Boats Life Span: How Long Do Boats Last? Precisely Answered Including All Boat Types


You know that boats typically float on water and stay in moist environments most of the time. Won’t it damage the boat, reducing the boat’s life? How long do boats last? First, let’s see the average life span of boats.

On average, boats last around 10 to 25 years. But, the life span can vary from 5 years to as high as 100 years (for big ships), depending mainly on the materials used in construction and how often the boat is subjected to regular maintenance. The Boat’s usage is also vital in deciding the life span.

So, a boat can last from as little as 5 years to up to 100 years or more. However, the top figures are only applicable for big boats (ships), not for small boats. Sometimes the boat may not even last for few years if it is poorly maintained.

The materials used in its construction also play a crucial role in deciding the life span. Below is a table showing the average life span of boats that are made out of different materials.

Boat TypeAverage Life Span
Aluminum Boat15 – 30 years
Fiberglass Boat10 – 25 years
Steel Boat40 – 75 years
Wooden Boat10 – 25 years

Those are just average values under regular maintenance. A well-maintained boat will last more than those values, and a poorly maintained boat won’t last long enough. So, maintenance is a crucial determining factor.

Dividing the life expectancy of boats by each model is difficult, so we decided to divide based on the materials used in its construction. We will now see the life span of all those boats in a detailed way.

Related Post – How Many Hours On A Boat Is A Lot? Check this article to know some of the myths and facts about the number of hours on boats and the two essential factors to look for rather than the number of hours.

Aluminum Boats Last 15 – 30 Years And Up

On average, aluminum boats last around 15 to 30 years. But, the life span can vary from 5 years to as high as 50 years, depending mainly on how often the boat is subjected to regular maintenance and where it is used saltwater, brackish waters, or normal water.

After fiberglass, aluminum is one of the common materials used in boat construction, and most small & popular fishing boats (Bass boats, Jon boats, etc.) are made out of aluminum. A well-maintained aluminum boat can easily last up to 30 years or more if it is well maintained.

The common problem with aluminum boats comes with saltwater, causing corrosion. However, cleansing the boat after every saltwater ride will remove all the accumulated salt, which will be a good practice in improving its life. We will now see the Pros and Cons to know why aluminum boats last long.

Related Post – Is It Safe To Use Aluminum Boat In Saltwater? Check this article to know the difficulties of using an aluminum boat in salt water and how to tackle them well.

Benefits Of Using Aluminum In Boat Construction (Building)

  • Aluminum is more corrosion resistive than a boat made of other materials like steel. The corrosion resistance of aluminum is due to its tendency to form a compact oxide layer over the surface. The oxide formed offers high resistance to corrosion (however, seawater can be dangerous).
  • Aluminum is malleable, meaning more elastic in nature than steel. Aluminum can go places and create shapes that steel cannot, often forming deeper or more intricate spinnings. Especially for parts with deep and straight walls, aluminum is a good material of choice.
  • The aluminum boat weighs less than the boat made of other materials like fiberglass and steel. A decrease in weight increases the vessel’s performance and speed, decreasing fuel consumption since it displaces less water and no need to push more water out of its way.

Drawbacks Of Using Aluminum In Boat Construction (Building)

  • Aluminum is less abrasive than other materials like steel. Aluminum is a softer metal and malleable than steel, so aluminum is more susceptible to abrasion. So, proper maintenance is often required to overcome any damages.
  • The aluminum boat requires more maintenance than the boat made of other materials like steel and fiberglass. Small dents in aluminum hulls can be fixed easily and quickly than in steel boats; however, it is difficult and costly to repair when larger damage occurs on an aluminum boat.
  • Aluminum is expensive than other materials like steel. Tonne for tonne, the cost of aluminum is much greater than steel. At the time of this post, aluminum’s cost per tonne is 1,945 dollars, whereas steel’s cost per tonne is 700 dollars, which is 3 times expensive than steel.

Finally, the average life span of aluminum boats is 15 to 30 years. But, the life span can vary from 5 years to 50 years, depending mainly on how often the boat is subjected to regular maintenance and where it is used saltwater, brackish waters, or normal water.

Fiberglass Boats Last 10 – 25 Years And Up

On average, fiberglass boats last around 10 to 25 years. But, the life span can vary from 3 years to as high as 50 years, depending mainly on how often the boat is subjected to regular maintenance and where it is used saltwater, brackish waters, or normal water.

Today, fiberglass is one of the very common materials used in boat construction due to its advantage in terms of cost and durability. A fiberglass is a form of plastic that is reinforced using glass fiber. The glass fiber is usually woven into a fabric. This makes fiberglass superior when it comes to durability.

Most small boats like jetboats, bay boats, center console boats, deck boats, cabin cruisers, cuddy cabins, etc., and some big cruisers are made out of fiberglass. This is because fiberglass has greater advantages in terms of cost and durability, making it usable for greater periods.

Since it’s not metal, the fiberglass boats can easily be damaged if they are exposed to the sun’s UV rays, fatigue from movement, and saltwater. So, proper maintenance like covering the boat with a boat cover if it is kept outdoors, cleaning the boat after every ride, etc., will improve its life.

Benefits Of Using Fiberglass In Boat Construction (Building)

  • A fiberglass boat is more corrosion-resistant in nature than a boat made of other materials like steel. Since there is no metal anywhere on the hull exposed to the water, corrosion doesn’t happen on a boat made of fiberglass (but marine growth is common).
  • Fiberglass is more malleable than a boat made of other materials like aluminum, wood, and steel. Manufacturers may make an entire boat frame out of 1 or 2 parts by molding fiberglass in the mold, while steel or aluminum, or wood would take many parts. This alone makes fiberglass ideal for the production line.
  • Fiberglass boats are easy to maintain than a boat made of other materials like steel and aluminum. Since corrosion isn’t a big problem on a fiberglass boat, it reduces half of the maintenance works and costs; the only maintenance is required for growth on the hull.

Related Post – How Much Does Boat Maintenances Cost Per Year? Check this article to know all the maintenance costs that you need to spend on a boat each year in a detailed way.

Drawbacks Of Using Fiberglass In Boat Construction (Building)

  • Fiberglass boats cause blistering (osmosis) when the water passes through the gel coat and forms a dome-like structure under the gel coat due to some chemical reaction between the water and under the gel coat. It will destroy the look of the boat and damages the hull’s bottom look.
  • Fiberglass boats weigh more than a boat made of wood. However, a fiberglass boat can’t be heavier than a boat made of steel.

Finally, the average life span of fiberglass boats is 10 to 25 years. But, the life span can vary from 3 years to 50 years, depending mainly on how often the boat is subjected to regular maintenance and where it is used saltwater, brackish waters, or normal water.

Steel Boats Last 40 – 75 Years And Up

On average, steel boats last around 40 to 75 years. But, the life expectancy can vary from 25 years to as high as 100 years, depending mainly on how often the boat is subjected to regular maintenance and how often it is repainted.

Now we are not talking about small recreational boats used by many; we are talking about big container ships, navy ships, etc. because steel is heavy and it is not suitable for small boats. Due to their durability, steel boats last longer than any other boats.

Steel has carbon content in it, making it harder, more dent resistant, and more durable when stressed. Steel is strong and less likely to warp, deform or bend underweight, force or heat. So, that is the main reason why warships and big container ships, etc., are made of steel.

A well-maintained hull made out of steel with a good coating system can last almost indefinitely, as long as it’s kept properly painted and rust-free. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see steel boats using for 50 or 60 years still in service if they’ve been kept in good condition and regularly repainted.

Benefits Of Using Steel In Boat Construction (Building)

  • Steel boats last longer than the boat made of other materials like fiberglass, wood, etc. It’s not uncommon to see steel boats using for 50 or 60 years still in service if they’ve been kept in good condition and regularly repainted.
  • Steel boats are durable (strong) than the boat made of other materials like fiberglass, wood, aluminum, etc. Steel’s carbon content makes it harder, more dent resistant, and more durable when stressed. Steel is strong and less likely to warp, deform or bend underweight, force or heat.
  • Steel is inexpensive (less expensive) compared to other metals like aluminum. Although when you add in the blasting, painting, and insulation costs, a steel vessel with a ‘yacht finish’ and long life expectancy will cost far more than a production fiberglass (GRP) boat.

Drawbacks Of Using Steel In Boat Construction (Building)

  • Steel boats are more corrosive than boats made of other materials like fiberglass and aluminum. Steel, in contrast, reacts with oxygen from water to form a relatively unstable iron oxide/hydroxide film (rust) that continues to grow with time and exposure to water and air.
  • Steel boats need more maintenance than the boat made of other materials like fiberglass and aluminum. Steel boats always need repainting and never look as good as a fiberglass boat. Due to its corrosive nature, it often requires repainting.
  • Steel boats are heavier than the boat made of other materials like fiberglass, wood, aluminum, etc. So, a boat made out of steel covers less distance than the same sized aluminum boat and consumes more fuel since a boat displaces more space in the water if it’s heavy and it needs to push more water out of its way, increasing fuel consumption. Steel is 70% heavier than aluminum.

Finally, the average life span of steel boats is 40 to 75 years. But, the life span can vary from 25 years to 100 years, depending mainly on how often the boat is subjected to regular maintenance and how often it is repainted.

Wooden Boats Last 10 – 25 Years And Up

On average, wooden boats last around 10 to 25 years. But, the life expectancy can vary from 5 years to as high as 30 years or more, depending mainly on how often the boat is subjected to regular maintenance and where it is used saltwater, brackish waters, or normal water.

Boats are traditionally made of wood in the past. Nowadays, fiberglass, steel, and aluminum are also used along with wood. However, many people are still constructing and using boats made of wood solely due to its cost-efficient nature.

Wooden boats can be easily and reliably repaired. Even wood’s ability to rot can be an advantage. At the end of its useful life, an old wooden boat can be allowed to rot back into the earth or recycled by other means.

Benefits Of Using Wood In Boat Construction (Building)

  • Wood has been used in boat building exclusively from time immemorial. Wood presents certain inbuilt and Inherent advantages like positive buoyancy, easy workability, treatability, and good strength.
  • Inherent elastic properties of wood help in bending and shaping when heated and steamed. It can shrink and swells without rupture. Wood can also stand the sudden applied shock.
  • It also has a clean and smooth finish apart from being highly durable with proper treatment. Care and maintenance of the life of the wooden boat can be increased. It is good for heat insulation. Easy to fit and drill holes.

Drawbacks Of Using Wood In Boat Construction (Building)

  • Wooden boats often undergo many problems such as wood rot, shrinkage, cracking, and swelling; they won’t last long enough and requires a lot of maintenance costs. However, doing regular maintenance will immensely cut down most of the maintenance costs.
  • Regular maintenance is required for a wooden boat to help maintain and support the boat’s structure’s durability. Cracks, swells, and rot on the wood need to be repaired or replaced early to prevent further damages. These repairs can sometimes be costly and time-consuming.
  • For example, if you keep a wooden boat and fiberglass, steel, or aluminum boat in the water for the same periods of time (say 2 weeks), you can see growth (slime, algae, etc.) on both the hulls for sure. The key differentiating thing is a fiberglass boat can be cleaned easily and quickly compared to a wooden boat.
  • And removing barnacles off the boat’s hull isn’t a big deal on fiberglass, steel, or aluminum boat compared to a wooden boat because while scrubbing the hull of a wooden boat, you need to be very careful; otherwise, applying more pressure may result in peeling off the wood (however, wood won’t get peeled out that easily).

Wood is soft and not solid enough compared to steel or aluminum, so metals last longer than wood. But, any material requires maintenance down the line; even not taking proper care of boats made out of materials other than wood can result in damage down the line.

Finally, the average life span of wooden boats is 10 to 25 years. But, the life span can vary from 5 years to 50 years, depending mainly on how often the boat is subjected to regular maintenance and where it is used saltwater, brackish waters, or normal water.

Key Takeaways From The Post

On average, boats last around 10 to 25 years. But, the life span can vary from 5 years to as high as 100 years (for big ships), depending mainly on the materials used in construction and how often the boat is subjected to regular maintenance. The Boat’s usage is also vital in deciding the life span.

So, a boat can last from as little as 5 years to up to 100 years or more. However, the top figures are only applicable for big boats (ships), not for small boats. Sometimes the boat may not even last for few years if it is poorly maintained.

The materials used in its construction also play a crucial role in deciding the life span. Below is a table showing the average life span of boats that are made out of different materials.

Boat TypeAverage Life Span
Aluminum Boat15 – 30 years
Fiberglass Boat10 – 25 years
Steel Boat40 – 75 years
Wooden Boat10 – 25 years

Those are just average values under regular maintenance. A well-maintained boat will last more than those values, and a poorly maintained boat won’t last long enough. So, maintenance is a crucial determining factor.

Mahidhar

My name is Mahidhar, and I am passionate about boating. Every day I learn some new things about boats and share them here on the site.

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