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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.

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

  1. Firstly, thanks heaps for writing this article. It’s been very helpful as it’s my first time trying to buy a used jetski and is reassuring to read.

    Can you please give me a little advice on the model I’m looking at? I’m considering a 2006 Honda 12X (not turbo) with 289hours, mostly used for fishing apparently. It’s only $3750AUD which is in our budget and within our location. It’s 5 hours to the next major city. The problem I have is we live in a rural town without a marine mechanic. I’ve organised a mobile mechanic to come and do a compression test for me and a general look over, but that’s the best I can do without a 3hr round trip to a dealer which is a bit of an ask. Can you please give me some tips on specific issues to look out for on a Honda 12x?

    Reply
    • The biggest problem you’re going to run into with a Honda jet ski is that they don’t make them anymore and haven’t since 2009. Parts will be harder to find for them, especially since they did not make many of them to begin with. It’s a bit risky to buy a Honda jet ski if you don’t intend to do the repairs yourself. I have more on the Honda saga here: https://www.steveninsales.com/honda-jet-skis-happen-worth/

      Reply
  2. Hey Steve, looking to buy a 2005 sea Doo rxt 215 for about $2,500. Has 240 hrs and from the video sounds pretty good. Anything that I should specifically look for on this ski for wear and tear with the supercharger or other costly fixes. Compression test was 145/145/125 done by the seller.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Those compression numbers are not right. 145 is high for a supercharged engine, 125 is around where it should be, and overall you have cylinders that are 15% difference. Along with that model having supercharger problems, I would pass on this one.

      Reply
  3. Hi Steven, I’m l bought a 2010 gti 130
    For $4500 the mechanic selling it is “trustable” have done work in my uncle’s boat and it’s well known by a lot of ppl around here, the jet ski has 455 hours on it which worries me a little but the guy said it’s been well maintained by the previous owner which used to do the maintenance with him as well (the mechanic) the jet ski engine looks really clean and everything in the engine area actually looks to be well maintained,
    I took it for a spin before I bought everything worked fine (when the mechanic was there with me) then I took it home and next day brought it to the lake and after riding for less then 30 min the oil alarm went off and it would run on idle pretty much, turned it off turned it back on and alarm stopped but once you open the throttle same thing happened again, I searched about that issue and found some ppl in the same situation and figured that this problem is caused by a oil pressure sensor, told the mechanic he’s open to fix it for me or give me my money back, what do you recommend? Like I said only thing that worries me the most is the hours (455) but the jet ski actually looks very well maintained.

    Hope you can help me with that !!

    It also has 2 regular keys and a learning key

    Thanks Steven !!

    Reply
    • On that model, I would have him replace both oil pressure sensors. It’s not uncommon for one or both oil pressure sensor just to randomly fail on that 4-tec engine, it’s happened to me several times when I sold a used jet ski, it’s just the luck of the draw. It’s not a huge deal and not something that I would want my money back on, the 2006 and up GTI’s are the best models Sea-Doo has made, and I would not be so easy to give it up if the only thing wrong with it is needing new oil pressure sensors. As for hours, it’s high, but it is also a 12 year old jet ski, so it’s within what I consider okay for its age. I’ve seen rental companies put over 800 hours on the GTI 4-tec engine and still go strong. And if it’s the blue 2010 GTI SE you’re not going to find a better color, that color just looks amazing in person, it used to be the luxury color back in 2008 for the GTX limited.

      Reply
  4. Hi Steve, I came across your site when researching what ti look for in a used PWC. I am currently looking at two either 2019 or 2020 Kawasaki STX-15F with 327 hours on them. They look clean and well maintained. The hours have me concerned, but wanted to get your opinion if you’d be open to responding. Thank you in advance!

    Reply
  5. Looking at a 2013 sea doo gti se 155 with 336 hours. Looks well maintained. They are asking for 10k, no trailer.

    Appreciate you opinion

    Reply
    • Avoid any Sea-Doo that ends in “DI” or “RFI”, those 2-strokes are a nightmare to deal with. It’s like they’re cursed!

      Reply
      • First hand knowledge, I had two 2004 Sea-Doo GTI RFI’s. Absolute nightmare. Once they get over 200 hours you are replacing things all the time. Do not get this type of Jetski.

        Reply
  6. Morning Steven! Extremely grateful to have found this site, thank you for all that you do. I recently found (2) 2007 Sea Doo GTI SE 4-TECs along with a side by side Zieman trailer for under just $14K. They have 130 & 132 hrs respectably, thoughts on this being a great starter for a family of 5-6? Appreciate you and thank you again!

    Reply
    • Those are great machines, and 130 hours is nothing for that engine. I’m assuming it’s the 130HP version, if so that price is a little high. If it’s the 155HP, then that price is just right with a double trailer. Great machine for a beginner and a family, this model of GTI always sold fast and with such low hours, I personally would be all over those machines.

      Reply
  7. what do you do with jet skiis and trailers that have exceed the recommended hours and are unwanted. Is there a recycle option or a place that we can donate for them to be fixed and sold to benefit a charity?

    Reply
    • I don’t know of any charity options, but many dealerships that get in jet skis too old or not worth selling have wholesalers come in and take them to sell the parts. As for the trailers, someone is always looking to buy them even if they’re old and worn out. Often, the jet ski trailer is of more value than the old jet ski.

      Reply
  8. Hi Steve – I’m selling a 2006 Yamaha VX Sport 1100 (4-Stroke) with 98 hours. I’ve had the ski for 8 years and have kept up on maintenance (oil changes, tune-ups, Stabil, flushes, Fluid Film, etc.) It’s on a double jetski trailer that needs a little work (both winch posts could use replacement). It’s in really good cosmetic shape for its age, with only minimal bottom scrape and zero hull damage above the waterline. I’m selling it to a friend for $3000 – is that a good deal for both parties? The ski has been bullet-proof for me and I’m confident it has many, many hours of life left in it. Thanks in advance!

    Reply
  9. Hi Steve. I’m looking at 2 2019 Yamaha VX with trailer for around $12k both have 500 hrs!! They were well maintained but used by a tour guide company! Those hours really concern me but are within my budget ! Thoughts?

    Reply
    • That is high hours but the VX is a good machine and can go for much longer than that. The price has me wondering, NADA has just one 2019 VX for about $11k with no trailers and low hours. To get two of them with a double trailer for $12k seems too good to be true even with those hours.

      Reply
  10. Hi Steve great info thank you 👍
    I’m looking at 2 -2005 Yamaha fox cruiser and a trailer both have about 207 hours Both are 4 stroke and look to be in good shape, is 9500 a good deal for these ski or are they to old
    Gregg

    Reply
    • NADA has them for about $6500 each, plus a double trailer I would expect it to be total around $12k to $14k depending on the condition. So getting all that for $9,500 is quite a deal, make sure to get them checked out first or at least test ride them as it seems too good to be true.

      Reply
      • Thank you Steven, you say I should check the compression in each cylinder, if it’s over 100 and each cylinder is close in compression, What is good compression for these skis, can I get a compression tester at the auto store ?

        Do you think these 2020, 2021, and 2022 Seadoo Spark Trixx are a good ski, I’ve been riding skis for about 5 years, live on the river and not sure I will like these based on different views and won’t get board with speed ?
        Thoughts ?

        Reply
        • Non-supercharged should be over 160PSI, if it’s under 100PSI then that is bad. Supercharged engines do run lower compression, around 125PSI. You want each cylinder to be close to each other. Any auto parts store will have compression tester kits. There are several videos on YouTube on how to check compression on a jet ski.

          I think the Sparks and the Trixx versions are great, I own a Spark myself. The only downside is that they’re not as comfortable as the bigger machines but they are a lot more playful though.

          Reply
  11. I’m looking at a 2002 with 50 Hrs and a 2000 with 145 Hrs. Should I be cautious of anything here? Both are Sea Doo GTX Bombardiers. Thanks.

    Reply
    • The 2000 model would be a 2-stroke for sure, but the 2002 has a possibility of being a 4-stroke. My opinion is to avoid any 2-strokes as they don’t make most parts for them anymore, the last 2-stroke Sea-Doo made was in 2007, and the parts for it are hard to come by these days. Stick with 4-strokes, especially non-supercharged models. And if the 2-strokes say “DI” or “RFI” in the name, avoid them at all cost.

      Reply
  12. Just bought a 2019 GTI 130 se with 112hrs on it. Was well maintained as far as I know. Sea-doo and trailer came to 9k. Do you think I’m safe as long as it’s been well kept???

    Reply
    • You should be fine, the 130HP is one of the best engines Sea-Doo has ever made. It’s also a great starter jet ski and those hours are nothing for that engine.

      Reply
  13. I saw this ad
    “Well maintained 2008 Seadoo GTI with brand new 2021 trailer for sale. This thing hauls at around 75km/h with its 1500CC 130HP 4 stroke engine. Forget about rebuilding superchargers, this engine is extremely reliable, as the GTI is trusted by water safety companies all over the world! Engine was serviced with a fresh oil change, and is ready to hit the waves!
    There are just over 800 hours on this machine – but these engines go well into the 3000s when maintained like this.”

    Is this worth pursuing at $6500 CDN?

    Reply
    • That is one of the best engines Sea-Doo has ever made but those are high hours for even that engine. This is a tough one, maybe if it was $1k less but hard to say without seeing it in person.

      Reply
  14. Hi Steve, I’m not sure if you still respond to this post, but I’m looking at a 2015 SeaDoo RXTX 260 and a 2008 Honda Aquatrax F12 for $10,000. The listing says that they both have 200 hours on them. It comes with an extended ShoreLand’r trailer, The RXTX has received a Riva Racing hull through exhaust, solar stainless steel prop, and fizzle intercooler. My worry is that neither are going to have been properly maintained. Is there still time to save the Supercharger on the RXTX if it has not been serviced?. The RXTX also has traction mats cut and wrapped over the sides of the gunnels?. I don’t know if thats to hide damage? or if they thought it looked cool? There’s also what looks like a piece of the sponsons on the right side of the RXTX chipped off?. the black trim and some of the paint towards the front of the machine is sun-bleached. The listing does not have a picture of the engine bay either. I just wanted to see someone that’s more experienced on the used market opinion, what are your thoughts on this?

    Reply
    • It sounds to me like the RXT-X was ridden hard (treated like a racing machine) and would be something I would move on from especially because I never like the through-hull exhaust, especially if you live on the lake the only thing that will do is make your neighbors angry. Also, Honda doesn’t make jet skis anymore so parts will be hard to find for the Aquatrax and not worth it in my opinion.

      Reply

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