Some thoughts before committing…
Make sure you live close enough to a body of water for kayaking.
It doesn’t make much sense to spend a couple grand on kayaks and accessories if the closest body of water is four hours away–unless you have a summer home near said water and spend time there.
Explore different kayaks.
Many paddling shops will demo kayaks and other self-propelled water vehicles. Take advantage of these free opportunities to try different types and sizes to find what boat best serves you. Another way to explore is to go kayaking with friends who have kayaks. It’ll give you an idea of what paddling is like and if it is really the right sport for you.
Have a sense of where you’ll kayak.
This will help dictate what type of boat will work best for you. Mine do well on lakes, the bay and the Russian River (the fairly slow sections with a few, small rapids). I haven’t taken them on the ocean yet and wouldn’t use them for white water–I prefer to do that in a raft with a guide.
And another thought…
Here’s how I purchased my kayaks and what I bought:
I went to REI in Santa Rosa and gave the staff my specifications: as a single woman who wanted to also take my daughter kayaking (at the time she was 12), I needed to be able to get the boats on and off the car, as well as in and out of the water, alone. I was clear that loading and unloading needed to be easy so that I would be inclined to go. If getting the kayaks on my car was going to be challenging, I probably wouldn’t go often. I also specified that I would be kayaking mostly at the Yorty Creek branch of Lake Sonoma, which is full of rocks and trees. This eliminated inflatable boats as an option. What I purchased: two Ocean Kayak Venus 11s (40 pounds, 10’9” each), two PFDs, two paddles for mine and my daughter’s heights, a Yakima top-of-car rack, kayak saddles, and boat loader bars.