Can You Ride a Jet Ski at Night? [Why Jet Skis Aren’t Allowed After Sunset]

Jet skis have become a lot more popular and them being so fun during the day it’s got many asking if they can drive them at night.

I’ve seen far too many people attempt to modify their PWC to drive at night to only be hit with a fine or get hurt.

There is no winning this battle; you cannot drive a jet ski at night. Let me go over why it’s not allowed and why it’s best you avoid driving after sunset.

You Can’t Ride After Sunset

You cannot ride a jet ski at night, even if you have navigation lights in most states and countries.

There are a few places that allow it or ignore it, but overall, it’s too dangerous to ride at night.

You can operate between sunrise and sunset. This means when the sun is gone, you cannot drive.

I would even give yourself some leeway of 30 minutes to be on the safe side. If sunset is at 8:30 pm, I would be off the water by 8:00 pm.

You Can’t Add Navigation Lights

I’ve seen people put navigation lights on their PWC, so they can use them at night.

But every single one of them ends up getting them removed because the water patrol fines them.

Putting navigation lights on your jet ski doesn’t make it legal. They cannot be driven at night. Even the few that have headlights are not meant for navigation, it’s more for looks than a feature.

Why Can’t PWCs Be Driven At Night?

1. Too Small

Due to the small size of jet skis, they’re harder to see at night and adding navigation lights can confuse other boats even more, especially at a distance.

It’s not just the length, but the width of jet skis are smaller than similarly sized boats.

2. Quick Movements

A PWC can move fast and quickly change directions, which further confuses other boaters at night.

They’re already hard to see during the day and impossible to see at night.

3. They Go Too Fast

During the night, you’re supposed to go slow.

The problem is that many jet skiers don’t go slow, even when it’s pitched black at night.

You go slow because you can’t see things like floating logs, rocks, shallow areas and other items that could be in the way. It’s already difficult to see these things during the day, and impossible at night.

Which leads us to the next point…

4. Jet Skiers Are More Reckless

Combined with the fact that even during the day people do silly things they shouldn’t do, we can safely assume they’ll do it during the night too.

At night, these silly things are much worse and can make it harder to help someone.

5. No Reflectors

Life jackets don’t have any reflectors on them, so if you fall off, no one can see you in the water.

Even if they did have reflectors, most of the jacket is underwater and they still won’t see them.

Falling off PWCs is something that happens often, which is another reason you can’t drive at night.

6. No visual Cues At Night

Many jet skis have visual cues to help other boaters see them during the day.

The problem is that the cues are not visible at night.

One example is the rooster tail. Another one is bright colors on the jet ski or life jacket; this is why you see so many bright colors in the industry.

What If I Get Trapped At Night?

If you get trapped on your jet ski after dark, you need to seek the nearest boat launch or land.

Watercraft don’t have lights, no one can see you, so getting to land is important.

Get Towed

If you have a boat towing membership, give them a call and let them tow you back. They have the lights to get you back home safely. If you have kids who are bad about this, then a boat towing membership is handy.

You can also call a friend or family member with a boat to tow you back home.

Your Phone

The good news is that most people on jet skis have smartphones. With the smartphone, you can call someone, locate the nearest place to dock, or signal for help.

Some SOS apps turn your phone’s screen into a help light. Please keep in mind your whistle that should be on your jet ski.

DJ Khaled got stuck after dark on a jet ski, and you can see how confusing it can be.

What PWCs Are Allowed To Drive At Night?

There do exist a few jet skis that can operate at night, but the average customer can’t buy them.

These jet skis are used by search and rescue teams.

Sea-Doo has the SAR, and it has navigation lights for running at night. This PWC is also much larger, slower, and sturdier than your normal jet ski. It’s almost twice the cost of a typical jet ski too!

Sometimes a jet ski is needed in rescue missions, and sometimes these missions happen at night.

While the average customer can’t have one with navigation lights, it doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist for law and governments.



I began working at a jet ski dealership in 2007, initially in the parts and service area. I then transitioned to the technician side before eventually joining the sales team in 2013. I've done it all! While in sales, I created this website in 2014 to assist others with their common questions about watercraft. I now manage this site full-time, where I answer common questions, offer advice, and assist others with their PWC needs.

I've owned several watercraft and continue to buy, sell, and repair them. Currently, keep my Sea-Doo Spark as my main PWC. Additionally, I have developed tools like a used watercraft value calculator, a pricing calculator, an hour calculator, and more to better assist my readers.


  1. Last month we got to the boat ramp about 30 minutes before dark with a few boats ahead of us in line, no big deal we thought. Figured we would wait 10 minutes or so for our turn, nothing unusual and everyone was happily loading up their boats after a day out on the water. All of the sudden, 12 jet skis (must have been some sort of club) come flying through the no wake zone at 20 knots and cut off everyone at the boat ramp. Literally zipped up right in front of boats approaching the ramp and cut everyone off like it was their private boat ramp and they were entitled to special privileges (and not to mention the near collisions they almost caused by cutting off moving boats who had to abruptly cut throttle and the slam into reverse). They then proceeded to tie up both lanes of the boat ramp up for almost an hour while taking their time getting their trailers backed in and skis loaded up.

    This of course after seeing them earlier in the day running wide open inside a 6 knot zone in a swimming area where people were swimming.

    For those of you who like to push the time limits and head back just before dark, remember that you getting back before dark doesn’t give you special rights on the water – maritime navigational rules, rights of way, and speed limits still apply. You’re not entitled to special treatment because you’re on a jet ski and out of time due to poor planning. Also, had they been present, I don’t think DNR would have minded at all if there were jet skis patiently waiting on the water at the ramp after dark but they definitely would have issued fines (if not made arrests) for the dangerous and ignorant behavior of these jet skiers.

    80% of PWC operators are consummate professionals on the water but the other 20% are absolute degenerates who are so dangerous on the water that almost every state has had to impose restrictions on PWC usage. When you wonder why there are draconian laws applied to you operating your PWC, just take a look around next time you’re out and when you see one or two PWC operators doing something so completely asinine that you know the state is going to have to pass a law about it, that’s why.

    • What state? I’d be surprised they’d pull that in South Carolina. Some of these good ole boys with boats would have knocked a few PWC guys out cold if they pulled that stunt here.

    • The last time I checked the Sealver didn’t have nav lights. But even then I would side on no because it would ultimately be up to water patrol and I have a good feeling they would not allow it.

  2. Good information.

    Sadly, I see a lot of PWC operators break laws designed to make PWC ownership a safe, fun activity. Driving at night is one of them.

    My biggest pet peeve is adults letting their children drive a PWC alone. For some reason, some adults think their child is immune to the laws of physics. They aren’t.

    There is a reason there are rules about operating watercraft. Just like with ATVs, it’s sad some children have to pay the price for an adult’s bad, irresponsible decision.


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