How Long Do Kayaks Last?
Whether you’ve had your kayak for a couple seasons or you are just getting launched, you might be wondering how long you can expect to have your yak. Whenever you make a sizeable purchase, you want to know that you are getting your money's worth. So, how long can you expect your kayak to last?
Bottom line: 6-12 years is a pretty typical range for the life span of a kayak. That’s a huge range, you might say. And yes, that is true. An inflatable kayak might last you only a half dozen years; however, a well-maintained, quality kayak can last twice that or much longer - even a lifetime.
There are a number of things to consider, however, when judging how long you can keep paddling. The type/quality of material, level of maintenance, and frequency of use can all impact the lifespan of your kayak.
What Makes Your Kayak Last?
Kayaks are made from a number of different types of materials that have their pros and cons - heavy and durable to light weight and short-lived. Let’s look at some of the more common materials.
- Plastic: Plastic is a common and cost-effective material for kayaks. Everything from inflatable to rotomolded (polyethylene) to polycarbonate kayaks can be made from this ubiquitous substance. Plastic kayak are often most cost effective. However, they can biodegrade quickly if left in the sun. However, most recreational and whitewater kayaks are made from this material.
- Wood: These floating works of art often come with a hefty price tag as they are frequently hand-carved. They can be quite heavy as well, although there are awesome videos that show you how to make your own lightweight wooden kayak. Wooden kayaks can last for a good number of years, but they require some special maintenance.
- Kevlar: This material is fabulous if you spend a lot of time on the water or going on trips with a lot of equipment. Lighter than wood, plastic, or fiberglass, kevlar is a great choice if you are needing to be weight conscious. The trade-off is that kevlar is expensive and prone to be damaged by rocks and scraping. But if you can avoid collisions, you are likely to find your kayak can last you at least ten years or more.
- Fiberglass: Some of the advantages of fiberglass kayaks are the price (reasonable cost since they are relatively easy to manufacture), easy to repair, and pretty maintenance-free. They also tend to last longer than their plastic counterparts. In fact, some fiberglass kayak owners report they are still going strong after 20 years, with good care. However, they are more prone to damage from impact with rocks.
- Aluminum: These kayaks are probably the most durable of the bunch. They require less care than plastic or wood and can take a beating. However, these are also some of the heaviest, unwieldy of the kayak options. They will usually last a dozen years or so.
Of course, taking care of your kayak goes a long way to extending its life. There are a few general considerations for all kayak.
- Storage: One of the best things that you can do for ANY kayak is keep it out of the sun and elements. Don’t leave your yak outside for a prolonged period of time. If possible, store your kayak in a garage or shed (or at the very least under cover). Also, keep it off the hard ground as that can damage your kayak too. Using kayak holders, racks, or hooks is a good investment.
- Transport: Correctly moving your kayak can definitely extend its lifespan. Make sure that you avoid dragging or scrapping your yak. This weakens the hull and shortens its life (or at the very least requires costly, inconvenient repairs).
- Care: Taking a few steps to clean your kayak after use and before storing for the season will go a long way to keeping it around longer. Make sure that you hose off your yak after each paddle. Whether salt or fresh water, a good spray down will help avoid corrosion, dirt build up, and more. Allow it to dry completely and store as noted above. At the end of each season, it might be necessary to give it a more thorough cleaning with a mild soap as well. And use this as a time to inspect for and repair any damage.
Frequency and Type of Use
As you might expect, a frequently used kayak is also one that will wear down faster. However, you bought it to enjoy it, not keep it in storage, so don’t hesitate to take it out. Just be aware of “wear and tear”. Depending on how you are using your kayak, it can wear out faster.
If you are a whitewater or seawater kayaker, then you have a higher likelihood of wear on your kayak. Rough water conditions, rocky rivers, hazards, and such can all contribute to wear on your yak.
On the other hand, if you are a sit-on-top, recreational, or touring kayaker, you are less likely to encounter the obstacles of other types of use. As a result, your kayak is likely to last longer.
Take care of your kayak and it will take care of you! A good quality kayak that is well-maintained, stored correctly, and transported wisely, will last for many years of paddling.