Boat Buying FAQ: 
1)  Should I buy a boat or paddle for my athlete?  Having your own boat is not strictly necessary because the team has a supply of boats that kids use.  Once kids start to move up, they tend to buy boats and paddles that fit them well and that they can use consistently without the risk of someone else using it during that practice which will become more of an issue as the team grows.  The nature of the sport being so small, and the majority of boats are made in Europe, means that finding boats can be difficult and expensive.  Buying a paddle is probably the first step as the athlete will benefit from using a consistent paddle that fits them immediately.   Paddles are the first piece of equipment we recommend families purchase because they are so individually sized and adjusted that using the team paddles becomes problematic after the paddler starts to get stable in a boat. (see our pages on purchasing a paddle!)   
2)  What kind of boat should I buy?  Well… that’s a tricky question.  The first thing to note is that you want a boat that fits your athlete and after that you want one that is in good condition.  A coach can help you with either of these things.   Boats are made in sizes ranging from small to XXL depending on make and model.  These classes are based on weight.  Major brands include Plastex, Nelo, Epic and Vajda.  There are smaller brands that make good boats as well.  Another consideration is the construction of the boats…that is, the materials used to make the boats.  All boat makers have levels of quality and materials they put into boats… these affect weight and stiffness and also durability and different levels of construction cost different amounts.  For example, the same Nelo C1 canoe is made in several different “constructions” that vary in quality and price.  Beyond these considerations, boats are a personal preference.  Usually, availability of boats is the most critical factor.  
3)  Should I buy used or new?   Many people buy boats used from local paddlers that are getting out of the sport or going to college etc.  This is usually cheaper but the downside is that the size and/or model might not be what you are looking for.   Nelo has a West Coast that we have used with very good results... they deliver to our area 2-4x/year.  There is a Vajda dealer in New York that can get boats to us a few times per year as well. 
4)  How much do boats cost?   Boats are extremely variable in cost.  A solid, used learner boat can be had for 400-1000.  A good boat for upper level racing will cost 900-1700 and top end boats go up to 3k new.  We recommend Nelo "F construction" or better.  
Here are some quotes for very good new boats. -subject to changes
Nelo Sete K1 new, in “F” construction  3195 +shipping(approx 300)
Nelo 8 C1    new in “F” construction  3195 +shipping
Plastex fighter 200 2600
Plastex fighter 1000 2600
5)  What are other considerations in buying a boat?  Outside of knowing the brand, year, construction and size, be sure to inquire as to what you are actually getting with your boat.  Does it have a cover?  Does it have a seat, hardware, rudder spare parts?  Does it have weights? For kayaks does it have a foot strap?  For canoes does it have a knee block and knee block holder?  All this stuff is quite costly to purchase and sometimes difficult to get.  And finally, know that  your boat will depreciate.  Because of the inconsistent availability of boats… the price you buy it for and how much it is worth may be similar…or not.  Getting rid of a boat can be difficult or easy depending on supply and demand at the time.  
Also, worth mentioning….Boats require maintenance and care.  The best way to maintain them is to make sure they are rinsed off and kept clean after every practice.  Saltwater is not good for the hardware.  The hardware should be gone through once a month during busy use and maintained and/or replaced if needed.  Ideally, athletes learn how to do this. 
Additional resources - 
Nelo USA West Coast website.