What it Cost to Own a Jet Ski – The Hidden Costs!

You might be throwing around the idea of getting a jet ski and might also be wondering what it’s going to cost to have one. Many factors go into this number because everyone and every watercraft is different.

I put owning a Jet Ski along the lines of owning another car kind of expensive. If you think you can afford a used car and the expenses that go along with it then owning a used jet ski will be about the same. If you think you can afford a new car that is under $20K and all its expenses then owning a new Jet Ski might not be too far off. If buying another car scares you or you can’t afford it then you’ll more than likely not be able to afford a jet ski and all its expenses.

Let’s talk about all the things you’ll need and all the little expenses you might not have thought of before you get that Jet Ski, Watercraft, Waverunner, or whatever you want to call it.

If you’re looking to get a used jet ski then you got to check out my Used Jet Ski Guide that shows you many things to watch out for when buying. 

Insurance

I’ve made insurance the number one thing because it’s the number one thing you should get. Many states don’t require you to have insurance, but you’ll be a fool not to have it.

I’ve seen many things happen from people running into each other and people’s jet ski coming off the dock and crashing ashore. Just like owning a car, home, or motorcycle it’s always wise to have the best insurance you can get.




This is truer if the drivers are young. Some states allow kids under 18 to drive; some can even take a test around 15 in some states. I live in North Carolina, and anyone under 26 has to take a boater safety course which I feel every state should have. Along with insurance, you should consider boaters safety course at any age, some insurances even cut you a break if you can prove you passed the course.

What you can expect to pay for insurance depends on many factors. You’ll have your age, what watercraft you own, what horse power your machine has, how many people can ride on it, where you keep it, and many other factors.

You can expect to spend several hundred dollars a year on coverage and its worth every penny if you ask me. I spend right around $300 a year for my 90HP Spark and trailer, but this number can be much higher or lower for other people. But I figured you want some type of number even though you’ll more than likely not pay near that number.

Service Cost

Just like your car, your jet ski will need some service done to it. And like the cost of insurance, it can vary too.

If you do the service yourself, you can expect to pay less, but if you never serviced anything with an engine before, it would be best to pay someone to do it for you.

I’ll be honest and say that engine in your jet ski has less going on than your modern day car, but it still is complex. Even if you changed the oil in a lawn mower or other small engines, it’s still not the same. If you changed the oil in a car, then it’s not too far off. If in doubt seek a dealer or boat shop to do it for you.

The reason why it can be hard to give you a hard number on how much it is to get a service done is because each dealer or service shop charges for different labor cost and each machine needs different maintenance.

The more horsepower your jet ski has, the more you’ll spend on maintaining it. Anything over 200HP will require more stuff done to it then a watercraft that is under 200HP. Even if the manufacturer says it has maintenance free components, there is fine print that says it still must be inspected to see if it does need maintenance. That’s one of the things you might miss.

The good news is that the higher horsepower machines might not need more service until later on in hours.

If you do your own oil changes, then you’ll need an oil extractor like this one here to get the oil out. You can even get oil change kits, just make sure to get the correct one for your machine.

Here is a small list of what items should be changed out and how often…

  • Oil Change – Should be done every year. If you ride more than 50 hours a year, then you need to change your oil more often depending on what your manufacturer recommends. At least change it once a year, you’ll be surprised by how many people forget to do this simple but important thing.
  • Battery – Should be replaced every 3 to 5 years. If you find yourself replacing your battery every year, then check out my guide on why you need to use a solar panel here.
  • Winterize – Even if you don’t live somewhere that gets cold, I would still “winterize” your jet ski if you plan on not using it for 2 or more months. If it does get cold where you live then make sure to winterize your jet ski before it gets cold. The reason why this is important is that some jet ski’s use water from the lake or ocean to keep the engine cool and when water freezes it expands and can destroy your engine. Proper winterizing can stop the water from damaging the jet ski engine and other major components and keep it ready for long term storage.
  • Gas Stabilizer – Most of the time Stabilizer is only added if you plan on not riding your watercraft a long while, like over 2 months. This keeps the gas fresh for longer. This is mostly added when you “winterize” your watercraft.
  • Spark Plugs – I recommend changing the Spark Plugs every year, especially if it’s a 2-Stroke watercraft. You don’t see 2-Strokes anymore, and most of the watercraft you buy now is 4-stroke. Because 2-Strokes burn oil they foul the plugs more often and need to be replaced. A 4-Stroke doesn’t foul plugs as often, and it can be kind of overkill to replace them, but it sucks when it does foul out, and you just want to ride. I change the spark plugs when getting my oil changed, most of the servicing you do can all be done in one go at the dealership, and that is what I recommend you do.
  • MISC – many other little things need to be done and a dealership can do all that for you. If you’re the type of person who likes to do it themselves then there are many YouTube videos on how to change oil Here.

The average person puts 30 to 50 hours a year on their watercraft, so you really have 2 services you need to worry about. You have the (1)oil change/service, and if you live somewhere that gets cold, then you’ll have a (2)winterize.

If you don’t live where it gets cold, then you probably ride your machine more often and should be doing 2 oil changes/services a year then.

One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that some dealers will have cheaper rates in their slow season to bring in business. So what I do is combine my winterize with the oil change and get everything done at once since I put under 50 hours a year on my machine.

First Service

If you get a new jet ski, the number one thing people forget about is that they have a first service that MUST get done. I know you spent a lot of money on your new jet ski and some first services can be as soon as 10 hours, that’s a lot sooner than you think, but it must be done.

The real kicker is that the first service is the most important service you’ll ever do for it. Many watercrafts will have a break-in period where you must take it nice and easy for the first 5 to 10 hours of the watercraft. This is to make sure everything gets seated in properly. To do this many manufacturers will use a “break-in oil” that must be removed after the engine has been broken in properly.

This first service issue has become less of a problem with some of the latest watercraft only needing the first service at 50 hours, but some manufacturers still require the first service at 10 hours. Make sure to ask your dealer when the first service is and keep that in mind as the first service can cost more than any other service you’ll do.

Also, the first service is NOT included. Many people try to be slick with this, but it’s standard for a dealership NOT to include this in any deal.  A little tip: try to negotiate this into the deal and get it in writing. Hint-hint.

Pick-Ups and Drop-Ins

If you don’t get a trailer and live on the lake many times a dealer or repair shop can pick you up at a lake access. Just keep in mind that they won’t do this for free.

If you have a trailer and can drop the jet ski off, then you don’t have to worry about this.

Every dealer or shop is different depending on how far they have to go to get you. Expect to pay more if they have to travel long distances or go out of the way to get your ski. Sometimes it might be worth it to spend the extra money for them to get it for you if you’re a busy person.

On this note keep in mind that if even if you buy a NEW jet ski, you might have to pay extra to get it delivered.

Repairs

One common thing I’ve seen people say is that 4-Strokes are more expensive to repair then 2-Strokes. I don’t see this. While it’s true that 2-Strokes have less moving parts, they can still cost more to fix nowadays because parts are harder to find, and many shops don’t want to work on them for that reason. Also, 2-Strokes are mostly old machines, and when you fix one thing, another thing breaks because the machine is old.

To give you an idea the last 2-Stroke Sea-Doo made was in 2007, that is over 10 years old now, and that’s old for a 2-Stroke watercraft.

4-Strokes are better for the environment because they pollute less and honestly, are more reliable. Even though a 4-Stroke does have more moving parts, they’re built better, and that was because they learn from the mistakes of the 2-Strokes. For one example an old 2-Stroke engine would use ball-bearings for certain points for the engine, while a 4-Stroke would use a slip bearing. A ball-bearing design has more moving parts and thus failed more often especially since the 2-Stroke is working twice as much as a similar 4-Stroke.

I see fewer problems out of 4-Stroke and recommend them even in my guide on what to look for in used watercraft here.

But they both need to be repaired. This is where it’s important to consider warranty when buying new or used. I’ve seen warranty take care of important components that should not have broken – but they did – and since they have the warranty, it was taken care of for them after they paid the deductible. That’s why you get the warranty and is a very important thing to consider when buying a new watercraft. Also, a still active warranty that is on a used watercraft is a good value too.

Here is a little tip: When buying a new watercraft and a dealer offers you an option of a warranty or money off always go with the warranty. The warranty value is almost always the better value than the money off deal. Even if your watercraft never breaks down that piece of mind is well worth it.

I can’t give you an exact number to budget for on repairs, but I will talk more about this budget below.

I have a 2014 Sea-Doo Spark 3up, and I have yet to have any problems with it, even still have the original battery because I use a solar panel on it to keep it maintained. I also service it every year which I think is the most important thing you can do if you want to keep the machine in good shape.

What You Should Budget For

You might be wondering how much is all this going to cost. I can’t give you an exact number because of all we talked about above.

You might be financing the watercraft and want a number to make sure you can afford this thing with all its little-hidden maintenance and other things you’ll need.

Well, if $100 a month for one jet ski scares you then you might want to walk away from the idea of having a jet ski. Yes, add at least a $100 extra to your monthly payments of the watercraft. Expect this number to go up every year because of inflation and things costing more over time. 

This is about $1,200 a year with about half of that probably going to insurance. The other part is the services. This doesn’t even include things like gas, little things you’ll buy, or even cost of major repairs. But this does give you an idea.

Keep in mind this $100/month is a wild guesstimate, and your real number could be higher or in some cases lower. But it helps get you an idea. The best thing to do is sit down and calculate the cost by calling an insurance agent for insurance quotes and calling your local dealer to see how much it cost to service the machines and to see how much they charge per hour.

Since everyone’s cost is going to be different every year – I can give you an idea of what it cost me to have my Jet Ski last year. I didn’t have any repairs on it and it runs great but with insurance + Servicing/Winterizing + Gas + MISC items, it cost me about $800 for the year. I’m sure it will be more next year as I’ll replace the battery but that’s to be expected then. The great thing about having a Spark like I do is that it’s really good on gas, so that number would have been a little higher if I had a super powerful jet ski.

How Much Watercraft Can I Afford?

If you’re looking at how much it cost to own a jet ski, you might be wondering how much watercraft you can afford.

The simplest way to do this is to use an Auto Loan Calculator to calculate how much you can afford.

To give you an example, if you finance a Jet Ski and Trailer for $15,000 with nothing down for 5 years at 7%, then that would be about $298 a month.

I want to recommend you check out my other post about common mistakes people make when buying a jet ski here as it talks more about this stuff.

 

 

8 comments

  • Hi Steven

    Great info. Trying to decide between Sea Doo wake 155 vs wake pro 230 new
    My use will be a cruise with my wife and towing the grandkids on weekends

    Pls advise pro vs cons on this purchase. Tks

  • Both great machines and both have the same tech and many of the same features. What sets them apart is their body. The Wake PRO is going to ride a lot better, have more room for the 3 people, feel more stable in the water, and have more storage. The downside of the Wake PRO is the cost. The Wake 155 is still stable, I can stand on the side of it and I can’t flip it but it will feel smaller. The best thing do is sit on both at a dealership to see which one fits you better. If you’re a taller person the Wake Pro will fit better but if you’re under 5 foot 5 inches then a Wake 155 is going to feel so much better.

  • Hi Steven

    Great Feedback

    Ride is very important to us as we cottage on Georgian Bay Ontario which can get choppy.
    Pls advise pro vs con on Wake Pro 230 maintenance free supercharger.

    Many Tks

  • The superchargers have gotten a bad rap in the past but most of the problems have been solved. Even with the new tech like ECO-Mode, they get better gas mileage which use to be a big negative about supercharged models. I’m a play it safe kind of guy and even though they say it’s maintenance free you should still get it inspected around 200 hours. The average person puts 25 to 30 hours a year on their watercraft so that would be 6 to 8 years away. Some people actually never get over 100 hours so they never worry about it. I would go with the Wake Pro for the simple fact that it’s got the better hull, more powerful engine for pull sports, better seat comfort, more storage, and it’s a Wake Model which are in demand on the used market because you get so many features with it.

  • Hi Steven

    Based on all your great feedback the decision has been made to go with the Wake Pro 230 for our requirements.
    Any predictions on what may change for the Wake Pro 230 for 2018,

    Tks

  • Hi Steve,

    I will be new to the sport but have played on a few different types of jets. my question is I want to get my own and have been looking at them and I would like stability (ease for getting back on in deep water) and safety, dependability, and value would be the top things that I am looking for in a ski. That being said, it would be used for playing around the lake with the wife and kids, so Sea Do vs Kawasaki vs ?? I have seen in previous post you lean towards the Wave Runner for stable riding craft, I also have seen 2006-08 machines with 62 -70 total hours on them which made me pause because of the average hours usually put on crafts (30hrs a yr) what do you think? Thanks for your time

    David

  • Probably nothing major will change. The engine was just changed so it will be kept for a few more years. There is talk about the hull changing but if they do it will probably be a Ploy-tec hull and probably ride the same.

  • Kawasaki probably rides the best in rough water. Everyone says Yamaha is the most reliable. And Sea-Doo has all the cool features and is 5 years ahead of everyone else. To be quite honest, they’re all good. I’ve never met a person who frowned on a jet ski before. If you’re buying used it’s best to get it inspected before you buy, that and many other things I recommend in my book about buying used jet skis here. The hour’s thing gets quite skewed, you’ll have some people who’ll never go over 20 hours and then you have some that go over 1,000 hours. 30 hours a year is a nice and safe number to go on but don’t be shocked to see some models under 100 hours out in the wild. It’s like cars, people tend to trade cars in at 100k miles since you’ll need to get some major repairs done to keep it going and the same with jet skis at the 100-hour mark. Make sure to be through when checking them out and let a good repair shop look at them before buying to make sure its all okay and you should be good no matter who makes it. Above all else avoid 2-strokes.

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