Best Kayaks under $500 (2018)


In my opinon kayaks around the $400-$700 range is where you can the “best bang for your buck.” Most people aren’t kayaking multiple times a week where the value of a $1000 kayak starts to show. Conversely, most people don’t want to buy an extremely cheap kayak that will give them a bad experience the 1 or 2 two times a month they use. Kayaks around $500 offer the best balance between quality and price.

1. Dagger Zydeco 9.0 Kayak

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The Dagger is great on long trips down moderately slow rivers (below Class 2) and large calm lakes where your paddling for long periods of time. It has a large cockpit and the ConTour CFS-R Seating System which provides good back support for long days on the water. Getting to the water isn’t bad either. The dagger weighs in at 38lbs which makes it relatively easy for people to carry. In addition, the Dagger’s dimensions are 9.1″ x 28.5″ which makes it a good size for almost anyone and is made of Molded Polyethylene which makes it pretty durable.

This kayak performs great on long trips down moderately slow rivers (below Class 2) and large calm lakes where your paddling for long periods of time. Although I’ve seen it used in the ocean, I recommend using a kayak better suited for the roughness of an ocean.  The rounded hull is not ideal for choppy waters and I’ve seen it used in the ocean before. But… I still recommend using a kayak better suited for the roughness of an ocean.

1. Very light (38lbs) – People ages 12 – 60 can load and unload the kayak themselves in their vehicle.

2. Excellent maneuverability – The rounded hull allows for “on a dime” turning in slow water and calm conditions.

3. Stability – People have consistently said that is easy to get into and out of the kayak because of it’s wide base and large cockpit.


  1. Poor Tracking – The length of the kayak and soft chine consistently affects how well the kayak is tracking through the water

It’s the little things that will affect your Kayaking experience down the line. Here are a few details about the Dagger Zydeco 9.0 Kayak that you might have overlooked.

  • Very comfortable seat – Almost all users agree that they are comfortable for hours in the ConTour CFS-R Seating Sytem.
  • Insulates well in cold temperatures. 
  • Short nose causes waves to overflow over the top in choppy conditions.
  • Well-designed paddle park – Doesn’t seem like a big deal but it’s super convenient to had a solid paddle park when your carrying the kayak or need to place it somewhere when fiddling with something in your kayak.

  • Accelerates well but decelerates poorly. The kayak tends to be swirly when stopping.

If you do decide to purchase this kayak we recommend buying a skeg which solves the tracking issue. Read about skegs here before purchasing.

2. Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak

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This kayak is probably the best general purpose kayak out there. It’s great for the ocean surf but doesn’t do that well for long kayak tours since it is somewhat slow. The stability makes for a great general purpose kayak that the kids can play on and that you can also take out fishing. The Frenzy weighs in at 44lbs, is 9ft long and 30in wide which is comparable to the Dagger.


  1. Durability and Longevity – These kayaks last for YEARS. Seriously. My family has had 4 Ocean Kayaks since 2001 and we still use them all the time.They are almost indestructible.
  2. Stability – Almost impossible to tip over and easy to get on if you fall off.
  3. Transportation and Storage – Lightweight and short enough to easily transport yourself.


  1. Slow – Compared to other kayaks the Ocean Kayak isn’t that fast.
  2. Fair Tracking – The kayak has low to medium tracking which makes it hard to travel in a straight line

Remember, it’s the little things that count!

  • Bungee Storage and the fact that it is a sit on top kayak allows for a lot of storage space but there is a possibility that your gear will get wet.
  • In choppy water the kayak there tends to be a loud hull slap.
  • If you have multiple, they stack perfectly on top of each other to allow for easy storage and transportation.

3. Vibe Skipjack 90 Kayak

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This kayak is great if you have any interest in fishing. It has 4 flush mount fishing rod holders and 2 sealed hatches to carry all your gear. It’s a great fishing kayak that can double as a general-purpose kayak. Like the Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak, it can be used in salt water and fresh water but is not great for long tours. It also has similar design specs as the Dagger and Ocean Kayak. It weights 46lb, is 9ft in length, and 32in wide.


  1. Excellent tracking – Even in hard paddling people have reported that this kayak glides perfectly straight.
  2. Stable – Wide base makes for great stability.


  1. Uncomfortable seat – If you are going to buy this Kayak try to find a bundle deal where they include an upgrade on the seat.

Here are a few details about the Vibe Skipjack 90 Kayak that you might have overlooked.

  • Dry storage for valuables and bungee storage for things you don’t mind getting wet.
  • GREAT for adding accessories onto your kayak.


There are so many kayaks that are similar quality but differ slightly depending on what you use them for so it’s impossible to say which one is the BEST.

Honestly, we are confident that you will be %100 satisfied with any of the kayaks above. If you don’t believe me – ask around, read around, or go into your local outdoors shop and you will hear the same thing!

Now that we’ve narrowed it down to three kayaks, try to envision what you will use it for the most. Then compare and understand the differences between them and choose the kayak that will provide the best experience for YOU.

If you enjoyed our review article style – please leave a comment! We’d love to hear from you.


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