How long does a kayak last? (Tips for kayak longevity)

How long does a kayak last? (Tips for kayak longevity)
Photo by Red Zeppelin / Unsplash

How long do kayaks last? This is a question that every kayaker asks at least once in their lifetime. And what a loaded question this can be! Some people will tell you that they’ve had their kayak for decades and it still performs as well as the day they bought it. This may be true, but your experience may differ depending on the quality of your boat, how well you maintain it, and where you store it.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about extending the life of your vessel so you can feel confident about paddling off in search of new adventures for years to come!

Table of contents

How long do kayaks last?

Kayaks are designed for durability and will last many years with proper care and maintenance. However, the average lifespan of a kayak can range anywhere from 8-14 years. With proper care, your kayak will last much longer and provide you with years of enjoyment on the water.

To prolong the life of your kayak, it is important to store it properly when not in use. Kayaks should be stored upside down on saddles or in racks to prevent them from warping. It is also important to clean your kayak regularly, especially if you paddle in salt water, to prevent corrosion. In addition, you should inspect your kayak regularly for any damage or wear and tear that could cause leaks.

Kayaks come in all shapes in sizes and can be made from many different materials. Hopefully, this guide will help you understand how long you can expect each type of kayak can last and assist you when shopping for your next boat!

Person sitting in a kajak on water, view from above
Photo by Florian Rieder / Unsplash

How long do wooden kayaks last?

Wooden kayaks have a long history and are still popular today. They are made from a variety of woods, depending on the region they are made in. They can be very light and easy to transport, making them a good choice for camping and backpacking.

Wooden kayaks are also very durable and can last for many years with proper care. Some people prefer wooden kayaks because they are more environmentally friendly than those made from synthetic materials.

Most wooden kayaks nowadays are made with a thin fiberglass coat making them even more durable than ever before. They also weigh a lot less than some of their other kayak counterparts making them great for transportation.

The main drawback of wooden kayaks is their price. Since most of these are handmade, they cost a lot more than other kayaks you'll find on the market.

In terms of how long you can expect a wooden kayak to last, you can expect wooden kayaks to have a comfortable lifespan of at least 8-12 good years with proper care. While this is a nice amount of time, there are better options for kayaks that provide the same lifespan for a much cheaper price. Most wooden kayaks are purchased not for durability but for the beauty and craftsmanship that go into them.

Smooth Sailing
Photo by Josh Duncan / Unsplash

How long do composite/glass kayaks last?

Composite kayaks are kayaks that are made from more than one material. The most common materials used in composite kayaks are fiberglass, Aramid fiber (aka Kevlar), and carbon fiber.

Composite kayaks are the most durable hard-shell kayak. Whenever I see an old kayak when out for a paddle, It's almost always a composite.

The main issue with these boats is that because of their stiffness they are susceptible to severe cracks and punctures. Luckily, these can be quite easy to repair with minimal tools.

If I was buying a kayak for durability, I would choose a composite material. With proper care, you can easily expect a composite kayak to last you decades.

Kayaking in Glacier National Park
Photo by Mark Bosky / Unsplash

How long do plastic kayaks last? (Rotomolded)

If you arent too familiar with the different types of kayaks then this would be the type you are most used to seeing.

Rotomolded kayaks are made with plastic (polyethylene) that is molded into a kayak shape. They are easy to mass-produce and are inexpensive compared to their counterparts.

Because of the way these are made, they can be nearly indestructible and are the go-to choice for many experienced kayakers who like to navigate on whitewater or rocky shorelines.

If you know that you will be banging your kayak around a lot and don't want to spend lots of money then a rotomolded plastic kayak is probably best suited for you. It offers the best price-to-durability ratio out of all the different materials and still has some good performance.

With plastic kayaks though, there are still a few things you will have to keep in mind when caring for them:

Firstly, polyethylene is easily degraded by the sun, and leaving it out for extended periods of time can shorten its lifespan. One solution you can try is to coat it with a UV-blocking spray or find some indoor storage for it.

Second, compared to other kayaks with different materials, these tend to warp a lot easier, especially if it has been sun-damaged. Again, proper storage is key to the longevity of your kayak.

Lastly, plastic kayaks do get scratched up a lot easier than other types which can cause more drag and reduce your speed. While it can survive rougher conditions, it's still something that you should keep in mind.

With all that said, if longevity is what you're looking for in a kayak then it's hard to beat a rotomolded plastic kayak. With proper care, you could easily expect to get more than a decade of good use out of your plastic kayak.

Woman kayaking Lake Sara
Photo by Viktor Jakovlev / Unsplash

How long do thermoform kayaks last?

Thermoform kayaks offer a happy medium between composite kayaks and plastic kayaks. Using a similar process to rotomolded boats combined with the composite, manufacturers are able to offer a light and durable kayak at a great price.

While they may cost more than their cheaper plastic counterpart, what they lack in price, they make up for in weight and durability. With a thermoformed kayak, you still get the great durability of a polyethylene kayak while still getting something that is more scratch resistant and lighter.

Thermoform boats are also much easier to repair than plastic boats and can be recycled at the end of their life and turned into a new fresh kayak!

One major downside to thermoform kayaks is that in cold temperatures, parts of these boats can easily shatter on hard impacts. If you live somewhere where you would be paddling at below-freezing temperatures then I would suggest trying a different kind of kayak or proceeding with extreme caution.

So, how long can you expect a thermoformed kayak to last? Boasting great features such as good durability and lightweight, you can easily expect your boat to last you at least a good 10 years. Of course, this can easily be extended for decades longer with the right care.

Kayak on a mountain lake
Photo by Nitish Meena / Unsplash

How long do inflatable kayaks last?

While inflatable kayaks are great for portability, their main purpose is not durability. Because it is filled with air, you will be relying solely on the outer material for protection, and the material options don't have the same strength and durability as hard-shell kayaks.

Generally, the wear and tear in these kayaks are also a lot greater and more noticeable. They are fantastic for recreational use but any rougher and their lifespan will be much shorter.

UV exposure can also do some damage to inflatable kayaks either weakening the outer material or ruining them completely. Be sure to properly store your boat when not in use to avoid sun damage and also mold buildup.

With all this in mind, inflatable kayaks only have an average lifespan of 2-3 years. With proper care and storage, you can easily get this number up to 8-10.

How long do folding kayaks last?

Folding kayaks are another great option for portable kayaks. They fix a lot of the issues that inflatable kayaks have but not without their own issues which, if not addressed, can shorten their lifespan.

Unlike inflatable kayaks, folding kayaks are a lot like hard-shell kayaks in terms of performance and design, with the added feature of easier transportability. Because of this, some cons of owning a folding kayak include:

  • They can require more maintenance, especially when thinking long-term
  • More care must be taken when storing them to insure no damage is done
  • They can be pricier than hard-shell kayaks because of the folding mechanism and they are harder to mass-produce.
  • Assembling them can cause some wear and tear as well as be a challenge for some people.

So, how long can you expect folding kayaks to last? On average, you can expect a lifespan of 2-3 years. With proper care and maintenance, you should be able to get a lot more years out of it.

2 rows of kayaking standing on the beach
Photo by Xiaoyu Li / Unsplash

Factors that affect the lifespan of a kayak.


When it comes to kayaks, the lifespan of the craft is directly proportional to the care that the owner takes in maintaining it. Simply put, the more care an owner takes in keeping their kayak clean and free of damage, the longer the kayak will last.

One of the most important things an owner can do to extend the lifespan of their kayak is to regularly clean it, both inside and out. This means removing any build-up of dirt, grime, or salt water, as well as any debris that may have become lodged in the crevices of the kayak. Not only will this help to keep the kayak looking its best, but it will also prevent any long-term damage that could be caused by these materials.

In addition to regular cleaning, it is also important to inspect the kayak for any signs of damage. This includes checking for cracks, holes, or other damage to the hull, as well as checking the integrity of the seams and rivets. Any damage that is found should be repaired as soon as possible to prevent further deterioration.


Water is one of the most important things to consider when it comes to the lifespan of a kayak. Just like with any other type of boat, kayaks are affected by the water they are in. The salt in salt water can corrode the hull of a kayak, therefore, weakening it, which can shorten its lifespan. Fresh water is much less damaging to kayaks, but it is still important to rinse the kayak off after use in salt water to prevent any long-term damage.


The material used to make a kayak has a huge impact on its lifespan. A kayak made from high-quality materials can last much longer than one made from low-quality materials. This is due to the fact that high-quality materials are stronger and more durable. They do not wear out as fast as lower-quality materials.

*Check out the section above for an in-depth look at the different kayak types and materials.

Wear and tear

Kayaks are subjected to different types of wear and tear. Some of these include abrasions, scrapes, cuts, punctures, cracks, and dents. These types of damage can occur over time while paddling or through collisions with other objects. If a kayak is damaged, then repairs should be done immediately. Otherwise, the damage may spread and cause the kayak to fail.

Kayaks on lake in Montana
Photo by Megan Lord / Unsplash

Tips for prolonging the life of your kayak.

Store your kayak in a cool, dry place when not in use.

You might not be able to control the weather, but you can keep your kayak safe for long-term storage by storing it upside down. This will prevent water from pooling in the hull, which could lead to mold or mildew formation. You should also store your kayak in a dry place—basements are perfect for this! Make sure to put some kind of protective covering over it so that no one bumps into it and damages its finish.

To store your kayak, you should:

  • Store in a clean, dry place. This is to avoid the buildup of mold and mildew that could damage your kayak.
  • Store upright so the water does not get into the hull of your boat and encourage rotting.
  • Store in a  place that is free of insects and rodents because these animals can chew on your boat's materials, which will also lead to decay or rot over time.
  • Store in an area free of dust and dirt as they can damage your boat's surface finish over time with repeated exposure (and may even scratch or scuff it).
  • And lastly, make sure it doesn't get wet while being stored!

Rinse your kayak with fresh water after each use, and allow it to air dry completely.

Rinsing your kayak with fresh water after each use is important for several reasons.

First, it helps to remove any salt, sand, or other debris that may have accumulated on the kayak during your outing. This can prevent the build-up of these materials, which can eventually lead to damage to the kayak.

Second, rinsing with fresh water and a mild soap will also help to remove any chemicals or other pollutants that may have come into contact with the kayak. These substances can potentially damage the kayak or cause it to degrade over time. Note: Don't use strong chemicals or high-pressure hoses—they can damage the hull.

Finally, allowing the kayak to air dry completely will help to prevent the growth of mold or mildew. These organisms can cause the kayak to deteriorate and can also be harmful to your health.

Repair any damage to your kayak as soon as possible.

It is important to repair any damage to your kayak as soon as possible for a number of reasons.

First, even small holes can quickly become larger and more difficult to repair the longer you wait. Second, water can seep into the kayak through these holes and cause the kayak to become waterlogged, making it heavier and more difficult to paddle. Finally, damaged kayaks are more likely to tip over or capsize, which can be dangerous for both you and your kayak.

By repairing the damage as soon as possible, you can avoid these potential problems and keep your kayak in good condition.

Don't drag your kayak over rough surfaces.

Your kayak is designed to float on water, not to be dragged over land. The bottom of your kayak (the hull) is very important to the performance and handling of your kayak. The hull is designed to be smooth so it can slice through the water with minimal resistance. When you drag your kayak over land, the hull can get scratched or gouged, which will reduce its performance and could cause it to leak.

If you find your kayak too heavy to transport then investing in a kayak cart or dolly might be a good idea. This will make it much easier to take your boat in and out of the water and you are less likely to drop it on the ground.

As mentioned above, damaging your kayak can cost you quite a bit of money and will also reduce the lifespan of your boat. So, no matter where you are, taking proper care of your kayak is essential for having it for a long time.

Address wear and tear.

Wear and tear on your kayak is normal, but it’s also something you should be aware of. You can identify wear and tear by looking for cracks in the hull or foam, discoloration in the finish, broken or missing parts, and damaged rigging.

If you notice any of these things happening to your kayak, contact a professional to address the issue immediately before repairs become more costly. Repair kits are available from most major manufacturers if the damage isn’t too severe (and many kayakers keep one with them anyway).

If the wear and tear isn't something major then the internet can also be an amazing resource for finding out how to fix it. After all, you find this page!

If you do decide to try and repair your kayak on your own, be careful and make sure you fully understand what you're doing since there is a chance you may end up making the situation worse!

Inspect your kayak regularly for any cracks, holes, or other damage.

It is important to inspect your kayak regularly for any cracks, holes, or other damage for several reasons.

If there is any damage to your kayak, it could cause it to leak, which would obviously be a problem. Even if your kayak doesn't leak, damage can make it weaker and more likely to break or collapse, which could be very dangerous.

Look for signs of damage from rocks and other boats (especially if you do any white water rafting or jet boating). These activities put severe stress on equipment and can result in expensive repairs if they're not addressed quickly enough.

Look for sun damage, UV rays will fade finishes over time leaving them looking old before their time!

Also, if your kayak is in good condition, it is important to inspect it regularly so that you can catch any potential problems early on. By doing so, you can avoid more serious damage and potential accidents.

Use a kayak cover to protect your kayak from the elements when not in use.

One of the best ways to protect your kayak is to use a kayak cover when it is not in use.

A kayak cover will protect your kayak from the elements like the sun, wind, and rain. This will reduce the amount of wear and tear your kayak will sustain while keeping it looking as clean and fresh as possible.

A kayak cover can also keep your kayak free of debris, depending on where it's stored. If it's in a location that has lots of loose debris flying around (e.g leaves) then it may start to accumulate in your kayak and perhaps bring in some bacteria with it.

Lastly, a cover may help stop accidental scratches made to your kayak. If your kayak is stored in a tight space, it wouldn't be uncommon for something to brush up against it and if that object is sharp or rough, it may leave a scratch mark.

Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for care and use of your kayak.

While the advice in this article is pretty general and good for the long-term health of your kayak, always be sure to check out the owner's manual that came with the boat. The manufacturer may have some extra instructions for special care when it comes to that specific kayak model.

Kayaks last a long time with proper care.

When it comes to kayaks, one of the most important things you can do to ensure a long lifespan is to take proper care of it. This means regularly cleaning it and storing it in a safe, dry place when you’re not using it. Additionally, you should inspect your kayak for any damage before each use, as even small cracks or holes can quickly lead to larger issues if left unaddressed.

Of course, even with the best care, kayaks will eventually wear out and need to be replaced. However, with proper care, you can significantly extend the lifespan of your kayak, ensuring that you can enjoy many years of paddling adventures.


As long as you care for your kayak properly, it should last for years (or even decades). The best way to ensure that your kayak lasts a long time is to take proper care of it.

To prolong the life of your kayak, follow these tips:

  1. Store your kayak in a cool, dry place
  2. Rinse your kayak with fresh water after each use
  3. Repair any damage to your kayak as soon as possible.
  4. Don't drag your kayak over rough surfaces.
  5. Address wear and tear.
  6. Inspect your kayak regularly for any cracks, holes, or other damage.
  7. Use a kayak cover to protect your kayak from the elements when not in use.
  8. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for care and use of your kayak.

With proper care, your kayak can last for many years to come!

Happy Paddling!!