellent local indie outfitter has a price guarantee policy on boats in stock if the customer can bring in valid price documentation for the same craft available elsewhere (for fairness, cost of shipping has to be included in the negotiation). So, if you do your research and bring in copies of currently available prices and are respectful towards the dealer, they will usually make some kind of effort to sweeten the deal for you.

But consider that saving a few bucks, even a few hundred, pales in comparison to the convenience and pleasure of having one or more competent and well-stocked local outfitters at your disposal. I buy something at mine almost every month year round, often items I probably could have tracked down for a few percent less on the web or even at the local big box sporting centers.

But I consider the few extra dollars I spend there is a small fee to pay to support a great shop nearby that is open 7 days a week, which offers excellent classes and has provided our region’s outdoor recreation community many valuable services for over 40 years. It’s a place where everyone knows me and I know them.

Excellent points. You do mention shipping. I had asked my dealer if he could do anything on the price but stated no as he must absorb shipping. He did however offer 20% off on "accessories’. Seems like a fair deal.

And as you mentioned it’s nice to have that local flavor as opposed to the "big box’ store feel.

$3 check off box
There’s the $3 check off box on the tax form to support political advertising. I wish there were a $3 check off box to support your local kayak shop instead.

Professionals won’t be offended

– Last Updated: Jul-01-12 12:15 PM EST –

I'm never offended when a customer asks if there's a better price on the boat, but I've already done the legwork, and know for a fact what everyone else is selling the same boats for, and that our pricing IS already at the bottom end of the market.

Business is a competitive sport in its own way, and haggling is part of how it's done. If we wanted a world in which haggling wasn't allowed, we'd all shop at chain stores with high school kids as 'salespeople.'

However, if you're shopping at a small mom and pop local shop with limited inventory, don't be surprised if they feel like they don't have much room to work with you on price. And please keep in mind that the costs of shipping boats to dealers has become pretty astronomical in the last 10 years; that $1200 kayak might have cost $70-90 to ship to the dealer, and even if they're asking MSRP, they will usually be eating all of that shipping expense, so they're not REALLY getting the full list price.

Professionals won’t be offended
Gotcha !!

They are OFTEN offended
Very touchy topic, recently discussed to death here with much bickering.

The kayaking industry is smaller than you might think. Be aware that your inquiries are not confidential. If you go to four dealers and say, “I’ve decided to buy this kayak. I found it for $1800 at another dealer. What’s your best price?” there’s a good chance that the dealers are going to get riled up and start using words like “undercutting” as if you, the customer, are responsible for causing a price war.

I once had this conversation with a regional rep who wasn’t happy because I called around for prices:

Me: Gee, when you buy a new car, don’t you hunt for a good price?

Rep: I sure don’t! That’s a low-class thing to do! I’ve been buying from the same dealer for the last 40 years and I always pay the sticker price!

Me: You must be a lot richer than me.

Some old-fashioned prima donnas think it’s rude to discuss price. So choose your wording carefully. I would say, “What’s your best price on this kayak?” or possibly “Would you accept $xxxx?” I wouldn’t say, “Joe’s Kayaks offered me a better price. Can you beat it?” That’s going to make them mad.

I do believe in being loyal to a dealer. For my next kayak I would go first to the same guy I bought the last one from. But the reason for that is that he offered me the best kayak, for the lowest price, with the best service. I only found that dealer by trying several others before him. The others lacked either the kayak, the right price, or good service. They were probably mad that I didn’t buy the kayak from them, but they need to get over it (or think about how they can improve how they do business).

I don’t think kayak dealers should be expempt from the same market conditions and pressures as any other retailer. But be polite about it and don’t try to rip them off by asking for unreasonable things like a 40% discount or a free all-carbon paddle.

Well, I did say “professional”

– Last Updated: Jul-01-12 2:24 PM EST –

By that, I meant someone who understands that all of these things we buy and sell are means toward an end (money in the bank), not first-born children. Personally, I never mind it when someone comes in with a lower-price, since it give us a chance to show exactly WHAT we can do that makes the overall value of doing business with us the better proposition than buying from an REI or LL Bean.

As an addendum, every once in awhile, you do get the person who just calls up and says "what's your price on ___?", and doesn't really want to discuss much besides the dollar. Our answer is usually "well, street price on those is typically $___", and leave it at that. If they press further, the answer will always be "it really depends on the total transaction; if you're buying the boat plus a bunch of other things, the price on the boat will typically be better than if you're shopping boat only." At that point, the ball is in their court as to whether they want to do business with us, or just call around looking for someone to beat up on price.

Older inventory is often discounted
My experience with new, recent issue kayaks is that you won’t get much if any discount on the boat (it doesn’t hurt to ask if you’re polite about it), but you may get some discount on the peripherals (paddle, pfd, etc.). But there’s a limit to what most small shops can do (and the good shops are almost always small, at least compared to an REI or similar).

But many shops will offer pretty good discounts on older inventory that has been sitting around for a couple of seasons. A kayak that might ordinarily list for $2500 might have $200-$400 off, depending. Check the web listings of the shops within driving distance. Or if you’re willing to have it shipped, check dealers anywhere.

Of course, kayaks that have been rented for a season are often available for substantial discounts, but you’re limited to what they rent (which may make it hard to find much beyond rec kayaks) and condition could range from okay to beat-up.