What’s a Lot of Hours for a Regular Jet Ski?

There are two types of jet skis that we need to talk about, 2-stroke and 4-strokes.


2-strokes are phased out, as many manufacturers have not made them since 2007. You will still find many of them on the used market, so we must talk about them.

When it comes to 2-stroke engines, you can expect them to last 300 hours. It’s not uncommon for someone with a 2-stroke to rebuild the engine around that time to get another 300 hours out. 300 hours is a hard stop if you ask me when it comes to 2-strokes.


4-Strokes can go up to 1,000 hours, if not longer, so long as you do proper maintenance.

Would I, personally, buy a 4-stroke with 1,000 hours? No, but for a good reason.

The only people getting a 4-stroke to 1,000 hours are rental companies, and I wouldn’t buy it because those skis are ridden hard by people who don’t own them.

I like being under 500 hours for the 4-strokes I come across. It’s often rare I even see a 4-stroke over 300 hours.

If the average person only puts 30 hours a year on a PWC, it would take 10 years to get to 300 hours. It would take over 16 years to get to 500 hours.

That 10-year mark is significant, let’s talk about it.

Normally, How Long Do They Last?

A jet ski lifespan is about 10 years, but many 4-strokes last up to 15+ years. The 10 years is how long the manufacturers build them to have parts, but this number is ever-increasing with 4-strokes because they’re more reliable.

To be clear, after 10 years, the machine won’t stop working.

When a manufacturer says 10-years, what they mean is that is how long they’ll keep making parts for that model.

The first parts to go are the cosmetic pieces like matching seat colors or the color matching decal. Don’t expect to get the same color seat after 10 years if you need a replacement.

This 10-year mark has been getting more lose the more we get away from 2-strokes. The 2-stroke engine was not made to last long as the 4-strokes. So seeing someone throw away their 2-stroke was not unheard of. I know many dealerships that have graveyards for 2-strokes and only use them for parts. The only people who want 2-strokes these days are the people who scrap them to sell the parts on eBay.

With 4-strokes lasting so much longer, they seem to have a longer lifespan. Sea-Doo didn’t release its first 4-stroke until 2002.

Maintenance Matters More

I keep saying that I don’t mind buying a high hour PWC so long as it was adequately taken care of, but what does that mean?

It means the previous owner changed the oil and spark plugs once a year. If it gets below freezing where they live, they winterized it too, especially if it was supercharged. If the engine has a supercharger, it was serviced at the correct intervals, too.

That’s it.

How well someone takes care of it matters way more than the total hours it has. I’ve seen models fail at low hours and high hours, but the thing that always stood out about the “good” ones is that they were properly serviced.

Is Many Hours A Bad Sign?

A watercraft with many hours is not always a bad sign.

Someone who put many hours on their machine means they used it and enjoyed it. If you’re able to put numerous hours on it, that means you didn’t have many problems.

What worries me is a model that is 10 years old and only has 30 hours on it total. I’m expecting 10X that, so alarm bells go off in my head.

Did they not enjoy it? Was it always broken, so they never got to use it? Did they mess with the computer to lower the hours? Did they only ride on holidays, and it sat most of the time?

Do Idle Hours Count Towards Total Engine Hours?

If the engine is running, the hour meter is counting.

There were a few that count the time the gauge is on, but often it doesn’t affect much since many of them turn the gauge off after inactivity.

Today, you have watercraft like Sea-Doo and Kawasaki having built-in speaker systems. Running the radio won’t affect the hour meter. Often, the radio and the PWC are two different systems that don’t talk to each other.