Just How Long Do Boats Last?

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Boats, as we know, have been in use for hundreds of centuries. There are many different types of boats, and each one is designed to cater to a specific need. Over time, boats have evolved in their design; materials used to build boats have been upgraded from natural materials like forest wood, birch bark, animal hides to more commercial & durable materials like aluminum, glass, plastic etc.

Boats serve different purposes such as fishing, water sports, voyages, use by the navy & police, & many more. Boats are broadly classified into three types:

Human Powered Boats: Human-powered boats require manual operation, like Rafts & Canoes which are rowed using oars & paddles.

Sailboats: Sailboats are propelled by sails. Sails are made of fabric, which uses the power of wind to move the boat forward. Different kinds of sailboats are Windsurfers, sailing ships & ice boats.

Motorboats: Motorboats are operated using engines & are high in speed.

They have evolved from the purpose of fulfilling essential needs such as fishing & transportation to catering to people’s luxury needs. With the evolution of boats, their systems have become more & more complex, & their maintenance has also increased ten folds.

So, how long do boats last? The durability & lifespan of a boat depending on a number of factors, such as the materials used in building the boat, amount of usage, maintenance of the motor & engine, & how dry it is kept. There is no specific lifespan for any boat. Most boats tend to last for at least 2 decades. There are even boats that are 60 years old & still running well.

If any problem arises with a boat, it’s mainly because of issues with the internal parts. However, maintenance plays a big role in keeping the boat working up to its full potential. Let’s look into some of the factors that influence the efficiency & lifespan of a boat & its parts, & ways to counter these problems:

The idle time of a boat

When a boat (motorboat) is not used & kept idle for a long time, there will be trouble in starting the boat later on. This is, in fact, true for any motor vehicle. Starting trouble takes place because of the following issues:

  • The fluid in batteries starts to drain out
  • Engine fluids start to lose their lubrication ability
  • Interior electrical components get jammed
  • Parts of the boat get corroded

The best way to prevent the above problems is to use the boat at least once a week, or if that is not possible when the boat is in a resting position, make it sit vertically. The basic idea behind this is to cause the motion of fluids in its parts.  

Causing motion in boats doesn’t always solve problems. Some of these issues need a deeper understanding & better solutions. Read on to know how.


There are 2 kinds of batteries used in boats- Regular batteries & Gel batteries. Both of these batteries drain out when not in use, but Gel batteries drain out slower.

One way to minimize battery draining when not in use is to disconnect the batteries from anything they are connected to. It is best to have switches on the batteries which will enable you to turn them on & off as required.


There are 2 types of corrosions- Erosion & Electro Chemical Corrosion. Erosion occurs due to friction. When boats sail in sandy waters, the heavy flow of water with sand against them acts like a sandpaper which generates friction & erodes the boat parts. Galvanic Corrosion, which is a type of Electro chemical corrosion, occurs between 2 different metals, like aluminum & stainless steel. Boats exposed to saltwater face corrosion more than those exposed to fresh water.

Crevice corrosion is a type of corrosion that occurs in screws. This type of corrosion thins down screws & leaves them disfigured. This, in turn, loosens the fittings in the boat parts.

Coating metals with Zinc help in preventing corrosion. Zinc can be applied by spraying or brushing.  

Problems with electrical connections

Loose & corroded electrical connections tend to decrease the efficiency of the boat & there’s also the danger of fire hazards.

Use electrical components that are ignition protected. Ignition protection can be achieved by using Flame Arrestors (Stops the combustion of fuel by extinguishing flames) & Sealed Fittings.

For proper wiring, the following points must be kept in mind:

  • Labe:

Use BC (Boat Cable) 5W2 (Quality of insulation)

  • Neatness:

Neat arrangement of cables & other electrical equipment will ensure ease of repairing & troubleshooting.

  • Ring Terminals:

Ring Terminals are better as compared to Fork Terminals when it comes to having a tight grip.

  • Terminals:

It is better to minimize the number of terminals as much as possible.

  • Security:

Wires should be properly secured to avoid vibration, pitching & rolling.

The size of a wire should be appropriate for the amount of current running through it. Skinny wires can melt when high current runs through them. The right sizes are clearly mentioned in the installation manuals which must be followed suit.

To prevent corrosion of electrical components in salt water, use aluminum or zinc anodes in engines & underwater parts. In freshwater, magnesium can be used.

Problems with the engine

Engines can overheat when there is an insufficient flow of water into its cooling loop.

This can happen when the inlet gets blocked by weeds in the water, mud or plastics. Clean them out.

Use of lubricants like motor oil helps in preventing overheating of the engine. This oil must be changed from time to time as specified in the user manual because, with the passage of time, the oils tend to lose their lubricating ability.

Trailer maintenance

The poor condition of a trailer can prove to be costly for the boat. Improper maintenance can corrode & break a trailer’s support brackets & damage roller assemblies which end up causing hull problems & an increase in fuel consumption.

The above points are important for motorboats which are mostly used these days. The following points contain maintenance instructions for all kinds of boats:

Other simple steps that should be taken for boat maintenance

  • Boats that are exposed to salt water must be regularly cleaned with fresh water to remove the salt content from the body. There are cleaning agents that are specially made for boats. Use them.
  • When using a motorboat, the motor oil of the boat must be changed at least once every year.
  • Make sure that the propeller is in good condition. Tighten the nuts & screws of the propeller & make sure that it is not jammed anywhere.
  • Grease the propeller shaft well for a smooth flow.
  • If your boat has steering, oil it well for easy movement.
  • A boat when kept as dry as possible prevents as many problems as possible.
  • Put a protective covering over the boat. This will prevent bugs, critters & bird-droppings from messing the boat. Covering the boat also prevents scratches & prevents the fading of the paint due to exposure to sunlight.
  • Boat accessories like anchors, winch & fresh water circuits should also be serviced regularly.
  • Another way to ensure the safety & maintenance of boats is to dock them in special ports which take regular care of the maintenance of boats.  
  • If the boat is a big commercial boat, it’s very important to keep a well-working fire extinguisher inside.
  • It must be ensured that the fuel tank is free from rust. Rust can contaminate the fuel.

How Long Do Boats Last: Special Care

Winter is the best time to carry out all the boat repairs since boats are kept away from use in this season. Keeping boats in a good condition during winters will ensure a smooth start when they are taken out for use in spring.

  • During winters, oil gets stagnant & frozen in engines. Change the oil & filter when that happens.
  • Drain out the engine’s cooling system. This can be done by opening the coolant drain & flushing it with water in case of open coolant systems. In case the coolant system is closed, put into the system a mixture of anti-freeze solution & water.

Maintaining a boat, especially a motorboat isn’t an easy task. Boats require proper interior & exterior care, & attention. A boat should be treated like a baby by performing regular inspections, finding issues & resolving them. The amount of effort put into maintaining a boat determines its lifespan. The more love you give to the boat, the longer it lives! Proper maintenance of boats will also ensure that the sailor doesn’t get stuck with problems in mid-water. If you own a commercial boat, the user manual given by the seller has all the maintenance instructions written down. Follow them as instructed. Hiring an experienced mechanic for regular inspections will be the wisest thing to do.