Well-cared-for boats will last a lifetime, which means you can often score a deal on a used canoe. Here’s what to watch out for.
UV damage Long-term storage in direct sunlight can cause canoe hulls (especially plastics) to warp or become sway-backed. To check, lay the boat flat. Don’t buy it if the center of the hull doesn’t touch the ground or the end-to-end profile looks corkscrewed. Also, look for deep scratches, cracks, or gouges that expose interior layers to UV degradation.
Cracks Canoes that live in cold climates (winter temps of -20°F or colder) can develop "cold cracks" in the hull. Plastic hulls with wood gunwales are particularly prone to this syndrome because wood and plastic freeze and thaw at different rates. Check all gunwales carefully for damage.
Wear spots Inspect the bottom for signs of excessive abrasion. Some boats might have fiberglass/Kevlar patching at the bow and stern, which is not a deal breaker as long as the patch is in good condition–smooth and intact around the edges. Inspect attachment points at the seats and thwarts (a canoe’s cross pieces); they should fit snugly, with no cracks.