Business Overview


Many people enjoy being on the water, but either don't own a boat or want to go boating where they can't bring theirs. A canoe and kayak rental business lets people rent canoes and kayaks to take out on nearby waterways. Customers can take canoes out for as little as an hour or as long as a day or more.

Who is this business right for?

Anyone who enjoys canoeing and kayaking may be well-suited to open a canoe and kayak rental business. Business owners also must be strong enough to move canoes and kayaks on shore.

What happens during a typical day at a canoe and kayak rental business?

A canoe and kayak business owner's busiest parts of the day are when they're giving boats out to customers and when customers are coming in. Before customers head out on the water, they need to be given a canoe or kayak, paddle and life jacket, and shown how to paddle and use the boat safely. They may also want to ask the business owner about places to paddle to. When customers come in, business owners need to check the equipment, put it away and make sure the customers enjoyed their time. When not sending customers out or welcoming them back, business owners usually spend their time taking reservations, performing clerical work, and repairing damaged canoes and kayaks.

What is the target market?

Canoe and kayak rental businesses have two ideal customer types. Businesses near cities often cater to customers who like being on the water but don't own their own boat. These businesses usually offer shorter rentals, such as half-day and full-day rentals. Businesses in remote areas often offer longer rentals, including week-long rentals, and cater to canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts who are taking trips down rivers or across lakes.

How does a canoe and kayak rental business make money?

A canoe and kayak rental business makes money by charging for canoe and kayak rentals. Rentals may be by the hour, half-day, day or week.

What is the growth potential for a canoe and kayak rental business?

Most canoe and kayak rental businesses have one or two locations and serve a particular geographic region. In theory, a business could open up additional operations or franchises in other areas, but it would need to find employees who are familiar with the bodies of water in those areas.

Getting Started


What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful canoe and kayak rental business?

Business owners should be experienced in both canoeing and kayaking, so they can show customers how to properly paddle and steer. The American Canoe Association (ACA) offers many different classes in both canoeing and kayaking. The Red Cross also offers a course on Small Craft Safety, although this class doesn't go into as much detail as some of the ACA's courses. In order to help customers get the most out of their time on the water, business owners should also be familiar with the local waterways. The best ways to learn about an area's bodies of water is to join a local canoeing or kayaking club, and to spend time out on the water. Finally, business owners should be certified in at least basic first aid and CPR. It may also be wise to become certified in more advanced first aid and water safety. The Red Cross offers a variety of first aid courses.

What are the costs involved in opening a canoe and kayak rental business?

The startup costs associated with opening a canoe and kayak rental business are sizeable. Business owners must purchase several canoes and kayaks, which can run anywhere from several hundred dollars to more than $1,000 each, depending on style and quality. Life jackets and paddles must also be purchased. The other sizeable startup cost is the price of securing a place to store the canoes, kayaks and other equipment.

In addition to these major costs, business owners also need to pay for any certifications they obtain and insurance.

Some businesses may need to pay a fee to launch canoes and kayaks at a public or private launch. Businesses renting to customers taking long trips may also need a vehicle and trailer to transport canoes and kayaks.

Business owners that are trying to keep their costs low can do so by only purchasing a few canoes and kayaks to start with, building a storage area for the boats on their own property and using inexpensive launches. If their customers are taking long trips down rivers, business owners might be able to hire another company to transport canoes and kayaks for them -- so they don't have to invest in a vehicle and trailer. The additional cost of hiring another company could be built into the rental prices. One student managed to start a business with $12,000.

Read our canoe and kayak rental business purchasing guide to learn about the materials and equipment you'll need to start a canoe and kayak rental business, how much to budget, and where to make purchases.

What are the steps to start a canoe and kayak rental business?

Once you're ready to start your canoe and kayak rental business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:

  1. Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
  2. Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your canoe and kayak rental business is sued.
  3. Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
  4. Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your canoe and kayak rental business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
  5. Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
  6. Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
  7. Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
  8. Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
  9. Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Where can I find a business mentor?

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

Recommended: Fizzle.co offers video courses and a supportive online community of like-minded entrepreneurs. Try one month membership for for free.

Growing Your Business


How to promote & market a canoe and kayak rental business

Word-of-mouth advertising is the best form of marketing for a canoe and kayak business. The canoe and kayak community is a small, tight-knit community, and word will spread if a place has good equipment, service and prices.

Online marketing through social media and guest blogging can also be an effective way to reach potential customers, because people often research destinations and rental companies online before signing up to rent a canoe or kayak.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

Business owners can set their canoe and kayak rental business apart by tailoring it to the local waterways. Not only should business owners be able to talk about all nearby bodies of water in detail, but they can also purchase equipment that's specifically suited for the local waterways. For instance, a place along the coast might invest in high-grade touring kayaks that have lots of storage, while a business near small lakes may focus on fishing kayaks that have mounts for reels and depth finders.

How and when to build a team

A canoe and kayak rental business can be run by one person, but having staff can let a business provide more services. Many businesses hire a part-time employee for their busiest hours to help get people outfitted with canoes and kayaks, life jackets and paddles. Businesses may also hire employees to be guides if they offer guided tours.

Read our canoe and kayak rental business hiring guide to learn about the different roles a canoe and kayak rental business typically fills, how much to budget for employee salaries, and how to build your team exactly how you want it.

Legal Considerations


State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a canoe and kayak rental business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA's reference to state licenses and permits.

Attached is a list of relevant regulations by state.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, check out our informative guide, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information about local licenses and permits:

Liability Waiver

Liability waivers are essential since consumers will be in high risk environments, operating equipment in potentially dangerous environments/circumstances. For this reason, it is best to require protective gear. Here is an example of one such waiver for canoe and kayak rental businesses.

Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional release of liability form for your canoe rental business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.

Certificate of Occupancy

A canoe and kayak rental business is generally run out of a physical location. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.

  • If you plan to lease a location:
    • It is generally the landlord's responsibility to obtain a CO.
    • Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a canoe rental business.
    • After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
  • If you plan to purchase or build a location:
    • You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
    • Review all building codes and zoning requirements for you business' location to ensure your Nightclub business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.

Reduce Personal Liability

Structuring your business as a limited liability company (LLC) ensures your personal assets are protected in the event your business is sued.

What is an LLC?

Form an LLC in 5 easy steps

Earning Potential


How much can you charge customers?

Rental rates for partial days generally fall between $25 and $35 per boat for 2 to 4 hours. Full-day rates are usually between $40 and $60 per boat. A few companies offer reduced daily rates for week-long rentals. Exact rates vary with the type of boat (e.g. single kayak, double kayak or canoe) and geographic location.

What are the ongoing expenses for a canoe and kayak rental business?

A canoe and kayak rental business' ongoing expenses include insurance premiums and employee wages (if the business has employees). Businesses that pay to launch canoes and kayaks, or to transport them by trailer, also have these ongoing expenses. All businesses have to occasionally pay to repair or replace damaged canoes and kayaks.

How much profit can a canoe and kayak rental business make?

A canoe and kayak rental business' income is directly tied to the number of canoes and kayaks it rents out. A business may have a total of eight canoes and kayaks, but on an average day it might rent out only three of them for half a day. (The other five can help the business meet demand on busy days, but not all days will be equally busy.)

If the business charges $30 for a half-day rental, it'd bring in an average of $90 per day. In most regions, such a business is seasonal. Assuming a business' season was 6 months long, its revenue would be $16,200 for the year (even though it was only open for 6 months).

How can you make your business more profitable?

Canoe and kayak rental business owners can increase their business' revenue by offering guided tours, renting out other types of small boats (e.g. jet skis or standup paddle boards), renting other equipment (e.g. tents or fishing equipment), leasing storage space for people's personal canoes and kayaks, and selling canoes and kayaks.

Next Steps

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