Water Sports - 13 min read

How Many Hours is a Lot for a Boat? (Used Boat Buying Guide!)

Town and Tourist

Town and Tourist, Updated October 30, 2022

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Buying a used boat is a daunting task, especially when you don’t know what it’s been through. Used boat sellers often provide information such as how many hours it has on the engine and how old it is. So, how many hours is a lot for a boat and what should you consider when you buy one used?

Generally, 1,500-2,000 hours is a lot for a boat unless the engine has been repaired or replaced. A boat with 1,000 or more hours can still last for at least another 10 years in many cases, but you may need to replace the engine. Never buy a used boat if the oil wasn’t changed every 50-100 hours.

Boats that were primarily used in salt water are often in worse condition than boats that stayed in freshwater. You should also look for a used boat with a fiberglass hull because they are the most durable. Follow along as we explore how many hours is a lot for a boat and what you should look for in a used boat.

Is 1,000 Hours on a Boat Alot?

Generally, 1,000 hours on a boat is a lot and may mean that it’s worth avoiding. Used boats come with a variety of hours on them depending on how old they are. A boat that has 1,000 hours of use or more is more likely to require engine repairs or replacement.

Factors such as the type of engine and how well the boat was maintained ultimately determine whether or not 1,000 hours is a lot. The average boat only gets 100 hours per year or less, so one with 1,000 hours is often only 10 years old. However, liveaboard boats with 1,000 hours are often 3-5 years old but with more engine strain.

That is why the number of hours that a boat has experienced isn’t always the best mark of what condition it is in. For example, a boat with only 300 miles that has been through a tropical storm is much worse off than one with 1,000 hours that has been routinely maintained.

What is Considered High Hours For a Boat?

The number of hours on a boat is just as important as how well-maintained it is. Everything from how old it is to what type of water it was driven in plays huge roles in its value. Some boat engines can last for 2,000 hours or more before needing repairs or replacement.

Because of that, you need to consider several other important factors before you buy a used boat. Let’s take a look at the most important factors to consider when you buy a used boat so that you don’t spend a fortune on repairs.

Age

Boats can last for up to 50 years depending on the build and how well it is maintained. With that said, the average boat owner replaces their vessel every 15-20 years. That doesn’t necessarily mean that a boat is useless after 15 years, but many people simply want to upgrade to a new one.

The environmental conditions surrounding a boat determine how much its age matters. For example, a boat that is 10 years old and mostly lived in saltwater will generally be in much worse shape than one in freshwater. The average boat may only last 15-20 years, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t buy one within that range.

It’s worthwhile to ask the seller if any upgrades, additions, and major repairs were made to the boat during that time. An older boat with a new engine, reinforced hull, and an updated galley or cockpit may be worth the time and money. Granted, this boat won’t work as an investment because it will have little resale value, but it will be a great personal cruiser.

Engine

Ideally, you should look for a used boat that features a diesel engine. Diesel engines have the best reputation for being able to last for many hours and they offer the best propulsion. A diesel engine can last for an average of 7,000 hours before you need to repair or replace them.

With that said, they can last as long as 8,500 hours or more with routine maintenance. It’s okay to buy a used boat that had a diesel engine put in even if it didn’t originally come with one. This can even add value to a used boat and it’s worth looking for.

Boats often perform poorly if water gets into the engine whether it’s a diesel engine or not. Because of that, it’s important to request an engine inspection or find out if the boat has ever been through a tropical storm before you buy it used.

Maintenance

Much like a car, a boat will only stand the test of time if you regularly maintain it. It can be difficult to trust a used boat if you do not know what the previous owner did to take care of it. Speak to the previous owner if you can so that you can find out whether or not it was routinely maintained.

Of course, this relies on the honesty of the previous owner, but it’s still worth asking. You are supposed to maintain a boat at least every 100 miles to ensure that the engine doesn’t suffer too much stress. Boats also require incidental maintenance whenever something happens, such as surface or engine damage.

Regular oil changes, propeller repairs, bilge pump maintenance, and electrical inspections should be the highest priority with any boat. That’s why it’s worth inspecting a used boat before you buy it instead of taking someone’s word for it. Take the boat out for a test run or inspect each key component if they let you so you can make sure that you aren’t getting a damaged vessel.

Materials

The material that key parts of a boat are made of, such as the hull, is largely responsible for how it holds up over time. For example, boats made of aluminum can corrode over time and will eventually become much less durable than they once were. This is especially true if you have a boat that is primarily made out of aluminum.

While aluminum was once the gold standard for boats, it is now considered far less durable than we once thought. This is especially true if you take your aluminum boat out into saltwater. Generally, saltwater can corrode aluminum boats over time, especially if you constantly leave your boat in the water.

It’s worth checking if the used boat in question primarily sailed through salt water if it’s made out of aluminum. Used boats that are primarily made of fiberglass are your best bet because they are less likely to suffer surface damage and corrosion. Hulls made of fiberglass often last for 50 years or more which means that even one that is used will last for years to come in most cases.

Location

The location of a boat has a lot to do with how long it can last over time. Location is another way of saying what type of water a boat will spend the majority of its lifespan in. Saltwater is much worse for boats than freshwater, especially if the boat is largely made of metal.

An aluminum boat may break down 10 times faster in saltwater than in freshwater. That doesn’t mean that you should avoid used boats that predominantly lived in saltwater, but it’s worth keeping in mind. The saltwater versus freshwater debate is just as important to consider as the materials and the age of the boat.

You should also consider whether or not the boat was in an area with frequent tropical storms. Hurricanes and tropical storms can do serious damage to a boat’s engine, deck, and even the interior. It is worth inquiring about the boat’s history and location when you buy a used boat if you can talk to the previous owner.

Usage

Try to find out what the previous owner primarily used the boat for before you buy it. Older boats that were primarily used for cruising and fishing may not have gone through a lot of strain. Conversely, a boat that was used for watersports and racing will likely have been through more because of how demanding that can be.

This doesn’t need to be a deciding factor, but it’s worth considering before you buy a used boat. For example, you may not want to buy a used boat with over 500 hours that was primarily used for racing and water skiing if that’s what you want to buy it for. That’s because you will put further strain on the boat if you push the engine that hard.

However, you can always boost a used boat’s performance if you make hull and engine repairs so that it suits your needs. Even still, you should request a report of the boat’s history before you buy to find out if it can handle what you need it for. Otherwise, it’s worth finding another used boat if the one you’re looking at is over 10 years old and has a history of heavy usage because it may not last much longer.

Amenities

A used boat is worth buying if it has appealing and modern amenities. Such amenities include a comfortable cabin, built-in speakers, a dinette, a kitchenette, and a large galley. This is especially true if the used boat in question has less than 1,000 hours on it.

You can always repair or replace the engine if it has many hours on it and if the amenities are worthwhile. Used boats that feature amenities such as cabins generally sell for more money, but it’s still cheaper than buying a new boat. For many people, the inclusion of amenities is the tipping point for whether or not to buy a used boat.

It’s worth inspecting everything from the cabin interior to the upholstery on the deck and cockpit. You may have to spend up to $300 per seat for reupholstering, so it may not be worth the cost when you buy a used boat. Think twice before you buy a used boat with worn upholstery because you may have to spend a fortune to repair it.

Price

Price is the biggest factor that many people consider when they enter the used boat market. It may be tempting to buy a cheap used boat right away, but it’s often cheap for a reason. Never purchase a used boat without inspecting it or getting a report about its maintenance history.

The average cost of a new boat is $65,000, and that is unattainable for many people. Because of that, many novice boaters understandably gravitate towards used boats. Conversely, the average going rate for a used boat is $15,000, but they can easily cost over $20,000 depending on the age and condition.

A used boat is typically only worth $100 per foot unless it is in bad condition. In that case, small boats with limited amenities often cost under $10,000 unless they have few miles and hours. Compare a used boat to similar models with the same amount of hours before you make the jump and buy it outright.

Is Buying a Used Boat a Good Idea?

Buying a used boat is a good idea as long as it is in good enough condition to last for several more years. It’s rarely worth buying a boat that will require many repairs unless it isn’t that old. Old boats that require lots of repairs will likely cost $2,000-$5,000 to rehabilitate or more if the engine needs to be replaced.

Buying a used boat and fixing it up can sometimes be a better deal than purchasing a new boat. However, it may not be worthwhile if you have to refinish the interior and hull of the boat or replace the engine. You also won’t be able to recoup your money if you decide to sell it because used boats lose their value exponentially.

However, it’s generally worth it to be a used boat if it’s within the 7-10 year range or lower. That is typically when boats begin to lose their value, so it’s worth the cost unless there is serious damage. Personally inspect a used boat or have a professional inspect it if that’s an option before you buy it to make sure it’s worth the money.

What Boats Last The Longest?

Boats made of fiberglass last the longest because they aren’t susceptible to water damage. Aluminum boats don’t last long in comparison, especially if you take them out in saltwater. With that said, pontoon boats with aluminum toons can last for at least 20 years when kept in freshwater in many cases.

Fiberglass hulls require less maintenance than aluminum or wood hulls, but you still need to scrub them for algae. Brands such as Boston Whaler and Bayliner are particularly known for having longevity. You can extend the lifetime of a boat if you replace or repair the engine.

It costs between $5,000 and $10,000 to replace the engine on a boat which is worth it in many cases. However, you shouldn’t spend the money to replace a boat’s engine if it has a breached hull because it will be unsafe.

Do Boats Hold Their Value?

Boats don’t hold their value, and they lose 35% of their value or more after 8-10 years. That is why boats aren’t considered a great investment because you won’t turn a profit when you resell them. It’s also hard to recoup your initial cost even if your boat is only 3-7 years old.

Boats also cost 10%-20% of the purchase price to maintain every year. This makes it nearly impossible to get your money back when you sell a boat even if you sell it at a high price. You also have to factor in docking costs which can cost up to $7,000 per year or more depending on where you live.

You can expect a boat to lose 10%-15% in value within the first year alone. Boats lose 25% or more each year after the 5th year, so boats are not an ideal investment. However, this comes in handy when you buy a used boat because you will be able to find a great deal.

So, How Many Hours is a Lot For a Boat?

Anywhere between 1,500 and 2,000 is a lot for a boat unless it’s been maintained well. Even a boat with 2,000 hours can still be in good condition as long as there have been consistent oil changes. You may need to repair or replace the engine, but everything else should work as long as the boat hasn’t suffered severe damage.

Ideally, you should change a boat’s oil every 50-100 hours, or else the engine won’t last as long as it should. It’s hard to know whether or not the previous owner kept up with oil changes, so it’s worth it to inspect a used boat before you buy it. Other factors such as what type of water it was kept in and the boat’s age are worth considering before you buy one secondhand.

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