Jet Ski Hours – What Is Too Many and What They Mean

I’ve talked briefly about jet ski hours in my post on what to look for in a used jet ski. This topic is so vast I feel jet ski hours deserve there own post.

So let’s cover all questions like…

  • What are too many hours for a jet ski?
  • Should you buy a jet ski over 300 hours?
  • Do jet ski hours matter?
  • Despite the hours what jet skis to avoid.
  • How to tell the hours on a jet ski.
  • How are jet ski hours counted?
  • Engine hours and maintenance.
  • Use hours as a gas gauge?

What Are Too Many Hours for a Jet Ski?

The average person puts 30 hours a year on their jet ski. So if the jet ski is 5 years old, I would expect it to have 150 hours.

jet ski hours for the years

If that jet ski has under that number, I consider that a win.

If that jet ski has over 40 hours a year, I start looking for other factors to determine if the jet ski is worth it.

Jet Ski Hour Calculator

Enter the year the jet ski was manufactured and its current hours to calculate if it has a lot, a little, or an okay amount of hours.

How Many Jet Ski Hours Is a Lot?

As a general rule, anything over 500 hours is too many hours for a 4-stroke jet ski. If it’s a 2-stroke jet ski anything over 300 hours is too many.

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.

Any jet ski under 100 hours on it is a good buy and still has a long life left in it especially if it’s a 4-stroke.

Why Jet Ski Hours Don’t Matter

I’ve made a point in my “5 factors to consider before buying a used jet ski” that hours don’t matter.

I say this because in the years of buying and selling jet skis, I’ve come across so many cases that counter hours being the decisive factor for a jet skis worth.

I’ve seen jet skis with over 300 hours on them do better than a jet ski with 20 hours.

What matters more than hours is how well the jet ski was taken care of.

When someone sees 300 hours on a jet ski they usually think it’s worn out. I instead see a guy who took care of his watercraft so it could last that long.

Someone selling a 10-year-old jet ski with only 20 hours on it I start to question everything. 20 hours tells me they never done much servicing on the PWC if at all. It also tells me either they did not like the machine or something has always been wrong with it.

I’ve seen engines blow at 5 hours and jet skis with so many hours I’m left scratching my head as to how it’s still going.

Used jet ski buyers guide ebook cover

All I’m trying to say is that hours are not the end all be all thing to determine a jet skis worth. The context of how well the owner took care of the PWC and conditions of things like the seat are way better-determining factors.

I go over this and many more in my ebook here. Enter “hours” at checkout for 50% off.

Should You Buy a Jet Ski over 300 Hours?

It’s not like as soon as you hit 300 hours the jet ski won’t work anymore. But you should still be cautious of a watercraft that has that many hours, especially when it’s over 10 years old.

All manufacturers make their jet skis to last 10 years, and at 30 hours a year, that is 300 hours.

Would I still buy a jet ski with 300 hours on it? Maybe, it depends on how well they took care of the PWC. Another thing that would affect it is what kind of watercraft it is?

If it’s a muscle watercraft, then that would be a hard NO from me. The jet skis made to go fast have more moving parts like superchargers, and superchargers require more maintenance. The more moving parts the greater the chances of something to go wrong especially as it gets older.

If it’s a Recreation Watercraft like a Yamaha VX or Sea-Doo GTI, I would consider it over any musclecraft.

At the end of the day, I would be open to the idea of a 300 or more hour jet ski so long as nothing is majorly wrong with it. But I would also understand this thing is not going to last another 10 years and would consider it disposable. This is not a bad thing if it’s your first watercraft, something used and broke in is a great way to get into the sport.

Don’t Forget the Manufacturer or Lack Of

There are only 3 main jet ski manufacturers today, Sea-Doo + Yamaha + Kawasaki.

There was a time when you could get a Honda, Wetbike, Polaris, Tigershark or Arctic Cat. You can’t get these jet skis anymore and no matter there hours you should avoid them.

Not because they’re bad machines, but the manufacturer doesn’t make parts for them anymore. The aftermarket stock parts is not a thing for jet skis so you can’t go to your local parts store and get an aftermarket replacement.

On top of that jet ski manufacturers only make their watercraft to last for 10 years. When I say last, that is the number they shoot for, but they’re not surprised if they go over that easily. But this does mean that is the cut off time for many of the parts they make. If the manufacturer is not making replacement parts, it makes fixing a jet ski harder if something breaks.

The good news is that jet ski manufacturers don’t change big things that often. Components like the engine or pump, the two most important things have been around for a long time for most of these manufacturers. For example, Sea-Doo still uses the same 155HP engine block they released back in 2002.

But that plastic decorative piece on the hood from 2002 is more than likely not around anymore. The general cosmetic things like replacement seat covers do have a thriving aftermarket supply even for stuff that goes back to the ’90s. Just don’t expect to be able to get that one GTX 4-Tec decal on the bottom left of the hood for your 2003 GTX.

How To Find The Hours on a Jet Ski

Figuring out the jet ski hours is super easy. In the 90’s many jet skis 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-Stroke jet skis will have hours either displayed on the gauge as soon as you put the key on or reveal 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 glovebox.

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 is 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 Are Jet Ski Hours Counted?

When the jet ski’s engine is on the hour 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.

Jet Ski Engine Hours and Maintenance

When it comes to jet ski hours, the best thing they’re good for is telling when you need to service the PWC.

When you get a new jet ski, you’ll want to break the engine in and take it really 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.

From that point, you’ll want to get it serviced every 25 to 50 hours depending on your manufacturer. Or once a year if you never reach those numbers.

Your modern jet skis 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 jet ski hour meter to know when you need to service them.

On top of that specific components like the supercharger needs servicing every 100 or 200 hours.

Every manufacturer and model is different but your owners manual will tell you what components need to be replaced at certain hours.

Can I Use the Jet Ski Hour Meter as a Gas Gauge?

Never use the jet ski hour meter as a gas gauge.

In a span of an hour, you can use more gas if you’re blasting around then you would cruising.

I know some people use the miles on their car to determine when they should fill up, but jet skis are not as predictable on gas.

181 thoughts on “Jet Ski Hours – What Is Too Many and What They Mean”

  1. Hi there, I am on a market for Yamaha VX or FX cruiser. I found a 2018 Yamaha VX cruiser with 280h on it, still under the warranty. It was used as a rental, according to the owner new jet pump was installed. He would sell it for $6000 (no trailer). I like that it’s still under the warranty but I am afraid to pull a trigger on it since it has almost 300h on it. What are your thoughts, is a jet ski like this worth taking a gamble on it or should I pass on it because of the hours.
    Best regards!

    • I usually avoid rental models because they’re ridden hard and often by people who never ridden jet skis before. Also, the high hours makes it harder for you later to sell the watercraft later, and too high of hours can affect warranty items. It’s like how cars have a warranty for 3 years 36k miles, it similar to jet skis too.

      • I’ll take a crack and see if you’re still reading through these…
        2006 SeaDoo GTI SE with just over 200 hours on it. Guy is asking just under $7k (trailer included) which seems pretty high. Any thoughts?

        • That sure is high but a lot of jet skis are overpriced right now due to current events. Just to give you an idea that Sea-Doo retailed starting at $8400 new and with a trailer he would be right under $10k OTD back in 2006. To only lose $3k on a 15 year old jet ski is crazy. I sold a 2007 GTI SE back in 2015 for around $5k, prices are really crazy. Otherwise, it’s a solid jet ski and 200 hours is nothing for that engine. I would still test ride it to make sure it runs fine.

  2. Hi there, our family is new to the PWC world. We recently rented a pair of Yamaha VX Deluxe’s at our nearby boat club and HAD A BLAST! Now we have waverunner fever and are on the hunt. I found a pair of Yamaha FX SHO’s from 2009 and 2010 with 90 and 68 hours on them. Seller advertises that the skis and trailer have been kept in a conditioned warehouse (I’m guessing a storage unit) and that he has all maintenance records from the Yamaha dealer. One owner. We talked to the sales rep about new units and we have our eye on 2021 Yamaha VX Cruiser HO’s (which should be revealed by Yamaha tomorrow). How would these skis compare? Seller is asking $16,500 for the 2 skis and trailer. Is this something I should jump on or wait to buy new in the next few weeks? Should I ask the seller of the used skis if we can test drive them? Thanks for any info you can help us with!! Sales rep says new Cruisers with trailer would run us around $32K out the door. This is half price…which is VERY inviting!! Just not sure about buying used. Hubby is worried about taking on someone else’s problems.

    • The body from 2009 would be very similar to the VX body today. All jet skis keep getting bigger and bigger, what was luxury 10 years ago is recreational today. The FX SHO will for sure be more powerful and the price is quite nice as new and used jet skis in 2020 sold like crazy. I would not expect the official 2021 to be shipped until December at the earliest (we had a few 2021 released but they were just 2020 with a 2021 sticker). If you got to have them now the used ones will be what you want. Just make sure to lake test them and watch for scammers, the word “warehouse” always worries. I guess I had too many bad experiences when people use that word, it was usually too good to be true.

  3. Steven, I am looking at buying a pair of used 2013 Seadoo GTS 130’s. Each has 450 hours. I use KBB to set the benchmark price, double check with JD Power and then begin the handicap process. My research has told me that the average use per year is around 30 hours, and that PWC makers design the units to last about 10 years. How would you begin to look at pricing given that the number of hours on these machines are almost double the average? Another way of asking this question: do you have a metric that prices the machine after the basic year x average hour/year usage ? Is it every 30 hours you drop the price $50, $100. I understand your mindset when you say that machines that are taken care of last longer, but is there a limit to that statement ?

    • After 10 years cosmetic parts become hard to find but the important stuff stays around much longer. This 10-year thing was mostly for 2-strokes and with 4-strokes these days they’re lasting so much longer. As for the hours, 450 is a lot for a 2013 model. But that 130 or 155 Sea-Doo engines are good and can handle those hours fine. The way 2020 has been going pricing for used and new jet skis have been overly high because demand is way up due to current events. Also, keep in mind the 2013 GTS did not have reverse or braking, only the GTI and up had that. The GTS models are mostly bought by rental companies and that would explain the high hours. KBB watercraft has retail for a good condition at $4950 as of right now. If you can get one for $3800 that would be a steal, but $4,200 would be fair. This of course is me shooting in the dark because I have not seen them in person and just giving you a rough idea.

  4. Steve, looking at buying a 2018 gtx limited seadoo with the sound system and trailer. Guy is asking 14,500. Has 350 hours and these components added. riva racing exhaust and exhaust manifold. Stage two racing… come with ski pylon also 3 life jackets cooler for ski and dock rope dry storag.

    • That’s going to be a loud and fast GTX Limited! That’s a lot of hours for a 2018 too. With all those aftermarket parts I would be not so willing to get it unless you want an extremely fast jet ski. Those are not cheap or easy upgrades to do so this guy really wants to go fast.

  5. Hello i am in the caribbean there is someone offering me a 2008 seadoo rxt 215, with 195 hours for 4.8k wanting to know if i should go for it over a 2014 spark with 124 hours for 3.7k. I cant seem to find anywhere online how long these rxt models usually last.

    • With that year model RXT I would make sure the supercharger has been rebuilt as that year was a bad year for them. Compared to the Spark, the RXT will ride way better especially in rough water.

  6. looking to get a 2020 GTI Rental it has 450 to 500 hours also has all service records, Asking for $3500 to $4000 is this a good deal or stay away.

    • That’s a tough one as I would need to see them personally to make that decision. If I had to give you an answer, that is way too many hours for a current year model and I would avoid it. Unless they can prove they took care of them and serviced them when they’re supposed to I would consider it but rental units are ridden hard and not treated right by most renters. I tend to avoid rental machines.

  7. 2006 seadoo gti, 300 hours, oil just changed. $4000 with trailer. This would be my first jet ski, just concerned the hours are high. Another option is $6000 for seadoo 2011 gts 130 120 hours.
    What’s your opinion on the better deal, better model, and if either would be resellable later?

    • I would personally go with the 2006 GTI because it has reverse as the GTS in 2011 did not. For a 2006, having 300 hours is not a lot, I would expect closer to 400.

  8. I am looking at a 2016 Yamaha Wave Runner VX Cruiser HO with 97 hours. Seller wants $9,499.00 including trailer and cover. He will throw jet dock with pipes and fittings in for $1,000.00. Is this a good deal? I am thinking $9,499.00 with jet dock would be great?

    • He seems to be a little high. As of now, KBB watercraft says retail is $8k. A used trailer maybe $500 and a cover I wouldn’t factor in as you should buy a new one anyway. Though $1k for a good drive-up lift is a good deal. He might be stuck on that number because jet skis are selling like crazy this year due to current events. I never have seen the market like this before, but I would try to haggle him down some as he’s way off.

  9. I agree with Steve lake test it and if everything is a go, jump on it. Sounds like a great deal. I’m on offer up and let go all the time. People are asking that much for jestkis with over 200 hours.That are older and not even takin care of. Have fun riding…. I own a Honda r12 and Seadoo Gts. Yamahas are supposed to be the best machines out there that last over time very dependable when starting.

  10. Hello, My neighbor selling 2010 VX cruiser with 50 hours on it. Mostly used in lake. Well maintained with a new trailer he is asking 5200. Hours are low is this a problem if it was properly serviced ?

    • If he serviced it every year then low hours don’t matter that much. If anything that is a good sign and you found a gem! I would still lake test it to make sure it runs fine.

  11. Hello Steven, Long time rider, first time buyer. Thoughts on 2008 Sea Doo 130 GTIs with 500 hours. Looking a a pair with trailer for $8,0000

    • Solid ski but those hours are very high. They’re 12 years old so I would expect 360 hours on each one maybe 400 but 500 is a little too high. Maybe if the guy does the whole package for $7k I would consider it but know those are high hours for any jet ski.

  12. Great article, very informative. This weekend, I’m going to look at a 2012 Yamaha VX Cruiser with 200 hrs. $6k with trailer included. Do you think that’s a fair price?

    • $6k with trailer seems fair to me. KBB watercraft has just the machine at $6k and he’s giving you a trailer too is a win. Nothing too odd about the VX for that year but I would still lake test it and check it out before buying. At 200 hours that is about where I expect it to be for an 8-year-old jet ski.

  13. Im looking at 2 Yamaha jet skis. Both same year, which is 2000, one is a Yamaha GP760 and the other is a Yamaha XL800. the GP760 has 156 hours on it and the XL800 has 176 hours on it. He is asking $4,200 for both of them including a trailer. What do you think about he hours and the price?

  14. I’m buying a 2013 Yamaha FX SHO with 104 hours and a 2013 Continental trailer. It was a dealership trade-in. I’m having the dealership do the 100 hour owner’s manual service before delivery. At $8,700 out the door, how’d I do?

    • With a trailer, not bad. Plus they’re doing the service, it sounds like you’re going to have a good ski and a good time.

  15. Hi looking at a 2004 seadoo Rxdi with 114 hours for 4k on a trailer. Looks real nice still what do you think?

  16. I have been looking at a pair of 2008 GTX 215 with 127 hours on one and 133 on the other. Garage kept and looks new. So I am assuming they just did not use it. They are asking 8500 for the pair with TRL. I have a pair of 2004 FXHO and one blow the motor after 889 hours. So looking for something newer but they all over 10K jut for one ski.

    • With that GTX you’ll want to make sure the supercharger has been rebuilt recently and you need proof of that. The 215HP engine between 2006 to even 2009 had supercharger problems. That model needs its superchargers rebuilt every 100 hours.

  17. Hi Steven, Looking at a 2012 gti 155 with about 325 hours. Guy wants 5500 which seems high to me for a ski with that many hours…..could you give me your opinion on the age/price assuming the machine had regular maintenance done.

    • Today KBB Watercraft has it at $5905. If that includes a trailer $5500 is a deal. If it does not include a trailer $5500 for me personally is too high. That 155HP engine from Sea-Doo is solid and to have that many hours means he liked it and was a good machine. I would still ask for service records to make sure he took care of it right. Since we’re going into the heat of the season I would be happy at $5k, but if you wait too long someone might just give him what he’s looking for as it’s getting warmer.

  18. Have a question looking to buy 2 jet skies from a rental place in Wisconsin the guy says they have almost 600 hours on them each he has 2 of them and they are 2007 Yamahas asking 3500 for both first time buying so really don’t know much if someone can give me good advice thank you

    • I tend to avoid rental jet skis as they have a lot of hours and the people riding them don’t care about them. But if they’re 2007 models with 600 hours each then that rental place did not use them much or something is not right. A rental company can easily get 500 hours on a jet ski after 2 years. But the ones you’re looking at are from 2007 which is 13 years ago. That is about what I expect from a normal rider to put on the machine. Something doesn’t seem right so I would avoid those.

  19. What are your thoughts about buying a jet ski that was a rental? There’s a lot of them in my area… one or two years old, rented for one summer season. They look brand new, supposedly flushed after each use (salt water use), maintenance per manufacturer recommendations. My concern, 500 to 600 hours. Yamaha EX and Sea Doo sparks are common and are listed at around 4,500 to 5,000…. 2018 models.

    • I try to avoid rental jet skis. The people who rent them don’t care about them and they often do everything wrong. Not only that but they always have high hours. For 500 hours I would expect that from a 15-year-old jet ski. You’ll also find it nearly impossible to sell it yourself in the future once you want to upgrade as you’ll have even more hours than you do now. Even if the jet ski is still a year or two old at those hours the warranties on them expire so you don’t have the benefit of warranty care. They’re also asking way too much for a 2018 Spark or EX with that many hours, maybe if they were $2500 or 3k I would consider them but I would not expect to resell them and treat them like they’re disposable. For your price range, you can find better deals with fewer hours.

  20. Great Article thanks for the info and break down. Every thing you said makes sense. Although I do own a Honda 2004 Aquatrax Fx 12 nonturbo and you can still get parts for them just more costly on certain parts. Honda still backs their recalls till this day. Going to take mine in for recall on gas tank. Just call Honda head quarters and they will give you the number in your area. Stay way from the turbos just like you basically said. Unless you can flip one and make some cash. Happy summner fellow Pwc riders.
    Was planning on going to lake perris for father’s day no go….algae bloom. Got hosed well any suggestions. Joe in Cali.

      • Hi Steven, great article as it is very helpful. I’m looking at a 2018 seadoo spark with 60 hours with 2018 trailer for $6500 or a 2011 Yamaha vx with 122 hours with trailer for 5200. I’m in Florida. The seadoo is still under warranty but the Yamaha looks so much nicer even though it’s 2011. I am new to PWC this is my first purchase. Which is the better buy?

        • The Spark will be more playful and fun compared to the VX but the VX is no slouch either. The VX will be more comfortable for longer rides but the Spark will be more fun on shorter rides. If it was me and being new to the sport I would lean towards the VX because it’s cheaper and a good entry to the jet ski world. After owning the VX for a while you can get a feel of what you like, if you like comfort you can move towards the FX’s/GTX’s or if you like more playful you can move towards the Sparks or EX’s.


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