Great Bargains in Cheap Inflatable Boats & Kayaks
Taking a chance on cheap inflatable boats doesn’t have to be a risky proposition. Among these ultra-budget boats, you have two basic choices: recreational rafts and beginner kayaks.
Most of the cheap inflatable boats are 1, 2, or 3-person craft that are for use on swimming beaches and as backyard pool toys. The kayaks, however, are surprisingly rugged little beasts that handle well floating down rivers. If you don’t have the budget to buy a hard-shell canoe or kayak, a 23-lb inflatable kayak will be a hoot for Class I - III rapids.
What to Expect
If you plan to buy a cheap inflatable in the $50-$100 range, you probably realize that you may not get more than a dozen afternoons of use before you develop problems with it. If the boat is in the $100-$500 range, it is more of an investment and you should expect it to hold up over dozens of uses. As long as you aren’t too rough with the raft or kayak, and don’t over-inflate them, you’ll find that cheap inflatables hold up remarkably well.
Where to Buy
This isn’t an extensive list, but it reflects the best places online to buy inexpensive boats and kayaks.
Amazon.com – Expect to find cheap inflatable boats for anywhere from $40 to several hundred dollars including boats and kayaks made by Advanced Elements, Coleman, Intex, RST Marine, Sea Eagle, and Sevylor. When you click and you go to any product page, Amazon will also show you five or six similar boats in the section entitled, “Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed.” These links are a dynamic shopping tool to help you compare dozens of models. At Amazon, you also benefit from reading ratings and reviews by current owners of the model you are looking for.
Ebay.com – There are some good bargains to be had on eBay, but it’s a must that you know what you are looking for (brand, model, length) before you start bidding. For best results compare prices of cheap inflatable boats against prices of the same model on Amazon as well as at the manufacturer’s website. And make sure you don’t miss out on any package deals (free storage bag, air pump, paddles, etc.) that you will get from a boat or kayak dealer.
SeaEagle.com - There are a small number of manufacturers that produce some good, inexpensive boats for the budget-minded consumer. Take a look at Sea Eagle which offers listings of used, cheaper models including kayaks. The price will be at least $50 - $150 less than new and all boats have been tested with a 72-hour inflation, as well as visual inspection. They also offer the same 6-month money back guarantee on used boats that they do on new, as well as a 3-year warranty. No other boat maker backs up their products with such a generous offer to its customers.
Should You Buy a Cheap Model?
There is a good selection of cheap inflatable boats available online to choose from, just be sure to pay attention to reviews that offer critical feedback of how the boat handles while paddling and tracking, and especially how well it inflates/deflates — i.e., does it have poor raft-type valves or better quality two-way Boston valves? The price, color, look, and brand name won’t matter much if the boat or kayak is uncomfortable, too small, or just doesn’t perform as well as you had hoped. Reading reviews are your best bet to getting an idea of whether or not a cheap, budget-priced inflatable boat will be a great bargain, or a waste of money.
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