All good stuff. I'm a bit spoiled, as my inventory is currently 81 boats...yes, an ex-rental can be a good deal and is probably an appropriate hull shape since most rental liveries are going for stability (mine, not so much, as I deal with experienced paddlers doing expedition trips), but some are beat to crap. Be careful of plastic boats that have an "oil-canned" bottom, the foam core is gone, they're slugs and feel weird to paddle, not a good introduction. Kayaks are an option, but less suitable if it's family use (wife and daughter), it's nice to have the ducklings under control. Also a bit different sense of paddling and use. A small kayak (I sell ones in the range of 13' - 17') is fun but only has volume for about a 3 day trip unless you go really light. After that, you're into a sea kayak for big bucks. There can also be issues with the fixed seating position as someone mentioned. A canoe allows more flexibility in that sense, and the ease of in/out is good for someone with bum knees (me). A pack boat is a combination craft, and don't forget that there's nothing wrong with using a kayak paddle in a canoe. A canoe has the option of paddling with others, or solo, depending on the boat, rather than having a fleet of kayaks for each family member. I'd say your intent to start with a canoe is the right one, move forward from there as you see fit. We don't even want to talk kayak hull shapes, as that can just get strange. Kayaks are more a fashion item than canoes, so design trends come and go. Royalex has been the plastic standard for some time and is still incredibly tough, but some composites have advanced significantly. Mention was made of abrasion with composites although you can add a wear strip - and if you're paddling in water so shallow the boat is always dragging, how are you wetting the paddle anyway? Don't drag it up on the beach without lifting. Aluminium does stick to rocks, more of an issue if you're river paddling. Plains Ranger and others have mentioned the other aspects. Always, always wear your PFD. A pocket or two is not amiss for the whistle, etc. If it's not on your body, don't count on having it with you after a dump. For the pond, leave your wallet at home. Bailer (cut down plastic milk bottle) tied in, sponge in the bailer to mop up the last wet spots, throw rope in a bag, spare paddle. Start cheap to see if you like it, you can always unload the first canoe. One thing, get a canoe that you can easily handle. Too heavy and it's going to sit on the beach or car top. As I get older, the thought of heaving a big Royalex expedition canoe onto the truck sometimes makes me avoid paddling. My Kevlar solo boat has no second thoughts regarding dropping it in the water for an hour. Last thought, you will learn to paddle more quickly and get a better feel for action/reaction of your strokes if you paddle solo some of the time, which means a boat no longer than 16' (and at that, you'll have to reach/lean forward and back to be effective, from a slightly aft-of-centre position). Most people learn to paddle tandem, but it's tough to discern what was you, and what was the other person. A strong solo paddler, when paddling tandem, can pretty much overcome the goofs of a noob bow person; someone who only learned tandem probably can't. Just like riding a motorcycle makes you more aware of the road surface than a cage driver, paddling solo makes you more capable of reading water and handling the canoe appropriately.