What it Cost to Own a Jet Ski – The Hidden Costs!

Having a personal watercraft (PWC) opens up a world of aquatic adventures, but with great fun comes great responsibility—the responsibility of keeping your PWC running smoothly.

From routine maintenance to troubleshooting unexpected issues, maintaining a PWC requires dedication, knowledge, and a proactive approach.

In this post, we’ll explore the things it takes to keep a PWC running reliably, covering essential maintenance tasks, tips, and the overall-costs to ensure your watercraft stays in peak condition for countless memorable rides on the water.

You Should Get Insurance

I’ve made insurance the number one thing because it’s the number one thing you should have.

Most states don’t require you to have insurance, but you’ll be a fool not to have it. Not every state requires boating insurance, but many marinas and HOA’s do require it, depending on where you keep your PWC.

Watercraft insurance varies for every machine and owner, but you can expect to pay $300 to $1,000+ per unit YEARLY.

Here is just a short list of reasons why PWC insurance is worth it – a lot of these either happened to me or I saw happen to customers:

  1. PWCs crashing into others or docks.
  2. Fell off a dock or boat launch.
  3. Sinking on land, yes, it happened because the owner left his drain plugs in.
  4. Falling off a trailer while on the highway.
  5. Someone crashing theirs on rocks.
  6. One taking on water due to a defect in the hull and sinking.

Not all the things above may be covered by watercraft insurance, but a lot of them will be or be worth looking into with your insurance company.

Along with insurance, many boaters are required to have a boating license. States don’t require them for people of a certain age or grandfathered-in after a certain birth year. I took the class when it started coming around (it’s an online test) and you pay once you pass. Overall, it’s a good idea to take as it makes everyone safer on the water. If you rent a PWC in a different state, you may need to take the test again for the new state!


Compared to cars, jet skis are simpler and easier to maintain.

If you do all the maintenance work yourself, you can save a lot of money, but it often requires special tools to do some of the work.

For most people, you only need to do your yearly oil change and winterization, some do both at the end of the season to save money.

  • Oil change $300 to $800+.
  • Winterization $100 to $600+.
  • Jet pump maintenance $100 to $1,000+.

To see the full list of maintenance items you need to do for a jet ski and the time to do them, see my guide here.

A lot of the maintenance fees won’t be even maintenance items, but user inflicted damage. Such things like sucking up ropes, rocks and other debris is the most common thing I saw in the shop. Don’t let those prices scare you, some of the costs is fixing the dings and damage family and friends do to your craft.

To be honest, a lot of the stuff you can do yourself if you have some engine knowledge. Changing the oil or spark plugs on most jet skis is no harder than doing it for a lawn mower, more costly to do it and more computers, but not that much harder.

The Up Front

One thing we can’t forget about is the price to get the jet ski in the first place.

If it’s a new one, I have a post that goes over how much new jet skis cost, or use this calculator to help you get an estimate of the out the door price.

If it’s a used, the prices can vary, and you probably want to know if it’s a good deal or worth having, so I have a post to help figure out used PWC prices.

Lastly, you may need a trailer or a place to store your jet ski. Trailer prices go up every year, even used PWC trailers hold their value, but my guide here will help!

You will need a place to keep your machine if you don’t have the space at your home. Marinas charge monthly fees and boat storage places will also charge, so it adds to the price of owing one for some.

The First Service Is The Most Important

If you get a new PWC, the number one thing people forget about is that they have a first service that MUST be done. I know you spent a lot of money on your new ski and some first services can be as soon as 10 hours, that’s a lot sooner than you think, but it must be done.

The real kicker is that the first service is the most important service you’ll ever do for it. Many watercraft will have a break-in period where you must take it nice and easy for the first 5 to 10 hours of the watercraft. This is to make sure everything gets seated in properly. To achieve this, many manufacturers will use a “break-in oil” that must be removed after the engine has been broken in properly.

This first service issue has become less of a problem with some of the latest watercraft only needing the first service at 50 hours, but some manufacturers still require the first service at 10 hours. Make sure to ask your dealer when the first service is and keep that in mind as the first service can be more costly than any other service you’ll do.

Also, the first service is NOT included. Many people try to be slick with this, but it’s standard for a dealership NOT to include this in any deal.  

The good news about the first service, is that it maybe more expensive than other services, but it’s only done ONCE.

A little tip: try to negotiate the first service into the deal and get it in writing. Hint-hint.

Pick-Ups and Drop-Ins Are not Free

If you don’t get a trailer and live on the lake, many times a dealer or repair shop can pick you up at a boat ramp.

Please keep in mind that they won’t do this for free.

If you have a trailer and can drop the watercraft off, then you don’t have to worry about this.

Every dealer or shop is different, depending on how far they have to go to get you at the boat launch. Expect to pay more if they have to travel longer distances or go out of the way to get your machine. Sometimes it might be worth it to spend the extra money for them to get it for you if you’re a busy person.

While rare, some dealerships or repair shops can come to you, either by water or to your home, to do maintenance work. You’ll pay more for this service, but it’s the most seamless experience you can have.

On this note, keep in mind that even if you buy a new jet ski, you might have to pay extra to get it delivered. Make sure you get delivery included in the negotiations of buying your new or used watercraft. Some dealers are slick like this, especially when competition is involved.

Fuel Prices

Jet skis and boats are not great on gas, especially if you ride them hard.

The average MPG for a PWC, if you do the average speed, can get about 2.6 hours of constant riding. For most people, they fill up for the weekend and ride on that – so if the average jet ski has about an 18 gallon gas tank and gas costs $4 a gallon, then it would be about $70 to fill up every weekend.

Where you get gas can affect the cost, the gas you get on the docks and boat ramps will be a lot more per gallon than the gas station down the road. If you belong to a boat club or marina, they tend to charge a premium for their gas too!

Not only that, but you need to be careful of the gas you put in your jet ski, especially if it’s supercharged.

A Supercharged Model has More Costly Maintenance

Not every jet ski has a supercharger, anything under 200 HP tends not to have one.

Also, superchargers for watercraft have changed quite a bit since they first came out around 2004. This means less maintenance, or things have shifted a bit from the manufacturer recommendations.

Supercharger maintenance or rebuilds can vary from $500 to $2,500+ depending on the model and your needs. The subject is so vast, especially for Sea-Doo, that I wrote a guide here to help you.

If you don’t need to go over 60 MPH, then I say avoid supercharged jet skis. Sure, supercharged jet skis are fun and a lot more reliable today, but the “slower” ones are still fast can can pull tubes just fine.

Cleaning & Body

I feel everyone understands there is a cost to cleaning your ski and keeping it looking good. Sure, I’ve seen many owners do not clean their jet skis, but if you want it to last and look good, you need to clean it.

Soap and water is not that expensive, so I won’t bore you with that, but instead remind you of something that so many forget… covers!

Covers are a maintenance item, and they’re not cheap!

The goal of the cover is to protect your watercraft from the sun and water. It’s really the sun, but mold happens because of water. Your cover is going to decay over time as it protects your jet ski, and you need to replace it every 3 to 5 years!

These manufacturer covers are not cheap, but they’re the best option for the best fit. The solution to make your cover last longer is to buy universal fitting covers to put over your good cover. Let the universal cover protect your good manufacturer cover, which itself will do a better job of keeping water out, as it’s a better fit.

Lastly, wipe down your seat and handlebars before you cover it. Also, spray some vinyl protectant on the seats to protect them from the sun.

the Taxes & Registration Fees

You will need to pay property taxes on the jet ski and trailer depending on where you live. It’s not a lot, I just paid about $20 for my 2014 Sea-Doo Spark on a single trailer in NC. Your numbers will be different.

Just like cars have tags and a licenses plate, jet skis have something similar. You register your watercraft with the state, and they give you numbers, you must pay for the numbers to be put on. Then yearly, or multi-year, whichever you pick, you pay the state a fee to keep the “plate” legal.

I pay about $35 a year to renew my boat registration sticker on my Sea-Doo. It’s not a huge dealbreaker, and it’s not the same everywhere, some states do it differently.

Don’t Forget Trailer Maintenance Costs

Jet ski trailers are forgotten about quite a bit, not many people do the proper servicing on them.

You need to grease your trailer bearings, replace the bow straps every 3/5 years, and make sure screws and the bunks are seated properly.

Let’s not forget the tires of your trailer wear out, most often from dry rot because people don’t use them much. I would plan on buying new tires for your trailer at least every 5 years, even if they look like they’re fine, more than likely they’re dry rotting and splitting and not safe for the road.

Gear & Accessories

There are a few require gear to operate a jet ski, with some that need replacing every few years.

A life jacket is a must-have accessory and a legal requirement in most bodies of water. Along with a whistle, safety kit, and more.

The gear and accessories you need is a huge topic, and I have a guide that will help you here.

It’s also important you have the correct gear on your body before you ride, just read the warning stickers plastered all over them.

2-Stroke VS 4-Stroke Repairs

One common thing I’ve seen people say is that 4-strokes are more expensive to repair than 2-strokes.

I don’t see this – while it’s true, that 2-stroke have less moving parts, they can still be more costly to fix nowadays because parts are harder to find, and many shops don’t want to work on them for that reason. Also, 2-strokes are all old machines, and when you fix one thing, another thing breaks because the jet ski is old.

To give you an idea, the last 2-stroke Sea-Doo made was in 2007, that is over 15 years old now, and that’s old for a 2-stroke watercraft.

4-strokes are better for the environment because they pollute less and, honestly, are more reliable.

Despite the fact that 4-stroke engines have more moving parts, they are constructed with higher quality due to the lessons learned from the shortcomings of 2-stroke engines. To illustrate, in the past, 2-stroke engines used ball-bearings for specific components, whereas 4-strokes utilized slip bearings. The ball-bearing design involves more moving parts and consequently experiences more frequent failures, especially given that the 2-stroke operates twice as much as a similar 4-stroke engine.

When buying a used, stick to 4-strokes unless you really love working on 2-stroke.

What should You Budget?

You might be wondering how much all this is going to cost? I can’t give you an exact number because everyone’s numbers will be different.

You might be financing the watercraft and want a number to make sure you can afford this thing with all its maintenance and other little things you’ll need.

Well, if a cost of $100 to $300 a month scares you, then you might want to walk away from the idea of owning a jet ski.

This price doesn’t include everything, like gas, but it does give you a good estimate of the costs.

How Much Can I Afford?

If you’re looking at how costly a jet ski can be, you might be wondering how much watercraft you can afford.

The simplest way to do this is to use a loan calculator. I’ve created a jet ski pricing calculator to help you get an idea of the options you can afford, along with other tips.

To give you an example, if you finance a jet ski and trailer for a total of $15,000 with nothing down for 5 years at 7%, then that would be about $298 a month.

I want to recommend you check out my other post about common mistakes people make when buying a jet ski here, as it talks more about this stuff.

As for negotiations with dealers, you might be surprised by the margins and how much markup they have.

They Can Be Expensive

Jet skis can be expensive to maintain, depending on the model you buy and your needs.

Not every jet ski is costly or needs much to keep it going, but it’s also not the cheapest hobby either.

If you want cheap, stick to used non-supercharged jet skis with smaller engines. The faster you want to go, the more expensive jet skis become and the more maintenance and gas you’ll spend to keep it running.



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. Question.. we have a 2017 Sea Doo spark 3up. We love it but we don’t live that close to a lake (at least not one we like) so we only take it out 2-3 times a year. We’ve used it 2 Summers and only have 15hrs on it. Last year all we did was change the battery. This year we had a full servicing done (spark plugs, oil, inspection, etc.) With how much we use it would it still be recommended to have that service done every year?

    • You could go every other year for a service if you want to, but if you live somewhere that gets below freezing in the winter you for sure need to get it winterized ever year.

  2. Hi Steve,

    I will be new to the sport but have played on a few different types of jets. my question is I want to get my own and have been looking at them and I would like stability (ease for getting back on in deep water) and safety, dependability, and value would be the top things that I am looking for in a ski. That being said, it would be used for playing around the lake with the wife and kids, so Sea Do vs Kawasaki vs ?? I have seen in previous post you lean towards the Wave Runner for stable riding craft, I also have seen 2006-08 machines with 62 -70 total hours on them which made me pause because of the average hours usually put on crafts (30hrs a yr) what do you think? Thanks for your time


    • Kawasaki probably rides the best in rough water. Everyone says Yamaha is the most reliable. And Sea-Doo has all the cool features and is 5 years ahead of everyone else. To be quite honest, they’re all good. I’ve never met a person who frowned on a jet ski before. If you’re buying used it’s best to get it inspected before you buy, that and many other things I recommend in my book about buying used jet skis here. The hour’s thing gets quite skewed, you’ll have some people who’ll never go over 20 hours and then you have some that go over 1,000 hours. 30 hours a year is a nice and safe number to go on but don’t be shocked to see some models under 100 hours out in the wild. It’s like cars, people tend to trade cars in at 100k miles since you’ll need to get some major repairs done to keep it going and the same with jet skis at the 100-hour mark. Make sure to be through when checking them out and let a good repair shop look at them before buying to make sure its all okay and you should be good no matter who makes it. Above all else avoid 2-strokes.

  3. Hi Steven

    Great info. Trying to decide between Sea Doo wake 155 vs wake pro 230 new
    My use will be a cruise with my wife and towing the grandkids on weekends

    Pls advise pro vs cons on this purchase. Tks

    • Both great machines and both have the same tech and many of the same features. What sets them apart is their body. The Wake PRO is going to ride a lot better, have more room for the 3 people, feel more stable in the water, and have more storage. The downside of the Wake PRO is the cost. The Wake 155 is still stable, I can stand on the side of it and I can’t flip it but it will feel smaller. The best thing do is sit on both at a dealership to see which one fits you better. If you’re a taller person the Wake Pro will fit better but if you’re under 5 foot 5 inches then a Wake 155 is going to feel so much better.

      • Hi Steven

        Great Feedback

        Ride is very important to us as we cottage on Georgian Bay Ontario which can get choppy.
        Pls advise pro vs con on Wake Pro 230 maintenance free supercharger.

        Many Tks

        • The superchargers have gotten a bad rap in the past but most of the problems have been solved. Even with the new tech like ECO-Mode, they get better gas mileage which use to be a big negative about supercharged models. I’m a play it safe kind of guy and even though they say it’s maintenance free you should still get it inspected around 200 hours. The average person puts 25 to 30 hours a year on their watercraft so that would be 6 to 8 years away. Some people actually never get over 100 hours so they never worry about it. I would go with the Wake Pro for the simple fact that it’s got the better hull, more powerful engine for pull sports, better seat comfort, more storage, and it’s a Wake Model which are in demand on the used market because you get so many features with it.

          • Hi Steven

            Based on all your great feedback the decision has been made to go with the Wake Pro 230 for our requirements.
            Any predictions on what may change for the Wake Pro 230 for 2018,


          • Probably nothing major will change. The engine was just changed so it will be kept for a few more years. There is talk about the hull changing but if they do it will probably be a Ploy-tec hull and probably ride the same.

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