Life jackets are a crucial tool for safe boating and are the difference between life and death in cases of emergency. Unfortunately, life jackets have a limited shelf life, and need to be maintained or replaced over time. So, how long do life jackets last?

Safety Standards and Maintenance

All life jackets are US Coast Guard approved, and must meet specific safety standards. For example:

    • Buoyancy – Must be able to support a head-up position in the water, at least 7 lbs. of buoyancy.
    • Head Support – Must conform to the user’s body and build for comfort and stability.
    • Visibility – Must have bright colored fabric and a reflective tape to ensure high visibility

These safety standards must be maintained, and any deterioration over time may render your life jacket unusable. Furthermore, life jackets should be tested annually and inspected routinely.

Life Jacket Longevity

The lifespan of a life jacket is dependent on the materials it is made of, as well as how often and in which conditions it is used.

    • Life jackets made with high-quality materials, such as thick neoprene, will last longer than those made with cheap synthetic fabrics.
    • Frequent use, especially in salt water or harsh conditions, can lead to faster deterioration.
    • UV light can also cause the fabric of life jackets to break down over time.

In general, most life jackets should be replaced every 3-5 years. It is important to check your life jackets regularly for signs of wear and tear, such as fading or cracking. Of course, if there are any concerns about the condition of your life jacket, it should be replaced immediately.


Life jackets are a key component of any boating experience, but just like any other piece of equipment, they need to be maintained and replaced over time. The lifespan of a life jacket will depend on the materials it is made of and how often it is used, so it is important to regularly inspect your life jackets or replace them every 3-5 years.

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