I’ve talked briefly about hours in my post on what to look for in a used jet ski. This topic is so vast, I feel this subject deserves its own post.
So let’s cover all questions like…
- What are too many hours?
- Should you buy a jet ski over 300 hours?
- How long do jet skis last?
- Do hours matter?
- Despite the hours, what models to avoid.
- How to tell the hours on a PWC.
- How are hours counted?
- Engine hours and maintenance.
- Use hours as a gas gauge?
What Are Too Many Hours?
The average person puts 30 hours a year on their jet ski. So if the machine is 5 years old, I would expect it to have 150 hours.
If it’s under that number, I consider that a win.
If it’s over 40 a year, I start looking for other factors to determine if it’s worth it.
These are numbers I expect, on average, and not the max life.
Enter the year the PWC was manufactured and its current hours to calculate if it has a lot, a little, or an okay number of hours.
How Many Hours Is A Lot?
As a general rule, anything over 500 hours is a lot for a 4-stroke jet ski. If it’s a 2-stroke, anything over 300 hours is a lot. But, if properly taken care of, you can go well over these hours.
To know if you have a 4-stroke or a 2-stroke, go here.
A common trend I’m seeing when buying and selling jet skis is that most people will sell them before 200 hours, and a lot will even sell with under 100 hours on them.
Anything under 100 on it is a good buy and still has a long life left in it, especially if it’s a 4-stroke.
How Long Do Jet Skis Last?
A jet ski, when correctly maintained, can go for more than 1,000 hours and over 20 years.
Parts for 10 Years
Although manufacturers typically produce parts for a span of 10 years, this doesn’t mean that the lifespan is only 10 years.
Rather, it means that after a decade, certain components, such as body parts, might become more difficult to get.
Engine parts, on the other hand, tend to be available for a longer period since manufacturers do not frequently change these essential components and use them for many models.
In summary, I wouldn’t let engine hours be the only deciding factor when considering the lifespan. Some might argue that engine hours become less important when other factors are considered.
Why The Hours Don’t Matter:
I’ve made a point in my “factors to consider before buying a used jet ski” that hours don’t matter.
I make this statement based on years of experience buying and selling watercraft, during which I’ve encountered many instances where the hour count wasn’t the definitive factor in determining it’s value.
I’ve witnessed jet skis with over 300 hours of operation outperform those with only 20 hours.
Care Matters More
The key point, more than the hours of usage, is the level of care and maintenance the jet ski got.
When people see a PWC with 300 hours on it, they typically think it’s worn out. However, I think of it as a good signal of an owner who has maintained their watercraft, enabling it to get to those high hours.
Low Hours Can Be Bad
If someone is selling a 10-year-old ski with only 20 hours on it, I begin to question several things. The low hour count suggests that they probably haven’t performed much maintenance on the PWC, if any at all.
It also implies that they either did not enjoy the watercraft, or there were constant issues with it. You also have the people who simply didn’t drive it much, so there is a lot to consider.
I’ve encountered scenarios where engines failed at just 5 hours, and others where the watercraft had accumulated so many hours that it leaves me puzzled as to how they’re still going.
Hours Are Not The Only Factor
All I’m trying to say is that hours are not the end-all-be-all thing to determine a jet skis worth or how long it will last.
Should You Buy A PWC Over 300 Hours?
It’s not like as soon as you hit 300 hours, the jet ski won’t work anymore.
Most have a lot of life left in them after 300 hours, and worth buying if nothing else is wrong with it.
The 300-hour limit is outdated
The 300-hour mark is an old way of thinking, and mostly for 2-strokes.
Newer 4-strokes are going way beyond 300 hours, often reaching 1,000 hours.
I would have no problem considering a Sea-Doo GTI with 300 hours, but may pause on a Sea-Doo RXT with 300 hours, mostly because the RXT has a supercharger and requires more maintenance.
The lower-HP jet skis do well with more hours as they’re simpler, but the faster jet skis need to be looked at more closely when they get higher hours.
Don’t Forget the Manufacturer or Lack Of
There are only 3 main manufacturers today, Sea-Doo + Yamaha + Kawasaki.
Not In Business Anymore
There was a time when you could get a Honda, Wetbike, Polaris, Tigershark or Arctic Cat.
They don’t manufacturer these machines anymore, so it’s best to avoid them.
It’s not that these are bad machines, but the fact that the manufacturer no longer produces parts for them, and simply not in the business anymore, they’re not worth it.
In addition, manufacturers generally design their watercraft to last for about 10 years.
It doesn’t mean that the jet ski will be rendered useless after a decade; instead, this is usually the point when manufacturers stop production of some parts, like body and custom-to-that-model parts.
If replacement parts are not being made, it makes it more challenging to repair a jet ski if something were to break.
Some Parts Don’t Change Much
However, the good news is that manufacturers don’t change major components. Things like the engine or pump, which are the most crucial parts, don’t change much, and many models today still use the same design from years ago. Since the major parts don’t change often, you can often get over 20 years out of a jet ski.
How To Find The Hours
Figuring out the jet ski hours is super easy. In the 90s, many never had an hour meter on them, but those are all 2-strokes, and I don’t recommend buying anything that old.
Your modern 4-Strokes will have hours either displayed on the gauge as soon as you put the key on or revealed when you press the mode button. The button is usually located next to the gauge, or on the handlebars or right below the handlebars next to the glove box.
Tip: The hours on the gauge can lie… well, the owner can. Some bad people will buy a new gauge to "reset" the hours to make their watercraft seem newer than it is. So if the hours seem too good to be true, then they just might be. The good news is that the hours for your jet ski are not only stored in the gauge, but in other places of the PWC. To get the accurate hours of the watercraft, you'll need to take it to a dealership and have them read the jet ski's computer.
How Hours Are Counted:
When the engine is on, the meter is counting.
What you see for hours is engine hours and nothing else.
Even when idling, the hours are being counted, so it’s best to turn the engine off when you have docked. Not only should you do that to save on hours, but it’s not smart to leave the engine running on your jet ski if you’re not riding it.
Engine Hours & Maintenance
When it comes to jet ski hours, the best thing they’re good for is telling when you need to service the PWC.
First 5 Hours
When you get a new jet ski, you’ll want to break the engine in and take it easy for the first 5 hours. Then you need to get your first service done, which is anywhere from 10 hours to 50 hours depending on your manufacturer.
Every Year or 50 Hours
From that point, you’ll want to get it serviced every 50 hours or once a year.
Your modern watercraft have service timers built in, just like cars; so you’ll get the alerts for service for when they’re due. But for older watercraft, you’ll have to pay attention to the hour meter to know when you need to service them.
On top of that, specific components like the supercharger need servicing every 100 or 200 hours.
Every manufacturer and model is different, but your owner’s manual will tell you what components need to be replaced at certain hours.