Caveat: In the interests of full disclosure I should say that I work in the liferaft industry (although not for Zodiac)
I have owned a Zodiac 8-man liferaft of year 2000 manufacture. It functioned well and I saw it inflated several times (i.e. gas inflated by pulling the painter as per a real-life emergency
deployment), including 2 or 3 times in water
(we loaned it a couple of times for local Safety
and Sea Survival certification
courses). It was a decent liferaft. Not, in my opinion, the best design / braand going around, but decent.
Having said that, at the beginning of 2012, I donated that liferaft to the guys running the Safety
and Sea Survival courses. The liferaft was still passing its annual inspections & test. Visually there was nothing wrong with it. The reason being that having worked in the liferaft industry for over 20 years, I have a close understanding of the lifespan of the liferafts that I have designed and been involved in the manufacture of.
It has been my experience (I emphasise this goes to 1 specific brand only, and not not specifically Zodiac) that:
It is extremely rare for one of our liferafts to experience any significant problems in the first 12 years of its life.
It is extremely unusual for one of our liferafts to not experience a significant problem between 12 and 20 years old.
Sure; we have commercial
in-survey SOLAS liferafts out there that are over 20 years old and still going strong. But we also have liferafts that have been condemmed at annual service at 15 years old, or less.
So my point is, that when the Ess Aitch Eye Tee hits the fan, and you and your loved one(s) need to get into your liferaft, or drown, do you really want to be rolling the dice on a 14+ year old liferaft that might well function as intended, but might not too?