If you are investing in a canoe for yourself and your family to enjoy, you probably want to make sure you will be getting enough bang for your buck.
After all, if a canoe is only going to last a year or two, there’s no point in springing for a top-of-the-line model, is there?
However, you may be wrong in this regard. Canoes have a great lifespan. People tend to keep them longer than they keep their vehicles. Even an abused canoe can last for over a decade. However, cheaper materials could greatly affect the longevity of your canoe.
How Long Should a New/Used Canoe Last?
So, how long should a canoe last? A Canoe will usually last for about 10-15 years before it needs major repairs or to be replaced.
If you store your canoe properly and fix problems as they arise due to regular wear and tear, your canoe can last throughout your child’s childhood and even into adulthood.
As you can see, a canoe is a great investment in your family’s ability to enjoy the outdoors. If you want to know more about how to make a canoe last, and what to look for when buying a used canoe, this is the article for you.
Keep on reading to learn all you need to know about canoe longevity.
The Durability of Different Canoes
Before we go into canoe care and how to make the lifespan of your canoe longer, let’s talk about the different materials your canoe could be made of, and how that will affect its lifespan.
Plastic canoes are great starter canoes, especially for kids, but don’t expect these to last you very long. Plastic is highly susceptible to things like UV rays, heat, and impacts.
Your canoe will become brittle and begin to have leaks long before you hit the 10-15 year mark. If you are planning on becoming a serious paddler, its best to skip out on the plastic canoe stage of your new hobby.
If you really love your plastic canoe for its lightweight nature and ease of use, you can buy polyethylene repair kits and use a blow torch to fix small holes.
While Plastic is resistant to saltwater, it is important to rinse off your canoe to protect the non-plastic parts from degrading. If you keep your kayak out of the sun when stored, and UV treat it periodically, it can last you about 10 years.
Aluminum is a great choice both for the durability and longevity of your canoe. Aluminum canoes are going to perform wonderfully in both lakes and rivers.
They can handle small impacts on things like rocks, tree branches, and other obstacles. You will also find that aluminum canoes feel very stable, so they are a great option for beginners as they won’t feel as tippy.
These canoes don’t require a lot of maintenance and still last a long time, so this is a great option for the occasional hobbyist, as well. You can even store this canoe outside without a cover and it will last for over a decade (although you should still cover it so it doesn’t get really dirty).
However, there are quite a few drawbacks to aluminum canoes that those who are looking for better performance should be aware of.
First of all, they are very heavy. Also, aluminum canoes tend to stick on top of river rocks instead of sliding over, even making a terrible grinding sound.
They also are pretty slow, so definitely not a good choice if you’re planning on touring with your canoe and are wanting to go long distances.
They also can get pretty hot in the sun, so be aware before you let children touch the canoe if it has been sitting out for a while while they play.
This material is the most common material for canoes on the market today. This material is highly durable and is actually fairly inexpensive. Canoes made of Royalex are traditionally great multi-purpose canoes.
However, similarly to plastic, Royalex is pretty sensitive to UV light, so you will need to store this canoe in your garage or in a UV-resistant storage bag.
You will also need to treat your canoe with a UV protectant periodically. Unfortunately, this material can also be quite heavy. If you store a Royalex canoe properly it will last you well over a decade.
However, it is definitely not a maintenance-free decade for canoes made of this material.
If you are serious about canoeing long distances with lots of gear, this is the material you will want your canoe to be made from. It is a very strong and light material, making your kayak not only highly durable but easy to transport and load off and on to your vehicle.
However, if you are planning on taking your canoe on a lot of rocks, Royalex will be a better choice for you.
Kevlar isn’t up to snuff when it comes to constant barrages of rocks. Additionally, this material will need UV protection the way that Royalex will.
Kevlar canoes will last you well over a decade if you refrain from taking them over swift rivers full of shallow rocks, and if you store and protect the kayak properly.
How to Buy a Used Canoe That Will Last
Now that you are familiar with the different types of canoes on the market, we can get into buying used canoes. Not only do you need to look at how long the canoe has been used, but also where it was used, with what frequency, and what material it was made from.
Once you know these factors, you should be able to calculate an approximate new-life expectancy for your new-to-you canoe, and possibly still get a decade of joy from a canoe at a greatly reduced cost.
Where to Find a Used Canoe
Online buying sites will have the most used canoes available. Your best bet is to look during the spring or fall, during the starts and ends of seasons. Hobbyists who are upgrading are likely to sell their older models.
Make sure to ask questions about use as well as what maintenance work they did in order to calculate if its still a good deal, similar to what you would do for a used vehicle.
You should also see if there are any canoe rentals in your area. During the spring and fall, many of these places will sell older canoes to make room for new ones.
However, these ones are much more likely to have been repaired many times over and have a lot of wear and tear.
A canoe from an outfitter should be much cheaper than one you purchase from a part-time hobbyist, so make sure you get an idea of prices of both before you make a decision.
What to Pay for a Used Canoe
A used canoe should lose about 35% of its market value after one season of use, more if there were any major repairs that needed to be done.
You should not go looking for a $1000 canoe for $100, as it will likely have repairs that are more than you can handle. In this case, you could expect to pay about $650 for this canoe, barring any structural damage.
A canoe used for a singular season could easily last you 12-14 years if you maintain it properly, so even this kind of discount is a great deal.
You may also be able to get some extras thrown in from the seller for free or at a discount depending upon what else in their stash they are upgrading for the new season.
The Questions You Should Ask a Seller
How and Where Was This Canoe Stored?
As we have discussed, most canoes are very susceptible to sunlight and UV ray damage. If a canoe wasn’t stored properly, that can knock years off of its lifespan, not just a singular season if you’re buying a fairly new canoe.
How Old is the Canoe and How Often Was it Used?
A year-old canoe used daily at a rental company might be in much worse shape than a three-year-old canoe that was only taken out a few times a year.
Make sure to be discerning between age and how much it was used. Consider it like mileage on a vehicle, and you’ll be all set to make a good decision.
Have You Done Any Repairs On The Canoe?
Repairs could potentially mean unseen structural damage. If the canoe has had a lot of repairs, you may want to look elsewhere, especially if the price isn’t right.
Can I Test-Paddle?
If there is a body of water nearby, a seller shouldn’t have a problem with you taking the canoe out for a spin. If its a logistics issue, this won’t mean much.
If the seller gets really jumpy despite there being a body of water nearby, watch out. This probably means there’s a major leak and they are trying to profit off of your misfortune.