Spending time on the water is a great way to relax and have fun with friends and family. Time out on the lake or ocean can be soothing, reducing stress and improving your mental health while granting a sense of freedom. What better way to soak up the sun and enjoy the waves than while riding a jet ski?
Riding jet skis is a popular form of recreation, and when the weather is right, you can almost find someone cutting waves or pulling a friend behind on an innertube or surfboard. While there are rentals available, having your own means that you can take to the water whenever you want and as often as you like.
However, choosing the model that meets your needs can be challenging, especially if you are new to the activity. Not to worry — we will tell you everything you need to know to find the right jet ski and accessories that provide endless and safe fun and what you need to know to care for them properly.
Jet Ski Models
While there are numerous jet ski brands, not all are created equal. Three companies stand out from the competition in popularity, each offering various diverse models.
Kawasaki has built a reputation for producing reliable and high-quality products, outclassing the competition for high-powered engines. If speed is your game, Kawasaki is the name for you.
If you are on a tight budget or a newcomer to watercraft, Sea-Doo is an excellent place to look. They provide a quality product at a reasonable price, which factors into their popularity. As a result, they may lack some of the features their competitors showcase on their rides, but you can always upgrade down the line if you want to customize.
Powerful engines, advanced safety features, and optimum fuel mileage are vital features that draw customers to the Yamaha name, making them an excellent selection for family use. The inner workings are also clean and simplistic, so those with the skill to perform their own maintenance and repairs appreciate that it is easy to work with their engines.
Popular Models for These Brands:
|Kawasaki||Ultra 310LX, Ultra 310R, STX160LX|
|Sea-Doo||RXP-X 300, GTX Limited 300, Spark TRIXX|
|Yamaha||FX SVHO, GP1800R HO, VX Cruiser HO|
Stand-Up or Sit-Down
Even if you already know which brand fits your preference, you should also consider the different models they offer. One of the most significant decisions you will need to make is whether you want to ride standing or sitting, and the virtues of each are often a matter of hot debate.
Most people select sit-down models because they are easier to use and have the added benefit of getting you off your feet. As a result, they are great for beginners but may get the adrenaline flowing less than a stand-up model. They are also larger and heavier, meaning you will face more difficulties with storage and transport.
Stand-up models require more skill and reflexes as they are more challenging to maneuver but are a lot of fun for racing. As they only accommodate a single person, they are best if you enjoy riding solo and want a more stimulating experience. While some sit-down models are faster, the speeds are relatively similar; however, on a stand-up, every MPH feels significantly faster. One major downside is that your options for stand-up models are limited, and some brands (like Sea-Doo) do not offer them at all. This is likely because most of them use 2-stroke engines, which are less environmentally friendly. Many companies have begun phasing out those engines entirely.
Here's a rundown of popular choices in each category:
|Kawasaki||Jet Ski SX-R|
|Kawasaki||Ultra 310LX, Ultra 310R, STX 160LX|
|Sea-Doo||RXP-X 300, GTX Limited 300, Spark TRIXX|
|Yamaha||FX SVHO, GP1800R HO, VX Cruiser HO|
If you've got the extra dough, a brand's luxury models are its state-of-the-art model, built for the ultimate comfort and the most amenities. These are the models with the most features, including high-end navigation tools, extra storage face, sumptuous seating, large touch-screen displays, enhanced audio equipment . . . essentially, all the bells-and-whistles you could want.
Here are some top models in this category:
|Sea-Doo||GTX Limited 300|
One of the easiest ways to illustrate the difference between different Kawasaki, Sea-Doo, and Yamaha models is through a side-by-side comparison. The chart below makes it easy to see where each model stands concerning its competition in various categories.
For example, the Yamaha exemplifies the greatest engine and top speed, yet Kawasaki wears the crown in the fuel capacity, storage, and horsepower categories. Sea-Doo often fits somewhere in the middle, although this model significantly lacks storage capacity.
|Feature/Benefit||Kawasaki Ultra 310LX||Sea-Doo GTX Limited 300||Yamaha FX SVHO|
|Engine||1,498cc, supercharged||1,630cc, supercharged||1,812cc, supercharged|
|Horsepower||310 hp||300 hp||250 hp|
|Fuel Capacity||20.6 gallons||18.5 gallons||18.5 gallons|
|Dry Weight||1,074 lbs||1,000 lbs||833 lbs|
|Seating||3 persons||3 persons||3 persons|
|Storage||56 gallons||27 gallons||44 gallons|
|Hull Material||Fiberglass||Polytec GEN 2||NanoXcel2|
|Top Speed||~67 mph||~67 mph||~68 mph|
|Price Range||$17,000 - $18,000||$16,000 - $17,000||$15,000 - $16,000|
Please note that the information provided is subject to change due to manufacturer updates and improvements. Always check with the manufacturer or authorized dealer for the latest news.
The engine type can make a difference in your selection, so we'll walk you through the different kinds.
2-stroke and 4-stroke engines get their names due to how many piston cycles (down/up) are necessary before combustion begins. The other significant difference is that the oil is mixed with gas in the 2-stroke. An easy way to tell which you have is to locate an oil dipstick, as only 4-stroke models include one.
The 2-stroke model came first and is not as efficient as its 4-stroke counterpart, and causes more pollution, making the 4-stroke essentially an upgraded model. Many manufacturers are phasing out the earlier model entirely.
Electric batteries are naturally better for the environment, are more energy efficient, and require less maintenance, but you must charge them regularly, and they are more expensive.
The following chart illustrates some of the essential features of each type as well as some pros and cons:
|Engine Types||2-stroke engines||4-stroke engines||Electric options||Pros and cons of each type|
|Performance||Moderate||High||Moderate||2-stroke: Faster acceleration, less powerful. 4-stroke: Slower acceleration, more powerful. Electric: Instant torque, limited top speed.|
|Maintenance||High||Moderate||Low||2-stroke: Frequent maintenance, shorter engine life. 4-stroke: Less frequent maintenance, longer engine life. Electric: Minimal maintenance, longer lifespan.|
|Environment||Less eco-friendly||Eco-friendly||Most eco-friendly||2-stroke: More emissions, less fuel-efficient. 4-stroke: Fewer emissions, more fuel-efficient. Electric: Zero emissions, energy-efficient.|
Another crucial engine feature is how much mileage you get out of each tank of gas (or charge), called the "range." Ideally, for efficiency, you want an engine that consumes the least fuel yet grants you the most mileage.
The chart below shows a comparison of the three primary engine types and how they feature in fuel efficiency:
|Fuel Efficiency||Fuel consumption||Range||Comparison of various models|
|2-stroke||High||Shorter||2-stroke engines consume more fuel, shorter range.|
|4-stroke||Moderate||Longer||4-stroke engines consume less fuel, longer range.|
|Electric||N/A||Varies||Electric options have no fuel consumption but depend on battery capacity and power consumption for range.|
*Please note that the comparison between different models will vary based on factors such as engine size, hull design, and rider behavior.
Handling and Stability
There are a diverse set of models available through Kawasaki, Sea-Doo, and Yamaha, and each one handles differently.
Unless particularly adventurous, newbies will likely seek those which not only handle well but ensure solid stability so that they can avoid capsizing. Jet skis with a broader hull, greater seating capacity, and greater weight often make for a more stable ride.
Others may be more interested in how well they can maneuver vehicles and how well they corner (make turns). After all, these handling attributes factor into how much fun you can have performing stunts, racing, or other exciting activities.
Whether you are at one end of the spectrum or somewhere in the middle, here is a detailed analysis of how various models for each brand maneuver, corner, handle, and which features affect the ride's stability:
|Brand||Model||Maneuverability||Cornering||Overall Handling||Factors Affecting Stability|
|Kawasaki||Ultra 310LX||Good control and precision||Deep-V hull for improved cornering||Balanced and stable||Hull design, weight distribution|
|Kawasaki||Ultra 310X||Good control and precision||Deep-V hull for improved cornering||Balanced and stable||Hull design, weight distribution|
|Kawasaki||Ultra LX||Moderate maneuverability||Stable cornering||Beginner-friendly||Hull design, center of gravity|
|Kawasaki||STX 160LX||Beginner-friendly maneuverability||Stable cornering||Easy handling||Hull design, center of gravity|
|Kawasaki||STX 160X||Beginner-friendly maneuverability||Stable cornering||Easy handling||Hull design, center of gravity|
|Sea-Doo||GTX Limited 300||High maneuverability||Excellent cornering||Smooth and agile||Sponsons, hull design|
|Sea-Doo||RXT-X 300||Excellent maneuverability||Exceptional cornering||Responsive and agile||Sponsons, hull design, T3-R hull|
|Sea-Doo||Wake Pro 230||Good maneuverability||Stable cornering||Well-balanced||Hull design, weight distribution|
|Sea-Doo||GTI SE 170||High maneuverability||Good cornering||Responsive and stable||Sponsons, hull design|
|Sea-Doo||Spark Trixx 3-up||Exceptional maneuverability||Tight cornering||Playful and agile||Lightweight, hull design|
|Yamaha||FX SVHO Cruiser||Smooth, responsive handling||Stable cornering||Comfortable and controlled||Hull design, weight distribution|
|Yamaha||FX SVHO Limited||Smooth, responsive handling||Stable cornering||Comfortable and controlled||Hull design, weight distribution|
|Yamaha||VX Cruiser HO||Good maneuverability||Stable cornering||Well-balanced||Hull design, center of gravity|
|Yamaha||EXR||Excellent maneuverability||Tight cornering||Agile and sporty||Lightweight, hull design|
|Yamaha||SuperJet||Exceptional maneuverability (stand-up)||Sharp cornering||Highly agile (stand-up)||Rider skill, lightweight, hull design|
*Please note that the table is a simplified comparison of the various models' handling and stability characteristics. Individual experiences may vary based on rider skill level, water conditions, and other factors.
Outside of the craft itself, useful and sometimes necessary accessories can improve your experience out on the water. These include but are not limited to, towables, storage compartments, and safety equipment.
Towables attached to the jet ski drift behind in the wake, often increasing the fun for others. These may include inflatable seats, tubes, or boards that allow riders to surf behind you holding a rope.
Storage compartments are self-explanatory, as including these containers allows you to have space to store possessions, concessions, additional equipment or anything else you want to keep at hand but out of the way.
You will obviously need required safety equipment such as life jackets and a fire extinguisher, but you may also want extra changes of clothes and a dry bag to keep them in, as well as any other items that can suffer water damage; there are waterproof boxes to keep your cell phone dry. You may wish to have an anchor or a bicycle lock to help keep your ride from drifting if you decide to explore the shore.
Of course, some popular accessories enhance the fun! Factory-installed speakers or Bluetooth options can bring the beat out with you, GoPro cameras can help you record memories, and there are plenty of inflatable toys so you can play games or interact with your friends and family.
Maintenance and Repair
To ensure the longevity and proper function of your jet ski, you need to perform specific maintenance duties and have a professional service your craft at least once a year or if you exceed 50 engine hours (whichever comes first). You can locate the nearest service provider with some research on the internet or contact your manufacturer or dealer to discover which options are available to you. In the meantime, you should clean your watercraft regularly and always run through a pre-use checklist to ensure that everything is operating correctly and that you are prepared to go out on the water.
As part of this assessment, check the following:
- Check your engine for any gas vapor buildup
- Make sure the hull and drain plug are in excellent condition
- Whether the gas tank is full
- That your trailer is unhitched
- All safety equipment is present and accounted for
Furthermore, routine maintenance is necessary to keep your jet ski working smoothly and prevent damage. This includes changing the oil and batteries as necessary, replacing spark plugs and oil filters, and flushing dirty fluids such as fuel and oil.
There may be times when your craft will need repairs, which professionals can complete at any shop that performs maintenance on these crafts. Common problems owners face include worn-out batteries that prevent ignition, water leaks, and engine problems that may result from defective spark plugs or clogging. If you detect something wrong with your jet ski, it is best to have a professional investigate before it results in more serious (and expensive) damage.
The average cost of a jet ski is approximately $14,000, so purchasing one is a significant investment. Before you even begin researching potential candidates, determine the upper end of your budget. That way, you know what you can comfortably afford so you can limit your options. Once you have established that starting point, you will need to consider other aspects that define which jet ski will best fit your needs.
You will likely want to consider the following:
- If you wish to buy new or used
- Where you intend to ride and how that will affect your craft
- Your experience level and whether you want a more stable model or can handle a sleek, agile ride
- Where you will store and transport it
- The required safety accessories and any add-ons you want
- Which brand best suits you
- What is involved in its maintenance, and when you should do it
- Insurance options
There are many brands, models, and dealers out there, so to find the best craft for you at the greatest price, do your diligent research first. Consider what each brand brings to the table and its features, and shop around to compare prices.
Rentals and Tours
If buying your own jet ski is not currently in your budget, you can still soak up the rays while enjoying a day out on the water. There are rental facilities available that allow you to pay by the hour or even by day. On average, you can expect to pay about $85 an hour, with full-day packages available for $400 (which includes additional benefits and services). You can quickly search online to find the nearest jet ski rental locations and discover their fees and rental requirements.
Rental options are ideal for those that can't afford their own or only have time for an occasional trip out on the water, making the expense of a personal craft illogical.
Additional benefits include the following:
- You do not have to tow anything – the equipment is already on site
- Everything you need is included, such as safety equipment
- It is a great way to experience jet ski riding for the first time to see if you enjoy it or not
- You can try out top-of-the-line models
If you are new to jet skiing or want to get the most out of your experience, try a jet ski tour. Professionals run these events and optimize them to include beautiful landscapes and scenery, and they often have plans designed to get the most out of your time on the water. This is a great way to spend time with the family or a significant other, creating bonds in a safe, structured environment.
Regulations and Safety
Personal watercrafts (PWCs) such as jet skis can be a lot of fun, but there are rules governing their usage to keep you and others around you safe. Depending on the state, consequences of violating regulations can include misdemeanor charges and fines, ranging from approximately $20 to $1000.
While each state may have additional requirements, basic regulations require that you:
- Pilot the craft carefully, avoiding reckless and dangerous behavior such as
- Wake jumping or allowing your craft to leave the water when near other vehicles
- Weaving within or around other traffic
- Traveling at high velocities near shore, around other vessels, or near objects in the water
- Tailgating other vehicles
- Wear a life jacket or a suitable alternative
- Possess a proper visual and audio distress signal
- Have appropriate navigational lights for nighttime usage
- Keep a fire extinguisher in the storage area and have a certified backfire flame arrester.
It is also a good idea to observe the following suggestions to ensure that your jet ski rides are safe:
- Remain focused while piloting the craft, and always be aware of your surroundings.
- Do not operate a jet ski while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or other substances that can impair your thinking or reactions.
- Wear a safety lanyard to automatically shut off the engine if you fall off or lose control of the craft.
- Respect others on the water and onshore through proper etiquette.
Insurance and Financing
Unlike with an automobile, there are no laws requiring you to acquire insurance for your jet ski. However, if you ever suffer an accident, vandalism, or inclement weather that damages your craft, you will wish you had it.
The cost of coverage varies based on your driving record, the model, and the amount of coverage. Still, the expense pays dividends when you need to cover repairs or medical costs relating to injuries. Most major insurance companies offer this type of protection, so for the best results, shop around to find the deal that fits your needs at the best price.
On the other hand, financing your ride is relatively easy, although it can prove more difficult than acquiring financial assistance for a vehicle. Many manufacturers offer reasonable financing options, so if you can purchase directly from them, that is your best solution. A dealership may be an easy solution, but their terms could be better, so your next best option is likely to request a loan through your bank.
Remember that your credit history and income are significant factors when considering a personal loan. Shop around to see what offers you get, considering the monthly APR and loan terms to find the best deal.
Pre-Owned Jet Skis
You can sometimes save a lot of money through used jet ski listings, but you have to be wary of scams and misrepresented items that may have hidden problems or damage. If the jet ski is not in the advertised condition or requires expensive repairs, what seemed like an excellent deal may cost more than you bargained for, making a new model attractive.
To reduce the risk of deception, start with a little common sense: if a deal seems too good to be true, it may very well be! However, there are a few ways you can determine the appropriate value of your prospective jet ski before taking the plunge. Check around some renowned retailers (local or online) to get an idea of what they charge for both new and used versions of the model in question, then check the HIN (the jet ski equivalent of a VIN) to ensure that the used jet ski is not stolen and see if it happens to have a warranty.
Once you have a chance to appraise the previously owned jet ski in person, here are some other tips for assessing its quality and value:
- Check the condition of the battery
- Verify the engine hours (an average of 30 hours a year is usual)
- Scrutinize the parts of the jet pump for wear or damage
- Search for rust and hull damage, then find out if the jet ski has ever sunk before
- Ensure it has a functioning O-ring in acceptable condition
With a proper grasp of the knowledge presented in this comprehensive guide, you now have the tools to find and maintain the best jet ski for your needs or at least locate a temporary solution that will have you blazing through the water on a watercraft.
These incredible watercraft are an excellent way to get the most out of your vacation or recreational experience, and we urge you to make the most of your time on the water, crafting enduring memories with friends and clearing your mind of all the stress that builds up as part of daily life. However, always remember to follow all safety guidelines and regulations and respect others on the water and their equipment as much as your own.
- “Stand up Jet Ski vs. Sit Down Jet Ski”
- “Sea-doo Vs. Yamaha Vs. Kawasaki”
- “2-stroke Vs. 4-stroke Jet Skis”
- “Used Jet Ski Guide”
- “Jet Ski Financing”
- “Personal Watercraft Safety Regulations”
- “Jet Ski Pre-ride Checklist”
- 4 Essential Jet Ski Maintenance Tips