Most cars on the market can have a tow hitch installed, which allows you to tow small trailers.
This brings up whether a car can tow a jet ski or two on a trailer? It’s a super common question I get that I must go into details as to why they can and why some shouldn’t.
Towing PWC With Your Car
A car can tow a jet ski or even two on a trailer under certain conditions, but it’s not the towing that you need to worry about, but instead the stopping and starting.
Anything with wheels can be towed, but it’s the stopping and going up and down boat launches that you need to worry about.
Boat ramps can be steep and slippery, and if your vehicle is not heavy enough or has enough power, it could slide down into the water. It’s important you consider what boat ramps you use and the limits tow vehicle.
I’m always amazed by how many people to pull two heavy PWCs with their car, especially ones that have been lowered, and often get stuck on the ramp or get even go down the ramp. Just because your vehicle can pull it doesn’t mean you should.
1/3 Rule – Calculate The Limit
Most cars can tow a trailer with a total weight from 500 pounds to 2,000 pounds, but this number doesn’t always factor in the power needed to get out of a steep boat ramp and a loaded down jet ski.
A lot of watercraft weigh more than 500 pounds, keep that in mind.
Boat ramps come in many sizes and shapes
You have some that have a gentle slope into the water, and you have others with a dramatic drop and potholes on the ramp.
Combined with the gear, liquids, and the trailer being water logged when pulling out, you need to stay well under the rated weight.
I suggest you stick to the 1/3 rule; only tow 1/3 less of your overall towing capacity. For example, a 1,500 pound towing capacity divided by 3 is 500 pounds, so 1,500 - 500 is 1,000 pounds, which means you should stay under 1,000 pounds for everything you're towing even though your max is 1,500 pounds.
You may need to adjust this rule depending on your ramp and your car’s power and traction abilities.
Failure to follow this rule could keep you from being able to pull your car and trailer out of the boat ramp, or it could have your car rolling into the water.
Braked vs Unbraked Towing
Braked and unbraked towing give different weight ratings.
- Braked weight is the weight that is used if the trailer has brakes.
- Unbraked is the weight if the trailer does not have brakes.
Always go off the unbraked weight, as most single and double jet ski trailers don’t have brakes. (At least for most states in the US)
You want to use the unbraked weight just to be on the safe side, especially on jet ski trailers, as you need the power to get them out of the water on a steep ramp.
Car Towing Capacity
Since towing capacity can vary greatly, with some manufacturers outright saying towing a trailer with their cars is not recommended, I’ve omitted a generic list of car towing capacity.
The towing capacity can even vary from year to year, and me placing one number for all year models is not safe.
It’s best to look in your owner’s manual for the exact towing capacity of your car.
Keep in mind this weight must include the jet ski, gear, fuel, and trailer weight.
- To see how much your jet ski weighs, check out our post here.
- To see how much your jet ski trailer weighs, check out this post.
What the Manufacturer Says
What the car manufacturer says and what someone selling you a tow hitch says don’t always match.
While a hitch maybe available for your car, it doesn’t always mean you should tow with your car.
Just understand the risks when you go against the manufacturer’s recommendation.
Also, understand that the weight needs to be distrusted correctly, or the trailer can fishtail.
Horsepower Needed To Pull
If you’re going to tow a single jet ski with a car, you should have at least 150HP or at least 180HP for two small machines on a trailer.
As mentioned earlier, it’s not the going that is the problem, but the stopping and starting. Anything with wheels can be moved, but having enough horsepower can be helpful, especially on steep boat ramps.
All that horsepower won’t mean much if you can’t get the traction, so having good wheels on your car is important. Ideally, you want an all-wheel drive car, as that will give you the most traction.
What Watercraft Can Be Towed By Cars?
If a car is your only option for towing a jet ski, then you’ll want to stick to the Rec-Lite category of watercraft.
A Rec-Lite watercraft is the Sea-Doo Spark and Yamaha EX models. These also happen to be the most affordable models on the market. I’ve sold these models to people who towed them with Prius and Mustangs before.
To learn about the current 2024 Rec-Lite watercraft, we have a post comparing them here.
For some cars, you can get away with the bigger Recreational models, but I would avoid the luxury and performance models for sure.
A sedan is just a 4-door car, and it can tow a jet ski trailer following 1/3 rule as talked about earlier.
Can A 4-Cylinder Car Pull A Jet Ski And Trailer?
A 4-cylinder car can pull them on a trailer, depending on the horsepower and towing capacity.
It’s best you stick to our 1/3 rule, as talked about earlier in this post.
Can A Hatchback Pull A Jet Ski And Trailer?
You’ll be able to pull them on a trailer with a hatchback, but you must follow our 1/3 rule, as talked about at the start of this post.