Canoes depreciate about ten percent when they leave the store, another ten percent when they get their first scratch. The downward spiral continues as dings pile up. Age of the craft means nothing. Condition is everything!
In time, even the best kept canoe will incur some nicks that will drive its value down. You'll save big if you buy a good used canoe and let someone else take the hits.
Be aware that there's an inverse relationship between high performance (paddling pleasure!) and durability. Lightweight, fine-lined Kevlar composite canoes are more easily damaged than Royalex or polyethylene craft. But they are easier to repair. Indeed, a badly damaged composite canoe can - in a few hours - usually be repaired to cosmetic new. Royalex and aluminum canoes mend solid, but the patch is a glaring reminder of the rock you hit. A badly damaged polyethylene canoe is best destroyed. (You'll find detailed repair procedures for all types of canoes in my book, Expedition Canoeing).
The best canoes are not advertised in newspapers. They're sold by word-of-mouth and listed in canoe club publications, and on web-sites like Paddling.com.
Is it safe to buy a used canoe on the strength of an ad?
Usually, yes. Selling a good canoe is like parting with a vintage Porsche that you've driven for years. Accomplished paddlers love their boats, even those they are about to part with. With rare exceptions, they'll tell you the truth.
Suppose you buy a canoe in Minnesota, and live in Pennsylvania. Isn't it frightfully expensive to ship a canoe from Viking land to the Keystone state?
Yes and no. Some small transfer companies will carry canoes on a "space available" basis. But to keep the cost down, you must be willing to accept delivery at a place that's convenient to the trucker - and it probably won't be your home. I've had two canoes shipped to me by truck: in each case the charge was under 150 dollars. I once bought a canoe that came by rail. Transit time was 27 days and the shipping cost was 75 dollars.
Option #2: Contact your local canoe dealer and ask if any of his suppliers also deliver canoes to the state where your used canoe is located. Companies that have their own delivery trucks may drop ten canoes in Harrisburg, PA, fifteen in Chicago, twelve in Madison, Wisconsin, then finish out in Minneapolis. It's unprofitable to dead-head back to the factory so they often haul a competitor's boats to retailers which are en-route to their point of origin. If there's space on their trailer - and they're going your way - you may be able to work a deal.
A good, used canoe is the way to go if you're on a budget. Twelve hundred dollars will buy an exquisite Kevlar cruiser that will turn heads. $750 is a fair price for state-of-the-art wood-railed Royalex. Figure $200 less if the boat has plastic or aluminum trim. Four hundred is reasonable for well-maintained polyethylene.
If these prices seem high, consider that someone else has absorbed all the depreciation. Do a little fix up work and five years down the road you will probably be able to sell your canoe for more than you paid for it!
Cliff Jacobson is a professional canoe guide and outfitter for the Science Museum of Minnesota, a wilderness canoeing consultant, and the author of more than a dozen top-selling books on camping and canoeing. Visit his website at: www.cliffcanoe.com
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