hidden cost of cheap life jackts

Hidden Cost of Cheap Life Jackets: What To Know Before You Buy

hidden cost of cheap life jacktsIf you’re getting ready to buy a new life jacket, price can be an extremely important factor.

Before you buy cheap life jackets for your boat, however, you should make sure you understand the hidden costs involved. In this post I’ll outline what to consider before you make the final decision.

You can click here to see my top recommendation for a budget life jacket.

You might also wish to read this related post on Budget Life Jackets vs. Premium Life Jackets.

3 Points To Consider Before You Buy Cheap Life Jackets


The first and one of the most important considerations you can make is to estimate how long the life jacket is going to last.

Think about it this way: a $20 vest is ultimately more expensive than a $50 vest, if the $50 vest is expected to last for 10 years and the $20 vest will only last for 3 years.

While longevity numbers vary drastically from vest to vest, you can check manufacturer specifications for a warranty or other guarantee, or browse user reviews before you make your purchase.


Along with longevity, durability should also be an important factor. Many of the less expensive, foam vests are prone to easy tears, fading, and other minor defects.

While these issues don’t usually affect the performance of the life jacket, over time they can make the vest appear ratty and worn, even after relatively minor periods of use.


Finally, I’m a firm believer that a life jacket’s comfort is one of the most important factors you can consider.

The reason is simple: if a vest is comfortable, you’re more likely to wear it frequently. A life vest that’s stowed below deck does you no good in the moment you need it!

There’s no denying that the mid-range and premium life vests see a huge bump in comfort levels. For me, that’s an investment I’m willing to make, even if I’m on a tight budget.

Making The Decision

Ultimately, only you can decide the right line between meeting your budget needs and finding the vest that’s right for you for the long term.

Your life jacket purchase is an investment in your safety over the long term, and is personally one place I’m willing to spend a little more.

If budget is the top consideration, you can see my top-ranked inexpensive life jacket here.

Otherwise, click here to browse a full list of adult life jackets.

life jacket expiration

Do Life Jackets Expire? What To Know About Life Jacket Expiration Dates

life jacket expirationHave an old life jacket lying around you’re not sure still works? Do life jackets expire after a year or a decade, and what can you do about it?

In this post I’ll go through what you need to know about life jacket expiration dates, and how to tell if it’s time to upgrade to a new vest.

Click here to see a list of top long-lasting life jackets.

Do Life Jackets Expire?

It depends.

There are so many different types of life jackets that it’s hard to answer this question directly.

Yes, some life jackets can expire.

The more accurate answer is a little complicated. The most common type of expiration date for life jackets doesn’t have to do with the vest itself, but with certain components of the vest.

For example, inflatable vests use carbon dioxide canisters to inflate. These canisters have relatively short life spans (often 1-3 years) compared to the vest as a whole, but replacing them is an easy and inexpensive task.

Foam vests, on the other hand, don’t “expire” but they age. The buoyant material doesn’t lose its buoyancy, but the vest can become less effective with time due to wear and tear.

A Simple Thought Experiment

To better visualize the difference, imagine that you have just found a box with 2 life jackets in it: one standard foam vest and one automatic inflatable vest. Neither vest has ever been worn and both are 10 years old.

Which vest will work? Will both fail a swim test or will both pass?

Assuming there’s no other wear on the vest, the standard foam vest should be as buoyant as it was the day it was produced.

The inflatable vest, too, should be perfectly fine, but the canister used to automatically inflate it is probably expired. That means that you’ll just have to replace the canister, and the vest is good to go.

Always Check Life Jacket Expiration Dates

The examples above are common-case scenarios. Whatever vest you’re using, it’s always important to know what the specific requirements are, and whether one of the specifications mentions an expiration date.

More commonly, you’ll see guarantee, or warranty dates on the vest. These don’t mean that the vests are no longer valid beyond that warranty, but only that you’re not eligible for any manufacturer maintenance.

Think of it like a car: just because your new Prius has a 1 year warranty, doesn’t mean you have to stop driving it after a year!

If you’re ever in doubt about the validity of a life jacket, perform a manual, in water test of the vest in confined water or calm conditions. You can read more about water-testing a life vest in this post.

In general, high quality vests are built to last, so you can keep using the same vest for years, or even decades.

You can click here for a list of recommended life jackets that are built to withstand the test of time.