You might be throwing around the idea of getting a jet ski, and might also be wondering what it’s going to cost to keep one running.
There are many factors to consider when buying and maintaining a jet ski that I want to cover in this post. Some of this stuff will be obvious, but I bet there are a few things you haven’t considered yet.
I’ve made insurance the number one thing because it’s the number one thing you should have on your jet ski.
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 jet ski.
Jet ski insurance varies for every jet ski and owner, but you can expect to pay $300 to $1,000 per jet ski YEARLY.
Here is just a short list of reasons why jet ski insurance is worth it; a lot of these either happened to me or I saw happen to customers:
- Jet skis crashing into others or docks.
- Jet ski falling off dock or boat launch.
- A Jet ski sinking on land, yes, it happened because the owner left his drain plugs in.
- Jet ski falling off trailer while on the highway.
- Someone crashing their jet ski on rocks.
- A jet ski taking on water due to a defect in the hull and sinking.
Not all the things above may be covered by jet ski 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 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.
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 what time to do them, see my guide here.
A lot of the maintenance cost 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 a jet ski 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 jet ski.
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 Initial Cost
One thing we can’t forget about is the cost to get the jet ski in the first place.
If it’s a used jet ski, 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 jet ski prices.
Lastly, you may need a trailer or a place to store your jet ski. Jet ski trailer prices go up every year, even used jet ski trailers hold their value, but my guide here will help!
You will need a place to keep your jet ski 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 cost of owing a jet ski for some.
If you get a new jet ski, 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 jet 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 cost more 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
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 jet ski 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 jet ski. 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 jet ski. Some dealers are slick like this, especially when competition is involved.
Jet skis and boats are not great on gas, especially if you ride them hard.
The average MPG for a jet ski, 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 cost 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!
Supercharger Maintenance Costs
Not every jet ski has a supercharger, anything under 200 HP tends not to have one.
Also, superchargers for jet skis 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 what you need. 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 are cost to cleaning your jet ski and keeping it looking good. Sure, I’ve seen many jet ski owners 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… jet ski covers!
Jet ski covers are a maintenance item, and they’re not cheap!
The goal of the cover is to protect your jet ski 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 jet ski cover last longer is to buy universal fitting covers* to put over your good jet ski 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 jet ski seat and handlebars before you cover it. Also, spray some vinyl protectant* on the seats to protect them from the sun.
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 jet ski and where you live will be different.
Just like cars have tags and a licenses plate, jet skis have something similar. You register your jet ski 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.
Trailer Maintenance Cost
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 to 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 jet ski 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.
It’s also important you have the correct gear on your body before you ride a jet ski, 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 cost more 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.
4-strokes are better for the environment because they pollute less and, honestly, are more reliable.
Even though 4-strokes do have more moving parts, they’re built better, and that is because they learn from the mistakes of the 2-strokes. For one example, an old 2-Stroke engine would use ball-bearings for certain parts, for the engine, while a 4-stroke would use a slip bearing. A ball-bearing design has more moving parts and thus fails more often, especially since the 2-stroke works twice as much as a similar 4-Stroke.
When buying a used jet ski, stick to 4-strokes unless you really love working on 2-stroke.
What To 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 little-hidden maintenance and other things you’ll need.
Well, if $100 a month for one jet ski scares you, then you might want to walk away from the idea of having a jet ski. It could be higher or lower, it greatly depends, but if $100 a month scares you then a jet ski is not for you.
This price doesn’t include everything like gas, but it does give you a good estimate of what a jet ski will cost you to own it.
How Much Watercraft Can I Afford?
If you’re looking at how much it costs to own a jet ski, 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 what 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 jet ski dealers, you might be surprised by the margins and how much markup they have.
Are Jet Skis Expensive To Maintain?
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.
Other Posts You’ll Like
If you’re in the market for a jet ski, I have a few other posts of mine that I think you’ll like as they relate to this post.