To find the best jet ski with the most value, buyers must first determine the qualities and characteristics of the skis that will best meet their needs.  Go beyond a brand name or price tag to help ensure you have made the best purchase for your needs by identifying specific criteria that reflect your needs.

If you are one of these enthusiasts who have the money to spend, live on or near a body of water, and understand the requirements of caring for a jet ski, you might be ready to purchase a one (or 2 or 3.)

By doing a little research and planning, you can find the perfect jet ski to make your own.

Types of Personal Watercraft

From deciding on the style of riding to the amount of seating desired, finding the best jet ski requires potential buyers to dedicate the time to learn about the different kinds of watercraft.

Once the desired type of jet ski is chosen, it will make the process of picking out the perfect one much simpler.

Stand-up or Sit-Down?

Stand-up skis are most commonly used for racing and doing tricks. They are made to seat one person and require a fair amount of skill and practice to ride.

Due to their lighter weight, they provide more options for transporting to and from the water.  

The speed and skill required to operate a stand-up model make them more challenging to learn how to use, but they offer a thrilling ride for those wanting to push the limits.

There are fewer models to choose from, which slims down the selection pool.

Many stand-up jet skis, especially older models, have two-stroke engines, which pollute much more than the four-stroke engines found in a majority of sit-down models.

More regulations on pollution make it harder to find places to ride with a two-stroke engine.

Sit-down jet skis work well for single riders, couples, and families due to their larger size. The larger size also has more room for storage. They can also be used for activities such as fishing or wakeboarding. 

Additionally, sit-down skis are great for beginners because they are easy to learn how to operate and handle on the open water. There are plenty of models to choose from, and many come with extra features such as more storage spaces and onboard coolers.

If someone is looking for the most budget-friendly option, sit-down jet skis have the lowest price tags.  But on average, stand-up and sit-down models have similar base prices. 

As far as service and upkeep costs, the amount one spends depends on a variety of factors- the age of the ski and if has been ridden in salt or freshwater.

Since stand-up jet sksi usually have less features than sit-down ones, they cost less in terms of repairs. Components such as reverse capabilities and detailed displays can require costly repairs if they malfunction.  

Since sit-down jet skis are bigger, they can be harder to store, transport, and launch. It is important to know one’s vehicle’s towing capacity and pick a mode of transportation that supports both the towing vehicle and ski.

Will you be trading in or selling a ski? Get an estimated price below.

Saltwater or Freshwater?

Whether jet skis are used on the ocean or a lake, they still require the same basic maintenance. All skis need to be stored properly to keep safe from the elements, cleaned regularly, and have routine engine flushes to clear any debris.

Although there are no saltwater or freshwater-specific models, the necessary maintenance can differ for each type of use. Jet skis used in the ocean will need to be regularly washed to avoid corrosion. 

One of the most important parts of caring for a jet ski used in saltwater is making sure all the parts that come into contact with the saltwater are rinsed off, including the trailer and engine. Flushing the engine after each use is a part of general upkeep.   

As far as choosing a ski that will work best for each water type, a buyer will want to focus on different characteristics.

Models that work best on the ocean will be able to handle the rough waters and are more durable to last longer. Wider hulls and padded seats can be of benefit.

Also, skis that have closed cooling systems can help make the engine last longer and cause fewer maintenance headaches. Since the water is more gentle on a lake, there is a long list of models that will work well.

Finding a fuel-efficient option can make a big difference in gas expenditures if you decide to fuel up while out on the water.     


Another factor to consider when thinking about your purchase is the type of engine in the ski. There are both two-stroke and four-stroke engine options, with the four-stroke being the most commonly manufactured.  

Two-stroke engines used to be popular with both riders and manufacturers because they are lighter, simpler, and less costly to produce than four-stroke engines.

The major downfall of the two-stroke engine is the pollution the motors produce. Because of this pollution, many recreation areas and even states are banning the use of jet skis with two-stroke engines.

Two-stroke engines have been shown to leak as much as 25% of the total fuel in the tank. However, changes in technology have made it possible to modify the fuel injection systems in two-stroke engines to help reduce fuel emissions. 

Because 4-stroke skis have been sold for many years now, there are plenty of cheap used options on the market. I AM NOT a supporter of two-stroke jet skis due to this and their environmental impact.

Lake Access, an ongoing educational research project with real-time water data, released a statement regarding the impact of all types of boats on Minnesota lakes.

They maintain that “Because PWCs can be operated in shallow water, at high speeds, and in remote areas not usually frequented by boats, disturbance to wildlife may be more of a concern than other types of watercraft.”

Seating Capacity

A potential jet ski buyer must also consider how many people will be riding on the watercraft at one time. Not only can there be seating limitations, but there are also weight limit considerations.

Stand-up models are made for single riders, due to the nature of the riding style and lightweight design.

Since these jet skis are designed for tricks and speed and have no seating options, they work well for solo riders seeking an adventure but are not ideal for families. 

Sit-down models can accommodate one, two, three, or even four riders. The lightest weight jet skis are made for one or two people, as more riders would not fit on the smaller seat, and the weight capacity is relatively low. These can work best for one adult and one child.

2-3 rider models are the most commonly sold jet skis on the market. They are much more stable than the smaller skis and have a higher weight capacity as well.

If you plan on towing waterskis, tubes or riders on boards, it is important to plan to have a free spot on the jet ski for the wakeboarder or tuber. Some states also require one rider to be a spotter, while other states only require mirrors to be able to check on the person being towed.

Weight capacity is also important to take into consideration. While a ski might be rated for three people, one must also take into account the added weight of fuel and necessary safety gear.

Too much weight can cause instability and potentially make riding a more challenging experience.

Group of jet skis in ocean with larger boats in distance

Intended Use

Whatever jet ski model a consumer ends up purchasing should meet the purpose for which it was bought. Determining how it will most commonly be used will go a long way toward simplifying the buying process. There are many skis on the market that work well for beginners and families.

Recreation category jet skis are best suited for those looking for a more stable ride. To keep riders as safe as possible, buyers can choose options such as reverse systems and even brakes.

If more action is desired, high-performance models might be a consideration.

Jet skis can also be used for other recreational activities, such as fishing, wakeboarding, or tubing. It is important to keep in mind the amount of seating needed for each activity. 

Jet skis can also be used for safety purposes. Many lifeguards utilize them for open water rescues. Water law enforcement officers might also use jet skis in their line of work.  

Whether to Purchase New or Used

The decision to purchase a new or pre-owned jet ski depends on the buyer’s personal preference and budget. There are benefits to both types of sales and ways to ensure the buyers get the best possible value from their purchase. 

Overall, there are a few details to consider, regardless of the type of purchase the owner decides to make. Typically, the best time to buy any watercraft is in the off-season.

Private sellers are looking to sell in the winter after taking advantage of a summer on the water, and dealerships are looking to unload excess inventory and previous year models.

It is also wise to determine the value of a jet ski before completing a purchase. The PWC Trader site and JD Power’s site can provide estimated boat values for both new and used watercraft.   

When buying new, any additional upgrades could be a potential added cost. As far as used boats go, the price is dependent on the PWC’s condition, the number of hours logged, and how the watercraft has been used.

Powersports Dealerships

Many different types of recreational and performance vehicles are sold at Powersports dealerships.

People can find motorcycles, off-road vehicles, snowmobiles, and personal watercraft, as well as encounter knowledgeable and experienced staff members.

The benefits of visiting a dealership are numerous. Dealers can help with financing options and manufacturer rebates and warranties.

Many dealerships also carry pre-owned jet skis in addition to new models. It is also likely that the dealership will also carry accessories, making it more convenient to get what is needed all at once.

Boat Shows

Attending a boat show is a great way to see a variety of popular jet ski models from different manufacturers.

Buyers can compare and contrast the most appealing models.  Special show discounts might be offered to incentivize customers to purchase at the show.  

Online Purchase or Private Seller

One convenient but potentially hazardous way to purchase is online or through a private seller. These deals are likely to be cash only. Be sure to check the title carefully. If the owner doesn’t have one, walk away.

Some smaller manufacturers will be able to ship directly to a home. There are also online marketplaces and wholesale dealers who can ship to one’s residence or other location.

Private sellers are an excellent venue for purchasing a used ski. Still, the buyer must be aware of what to look for to ensure he or she is getting the best value for the watercraft’s condition.

It is sometimes possible to even purchase a boat from a private seller that still has a warranty. Buyers must remember to be cautious about inspecting and knowing the value before buying.

We’ve sold 4 jet skis online, and every deal has gone well. Be sure to ask for service records and take a test drive or ride.

Buying a New Jet Ski

Although purchasing a new personal watercraft is the more expensive option, there are many benefits as well.

When buying new, there is no need to worry about wear and tear from previous owners. Buyers can feel comfortable knowing there has been no misuse or improper storage.

The latest models have the newest technology and improvements, which can make for more fun and a safer experience for all riders.

New models also come with a manufacturer’s warranty to help protect against potential issues.  If you are financing the purchase, interest rates on new models will be much lower than used.

Buying a Used Jet Ski

There are many venues for purchasing a pre-owned ski. Finding a used jet ski can be as simple as searching these eBay listings or visiting a dealership. Before actually buying a used PWC, there are several things to request and look for in the watercraft. 

It is important to perform a careful inspection of both the engine and the exterior of the ski to look for any visible signs of misuse or lack of maintenance. If desired, one can also have a trusted mechanic complete an inspection. 

The previous owner should also provide a history of maintenance, any mechanical issues or work completed, and the number of hours logged on the craft. If geographically possible, the buyer can request a test drive too.

Generally, jet ski engines last about 300 hours as a rule of thumb before needing major work. But well maintained units can go much longer. You should always test ride before buying used PWC’s. Some problems, like overheating, can be either minor or serious, and buyers should be cautious. Smoking during operation could also be minor or a sign of a more serious problem.

A benefit of purchasing a pre-owned jet skis includes spending less money on upfront costs. Not only will the ski be less expensive, but many times the watercraft will also come with a trailer or other accessories.

For many first-time buyers and beginning riders, a used model is a wise choice to learn more about riding and general upkeep responsibilities.

It also gives new buyers experience getting used to all the financial components of ownership.

Most Popular Manufacturers and Models

After a potential buyer has determined the qualities desired in a jet ski and the purchase method, he or she will have a better idea of what to look for in the different models available.

The most popular manufacturers are Kawasaki, Sea-Doo, and Yamaha. Each company produces a wide variety of watercraft to meet the needs of all riders.

Knowing more about the top-performing and biggest value models from each manufacturer can help narrow down the plethora of choices available.

Top Kawasaki Models (2024)

Kawasaki produces the Jet Ski, which is the term that personal watercraft are commonly referred to as.

Of their line of Jet Skis, the SXR model is the lone stand-up PWC. It comes with a price tag of $9,999 and a four-stroke engine to comply with emission regulations. 

There is a small storage compartment that features more room than competitors’ similar models.

Additional features such as Bluetooth sound systems and seat upgrades are available as well.  The STX sit-down models are a mid-range choice that work well for multiple riders or families.

This ski is priced under $10,000 and comes with a variety of features. The Smart Steering system helps to monitor steering and turns, as well as engine speed. 

Equipped with a large rear deck and reboarding step, the STX model works well for wakeboarders to pull themselves and the board back on the watercraft. 

Kawasaki also makes a line of sit-down models called Ultra Jet Skis. These are more expensive, topping out over $21,000, but are packed with extras.

High-quality sound systems, cruise control, a large storage capacity, and more comfortable seats make for a great riding experience for up to three people (source).

Top Yamaha Models (2024)

The popular Waverunner from Yamaha is available in the categories of Luxury, Recreation, Rec-Lite, and Performance. Each category contains several models that offer a variety of features in a wide price range.

The EX series of Waverunners are in the Rec-Lite category and prices range from $7,000-9,000 depending on the desired features. These PWCs seat 1-3 people and are the most cost-efficient yet still a durable option for a PWC purchase from Yamaha.

Upgrades include the RIDE technology that provides a simple way to shift from drive to neutral to reverse, dual mirrors, and a reboarding step to make tow sports easier.

Waverunners in the LX series fall into the Recreation category. They start as low as $9,000, with the most expensive model costing about $12,000.

Seating 1-3 people, they also can be upgraded to include options such as reversing power, cruise assist with a low-RPM mode for safety, and a retractable boarding step. 

The FX collection has Luxury class Waverunners. These skis range in price from $14,000-18,000.

All the Waverunners in this category come equipped with a touch screen dashboard with security features and drive control, cruise control, beverage holders, and a mounting system for additional accessories. 

One upgrade to the standard features is an optional two package that includes a tube, tow rope, inflator, and fenders. Another option is the tech package with Bluetooth speakers and a GPS fish-finder.

The Yamaha SVHO is one of the options in the Performance category. This model costs around $19,000 and comes with a supercharged engine. With a racing-inspired seat and custom two-tone deck mats, the SVHO is not only fast but looks good on or off the water as well. 

The only stand-up model manufactured by Yamaha is the Superjet.  It runs around $9,000 and has a two-stroke engine with a fast acceleration that is perfect for the experienced rider to do tricks or tight maneuvers.

Top Sea-Doo Models (2024)

Sea-Doo manufactures PWCs in a multitude of categories, including Rec-Lite, Recreation, Touring, Tow Sports, Performance, and Sport Fishing.

The Spark model in the Rec-Lite category is one of the most popular PWCs on the market. Its low cost of around $9,000 and fun riding style makes it a good choice for those riders looking for a bit of an extra thrill. 

This model includes a brake and reverse system with optional features like portable audio systems and tow sports capabilities. Even with the low price tag, the Sea-Doo Spark is a reliable option for a PWC purchase. 

The recreation PWCs, called the GTI models, start around $12,000 and are suitable options for families and beginners. They have a large front storage area and detachable rear cargo system for carrying coolers and accessories, and additional riding modes of Sport and ECO. Upgrades to the GTI Sea-Doos include a more powerful engine and Bluetooth audio system.

The GTX models make up the Touring class, with base prices of $16,000. For the 2024 models, there are upgraded engines and increased fuel capacity.   With easily accessible front and rear storage, a variable trim system, and speed regular mode, the GTX PWCs offer a comfortable and stable ride for multiple riders. 

Add-ons include a Bluetooth audio system with USB port, storage bin organizer for added convenience, and additional gauges on the dashboard.  

The Tow Sports category has the Wake Sea-Doos that come fully equipped for those looking to wakeboard or tube from the PWC. The base model starts at $15,000 and includes room for three riders. 

The increased engine and storage space allows for more power and room for added fun. The quick-attach system for extra cargo and ski pylons, along with the removable wakeboard rack and ski mode, make this PWC jam-packed full of fun. 

Three models make up the Performance class, with the least expensive starting at around $12,000. These skis are suited for 2-3 riders and have powerful acceleration capabilities and powerful engines.

The top of the line model, the RXPX 325 is able to accelerate from 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds with a 300 horsepower engine. It also features racing components such as seats and footwell wedges. Our 2022 skis with 300 hp have already been topped!

Fish Pro, the unique PWC designed for fishing, has a base price of $17,000 and a capacity for three riders.

Its features include a fishing cooler and bench seat, navigation and fish finder system, attachment points for poles, and an extended rear platform with a boarding ladder for ease in loading and unloading the watercraft (source).

Additional Considerations

Beyond the cost of the jet itself, additional financial components span from necessary expenses like transportation systems to tow package add-ons. Factoring in the potential cost of these items can help provide a more realistic budget plan.

Prolonged exposure to weather and elements can cause unwanted damage to a PWC. Having a garage or storage unit is the ideal situation. Still, it also might be possible to have a nearby recreation area store the ski for a fee. Read my storage article for more suggestions.

For many personal watercraft enthusiasts, it is necessary to plan for traveling to a body of water with one’s watercraft. Many people tow their jet skis on trailers, but there are also other options for transport.

One could use a truck bed or on the hitch hauler (read my advice) connected to the back of a vehicle. Used skis might come with trailers, but new buys will require a hauling option purchase. 

While PWC owners most likely have both home and automobile insurance, these types of plans do not include coverage for watercraft. Purchasing PWC insurance can help protect oneself, other riders, and any damages and expenses incurred from an accident. 

More expensive jet skis require more expensive insurance policies, but taking steps such as completing boat safety courses can help lower annual costs.   

Just like other modes of transportation and recreational vehicles, there is a need for regular maintenance and repairs. At times repairs may be unexpected. Basic maintenance includes thoroughly flushing the engine, oil changes, and fluid checks.

Repairs might be necessary for riding in too shallow of water or as a part of owning an older watercraft.  Don’t run them in less than 3 feet, as I’ve previously posted. Both necessary and optional accessories should and can be purchased to ensure safety, comfort, and enjoyment.

First and foremost, owners might ensure that all riders have the correct sized life jackets. Having a cover for your jet ski to protect against environmental and travel damage can help prolong the cosmetic integrity of a PWC.

Keeping one of our recommended anchors on board will allow riders to take a break or help make fishing a more relaxed experience. 

Some models will come with additional accessories such as navigation and fish finder units, fishing racks for poles, mountable camera options, and speaker systems.

These modifications are also available for aftermarket purchase. Performance kits can be an exciting way to increase the speed and power produced by your ski.

Speeds can be increased in excess of 80 mph for even more of an adrenaline rush. 

Final Thoughts

Once the choice is made to purchase a personal watercraft, many considerations must be taken into account before actually buying. When buying new, you get a warranty and will deal with a professional salesman. Shopping online will require eBay searches and closer inspection.

If you have the means of riding and caring for your jet ski, it will be an enjoyable experience. Owning your own watercraft is a great way to enjoy summers on the water. 

With the plethora of jet ski choices on the market for a wide variety of purposes and riders, completing research and reflecting upon needs and wants can go a long way towards getting the most value from your purchase.