Choosing a kayak can oftentimes be difficult. There are so many brands and models to choose from that it can quickly get overwhelming.
Two popular brands you might have come across during your search for a kayak are Old Town Kayak and Ascend. Old Town is a well-known, established brand that has been around for over 100 years.
Ascend is a somewhat newer brand, and it’s known for its affordability. A lot of beginner kayakers opt for an Ascend kayak for this reason.
But of the two brands, which one is better?
Today, we will be comparing Old Town and Ascend kayaks in terms of performance, quality, longevity, affordability, and a lot more.
Quick summary: Old Town Kayak has a wider range of models, including motorized kayaks, pedal kayaks, and youth kayaks. However, it tends to be a bit more expensive. Ascend’s kayaks are known for their stability and longevity, but the warranty is shorter. They also can be a bit slow and heavy. Nevertheless, Ascend offers affordable kayaks for those on a budget.
Let’s get into it.
- Overview: Old Town Kayak vs Ascend
- Ascend vs Old Town Kayak: Types of Kayaks Available
- Old Town Kayak vs Ascend: Price Range
- Ascend vs Old Town Kayak: Performance
- Old Town Kayak vs Ascend: Quality and Longevity
- Ascend vs Old Town Kayak: Features, Comfort, and Convenience
- Old Town Kayak vs Ascend: Warranty
- Ascend vs Old Town Kayak: Payment Methods
- Old Town Kayak vs Ascend: Shipping and Local Availability
- Pros and Cons
- Similarities and Differences
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We’ll start with a brief introduction to the two companies. We’ll quickly cover their history and brand stories.
Old Town Kayak (officially known as Old Town Canoes & Kayaks) was started in 1898, with the first canoe built in Old Town, Maine. Despite starting with canoes, the company produces plenty of kayaks as well.
It’s one of the oldest and most respected canoe and kayak brands in the United States, as well as one of the most well known.
People choose Old Town kayaks for many reasons. Sometimes, it’s for the brand name, while at other times, it’s simply for the durability and quality that Old Town kayaks are known for.
Ascend is part of the White River Marine Group, which, in turn, is the boating division of Bass Pro Shops. Bass Pro Shops is one of the largest sporting goods retailers in the United States.
It sells fishing, hunting, kayaking, and camping gear, and it’s popular among people who enjoy hiking, camping, or other wilderness-based activities. Founded in 1972, it has quickly become one of the most popular sporting goods retailers in the country.
Bass Pro Shops has an online shop as well as a couple of hundred locations across the nation.
Let’s start with stock availability and choice. Which kayaks are available from each company?
There are kayaks of all sizes and different types, including sit on top and sit on kayaks. There are both solo and tandem kayaks and even kayaks with pedal drives.
All in all, around 50 kayaks are available. Some are just variations of the same; for example, the Ocean Kayak Malibu 9.5 and Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 are just different sizes of the same kayak.
Ascend sells three different types of kayaks: fishing kayaks, recreational kayaks, and hybrid kayaks, both sit on top and sit in kayaks.
In total, around 10 different models are currently displayed on the Ascend website as of this publication, but this number is subject to change.
That means that Old Town has a much wider selection to choose from. Nevertheless, while Ascend might not have as many models, it does have something for everyone, so regardless of your needs, you should be able to find a kayak that meets them.
If you need a youth kayak, though, Old Town wins.
Before we get into prices, remember that while price ranges are current as of this publication, they are subject to change. Always check the respective websites for updated pricing information.
Old Town kayaks start at around $500 for youth kayaks. For adult kayaks, they start at around $550-650.
That’s a good starting price, but for most kayaks, you will need to budget at least $750 or more, especially if you are interested in a longer kayak.
From there, prices go up to around $6,000 for a kayak. The expensive ones are the higher end kayaks, though, which come with motors or other advanced features.
Overall, I’d say that Old Town is affordable, but it wouldn’t be my top recommendation if you are looking for a budget option. While there are a few cheap options, the rest are mid-range or high-end kayaks.
Ascend wins if you’re looking for a budget option. As of this publication, the cheapest option, the 9R Sport Sit-on-Top Kayak, is just $350, and that’s not a youth kayak but an adult kayak.
The most expensive option is $1,100. It’s the 133X Tournament fishing kayak, which is 13 feet long, supports a trolling motor, and comes with features such as Yak-Power (which allows you to power on LED lights and other accessories).
Overall, Ascend offers great value for your money. If you are looking for a beginner kayak, and you don’t want to spend too much money, I would recommend Ascend over Old Town.
Let’s discuss performance. A good kayak will be stable, fast, and easy to maneuver.
Which of the two companies’ kayaks offer the best performance?
Old Town kayaks are known to have excellent performance.
First of all, they’re incredibly stable. They also offer exceptional maneuverability and have great tracking.
Different models are better for speed than others. Overall, though, you can’t go wrong with an Old Town kayak.
Talking about stability, Ascend shines. Its kayaks are incredibly stable, which is important if you are a beginner and afraid of falling into the water.
However, when it comes to other performance measures, Ascend is kind of lacking. Its kayaks are kind of slow and clumsy, and they aren’t very nimble either.
They tend to be a bit on the heavy side, so make sure you have a solid transportation method. If you are having difficulty putting your kayak on a kayak rack on your vehicle roof, you can consider getting a lift-assist system.
Even if you’re buying your first ever kayak, it’s important to purchase one that will last you for a long time. Find out which of the two companies offer better quality?
Old Town Kayaks are durable and long-lasting. They are typically made of polyethylene, which is one of the most common kayak materials.
One of the problems with polyethylene, though, is that it can warp over time, especially as it is exposed to the sun. This is known as oil canning, and while you can push the dents back into place, it can be annoying and unsightly.
Polyethylene is still favored as a kayak material due to how cheap it is to manufacture.
Most of the kayaks from Old Town are single layer polyethylene. However, some kayaks, like the Loon series, are made of three layer polyethylene.
These three layers help reduce oil canning, denting, warping, and other related damage.
Ascend uses high-density linear polyethylene in its kayak construction, using a rotomolding process in which the entire kayak is heated in a mold and built in just one piece.
Polyethylene comes in many types. Low-density polyethylene, for example, is not as strong or stiff as high-density polyethylene.
High-density polyethylene is better for kayak construction, as it is more durable. It is also more resistant to scratches and other forms of damage, increasing the longevity of the kayak.
Take a look at the accessories and features of the kayaks sold by Old Town and Ascend. Which one has better accessories, such as cupholders?
Different kayak models from Old Town feature different accessories. Let’s take a look at some of the accessories and features you can expect to see from Old Town Kayak, but remember that it does depend on the model, so check the model’s specifications before buying it.
One thing about Old Town kayaks is that they tend to feature comfortable seats, such as the Active Comfort System 2.0 (ACS2) Seat. The cockpit is also spacious and comfortable, and you may find features such as adjustable footrests and thigh padding for your thighs.
Some kayaks feature a work deck and a USB port for charging your phone and other electronics. Others feature cupholders near the seats to help you stay hydrated.
In terms of storage, Old Town kayaks usually come with a dry storage hatch that will keep your items safely and dry while on the water.
There are also open storage wells in the bow and/or stern with bungee cords, where you can secure a tackle box, a cooler for keeping your drinks cold, and other equipment that you might not put in a hatch.
Depending on the model, you may get foam pads for traction and stability when standing on the deck to fish or flush mounted rod holders.
When it comes to youth kayaks, Old Town outdoes itself. Its Tag Along system is a unique feature that allows parents to tow their children’s kayaks to shore (with their children in it) when the young ones get too tired to continue paddling.
This helps ensure their safety, but this tow system should only be used when the waters are calm.
Ascend has more features and accessories. You will find features such as port and starboard cleats for fish stringers, drink holders, paddle holders with bungees, flush mounted rod holders, rubber carry handles for transporting the kayak, accessory rails, and more.
In terms of storage, you may find watertight deck plate storage area, hatches with hidden hatch fasteners, stern well cargo storage areas, bungee cords, and other storage options depending on the model.
For comfort, you will find adjustable and removable seating systems, cushioned flooring with anti-skid capabilities (designed to increase stability when you want to stand up and fish), adjustable foot braces to rest your feet, and more.
We’ve already talked about durability, but what about warranties? The best way to know that a company is confident in the quality of its products is to check the warranty that it provides to customers.
All kayaks from Old Town come with a limited lifetime warranty (defined as the lifetime of the kayak based on the purchase date).
If you purchase a pedal drive from Old Town, the pedal drive itself has a five-year limited warranty covering defects in the materials or workmanship of the drive.
Other products and accessories from Old Town may come with different warranty/guarantees. Check this page for more information.
When it comes to the warranty, Ascend loses to Old Town. While Old Town provides a lifetime limited warranty for the kayaks or canoes you buy, Ascend only offers a three-year limited warranty.
The warranty covers parts and labor to correct defects in the materials and workmanship for up to three years from the date of purchase.
You can learn more about the warranty on this page.
We discussed pricing and price ranges, but what about payment methods? When you want to make a large purchase of $1,000 or more, some payment methods may work for you better than others.
Old Town lets you pay for online orders with a credit or debit card, Google Pay, or PayPal.
If you would like to finance your purchase and pay for it over time, that option is available with PayPal financing, but not everyone will qualify.
Ascend doesn’t sell directly on its website. Instead, you can go to the dealer page to find dealers near you that sell kayaks.
Payment methods can vary from one dealer to another. If you are interested in financing, talk to the specific dealer you are buying from.
You can also finance it yourself using your credit card or PayPal Credit, if the dealer supports PayPal.
We’ll look at shipping costs, shipping options, and local buying options in this section.
Old Town Kayak ships kayaks to the continental US. While shipping is free, kayaks come with an oversized shipping fee.
For kayaks, this fee is $200 or $250, depending on the size of the kayak. For canoes, it is $250.
Boats are shipped out every week from Tuesday to Thursday, but it could take until the following week for kayaks that are made to order.
Also, deliveries are not made on weekends, and you will need to be present to accept the delivery. You will provide a phone number upon purchase, and you will be contacted to arrange a time for delivery.
Learn more about shipping here.
If you want to buy locally instead of online, you can find a local dealer close to you on this page.
Ascend doesn’t sell directly on its website. Instead, it has a page where you can find dealers in your local area.
Some of these dealers may provide shipping as well, for which times and costs can vary, so do check with each specific dealer.
We’ll wrap things up with a list of pros and cons of each company, after which we will move on to a comparison table so you can get a better picture of how these two companies compare.
- Plenty of options are available.
- Youth kayaks are available.
- You can purchase directly from Old Town, which helps ensure quality and a universal customer experience.
- Various payment methods are accepted.
- A wide range of models are available, but they are often just different sizes of the same model. It would be better if the different sizes of the same model were simply grouped on the same page to make browsing through its inventory easier.
- I didn’t see the option to pay over time through Affirm, Shop Pay, and other third-party soft lenders.
- The oversized shipping fee is a bit expensive.
- The kayaks are incredibly stable.
- For beginners, Ascend is a good choice.
- For those on a budget, Ascend is a good choice as well, as its kayaks tend to be cheaper than Old Town’s.
- Ascend doesn’t sell the kayaks on its site, which means you have to search for a dealer.
- The warranty only lasts for three years.
- The kayaks can sometimes be slow, heavy, and bulky.
|Old Town Kayak
|Limited Warranty Length
|Buy Directly From Company
|Buy From Local Dealers
|Youth Kayaks Available
If you are a beginner looking for your first kayak or are someone on a strict budget, I would recommend Ascend.
Otherwise, Old Town has a wider selection available, especially if you’re looking for motorized kayaks, those with pedal drives, or youth kayaks.
Either way, make sure to check online reviews of the specific model you are buying before you purchase it!