Propeller vs. Fin Kayaks

This article overviews the fin and propeller kayak and considers which ones are better in different situations and how cost-effective they are.


3/18/20235 min read


Many people have used a kayak before in their lives, but not many people know about the varieties of kayaks that exist. Some of the most innovative and futuristic kayaks are pedal kayaks, which have two main styles: fin drives, and propeller drives. These kayaks don’t require any sort of paddles in order to move, and instead, all you need to do is pedal in either a spinning or oscillating motion, like a bike.

Construction of the Kayak

Both types of pedal kayaks are constructed in very similar ways, using polyethylene or other plastics to forge a hull. These kayaks can also be rotomolded or turned into a single piece of plastic, which leads to a stronger hull as the entire kayak is molded as one, and not sealed together as two halves. Pedal kayaks also focus on storage, comfort, and durability, unlike many other wooden kayaks. They will typically have storage built within the interior hull of the kayak, along with many other accessories such as rod holders and anchors. The plastic the kayak is made from is also UV resistant, unaffected if scratched, and lighter than a wooden kayak. All of this adds up to create a kayak that can withstand extreme weather conditions and physical damage, whilst also being lightweight and extremely efficient.

Propeller Drives

Propeller drives move in a motion very similar to that of a boat motor propeller, except the kayaker has to move the propeller themselves. Companies that present buyers with the option of propeller drives are Jackson, Old Town, and Hoodoo, amongst many others. Propeller kayaks also have a variety of prices, with the most expensive ones being produced by Old Town, where you can spend up to $3500-$4000 on a fully decked-out kayak. Cheaper options include kayaks produced by Feelfree and Hoodoo, selling kayaks for around $1000; they tend to be slower than most fin drives, however, they have the ability to reverse. The ability to reverse is one of the most important features of a kayak as it allows you to keep position if you are going against the current of water. Propeller drives, however, also risk lots of damage to the system if hit against rocks or submerged logs, as they are extremely vulnerable in low-depth water. They also can get wrapped up in algae, grass, seaweed, and so on, hindering movement and making it harder to move.

Fin Drives

Fin drives are a very unique type of movement as their motion is extremely similar to the way a penguin travels in the water. They have two primary fins that oscillate back and forth, propelling water just like swimmers do when treading water. At one point, the only company that actually created fin drives was Hobie, as Hobie designed the fin drive originally and had full rights to create it. However, their copyright had expired and other smaller companies took the fin design, creating cheaper kayaks with the same drive. Hobie still makes high-quality kayaks that are better than the off-brand companies, however, Hobie has a much steeper entry price with their cheapest kayak being $1600, compared to other companies at $1100; these kayaks are almost always faster than propeller kayaks, and instead of a circular motion, they have a more efficient motion of scissoring your legs back and forth. They also have a kick-up feature to prevent damage to the fins, since upon making contact with an object, they fold upward to avoid the objects. Also, these propellers will not trap aquatic plants like seaweed and algae, since the fins are rigid and straight. However, the one drawback to fin drives is that without the Hobie 180 or 360-degree fin drives, you cannot reverse with fin drives.

Which is Better?

Now the question arises which drive is better, the pedal drive, or the fin drive? With everything being considered, if you want a very cheap pedal kayak, that would cost you around $800-$1000. I’d recommend the pedal kayaks as they typically come cheaper, however, if you have a price range above $1000, the fin drive is your best bet. Fin drives are faster and risk less damage in problematic scenarios, being better in every way when compared to a pedal drive, except for the reverse capability.

Best Priced Propeller Kayak

Feel Free Flash Kayak


  • Extremely light, weighing in at 70lbs with the drive

  • Storage towards the front of the bow and a comfortable seat

  • Straps to hold down coolers, tackle bags, etc...

  • Handle on the front in order to pull the kayak on the cart

  • Rails on either side of the kayak to slide accessories on

  • Two rod holders within the kayak

  • Very inexpensive


  • The tiny design makes it very unstable to stand in and take waves in

  • Not a very strong hull and plastic is susceptible to strong sunlight for long periods of time

  • Not made out of very good materials

Best Propeller Kayak Overall

Old Town Sportsman PDL 120


  • Very strong kayak and is built to last

  • Very large and easy to stand up in, fish in, and reacts well to waves

  • Can take an automatic Bixby motor that acts as almost a boat motor

  • Has most of the wanted features from expensive kayaks

  • The hull comes with a 5-year warranty


  • Heavy; 116 pounds

  • The large length and width aren't convenient for maneuvering

Best Priced Fin Kayak

Hobie Mirage Passport 2.0


  • Very low price for a Hobie kayak; around $1,600

  • Very strong/high-quality hull that can sustain damage

  • Lots of accessory capabilities

  • High-weight-capacity hull; holding 400 pounds

  • Very stable, can be stood in, and takes waves easily

  • Straps to hold down gear

  • Kick-up fin technology prevents fin drive damage

  • Paddle on the side if you don't have a fin drive


  • Low maneuverability

  • Not rotomolded; two pieces forged together

  • Does not have reverse capability

Best Fin/Fin Drive Kayak Overall

Hobie Pro Angler 14


  • Extremely stable while retaining maneuverability

  • Tons of storage

  • Rails and h-tracks make it heavily customizable

  • Extremely comfortable seating

  • 360 reverse capability, kick-up fin tech, turbo technology

  • There's enough room for fly-fishing

  • One of the most durable kayaks on the market

  • 600-pound weight capacity


  • Expensive; around $5,500

  • Heavy; 140 pounds with fin drive

Feel Free Flash Kayak

Old Town Sportsman PDL 120

Hobie Mirage Passport 2.0

Hobie Pro Angler 14