With the RRP of most whitewater kayaks hitting the dizzy heights of £900-£1000 buying second hand has a great deal of appeal. There are hundreds of unsused boats out there lurking at the bottom of gardens or getting in the way in garages.

You can find adverts for 2nd hand boats listed on Kayak/Canoe Forums, Facebook groups and of course sites like ebay. If you can it is always best to see the boat in person as you will potentially be buying something that will cost 100s of pounds and will need to take you safely down whitewater.

I am going to give a quick run down of what to look out for if you decide to go down the 2nd hand route. I’m also going to focus on the plastic kayaks that the vast majority of paddlers use.


Is the boat complete? Is there any outfitting missing? Are all footrest parts in place and is the drain bung (if fitted) present. Spare parts for most makes of kayaks can be found easily.

Look for stress marks on the plastic, does the boat look as it is has been folded or compressed out of shape. Any sign of this type of damage needs to be inspected and though about very carefully. If a boat has been folded it will retain an inherent weakness in the area of the fold and could fold again.

Look out for serious oil canning. This is when the hull (mainly) develops large concave dents. The most common place for this to occur is under the seat. A little bit of oil canning isn’t a major issue. A little bit of time in the sun or hot water can often take care of slight amounts of oil canning.

Plastic boats will last for years but have a good look for any deep scratches or repairs. It’s also worth looking carefully for any significant wear to the hull. In boats that have a multicoloured plastic design scheme spotting wear is fairly easy as some of the plastic of a particular colour may have been worn away.


Outfitting takes a beating. Check for wear on all the moving parts, the padding itself and make sure that everything is present and it works. Metal parts on ratchets can rust. They can be replaced but at a cost.

Grab handles usually take a couple of different forms. Security bars – which are essentially rods or plates of metal used as handles or climbing tape based systems. Check for wear, check that they are solid and check for heavy fading/UV damage if they are fabric/tape based. Grab handles can be easily replaced if required.

If anything at all needs to be replaced or repaired factor them into your negotiations.