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Can A Car Tow A 3-Seater Jet Ski?

It’s very obvious why people want to use a sedan or coupe, they’re a great way to get around town, they’re great on gas, have seating for the family, and some models even have all-wheel drive.

But are you considering your own jet ski? You might be wondering if your vehicle is capable of towing it. Also, is it possible to haul two 3-seater jet skis on a double trailer without getting stranded on the ramp?

On the bright side, many cars are capable of towing most Rec-Lite PWCs! On the other hand, using a small vehicle isn’t always the best approach. There are various factors to consider when hauling your personal watercraft. Let’s analyze these aspects more closely.

Key Point:

Can a car tow a 3-seater sit-down jet ski? Absolutely, just make sure the vehicle’s towing capacity is appropriate for the combined weight of the multi-seater jet ski and its trailer.

Though, it’s not the towing that is the problem. It’s the stopping and starting that causes issues, no matter what you’re pulling. Along with modern jet skis getting bigger every few years, it makes this question even more thought-provoking.

Then add to that boat ramps are slippery and steep, just because you’re able doesn’t mean you always should.

Make sure your vehicle is powerful enough, or it might slip into the water. Choose ramps wisely and know your vehicle’s limits!

It’s surprising how many folks try to haul two heavy 3 person capacity jet skis with their lowered vehicle. They often get stuck on the ramp or even slide down.

Remember, just because you do something doesn’t mean you should!

1/3 Rule – Calculate The Limit

Note that the towing capacity of most small cars, which ranges from 500 to 2,000 pounds, may not account for the additional power needed to navigate steep boat ramps.

A lot of jet ski models weigh more than 500 pounds, so keep that in mind.

Boat ramps Sizes

Some ramps are gentle, while others have steep drops and potholes.

Stick to the “1/3 rule”: only haul 1/3 less than your hauling capacity. For example, if it’s 1,500 pounds max, stay under 1,000 pounds.

Adjust based on ramp and power/traction. Ignoring this rule might get you stuck or rolling into the water.

Braked vs Unbraked

What is Braked and Unbraked? 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 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 small trailers, as you need the power to get them out of the water on a steep ramp.

Capacity

Since hauling capacity will vary greatly, with some manufacturers outright saying towing a trailer with their vehicle is not recommended, I’ve omitted a generic list of hauling capacities.

The hauling capacity will 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 capacity of your ride.

Keep in mind this weight must include the jet ski, gear, fuel, and trailer weight.

What the Manufacturer Says

Something to keep in mind is that what the manufacturer says and what someone selling you a hitch says don’t always match. (Shocking, I know!)

While a hitch maybe available for your vehicle, it doesn’t always mean you should haul something.

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 will fishtail.

Horsepower Needed To haul

How much horsepower do you need to haul a common 2 or 3-seater sitdown jet ski? You should have at least 150HP or at least 180HP for two small watercraft on a trailer.

As previously stated, the issue isn’t in the motion itself, but in the “stopping and starting”. Any wheeled vehicle will move, but possessing sufficient horsepower is advantageous, particularly on steep boat ramps.

All that horsepower won’t mean much if you can’t get “traction”, so having good wheels on your car is important. Ideally, you want an all-wheel drive vehicle, as that will give you the most traction.

Smaller – Rec-Lite

If you’re only equipped with a car, I advise sticking to the smaller 2 or 3 seating capacity watercraft in the Rec-Lite category when it comes to towing.

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’s, we have a post comparing them here.

In some towing situations for some cars, you could get away with the bigger Recreational PWC models, but I would avoid the luxury and performance models for sure.

Sedans

Luckily, most sedans are quite capable of towing most 2/3-seater jet skis, but you need to proceed with caution.

The main challenge isn’t the towing itself, but the stopping and starting on ramps, as discussed previously. Don’t forget to follow the 1/3 rule before towing.

4-Cylinder

If the horsepower and towing capacity are up to par, a 4-cylinder should have no trouble towing most Rec-Lite watercraft.

It’s best you stick to our “1/3 rule”, as talked about earlier in this post.

Hatchbacks

You’ll be able to tow most Rec-Lite and some recreational watercraft on a trailer with a hatchback, but you must still follow the “1/3 rule”, as talked about at the start of this post.

Ramps Are Slippery And Steep

One of the biggest things to keep in mind is that boat ramps are slippery and steep.

You need traction to haul anything out of the water, and you also need some good ground clearance.

While not all ramps are steep, you’ll still run into a few that are, and a vehicle that is not tall enough will get stuck.

Having good brakes is important, too. Not in the way it stops you on a normal day, but when hauling something there is now more weight, and you need brakes that are rated for that. There is a lot to take in, so keep this stuff in mind.

Tip: If you’re stuck on the ramp and just need a little more traction, let some air out of the tires. If that doesn’t work, call a tow-truck.

Trucks Have Hauling Features

What makes trucks great is that many of them have features just for hauling trailers.

There is often a button to press to put the truck in hauling mode, where it gives more power and stopping power. You often have more hauling accessories like easier light hook-ups, or it’s already equipped on the truck.

All of this is stuff you won’t find on sedans, and for good reason. Many of it could be added, but it’s not worth it.

Get A Marina Membership

What vehicle you have doesn’t matter if you get a membership to a local marina.

You could store your jet ski there, they will keep tabs on it, clean it or service it depending on your contract with them.

When you need to bring it into the dealership, most dealers will pick you up by water for a fee. If you got the cash, keeping your jet ski at a marina is the best way to go about it, especially if you could keep it on a floating dock as it’s ready to go whenever you want to take it out. If you live on the water, then you’ve won, avoid a trailer and just have the dealership pick you up when you need it.

Author

Steven

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 StevenInSales.com 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.

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