Jet Ski vs WaveRunner vs Sea-Doo: Which is Best?

Chris Riley by Chris Riley Updated on November 16, 2022. In Personal Watercraft

Boat Safe is a community supported site. We may earn commission from links on this page, but we have confidence in all recommended products.

Did you know that those highly agile watercraft that look like sleek motorcycles aren’t actually called “Jet Skis”? Almost everyone refers to all of them as different types of Jet Skis, but the fact is that “Jet Ski” is actually just one brand of what is collectively called “Personal Water Crafts” or PWC.

Granted, we have been calling them all “Jet Skis” for so long that there is a very slim chance that it will change now. Regardless, it’s best to familiarize yourself with where the name comes from and what other types of Personal Water Crafts are available in the market today.

That’s why we have put together this piece to highlight the differences between Jet Ski vs WaveRunner vs Sea-Doo.

An Introduction to PWC

What kind of PWC do you want? One on which you would have to stand up or one that allows you to sit down? How about speed? Are you looking for something fast or something with plenty of storage capacity but not quite as speedy?

If you are a history buff interested in PWCs, you would know that historically, the first PWC prototype was invented and designed by Clayton Jacobson II. His invention was a stand-up model.

Jacobson II partnered with Bombardier Recreational Products, where they entered a licensing agreement. The Canadian company then went on to a sit-down PWC to their repertoire, although it didn’t garner much success in the market.

Shortly after, Kawasaki, the designer, manufacturer, and distributor of power sport vehicles company, came up with, registered, and trademarked a new stand-up PWC model: Jet Ski.

Kawasaki was so much more successful at marketing their Jet Ski, and that’s why that particular brand name has become synonymous with personal watercraft till today.

Jet Ski vs WaveRunner vs Sea-Doo – Which Is Better?

Since this argument isn’t going away any time soon, let’s take a look at some of the merits that all these three PWC brands and models bring to the table:

Kawasaki Jet Ski

Kawasaki Jet Ski

There is a reason why Kawasaki’s Jet Ski has become the generic name for every type of PWC in the world today: they are excellent! This is a high-end PWC that simulates the kind of experience one would get when riding a fast motorcycle but over water.

For the longest time, Jet Ski was the only model available in the market. Perhaps that’s one of the other main reasons why the name became synonymous with every other personal watercraft. Kawasaki was so dominant in this market until Yamaha came up with their WaveRunner, a sit-down PWC and fierce rival of the Jet Ski.

Whether you go for a sit-down model like the WaveRunner or a stand-up icon like the Jet Ski is all up to your personal taste. However, if you are looking for a wild adventure on the high seas, very few things can fill your veins with adrenaline as much as a ride on a high speed, stand-up Jet Ski.

Key Characteristics of the Kawasaki Jet Ski

There are a few good reasons why the Kawasaki Jet Ski is so popular around the world. Here are some of its key characteristics:

  • It’s fast: This is an important aspect to consider when looking at a PWC; otherwise, you might as well be sitting on a stand-up paddleboard. While there are many different Jet Ski models, these crafts tend to achieve a top speed of about 62 mph on the water.
  • Excellent performance: It’s all in the design. The Jet Ski can glide over waves and turn effortlessly while on the water, making it a high-performance PWC by any measure.
  • Affordability: Personal watercrafts aren’t cheap. However, Kawasaki tries to bring you products that are as relatively affordable as possible. Their Jet Ski model range prices begin at around $9,000 to $18,000.

If you look at the Jet Ski with a critical eye, you will find that it’s a comfortable, powerful, and fast PWC that has been manufactured with excellent quality. However, it has some disadvantages as it comes in a limited range, Kawasaki doesn’t offer a rec-lite or a recreational PWC, and they tend to be a bit more expensive than other brands on the market.

Also Read: Best Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board

Yamaha WaveRunner

Yamaha WaveRunner


After years of Kawasaki’s dominance in the PWC market, Yamaha decided to join, and they brought with them a real change in proceedings. This was somewhere in the mid-1980s.

Instead of doing what Kawasaki was already doing (building a stand-up PWC) and trying to beat them out in pricing, Yamaha decided to go in a whole different direction by designing and manufacturing a sit-down PWC model called the WaveRunner.

This was the first PWC by the brand to carry designed to carry either one or two people. The market’s reception was so good that Yamaha also achieved what Kawasaki had achieved years before: The WaveRunner name became synonymous with sit-down PWCs.

One of Yamaha’s biggest advantages is that it was already a well-established manufacturer of excellent motorcycles, and they just brought that prowess over to the PWC industry.

Their WaveRunner gave the market cutting edge performance and luxury and paved the way for other models such as the SuperJet and WaveBlaster, both also produced by Yamaha.

In fact, the SuperJet, a stand-up PWC, is a direct competitor of Kawasaki’s Jet Ski and is regarded by many stand-up PWC enthusiasts as one of the best models in the market. Every single of Yamaha’s models is hand-built in Japan.

These two brands are fierce rivals, and choosing between them is something of a headache since they both produce such excellent PWCs. The biggest difference between them is that Yamaha has gone ahead and added a whole list of PWC models to their repertoire, giving the brand a much wider range of products on the market.

This means that Yamaha stands a better chance of satisfying more market needs than just speed and performance. Additionally, the fact that the WaveRunner can accommodate two people makes it very popular with couples and families as opposed to the Jet Ski.

Key Characteristics of Yamaha WaveRunner

As you can probably tell, the Yamaha WaveRunner is quite popular and brings a lot to the table. Here are some of the key characteristics that make this model stand out from all other PWCs:

  • Multi-purpose: This is the perfect all-around utility PWC for you and the family. Some models can take on one person and others to accommodate two people, perfect for a fun day out with the family on the high seas.
  • Affordability: While beating out the competition through pricing might not have been Yamaha’s primary objective (it very well might have been), they did a good job of introducing a uniquely different PWC at much lower prices than Kawasaki. The WaveRunner starts at around $6,000 and tops off at $17,000. The best part is that they have recreational and rec-lite models.

The advantages here are quite obvious – Yamaha offers a PWC that is fast and comfortable, affordable, and can accommodate more than one person. That being said, it does come with a few disadvantages in that it’s not the cheapest in the market. That honor goes to the Bombardier Sea-Doo.

Bombardier Sea-Doo

Bombardier Sea-Doo

Bombardier Recreational Products has had a tumultuous relationship with the global markets. Turmoil, which saw it withdraw from the market entirely only to come back 20 years later, much stronger and with an excellent PWC product in tow.

The Bombardier Sea-Doo quickly reestablished Bombardier as a top-notch competitor in a market to which it wasn’t very unfamiliar.

Brought into production in 1989 through 2003, the Sea-Doo XP was one of the best PWC models in the market. It even went as far as to garner the title “Watercraft of the Century.”

That is because it took the two best features of the PWCs produced by its competitors and combined them into one model: excellently high performance rivalling the Jet Ski fashioned into a comfortable sit-down PWC rivalling Yamaha’s WaveRunner.

Bombardier went even further by launching “Spark” in 2014. The idea here was to give the market the perfectly affordable (read: cheap) PWC that was much lighter and all but guaranteed extreme fun for everyone interested in speeding across ocean waves.

The Bombardier Sea-Doo comes in a wide variety of models, making it perfect for a market with different tastes and needs.

Key Characteristics of the Bombardier Sea-Doo

Just like its competitors in the market, the Bombardier Sea-Doo brings a whole lot to the table. Here are some of the key characteristics of this iconic PWC that makes it stand out:

  • Affordability: The Bombardier Sea-Doo is the most affordable of all three PWC models on this list. The different models are priced accordingly, but you can find one starting from $5,000 all the way up to $18,000.
  • Value for money: This is a personal watercraft designed to help you enjoy the water as much as you can. Unlike the Kawasaki Jet Ski, which forces you to stand albeit giving you excellent performance, or the Yamaha WaveRunner, which allows you to sit but doesn’t perform quite as well, the Bombardier Sea-Doo brings you the best of both worlds. Now you can sit and still enjoy the powerful performance and delightful speed that comes with the best PWC brands.

One of the biggest advantages of this model is that it is much cheaper than the other two options. This makes it a good entry-level PWC for beginners who are just now getting their sea legs. Furthermore, the company has produced a wide range of models for every taste and need catering to both beginners and experienced users alike.

However, one of the biggest disadvantages is that these PWCs aren’t quite as luxurious or as comfortable as the higher priced models from its competitors.

Also Read: Best Underwater Scooters

Final Verdict

So which one is better? The Jet Ski, the WaveRunner, or the Sea-Doo? Of course, this all depends on your personal preference and subjective needs, but if you are a beginner, then you might want to go for the Sea-Doo.

However, if you are looking for something comfortable and luxurious, and the price isn’t an issue, you might want to consider the Yamaha WaveRunner. Finally, if you want speed and excellent performance, then anything from the Kawasaki Jet Ski line would be perfect for you.

It should be noted that each of these brands has a wide range of PWC models that can accommodate pretty much every need. You just need to find out which one works best for you. That being said, they are three of the best PWC manufacturers in the world; therefore, going with either one of them is always a good bet.

About Chris

Outdoors, I’m in my element, especially in the water. I know the importance of being geared up for anything. I do the deep digital dive, researching gear, boats and knowhow and love keeping my readership at the helm of their passions.



  • Debbie on July 18, 2021

    I have a 2005 Kawasaki 900 and I have owned it for over 10 years although it has regular wear and tear it still runs like it’s brand new I love this jet ski


  • William on July 23, 2021

    I have a 2016 Yamah fx svho. I bought it used in 2019.It ran like it just like it came out of the show room. I have done alot of modifications to it. It now runs 85mph across the water. Last year I added a Flyboard to it and it performs perfectly! I have also added audio and nav lights to it.. I put a video on youtube. Love my Yamaha


  • Faster ThanStock on July 28, 2021

    I bought a used 2017 Yamaha FX SVHO and realized quickly that I wanted it to go faster. After lifting the ridiculous 67 mph speed limiter implemented by Yamaha and the US Coast Guard, my ski is now the fastest on the lake!


  • FF on August 27, 2021

    You make it sound like Sea•Doo doesn’t offer the more expensive, high end luxury sit-down PWC. Just because they make the Spark, the most affordable one, doesn’t mean they don’t offer the high end ride. In fact, their 300hp model is the highest of high end, with a price tag to match. One of the biggest differences between Yamaha and Sea•Doo is the intercooling system on the Sea•Doo. It cools much the same as your car, as opposed to using lake or ocean water. These 4-stroke PWC’s run pretty hot, and depending on where you live, there can be some advantages to this cooling system. At the end of the day, Sea•Doo and Yamaha dominate the PWC market, and they both make good products. There will always be a debate, just as there is with Ford-Chevy.


    • Brokenpinata on August 16, 2022

      This. I have a spark 3up, and I also have a Wake 170. The author is either uninformed or just biased.

      The spark is like the dirt bike equivalent of a PWC. It’s light, bearebones, it’s quick, it’s fun but highly unrefined and uncomfortable for long stretches. But it’s a budget model and does exactly what it’s supposed to.

      The Wake, on the other hand, is like a cruiser. It’s still quick (higher top end compared to the spark, even bettr with the 230hp), handles nicely and is just an overall better ride. The build quality between the two is night and day.


    • Frankie Fullerton on August 18, 2022

      Absolutely. I have Sea•Doo, but a friend bought two new Waverunners. A couple years ago, we had a really hot summer, and his Yamahas were overheating. They went in for service, but nothing was wrong with them. I admit this doesn’t happen very often, but I was glad I had the intercooling system, which uses antifreeze.


  • Christopher Easter on August 31, 2021

    Having internal cooling, not sucking up crappy lake, ocean water and IBR (which is a game changer) on the seadoos- hands down makes them the go to always for me.


  • Rhu austin on March 13, 2022

    I have a 2010 yamaha fzs waverunner.i bought it brand new in 2010.iv never had any problems with it .I also have done some mild mods to the enguine and get 72 mph with two people.a great machine. Surprising the 1800 motor is similar to toyotas 1800..yamaha enguines are in toyotas.
    I love my supercharged waverunner..thanks yamaha


  • Craig Austin on March 26, 2022

    My wife and I put 6-8,000 kms a year on our Yamaha FX Cruiser, we use it like a touring motorcycle on water, over 500hrs in 3 seasons in Canada,not a single issue.


  • Jerrod on May 27, 2022

    I bought a 22 Waverunner EX Sport a couple months back and finally got to break it in. HOLY CHRISTMAS is that thing fast! I don’t need the speed, but man it was fun! I plan on buying another next spring so my kids or a friend can go ride with me. Best $8500 I’ve spent in awhile!


  • David Leshock on July 4, 2022

    2020 Sea Doo RXP 300 does 71 mph with zero modifications. Has IBR…which is a brake to stop your ski! Has a working NEUTRAL and REVERSE that actually work like a car. The seat is designed for you to hold on with your legs…a huge advantage over other jetskis, no more ratling of your hands and arms. This unit is a game changer. It has changed the way our family likes riding, and it will do the same for yours. Sea Doo number one.


  • Owen Smith on August 8, 2022

    Looking for a reliable jet ski to Carry two or three people


  • Chris on August 11, 2022

    I have had Honda 1200 turbos for a long time and it’s by far the fastest thing I’ve ever ride on and will carry 2 people and drag a wake boarder behind you and do 0-60mph in about 1 and half seconds! So I’m a bit biased! But I am bout to purchase a new stand up from Kawi cause they just put out a new model for 2022!


  • Anthony Pollard on August 13, 2022

    By far one of the worse PWC to start with is a seadoo
    Carbon ring goes … you sink… bust a motor mount… you sink… electrical storm a mile away… fried electronics…. Yamaha is by far the only Pwc I’ll touch as a mechanic people who buy seadoos are the type of people that run kids over on the beach… Kawasakis are second on my list as it’s not GERMAN bs be weary of Hondas not bad but not there complete BEST work.


  • Scott rabe on October 13, 2022

    I bought a new waverunner in 2019. It has 70 hours on it and the hull is cracked and flaking apart. I wouldn’t recommend a Yamaha but would look at a seadoo for reliability.


  • Dan Burress on January 25, 2023

    I have owned a 2004 RXP Sea-Doo since new with no problems while being flogged by teenagers every summer.
    My only gripe as a mechanic: Sea-Doo doesn’t support your right to repair your own PWC. It must return to the dealer just to turn off the maintenance light.
    BTW the PWC has 215hp but goes as fast as a 300 hp ski.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Personal Watercraft

What Happens When a PWC’s Steering Control is Turned to the Right?

Where is the Steering Nozzle Located on a PWC?

What is Needed for Steering Control on a PWC?

What is the Best Way to Check for Gas Fumes After Fueling a PWC?

All content is © Copyright 2020. All rights reserved.