The Best Lifts Made For Jet Skis: Keep It Out Of The Water!

It’s a blast having a jet ski, but what is not so fun is cleaning it! The worst cleaning job is the bottom of the hull and pump area. If you keep your machine in the water too long, it builds up this coating that not only slows you down, but is a pain to clean. Then you got to worry about corrosion, even freshwater still corrodes!

What do you use to get your jet ski out of the water at your home or marina? You use a jet ski lift! A lift, hoist, or drive-up, all do the same thing, get your jet ski out of the water. There are several reasons you want to keep your PWC out of the water, but here are the big ones.

  1. Keeps the jet ski 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 on animals to eat the machine, muskrats love the rubber hoses at the jet pump.
  5. Helps stop the PWC from getting damaged during a heavy storm, compared to leaving the PWC floating in the water.

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

What Are The Types Of PWC Lifts?

There are two major types, the “drive-up” and “hoist”.

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

1. Drive-Up Lifts

If you got a jet ski, I will say the best option when it comes to lifts is the drive up ones. The drive-up lift is the most common you can get, and often the cheapest and easiest one too! Just like the name suggests, you drive the whole jet ski up and on it!

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

I find new jet ski 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 PWC lifts, 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. You will need a place to attach the drive-ups, such as a 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 Lift

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

The hoist can also be customized by dock builders to fit whatever 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 one you go with. 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 boat? Sun and water. Funny, but true.

The hoist is easier to use, but will require practice. To put the craft on it, you need the bunks just low enough that the PWC can slide onto them but not come off. Then slowly you need to raise it, most of these electric hoist will have a key fob you use to raise and lower it. You will need to make sure it is centered, 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 on most people.

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

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

Picking The Perfect Jet Ski Lift That Works For Your Needs

When picking a PWC lift, it’s not always about what you think looks good, but what will work with your home. While I love the drive-up ones, they won’t work if you have a lot of rocks around the dock or on a cliff. I’ve had one customer who wanted the drive-up, but his dock was “20 feet” in the air due to living on a cliff, so a special hoist was made. Was it more costly? Yes, but it was the only option. What if you have to worry about an HOA? Sometimes a drive-up 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 Your Next Jet Ski Lift

Every state and country will have different dealers and options on drive-ups. 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 Options, are they worth it?

There are some DIY options. Would I build one? It depends. A new 4-stroke jet ski, no, but an old 2-stroke I don’t care about and the land can support it, why not? The main goal is keeping the watercraft in the water no longer than you need to, so a basic lift is simply a trailer! A jet ski trailer is not an option that suits 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 is that you don’t see many people make them for modern FULL-SIZED watercraft. Jet skis have gotten a lit heavier, except the Spark or EX, so many of these DIY lifts I fear won’t work on anything built after 2010.

How Much Will A Jet Ski Lift Set You Back?

A drive-up option costs anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 depending on what you need. Even used drive-up ones can cost $1,000 or more. Keep in mind, this price doesn’t always include installation charges. Why are they so expensive? The biggest reason is that everything costs more, but they will outlive the watercraft. Even used ones hold their values very well, so long as the watercraft fits the drive-up 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 jet ski or two that support it. A hoist will need construction and deck building experts to make sure everything is supported correctly and will work.

Make Sure You Know Your surroundings When Coming Off The Lift

Before you get anything, make sure you understand what is around you. I’ve come across many homes that have rocks, sand, and other boats around.

When launching you need to make sure to avoid rocks as a PWC is a giant vacuum and will suck up anything under it. You need at least 3 feet of water under you before starting the engine. Sometimes, when the water level gets too low, you need to use dock line to push the craft off and guide it to higher water on the dock. If you’re stuck in a small cove, low water and the worry of sucking something up is a major concern. While the location maybe great, just be more aware of the rocks and wildlife around you. Grassy areas like dock areas that are tucked away, and that too can be sucked up and force the engine off.

Can You Overshoot The Dock On A Drive Up Lift?

The number one fear I see new riders have is about overshooting the dock! It’s a valid concern, PWCs are powerful enough to do it, but so long as you use common sense, it’s not likely. Before getting on the drive-up option, you want to approach it slowly. Have the nose of the craft touch the middle and just give it a little gas. It’s better to undershoot it than overshoot it.

Just like anything else, you need to practice. Keep the engine on in case you fall back out and need to start again. Let the waves calm down before you try again. It’s not hard, it just requires practice to understand how it feels.



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.

10 thoughts on “The Best Lifts Made For Jet Skis: Keep It Out Of The Water!”

  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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