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.

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.