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How Long Do Boats Last? – Boat Types and Maintenance

Written by J. Harvey / Fact checked by S. Numbers

how long do boats last

Buying a boat is an expensive purchase that people regard as a sort of investment. Suffice it to say, there are questions you need to know the answer to when investing. One such question is “how long do boats last?”

Boats can last between 5 to 50 years, but larger vessels are expected to reach up to 100 years. Let’s look at the expected life span of watercraft and factors that affect it.

Boat Life

Boating is much easier in video games than in real life. One example that illustrates this fact is the game Black Desert Online or BDO, which shows players the Black Desert boat lifespan, or how much damage the vessel can take before it becomes inoperable. Hence, gamers can make decisions that are better suited to each situation.

However, sailing in real life is different. There are still ways to determine how long boats can last, but it is not as convenient as looking at a BDO ship lifespan. Still, it’s better than nothing.

Unlike BDO boat lifespan, the expected life of a watercraft is measured in years. While design and materials contribute greatly to estimated figures, regular care and maintenance may be an even bigger factor.

A neglected vessel may not last even 5 years, and if a boat is frequently used but never maintained, it may be lucky to last a year. To better understand this, it is a good idea to have some familiarity with what maintenance entails.

Boat Maintenance

Every boat owner needs to be familiar with maintenance. You don’t need to know how to do everything yourself, but you do need to know what needs to be worked on and how often. Do what you can and let professionals handle the rest.

As far as a watercraft is concerned, everything needs to be maintained; it’s just a matter of breaking them down into groups. The main groups are the engine, hull, electrical systems, plumbing, moving parts, and upholstery. Not every vessel would have all of these, but they are fairly common.

Parts Breakdown


  • Electrical systems and plumbing should be periodically checked. Many rely on professional work for these, but doing so should not cost too much since their maintenance is not needed often (about once a year).
  • Moving parts and upholstery are a bit similar in that they don’t need to be maintained frequently, though simple care such as cleaning goes a long way.
  • The engine is something you’ll need to become more familiar with as time passes because if there is a problem when sailing, you’ll only have yourself to rely on.
  • There are also simple maintenance and checks that need to be done on the engine before and after setting out on the boat, such as using the right fuel with no ethanol, securing the battery and making sure it has no corrosion, and checking the prop shaft.
  • The hull is probably the simplest to maintain but is the one you’ll likely spend most of your time on.

Unfortunately, hull maintenance involves a lot of things. Cleaning, waxing, polishing, gel coat repair, and painting are just some of the things you may need to do at some point in your life as a boat owner.

But taking care of the hull is also one of the more rewarding things to work on because doing it directly contributes to how good your boat looks.

The Value of Boat Maintenance


A lot of what you’ll do for maintaining your boat will have something to do with cleaning, and while it sounds like a hassle, it keeps things simple.

Remember that water and moisture can damage the boat, and cleaning inside and outside will help prevent such damage. On the flip side, it becomes difficult once your boat has sustained damage and it becomes a bigger and more costly problem the longer it is left unresolved.

Boat maintenance is important for other reasons as well. It will help keep your vessel reliable and safe for use. A boat that behaves strangely in many situations is difficult to operate and prone to accidents.

Regular maintenance also lets you retain more of a boat’s value. It’s not just that a well-maintained vessel has more value, but a neglected one will not have any value to speak of at some point. If you want to keep your options open, proper maintenance will allow you to sell your vessel.

Boat Types and Expected Lifespan

Different types of boats will have different expected life spans, but various factors affect longevity. Such factors include the material they are made of and how they are used. Different materials also face different challenges that affect how easy or difficult they are to maintain.

The design also plays a role, but it is more difficult to incorporate into an estimate. For now, let’s use the material to categorize boats. Maximum year estimates are made on the assumption that the watercraft are well-maintained.

1. Aluminum


How long do aluminum boats last? 15 to 30 years is expected on average. However, it is not unheard of for them to last up to 50 years.

The biggest challenge for this type of watercraft is corrosion, especially when used in saltwater, making hull maintenance key. Many kinds of boats make use of aluminum, with Jon boats and pontoon boats often on the list.

2. Fiberglass

This material is used in a wide variety of vessels, such as sailboats, and is known for its durability. Such watercraft has an expected lifespan of 10 to 25 years but can easily reach 50 years as well.

However, fiberglass is prone to UV damage, making its gel coat extremely important for its longevity. Gel coat maintenance is known to require a lot of time and effort. To make this easier, use products that clean and wax the boat in one go.

3. Steel

This material is expected to last between 40 to 75 years, but it is more difficult to work with and is usually limited for use in bigger vessels such as container ships. This material is also much heavier than aluminum and fiberglass, making steel watercraft difficult to control.

4. Wood


These are expected to last around 10 to 25 years, which is a big improvement, considering how short the lifespan of wooden boats was in the past. The biggest advantage of wooden vessels is how easy they are to repair compared to other types. Wood is also popular for people looking to build their watercraft from scratch.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long can you leave a fiberglass boat in the water?

It can stay in the water for up to a month. Any longer than that will likely result in the hull taking damage such as cracks, leaks, or water buildup.

2. How old is too old for a boat?

It may be too old if it is over 50 years. The exception would be if it is a special type of boat, or if it has some sort of cultural or historical significance and has been specially maintained.


How long do boats last? Now, you know that boats can last from 5 to 50 years, with some lasting up to 100 years. More importantly, you know what goes into ensuring that a vessel works for a long time.

If you have any comments and suggestions or if you have any experiences to share, please leave them below. We’d love to hear from you.

Remember to boat safely.

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