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Breaking Down Jet Ski Horsepower – Specs, Speed & Features

When it comes to jet ski horsepower, it’s a topic that often leaves people scratching their heads. Especially when you’re eyeing a waverunner from a manufacturer that doesn’t proudly display those coveted HP numbers. But let’s clear the air, shall we?

First things first, when folks mention horsepower, they’re usually fixated on two things: speed and take-off power. You want that thrilling rush when you hit the throttle, right? Plus, for those into tow-sports, the ability to pull a tube without breaking a sweat is crucial.

Then comes the age-old dilemma: more HP or better fuel economy? It’s a legitimate concern.

But here’s the deal: horsepower isn’t the be-all and end-all. Unless you’re aiming to be the speed demon of the water, don’t let it dictate your choice. Jet skis these days are inherently fast, especially for beginners.

Instead, focus on finding a model that suits your needs. Whether it’s cruising, towing, or fuel efficiency, prioritize what matters most to you. After all, it’s your adventure on the water, not someone else’s opinion that should steer your choice.

Horsepower Explained

HP is a unit of power used to measure the rate at which work is done. It was originally developed by James Watt, an engineer who needed a way to measure the output of his steam engines.

One HP is defined as the amount of power required to lift 550 pounds (250 kilograms) of weight one foot (0.3048 meters) in one second.

To rephrase, HP is utilized to quantify the power output of engines in vehicles like cars, boats, and waverunners. An engine with higher HP is capable of delivering greater power, thus enhancing the movement of the vehicle or equipment to which it is connected. Specifically for watercraft, horsepower is a key factor in determining their speed and acceleration.

HP Chart For All Models

MakeModelMPHHP
Sea-DooSpark 2UP 60HP4060
Sea-DooSpark 3UP 90HP4990
Sea-DooSpark 2UP 90HP iBR4990
Sea-DooSpark Trixx 2UP4990
Sea-DooSpark 3UP 90HP iBR4990
Sea-DooSpark Trixx 3UP4990
YamahaEX50100
YamahaEX SPORT50100
YamahaEX DELUXE50100
YamahaEX LIMITED50100
Sea-DooFISH PRO SCOUT50130
YamahaJETBLASTER51110
Sea-DooGTI 13052130
Sea-DooGTI SE 13052130
Sea-DooExplorer Pro 17052170
Sea-DooFISH PRO SPORT52170
Sea-DooFISH PRO TROPHY52170
YamahaVX-C53125
YamahaSUPERJET53100
YamahaVX53125
YamahaVX DELUXE53125
YamahaVX CRUISER53125
YamahaVX LIMITED53125
Sea-DooWAKE 17055170
Sea-DooGTI SE 17056170
KawasakiSTX 16057160
KawasakiSTX 160X57160
KawasakiSTX 160LX57160
Sea-DooGTX 17058170
YamahaFX HO58180
YamahaFX CRUISER HO58180
KawasakiSX-R59150
YamahaVX CRUISER HO62180
YamahaVX LIMITED HO62180
Sea-DooGTR 23063230
YamahaGP1800R HO65180
Sea-DooWAKE PRO 23065230
Sea-DooGTX 23066230
YamahaFX SVHO68250
YamahaFX CRUISER SVHO68250
YamahaFX LIMITED SVHO68250
YamahaGP1800R SVHO70250
Sea-DooRXP-X 70325
Sea-DooGTX 30070300
KawasakiULTRA 310X70310
Sea-DooRXT-X 70325
Sea-DooGTX Limited 30070300
KawasakiULTRA 310LX-S70310
KawasakiULTRA 310LX70310

The Range Of Power

Modern HP ratings vary from 90 to 310 HP.

From the research that I do yearly, I find the majority of models are under 200 HP, which is about the same HP of most cars. You have many that are pushing more power than most cars while being drastically lighter, and the engines being smaller. It’s impressive the power that these things make when in comparison to cars.

Over 200

300 HP Sea-Doo Engine from a RXT-X White

Most PWC engines over 200 HP have a supercharger to get to this level.

With a supercharger, I see more maintenance, and they do consume more gas.

The good news is that most have different driving modes to give you better MPG and better control over the watercraft.

The Most

The watercraft with the most HP:

The Least

90HP Sea-Doo ACE engine top view

The Sea-Doo Spark has the least at 60 HP and has a top speed of 40 MPH.

How Much HP Is Needed For Pull Sports?

You don’t need much HP to pull a tube, a 90 HP Sea-Doo Spark can do it, but it will struggle more than higher HP models.

If you ask me, the golden spot for pulling tubes is between 110 HP to 170 HP.

You don’t need a high-powered engine to pull a tube, in fact, it’s best you don’t as they have too much power.

HP Vs CC

The engines come in many different numbers plastered on the side that the manufacturer likes to show off.

One is HP, and another is cubic capacity or CC.

CC

CC is the measurement of engine displacement, the larger the number, the bigger the engine. Just because you got a bigger CC engine doesn’t mean it produces more power.

HP

HP is a better measure, as smaller CC engines can have more HP than a larger CC engine. A larger CC engine does have more room for improvements, but since weight is a big factor, waverunners tend to have smaller CC engines with high HP.

How HP Affects Performance

The number of HP can affect its performance.

Jumping waves, pulling tubes, carrying a passenger, tricks and more are dependent on power.

Other factors like weight, driver’s skills, and conditions also affect the machine.

One golden rule I have is that the more power you have, the more fuel it will consume. You will also need to run premium gasoline in higher HP engines. So, going with the most power may not be the best option for everyone.

Limits On Power

Sea-Doo Engine block removed from watercraft on engine stand for repairs

If you just got a high-horsepower PWC, you may have noticed that it’s limited during its break-in period.

The engines are high-performance and need to be broken-in, so the computer on board will limit your power until after a certain time.

There are other things that can limit power, like different modes and keys. Sucking something up or damages will also cause it to limit its power.

Should You Buy The Biggest HP PWC?

I would get a few people come in thinking they need the most HP jet ski on the market. Not to be confused with the people who actually needed one and knew the reality of it, but the people who had no clue and their neighbor said they need 300HP to pull one child a tube, kind of person.

Most riders don’t need the most powerful watercraft on the market. I always cringed when a customer had me install a ski pylon on their racing 300HP Sea-Doo. It’s your watercraft, do what you want, but if your main goal is pulling tubes on the weekend, this machine is way overkill. It’s more likely to get people hurt then solve any problem you may think you have.

To be honest, all jet skis on the market today are fast, especially if you’re new to the sport. If you have never ridden a jet ski before, or any power sports machines, any jet ski you get on will be fast and feel like a rocket. Don’t confuse the speeds you reach in your car, modern cars are like houses on wheels, all the comfort in the world and wind noise removed. On a jet ski, you’re out in the open, even more open than most motorcycles, as you don’t need a helmet on a jet ski. Things come at you faster, you sit so close to the water you can feel the cool water evaporating into your face.

Doing 40 MPH on a jet ski feels like doing 80+ MPH in your car. So don’t think you need the most HP on the market to pull Timmy a few times a year, that little GTI 170 can handle it, costs less to run, and still take your breath away when you gun it in sport mode.

The History Of PWC Power

They have not always had 300 HP engines, but started off with 18 HP back in the 1960s and came back in style with 55 HP in the 80s.

Over time, manufacturers have been adding more HP to their engines, and it’s getting a bit crazy. It started when watercraft moved to 4-stroke engines and then, a few years later, started adding superchargers and intercoolers. The mid-range HP watercraft today would be the biggest HP 20 years ago. It’s honestly getting a bit crazy, a pissing contest, if I say so myself.

The manufacturer’s Race To The top

It’s always been a “race” between Sea-Doo and Kawasaki. Kawasaki hit the big 310 in 2014 before Sea-Doo, but in 2016 came out with the new ACE engine that had 300 HP. Now we have 325 HP in 2024.

As they got more power, they soon started to reach speeds that scared many. That is why an agreement with the US coast guard was reached to limit them. This limit doesn’t exist in other countries, and yes, you can remove it if you know how.

Will There Be More Hp In The Future?

I don’t want to say they won’t get more HP (Sea-Doo did release 325HP for 2024), but it does feel a bit pointless when there is a 70 MPH cap.

2024 Sea-Doo RXP-X 325 stock image

It’s now about who can get to 70 MPH the fastest, and not who has the greater top speed.

There are people who modify them to reach new top speed records, but for the average person, there is no need to be going over 70 MPH.

Yamaha And Why They Don’t Display HP Ratings

GP 1800R on trailer with no visible stickers of HP

You may notice that I’ve been mostly talking about Sea-Doo and Kawasaki when it comes to HP.

Yamaha doesn’t like bragging about their HP, for several reasons, but they max out at 250 HP.

To be fair, their 250 HP engine does keep up with the Sea-Doo and Kawasaki, but it’s not the same.

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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