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Jet Ski Hours – Everything Buyers Should Know

what is considered high hours on a jet ski

For potential buyers, jet ski hours can be a major factor in their buying decision. Many buyers strictly stick to low hour jet skis, while others may be okay with a high hour jet ski.

The problem is, what is considered high hours on a jet ski? 

Is 100 hours high on a jet ski? How about 200? Does the year, make, and model matter? These are all important questions to ask in regards to jet ski hours. Sadly, there aren’t always direct answers.

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Factors that affect jet ski hours

Often times there are several factors that can affect what’s considered high hours or low hours. This can somewhat vary based on opinion, so there isn’t any definite criteria. Some of the more important factors are:

Jet Ski Year:

The year in which a jet ski was made is perhaps the most obvious factor in deciding what to consider “high hours”. If a jet ski is only 2 years old with 100 hours, then it’s definitely a high hour jet ski. If the same jet ski were 7 years old with 120 hours, most would consider it a low hour jet ski.

Typically, a jet ski should average approximately 30 hours per year. Once it passes 30 hours per year, it’s usually considered a “high hour jet ski”. Any personal watercraft with less than 30 hours per year is normally considered a “low hour jet ski”.

Keep in mind though, that not all hours are equal. Things like proper maintenance as well as other factors can play a big role in jet ski hours. Also, sometimes very low hours can be bad. This usually implies that the watercraft sat for a while in between uses.

Jet Ski Manufacturer:

Most seasoned riders have their preferred manufactures. Depending on the person, they’ll likely make the argument that their favorite manufacturer makes models that can handle higher hours better than others. Although this is largely dependent on individual opinions, it’s worth taking into consideration.

For example, now defunct manufacturers like Honda, Arctic Cat, Tigershark, Polaris, and Wetbike all have models floating around. Considering they’ve all been out of business for 10+ years, the standard for “high hours” should be different than with other manufacturers.

Some people cherish these older models, and are okay with them having high hours. On the other hand, many people would never buy a jet ski made by one of these manufacturers.

This is something that also applies to manufacturers still in production. Some enthusiasts will swear by Yamaha, while others will stick with Sea Doo or Kawasaki. There are some valid points on each side as to which one can handle high hours the best, but there’s no single answer.

Jet Ski Model:

Depending on the model of the jet ski in question, some can definitely last much longer than others.

For starters, it’s widely accepted that 2 stroke engines don’t last as long as their 4 stroke counterparts. Because of this, high hours on a 2 stroke jet ski isn’t always equivalent to high hours on a 4 stroke jet ski.

Another important factor regarding the model is whether or not it’s supercharged. Generally speaking, a supercharged engine isn’t going to last quite as long as a standard engine. They also require slightly more maintenance as well. If the previous owner failed to maintain it properly, it can start to experience problems even with low hours. Of course, the same could be said about most traditional jet ski engines too.

People tend to be more okay with high hours on an entry level jet ski than with a more advanced model. The reason behind this is entry level models have relatively simple engines, making them very easy to work on. Models like the Sea Doo Spark and Yamaha EX can be maintained fairly easily, even by someone with little experience. As models get more advanced, their engines tend to become more intricate, which can lead to more difficult problems.

What is considered high hours on a jet ski?

As a general rule to go by, a jet ski with more than 100 hours is considered a high hour jet ski. On average a jet ski should have approximately 30 hours a year. Anything more than 30 hours per year is considered “high hours”.

Most jet ski models have a lifespan of approximately 300 hours, but if properly maintained they can last much longer.

How to make a high hour jet ski last longer

The easiest way to make a jet ski with high hours have a longer life is through proper maintenance. That may seem like common knowledge, but often times owners still neglect their personal watercraft.

Exactly what consists of proper maintenance can vary. Usually it consists of keeping up with oil changes, replacing spark plugs, and properly winterizing a jet ski after every season. Most maintenance is fairly simple and inexpensive.

Without the correct maintenance, even a jet ski with low hours will break down.

If purchasing a used jet ski, be sure to ask about all maintenance done. If the previous owner still has receipts and can recall all the previous maintenance, that’s a good sign.

Be wary of any major or unusual repairs that the jet ski has needed. This is an indicator that the jet ski wasn’t taken care of, or is simple prone to break downs.

How to tell how many hours a jet ski has

After deciding what is considered high hours on a jet ski, it’s good to know how to tell how many hours a jet ski has. There are a few different ways to tell how many hours a jet ski has.

First, check to see if the pwc has an hour gauge. Most newer models should have their own version of this easily displayed. If the pwc doesn’t have an hour gauge, it’s likely an older model, so chances are it has high hours anyway.

A jet ski without an hour gauge can be taken to a dealership, where they can then run some diagnostics to check its hours. Depending on the dealer, this can either be free, or cost up to $100 per jet ski.

Is it worth it to buy a high hour jet ski?

Just because a jet ski has high hours doesn’t mean it isn’t a great watercraft.

Although a PWC lifespan is usually around 300 hours, there are plenty of stories of jet skis lasting 2-3 times longer. What it really comes down to is how well the watercraft was taken care of.

To help decide whether or not it’s worth it to buy a high hour jet ski, consider taking it to a dealership. Usually dealers are willing to run some tests as well as give an appraisal on used jet skis.

If the previous owner was knowledgeable and responsible, there’s a good chance the jet ski can last for years to come.

3 Comments
  1. I am looking at purchasing a couple of used jet skis for my wife and I and I am very paranoid about engine rebuilds, hours run, etc. Your “Jet Ski Hours – Everything Buyers Should Know” article is very informative and helpful. Thank you!

  2. Equally important to hours is average RPM. Excellent article, but it is important to mention buyers need to know how the machine was driven. I’d rather buy a machine that ran 300 hours at 4,000 RPM than a machine that ran 100 hours at 14,000 RPM. Revs are what kill an engine. Regardless, great article. Thanks!

  3. Gday AJ,

    I have 4 YAmaha Waverunners.

    Bought the first new in 2008, a FX160 and I still have it today with 440 hrs on it.
    It has had NO issues and I have run it in sea water ALL the time.

    I washed it out every time and maintained it, but use it to pull cray pots off of.

    I wouldn’t go past YAmaha from my experience due to their experience with utilising their motorbike engines for the skis.

    I bought a Supercharged YAmaha FX SHO 1800cc with a damaged engine, cheap, and had the engine fully rebuilt.

    The dealership that rebuilt it TRIED to rip me of by putting second hand pistons and parts in the new engine.

    I caught them by inspecting the engine with a endoscope. All 4 were used pistons. After threatening legal action the deal decided to replace this engine with a Totally FUlly rebuilt motor.

    Moral of the story…… in general YAmahas are good, but you need to keep your wits about you.

    Good Luck if you haven’t already purchased them

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