The Ultimate Jet Ski Buying Guide + Top Jet Skis for 2019
Written by Carolyn Jackson
Table of Contents
Did you know that the term ‘jet ski’ is actually a brand name for a Kawasaki personal watercraft? Although most of us refer to these PWCs (personal watercraft) as jet skis or even Sea-Doos, they are all technically just PWCs. Doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? I remember as a kid I argued with my mom about whether it was called a jet ski or a Sea-Doo. I was in the jet ski camp, but it turns out we were both wrong.
Regardless of what you call a PWC, these are hugely fun, smile-inducing machines that bring nothing but joy to those with a need for speed. For the sake of clarity, I will refer to these vehicles as jet skis for the remainder of this article. Speaking of this article, we are going to go over a few important things to consider if you are interested in purchasing or even renting a jet ski, such as price, financing, types, and brands of jet skis and towing a jet ski.
What is a Jet Ski?
A jet ski is a personal watercraft. Ok, cool, but what is a personal watercraft? Essentially, it is a small, jet-propelled vehicle that runs on the surface of a body of water. They are ridden like a motorcycle, with one leg on either side of the seat, and have steering like a motorcycle as well. The distinguishing factor between a jet ski and a boat is that you are not inside a jet ski like you are when cruising in a boat. You ride on top of a jet ski and will get wet! Jet skis have an inboard engine that fuels a pump jet which creates thrust for propulsion and steering. Most jet skis are designed for one to three passengers, but four-passenger jet skis also exist. Three passenger jet skis make up approximately 85% of the market. The uses for jet skis have vastly expanded in the last decade. They can be used for long cruises, thrill-seeking adventures, traveling, fishing, or even towing tubers or water skiiers, etc.
There are four classes that jet skis are divided into, from most expensive to least:
Luxury Jet Skis
Luxury jet skis are fairly similar to the other classes of jet skis. The most notable difference in a luxury jet ski is the vast array of features available on these models. These features can add some weight to an already fairly heavy class of jet ski, and will, of course, increase the MSRP quickly.
Performance Jet Skis
Performance jet skis are the fastest type of jet ski you can buy. These jet skis have the highest top speeds, best maneuverability, and acceleration out of all the types of jet skis available. A performance jet ski is perfect for the adrenaline junkie or adventure seeker.
Recreation Jet Skis
A recreation jet ski is the most common type of jet ski. They are probably the most popular because they balance cost, power, and features well. These types of jet skis meet people’s needs for fun and are a great choice for families or teens who just want to get out and enjoy some wake on the lake or ocean.
Rec-Lite Jet Skis
Rec-lite jet skis are the newest category of jet ski, pioneered by Sea-Doo with the introduction of the Sea-Doo Spark. The rec-lite category is popular for its affordability. Jet skis in this category can have a starting MSRP as low as $5,000. These jets skis are lightweight, agile and come only with the essentials. This type of jet ski caters to first-timers but is still highly praised among veteran jet skiers.
Bonus 5th Jet Ski Type: Stand-Up
Stand-up jet skis are a unique, and engaging water experience. It takes some learning to master the stand-up jet ski, but the payoff is well-worth the effort. There are only a couple stand-up jet skis currently on the market, including the Kawasaki Jet Ski SX-R and the Yamaha Super Jet.
What are the Jet Ski Brands?
There are three top brands of jet skis. Each specializes in their own category and is known for something specific to their brand. Each manufacturer makes high-quality jet skis that would definitely bring a smile to your face.
Yamahas, like all their products, are built with quality and longevity in mind. Their engines are the standout piece on their jet skis and will last you years to come. Yamaha, known in for their Waverunner brand, is a bit more on the expensive side when comparing these three brands. But one major upside is their fuel efficiency, which saves you money and keeps you on the water longer.
ProTip: Jet skis use GPH as a measurement of fuel efficiency instead of the more traditional MPG. GPH stands for Gallons Per Hour and represents how many gallons of gas it takes per hour of riding at cruising speed (usually about 30mph). Read more about this in our MPG/GPH section below
Sea-Doo is most popular because of their affordability, but they are also known for their high-quality features, benefits, and accessory lineup. The Sea-Doo Spark is a great entry-level jet ski to get your feet wet. Sea-Doo also specializes in trick jet skis and pull jet skis, like the WAKE model.
Kawasaki jet skis are known for speed. If you are looking for that adrenaline rush on the open waves, then this is your best bet. Kawasaki is a more luxury-focused brand, offering features like built-in speakers and sound system and heat-resistant seats.
They are the most expensive brand because of their engine specs, which is what makes them so fast.
Jet Ski Pricing
Like most recreation vehicles with engines, the price of a jet ski can run the gamut, starting around $5k and going all the way over $18k. The price of a jet ski is determined by the brand, weight, gas tank size, speed/horsepower, and features. Some features that will immediately increase the MSRP include, but are not limited to:
- Cruise control
- Tilt steering
- Depth finder
- Different modes like sport, eco and touring
- Max speed over 65mph
How Much Does a Luxury Jet Ski Cost?
One of the most affordable luxury jet skis is the Sea-Doo GTI 130, which starts at an MSRP of $9,000. However, if you are interested in a true luxury jet ski, you can expect to pay closer to $15,000, with most models boasting an MSRP of somewhere between $12,000 and $16,000.
How Much Does a Performance Jet Ski Cost?
Performance jet skis are on the higher end of price as well. They can start out at an MSRP of $12,00 but still can get as expensive as $15,000. You are paying for a highly advanced engine which can get to top speeds of 60-70mph and can typically reach cruising speeds (30-35mph) in 2-3 seconds.
How Much Does a Recreation Jet Ski Cost?
A recreation jet ski is probably the most popular jet ski type available. These jet skis the perfect middle man, not too light and not too heavy with the perfect amount of horsepower. Recreation jet skis can start in the low $7K range, but they can quickly reach the $10K-$12K range, too.
How Much Does a Rec-Lite Jet Ski Cost?
A rec-lite jet ski is the most affordable option. You get a great product that does most everything you might want, just without all the high-priced bells and whistles. The rec-lite models typically start in the low 5k range, but the price can always increase with added features.
How Much Does a Stand Up Jet Ski Cost?
There are only two stand up jet skis on the market, so the pricing is pretty straightforward here. The Yamaha Super Jet starts at $8,699 and the Kawasaki SX-R starts at $9,999.
The good news is that there is a lot of variety of price in the jet ski category, so you can definitely find a jet ski that fits in your budget.
When you’re ready to see pricing, head to GoRollick.com to begin your shopping process.
Which one is right for me?
There is no right or wrong choice when choosing a jet ski. Each brand specializes in a different category and feature. When selecting a jet ski, determine what you need and what you can afford, and let those barriers narrow down your search for you.
Most Popular Jet Ski Models
Sea-Doo Popular Models
Spark 2-up Rotax 900 ACE
Rider Capacity: 2-3
Fuel Capacity: 5.9 gal
Dry Weight: 405 lbs
GTI SE 130
Rider Capacity: 3
Fuel Capacity: 15.9 gal
Dry Weight: 790 lbs
Yamaha Popular Models
WaveRunner EX, Sport, and Deluxe
MSRP: Starting at $6,700
Rider Capacity: 1-3
Fuel Capacity: 13.2 gal
Dry Weight: 578 lbs
FX Cruiser SVHO
MSRP: Starting at $15,199
Rider Capacity: 1-3
Fuel Capacity: 18.5 gal
Dry Weight: 820 lb
Kawasaki Popular Models
Rider Capacity: 3
Fuel Capacity: 16.4 gal
Dry Weight: 844.5 lbs
SX-R – Stand-Up Jet Ski
Rider Capacity: 1
Fuel Capacity: 6.1 gal
Dry Weight: 551.3 lbs
How Much Does a Jet Ski Weigh?
There is a ton of variation in weight when it comes to jet skis. Most are somewhere around to 700-850 lb mark. However, the rec-lite jet skis can be as light as 450 lbs and some of the luxury beasts can weigh over 1,000 lbs. The weight of a jet ski determines how fast it can go, GPH,
and needs to be considered when towing the vehicle. You can find the weight of any current jet ski model on the manufacturer website, but remember that they usually advertise the dry weight, which is the weight of the watercraft without any fluids or gear like gas or a first aid kit or cooler.
Required Equipment for Riding Jet Skis
One important note about required equipment for riding a jet ski is that the requirements vary by state. For example, in New York, a flare gun is a required item when riding a jet ski on any open body of water. These are some of the most common items required for jet ski riding:
- Life jacket for each passenger
- Fire extinguisher
- Whistle or air horn
- Safety lanyard
- Mirrors if you are pulling
- A dry bag with money and identification
Recommended Equipment for Riding a Jet Ski
- First Aid Kit
- Skier down flag
- Smartphone for distress and GPS
How Do I Buy a Jet Ski?
Now that you have a better idea of what a jet ski is and the benefits of owning one of these super fun personal watercraft, you probably have a better idea of what brand and models you might want to look into. If you are feeling ready to search inventory, start with GoRollick’s nationwide network of new and used inventory.
GoRollick works with the best dealers in the country who are dedicated to price transparency and a great buying experience. With GoRollick you can get an upfront price and a special offer on your next jet ski, plus savings on after-purchase products. Then when you’re ready, you can shop at one of our Certified Dealers. GoRollick also ensures that you get access to all available manufacturer incentives. If you’re curious about what’s currently available, you can check out our incentives page here.
Do I Need a License to Drive a Jet Ski?
There is no separate jet ski license, it is included when you have a boaters license. The requirements for who needs a boating license to operate a personal watercraft vary by state and are determined mostly by age. In addition to needing a boating license or certificate, there are other requirements, some state specific, that apply only to PWCs:
- S. Coast Guard-approved Type I, II, III, or V personal flotation device
- Ignition safety switch
- Operation based on the time of day
- Who can ride or be towed on a personal watercraft
Financing a Jet Ski
Jet skis can be affordable compared to a more traditional boat or other outdoor recreation vehicles, starting in the low 5k range, but this doesn’t mean everyone has that kind of money at their disposal, especially if you’re considering a more pricey jet ski. If any of this rings a bell, you might want to consider financing, which is definitely available when purchasing a jet ski.
If you do take out a loan, you want to make sure you get the best possible loan rate, so that you owe as little interest as possible. Searching for good loan rates and negotiating pricing can be daunting. Luckily, we have a Definitive Guide to Jet Ski Loans that goes over everything you need to know about how to finance an outdoor recreation vehicle.
Concerned about your credit and how your score might affect your ability to finance or purchase a jet ski? Educate yourself on how to use the tools in your shed to still get the best rate possible with our Guide to Bad Credit Loans.
Renting a Jet Ski
Renting a jet ski is a popular option because not everyone can justify the price tag if they only have the opportunity to use a jet ski once a year. The barrier to entry for utilizing a jet ski is higher than other outdoor recreation vehicles like an ATV or motorcycle. To use a jet ski first you need access to water, like a lake, river or ocean. Then you need somewhere to store it on the water, like rented marina space or a dock at an on-water home. If you don’t have either of these things and even if you do, you will also need a trailer to haul the jet ski and a vehicle that can haul the trailer. For all these reasons, renting a jet ski can be the best possible option for you to still enjoy the wind in your hair and thrill of riding over the open waves. Fortunately, renting a jet ski is easy and affordable. Want to learn more about toy haulers? Check out our guide to buying a toy hauler.
Are There Any Requirements for Renting a Jet Ski?
Most jet ski rentals have a minimum age requirement of 16 years old to rent and drive a jet ski, and anyone under 18 typically must have a waiver signed by a parent or guardian. Although passengers have no age restrictions. Jet ski drivers must also have a boating safety card, and sometimes even a boating license, depending on the requirements of the state and rental shop.
Do I Need to Make a Reservation?
It is smart to make a reservation ahead of time if you know you will want to rent a jet ski at a specific time and place. Especially in popular touristy areas and popular times of year, the rentals can sell out quickly.
How Much Does a Jet Ski Rental Cost?
Towing a Jet Ski
If you own a jet ski, you either will need to purchase a small trailer or you will likely need to rent a trailer if you ever need to haul your jet ski. Fortunately, jet ski trailers are small and more affordable than large, flatbed trailers. You can find them online for as inexpensive as $250, but they do range widely in price, going up into the low thousands. You could also look into used jet ski trailers.
When you purchase a jet ski, you will need a trailer for a few reasons:
- Hauling the jet ski to and from different lakes, ocean fronts or places on a river
- Hauling the jet ski from its storage site to the water
- Hauling the jet ski to and from the mechanic for service and repairs
- Hauling the jet ski for winter storage
You might not need to do all of these things, but it is more than likely you will find you need to do at least once if you own a personal watercraft.
Other considerations for hauling a jet ski is the type of town vehicle you have access to. The vehicle needs to be capable of hauling the weight of the trailer and the jet ski and needs to have a hook up for a traditional ball hitch.
Do I Need Insurance on My Jet Ski?
Jet ski insurance varies state by state, some states require more robust coverage, some only require liability insurance and some do not require any insurance, but we still highly recommend you have insurance for any watercraft. Another consideration is that if you are leasing or financing a jet ski, the lender will often require a certain amount of insurance coverage. So check the requirements in your purchase agreement, and in your state before hitting the waves!
Jet ski insurance is a smart investment because, well, accidents happen. These vehicles are fun, but there are risks involved with any motorized vehicle on the water. Crashes, accidents and the like can happen, and you want to be prepared. The cost of jet ski insurance varies depending on size, price, location, and many other factors, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $100-500 per year. One of the best ways to lower your jet ski insurance cost is you invest in taking boating safety courses.
Jet Ski and MPG and GPH: How Many Gallons of Gas does a Jet Ski Hold?
Gas prices on the lake or ocean are always more expensive than you will see at a traditional drive-up gas station off the highway ramp. When purchasing a jet ski, you should consider the annual cost of fuel to be sure it still fits within your budget. The good news is that jet skis are becoming more and more fuel-efficient every year.
Although we are most familiar with MPG, in the world of boating and personal watercraft, GPH is often used. GPH stands for gallons per hour and the reason it is more frequently used is because we often don’t track how far we go on the water, but how long they were riding.
On average a jet ski uses 6.5gph-8gph at a cruising speed of 35mph. Full throttle can use anywhere from 20gph to 25 gph, creating a huge discrepancy. For this reason, it is important to be aware of your speed, gas tank capacity and how long you have been riding when out on the water so you do not run out of gas.
Typically, most jet skis can hold about 15-20 gallons of gas per tank.
Jet Ski Maintenance
Jet skis require seasonal maintenance. Once before the summer season and once after the summer season are the most popular times to get your PWC fine-tuned and checked. Usually, they perform an oil change and fluid check, but the older your jet ski is, the more the mechanic might need to do to ensure it is in safe running condition.
You will also likely need to winterize your jet ski every year. Doing so will greatly increase its lifespan and decrease any repair and maintenance cost the next warm season. Maintenance costs vary widely based on the type, model, and year of jet ski that you own, but you can expect to pay at least $100 a year on jet ski maintenance.
Jet Ski Accessories
Accessories are a really fun way to upgrade your personal watercraft and make it your own. Jet ski accessories can be as simple and inexpensive as adding rear-view mirrors or as complex and expensive as adding in a cooler rack.
Some popular jet ski accessories include:
- Seat covers
- Bungee dock line
- Dry bag
- Camelback water bottle
- Cooler and cooler rack
- Bumper buddy
- Jet ski cover
- Towing tube and rope
- Reboarding ladder
- Jet ski lock
A jet ski is a really fun way to enjoy the water. They are easy to ride and can be both practical and exhilarating. Once you swing your leg over one of these vehicles, you won’t be able to wait until the next time. If you are considering buying or renting a jet ski, safety is the most important consideration. Be sure to take all necessary boating safety courses before operating a jet ski, and never operate a jet ski under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There are dozens of models of jet skis available, ranging from basic recreation and lightweight models, all the way to thrill-seeking racing jet skis and long-haul fishing jet skis. There is a jet ski out there that is perfect for you. Find the jet ski of your dreams with GoRollick and search our nationwide inventory of new and used jet skis.
GoRollick Buying Experience
When you’re ready to find your perfect jet ski, be sure to check us out at gorollick.com. You can:
- See nationwide inventory, specs, and incentive information
- Get an upfront, transparent price on your desired jet ski
- Receive special offers on both the vehicle, as well as additional accessories
- Shop at one of our Certified Dealers who are committed to providing an exceptional buying experience