Yamaha Waverunner vs. Sea-Doo For Reliability

The popularity of personal watercraft or PWC, first introduced in the 1960s with the invention of the Sea-Doo Bombardier, has steadily increased.

The three leading manufacturers are Yamaha, Sea-Doo, and Kawasaki. This article will be focusing on the differences and reliability between the Yamaha Waverunner and the Sea-Doo. 

Which is the more reliable, the Yamaha Waverunner VX or the Sea-Doo Spark? Both models have much to offer; however, the Yamaha VX line comes out on top for reliability, style, performance, and features.

Yamaha Waverunner VX. Series

Yamaha manufactures the Waverunner. Within the Waverunner family of personal watercraft, there is the EX or light recreational, the VX. or recreational, the FX. or luxury model, and their Performance Racing series.

The VX line of personal watercraft consists of six different models; VX-C VX, VX DELUXE, VX CRUISER, and the VX LIMITED. There is something for everyone (source).

The VX-C is durable and fun. It has an SMC hull and deck, a tow hook, watertight storage, two-tone deck mats, and dual mirrors.

With a price tag starting at $8,999, it is an excellent option for the beginner.

The VX has RiDE™  by Yamaha with traction control. Like its cousin, the VX-C, both the hull and deck are SMC, has watertight storage, a glove box, and dual mirrors.

The VX has an added reboarding step, tow hook, two-tone mats, and an automatic bilge. 

The VX DELUXE has NanoXcel™, which is an Ultra-lightweight hull and deck. It is equipped with RiDE™ with traction control, has a low-RPM Mode ™ and Security Mode Remote Transmitter with Cruise Assist and a No Wake Mode ™.

The VX Cruiser is a favorite of families. Like the VX Deluxe, it has NanoXcel™. It is equipped with RiDE™ with traction control, has a low-RPM Mode Remote Transmitter with Cruise Assist and No Wake Mode.

The stand out feature of this model is the cruiser seat.

The VX Limited has four Pull-up Cleats and an Accessory Tow Package. The tow package includes a color-matched tube, tube holder, a tow rope, two fenders, ECOXGEAR ™ waterproof wireless Bluetooth, two VX.

Speakers with Mounts, a tow rope bag, a matching cover with glove box access.

Last in the line of the VX models is the VX Cruiser HO. It has NanoXcel™, and is equipped with RiDE™ with traction control, has a low-RPM Mode Remote Transmitter with Cruise Assist and No Wake Mode.

Like the Cruise, it has a cruiser seat.

Specs 

Standard Specs: VX-C, VX, V Deluxe, VX. Cruiser, VX. Limited

All the models are 131.9 inches, 48 inches wide, with a height of 46.9 inches. The storage capacity is 24.6 gallons and is watertight. 

The engine is a 3-cylinder, 4-stroke TR-1 High Output Yamaha Marine Engine, which uses a 155-millimeter high-pressure pump, with a displacement of 1049CCs. All the models use regular unleaded gasoline. 

The oil delivery system is a dry-sump design. According to a dry-sump system stores the oil in a separate tank. The oil does not get stored in the pan (source). The advantage of this oil delivery system is power.

Other advantages include increased capacity, remote coolers, and consistent but adjustable oil pressure.

Since the pan is not storing the oil, it is thinner, improving weight distribution and handling (source).

All models come equipped with an electric bilge pump, which is a water pump designed to remove excess water buildup.

The bilge is the lowest inner part or bottom point of the craft and is where excess water is collected (source).

Bilge pumps can be manual or electric. The advantage of an electric pump is it will automatically turn on and off as the water level rises and falls in the bilge.

There is a chance that gasoline will be present in the water. Therefore the electric bilge pumps are designed to prevent any sparks when turning on. 

Differences

When it comes to these models, color choice is relatively small. The VX-C is white with lime yellow.

The VX is white with azure blue. The VX Deluxe is black with lime green or yacht blue with lime yellow. The VX Cruiser is silver with azure blue or torch red, and the VX Limited is white. 

The dry weight differs between models: VX-C 692 pounds, VX 708 pounds, VX. Deluxe 664 pounds, and the VX Limited at 668 pounds. These weights mean you’ll need a trailer for hauling and launching.

VX Cruiser HO

The VX Cruiser HO is available in Silver with Lime Yellow or Yacht Blue with Azure Blue. It is 131.9 inches long, 48 inches wide, and is 46.9 inches high. The dry weight is 768 pounds. 

It uses a 4-cylinder,-4-stroke, 1.8-liter high output Yamaha Marine Engine, a 155-millimeter high-pressure pump with a 1812CC disbursement. There is a Bore x Stroke of 86 x 78 millimeters and a compression ratio of 11.0:1.

The oil delivery system is a wet-sump. A wet-sump,  designed for piston engines, uses the crankcase as a built-in reservoir for oil, as opposed to an external or secondary tank used in a dry-sump design.

The advantage is the simplicity of design.

Hull and deck design

The shape, material, and design are critical factors in how personal watercraft will perform under certain conditions.

The hull design for personal watercraft is either displacement hulls that push water out of the way or planing Hulls that ride on top of the water.

There are three shapes used for personal watercraft, flat-bottom, round-bottom, or v-shaped.

A flat bottom hull is for calm small bodies of water. Many people that fish like the flat bottom as it is very stable.

However, if the water becomes choppy, the ride will be extremely rough.

Round-bottom hulls are a “displacement-style” hull and will move smoothly through the water and require minimal effort.

The downside to the round bottom is a lack of stability and can quickly capsize. 

V-shaped hulls are considered planing hulls and are the most common design of powerboats and personal watercraft.

The design allows the craft to ride on top of the water at high speeds and give a smoother ride in choppy conditions.

The downside to this shape is that more power is needed as there is a greater surface area.

Yamaha uses Sheet Molding Compound or SMC for the hull and deck VX. series.

SMC is a compound that uses “fiberglass for strength, a filler to add bulk, and resin to bond the material together” (source). Yamaha has three different varieties of SMC.

The standard version, which is on the VX-C uses calcium carbonate as a filler.

The two nano-engineered versions are NanoXcel and NanoXcel™ 2. In these versions, microscopically engineered exfoliated clay is what not only keeps its strength but also reduces the weight. 

The NanoXcel™ l is 25 percent lighter than traditional SMC, and the NanoXcel takes another 18 percent off that figure.

Yamaha’s goal is to improve the horsepower-to-weight ratio making the craft as light as possible, thereby increasing overall performance in the water.

Other features defined

Ride™ allows drivers to switch between forward, neutral, and reverse using one pull of the throttle.

The driver can decelerate, reverse, and dock more easily. Yamana is the first to introduce this innovative dual throttle handlebar that eliminates manual shifting and provides the driver with ease of operation. 

Cruise Assist/No Wake assists the driver in finding the perfect towing speed helping them to navigate in no-wake zones.

Security/Low-RPM Mode by Remote Transmitter is a radio transmitter activated with one button.

The Low RPM mode maximizes fuel efficiency, and the Security Mode locks the ignition to prevent unauthorized starts.

The multi-function information center keeps the driver informed of the tachometer (RPM’s), speed, time, volt, and fuel level.

There is also an indicator of when to shift. The center will also warn of overheating, oil pressure, fuel level, and security and L-MODE (or low rpm mode).

Advantages to Yamaha Waverunner VX Series

The accessories including those exclusive to Yamaha, such as the Multi-Mount System, the Audio System. Exclusive to the VX Series are the Bluetooth EcoXGear Speakers, a Cooler, and additional Stern Storage.

There are cupholders in the glove box.

The jet propulsion TR-1 engine allows for rapid acceleration and achieves a top speed of 60 miles per hour.

Jet propulsion improves maneuverability for sharp turns, and the thrust is in a straight line with a low bow rise. It also has better fuel efficiency, and the braking system allows for quick stops without dipping the bow.

The impeller system is far superior to using a propeller, and the Open Loop Cooling is highly effective and maintenance-free. Though this can also be a con.

The best is the fun spray that shoots up the back – that is a trademark of the Yamaha Waverunner.

Disadvantages

There are very few disadvantages to owning a Yamaha Waverunner VX Series.

As mentioned above, the open-loop cooling can be a con due to it using sea and lake water to cool the engine. 

The fixed handle, but this may only be a problem for taller or shorter riders to steer. (source).

The lack of color choices may steer you away from the Waverunner, although you can always choose to paint it aftermarket or vinyl wrap it later.

How do the six models differ – a summary

The Waverunner VX models vary in accessories. For instance, pull-up Cleats and the Limited Accessory Package are only available on the VX Limited. 

The VX-C is a base model, and many features of other models are not available. For example, the NanoXcel™ Hull and Deck, Security/Low RPM Mode Remote Transmitter, Cruise Assist/No Wake Mode, reboarding step.

The VX-C is a model sold to businesses to use as rentals and is not available to the general public. 

Sea-Doo Spark

Sea-Doo introduced their watercraft as the Bombardier Sea-Doo in 1968. The original Sea-Doo was yellow, five feet wide, and 7.5 feet long.

It looked very similar to a flying saucer and was marketed as a “Jet-powered Aqua Scooter”. Its top speed was 25 miles per hour. 

There were numerous complaints the first year, so the company re-engineered the engine.

However, it was discontinued two years after its introduction due to constant overheating, inefficiency, and lack of comfort.

In 1988 the Bombardier company re-introduced the Sea-Doo as a brand and, in 2014, began manufacturing the Spark. The Spark is Sea-Doo’s lite recreational craft.

The Sea-Doo Spark comes in two lines, the Spark and the Spark Trixx, and is the smallest personal watercraft on the market.

Due in part to its small size and lightweight and most sedans can tow it. It can also be carried on a hitch hauler, which often have 600 lb weight limits. The color, capacity, and performance give the Sea-Doo 25 different versions to offer.

The primary colors available for the Spark are licorice and Mango, Vanilla and Blueberry, and Blue Raspberry and Pear, and a wide variety of graphics to choose from.

The Spark engine is a Rotax 900 Ace™ or a Rotax 900 HO Ace™ with a horsepower of 60 or 90.

Rotax is the manufacturer of this engine, which is owned and manufactured by Bombardier Recreational Products located in Canada.

The Spark has a fuel capacity of 7.9 gallons and uses regular unleaded gasoline.

The intake system is naturally aspirated. According to Jetdrift.com, a naturally aspirated (NA) engine is one that relies on suction to pull air into the cylinders and operates below the atmospheric pressure. NA motors are more reliable and require less maintenance than supercharged and turbocharged skis.

The cooling system is a Closed-Loop system that uses coolant to keep the engine at the ideal temperature. 

The Spark is 110 inches long and 46 inches wide with a dry weight of 405 pounds. It has storage in the glove box of .43 gallons and in the front bin of 7 gallons. 

The seating capacity of the Spark is either 2up or 3up, which simply means the number of riders. 

There are seven different combinations for length, width, and weight between the Spark and the Spark Trixx.

Additional Features

As well as the features mentioned above, there are eight other main features of the Spark, beginning with Exoskel. This design keeps only the essential structural parts in the front section reducing weight.

It is made of a recyclable material called Polytec. This is a low density but high composite material that uses polypropylene (a type of plastic) and long glass fibers for reinforcement.

It was designed to maintain the structural integrity of the hull and deck while under stress but is light and durable.

Intelligent Throttle Control or ITC does not use cables and works electronically through wires transferring information between the engine and the throttle.

It is highly responsive, generating better engine calibration and fuel consumption.

The Touring/Sport Mode uses the Intelligent Throttle Control and allows the rider to use different riding modes, such as the Sport mode.

Sport mode is only available with the Rotax 900 HO ACE engine. 

The D-SEA-BE™ System is a combination of resonators and vibration-absorbing components that make the Sea-Doo one of the quietest products on the market.

The multifunctional Digital Information Center keeps the driver informed of the touring mode, fuel level, and hour meter. The tachometer and speedometer are also located here.

Off-throttle Assisted Steering or OTAS™   provides an additional steering effect for greater maneuverability when off-throttle.

A Stainless Steel Impeller is used rather than a propeller giving the craft improved acceleration and higher top speed.

An impeller is like a propeller that is fitted inside a pipe. It then sucks water in at one end and blows it out the other side (source).

The handle grips now have a new padded palm rest. There is a wet grip footboard for added safety, re-boarding handles on the rear platform, and rear grab handles.

Sponsons, which project from the sides of the Spark, provide protection, stability, and give a place to hang life jackets or other equipment.

As they sit at or below the waterline, they increase flotation and add lift when out on the water.

There is a single drain plug, knee pads, and an external cooling flush attachment (flush fitting). Also provided is a floating emergency lanyard along with an Operator’s guide, which includes an instructional video.

Also available on the 3up (seats 3) only is added Stability with Platform Extension. There is an extended seat for two adults and one child with Tow Sports Capability.

Optional

The iBR ™ Intelligent Brake and Reverse System is optional on the Spark 2up and 3up 90 horsepower engine. Other optional equipment includes a sound system, comfort seat, mirrors, wind deflectors for handlebars, colored handlebars, docking accessories, electrical additions, extra storages, and dry bags, coolers, extra fuel cans, performance upgrades, and utilities.

A few of the options can be found on Sea-Doo’s Amazon store. Many of the newest items are only available from Sea-Doo.com or your local dealer.

Sea-Doo Spark Trixx

The Sea-Doo Spark has everything the Spark has with a few more options. The Trixx has the more powerful Rotax 900 HO ACE engine, which gives the Trixx extra power, but less fuel efficiency.

The reverse system is Electronic iBR™  This innovative braking and reverse system allows the driver to stop up to 160 inches sooner than watercraft without a brake.

This system is recognized by the US Coast Guard for the improvement of boat safety since 2009. 

The footwells are angled step wedges at the very back allowing the driver to be in varying positions for trick riding.

There is also a built-in extended VTS system that trims the angle of the jet ski so the bow can be raised or lowered while in forward motion. VTS changes how the jet ski handles.

Also available is an extended range VTS allowing the rider to exaggerate how high or low the bow goes in the water. The extended range makes trick riding even easier.

There is an adjustable aluminum rise. The riser allows the handlebar more freedom of movement and has more positions.

This system allows the rider more freedom and ease of movement, especially if performing tricks.

Advantages 

The Polytec hull is lighter than the competition but maintains its structural integrity. The top deck is modular, so you could replace panels that get damaged easily than the competition. 

The color options and graphic packages are numerous, making it almost impossible not to find what you like.

The available iBR™  Intelligent Brake and Reverse System allows the driver to brake, move forward, sit in neutral, and reverse. There will also be a Digital Key that will only start your watercraft. 

A Learning Key is available, which limits power for the new or young driver.  

Rather than having three small storage compartments, the Spark offers one large storage compartment. Lifejackets and other large items now have a place. 

Disadvantages

Like the Yamaha Waverunner VX, there are not many disadvantages to owning a Sea-Doo Spark or Spark Trixx; however, there are a few.

The Spark is not as fast as other models, so it is not suitable for those that enjoy speed.

It is also not a touring craft, and although great on gas, it is not the most comfortable on the market and has a smaller gas tank. 

There is a limited number of passengers making it inconvenient to bring friends or family along.

Also, if you like to extend your watersports fun, the Spark is not ideal for towing a wakeboard or tubes. The mirrors are also not standard on any model.

Final Thoughts

Both the Yamaha Waverunner VX and the Sea-Doo Spark models are sporty and will provide hours of fun.

If you love trick riding then the Spark Trixx is the one you want to buy. If you are in the market for family and friends fun, the Yamaha Waverunner can not be beaten.

Purchasing a Personal Watercraft can be very confusing. Yamaha, unlike the Sea-Doo Spark and Spark Trixx, has taken the hassle out of choosing features and accessories by offering different models.

The Sea-Doo Spark has an ala-cart approach making the buying experience confusing. 

The VX is passenger friendly with comfortable seating for up to three people with plenty of storage.

The VX Limited comes with a tow package for instant fun, no additional items needed.

Although color choices are not vast other features more than makeup for the lack of choice. 

So which is the most reliable, the Sea-Doo Spark or the Yamaha Waverunner VX?  Both have safety built-in such as the iBR™ on the Sea-Doo and Yamaha’s Ride™ with traction control.

Yamaha has the least amount of consumer complaints and problems reported.

After doing in-depth research on both watercraft, Yamaha’s Waverunner VX is the best for all it offers.

All the Waverunner VX models provide safety, reliability, comfort, and affordability. But either line of skis will provide hours of reliable fun, and Sea-Doo is still a very close second in this manufacturer battle.

Articles contain affiliate links to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. The site is also an affiliate for other brands covered in our the content. We may earn a small commission when readers purchase through these links at no extra cost to the buyer.

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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