Fiberglass Boat Lifespan: How Long Do Fiberglass Boats Last?

Fiberglass Boat Lifespan: How Long Do Fiberglass Boats Last?

How long does a fiberglass boat last? The short answer to that question is — as long as you need them to!

If you care for and maintain a fiberglass boat as recommended, it can last up to 50 years or longer. This is why fiberglass is the most popular material for constructing boats and personal watercraft. It's likely to outlast any wood or metal components on the boat. Let's explore the typical lifespan of fiberglass boats and how you can maximize it.

Understanding Fiberglass Boats

Fiberglass is made from either polyester resin or epoxy resin, reinforced with layers of glass fiber. Fiberglass boat construction starts in a factory mole. The first layer is a gel coat, followed by a fiberglass cloth layer. Resin gets applied on each layer until it reaches the desired thickness. This results in a boat that is light enough to be buoyant. It is also very tough and harder to crack than regular glass or plastic. Also, fiberglass is more resistant to corrosion from UV rays and saltwater — making it an excellent choice for boat construction.

Average Lifespan of Fiberglass Boats

A fiberglass boat can last much longer than the pickup truck that you use to haul it to the lake! As mentioned above, we've seen fiberglass boats that are more than 50 years old still float as long as they receive proper maintenance. A span of 30 to 40 years is more realistic, though. You may not need the same boat for decades anyway. If your life situation changes, you might find yourself looking for a different boat in a few years. 

When a boat changes owners a few times, one or more owners may not have kept up with the maintenance. This can have a negative impact on the lifespan of a boat. When buying a used boat, consider how many years of use you can get out of it. Keep in mind that newer boats are likely to have an even longer lifespan due to advancements in materials and construction techniques.

Factors Influencing Lifespan

Four main environmental factors tend to reduce the lifespan of a fiberglass boat:

  • Exposure to sunlight (UV rays)
  • Salt from saltwater
  • Water saturation
  • Fatigue from overuse

The fiberglass frame of your boat is likely to outlast many other parts, including the engine and electrical components. Too much exposure to the sun will make fiberglass brittle over time. Since you'll be doing most of your boating during the daytime, this will likely be a factor.

Salt can get between the layers of fiberglass and then grind away over time. However, this is only a factor if you're boating in saltwater locations. Water saturation can also separate the resin and fiberglass. Sun, salt, and water saturation are the main reasons why fiberglass boats require exterior maintenance.

The way you store your boat when it's not in use will also impact its lifespan. If your boat is on the water most of the time, it will eventually take a toll on the fiberglass. If you keep your boat in dry storage during the off-season, that can help prolong its lifespan. Even keeping it on a trailer in your garage, where it's not exposed to direct UV rays or the elements, will help your boat last longer.

Maintenance Tips to Extend Lifespan

The hull beneath the waterline on a fiberglass boat needs a lot of TLC. All it takes is a few days in the water for algae and other growth to build up. Bottom paints and growth repellents can prevent this. But only if they are right for the area and water where you are boating.

The area between the railing and the waterline is also a concern. Regular washing and waxing is the best way to avoid possible oxidation caused by waves and UV rays. It's recommended that you wax a fiberglass boat once every three months. Since this can be time-consuming, investing in a buffer might be a good idea.

Even if you're not using your boat year-round, you still want to treat the engine like you are. Conduct regular maintenance to ensure the engine runs smoothly and the battery is charged. Inspect your boat from top to bottom to catch potential problems early!

Signs of Aging in Fiberglass Boats

Hairline cracks are something you should constantly inspect your fiberglass hull for. A hairline crack will only get bigger over time, so it should be filled in quickly. 

Discoloration and fading are signs that fiberglass is starting to age and hasn't been waxed as often as needed. If the fiberglass appears rigid, brittle, or warped, it hasn't been adequately protected from the sun's UV rays. This damage can be an expensive repair.

Repair or Replace: Making the Decision

If a fiberglass boat is damaged or needs a major repair, the cost might be so high that you'll want to consider replacing it with a newer boat. This can come down to several factors, including your budget. If you've already enjoyed the boat for many years, replacing it might be less expensive in the long run. 

On the other hand, boats are worth more than a sticker price for many of us. If you've created a lot of special memories on a boat, you might be more attached to it and decide it's worth the cost to repair it.

Maintenance is the Key to a Long Lifespan

With the proper maintenance, you can get decades of use and enjoyment out of a fiberglass boat. Sun, saltwater, and general wear and tear will all take a toll on your boat if it's not maintained correctly. You have to commit to caring for it and investing the time. If you do, a fiberglass boat could last through your entire adulthood.

Gemlux is dedicated to the boating lifestyle. If you need any gear, equipment, boating accessories, or other hardware designed for comfort and style, you can order them directly from our website or contact us for more information.