If you’re relatively new to the boating world, the first question you might ask is – What is a jet boat, and what is it used for? While these kinds of boats are designed to look like actual jets given their streamlined appearance, the reality is that’s not where they get their name from. It is more about the system used to propel the boat forward.
Jet boats are water vessels that integrate an inboard engine with a jet pump that ejects a “jet” of water from the back. This propulsion system is quite simple compared to inboard-only, outboard, and sterndrive engines. It offers several advantages that you just don’t get with other systems.
For starters, jet boats have excellent maneuverability, are highly efficient, and extremely low-maintenance. There’s also the fact that they have a shallow draught and low-drag due to the reduced underwater appendages. This minimizes the overall hull resistance, which is partly why jet boats are super-fast on the water.
We’ve reviewed the top 5 options for the best jet boats and compiled a comprehensive buyer’s guide on choosing the best one.
The Yamaha 275SD sport boat is one of the most versatile jet boats we’ve come across. This 27-foot long boat has exceptionally wide beams that offer lots of space and is packed with lots of innovative features that you wouldn’t expect in this class of day boats.
It’s important to mention that it may not be suited for everyday trailering because of how wide it is. But, if you’re already living the waterfront lifestyle, then this boat was made with you in mind.
The 275SD is powered by two 1.8 liter Yamaha SVHO supercharged engines that integrate Yamaha jet drives. One unique feature of this particular watercraft is that it has a completely flat sole with no step-over whatsoever from the cockpit to the aft.
This is because it has a wide-enough beam that allows each of the low-profile Yamaha engines to be positioned at opposite ends in separate hatches. This paves the way for a walkway in between and ample social space, which is excellent for entertaining.
Aside from the spacious galley, the boat comes with the proprietary Yamaha Drive low-speed control system. This feature is exclusive to this specific model and is activated by the touch of a button located on the Connext touchscreen display. It is controlled by a pair of paddles behind the steering wheel and looks a lot like the ones you find in some supercars.
When you engage Drive mode, the paddle on the left side of the steering wheel propels the twin engines in reverse, whereas the one on the right propels them forward. This comes in handy when docking.
The Connext touchscreen also displays all the controls for the built-in Wet Sounds audio system, which comprises six speakers plus a subwoofer. It also displays the mapping function controls, as well as all the boat data and instrumentation.
The watercraft also has dinette tables mounted on aluminum pedestals that can either face forward on the swim platform or leaned back against the platform wall. Other features of the 275SD you might like include the integrated drink holders, hinged seat cushions, bow filler inserts that allow for multiple seating configurations, the ski locker, retractable windscreen, and enclosed head compartment.
It also comes with courtesy deck lighting, docking lights, upholstered cushioned seats and backrests, wet storage in the stern, freshwater shower, swim-up seating, and several other features. The 275SD is the perfect day cruising jet boat.
● Easy to maintain
● Minimal draft
● Great maneuverability
If you’re on the hunt for a premium performance-driven jet boat that combines state-of-the-art construction with next-generation innovation, the Vortex 2430 VRX delivers all that and more. It is designed to create the ultimate boating experience and is powered by a twin Rotax jet power plant to give you fast acceleration and a smooth ride on the water.
The hull design allows for agile handling, something you don’t often find with other jet boats. We particularly like the wide and spacious bow. It has exquisite tri-tone upholstery alongside wraparound bolsters that complement each other quite nicely. You can remove the forward cushion to reveal a non-skid surface underneath, making it easy to re-board when coming back from the water.
The bow seating has flip-up armrests and is surrounded by large and functional oversized grab rails for added comfort. It also has several stainless steel drink holders. There’s a telescopic boarding ladder, as well as an anchor located underneath a custom fiberglass hatch. There’s also a navigation light which cleverly recesses into the deck to offset a potential trip hazard. The boat also features dual captain’s chairs.
The 2430 VRX engines are available in either twin 200hp or twin 250hp. The latter currently stands as the highest rating in the class. The boat comes with a standard Intelligent Neutral and Reverse (INR) system, which is a total game-changer. Here’s why.
Jet boats, even when in Neutral, always have a stream of water gushing out of the rear outlet. This might cause them to creep forward. So, they never sit still. The INR system allows you to electronically adjust the neutral position or compensate with a steady stream of water in the opposite direction to keep the boat in place. Now, that’s a feature you won’t find in any other jet boat in the market.
● Excellent maneuverability
● The boat sits still in the neutral position
● May require additional soundproofing if you’re bothered by the engine noise
The Yamaha SX190 is the ultimate jet boat for beginners. Retailing at around $30,000, this particular vessel delivers excellent value for money. Yamaha’s trademark sport boat maneuverability is powered by a single 1.8L high-output drive, unlike larger boats with dual engines.
The power these engines deliver is sufficient for wakeboarding, something you don’t often see with smaller boats. The folks over at Yamaha knew what they were doing.
The bow seating on this boat features two loungers and a forward pad underneath, which is an anchor locker with built-in brackets. These are designed to hold a Danforth anchor in place.
Given the fact that this is a much smaller boat, the space between the bow cushions isn’t enough for passengers to sit facing each other without knocking knees. So, they would have to sit in the lounging position. Underneath these cushions is ample storage space where you can stow all your gear and anything else you bring along for your boating adventure.
The SX190 has a walkthrough windshield and port console with a storage compartment underneath that continues right to the bow. So, you can store plenty of skis in there and any other gear you have with you. You can also access this compartment from the bow seating area.
The helm is very minimalist. It has a digital Connext multi-functional gauge with a touchscreen that allows you to toggle between a host of different parameters like distance to empty, time to empty, GPH, etc. Above it is a small brow to add some shade. However, the gauge is still readable even in bright sunlight.
The stern has an integrated swim platform, a marine-grade mat, a stainless steel telescopic re-boarding ladder, and exquisitely upholstered cushioned backrests. All in all, if you’re looking for an entry-level jet boat that packs a punch when it comes to all the on-water features it has, it doesn’t get any better than the SX190.
● Offers great value for money
● Easily trailerable and can be stored in a standard garage
● Supports a host of water sports like water skiing.
● Doesn’t have the best fuel economy given that the motor runs at a higher RPH
If you thought that jet boats were only good for day cruising, the good news is – you can use them for fishing as well. Several models in the market come with a fishing package option. Granted, it shouldn’t be your primary reason for getting a jet boat. We’re simply saying that if you do decide to get one, you can use it for angling as well.
The Yamaha 210 FSH model is a jet boat that adopts a center console design that makes it ideal for fishing. It is powered by twin TR-1 high-output Yamaha marine engines with jet drives. Each engine displaces 1,049 cc with 115hp worth of horsepower, which is a lot of juice for a 21 ft. boat.
Since the two engines are inboard, it leaves a lot of usable room on the top side of the hull for rear-facing stern seats and even allows you to tow water skiers or tubers without having to get a bridle or tow pylon to clear the outboard.
The fact that it also doesn’t have any props or drives dangling on the underside of the boat and has a draft that’s a measly 17 in. makes it ideal for skimming shallow waters, something you cannot do with other kinds of boats. But, the 210 FSH’s most appealing attributes are all the fishing features that come with it.
For starters, unlike most jet boats that have a side console configuration, this particular model has a center console. This gives you more room to roam around the deck, particularly if you have to wrestle a big catch.
The 210 FSH also features vertical rod racks, a dedicated 5-gallon bucket-stowage, a 26-gallon livewell, integrated fish boxes, and a cooler. All in all, it’s the best fishing jet boat in the market right now.
● Can be used for water sports
● Has lots of features that enhance its fishability
● Has plenty of storage and entertaining space
The Scarab 285 ID represents the next frontier in family jet boats. It is by far the most luxurious and innovative recreational jet boat in the industry today. It is powered by twin Rotax 300 jet drive engines, with up to 600hp. It features expansive bow seating, a wide port seat, an enclosed head which doubles up as a changing room, and a sun-lounge with adjustable backrests.
Standard features include several stainless steel drink holders, anchor storage under the bow seat, an in-floor ski-locker, in-floor bow storage, convertible side table, and a walkthrough stern.
The attention to detail on the 285 ID is impeccable. You’ll particularly like the superior custom-contoured vinyl upholstery with elevated edging for maximum comfort. It also has notched seat cushions to give you even more legroom. This is the ultimate family jet boat for those weekends you just want to spend quality time with loved ones.
● Has ample storage
● Comes with a head/changing room
● Ideal for water sports like skiing
● Can get pretty loud
How to Choose the Best Jet Boats – Buyer’s Guide
Jet boats offer several benefits over their sterndrive counterparts. However, there are a few things you need to keep in mind when choosing the best one to buy.
The first thing you need to consider is how good the performance of the boat in question is. If speed is important to you, consider getting a boat with a twin-engine and high horsepower rating. You also need to think about how the engine set up is. It’s always a good idea to get a boat with inboard engines to create more room above deck. The setup also influences how quickly the boat’s acceleration will be.
The overall length of the draft will determine the depth of the water you can cruise in. It’s certainly a plus that jet boats usually don’t have anything dangling beneath the hull. So, this makes them ideal for skimming shallow waters. However, the draft’s actual height will determine how shallow the water you can cruise through can be.
Buying a jet boat that’s water-sports-ready is an important factor to consider since they are, after all, recreational vessels. Look out for those that support popular activities like wakeboarding and water-skiing. Ensure that the model you settle for also has ample storage for all your sporting gear like skis and tubes.
Depending on the number of people you intend to have on board at any given time, ensure that you choose a boat capable of comfortably accommodating all your guests. It should have ample seating both in the bow and stern.
It’s no secret that jet boats tend to generate more noise than stern drives since they are designed to operate at much higher RPMs. If the noise they generate bothers you, you might want to look into models with adequate soundproofing.
Built for Speed and Handling
The bottom line: If speed and maneuverability matter a great deal to you, the best jet boats deliver all that and more. The fact that they don’t have any props or drives dangling beneath means that your watercraft is less likely to hit any stumps or rocks as it cruises through the water.
We recommend that you check out any of the top 5 options we’ve reviewed in this guide. They’ll prove to be worth it.
In the meantime, are you in the market for a sport fishing boat? Check our review for the top options for 2020.