The Purchasing Guide for Starting a Canoe and Kayak Rental Business

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The Canoe and Kayak Rental Business Purchasing Guide

The Purchasing Guide for Starting a Canoe and Kayak Rental Business Purchasing Image

Make smart decisions when purchasing equipment for your Canoe and Kayak Rental Business. Learn about the equipment you will need, typical costs, and where are the best places to buy it.

Most canoe rental owners will need the following equipment and materials to get started:

Aside from the boats and related equipment that customers will need in order to pilot canoes and kayaks, consider selling refreshments and healthy snacks on location.

Sample List of Purchases

A typical person looking to purchase equipment for a canoe and kayak rental business might make the following purchases:

Grand Total: $60,914+

Here are some of the most important buying decisions that your canoe rental business will have to make. We outline the key considerations you’ll need to keep in mind when making these purchases and provide some popular options.

Considerations When Buying Canoes & Kayaks

Most canoe rental businesses rent out both canoes and kayaks to accommodate groups of different sizes and interests. Kayaks are typically plastic and seat one or two people. Most canoe rentals use aluminum canoes, 14 to 16 feet in length, that seat two passengers.

Construction Material

Rental businesses typically choose raw (unpainted) aluminum canoes because the rough finish hides dirt and wear better (painted canoes will require repainting after heavy commercial use). The thickness of the metal is also an important consideration: most commercial operations use .040 gauge aluminum for its lightness and relative strength. Higher gauges are typically required if the canoes will be taken through rapids.


Whenever possible, look for rental-grade canoes and kayaks which are better designed to handle the stresses of repeated use in a commercial environment. These boats are generally easier to handle (less likely to tip) and designed for novice users. These watercraft generally have greater emphasis on strength and durability over aesthetics.

Purchasing Options

When purchasing a fleet of boats for your livery, you have a couple of options. You can purchase them directly from the manufacturers and have them shipped to your location, which has the benefit of a uniform, professional look for your fleet. Most manufacturers have bulk discounts for liveries, however these will have minimum purchase amounts that might not be ideal for your situation. If you don’t need to purchase many canoes in bulk or don’t want to pay the shipping charges, it might make sense to purchase a smaller number from local outdoors stores. Keep in mind that retailers may not offer “rental-grade” equipment which is worth the investment.

Sourcing used boats is another option, consider placing ads in local papers to buy used canoes and kayaks from people. This can give you a large assortment of different craft for low prices, however you’ll need to ensure that each one you buy is safe and in good condition.


When you source paddles for your business, ensure you purchase both kayak (double-bladed) and canoe (single-bladed) paddles, assuming you rent out both types of watercraft. Most paddles come in multiple lengths, so ensure you purchase a selection of lengths that are comfortable to use for both youths and adults. Look for plastic and metal paddles over wooden ones for their robustness and overall longevity. When possible, look for paddles that are designated “rental grade” as these are designed to handle repeated use (and misuse).

Life Jackets

Your business will require that all of your customers wear life jackets while on the water. Purchase a selection of life jackets that fit a wide range of body sizes, from youths to adults. Additionally, ensure that the life jackets that you purchase are US Coast Guard approved (most are).

Unless your business is fortunate enough to be located near a physical store that sells canoes and kayaks in bulk, you may have to order some equipment from an online retailer. Look for online stores that specialize in selling “rental” equipment because these are more likely to sell in larger quantities at wholesale prices. The bottom line is that you can purchase the needed equipment from a variety of sources.

Canoe & Kayak Wholesalers

Paddle Wholesalers

Life Jacket Wholesalers

Next Steps

Find out more about what goes into starting and running a canoe and kayak rental business

Protect your personal assets from unexpected legal claims. Consider structuring your business as an LLC.

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