What’s a Lot of Hours for a Jet Ski?

Let’s be honest, jet ski hours can be kind of confusing.

It’s nothing like what most people expect; everyone is used to using miles just like their cars. Knowing what is a lot of hours for a jet ski is super important when you want to buy or sell a jet ski.

To give you an idea, you can expect the average rider to put 30 hours a year on a jet ski. But there are other details I need to tell you about.

What Is Too Many Hours For A Jet Ski?

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


2-strokes are almost 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 of the jet ski. 300 hours is a hard stop if you ask me when it comes to 2-strokes.


4-Stroke jet skis can go up to 1,000 hours so long as you do proper maintenance.

Would I personally buy a 4-stroke jet ski 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-stroke jet skis 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 jet ski, 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.

How Long Do Jet Skis Last?

A jet ski lifespan is about 10 years but many 4-strokes are lasting up to 15+ years. The 10 years is how long the manufacturers build jet skis to last but this number is ever increasing with 4-strokes because of how reliable they’ve been.

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

When a jet ski 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 jet ski was not unheard of. I know many jet ski dealerships that have graveyards of 2-strokes only used 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 be having a longer lifespan. Sea-Doo didn’t release its first 4-stroke until 2002, and they kept that same engine block till 2019.

It’s currently 2020 as I write this, and I would not be against buying a 2007 Sea-Doo 4-stroke even though its over 10 years old. 4-stroke engines have proven to be durable and lasting – so long as it was adequately taken care of.

How To Make A Jet Ski Last?

I keep saying that I don’t mind buying a high hour jet ski 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 jet ski does have a supercharger, it was serviced at the correct intervals too.

That’s it.

The oil change once a year is my biggest concern.

It’s not how many hours you put on your jet ski before changing the oil, but when you change it. Oil goes bad when sitting, and jet skis are high-performance machines. Your car might be more forgiving on the oil changes, but a jet ski is not.

I then look at the cosmetics and how well they took care of the outside.

Did they keep the cover on the jet ski when they were not using it? The answer will be obvious by how many tears are in their seat and the faded plastic.

Is A Lot Of Hours A Bad Sign?

A jet ski with a lot of hours is not always a bad sign.

Someone who put a lot of hours on their jet ski means they used it and enjoyed it. If you’re able to put a lot of hours on it, that means you didn’t have many problems.

What worries me is a jet ski 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?

So many questions and it makes me think of the saying “if it’s too good to be true.”

Do Idle Hours Count Towards Total Jet Ski Hours?

If the engine is running, the hour meter on your jet ski is running.

There were a few jet skis 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 on your jet ski won’t affect the hour meter. Often the radio and the jet ski are two different systems that don’t talk to each other.

How Do I Know I Have a 2-Stroke or 4-Stroke Jet Ski?

2-Stroke jet skis have not been made since 2007, so anything 2008 and up will be a 4-stroke except for a few stand up jet skis.

Another way to tell is that a 4-stroke jet ski will have a dipstick just like your car that allows you to check the oil level.

The yellow loop on top of the engine in the picture above is the dipstick so this is a 4-stroke jet ski. The dipstick is often located near the spark plugs or on top of the engine.