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If you are a lover of water sports, a kayak would be a great investment because it allows you to enjoy a wide range of activities such as fishing, touring, or exploration. For all these activities, a sit-in kayak comes highly recommended as it will help you to keep your lower body and legs protected from the cold wind and water. 

Granted, there are many types of kayaks under 500. This makes it so challenging to choose the best when you’re just a beginner. In this post, we take you through a detailed buying guide to help you choose the best kayak. We also give you options to choose from to make your buying so much easier.

Buying Guide

Here is a list of some of the most important features to consider before buying a kayak. 


  • Versatility


A kayak should be versatile enough to perform well in different environments. You should be able to at least use it in a pond, lake, river, or the ocean. Ensure that your kayak can put in a decent performance in a variety of environments so that you’re not just limited to one environment. 

However, it is important to note that most kayaks under $500 operate well in calm environments such as ponds, and small lakes and rivers. Any environment with unpredictable currents such as an ocean or fast flowing river would be too risky


  • Comfort


Since kayaking is usually done for leisure, comfort is important. There a few things that you need to check to ensure you’re comfortable. The first is the quality of the seat. Some kayaks have very basic seats that are uncomfortable and not good for your back. If you’re spending a lot of time on the kayak, get one that has ergonomic seats with padding. For rough water kayaking, extra padding is required especially for thighs and knees. 

The cockpit should also be spacious enough for comfortable seating. Other things that enhance comfort include adjustable foot braces to accommodate people of different sizes. Some kayaks also have adjustable thigh straps. 


  • Size and Shape


Kayaks come in different sizes and shapes. This depends a lot on the purpose. Kayaks meant for recreation use or fishing are usually shorter and wider to offer more stability. On the contrary, kayaks that are designed for tough currents such as in rivers and oceans are usually long and narrow to allow for speed and easier maneuverability. Also, if you’re a beginner, then get a shorter model for more stability and easier control. 

Also, consider the height and weight of the user first before buying the kayak. For taller people, get a longer kayak and vice versa. The size of the user will also determine the size of the cockpit. Generally, kayaks with larger cockpits are more comfortable and it’s easy for the paddler to move in and out of the kayak. 

In addition, all kayaks usually have a maximum load capacity which accounts for the weight of the paddler and gear on board. You should never exceed the limit.


  • Kayak Weight


The weight of the kayak affects several things. The most important thing is the portability. Getting a heavy kayak in and out of water can be a difficult task especially if you are doing it alone. Also, because most kayaks have a rigid hull, they are usually hoisted onto the roof of a car for transportation. Can you imagine doing this alone for a kayak that weighs over 50 pounds? 

Weight also affects stability. Heavier kayaks are more stable than light ones. And in case portability is an issue for you, you may decide to go for one that is less bulky. We even have inflatable kayaks. After use, you can simply deflate it and put it in the trunk of your car. 


  • Storage 


It is good to have sufficient storage space on a kayak especially if you will be spending a lot of time using it. You need somewhere safe to store your essentials and kayaking gear. Many kayaks have storage compartments both at the front and at the back of the kayak. The back compartment is usually bigger than the front one. These compartments usually have covers to keep water out. 

Other kayaks have cup holders on the dashboard to keep your beverages safe. Others also have a provision at the front to keep your electronic devices. As you store your items, remember to stick to the load limit.


  • Construction 


The material the kayak is made from will determine the weight, durability, purpose, and even price. Most kayaks are made of high-density plastic. Such kayaks are relatively more expensive, heavier, and more durable. 

Some are made from inflatable polythene. These are inexpensive and lightweight and are good for recreational kayaking. A few models are made from a combination of materials such as aluminum and fiberglass. These might be more expensive and are mostly used by experienced kayakers. 


  • Kayak Skirt Compatibility 


A kayak skirt refers to a piece of clothing used to cover the cockpit area and is fastened to a kayaker’s waist to keep the kayaker dry and prevent water from getting into the kayak. Not all kayaks are compatible with a skirt. 

The kayak skirt helps you to keep dry and prevents flooding of the cockpit for safety reasons. This is especially important if your kayak has a low deck or if you plan to go kayaking in rough environments with strong currents such as in rivers and oceans.


  • Color


Color has very little to do with beauty and a lot more to do with safety. Get a kayak with a color that stands out so that in case of an emergency, it would be easier to be seen from afar. 

5 Best Sit-in Kayak Under $500

Sun Dolphin Sit In Kayak
  • Great for lakes and rivers and to get to those excluded fishing spots
  • Lightweight, easy to carry
  • Tracks and paddles with ease while offering maximum stability

This 12-foot sit-in kayak is extremely popular with beginners. This might have to do with the fact that it’s very easy to paddle. It’s also very stable and so the risk of capsizing is low. You can trust that it can make it through tough kayaking conditions. It is made from high-quality materials guaranteeing longevity. So you are assured that it will serve you well for many years to come. 

It has a waterproof storage compartment that keeps your gear safe and dry so you do not have to take your things out every time you go kayaking. Also, this kayak has two ports to drain out the water; one at the back and the other at the front. 

Getting in and out of the kayak is made easy with the large cockpit area. And although tracking might be awkward at the beginning, you will get the hang of it after a short duration of use. 


  • Large watertight compartment that keeps things dry
  • Easy to get in and out
  • Spacious cockpit
  • Comfortable seating area
  • Adjustable foot braces
  • Protective thigh pads


  • Has few handles
  • Moving it around is hard 


Perception Flash 9.5 Sit Inside Kayak 

Perception Flash Inside Kayak
  • Extreme stability and easy paddling characteristics make this kayak ideal for beginners and leisurely afternoon voyages - Made in USA
  • Dual tracking channels keep the boat on course; the kayak's short length makes it exceptionally maneuverable
  • Adjustable foot braces accommodate paddlers of different sizes. The zone comfort seating with a high Seat back make for a comfortable ride for paddlers of all sizes.

This sit-in kayak is perfect for family fun at your local lake, pond, or a slow-moving river. And if you’re the adventurous type, you can also use it calm coastal environments. At 9.5 feet, the kayak is very easy to maneuver even for beginners. It has dual tracking channels that keep it on course and help to provide stability without interfering with maneuverability.  

The foot braces are adjustable to accommodate people of different sizes. It has a high-back seat with comfortable padding. This makes it possible to stay in water for as long as possible without feeling fatigued. 

The dashboard is easily accessible and it has a cup holder to keep your beverages secure preventing spillages. There is also a small provision at the front to store small gear. For extra storage space, there is a storage hatch at the back that will keep your stuff dry. If you love fishing, you will appreciate the molded-in rod holders. It has a maximum capacity of 325 pounds and is available in three attractive colors. 


  • Spacious cockpit
  • Dashboard cup holder for keeping beverages
  • Molded-in rod holders for fishing and security
  • Rear storage hatch 


  • Small seat


Wilderness Systems Pungo 12.5” Sit Inside Recreational Kayak

Wilderness Recreational Kayak
  • Extreme stability and easy paddling characteristics make this kayak ideal for beginners and leisurely afternoon voyages - Made in USA
  • Dual tracking channels keep the boat on course; the kayak's short length makes it exceptionally maneuverable
  • Adjustable foot braces accommodate paddlers of different sizes. The zone comfort seating with a high Seat back make for a comfortable ride for paddlers of all sizes.

The Wilderness Systems Pungo 12.5” Sit-Inside Recreational Kayak offers comfort and unbelievable water performance at an affordable cost. It is ideal for recreational uses such as an afternoon excursion with the family. 

It has an amazing dashboard that comes with two cup holders, space for accessories, a removable dry box, and a charging station for your electronics. Isn’t that amazing? Also, the 12.5-inch length offers great stability in water making it easy to maneuver.  The hull has a solid construction that offers stability without sacrificing performance. There is a huge storage space at the back to keep all your gear safe.

Comfort is key especially for recreational kayaking and this kayak has not been left behind in that regard. It is fitted with a Phase 3 Air Pro seat that is very comfortable to sit on. The seat is ergonomically designed to fit your back and prevent fatigue and strain. It is also covered with a breathable mesh which enhances greater airflow keeping you cool and dry. For additional comfort, this kayak has adjustable thigh pads, something that is not common in other kayaks. 


  • Sealed storage hatch 
  • Comfortable seating
  • Upgraded dashboard 
  • Charging capability
  • Two cup holders


  • Easily dented


  1. Sun Dolphin Aruba 10-Foot Sit-in Kayak
Sun Dolphin Sit-In Kayak
  • Great for lakes and rivers. Capacity-250 pounds
  • Tracks and paddles with ease while offering maximum stability
  • Lightweight, easy to carry

This kayak is perfect for adventure because of its lightweight and compact design. It has an open cockpit meaning you can easily get in and out. And if you’re worried about storage because you have many items you would like to carry, then that has been taken care of by the dedicated storage well at the back. 

The kayak is ideal for long trips as it has adjustable foot braces and a spacious seating area, which guarantees comfort throughout your kayaking experience. It can support a maximum capacity of 250 pounds. 

At just 10 feet long, the Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak is very easy to maneuver and is highly recommended for anyone who is kayaking for the first time. 

It is manufactured using high-density polythene meaning it is sturdy and durable. It’s also very stable and you can use it for hunting or fishing expeditions. There are handles that have been attached to the sides to enhance portability. 


  • Lightweight  and easily portable
  • Spacious and comfortable seating area 
  • Open cockpit
  • Adjustable foot braces
  • Ample storage space


  • The plastic is a bit thin
  • Shallow cockpit


  • Driftsun Sculpin Rotomolded Sit-in Kayak

Driftsun Sit-In Kayak
  • SmartTrack Rudder Included. Foot operated rudder helps the kayak track properly and turn quickly. The SmartTrack Rudder lets you stay in control and maneuver the kayak to the right direction even on windy days and in currents.
  • Front and Back Dry Storage Compartments. Take the kayak in and out of the water with all your essentials handy. The front side of the kayak has a small dry storage compartment while the rear end has a larger storage unit. The dry compartments are designed with easy to remove and attach covers.
  • Includes Paddle and Accessories. No need to pay extra to rig your kayak. The Driftsun Sculpin comes with a paddle and rudder. It is equipped with a rod holder and is also spray skirt compatible.


If you are in the market for a reliable kayak with impressive performance, then look no further than this 12.5 inch Driftsun Sculpin Rotomolded Sit-in Kayak. It weighs just 25kgs meaning you can carry it around with ease. At the same time is solid enough and has great stability when in water. With a V-shaped hull that is made from impact-resistant materials, this kayak will offer you a smooth ride and is suitable even for beginners. 

It also has a sturdy yet light paddle that allows you to maneuver in water smoothly even in rough weather. For storage purposes, this kayak has front and rear storage compartments to keep all your essentials dry. The cockpit is spacious and easily accessible for you to enter and exit with ease. Additionally, the seat is ergonomically designed for maximum comfort and can be adjusted to suit your preferences. 

This sit-in kaya is spray skirt compatible providing splash-protection. It comes already rigged with a rod holder to make your fishing experience more enjoyable. 


  • The cockpit is deep and spacious for easy entry and exit
  • Ergonomically designed seating area
  • Spray skirt  compatible
  • Easy to carry around
  • Ample storage


  • Not all parts are preassembled
  • Comparatively heavier than other kayaks


As mentioned earlier, there are many sit-in kayaks to choose from depending on the purpose you have in mind. Before picking the one that is the best one for you, it is important to first check on a few essential things. This review and buying guide takes you through the few things you should consider when buying a kayak under $500. There is also a list of great kayaks to choose from.

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