We are frequently asked about hours on used boats and there is a lot of confusion out there. How many hours are "too many?" Every used boat shopper seems to have a different number in mind that is acceptable to them. In our area we only see fresh water boats. Salt water is a totally different animal. In general if you are in fresh water it is nice to avoid a boat that has been used in salt water. These guidelines are for freshwater boats only.
One of the best ways to equate engine hours on a ski or wakeboard boat is to convert hours to miles by comparing the recommended oil change intervals in boats and automobiles. Almost every marine engine manufacturer (Ilmor, Indmar, & PCM) recommend an oil and filter change every 50 engine hours. In today's automobiles the recommended interval is much longer but we prefer to use the classic conservative 3000 mile oil and filter change recommendation for our comparison.
Using this guideline, a 1000 hour inboard boat (1000 hours \ 50 hour oil change interval = 20 oil changes * 3000 miles) = would equate to roughly 60,000 miles. There are obviously exceptions to every rule but hopefully this should help used boat buyers look at available options with a little more confidence. We would rather take in on trade a 1000 hour used boat with good maintenance records and in amazing condition than a 500 hour boat with no documentation in less desirable condition.
Another way to try and equate boat hours to automotive use can be done by using engine hours in an automobile. Some automobiles have an hour meters function. One of our shop trucks has 23,500 miles which took 720 engine hours. Using this ratio 50,000 miles would take a bit over 1440 hours.
It is very rare to replace a inboard's engine due to wear or mechanical failure. Almost all of the engine replacements we see at our dealership are due either to overheating or the engine freezing due to improper winterization.
Many used boat buyers are concerned about purchasing a 1000 hour used boat. Would they also pass on a used vehicle with 50,000 miles because of perceived engine wear?
We have purchased used MasterCrafts that were used by Cypress Gardens in Florida with over 8000 hours running the original engine.
Hours on a used boat are important but they are only one portion of the equation. Service history, condition, and owner usage, are also very important.
It is always a good idea to have a used boat inspected by a certified mechanic before making a purchase to make sure you are not purchasing someone's problems. However, many used boat shoppers would be better served by looking at all of the details than by putting too much stock in just engine hours.
Have you ever worn out an engine in an automobile that you use every day? You are also probably not going to wear out an engine in a boat that is only used seasonally. (Especially if you live in Minnesota.) So get our on the water and put some hours on!