Choosing the Best Fuel For Your Jet Ski: An Essential Guide

Every motor you use will be different depending on its use and applications. Because of this, the fuel you use will depend on the motor. You will want to be specific and careful when fueling a jet ski as you want to make sure you are using the correct type for optimal running and ability. This will prevent any damage from occurring to the motor and maximize your water time.

What is the best fuel for a jet ski? This will largely depend on the type of jet ski you use, but many will run on regular unleaded or premium gasoline. It is recommended by many manufacturers to use premium gas, but your manual should note if regular unleaded Octane 89 is a sufficient source of fuel for the engine. This gas should also be ethanol-free. 

Some people even use jet fuel or aviation fuel depending on their engine, but most jet skis can use the same fuel that you put in your car. This makes it very easy to manage and easily refuel should you need to refill on your way to or from the waterway. This guide will give you the best advice in finding fuel to properly and safely fuel your jet ski.

What Fuel Do Jet Skis Use?

Jet skis primarily use regular unleaded gasoline and premium gasoline. This is largely dependent on the specific model and manufacturer of the jet ski. If you are hoping to save money on gasoline, look for a jet ski that will take regular unleaded fuel. The user guide and the dealers who sell the jet ski will be able to give you a clear answer on what your engine will run best on. 

It is important to note that not all marinas offer different octane levels. Many only sell 87 or 89 octane, as it requires different storage tanks for them to offer more than one type of fuel. This can be critical for owners of higher performance or supercharged personal watercraft, as those often require premium 93 octane not only for peak performance, but also for engine longevity. And since most fuel additives and octane boosters haven’t been tested to prove their value, you may end up needing to track down the appropriate fuel for your ski.

If you tow your PWC to and from your favorite riding spots, you can fill up with premium octane gas at any gas station. But if you keep your ski at a dock or marina full time during riding season, you may need to track down portable fuel tanks and fill up that way. Very inconvenient, but it may save you problems later on. Check your owner’s manual carefully.

My son and I have tested 3-4 brands of 5 gallon containers over the years. Many of them leak at the cap when fueling. This is not ideal, especially for the environment. Also remember that 10 gallons of gasoline weighs 60 lbs, so 5 gallon cans are easier to carry. It’s easier to transport one 5 gallon can in each hand. This Garage Boss from Amazon works well if you want to fill up at the station and take extra premium with you to the water.

Regular vs Premium Fuel 

The main difference (US News) between regular and premium gas is the octane level. Premium gasoline has a higher level of octane to prevent combustion from occurring at inopportune times. Higher octane does not necessarily mean better performance, and it really is dependent on the technology that the jet ski uses. 

Engines that require high-octane fuel can still perform with regular gas, but the performance will not be as efficient or at as optimal of a level. You can actually test out different fuels and note the performance to see if there are major changes. To do this, you should try running the engine at the different octane levels for at least two tanks to note any difference. 

The different types of gasoline available include: 

  • 87 Octane: This is your normal unleaded gasoline with the lowest octane level, and it is usually the least expensive. 
  • 89 Octane: Some gas stations will call this ‘midrange’ gas,but it is fairly similar to regular fuel. It has a slightly higher octane level depending on your engine’s needs. 
  • 91 Octane: This is the starting octane level for gases that are considered premium. This is more expensive and should only be used in engines that denote the need for it. 
  • 93 Octane: Also considered ‘ultra’ or ‘super-premium,’ this gas has the highest octane level and should only be used if denoted. 

Keep in mind that these engines will never use diesel fuel, and this should be avoided as it can seriously damage your engine and its performance metrics. You will want to stick to your regular, mid-range, and premium gasoline types for use in your personal watercraft. 

Choosing the Type of Fuel for the Jet Ski 

You should always side with the manual as to which type of fuel you should be putting in your jet ski when you are in doubt. This will help to ensure you are operating the machine as it was designed. This doesn’t mean it won’t work with other types of fuel; it just may not be as efficient. 

Newer model jet skis typically use gasoline with higher octane levels than older ones. You’ll see many more models today that are requiring 91 or 93 Octane rather than the traditional jet skis of earlier generations that operated well on 89. A manual will note if there is a type of fuel that should not be used at all, and you should follow this insight. 

Compression has an impact on the type of fuel you choose to use in your engine. Compression is the process of placing air and fuel into a cylinder chamber within the engine under high pressure to make the engine work. The level of compression is impacted by the octane level within the gasoline. This is dependent on the stroke level of the engine as well. 

Two-stroke engines are associated with higher levels of compression and often require higher octane levels in gasoline to operate at peak performance. Four-strokes, on the other hand,do not always require this level of octane and are able to use regular or unleaded gasoline. As I’ve previously posted, older skis are 2-stroke while almost all modern skis are 4-stroke.

Ethanol-Free Gas

It is recommended that you do not use gasoline that has ethanol in it in a jet ski because this can lead to greater damage to the interworking of the pipes, plastic components, and fuel lines. Many people still use gas with ethanol in it, but many models may state that this is not the best option to use. 

According to West Marine, Ethanol  is an additive that is found in many types of gasoline and is becoming more difficult to find without. Most gas stations will use gas that has ethanol in its mixture, but may also have ethanol-free options in different octane levels at the pumps. Some users may still use gasoline with ethanol in the mixture but you will likely still be able to find or make ethanol-free options. 

If you have the option at the gas station between ethanol and ethanol-free, you should opt for the latter. It will allow you to preserve your machinery for longer periods of time. You shouldn’t notice a significant difference, but it is always best to side with the manufacturer and their suggestions for your specific model. 

Kawasaki Jet Ski 

Personal watercraft is the general term for the colloquial term ‘jet ski.’ There are over 50 different models on the market, and these can take varying levels of fuel, as we discussed. When looking at the Jet Ski model specifically as it is one of the most popular models on the market, most models will operate on unleaded regular gasoline. This is a more cost-effective option. 

Other popular brands include: 

  • • Sea-Doo: Can use a variety of octane levels but operates best using ethanol-free fuel. Users typically use mid-range fuel (Octane 89) for their jet skis, but this fluctuates based on what ethanol-free options are available. The supercharged models require 93, which can be hard to find on the water. Take an extra can with you.
  • • Yamaha WaveRunner: It is recommended that you use regular unleaded gasoline in most Yamaha (Waverunner site) personal watercraft models. Read my post on how to confirm model year here.

These companies will offer many different models that may fluctuate in gas and fuel type needs. You should look specifically at your model for this information. These work best with ethanol-free gasoline. 

Many jet skis will use the regular gasoline, but as mentioned, this will largely be based on the type of engine that is being used and the desired optimal engine metrics. Octane level does not always determine the level of performance of the engine, but using the wrong type of gas compared to the recommendation can have negative consequences on the health of the motor. 

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Best Strategies For Fueling Your Jet Ski

As you now know that there are multiple types of jet ski fuels you can use depending on the model and year of the model, you should also be aware of the best strategies for fueling the jet ski to make the experience easier. Following these guidelines will help to ensure you have a safe jet skiing session, and you are maximizing your fueling. 

Fill at A Gas Station

Because the gasoline you use at a gas station for a car is the same you can put in a jet ski, Intrepid Cottager recommends filling up on your way to the water. I fully agree. Gas prices at the marina or the docks are typically significantly higher because it is more convenient and more difficult to store than an already set up gas station. 

You can make all your fueling stops for the car and jet skis in one place at the gas station, plus this is the most economical way to fill them up over time. There is also the added benefit that the jet ski is on a trailer at a gas station as opposed to moving around in the water at a marina. 

Don’t Rely Solely on the Gauge

You should treat the gauge merely as a suggestion because it is not always the most accurate. When you are nearing close to empty, you should take serious note as being in the middle of a body of water is not the most ideal location to get stranded without gas. Especially when you are new to using the jet ski, take note of the time and distances that it takes to empty the tank. 

These are some helpful benchmarks you can keep in mind related to fueling, efficiency, accuracy: 

  • Time until refuel: If you are jet skiing and stopping every couple of hours for a break, a tank of gas can last you a weekend of riding, according to StevenInSales. This will depend on the model, hours of use, and rigor at which you make the engine work. Steven rides Sparks, which get better fuel economy.
  • Newer models and efficiency: As newer models of jet ski come onto the line, manufacturers are making them much more fuel efficient. This is not only better for the environment, but it saves you time and money. 
  • Average consumption: On average, a watercraft operating at full throttle can consume about 10-14 gallons per hour. This means you can get 1.6 hours of full throttle power on a 16-gallon tank. You will likely not be using full throttle for that full period, so it will last you longer than this. This range is so wide with the most efficient operating at 2 gallons per hour, while others can use up as much gas as 20 gallons per hour! 
  • More gas consumption for new: A new jet ski has a motor that has not been broken in yet, and it is still working on getting used to the fuel and running. For the first couple outings on the jet ski, you may notice that your fuel consumption is much higher than it will be after continued use. You should give it time before you make the determination as to how much fuel your engine can use. 

As this graph from Jetdrift shows, there is a very wide range in the amount of gas that the jet ski can consume based on the brand and different specs between these brands. Our Sea-Doo RX260’s can go through 16 gallons, or one full tank, in an hour of aggressive riding with wide open throttle or full Sport Mode acceleration, cuts and cornering.

Sea-Doo RXT uses premium 93 octane fuel
Loading up the RXT 260 after a day on the river

The type of gas being used does not necessarily have an impact on the amount that is being used by the jet ski. You should look at the individual jet ski consumption metrics, and the type of fuel is used to make a determination on the amount and the price of the fuel you will be using. 

It is not advised to carry extra gas with you unless there is a specific add on for your jet ski that allows for it. Carrying extra gas can be incredibly dangerous and lead to unwanted explosions and reactions. If you are riding with others, consider bringing a fuel hose, which can transfer fuel between jet skis if needed. 

If you use a flyboard with your jet ski, you will be running through quite a bit of fuel. In that case,get an approved fuel caddy or stay near the marinas for frequent stops. I have a few posts on flyboarding. Start with this one if you are interested. It’s a blast, and another one of my ways to make money with your jet ski.

Know Your Tank Limit

While the manual may tell you how many gallons your tank will hold, you should not always trust it. As you grow closer to filling it up to the full tank size, you may be surprised with an overflow or some splashes as it hits the limit. Try to avoid this as the overflow of gas can be dangerous, especially as it is closer to the engine. 

You can peek inside of the gas tank as you fill it up to see how much more you need to go. This can be a safer and easier way to fill the tank rather than hoping for the best and filling to the limit. As you fill up multiple times, you will find that right spot before this overflow occurs. You should also be leaving some extra room (BoatEd.com) in the tank in the event that fuel expands while heated. 

You should especially avoid spills when you are fueling at the marina or near the water. As the water and waves move the jet ski, you can increase your chances of spills near and around the engine. This can easily lead to fires and explosions once you start riding the jet ski, which can result in serious injury. 

Easier Ways to Fill Your Jet Ski

Sometimes filling your jet ski directly with the pump can be difficult for many personal watercraft owners. Because of this, there are some gas cans that can make this process a little easierwith a better nozzle. The only problem is that many of these cans can be too small, but are helpful if you want easy access to some fuel and want to put it in more easily. 

These are two potential solutions if you are looking to fill your jet ski more easily: 

  • Liquid Transfer Pump: This is a battery-operated system that will transport the gas from standard gas can into your watercraft without the hassle of having to maneuver a gas can or deal with a heavy pump. You can simply slide the hose in, and it will transport the gas painlessly. This GoPlus 12V pump is one of the best on Amazon.
  • Liquid hand pump transfer system: These will be much cheaper than an electric pump. They work on the same principle as the 12V units, but run on muscle power. This Fill-Rite rotary style pump on Amazon is one that should last a long time without developing leaks. You want a decent quality pump. In my auto racing days, we tried cheap cans and pumps, and they crack or break quickly, causing leaks. They also work very slowly. I ended up buying 3 when I could have spent a little more on a good pump right up front.
  •  Rolling Tanks: These are designed for larger amounts of gasoline and have an easy rolling feature so that you can move the heavy gas much easier. I’ve never used one, and they are expensive. But it can be easier than carrying 120 pounds of gas in portable cans. Here is 20-gallon rolling tank on Amazon. This is not the most transportable system, but it can be put in a pickup truck if you will need it near the marina without having the pay a premium for convenience. And if there is no 93 octane at your marina, it may be your only choice for riding more than a few hours. 

These are two solutions if you want to have extra gas on hand or struggle to fill the gas tank up directly at the pump. This is a skill you will want to practice, as carrying around these additional canisters can be a bit cumbersome! Also check the site’s PWC Accessories store for links to what we consider the best items from our reviews on this site or from personal use.

Choosing the Best Fuel For Your Jet Ski 

The best way to determine what fuel is best for your jet ski is to look at your user manual! Most jet skis will operate on unleaded regular gas that is ethanol-free, and this will help to ensure you are using fuel that will maximize the performance of your personal watercraft. Overtime, using the wrong fuel can lead to build up or make the parts in the ski work harder than they have to. 

The type and size of the engine that you have in your model will be a large determinant of the type of gasoline you choose to use for your jet ski! If you are buying a jet ski and are concerned about saving money on fuel costs, consider purchasing one that uses regular unleaded fuel. This can save you a couple hundred dollars per year, depending on the frequency of use!

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Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

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