-- Last Updated: Mar-21-13 4:32 PM EST --
I started kayaking 10+ years ago just bumping down small streams in the typical rental kayaks -- Old Town Loons and Otters which are similar kayaks to a Swifty.
I own a Dagger Axis 12 and it is a big difference between them. While they both list widths about the same the Axis 10.5 is going to be a foot longer, you have different designed hulls, and the Axis weighs a fair amount more -- probably due to the different quality/thickness of the plastic. The cockpit on the Axis, while still on the large side, is lot smaller then the Swifty boat -- you can at least get a spray skirt that fits and won't implode from a bit of water over it. You also have a much more comfortable seat -- I can spend 8 hours out in my Axis without getting sore. The Swifty you are going to want to take some seat cushions and something to lift up your legs. You want to have cockpit that you can brace your thighs/knees against and that is hard to do with a cockpit that is over-sized. The addition of the skeg helps a ton with tracking.
If there aren't any better places then big box stores and if you really need to keep the cost down you are a bit stuck. I see Swiftys for sale used all the time -- at least don't buy them new, but they really seem more meant for a mellow 1-2 hour paddle, where you don't really care much where you are going, on a small lake that you can walk to shore if you tip. You will not rescue on the water in a Swifty.