Whether you’re a greenhorn paddler looking for your first rig or a seasoned waterman adding to the collection; we’re all looking for a great deal. Shopping at the right time can help your odds through increased availability, motivated sellers, or vendors looking to reduce outdated inventory. In this article we go into detail on the best time to buy a kayak to make sure you’re prepared to strike when the paddle’s hot.
New or Used
The first big decision that you’ll have to make is whether to buy used or new. We’ve covered the pros and cons of each option extensively before. Regardless of your preference it’s worth shopping around because much like Yak’s milk, these boats ain’t cheap. (FYI one pound of Himalayan Yak cheese runs for around $30, just in case you were wondering.) If you’re committed to buying a shiny new kayak, or the latest model, you’ll have a harder time than those who don’t mind a few scratches here and there. The used kayak market offers much more opportunity for great deals and negotiations than you’ll find from boat manufacturers and retailers. It’s not impossible to find a great deal on a new kayak – but you have to be willing to wait.
Personal sales of kayaks are usually motivated by one of three reasons: moving, upgrading, or disinterest in the hobby. All three of those reasons tend to coalesce when a kayak fisherman is bound for greener pastures. Kayaks may be seen as compact and small on the water but they’re rarely viewed that way by spouses eyeing a messy garage. As a result kayaks are often victims of the purging process that usually accompanies a house move. Timing your purchase to coincide with selling season is a great strategy to source a used kayak.
The best time to list your house for sale is between the second half of March and the first half of June according to Zillow. This pattern holds true for most of the U.S., but may be affected by regional discrepancies. For the majority of homeowners their personal residence is also their largest asset. Most people will take low cost steps to maximize their profits and selling at the right time is an easy way to try and boost the odds of a quick and profitable sale.
Spring Time Sellers
The other great reason to pay attention during housing season is that most sellers tend earn a profit. ATTOM Data Solutions, a real estate research firm, stated in their annual report that home sellers in 2018 realized an average home price gain since purchase of $61,000. Home sellers have usually already figured out their net and started planning a few new purchases. That much cheddar is apt to entice paddlers to offload their older model and upgrade to the latest and greatest.
Outside of home sales there’s another important event that happens every spring: taxes. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF) 65% of taxpayers expected a refund in 2019. Around 9% of them planned to spend that refund on a “splurge purchase” (kayaks unfortunately don’t fall into the “Everyday Expenses” category). In 2018 the average tax refund was $1,949, which can afford a really nice fishing kayak.
All of these reasons make Spring the best time to buy a kayak, at least a used one. Sellers are going to be primed to offload their old yak quickly. In addition the influx of new kayak models, as we detail below, and inviting weather will serve as attractive reasons for yakker’s to upgrade.
Buying New Kayaks
Retailers and wholesalers operate on a different calendar than used sellers. They’re more heavily influenced by the latest market trends, consumer tastes, and product cycles.
Kayak companies spend a lot of time and money in the creation and design of kayak models. New models must be designed, tested, tweaked, and re-tweaked. Once they’re perfected companies invest substantial capital into the kayak moulds which have to be specially crafted via CNC machining. Finally supply chains need to be optimized and the marketing campaigns have tos pin up. This entire process can take between 12 and 36 months and a kayak company can expect to get between 5 and 10 years of production per model.
Most new kayak products make their debut at the industry’s leading expo show, ICAST, which takes place each year in July. New models are debuted to the public and details are revealed to hype up future customers. After the expo orders are placed and schedules are inked for delivery dates, usually near the beginning of the new year.
Fall Shopping Spree
During the time between order and delivery, September through January, retailers are going to try to offload their older models. The variance in models year over year affects customer demand, which will in turn affects how quickly retailers try to offload old inventory. Kayak companies use a lot of the same tricks as auto-manufacturers on annual updates. They’ll introduce subtle or aesthetic changes to current production models rather than debut a brand new one. New kayak models require lots of R&D time and molds, which are not inexpensive. It’s a lot easier, and much more cost effective, to design new add on parts or accessories than to life-cycle an entirely new design.
When kayak companies do introduce new models, or new innovations, older models quickly fall from favor. Perhaps the most recent version of this story played out with Hobie. Hobie is well known for their proprietary propulsion system and recently introduced several new versions of their Mirage drive that significantly differentiated from older models. Their most recent drive system incorporated new longevity and steering technologies that has quickly driven older drives into obsolescence. Those drives still work great, they’re just not in as high demand anymore.
Out with the Old
If you’re committed to buying a new kayak, or even a SUP, and don’t need the newest model out there, then Fall and Winter will be your best time to purchase. Vendors hurrying to get rid of older models will be more incentivized to offer discounts and run sales. We’ve seen our partner, Austin Canoes & Kayaks, discount closeout models by as much as 28%. As you might imagine Kayak sales tend to dip in the colder months. Shopping bonanzas like Black Friday and the Christmas shopping season can offer a much needed bump in sales. New models usually hit the shelf around March in time for the Spring season. So keep an eye out in January and February for some great sales.
Stacks on Stacks On Yaks
Following the tips above is generally good advice if your budget is tight. If you have the clamshells then the best time to buy a kayak is right now. Do your homework, get what you want, and get a deal, but don’t miss a prime fishing season just to save a few bucks. There are only 52 weekends in a year; and every one you don’t spend on the water is another missed opportunity.
Thinking about buying a new Yak? Head on over to our kayak buying guide to get the scoop on every fishing kayak on the market.