Useful life of "Poly" boats?

On these "cyber pages" I have read that most "Poly" boats start to deteriorate at (around) ten years of age, and their life is done at around fifteen years of age. I would imagine that much would depend upon how the craft was stored, (inside or out)and it might seem logical that most manufacturers would have their own "propriatary" plastic blend. Ok, have you ever seen an old "yak" just a milk jug that has taken up residence on the back porch for a couple of years? How do you know when a boat is starting to decompose? Does one blend of poly last longer than others?
And...when does the value of a used poly boat really start to nosedive?

I have two poly boats dating from the mid-90’s. One is blow-molded (Prijon), the other a Necky Dolphin SOT. Both stored out of sunlight most of the time. Subjected to years of 90 deg temps in a garage and also below freezing stored outside about 3 years…

Holding up extremely well, no soft spots or discoloration, I feel confident paddling them out to sea.

So yeah it surprises me too, but plastic can last a really long time!

P.S. A pair of rollerblade skates from the same period fell apart completely into a sticky goo of cracked plastic - stored in the same garage~

We have two 17 year old Perception
Keowees, that we use for white water, and we were just talking about how well they are holding up.

With the exception of the gazillion scratches we have put on them , they are just as pliable as they were when they were new.

I am guessing that the newer ones that are made much lighter and thinner, won’t last nearly as long as these.

Jack L

My understanding is that the plastics used in rotomolded kayaks gets brittle with exposure to UV rays, with the failure being that they will crack. fresh plastic supposedly can be welded, but older, UV dosed plastics won’t take the weld, so a crack in an older kayak would be life ending for the boat. That all said, I have not seen this occur yet.

If stored out of sunlight
They will last longer than you will.

Need to be stored out of UV light, which can penetrate tarps and vinyl roof etc.

OCD about Cost?
Best to find another sport to participate in. If you get hooked you will spend a lot of money on kayaks and gear. If spending money causes you discomfort, do something else.

20+ years and counting
A friend of mine has 2 (or three) plastic old school whitewater boats, stored outside year around in temps ranging from -30 to over 100. They are in the 20 year old range, never seen 303 protectant and still are in great shape. They get used annually, no cracks, etc. I’d say that with the TLC I give my boats… stored in garage, treated 3-4 times a year with 303 and always stored out of the sun, albeit with some pretty severe temperature extremes in central NY, my boats will surely outlive my sorry ass!

I purchased used in '78…
a White Bros. poly kayak, (actually two of them, one is in CA now) for $125 each. No model known, just a 4 meter boat @ about 45#, no frills.

It was always stored indoors or under tarps all through the years, and saw use from Maine to the Gulf.

It endured winters in upstate NY until '94, and has endured FL summer since.

I last used it for a white water run in GA October of 2010, and she takes a licking still.

Your milage may vary.


Part Science - Part Art

– Last Updated: Jun-01-12 12:50 AM EST –

LOTS of variation between manufacturing years,
techniques and "mixes" from various manufacturers.

An Example

Some guidelines

--be sure to scroll down, lots of into on that page

I've had my solid blue Dagger Crossover for 10 years
Still going strong, no issues so far .

Poly-Link 3 Old town
I bought a OT discovery 174 used. It had the start of the cracking in places, and after 2 years, the hull was full of cracks. The owner lived on Lake Ontario and kept the boat outside a lot, over 11 years. SO My guess is if you keep it out in the sun, never treat it with UV spraycoat; a polylink 3 will have a shorter life time.

According to a Boatertalk posting …
Jackson is no longer using xlink. “According to Jackson, it is HDLP, but reportedly has some proprietary additives to make it tougher.”

Care matters, not age
I picked up a 1982 Aquaterra Chinook last year that had been badly neglected and abused (looked like it had been stored outside for a good long time.) But for $100 for the whole boat it had a beautiful aftermarket stainless steel rudder kit installed I figured I could scavenge. The hull was badly oilcanned and the boat (a 17’ sea kayak) had no bulkheads (but a kindly P-netter sent me a minicel factory bulkhead for it that he had kicking around his garage and shoving that in popped out the dent.)

Pertinent to this discussion, the hull is also very dry looking and spiderwebbed with tiny crackles. We dosed it with Scotch 303 but I imagine it would crack if it hit something. So I would not trust it on rocks or concrete, but we’ve shoved a float bag in the bow and still used the boat in soft bottomed, mud banked flatwater lakes and creeks (but never anywhere we would be stranded when the inevitable failure and major crack happens). We’ve been thinking about spraying the bottom with a layer of that black sealing goop that the bearded guy hawks on the TV ads. Honestly, it is pretty much on borrowed time.

We’ve also got a mid 80’s Perception Dancer that has been stored in a barn loft or garage most of its life. Formerly red, it has faded to a dull dark pink but the plastic still seems limber and doesn’t have the same dry crackled appearance. Since both kayaks are roughly the same vintage and from the same manufacturer (Aquaterra was a Perception marque) I would presume they were made of the same material. I think it does demonstrate that it is UV exposure and poor care rather than actual age that is the destroyer of plastic hulls.

An early (~1980) Perception boat
I owned started to crack under the pedestal (c-1) after 5 years. The factory folks said that was about what they expected at that time.

Now I have a Perception Corsica I bought in 1980 which is not noticeably brittle and still serviceable. But it was not my primary boat, so it has not been hammered and tanned that much.

Another use factor is interior scratches. If the interior of a whitewater kayak is scratched by sandy heels, etc., this can be the origin of hull cracking when the hull is deeply pushed in by rocks. Thoughtful ww paddlers try to avoid inside scratching by sensible practices.

I do not think that poly is as susceptible to getting brittle with age as is Royalex. But even a Royalex boat should go at least 20 years before getting brittle enough to be a concern.

Old poly
My Black Perception Mirage, which according to the hand-written marker on the nose pillar was finished by MS on 4-15-83, is still pliable and usable. I was in it last weekend on the Gunpowder.

It’s never seen too much abuse, but has always been stored inside, out of sunlight. Sure, its scratched across the bottom, what WW boat isn’t. That said, I plan to keep using it, and am not concerned that it will fall apart.

The OP asked about when the value of a used poly boat begins to nosedive. Every boat is different. I paid $400 for that Mirage. I probably couldn’t sell it for $100 now, (not that I want to) but mainly because it is an older design with a small cockpit. A few days ago, I saw an early Dagger Response (about 1990)for sale. The guy wanted $300. It seemed to be in fairly good shape. But I wouldn’t pay 1/2 that much for a boat that old, of that design.

Thanks again all
Willi…mucho, mucho, for the Jackson link…

oh…SD, you might want to try a big boat with a big motor (I’ve had a couple) if you really like to waste money. I don’t like doing that anymore.


– Last Updated: Jun-02-12 12:18 AM EST –

Michigan has millions of powerboats

B ust
O ut
A nother
T housand $

Boat = thousands of dollars, repeatedly,
year after year, all the time

Kayak = with a little tlc, years of enjoyment

It's June - enjoy the summertime folks

Would you mind posting that page?
The one that says plastic kayaks have a 10-year life.

From the answers, it sounds like that approximation varies tremendously, AND so far it appears that plastic breakage due to age is a rare thing.

I’ve owned 2 plastic sea kayaks and 2 WW kayaks. The first sea kayak had defective plastic (I found out later) that warped more on one side than the other, but it didn’t get brittle during my ownership of it, which was 3 years (boat itself had been made 3 years before I bought it new). The second sea kayak, which I kept for 5 years, remained in excellent condition, no warping or brittleness. The WW SOT Twister I got used may or may not have been brittle; it was definitely faded. The sit-in WW kayak I paddle now is 4 years old and in very good condition. But, and this is a big condition, all were stored indoors.

It would be nice to get some scientifically-backed reports on just how “bad” plastic really is. I get the feeling that some dealers just want to push people to buy the more profitable composites instead.

One guy I encountered asked me if the reason why his boat didn’t track hard was because it was plastic–the dealer had told him that was the reason! Poor newbie, taken for a sucker.