Jet Ski Vs. Boat – Which One Do You Buy?

Personal Watercraft (PWCs) have revolutionized water recreation, offering an exhilarating experience that sets them apart from traditional boats.

While both PWCs and boats provide access to the water, they cater to distinct preferences and priorities.

For new riders venturing into the realm of water sports, PWCs often present an enticing alternative, offering unique features and advantages that appeal to thrill-seekers and enthusiasts alike.

Let’s delve into the distinctive characterstics that differentiate PWCs from boats and explore why they might be the preferred choice for those new to the water!

Just buy the jet ski…

Should you buy a jet ski or a boat? It’s simple, buy a jet ski!


  • Simple, I’ve learned that the only people who asked me this question never owned either. 
  • This is someone new to PWCs and boating, and of the two, a PWC is a way easier for a beginner.

There are many pros and cons to owing both, so let’s go over them below.

The Pros To Having A Jet Ski

1. Jet skis are Cheaper Then Boats

Sure, they can cost can over to $20K, but it’s still more affordable than a boat.

And if you could find boats for under $20K, it wouldn’t be anywhere near the reliability and coolness.

Prices of boats, like everything, have gone way up; watercraft prices have gone up too, but at least they’re still cheaper. With the cost of everything going up, it makes more sense to get started small.

Even a used craft can be found that is in good shape at a great price to let you get your “feet wet” and find out if boating is for you.

2. Jet Skis Are Simpler To Drive

If you’ve never been on boats or a jet ski before, you’ll find modern PWCs easier to drive and more forgiving.

Many watercraft you get today have brakes, and it makes docking and driving a lot easier. Brakes are not new, Sea-Doo had it in 2009, Yamaha since 2015, and Kawasaki in 2022.

PWCs don’t have transmissions (not in the way you think), so there is no shifting gears and no moment when you’re not in control. When the engine is on its processing water and doing something, you can even steer in neutral.

You don’t have this type of control in boats, you’re doing a lot more on boats to maintain this level of control.

3. There Are No Exposed Impellers

PWCs don’t have any exposed impellers as boats do!

Yes, those spinning blades of death are tucked away inside.

I still recommend turning the engine off before you get near the jet pump. Also, keep your fingers and limbs away from the impeller, too.

Since there are no exposed impellers, I find myself using that over a boat for pull sports like tubing. You still have to worry about sucking up the rope, but I have a guide on that and how to stop it here.

4. Maintenance is Not As Complex or as expensive

PWCs are simpler than boats.

They don’t have a traditional transmission like a car or boat; instead, it uses a small bucket at the rear to control thrust by directing water flow. In contrast, boats have complex transmissions with gears that require maintenance and can make unsettling sounds when shifted.

Boats also have more moving parts, often using adapted truck engines, that means…

  • Belts and various components need regular replacement.
  • Watercraft engines are more straightforward, akin to lawn mower engines, with no exposed rubber belts and fewer cylinders and spark plugs to worry about!

Servicing jet skis is typically cheaper and more accessible due to their smaller engines. Technicians who work on both often prefer working on PWCs.

Additionally, owning a PWC can lead to lower expenses for:

  • Gas
  • Insurance
  • Towing
  • And other factors compared to owning a boat!

5. Cleaning Is A Breeze and less to clean, too!

Cleaning a jet ski is a breeze compared to cleaning a boat. Boats require extensive cleaning, involving removing seats and dealing with carpets, especially when preparing for the season.

Boats act like giant buckets that accumulate leaves and debris, even with a cover, and rain can sneak in, causing moldy carpet odors.

After a ride, cleaning boats can be a daunting task, often leading to friends conveniently disappearing or avoiding help. In contrast, cleaning a PWC is a quick job, mostly a pressure wash or a simple soapy bath that takes no more than 15 minutes.

Who wouldn’t prefer spending more time on the water than cleaning a boat?

6. Jet skis are Great For Quick Rides After work

You just got home from work, and the kids want to go on the water before the day ends.

This is not an easy thing to do on boats. If you have a jet ski, you hop on and go — no need to think about it.

Even the people who have both a boat and a jet ski find themselves using the watercraft more because the boat is too much to get ready.

The most common feedback I get from ownrs is that you have to plan a day beforehand when you want to take the boat out.

Planning is something you do at work, not something you aim to do on your day off.

7. Jet skis have Brakes and far easier to dock!

Yes, you read that right.

Sea-Doo, Yamaha and now Kawasaki, have PWCs with brakes. This is something you don’t get on boats, unless it’s the new Sea-Doo Switch.

Not only does this make docking easier, but it gives you better control too. If someone pulls out in front of you, you can stop quicker, unlike boats.

8. You Have A Ton Of Places To Store PWCs

I store my Sea-Doo Spark out behind a small corner of my shed. Could I fit a boat there? No, but more importantly, I couldn’t get a boat and the towing vehicle back there.

I can put my Sea-Doo anywhere that it’ll fit because it’s so small! Not only that, but I can also physically move the single thing by myself without needing to hook up to a truck.

Since watercraft are so small, there is always room for them at the sandbars or docks.

Boats take up a lot of room, and you often get the angry look from other boats if you take too long at the docks. With a jet ski, if the dock looks full, I still have the option to carefully beach it instead. Beaching boats is not ideal due to its size.

With boats on a busy weekend, it can feel like parking a bus in a busy parking lot. Stress like this is not what I look for when I’m enjoying my time on the water.

9. Less Difficult to Tow Behind Your Truck

For many people, this could be their first time towing something. Trust me, from experience, it’s better to learn to pull something small, than something big.

And if you can master backing a jet ski trailer down a boat ramp, you’ll have no issue backing up any trailer!

Another thing to consider is your vehicle. Make sure your vehicle can tow the boat or jet ski you want. (Can your car tow a jet ski, find out here) This could mean purchasing a new truck or continually having to rent one.

With a jet ski, I’ve had people tow a Sea-Doo Spark with a Toyota Priu s or Ford Mustang and have no issue.

To learn more about towing and jet ski weight, I have a post on that here.

10. Jet skis are nimble and quick!

A jet ski is like the motorcycle of the water, it’s fast and nimble!

You can get some with 325 HP, that is quite a lot when most of them only weigh 800 pounds.

They are so fast that they’re having to put in different modes and keys to keep people from going too crazy or hurting themselves. You can even make them faster with many simple modifications.

If all you want is speed and power, a jet ski is the best way to go.

The Cons Of Jet skis, The pros to having a boat

I can’t go without pointing out the negatives of owning a jet ski compared to boats.

So let’s cover all the pros of owing a boat and the cons.

1. You Can’t Drive a jet ski at night

For the most part, you can’t drive them at night. Sure, there are some places that will allow or ignore it, but for the most part, you can’t nor should you even try.

PWCs don’t come with navigation lights and the general rule is that it’s not safe to drive them at night due to their size and how careless people can be. Driving at night is a different and more dangerous game. You got to go slow at night, that many jet skiers can’t do!

2. Most Jet skis can only carry 3 people

Most models are a 3-person seating capacity, and a few are 2 or even 1.

It gets even worse, as many 3-seaters only seat 2 adults and maybe 1 child, sure it’s 3 people, but don’t expect to stretch it beyond that. You get three grown adults on a 3-seater, and it’s bound to roll over.

You also have a smaller weight capacity, due to its smaller size, so they can only carry so much.

3. Boats Are A Little Safer than jetskis

A boat will naturally be safer because they’re physicaly bigger.

  • Also, people tend to do more stupid things when it comes to PWCs.
  • Along with PWCs being more nimble and quick, and boats being slow and big, you’re going to have better odds on the boat at being safer.
  • It’s not to say you can’t be safe, with so many driving modes, learning keys, and safety features like brakes, they have come a long way.

4. You Can Do More on a boat

Boats are larger, and it allows you to do more things.

The gap is closing with more PWCs adding things like fishing models and exploring models to the list.

Fishing used to be hard or nonexistent, but with new accessories, it’s not that much of a gap anymore, but boats still have more room for activities.

5. Tow Sport are easier on boats

A jet ski can pull tubes and other pull sports, but it’s not the same as boats.

Sure, you can get models made for pull sports like the Sea-Doo WAKE, but it’s not going to make a wake similar to a wakeboard boat.

A boat can also pull more people on a tube, not because it’s lacking power, but due to laws. A 3-person PWC can only have a total of 3 people, that’s people on the tube, the driver, and anyone else on board. It’s if someone gets hurt, there is enough room to get back to land.

You can get watercraft with over 300 HP, so pulling power is not an issue, but laws and safety is, and they will always lose the debate against pull sports with a boat.

What should you get… why not both?!

I’m not saying you should get both.

But what if you could combine the two? Well, you can, and it’s called a jet boat.

Both Scarab and Yamaha have their own jet boats. They use the engine from a Sea-Doo, so it’s simple and still very powerful.

Sea-Doo came out with the Switch in 2022, it’s a jet-powered pontoon that gives you a cross between a Sea-Doo and a boat. The Sea-Doo Switch is the perfect in-between option.

No exposed prop on jet boats, as they use the same drive system that a jet ski uses. Plenty of room like a boat would have with some of them having a toilet/sink/changing room.

Scarab even uses Sea-Doo engines, so they have closed-loop cooling, that means the engine never takes in lake or ocean water to cool it. No salty lake water corroding things and no debris to clog the cooling! You usually have to pay extra for this on other boats, but it’s standard on Scarab Jet Boats.

This is the few times in life where you can have your cake and eat it too. Why not take a look at jet boats!



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.

4 thoughts on “Jet Ski Vs. Boat – Which One Do You Buy?”

  1. I just voted solidly for: jet boat!

    Bought a used 2008 sea-doo 150 speedster and trailer. Carries 4 ppl and gear. Low cost, so easy, way more flexibility.

  2. What about longevity of a PWC versus boat?
    People say a PWC lasts between 300-500 hours. They also say a boat engine lasts 1500-2000 hours.
    Wondering about Yamaha waverunners that use same engine found in their boats.
    If numbers are accurate, seems like a boat would be a much better deal since it would last longer.
    500 hours versus 1500 hours longevity is a no-brainer.
    We are considering spending $30000 for a pair of PWC or a boat so cost will be about same.

    • The old 2-strokes would max out at 300 to 500 hours but the 4-strokes you get today can go well beyond 500. The fact they go beyond 500 doesn’t mean you’ll see many jet skis over 500 hours. The average person puts 30 hours a year on their jet ski so that would take 16 years and most don’t keep a jet ski that long because the parts start to get hard to find for them after 10-15 years. You also have some boats count hours differently than jet skis. A jet ski will only count engine hours while some boats will count when the key is on and you’re just listening to music. The Yamaha and Scarab Jet Boats are interesting too because a lot of them are going to dual jet ski engines which helps with the load and keeps them lasting longer too. I usually tell people to go with the jet skis first because if they don’t like them they will be easier to sell than a boat. Plus, if you’re new to boating you’ll find a jet ski easier to learn and take care of. But boats are nice if you need to take more people out or want something for leisure.

    • Imo, Jet Ski motors are easier to work on. Basically the same motor technology that’s in an ATV/4 Wheeler, SxS (Polaris RZR/Can Am X3, etc), and Snow Mobiles. And in the jet ski there’s no transmission, it’s way easier to get the motor out/in and do a motor rebuild than say on a truck motor in a boat.

      So engine work on a PWC is a lot cheaper.


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