Buying A Used Kayak – Do’s and Don’ts


If you’re new to kayak fishing, wanting to upgrade, or wanting to add another one to the fleet, you may want to consider buying a used kayak….But Buyer Be Ware!

First, let’s take a look at the biggest “Don’t” of them all – NEVER buy a used kayak without the MSO / Title.

(Manufactured statement of Origin if it hasn’t been registered.)

Why is the title for a kayak important? Two reasons:

  1. It shows that it’s not stolen.
  2. The state of Texas and I would assume the other 49 states as well, requires the kayak to be registered before you can put a motor on it of any kind. What do they need to register it? A title.

I can hear what you’re saying now. “I don’t plan on putting a trolling motor on my kayak.” First…see reason #1. Second, what about the person that buys it from you. Is it possible they might want to install one?

The other thing I can hear you saying is, “I would never buy a kayak without the title”, however, it’s amazing how much the excitement for a new kayak can push common sense right out the window. Check out this FaceBook post from one of the local guys…We’ll call him J.

Tips for Buying a used kayak

When I asked J if I could use his experience as a teachable moment for others, and share it on my website, here’s what he said.

buying a used kayak

His excitement for getting a good deal on a great kayak and the fact that someone else vouched for the seller overrode what he knew he should do. Thankfully, the situation seems to have a happy ending. The reason the seller didn’t have the title was due to a nasty break up. The spouse took the title and wouldn’t give it back. Based on his recent updates, the situation has been worked out and he’s getting the title.

UPDATE 1: There have been questions about how to get the MSO (Manufacturers Statement of Origin) for your kayak. When you buy a new one, they give it to you with the paperwork. (When you register it, this becomes the title). If the sales guy doesn’t do this, you can always contact the manufacturer, provide the receipt and ID number on the kayak, and they will issue the MSO. I didn’t clarify that originally…my fault and my apologies.

UPDATE 2: There was a question about whether or not you need a title to put a trolling motor on the kayak. YES! (In Texas). Here is what Texas Parks and Wildlife’s website says.

Exempted vessels:

  • Non-motorized canoes, kayaks, punts, rowboats, or rubber rafts (regardless of length) when paddled, poled, or oared and sailboats under 14 feet in length when windblown. Adding an outboard or trolling motor to one of these types requires titling and registration.

Registration requirements for TPWL.

The next few rules for buying a used kayak don’t require much explanation, so let’s roll through them quickly.

  • Never buy “sight unseen.” In other words, never buy a kayak without personally inspecting it.
  • If buying a used kayak that has been stored outside, you should only do so with the understanding that U.V. (sunlight) is horribly rough on plastic. Typically a kayak that has been stored outside will show heavy bleaching and possible weakening of the plastic itself. These should be considered “disposable.” Buy it very cheap and expect it to have a short lifespan. These can be good starter kayaks for those on a tight budget, but in most circumstances, I would suggest you get a lesser kayak that is in better shape.

So what are some things you should do when buying a used kayak?

  • Look for deals that include additional equipment. “12 Foot Kayak for Sale with Paddle and Crate – $500.00”
  • Buy Local whenever possible. The whole transaction goes smoother.
  • Always get a bill of sale with both parties signatures and a witness.
  • Inspect it very closely. Many people skip this step and just give it a “quick once over” because they are worried about insulting the seller. If it is a legitimate transaction, the seller should understand that you are about to spend several hundred dollars and need to make a wise decision. If they don’t understand, take your money and go home.
    • What should you inspect?
      • The Keel
      • The contact points with the shore (Bow and stern)
      • Installation points
      • Anchor points for bungee chords
      • Hinges on the high/low seat if applicable.
      • The hull for deep scratching. Some scratching is normal, but kayaks used in the salt are especially prone to oyster rash.
  • Always meet at a well lit public place. Never meet someone at their house. If the seller has a problem with this, keep your money and stay home.

If you follow these simple guidelines, the chances of purchasing a stolen kayak or a damaged one are greatly reduced. Keep an eye out for our upcoming article on Best Practices for Selling Your Kayak.

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