How Long is a Life Jacket Good For?




Technically speaking, life jacket or better known in the swimming and boating world as PFD (Personal flotation device) can last up to 10 years. That is to say, there are many factors that play a vital role here. With so many options and types of life jackets out there it is hard to say that all of them will have the same service life.

Wearing life jackets is one of the essential safety protocols every person has to maintain while voyaging.

According to Canadian Life Jacket Laws, every individual onboard a boat must wear a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD).

Motorboats and human-powered boats I.e., canoes and kayaks are both covered under this rule.

How Long is a Life Jacket Good For

PFD’s does more than just help a person remain afloat. And so, you need to make sure it is in a good condition before any water-based journey. One of the crucial things to look out for here is to make sure the jacket can give you the desired service in the water. So, in this article, I will discuss how long is a life jacket good for and information regarding it.

Do Life Jackets Come with an Expiry Date?

Yes, just like the other products, life jackets also have an expiry date. Depending on the material, an average life jacket has an expiry date of around 7-8 years.

Though technically the life jackets don’t come with an exact expiry date, the material’s quality might decrease with time, much like other fabrics. So, the question arises, how long is a life jacket good for. 

The materials in life jackets are prone to degrade more quickly the more they are worn or if they are not properly cared for. 

Foam life jackets typically have a 10-year lifetime give or take.   This also consists of personal flotation devices (PFDs) or similar buoyancy aid for recreational use.  Commercial-made life jackets will often need to be changed more regularly.

 The air cartridge in inflated life jackets frequently has an expiration date written on the side.  The amount of time you get out of your cartridge may vary, but it will usually be between 1 and 3 years. 

However, you should inspect the cartridge on a regular basis to ensure that it is free of damage or corrosion that might impair its effectiveness

When to Change the Life Jacket?

Here is when you need to change the life jacket that you have.

If the floating device doesn’t have a clear expiry date written on it then when must a life jacket or flotation device be replaced? This is a very valid and crucial question. Let me give you some pointers on that.

  • If it has lost its buoyancy,
  • If the cloth has any tears or abrasions, it should be replaced before the voyage.
  • Damage to the buckles or webbing of the straps
  • If the fabrics have faded or have been damaged by the sun,
  • If the air cartridge has reached the end of its useful life,
  • Due to frequent exposure to severe temperatures as a result of use or inadequate storage
  • If the cloth around the foam in your life vest is loose

How Often Should You Replace the PFD?

If you constantly use your PFD, then you should change it around 4-5 years later. Considering that no physical damage to the material has been caused.

Well, it depends on how you use the life jacket. If you use it too frequently and without proper care, then then you might need to change it after a year or so.

So, before pondering on the question of how long a life jacket is good for, you need to access how you would use a life jacket in your own situation. Do you maintain and care for your life jacket properly? Why am I asking this question?

Because you can only appreciate the value of a life jacket when it is not performing properly. Yes, you may encounter times in your life when the buoyancy of your life jacket falls short of your expectations.

The cause is not just due to your wear and tear, although proper maintenance is critical. After using the life jacket, you can recall how you managed it. I don’t want to imply that a life jacket will serve you indefinitely, but the life of it may be extended if properly maintained and cleaned. 

How to Test Life Jacket

If you have old life jacket, you might just be wondering if they still work and how long a life jacket good for. You can easily test it out.

 If you’re using a foam life jacket, the first thing you should do is put it on. After that, try floating in calm water. The vest should fit adequately when you are floating in the water.

You should also ensure that the vest does not rise over your shoulders. If you see that your life jacket is not allowing you to float safely throughout the test, it is time to replace it. The difficulty stems from the fact that the foam within is no longer buoyant.

The same approach may be used to test an inflated life jacket. If a problem arises, check the CO2 level in the tank as well as the expiration date

Types of Life Jacket:

There are different type of PFD or personal flotation device in the market. They are made out of different materials and has different functionality. As a result of this variance, they experience different levels of wear and tear, causing them to technically expire and not work as they are supposed to from time to time.

Let’s look at the criterions.:

Foam Life Jacket

When you think of a typical life jacket, you generally think of foam-filled PFDs. Just think, when you go to an amusement park and go to the water-based ride section, they hand you this puffy life jacket, right? These are foam PFD or life jacket.

Closed-cell foam is commonly used to create this sort of PFD. The air in the foam is trapped within the material, and it is this enclosed air that allows the foam to float.

In comparison to inflatable PFDs, which must be inflated to become buoyant, foam-filled PFDs are often buoyant by nature.

Foam life jackets are therefore appropriate for both children and adults because they are meant to be low-maintenance and keep you floating with no effort.

True, they are not a fashion statement but they will give you maximum protection

Foam Life Jacket

Inflatable Life Jacket

As the name goes, Inflatable life jackets have tiny gas tanks that inflate the vest instantly. The gas is mainly carbon dioxide (CO2), and the tank usually bears an expiration date.

Most inflatable life jacket manufacturers recommend replacing the gas tank every now and then.  So how long does an inflatable life jacket last? Well, is best to change it every one to three years.

When they’re deflated, they’re more efficient and less bulky, but they require more upkeep than foam ones.

Other variables that might influence the gas tank’s overall effectiveness include regular wear and tear, corrosion, and dirt particles that can obstruct the nozzle.

That’s why it’s critical to examine the tanks every month or two for any symptoms of deterioration.

Inflatable Life Jacket

Frequently Asked Question

How long do life jackets last before they expire?

It is hard to say how long will they last. It highly depends on how carefully you use it. Like any other item, if you take care of it properly it would last. However, generally, foam life jacket will last 10 years. But if you use it with great care then even 15 years. Inflatable PFDs have a short life span. Of about 3 to 4 years.

How do you know if a life jacket is still good?

For this you need to put the life jacket to a test. But how to test a life jacket? Let me tell you how. You can test it in different positions, I.e.  Wading into chest-deep water, bending your knees, and floating on your back
Make sure your life jacket keeps your chin above water and allows you to breathe easily. It works perfectly then it’s okay. But if not then you need to consider buying a new one.

Do life jackets deteriorate?

No, the life jacket will not expire from a technological standpoint but the material within the vest loses its capacity to maintain buoyancy in water with time. The material of a foam life jacket wears down over time, causing it to lose its buoyancy.

Do life jackets keep you from drowning?

It would be silly to say that life jackets keep you from drowning. They might make you stay afloat and help you swim but complete protection is not possible. You do remember Titanic right? People were wearing life jackets. Yet a lot of them died.
So don’t depend on just PFDs and learn to swim.

Can you use old life jackets?

Not all life jackets are reusable. You can use old life jackets. But make sure they are working properly. Test them out before going out with them.


Now I hope you have all that you need to know about how long is a life jacket is good for. Test the PFD frequently to make sure it is working well.  Don’t go out with the one that will not protect you in case of an accident. Especially for your little one. It is always best to be prepared for the worst.

Go on any voyage without worry with a perfect life jacket. And if you think the jacket might pose a problem, immediately change it.

About the author, Liya James

Hi, I am Liya!! I first traveled the globe when I was four months old when we immigrated to the United States from Indonesia, and I have been roaming the world every chance I get ever since. I've been to 15 countries and counting. I am passionate about experiencing new cultures and sharing my adventures with others. I believe that travel is the best education, and I am excited to continue learning and sharing these adventures with you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}