Crustal- and upper-mantle structures of the subduction zone in south central Chile, between 42 degrees S and 46 degrees S, are determined from seismic wide-angle reflection and refraction data, using the seismic ray tracing method to calculate minimum parameter models. Three profiles along differently aged segments of the subducting Nazca Plate were analysed in order to study subduction zone structure dependencies related to the age, that is, thermal state, of the incoming plate. The age of the oceanic crust at the trench ranges from 3 Ma on the southernmost profile, immediately north of the Chile triple junction, to 6.5 Ma old about 100 km to the north, and to 14.5 Ma old another 200 km further north, off the Island of Chiloe. Remarkable similarities appear in the structures of both the incoming as well as the overriding plate. The oceanic Nazca Plate is around 5 km thick, with a slightly increasing thickness northward, reflecting temperature changes at the time of crustal generation. The trench basin is about 2 km thick except in the south where the Chile Ridge is close to the deformation front and only a small, 800-m-thick trench infill could develop. In south central Chile, typically three quarters (1.5 km) of the trench sediments subduct below the decollement in the subduction channel. To the north and south of the study area, only about one quarter to one third of the sediments subducts, the rest is accreted above. Similarities in the overriding plate are the width of the active accretionary prism, 35-50 km, and a strong lateral crustal velocity gradient zone about 75-80 km landward from the deformation front, where landward upper-crustal velocities of over 5.0-5.4 km s〈SU-1〈/SU decrease seaward to around 4.5 km s〈SU-1〈/SU within about 10 km, which possibly represents a palaeo-backstop. This zone is also accompanied by strong intraplate seismicity. Differences in the subduction zone structures exist in the outer rise region, where the northern profile exhibits a clear bulge of uplifted oceanic lithosphere prior to subduction whereas the younger structures have a less developed outer rise. This plate bending is accompanied by strongly reduced rock velocities on the northern profile due to fracturing and possible hydration of the crust and upper mantle. The southern profiles do not exhibit such a strong alteration of the lithosphere, although this effect may be counteracted by plate cooling effects, which are reflected in increasing rock velocities away from the spreading centre. Overall there appears little influence of incoming plate age on the subduction zone structure which may explain why the M-w = 9.5 great Chile earthquake from 1960 ruptured through all these differing age segments. The rupture area, however, appears to coincide with a relatively thick subduction channel.