A bit of info on Life Raft service

I was about to buy a used life raft for a very active price. I definitely want to ensure it was serviceable and ready for duty. I called Revere Life Rafts and spoke with them about an inspection and servicing. This is when the brakes came on.

I was informed life rafts have about a 10 year life span on them. After that, they are an “experimental raft” so to speak, my words, not theirs. Between the materials being folded for so long and the gas cylinders breaking down, the chances are very high that a service ends up in one of two places. First, if the materials still check OK, the bottles, valve and other bits need to be fully rebuild and hydro inspected. All in for this full service, expect $1000-1200 for a 4 person raft.

Second, if the materials are in poor condition, you basically have to buy a new raft and you may very well be on the hook for the initial inspection fee. I was told it could be as little as $500. As they are certifying the raft, it was pretty clear that any discrepancies in the material were a show stopper.

A new 4 person raft can be had for about $1500. So by the time you get a deal on the old raft, service it, you are going to be very close if not even more than a new raft. Now, let’s say you find one for $700 and it was last packed 7 years ago. You will probably be well under the $1k mark, but at least at the min. $500 where no bottle service or parts need to be repaired. If you work the math out, you are still behind the power curve because at 10 years, even if the materials are still good, you are in it for a substantial inspection fee. This could end up costing you double over a 10 year lifespan.

I post this not as an anti-sales approach to anyone selling a raft. Rather, informed consent that you know what you are getting into when buying a used raft. After all, if you end up needing it, it will be worth its weight in gold. So you might as well have high confidence that it is going to work as expected.

I own and fly a 79 PA32RT-300T. Previous aircraft are a 79 Archer and 76 Arrow.


  • edited May 2023

    Those numbers look about right from when I last had some familiarity in that segment. The packing outfit is certifying that the product will work as stated and basically keep you (and up to X others) alive for approximately Y time. With that, no liability premium in the pricing either, right?

    Another factor not listed is UV damage which (last I checked) was simply unavoidable if the device gets regular exposure. And the point is to have the device at the ready, so it is going to get exposure. Sure, the packing should include shielding, but some radiation still gets through.

    One more element for the certification life is food and fresh water capability. Some kits have them, some do not as it depends on the gamble of time until rescue. By they way, might consider checking into that fresh water capability as the hand-pump reverse osmosis variety can prove exhausting with a fairly low yield per hour. All well and good if highly confident in a timely rescue, but stretching out to days will push the energy limits for fresh water.

    Although, my last exposure to this market segment was some time ago and technologies might have changed to mitigate the risks as I knew them. But based on the opening statements, does not look that way.

    Certified survival equipment is definitely an area where one mus pay to play. Anything less is roulette. Then again, about fifteen years ago I watched a hand-me-down WWII surplus raft successfully self inflate. Soooo, feeling lucky?

    In the big picture, this scenario presents an insurance policy of ~$150 per year for 10 years. After 10 years, buy a new policy and give the old one to the kiddos to play with in the pool.

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