Stand up jet skis vs. sit down jet skis – which one do you buy?
This guide is for new riders who want to know the difference between the two. Learn a little about the history of both and see which one is a better fit for you.
Before we get into it, let’s go over the features that make them so different.
Stand Up VS. Sit Down – Compared
|Features||Stand Up||Sit Down|
|Seat Capacity||1 – Standing||1 to 3|
|Top Speed||~60mph||40mph to 70mph|
|Price Range||$11,000 +||$6,000 to $22,000|
|Fuel Capacity||~5 US Gal||5 Gal to 20 Gal|
|Weight||300 to 500lbs||450 to 1,000lbs|
|Engine||2 Stroke or 4 Stroke||4 Stroke only (better fuel eff.)|
|Storage Capacity||None||5 to 56 Gal|
|Transmission||None||Forward or iBR or RIDE|
|HP||~150hp||90HP to ~325HP|
|Body||Fiberglass||Polytec or Fiberglass|
|Cooling||Open Loop||Open Loop or Closed|
|Reboarding Step||None||Some Models|
Since this guide is geared towards new riders, I need to explain the common terms.
The word “jet ski” will get thrown around most because that is what most people understand. The other names are Personal Watercraft(PWC) and Waverunner.
This can be confusing, so I’ll mostly stick to using jet ski on this website. If you’re wondering, the names are for each manufacturer. JetSki belongs to Kawasaki, Waverunner belongs to Yamaha, and PWC is the more general term for all, but often Sea-Doo uses it more. You’ll also see people using Sea-Doo to describe a jet ski, and that is fine too.
While stand ups are becoming rare these days, they were one of the first ones around.
The creator of the first stand-up was Clayton Jacobson II. He wanted a motorcycle of the water and was trying to mimic that with the stand-up jet ski. He figured standing up would give you more control, like it does on a dirt bike.
He tried at first with Sea-Doo (Bombardier at the time) but it never really took off in the 1960s.
With the failure, Jacobsen went to Kawasaki, and it took off for them. Kawasaki called it Jet Ski, and that sprung what we know today.
With Kawasaki having such success, Sea-Doo jumped back into the market in the very late 1980s with their sit down PWC. Being able to sit down made the rider more stable in the water and built up rider confidence. Over the years, this focus on rider comfort caused the jet skis to get bigger over the years till the Sea-Doo Spark re-SPARKED the industry.
You also had Tiger Shark, Yamaha, Polaris, and many others try their hands at making PWCs. In the end, you were left with only 3, Kawasaki + Sea-Doo + Yamaha.
Interesting Tidbit of Sea-Doo
A little story time… I had a customer come in one day looking at Sea-Doo’s. He said he used to work for them and said if I could tell him the original name that Sea-Doo was going to be called, he would buy then and there.
Sadly, I had no clue.
He told me the original name was going to be “Sea-Dog,” yes dog, but due to a translation error, it was Sea-Doo. I don’t know about you, but Sea-Doo sounds better than Sea-Dog.
After looking this up, I found out that he was thinking of Ski-Doo which is a sister company to Sea-Doo and the Ski-Doo was supposed to be Ski-Dog which makes sense as it was a snowmobile replacing dogs sleighs. The name Ski-Doo carried over to Sea-Doo, and the rest is history.
Who Makes Stand Up PWCs?
Kawasaki & Yamaha
As of now, you only have Kawasaki(SX-R) and Yamaha(SuperJet) making stand-ups.
Of the 50 or so models available from Sea-Doo, Yamaha, and Kawasaki, only 2 are stand-ups. For the stand-up jet ski vs. sit-down jet ski debate, it looks like the sit-down models have won.
Sea-Doo Stopped In 2007
Around 2007, Sea-Doo did have a stand-up jet ski called the 3D.
It was based off the XP hull and had 3 different riding modes. Standing, cart, and knee seat. It was popular when it came out but died off quickly.
It was also big for a standup, but the few times I got to ride the 3D it was a blast.
Who’s Buying Stand Ups?
The biggest market for standups is racers, and that is what Yamaha and Kawasaki build for.
It was also only recently that Kawasaki even came back with a stand-up model and not only that, brought the first 4-stroke stand-up.
Why Are Stand UPs Not Popular?
- The biggest reason you don’t see more people riding stand-ups is that it’s hard. It’s a workout to get going and ride. It’s not meant for relaxed cruising, but to be playful and fast.
- Another reason is that they were small and needed a 2-Stroke engine. 2-Strokes pollute more than 4-Strokes you find in sit downs today. New laws have made it harder and harder for manufacturers to keep up, which is hurting the stand-up market. This is why it was huge news to see Kawasaki come in with a 4-Stroke SX-R stand-up jet ski. It’s what the industry needs if it wants to continue.
- The last reason would be cost. You can get a stand-up watercraft for about the price of a mid-range sit-down model. You could even get a Sea-Doo Spark or Yamaha EX for cheaper and get more features. It’s not fair to compare the two, but to the average customer, the sit-down jet ski is the better deal.
You would think, since the stand-ups are smaller than the sit-down models, they would be cheaper, but they’re not. There is not much demand for them, so they don’t make as many, which keeps cost higher.
Go With Sit Down or Stand Up?
My general recommendation is to go with the sit-down watercraft. The people wanting the stand-ups are already in the sport and won’t need me to tell them to get one.
You’ll find a sit-down better all around, especially for families. You can carry more cargo and pull tubes where a stand-up can’t do either.
You’ll also find it easier to resale your used sit down jet ski than to sell a used stand-up.
Unless you race them or want the thrill of a stand-up jet ski, there is no good reason to get one. The sit-down watercraft have won the battle in the end.
Are Stand-Ups Hard To Ride?
Yes, but only if you have never ridden one before.
Here is a great video showing you how to ride a stand-up.
How Can You Learn More About Sit Down Models?
I have several guides on this site where I compare every model to each other.
I have the 2024 Sea-Doo vs. Yamaha vs. Kawasaki guide here.