The Best PWC Lifts – Which One To Buy For Your Home

What do you use to get your jet ski out of the water at your home or marina? You use a lift. A PWC lift, hoist, or drive-up floating lift, all do the same thing, get your craft out of the water.

There are several reasons you want to keep your machine out of the water, but here are the big ones.

  1. Keeps it from sinking, they don’t have bilge pumps on many models.
  2. Stops a lot of the corrosion.
  3. Keeps scum and debris off the bottom of the hull.
  4. Makes it harder for animals to eat your machine, muskrats love the rubber hoses at the jet pump.
  5. Helps stop the unit from getting damaged during a heavy storm, compared to leaving the PWC floating in the water.

Even the manufacturers agree, it’s best to keep your skis out of the water when you’re done riding for the day. It won’t hurt to leave the jet ski in the water for a few days, so long as it’s fresh water, but it’s a big no-no for saltwater. But if ask me, I agree with the manufacturers, get your jet ski out of the water for storage.

What Are The Types Of PWC Lifts?

There are two major types of PWC lifts, the drive-up and hoist.

There is a wide range of variations for these two types of lifts, ranging from professionally made to homemade options. Additionally, there are various models of hoists available; some are designed to lift a single ski, while others can raise an entire platform of jet skis.

1. Drive-Up

The drive-up lift is the most common lift you can get, and often the cheapest and easiest one too.

Just like the name suggests, you drive the whole waverunner up and on to the lift.

There are wheels on the lift that roll the waverunner onto and off the dock. You can see how easy it is to move it because of these wheels in the video below.

I find new owners are the most intimidated by drive-up lifts the most, as most fear they’ll overshoot it or crash. It’s a valid concern, and while it’s possible, it’s unlikely so long as you don’t go crazy and just use some sense.

When instructing individuals on using these ramps, I often notice that many do not apply sufficient gas. However, this is acceptable as you can simply roll back off and attempt again. Therefore, it’s crucial to keep the engine running until you come to a complete stop on the lift.

You will need a place to attach the drive-up lift, such as your dock, but you can get a few that are freestanding, but you still need to attach it to something like a pole in the water.

2. Hoist

The next type of watercraft lift is a hoist, and it works by either electrical motor, compressed air or manual levers to physical lift the machine up in the air.

The hoist can also be customized by dock builders to fit whatever your needs. I had a few customers that built a whole floating platform that lifted their two jet skis up and down, similar to this video below.

If you got the money, the hoist is the best option. I would also consider a cover or roof over the jet skis to keep the sun from baking them and to keep water out of the footwells. Do you know the two worst things for a jet ski? Sun and water. Funny, but true.

The hoist is easier to use, but will require practice. To put the jet ski on the lift, you need the bunks of the lift just low enough that the jet ski can slide onto them but not come off. Then slowly you need to raise the lift, most of these electric lifts will have a key fob you use to raise and lower it. You will need to make sure the lift is centered on the lift, you don’t want the ski to fall off, especially with you on it. The hoist option needs more patience when using it, but overall is easier for most people.

You can get hoist in many options, some use a steel cable to lift all four sides of the lift. Some hinge in the video above, and some use air tanks to lift it up. Overall, they hoist the unit up and out of the water instead of driving up and out of the water.

Sometimes, the lift you need may not be so simple, so let’s discuss what lift you should get and why.

Pick One That Works For Your Home

When picking a PWC lift, it’s not always about what you think looks the best, but what will work for your home.

While I love the drive-up lifts, they won’t work if you have a lot of rocks around your lifts or on a cliff. I’ve had one customer who wanted the drive-up lift, but his dock was 20 feet in the air due to living on a cliff, so a special hoist was made for him. Was it more costly? Yes, but it was the only option.

What if you have to worry about an HOA? Sometimes a drive-up lift is the only option due to HOA or marina rules.

My personal favorite is the drive-up lifts because they’re the simplest and longest lasting option. You will need to practice, but if you can get one, I suggest getting one over a hoist.

How To Buy A PWC Lift

Every state and country will have different dealers and options for drive-up lifts. Here are a few that I know about and like the most.

  1. HydroHoist.
  2. ShoreMaster.
  3. Jet Dock.
  4. EZ Dock.
  5. Wave Armor.

DIY Lift Options, are they worth it?

There are some DIY jet ski lifts. Would I build one? It depends on the watercraft. A new 4-stroke, no, but an old 2-stroke I don’t care about and the land can support it, why not?

The main goal is to not keep a watercraft in the water for too long, so the best jet ski lift is simply a trailer.

A trailer is not an option for everyone, so people have gotten smart and built many DIY-lifts, and here are a few of them.

The only problem I have with DIY lifts is that you don’t see many people make them for modern FULL SIZED jet skis. Jet skis have gotten a lit heavier, except for the Spark or EX, so many of these DIY lifts I fear won’t work for anything built after 2010.

How Much Are PWC Lifts?

A drive-up lift costs anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 depending on what you need. Even used drive-up lifts can cost $1,000 or more. Keep in mind, this price doesn’t always include installation charges.

Why are jet ski lifts so expensive? The biggest reason is that everything costs more, but for most people, the lifts will outlive the watercraft. Even used lifts hold their values very well, so long as the watercraft fits the drive-up lift and still floats, it’s good.

If you need a hoist, it’s not going to be any cheaper, and will often cost more than the waverunner or two that support it. A hoist will need construction and deck building experts to make sure everything is supported correctly and will work.



I started working at a power sports dealership in 2007, I worked in parts, service counter, and as a technician before moving to sales in 2013. I created in 2014 to answer common watercraft questions I would get from people. Now managing the site full-time, I continue to provide advice and web tools for my readers about watercraft. I've owned several watercraft, with a Sea-Doo Spark as my current main PWC.


  1. So I have a boat house with two slips and two boat lifts. One houses my 20 foot Boston Whaler and I am hoping that I can use the other one for the jet ski I plan on buying;GTI 170. The bunks are 28” apart, (inside dimension) and 34” outside dimension. I took pictures and sent the dimensions to my SeaDoo dealer and he replied that those dimensions should accommodate any of the current bigger hull SeaDoos. Does that make sense to you? I will have to add some 2×6 pressure treated boards across the aluminum beams to make getting on and off easier. Is there any reason I shouldn’t use a 7000 pound boat lift for a 800 pound SeaDoo as long as it fits the bunks?

    Thanks in advance,


    • It’s a bit overkill but it’ll work so long as the bunks are correct. I would be cautious when going up as the lift may jump quickly if it’s the one that fills and deflates due to the jet ski weighing less. Also, going down on the fill and deflate lifts will go down very slow if a heavy enough boat is not on it. I’m more of the fan of the drive up lifts or the cable lifts made for jet skis but I’ve have seen several people use modified boat lifts before.

      • Thanks Steve, it is a cable lift so speed is not dependent on weight. By saying, as long as thebunks are correct, what exactly do you mean? The dealer says the dimension should work but is there an area of the hull that should not bear the weight of the ski? The chines I assume?

        • It’s the chines, you don’t want to rest the jet ski’s chines on the wood. When you look under the jet ski you’ll see the spots where bunks are supposed to go. If you have a trailer or when you go to the dealer take a measurement of their bunks and base your lift off of that. You’ll know you’re resting on the Chines if the jet ski sits crooked.

  2. Hey Steven, Great blog! I’ve gotten a ton of useful information and have read nearly all the posts, thank you! Quick question on this one, do you have some out-of-water electric lift brand names that are reputable and proven?


    • It’s hard to recommend just one because they’re so many independently owned retailers across the world for electric jet ski lifts. The best thing to do is call up your local jet ski dealership and ask them who they recommend because they deal with the local guys and from my experience customers really let you know who is the best.

  3. Completely new to the idea of OWNING a PWC, but I’ve ridden a few supercharged Sea-Doos and am comfortable with the idea of getting a mid-powered 3 seater for myself. My question for this though (and excuse my ignorance) is how do these PWC lifts stay in place in the lake? Do they need to be secured with sand bags or anchors or do you just plop it in the water? I’m only considering the up/down type lift not a drive up.

    • Good question. The lifts that go up and down are usually secured to your dock and many even get support poles added to them. Since every home and dock is different each setup is different but its the same idea of it either connecting to your dock or they build poles or a platform for it. Since you’re new to owning please feel free to explore the beginner’s section and ask any question that come to mind. I’m always happy to help.

      • Thanks for the fast reply Steven. I’m looking at a freestanding unit, kind of like the one at this link:

        But probably only 1 to start. It seems like they don’t have anything to secure them, I’m guessing the weight of them is enough to keep them in place? I can’t find any info on this.

        I’ve read through a pile of your posts already, including the beginner section. It’s all been very informative and helpful! Thanks again!

        • I’m not familiar with that style but it would seem they hold in place with there own weight. I would be careful with that style because it looks like they’re close to shore and you don’t want to suck up debris.


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