There aren’t many people who can come close to experiencing piloting in an open-cockpit personal vehicle on the open waters. The sensation comparable to riding a big bike, paired with the ocean view, jet skis offer an incredibly unique thrills style.
However, this experience doesn’t come cheap, so deciding which jet ski brand to go for is significant. If you’ve been pondering about jet skis, you must have come across several brands and wondered which is the best.
Reviews and recommendations are some of the best sources of information you can base your decision on. That is why this guide is prepared to bring you the list of the best jet ski brands you can consider on perhaps one of the most significant purchasing decisions you’ll have to make.
Table of Contents
What Are Jet Skis?
Jet Ski is the term often used to refer to any type of personal watercraft used for recreation generically. This usage has put behind the fact that Jet Ski is a brand name of a personal watercraft manufactured by Kawasaki.
Over time, Jet Ski as a proper noun and a registered trademark of Kawasaki became a common name for personal watercraft in America. It even reached a licensing agreement with the inventor of Sea-Doo, Clayton Jacobson.
With Jet Ski Kawasaki’s introduction in cooperation with the other brands, aftermarket companies, and water sports enthusiasts, the USJSBA (United States Jet Ski Boating Association) was created. This association later went international.
Best Jet Ski Brands In Focus
Going back to the term “jet ski,” being Kawasaki’s brand for PWC (personal watercraft), the other words from other brands are WaveRunner for Yamaha and Sea-Doos by Bombardier. PWC is the generic name for all three, but “jet ski” has also become a common generic term due to its popularity.
This branding gives you an idea of the best jet ski brands. There are not a lot of brands for jet skis, and these three brands are by far the most prominent brands currently manufacturing PWCs. Kawasaki, Bombardier, and Yamaha are all excellent choices in the market for new or used jet skis.
Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. was founded in 1955 upon its separation from Yamaha Corporation. This brand, headquartered in Iwata, Shizuoka, Japan, has a product line that includes motorcycles, scooters, motorcycle bicycles, boats, sailboats, swimming pools, utility boats, and our subject item – PWCs.
Yamaha’s trademarked name for their PWCs is WaveRunner. What makes this jet ski different from the other jet ski brands is the spout of water that shoots into the air from the rear of the vehicle. This is Yamaha’s visual brand identifier that exists as their trademark.
Although this jet ski brand has been building watercraft since the 1960s, it wasn’t until 1986 when their first PWC design was released – the WaveRunner Marine Jet 500T. It was the world’s first saddle watercraft – a prototype that dominates the market until today.
Yamaha WaveRunner: Best for Long-Term and Family Use
Yamaha, the creator of WaveRunner, currently holds the #1 spot for jet ski brands across the globe. So, it is no surprise that it is recognized as the best choice for families or anyone who is mainly concerned with safety, reliability, and longevity.
This jet ski brand has a reputation for being the most reliable brand. Most of their added safety features make them the best option for families. This is why most jet ski rental companies invest in Yamaha jet skis for their reliability and cheaper maintenance schedule.
As hinted above, this jet ski brand’s most significant strength is their reliability. Their jet skis don’t break down easily and can run for quite a long time. Examine the brand of jet skis being rented the next time you pass one. Don’t be surprised to see a line of Yamaha WaveRunners.
Yamaha, as a jet ski brand, is the most popular brand for rental companies. This speaks to the fact that their WaveRunners are workhorses that aren’t likely to break down often.
This jet ski brand’s engine design is one of the secrets to their dependability. Yamaha engines are well-known for their reliability and ease of repair when they do go down. Since engine problems are some of the most costly jet ski repairs, a design that doesn’t break easily and can potentially be fixed at home makes them more affordable long-term.
Yamahas’ fuel efficiency is another long-term cost-cutting trait. Although Kawasaki offers the largest fuel capacity, this jet ski brand has the best fuel efficiency. This means fewer trips to the gasoline station, even when out on the water for a long day of riding.
Jet ski safety is determined mainly by how they are used; however, this jet ski brand has additional safety features that make them even safer.
Their jet skis are equipped with Yamaha’s RiDE system. This technology provides independent functionality of its left and right levers – with its right lever controlling forward and left lever controlling reverse.
This results in easy reversing using the left lever while keeping both hands on the handlebars, thus providing single-action forward/reverse capability. This feature also allows you to use their dual throttle system to control deceleration and stop 30% more quickly.
Unlike Kawasaki that has limited models of jet skis, Yamaha has four series of jet skis – the EX (Rec-Lite), VX (Recreation), FX (luxury), and performance race series. Every series has a base model and many other upgraded models, so there’s something for everyone.
Yamaha’s standard supplementary features make them an appealing choice as well. This jet ski brand WaveRunners have a tow hook, automatic bilge pump, and stereo mount system. Moreover, most WaveRunners can seat up to three people, except for the EX series with re-boarding steps and dual mirrors.
Minimal Features on Base Models
This jet ski brand, to be honest, doesn’t have many flaws. The only drawback they have is that, despite some of the beautiful added features, some of the base models are missing features. For instance, some base models have less comfortable seats, no integrated speakers, and no watertight storage.
Yamaha isn’t the fastest jet ski. Neither do they classify as the slowest jet ski brand. But, compared to Kawasaki, their fastest models can run at up to 65mph. That rate is five mph slower than Kawasaki. Still, 65mph is quick, and professional racers take them as a popular choice.
American Kawasaki Motorcycle Corp dates back to March 1966 in its first headquarters at an old meat warehouse in Chicago. This humble beginning for this motorcycle company was sent to open the US market, starting with practically nothing – no customers, distributors, and image.
The only thing this company had was a strong desire to succeed and a promise from the factory to bring and supply only the best products. They first sold bikes and became a significant power in the motorcycle industry.
Not long after, their goal of diversification came early when they pioneered the PWC business in 1973. In the 1980s, they expanded into ATVs and Side x Side vehicles. Today, Kawasaki’s JET SKI® watercraft brand still leads the exploding market.
Kawasaki Jet Ski: Best for Experienced Riders
Since this jet ski brand has been around the longest, they earned a great deal of reputation. They are well known when it comes to the speeds their engines generate. This isn’t surprising, considering Kawasaki is also one of the best motorcycle and dirt bike brands.
Experienced riders will appreciate how they can go as fast as possible on the waters. This makes Kawasaki the excellent choice for riders looking for a powerful and comfortable jet ski experience. They are stable through and through thanks to their powerful engines.
Kawasaki Motors has undeniably the fastest speeds for jet skis in the market. Theirs are the most powerful engine that some of their models can reach top speeds of up to 70mph. These jet skis can also go from 0-30 mph in less than 2 seconds. This makes them the most sought-after brand of professional racers.
This speed comes from powerful engines that Kawasaki manufactures their jet skis with. For instance, the Ultra 310LX SE runs in a supercharged and intercooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, inline 4-cylinder engine, and 1,498cc of displacement with a horsepower level of over 300.
Kawasaki Jet Skis models all come manufactured with luxury features. These include protective, heat-resistant seat covers, built-in speakers, and adjustable handlebars that put up with various riders. These high-end additions can make for a far more pleasurable ride.
Another advantage that this jet ski brand offers is their size. They appear to have the most oversized jet skis of the three brands. Kawasaki’s models ensure that to fit three riders do so comfortably while the other brands that do feel cramped.
The spacious seating combined with a large rear deck makes re-boarding easy. This feature makes these jet skis great for tow sports. Kawasaki Jet Skis also have some of the roomiest onboard storage and fuel capacity.
Since this jet ski brand has large PWCs, theirs are the most stable in the market. These jet skis don’t feel wobbly when out on rougher water. Kawasaki jet skis come with their patented Smart Steering Technology that keeps the driver from losing control when the throttle is released at high speeds.
Stability is one of the most important assets that most riders look for in a jet ski, so Kawasaki made sure they kept the rider safe from losing control or being thrown off when running.
Along with the most remarkable features comes the biggest weakness of this jet ski brand – price. Kawasaki has hands down the most expensive of the three brands. The cheapest model in their lineup costs a little over $10,000. Most of their models have a baseline MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) of $20,000.
Reliability is another weakness that this jet ski brand possesses. While they are not the most unreliable jet ski brand, they tend to wear out more quickly than others. This is particularly true for their models with bigger engines that are frequently run at their top speeds.
How long the jet ski lasts depends significantly on how it is being operated. A Kawasaki jet ski will last a long time if you keep the number of hours used per year to a minimum, conduct regular maintenance as needed, and maintain it clean.
Founded in 1968, Sea-Doo is a Canadian jet ski brand with its boats manufactured by Bombardier Recreational Products. Sea-Doo’s PWCs were initially designed and mentored by Clayton Jacobson II, the same person who later developed the more successful Kawasaki Jet Ski.
The first PWCs of Sea-Doo were marketed as the “jet-powered aqua scooter.” They were 5’ wide and 7.5’ long that resembled a flying saucer. These models were powered by an air-cooled 320cc engine with a top speed of 25mph.
The models that came after were replaced with water-cooled 367cc engines following complaints of overheating and inefficiency. After only two years in the market and complaints of discomfort, flat seats and minimally padded steel handlebars were discontinued.
They were later on re-introduced as its own jet ski brand under Bombardier. This signaled a turnaround in the company’s declining circumstances.
Bombardier Sea-Doo: Best for Beginners
After failing its first few years in jet ski ventures, Sea-Doo later became a monster in the same industry. With six distinct classes of jet skis, their fleet offers a diverse range of possibilities to suit the needs of a wide range of riders.
This jet ski brand is the most excellent choice for novices because of their variety, bespoke specialty feature possibilities, and reasonable pricing. They are, in fact, the most popular brand among first-time customers.
One of the best things about Sea-Doo is that they have a model for everyone, whether you’re into fishing, wakeboarding, cruising, or performance riding.
The price tag is perhaps the most significant reason beginners are more inclined to them than other jet ski brands. One of their models – the Sea-Doo Spark, a Rec-Lite class model sells at $5,300, just as cheap as most used jet skis.
Most of this jet ski brand’s base models in other classes are also less costly than their Yamaha or Kawasaki counterparts.
The variety of Sea-Doos is the second reason they are a good choice for beginners. Their six different classes of PWCs are based on different styles of riding. Aside from its standard recreation models, this jet ski brand includes unique models for tricks, towing, fishing, touring, and racing.
Custom Features and Upgrades
Most people love this jet ski brand because there are many ways to upgrade them even after your initial purchase. Sea-Doo offers tons of accessories that you can add to your jet ski to make it totally customized.
These upgrades range from integrated speakers, wakeboard towers and racks, more storage, and many more different options. In essence, if you can dream it, you can do it. You can visit Sea-Doo’s accessory shop to see their complete list of accessories.
Sea-Doo makes some of the most well-designed jet skis available. This jet ski brand has always had some of the sharpest and best-looking skis on the waters. They come in bold colors and style, and more importantly, they work! If you want to stand out while jet skiing, be sure to get a Sea-Doo.
Fewer Features on Cheaper Models
With this jet ski brand, the trade-off is between price and features. Sea-Doo’s base models are undoubtedly the least expensive of the three brands. However, they lack features you may need later on, such as roomy storage or a more comfy seat.
Although Sea-Doo provides these (and other) enhancements, you may end up spending as much money on them as you would have if you had chosen another brand. This is the reason they are the best for beginners. You can get it at the lowest price, and it gives you just the right time to see if the sport is indeed for you to invest in in the future.
If you have been to different jet ski forums, you would have encountered some users that agree to Sea-Doo being an unreliable brand. Some have claimed that their Sea-Doo jet skis have broken down more regularly than others. But, some say they do not.
In any case, it’s worth thinking about, especially given some of Sea-design Doo’s characteristics, such as its Closed-Loop Cooling System, which can make them more challenging to fix than other manufacturers.
Runner Up: Honda Aquatrax
Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Sea-Doo are the top three jet ski brands in the market. But, there are also other key players in the jet ski industry that are worth mentioning. One of which is Honda.
Although Honda doesn’t currently make personal watercraft, their used jet ski models still sell as fast in the market.
Honda Motors entered the PWC market in 2002 to compete with the big three. Unfortunately, the brand left the market in 2009 and canceled their line of jet skis. Honda manufactured their PWC models called AquaTrax between 2002 to 2009.
Honda AquaTrax: The Okay Jet Ski
Honda is a fine choice among the three brands we’ve so far discussed. Their jet skis were excellent when they were manufactured. So great that many people were disappointed when they were discontinued.
Most claim that the discontinuation has something to do with the Great Recession. In fact, Honda planned a 2010 model but pulled out at the last minute. Many fans of this jet ski brand are still hoping they make a comeback. We can only keep our fingers crossed.
Jet skis from Honda ran for a long time and didn’t break down as often as other jet ski brands. This doesn’t come as a surprise, considering Honda has a reputation for being workhorses. Some of the later models took a few years to sell after production ceased, so you can still locate some secondhand ones with plenty of life remaining in them, no matter how old they are.
This jet ski brand was also known for their performance when they were first introduced. They used to and still compete with newer jet skis in terms of speed, power, and agility, making them a famous jet ski brand.
Since Honda jet skis have been out of production for so long, the biggest pro to buying a Honda is how you can snag a great deal on one. The market has many Honda jet skis that still have many engine hours on them if you just know where to look.
Since Honda stopped manufacturing, most of the Honda jet skis you will find can be pretty outdated. This jet ski brand lacked many comforts and added features such as built-in stereos, depth finders, or advanced steering and braking systems.
Also, since they are no longer in production, the cost and availability of parts can be a challenge. Honda jet skis are easy to work on but getting the parts needed to work with them is hard. Digging deeper online may help but is not always guaranteed.
The internet sure has given us a great deal of help in making purchasing decisions like jet skis. The ratings and reviews from actual consumers help determine whether it is the jet ski we need or not, or the brand we have to go for or back away from.
Jet skis are not cheap. Buying one is significant financial spending that should be given careful consideration before proceeding. Hopefully, this guide provided the information you need to know to complete your judgment.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q: Why do jet skis only last 300 hours?
A: Generally, the 2-stroke jet ski engines last around 200-300 hours. 4-stroke jet ski engines last about 300-500 hours. But, bear in mind that these numbers depend on maintenance, usage, and many others.
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Torsten Bird is a talented and adventurous waterman from Western Australia, passionate about surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, hydrofoiling, skimboarding, snowboarding and skateboarding. Torsten has spent countless hours mastering his skills and his dream is to one day represent Australia as an Olympic athlete. Follow Torsten’s adventures on Instagram.