How Many Hours Is a Lot On a Boat

Are you thinking about buying a used boat, but you’re not too sure how many hours is a lot on a boat? Did you even know you should ask?

Today we’re going to dive deep into boat engine hours, what that means and what it means to you and your boat.

Main topics of today’s article are:

  • Why Should you Know the Boat Engine Hours?
  • Why Engine Hours May Not be The Best Measurement?
  • Low Hours Aren’t Always a Good Thing.
  • High Hours Aren’t Always Bad.
  • The North vs. South Engines.

Importance of Knowing Boat Engine Hours

It is a sign or measure of how much the boat has been used. It will give you a reasonable expectation of future engine life. This will give you an idea of possible future repair and maintenance costs.

Although it can vary wildly, 100 boat engine hours is roughly equal to about 2500 miles of driving in a car.

But keep in mind that not all boats have hour meters. It is often an optional gauge. Only on new engines with computer control systems, do they record them internally.

So you may find yourself in a situation where that information is not available. Although that’s not desirable, it’s not a deal-breaker. However, you should make sure you can understand how much the previous owner used the boat.

Engine Hours May Be Deceiving

Think about it from a vehicle standpoint. Sometimes you see a car that has 100,000 miles on it, and it’s pristine, it’s perfect. It’s been cared for, and it only has highway miles on it.

So not every hour is the same. You need to find out how the previous owner used the boat.

  • Did they tube with it?
  • Did they run it hard?
  • Was it used for camps for schools or fishing charters?
  • Were they towing other boats with it?

So not every engine hour is equal. It is a good baseline indicator, but you should look at the overall conditions as well.

Low Hours Aren’t Always a Good

Some people say that low hours are great. And in general, they’re right. Lower engine hours mean that the engine wasn’t running as much.
In theory, there is a future life expectancy of an engine, usually in the 2000 engine hour range. That means you have more life left when you buy used boats.

There is a problem with that. If an engine has only been used very little, that means it’s also sat a lot. So a five-year-old boat with only 20 engine hours means that it has less than one-year average use in five years.

And you have to ask yourself, why is that. Did it break down often? Was it not used? Did it sit for a couple or even three years without being used? Ultra-Low hours should be watched very carefully.

High Hours Aren’t Always Bad

Do you think high engine hours might be bad? You could be correct. However, remember that higher engine hours may be an indication of a great boat that was loved and enjoyed and worked perfectly for people.

An average boating season in the New England area might be 30 to 50 hours. That might be a little on the high side. So if you take a boat engine with 500 hours and divide that out, it comes to around ten years. That’s probably perfect.

Thinking also that you can get about 2000 engine hours out of an engine before the rebuild, you’ve got lots of life left in that engine.

The Irony of Boat Engine Hours in The North

Here are a couple of paradoxes for you.

I often hear people say they can’t justify buying a boat or getting into boating because of the meager hours they put on them.

Have you ever seen how many hours, the typical Florida boater puts on?
The irony of it is that because of our short compress season. We end up putting almost as many hours on in New England, as someone in a southern climate does.

And that’s because we only have that certain period of time, so we push the boating in. Whereas they have all year and tend to boat only on certain perfect days.

So when you look at a boat that has been in a southern climate versus the northern climate, and you look at one that’s ten years old each, they are often within about 10% of engine hours.

The other paradox is that people often say that 300 hours is a lot of hours on a boat engine. And if you multiply that by every 100 hours, being 2500 miles, you wouldn’t probably say that 7,500 miles on a car were high.


So those are some things to consider when you’re looking at engine hours.

There’s a considerable value knowing what the engine hours are on a boat engine. Although it’s not the holy grail, it’s something you’re going to want to ask for from the marine dealer.

You can then consult resources to find out what a particular engine will need at certain hour intervals. So it’s a great piece of information to have.

There are lots of other things to consider when buying a boat;

  • Condition.
  • History.
  • How does it look?
  • Does it look like people are taking care of it?

See if you can get the maintenance and ownership risk records from the past owners. Do the due diligence the right way and you will be a happy owner of a used boat.

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