What else can be more thrilling in water than driving an open personal vehicle? This is the power of a Personal WaterCraft (PWC) also known as the Jet Ski that is known to deliver distinct styles of thrills in a marine locale.
Originally launched in the early 1970s, PWCs are tagged with different names although the most commonly used terms come from different brand names, such as Yamaha’s WaveRunner, Polaris’ Sea-Doo, or Kawasaki’s Jet Ski. This is just like Xerox is to copiers.
PWCs are available in a variety of styles and genres. Despite this diversity, these vehicles are typically costly. Before a couple of years, they were a luxury for budget buyers. However, today, you can find a couple of cheap models that never compromise functionality. So, let’s explore them in this post along with a buying guide.
Top 5 Cheapest Jet Skis
Sea Doo Spark
When it comes to looking for the best budget jet ski, the recommendations will always have Sea Doo Spark in the top 3 list. The credit for this goes to its extremely cheap price.
The Spark is a recreation-lite (Rec-Lite) model and features everything that a beginner skier would look for. It is light, small, fast, and fuel-efficient. Its seating capacity is up to two to three people and is available in 60 and 90 HP configurations, which is Rotax 900 ACE and Rotax 900 HO ACE respectively. The 90 HP engine is more powerful to get a thrill without compromising safety.
The Spark has a fuel capacity of 7.9 gallons, which is not as much as what other models offer but is sufficient for an entry-level skier. Even the storage capacity of .42 gallons is normal yet disappointing for some. However, this can be upgraded to 7.8 gallons. Off-throttle assisted steering is easy to maneuver due to which it is ideal for novice riders.
You can tow this jet ski featuring a hull of waterproof polytec with a sedan. Although small and light, the Spark runs at 50 mph with enough acceleration to retain the thrill, has a smart brake and reverse system, spins on its nose, and remains stable and smooth with three riders.
- Highly customizable
- Good gas mileage
- Good speed
- Different colors and graphics options
- Extremely affordable
- Seats not that comfortable
- Plastic wear ring
Yamaha WaveRunner EX
Yamaha, as the esteemed Japanese brand in the world of motors, is admired for its WaveRunner series that offers affordable jet skis that can fit into any budget. This series has models tailored to a specific market segment, with some being for recreational use and others having a high-performance setup. While its sub-series EX has three models, the EX is the cheapest jet ski.
The WaveRunner EX Sport is a recreational-lite model, which is a bit pricier than the Sea-Doo Spark. Featuring the proprietary three-cylinder, four-stroke 100 HP TR-1 engine, the EX jet ski is designed to accommodate up to three persons and run up to 55mph. There is also a tow hook, manual reverse system, support handle at the rear, and a step at the rear for making boarding easy post quick swim.
The fuel capacity is 13.2 gallons, which is much more for casual use although not for a long-range trip. The EX ski is as sleek as the Yamaha’s motorbikes, with a bright two-tone color pattern and dual mirrors for superb visibility.
- More fuel capacity
- Great functionality
- Good speed
- Preboarding step
- No advance reverse system (already in other EX models)
- Not so comfortable seats
Kawasaki, a brand that coined the term ‘Jet Ski’ is now among the producers of budget jet skis with the STX-15F model. It is made for those beginners in the world of jet skis who have never run a motorbike!
This performance ski is a fast model that covers 0-30 in just two seconds and has a great speed of 70 mph. Even the hull is made for acceleration but it performs well in rough water. So, this model is specifically designed for speed lovers.Kawasaki STX-12F, 15F Graphic Kit – EK0004STXG3A
The model has the brand’s winning design with minor changes. It can accommodate up to three riders with much room. Ample space exists to hop back if you get thrown while pulling one stunt. With its 4-stroke, 1498cc engine at 160 HP and with a cooling system, you will have no complaints regarding its functionality.
The jet ski comes with 23.5 gallons of storage, wide-angle dual mirrors, and 16.4-gallon fuel capacity. This beginner-friendly model also features Smart Steering and Smart Learning Operation (SLO) to make learning easy and safe while over speeding.
- Amazing speed
- Good fuel and storage capacity
- Comfortable seat
- Boarding step
- Good safety and learning utilities
- A bit outdated design
- Low seating although responsive but problematic to tall riders
Sea-Doo GTI SE
The GTI SE is the Spark’s bigger brother offering more features without increasing the price tag. Designed for recreational users, this jet ski is driven by the Rotax 900 HO ACE 899cc engine with 90 HP. This makes the GTI SE close to a family ski model although you will not win any competition with it.
It can accommodate three riders and remains stable in even rough water. The handle has sufficient flair to support forceful turns in case they are required. The jet ski comes with the Intelligent Throttle Control (ITC), a term representing a beginner-oriented cruise mode, more aggressive sport mode, and an electronic variable trim to expand the engine’s capacity.
There is also an Eco mode to make longer tours by preserving fuel. The LCD display is truly handy, as it shows information about clock and trim position. Other remarkable features include an anti-theft system and 30 gallons of storage.Sea-Doo Cover for GTI, GTI SE, GTR, and WAKE 170 (2020) 295100815
Above all, the most useful feature is Intelligent Brake and Reverse (iBR) that starts the ski in neutral and is then moved to forward or reverse via alternating use of throttle and lever to the left of handlebars.
- Ideal for long tours
- Different modes
- Great speed
- Several extra features
- A bit heavier than the Spark
- Insufficient acceleration
The Superjet from Yamaha is popular among the freestyle jet ski riders. The extremely lightweight design makes it reliable for jumps and tricks on the water. However, it is only for closed-course competition use, which means you need to go through some easy official formalities prior to using it on water.
It uses a 2-stroke engine due to which some emission standards may not be met depending on where you live. However, it is easy to know why the Superjet is a racing jet ski. It features 2-stroke, 2-cylinder engine with 701cc displacement that can reach up to 50 mph.
The fuel capacity is moderate with only 4.8 gallons but it offers an extra capacity of 1.5 gallons. As the engine is fuel-efficient, the small tank is not an issue. A spring-assisted handle pole, a slip-resistant footpad, and padded handlebars make up for a natural, smooth ride. The hull is made using remodeled VaRTM fiberglass, which makes the model stronger than its predecessors.
- Very light
- Fuel efficient
- Stronger hull
- Cheaper than Kawasaki’s SX-R
- The motor may not meet emission standards
What to Look in the Cheapest Jet Ski
Every cheap jet ski should be reliably functional for beginners. It should also have minimum features so that it becomes a breeze for beginners to learn and explore. Considering this in mind, here are the major factors to consider while buying the cheapest jet ski:
Type: Personal watercrafts are split into four primary groups namely:
- Lite Recreational (Lite-Rec): Latest style having lightweight hulls, small but powerful engines, and minimalistic body for faring well in smooth water, not in rough water
- Recreational: One step up from the above one with boosted performance and more facilities for a more comfortable ride such as 100 HP motor, up to 50mph speed, and braking and reverse mechanisms
- Performance: Industry-leading models with freeway speeds, several remarkable features, and many specifications but come at a higher price point than Recreational and Lite Rec equivalents.
- Luxury: High-dollar PWCs with all luxury features including big swimming deck and stereo system, top performance, and utmost comfort
Riding Spot: Will you be riding in lakes and rivers or oceans? While a jet ski corrodes in both salt and freshwater, salt unbelievably accelerates the process. A few riders recommend skis with closed-loop cooling systems favorable for salty water. See-Doo offers such skis that use the surrounding water that does not enter into the engine but cools it. On the other hand, an open-loop cooling system like the one found in the WaveRunner series allows water to enter into the engine. Irrespective of the water type or cooling system, cleaning the jet ski properly to avoid rust and corrosion issues is necessary.
Size: This has to do with the dimensions and number of riders that a jet ski can accommodate. A few skis can have only one rider, while some can take up to four. A single rider jet ski can be either solo (standing jet ski) or sport craft (with a seat). The latter one is more stable than the former. A two-rider ski comes with dual seats but is a bit slower. A four-rider ski is for family tours and is a new concept. In terms of dimensions, wider and longer skis are more stable than narrower and shorter ones that are tough to control for beginners.
Power: You should seriously consider HorsePower (HP), speed, and acceleration. If you wish to tow anything with a jet ski, you will need some serious horsepower. Similarly, if kids or nervous beginners are going to use your ski, a model with slower speed as well as acceleration is what you need.
Safety: Consider a jet ski with a lanyard that turns OFF the ski automatically in case of an overturn. This feature is less likely to be in a used model. It is also advisable to insure your jet ski. Doing so can defend you and the ski from theft and injuries.
Should I buy a used jet ski?
A used model usually is less expensive than its new one. However, the quality and performance depend on the make, model, and maintenance. For starters, investing in a used one is recommended for learning. If you do so, examine the model for wear and tear and take the test drive.
Do I need a license for running a jet ski?
Yes, you need a personal watercraft license. To get it, you must first have a marine license.
Is the maintenance cost of a jet ski high?
New jet skis will need less money and time in terms of repair. However, the used ones may take more. Overall, the maintenance cost will not be trivial.
The aforementioned models reviewed here are some of the cheapest jet skis for beginners who can rely on the expected performance from them. You can consider them by comparing their features to your needs to know which one best fits your criteria.
It is a fact that jet skis are costly. However, this does not mean that those in the lower price scale are not reliable. What makes the former ones pricier is the horde of features that the offer. Seriously, a beginner or a budget buyer does not need all of them. So, always figure out what is a suitable jet ski for your budget as well as criteria.