How Many Hours Are Too Many Hours On A Used Inboard Towboat?

We get lots of questions involving engine hours, especially on used or demo boats. Often times we see people looking for boats that are 10 years old with less than 200 engine hours. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can often lead to people overpaying (sometimes drastically) to get a boat that won’t perform any better or last longer than a boat with higher engine hours.

There’s a widespread misconception regarding engine hours on used boats. The most common question we get regarding used boats is something along these lines: “How many hours are too many hours on a boat?” or “How long will a boat engine last? 900 hours?”

We often get used boats in on trade that have close to 1,000 hours on the engine. People tend to think 1,000 hours is too many, but what is too many? Let’s make a comparison with the automotive industry. We have a shop truck with 28,000 miles on it, which is widely accepted as very new, and there are 745 hours on the engine. Here’s a picture of the hour meter on the truck.

To directly compare to the boating world, we can use oil change periods. On a truck, it’s recommended to get an oil change every 3,000 miles. That means this truck has had 9 oil changes. With inboard boats, it’s recommended to change the oil every 50 to 75 hours. So if there was a used boat for sale with 745 engine hours, and it was routinely serviced, it would have had 9 oil changes. Like the truck, a boat with 745 engine hours has many years of optimal running performance left. In fact, it’s just past getting broken in.

There are a few things to consider when looking at boat hours. Unless you are looking at a really high hour boat (2,000+ hours) there are typically very few drawbacks to the number of hours a boat has. In fact, a boat with normal hours (50-75 per year) will often time run better than a boat with low hours. V-Drive boats are equipped with high-performance V8 engines similar to those found in sports cars and other powerful vehicles. While you don’t want to overuse them, the engines don’t like to sit and when running regularly they perform better and hold up better. Settling (non-use) will cause more problems over time than overuse.

Low engine hours aren’t anything to avoid but given the choice between a 10 year-old boat with 750 hours, and a 10-year-old boat with 200 engine hours, our staff would choose the boat with higher engine hours (given that it’s been routinely serviced) every time.

With that being said, hours are something you need to consider as they will have an impact on the value of a boat. Because here in Utah, most of us don’t have a boat dock in our backyard and we only use them 4-6 months of the year, hours have a bit of a stigma in this region that typically isn’t seen in other areas of the country. While higher hours typically won’t impact the performance or reliability of a boat in a negative way, it will have an impact on the value of a boat, especially if a boat has “high hours” for the year. 400 hours won’t harm the resale value on a 2010 boat, but if a boat is a 2018 that is a different story. Higher than average hours isn’t something to be afraid of at all if you are purchasing a boat, just make sure the price factors in the hours.

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