How do you tell when a plastic kayak is too old?

Looking at used plastic kayaks, how do you tell if it’s too old? I know to ask about storage and to look for color fading because of UV exposure, but provided a boat has been stored inside, and isn’t faded, are there any other ways to determine if the plastic might be weakened? Does the notion I’ve read in places that a plastic kayak is only good for ~10 years have any truth to it? I’m not asking about any particular boat, just trying to learn for future possible purchases. Thanks.

I have had garage-kept plastic boats that were still going strong after 25 years, and the plastic was still “healthy” and pliable.
If in doubt press hard on it and it should be resilient and of course, not crack. A lot of old plastic kayaks are worn thin at the stern from dragging them.

The failure of old plastic is cracking, due to brittleness. So as Gregg says, look for plastic that is not stiff and brittle. Find an area that is unsupported (no bulkheads behind it or the like) and press down and see if it flexes.

The signs of plastic color fading is a sign of potential brittleness, but not a problem in itself. You could have faded colors but perfectly fine plastic.

I would also check the hull ID number (usually on rear on right side) and determine what year the boat was made. More info at . There is not a huge price difference in used kayaks once they get to be more than a few years old (a 5 year old kayak would go for about the same as a similar 15 year old kayak). Along with less aging on plastic in a younger boat, there are other benefits such as more standard safety aspects (flotation, deck lines, etc.) and often more comfortable seats in younger boats.

For what it’s worth, different companies have different reputations for plastic durability. Supposedly Prijon has anti-UV inhibitors in the plastic, and blow-molding or HTP is very durable. Eskimo and the old cross-linked Jacksons also seem to hold up very well. The only boat I ever had a real problem with was an old Dagger Crossover where the plastic gave way when I screwed in the drain plug (and honestly, it wasn’t a young boat when I got it - and it had been out in the sun for years - but $250). ABS or thermoplastic I have no feeling for what the age does. I would think maybe the seams give way and would need to be reglued, but I don’t really know. I have had my Prijon Yukon for 12 years or so, and it seems fine. I saw a 20 year old Prijon Tornado (an early 90’s design, I believe) on the Nantahala, and to this day as soon as they get advertised they get snapped up. I do agree, though, that newer is probably better - but if anyone does have a used Prijon Tornado they want to part with…

Thanks, this is all very helpful.

My poly boats are always stored in my shop and look and are just as good, or better than when I bought them. They get used a lot, but not abused–ever. They are way over 10 years old, so no, there is no time limit if they are cared for.

Great, thank you, I have been wary of boats over 10 years old, but this info opens up the possibilities.

@Ben said:
. ABS or thermoplastic I have no feeling for what the age does. I would think maybe the seams give way and would need to be reglued, but I don’t really know. …

My second kayak was a used Eddyline Skylark (two sealed bulkheads, full rigging). Now a guest boat and at 10 years old, no leaks and still looks great. Stored indoors over the winter. Thermoform’s pretty tough material.

Tell the owner to press otherwise he’ll blame you.

You can tell if a kayak is seaworthy the same way you tell if a women is a witch. Throw it in the water and if it sinks it’s seaworthy and if it floats you have to burn it.

Makes perfect sense.

And how do you tell if s man is a witch?

I kinda think if it floats it’s seaworthy…anyway, I’ve had until recently two White Bros. kayaks made in the 1970’s that were very serviceable. Stored out of the UV light, they held up very well. I bought them used in 1976, sold one and loaned out the other never to see it again :frowning: