When Is a Boat Too Old – Boat Lifespan?

When is a boat too old, or what is the average lifespan you can get out of a boat?

For most boats, the average lifespan is about 20 to 30 years with some even going up to 50 years. Not every boat makes it that long, especially if it was neglected, so how well you take care of the boat will determine its lifespan.

What really determines the lifespan of a boat is if someone is willing to buy it from you. If someone is willing to buy a 50-year-old boat from you then its life goes on, but some boats don’t hold up well after 30 years and often get parted out or sent to the landfill.

What Is Too Old?

When it comes to most boats, 50 years old is too old for a boat.

Keep in mind this is a personal opinion, but if a boat is over 50 years old, I consider it too old and not worth it. Unless it’s a collector’s item or you want to rebuild it for fun, the average boat won’t make it that long.

I do find that some boats get harder to sell when they’re over 20 years old.

For example, Jet boats are the worst to sell when they are over 20 years old due to their use of jet ski engines. However, it’s not as bad as it used to be since they now use 4-stroke engines.

The bigger and the more expensive the boat, the more likely people are to go with something older. Buying a 20-year-old yacht or large cruiser is a cheap way to get the style boat you want, and with the right deal, it could be worth it.

How To Make Your Boat Last?

You can do a few things to make your boat last.

  1. Service your boat at least once a year or every 100 hours, whichever comes first.
  2. Keep the boat out of the water when you can or if you can, depending on the boat. Get a hoist or keep it on the trailer.
  3. Replace sacrificial anodes when they wear out.
  4. Check the hull for any damages or cracks routinely.
  5. Check the transom and the engine for any damages routinely.
  6. Keep the boat out of the sun as much as you can; keep a cover on it when you’re not using it.

The saying that the two worst things for your boat are sun and water is very accurate. The more you can protect your boat from either, the better off the boat will be.

How Long Do Boat Engines Last?

You can get 1,000 to 2,000 hours out of a gasoline boat engine. Jet boat engines, even though their jet ski engines, can get about the same.

The average person puts 50 hours a year on their boat.

So that is about 20 to 30 years you can get out of your boat engine before a major overhaul is needed, so long as you take care of the boat.

Is 500 Hours A Lot For A Boat?

500 hours is nothing for a boat, and I don’t start to worry until it gets over 1,000 hours.

The average person puts 50 hours on a boat a year, so to get to 500 hours would take about 10 years. So I expect a 10-year-old boat to have that many hours, and I may get worried if it’s too high or too low from that number.

Are Low Boat Hours Good?

People tend to focus too much on how high the boat hours are and never consider low hours as being bad.

A neglected boat is bad and can often be worse than buying a high-hours boat.

I rather have a high hour boat that was well maintained than a boat that was forgotten about and left to rot.

So when I see a boat with too low of hours, I start to worry. I wonder what is wrong with it? Why did they not drive it much? What will I need to fix because it was neglected?

Buying from a boat guy who loved his boat, drove it often, and took care of it is the best way to buy a used boat if you ask me.

How Are Boat Hours Calculated?

Depending on the age of your boat, the hours can be counted when the key is in the “On” position or when the engine is running.

Modern boats will only count the hours if the engine is running. Older boats with an hour meter often counted the hours when the boat had power and not when the engine was running.

If the boat was made after the year 2000, it more than likely has a computer and can be hooked up to read the actual hours. Boats will also log other factors that help determine how much the engine has been run.

Tip: Something better than an hour meter that you can do is keep a log of when you get gas. How much gas you get with a date can be far more valuable information than the hour meter. Get yourself a Captain’s logbook (ad) to keep in the boat and log when you fill up and when you also take it for servicing. This is a huge tool for later if you plan on selling the boat.