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Elevator Obsolescence — How Long Does an Elevator Last?

Ryan Hussey
Written By: Ryan Hussey
Elevator Obsolescence — How Long Does an Elevator Last?

As a building owner or manager, one of the most important aspects of your job is ensuring occupants, tenants and visitors are safe in your building. And your elevators are one of the biggest factors that impact the safety of your building.

With annual elevator inspection required in most municipalities, you probably think you’ve covered all the bases, but did you know that elevators have a lifespan? One of the most common questions we get from building management teams is, “How long do elevators last?”

What is Elevator Obsolescence?
Factors That Affect Elevator Life Expectancy
Estimating Your Elevator Lifespan: General Rule of Thumb
Manage Elevator Life Expectancy With Stanley Elevator
Elevator Obsolescence FAQs

What is Elevator Obsolescence?

Obsolescence, by definition, means that something is out-of-date or no longer functional in modern standards. For our purposes, elevator obsolescence is when an elevator or its components are outdated and in need of replacement or modernization.

The general rule of thumb in the industry is that elevators last about 20 to 25 years before major updates are required. Different types of elevators may require more frequent maintenance or service. On average, you can expect the following lifespans for elevator equipment:

  • Hydraulic elevators — 20 to 25 years
  • Overhead traction elevators — 30 years
  • Machine room-less (MRL) traction elevators — 10 to 15 years

However, an elevator will only last that long if it is well cared for throughout its operating life. That means performing regular elevator maintenance, getting annual inspections and taking overall good care of the elevator.

Factors That Affect Elevator Life Expectancy

Elevator life expectancy will vary slightly depending on the manufacturer and the setting it’s used in. But across the board, there are a handful of factors that directly impact the life of an elevator:

  1. Routine maintenance: Elevator maintenance is typically performed on a contracted basis with a trusted elevator company. To ensure your elevator lasts as long as possible, it is crucial that you:
    • Actually perform routine maintenance, including inspection and testing to catch any minor issues before they become big problems.
    • Choose a top-quality maintenance company. If you’re unsure what to look for, use this handy elevator maintenance checklist to help you pick the right maintenance partner.
  2. Failure to upgrade: Different parts and mechanisms of an elevator will wear out at different times during an elevator’s lifespan, well before the 20-25 years are up. To prolong the life of an elevator, be sure to upgrade/replace these parts as suggested by your repair technician. Elevator modernization can not only replace worn-out parts, mechanical upgrades can reduce energy consumption and improve passenger safety.
  3. Usage/improper usage: If an elevator is used improperly, it can wear more quickly than it should or even break. That’s why it is critical to mind the elevator’s weight and capacity limits, and only use an elevator in accordance with its intended use.
  4. Weather: This mostly pertains to elevators that might be subject to weather extremes, like high heat and humidity or frigid temperatures. If a building gets particularly humid or very cold, an elevator’s mechanical components can be damaged. With regular maintenance, these issues can be caught early and addressed.

  1. Proprietary vs. non-proprietary equipment: Similar to automobiles, you have the option to use generic elevator parts and equipment when making repairs and updates. This gives you the freedom to use multiple vendors, and you’re not tied to one vendor. No matter how you source the parts, be sure you employ the services of licensed technicians to properly install and test the equipment.

Estimating Your Elevator Lifespan: General Rule of Thumb

Always consult your elevator manufacturer for all repair recommendations and maintenance guidelines. However, elevator components do have a general lifespan expectation regardless of manufacturer. You can expect the following lifespans for elevator equipment:

Elevator Part


Renovate, Repair or Replace?

Cab 15 years Renovate
Call Station 15 years Replace
Controller & Dispatcher 20 years Replace
Shaft Doors 20 years Replace door operator/hardware
Cables 20 years Replace
Traveling Cables 20 years Replace
Opening Panel 20 years Replace
Electrical Wiring 20 years Replace
Hydraulic Elevator Machinery 20-25 years Replace
Traction Elevator Machinery 25-30 years Replace
Hoist Rails 30 years Repair
Hydraulic Piston 30 years Replace

Manage Elevator Life Expectancy With Stanley Elevator

The best way to keep your elevator in tip-top shape is to maintain and regularly inspect it. With over 70 years of experience and expertise, Stanley Elevator is a great partner to trust with your elevator maintenance, modernization, and installation.

Contact us to learn more about protecting your investment and keeping your elevator running for years to come.

Elevator Obsolescence FAQs

What is elevator obsolescence?
Elevator obsolescence is when an elevator or its equipment is outdated and/or no longer supported by original manufacturer

How long do elevators last?
Different elevator components have different lifespans, but the general rule of thumb in the industry is that an elevator will last between 20 and 25 years.

How can I increase my elevator’s life expectancy?
The best way to prolong the life of your elevator is to keep it in good working order. Perform regular maintenance, annual inspections and enter a maintenance agreement with a trusted elevator company to keep your elevator in top condition.

How can I modernize my elevator?
In terms of the aesthetics, an elevator cab should be modernized every 15 years or so. This will help give it a fresh look and keep it from looking outdated. Mechanically speaking, different elevator parts should be replaced at varying intervals — consult your maintenance technician or elevator manufacturer to ensure your parts are up to modern standards and working effectively.

Ryan Hussey

As VP of Operations for Stanley Elevator, Ryan oversees the field, construction and modernization teams. His resume includes over 10 years of first-hand experience in elevator field service, project management, surveying, estimating and warehouse operations.

Ryan’s role focuses on incorporating new technologies into Stanley Elevator’s operations, while prioritizing the continuous advancement of their elevator maintenance, repairs, modernization and installation services. He also maintains Stanley Elevator’s certifications and relationships with associations, including the Massachusetts Elevator Safety Association (MESA), the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Elevator Contractors of America (ECA).

Ryan holds a bachelor’s degree in management from Providence College and is working on an MBA at Babson College.