Jet Ski Engine Hours – How Many Hours Does a Jet Ski Last?

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Jet ski engine hours are usually the main focus when it comes to purchasing a used jet ski, and with good reason.

While some buyers are happy with higher hours on a jet ski, many are looking for jet skis with low engine hours, exclusively. This is usually a major factor in the buying decision – and the selling price as well!

If you’re considering buying a used jet ski, you need to pay close attention to this detail!

When you do your research on this topic, you can find a lot of confusing info about how long a jet ski engine lasts, so it’s not clear what the real lifespan of a jet ski is and which one is worth buying.

Additionally, when you select your ski, you shouldn’t have to focus exclusively on the jet ski’s engine hours. As you’ll see, the maintenance history is more important than the hours on the jet ski!

To help your purchasing decision, we at JetDrift have compiled the most important facts about a jet ski engine’s lifespan, as well as some other import factors you need to keep in mind before purchasing a used jet ski!

What’s Considered a Lot of Hours on a Jet Ski?

When it comes to engine hours, first and foremost, you want to ask the question: How many hours does a jet ski engine last?

As a rule of thumb, the 2-stroke jet ski engines last around 200-300 hours, while the 4-stroke jet ski engines last around 300-500 hours. But keep in mind that these numbers depend on factors like maintenance, usage, and many others!

If you choose your jet ski carefully, pay attention to operating it properly and give it regular maintenance, you can expect a longer lifespan. On the other hand, you can destroy your engine easily in a very short amount of time!

So let’s move on to the most important factors about what can affect a jet ski’s lifespan!

Factors That Affect a Jet Ski’s Lifespan

When it comes to the lifespan of jet skis, it usually not only depends on engine hours, but several other factors as well. Let’s check them one by one:

Performance

In any motorized vehicle, higher performance means higher chance of malfunctioning and a shorter lifespan. Interesting fact: Formula 1 engines are rebuilt after nearly every race, while a simple engine in a Toyota Camry lasts forever.

Keep this in mind when you select your jet ski, as you can expect a much shorter lifespan for the top performance models!

Supercharger

If we’re talking about performance, we shouldn’t overlook the supercharged engines.

These motors are extremely powerful, typically producing 230-310 HP depending on the model. While they offer amazing performance on the water, you can expect much more maintenance, higher fuel consumption, higher risk of malfunctioning and shorter lifespan.

Therefore, it’s not recommended you purchase a used jet ski if it’s supercharged!

Age

Beyond the engine hours, the age of a jet ski is also important. The engine hours are obviously a deciding factor in your purchase as well as the year of the model. Usually, the older the jet ski, the more hours it has on the water.

As a rule of thumb, an average jet ski is used around 30 hours every year, but this number can vary widely depending on the owners. It’s not uncommon to see a 10 year old jet ski with less than 100 engine hours, while other owners ride 100 hours every year!

Generally speaking, if a jet ski is used less than 30 hours per year, it’s usually categorized as a “low-hour jet ski” while more usage is a “high-hour jet ski”.

Also, keep in mind that even if you find a 10 (or 10+) year old ski with extremely low hours, it’s not necessarily a good deal. It’s because many parts like sealings, hoses, electronics are aging even if the jet ski doesn’t hit the water. And don’t even mention the rust!

What’s more, many service shops refuse to work on skis older than 10 years old.

Features

If we’re talking about the lifespan of a jet ski, we shouldn’t be limited to the engine. Just like with cars, today’s jet skis are much more complex and are equipped with many extra bells and whistles.

These features include brake and reverse systems, large touch screens, and many other electronic stuff. Although these new inventions are super cool, keep in mind that they may not work well after 5, 10, or 15 years.

And while many vintage watercraft can be repaired easily with a wrench and screwdriver, the newest models just give you an error code on the screen and then stop. And the repairs and parts can be very costly, if at all worth repairing!

So even if an aged jet ski’s engine is running, the need to replace an expensive part may mean the end of the jet ski’s life, as it’s no longer worth repairing.

Rider’s Attitude

The attitude and care of the owner can directly affect the lifespan of a jet ski. If the owner’s manual and basic rules of operation are overlooked, the jet ski may be in worse condition than originally thought. Here are some examples of how owners can abuse their jet skis:

As you can see, an inexperienced or irresponsible owner can damage the jet ski in many ways – even if riding only a couple of hours per year!

Maintenance

When it comes to a jet ski’s lifespan, one of the most important factors is maintenance. In fact, proper maintenance can be more important than the number of jet ski engine hours operated!

This is because a poorly maintained and serviced engine and other parts wear out much sooner.

Every owner’s manual strictly outlines required service intervals. Beyond regular service, jet skis need to be winterized in most cases. Additionally, every owner should carefully check their skis before and after rides!

If these important recommendations aren’t followed, it can damage the jet ski in several ways!

In freezing weather, expanding ice can damage the cooling system, intercooler or exhaust system. Missed oil changes are bad for the engine, and lack of lubrication on the moving parts can lead to rust, and the list is pretty endless!

Only one cold day without proper winterization can incur major damage on a jet ski!  So can poor-quality parts used during service or for improper modifications.

So, as you see, proper maintenance is much more important than engine hours!

Jet Ski Engine Usage in Rented Jet Skis

Are you in need of some real evidence about how important maintenance is regarding how many hours jet ski engines last? Then we highly recommend you visit a jet ski rental company and check their fleet carefully!

Surprisingly, you can find rental jet skis which are still running with several hundred, or even 1000+ hours on their engines!

And you can imagine how much abuse these jet skis get day after day from inexperienced or wreckless customers. So the high usage hours on these rental models mean really hard use!

Are you wondering how these models can reach such high engine hours?

One of the reasons for this is that these fleets are inspected regularly, and maintained on a really high-quality and professional level. That’s one of the main reasons why these jet skis last so long!

Another reason is that rental companies are always extremely picky about choosing the most reliable jet ski models on the market, and with good reason. Constant breakdowns always mean a huge hassle for staff, which can finally lead to dissatisfied customers, less income and a declining reputation!

That’s why rental companies avoid high-performance, supercharged jet skis. As we’ve mentioned above, the supercharger consumes a lot of maintenance hours, and makes the jet ski less reliable. Additionally, these models have the highest price tags and maintenance costs as well!

Based on the above, it seems there are several jet ski models that can be very durable with proper maintenance, especially the non-supercharged ones.

Many rental companies change their fleet frequently, and these rental jet skis appear on the second-hand market year after year. You may be wondering if you should buy one? It’s not recommended!

As we’ve mentioned, beyond the high engine hours, these machines get a lot of abuse from customers, so we can’t recommend buying a used rental jet ski.

When you’re looking for a used jet ski, beyond the condition, fewer engine hours are better, of course! But how many hours on a jet ski are too much?

Is 200 Hours a Lot for a Jet Ski? Is it Worth Buying?

As you can see, there are many factors to consider, but the engine hours still matter, of course. So you may ask: Is 200 hours a lot for a jet ski? Is it still worth buying?

In general, 300 engine hours on a 4-stroke jet ski is already considered high usage hours, so it’s always wise to purchase a model with less usage. Based on experience and best practices, you shouldn’t buy a used jet ski which is more than 6-7 years old, and has 150-200 engine hours on it.

Why?

This is because after you purchase your ski, over the next 2-3 years, you’ll probably put another 30 (or even more) hours on it, annually. This means after a couple of years, your craft will be around 10 years old and will have around 250-300 hours on it. That will mean noticeable wear which indicates it’s likely time to upgrade your craft.

The 10 year age span is a kind of boundary for many buyers, which means it may be harder to sell beyond that range. This is because many jet ski service shops also refuse to work with jet skis over 10 years old!

If you can find a jet ski with only 50-70 hours, these models could be the best deal for you in the long run. Additionally, keep in mind that the low hours will mean a higher selling price as well.

But again, the condition of the jet ski is more important than the engine hours. If you would like to learn what to check on a used jet ski before buy, don’t miss our step-by-step used jet ski buyer’s guide.

Beyond this advice, it’s highly recommended you get a prepurchase inspection from a dealership or service shop before buying a jet ski. Also, don’t miss the water test!

4-Stroke Jet Ski vs. 2-Stroke Jet Ski Engine Hours

In the past, 2-stroke jet skis were more common, but today, most of the jet skis arrive with 4-stroke engines. However, you can still find 2-stroke stand-up jet skis on the market. You may ask: How many hours will a 2-stroke jet ski last?

When it comes to 2- stroke jet ski engines, the rule of thumb is that 200 hours are considered high engine hours. Because of this, if you’re looking for a 2 stroke, try to choose a second-hand model with around 100 hours on it, but the less the better. As always, the overall condition is more important than the engine hours!

Let’s compare PWC categories based on their engines!

Sit-Down Jet Skis

If your choice is a sit-down jet ski, then we recommend you buy a model with a 4-stroke engine. Here’s why:

All 2-stroke sit-down jet skis on the market are pretty old. The purchase price of these vintage models may attract you, but they’ll come with much more hassle (and sometimes costs) compared to many newer models.

These vintage models were manufactured by Polaris, Honda or Arctic Cat many years ago. Surprisingly, you can find still some of them running on the water, as each brand has its own fan base who are willing to keep these old skis alive.

Their main advantage is that these jet skis are really agile and fun to ride, offering a vastly different riding experience compared to the current, larger watercrafts, which are considered “couches” by many jet ski riders.

Additionally, these old 2-stroke jet skis have high gas consumption, and burn oil continuously, which means extra costs for you.

Their engines are worn out, and create more pollution compared to a new jet ski (or even banned in certain areas!). The other issue we’ve mentioned is that many service shops may refuse to work with jet skis older than 10 years.

Because of this, unless you have mechanical skills and are looking for a side project, it’s recommended you stay away from these vintage watercraft.

Instead of, we highly recommend you buy a newer 4-stroke sit-down jet ski model.  If you’re looking for something small, you should take a look at the Rec-Lite category!

Stand-Up Jet Skis

Stand-up models are unique in the world of jet skis, and many of them are still come with 2-stroke engines.

The reason for this is that the manufacturers want to keep the craft’s weight low and increase their power-to-weight ratio. In this way, they can produce faster, lighter and more agile jet skis.

The weight of a 2-stroke engine is always much lower, so using these engines makes sense for stand-up jet skis. Additionally, all of the vintage stand ups, and the majority of the current stand up models come with 2-stroke engines.

However, it’s good to know that 4-stroke stand up jet skis are also available on the market since 2015. Namely, this model is the Kawasaki SX-R 1500, so don’t hesitate to discover this model here!

How can You Check the Jet Ski’s Engine Hours?

Are you wondering how can you check the engine hours on a jet ski? Don’t worry, it’s usually pretty easy.

Every newer sit-down jet ski has a gauge or screen, and when the key is attached to the ski, you can check the engine hours on it. Some models show the number of hours by default, while on some models you have to press a “mode” button to find it. It’s true especially in case of the lower-end models on which screen is typically smaller.

In case you can’t find the engine hours, you can take the jet ski to a service shop or dealership where professionals can help you with this issue. It’s always wise to take a used jet ski to a dealership for an inspection before you buy, so you can ask them to check the engine hours on the computer at the same time.

It’s an essential inspection so never miss it! Some dishonest owners install new gauges to reset the jet ski’s engine hours, to try to scam you in this way. But don’t worry, fortunately, the newest models save the engine hours on more places in the ski than just in the gauge.

Vintage jet skis usually were not equipped with hour meters, but as we’ve discussed earlier, it’s not recommended you buy anything that is too aged!

Conclusion

What’s considered a lot of hours on a jet ski?

In general, every 4-stroke jet ski over 300 hours is considered a lot of usage, while in the case of 2-stroke jet skis, this number is around 200. But proper maintenance is always more important than engine hours!

What is the average lifespan of a jet ski?

When it comes to the average lifespan of a jet ski, it’s hard to state a hard number because it depends on many factors like the model, performance, maintenance and the owner’s care and attitude. But as a rule of thumb, it’s not recommended you buy anything that is older than 6-7 years old.

To sum it all up, the main takeaways are that when it comes to purchasing a used jet ski, the condition and maintenance of the machine is always more important than the engine hours. You can find jet skis with a lot of engine hours in good shape, while others are already dead after 100 or even just 50 hours!

As evidence, you can find jet skis in rental shops with 1000+ hours in their engines, so this is a clue that with proper maintenance, a jet ski can run much longer than we would expect!

Unlike rentals, an average owner uses around 30 hours on their jet ski in a year, so it means a you can find a typical 5 year old jet skis with 150 hours, while the 10 year old skis usually have 300 hours on them. These numbers can vary widely of course, depending on the owners, but as a rule of thumb, you can count on 30 hours yearly.

Are you wondering what to buy? Is 100 hours a lot for a jet ski?

If you’re planning to buy a used jet ski, the best practice is not to buy a model that is older than 6-7 years old and has a maximum of 150-200 hours on it. The best practice is to focus on the younger models with 50-70 hours to find the best deals for the long run.

It’s also wise to avoid the used supercharged models due their high risks and maintenance needs.

If you don’t want to bother with maintenance, you can even consider renting a jet ski rather than buying one!

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