Did you move close to the beach or a lake? Is the water calling you? Living the life aquatic is a different dynamic from staying in the city. Living on the water is a great way to experience a “blue mind” and the stress-free lifestyle it offers.
Even if you only get to the beach or lake a few times a month or a few times a year, you might feel the need to get yourself a boat or jet ski. Owning a watercraft gives you a new way to immerse yourself in the ocean and lake culture and benefit from everything the water offers you.
So, which one should you choose? Should you choose a boat or a jet ski? It’s a tough decision. What’s the difference between the two?
We did our best to unpack the differences between these watercraft. We compare them across categories to see which one is the right choice for your lifestyle.
- Owning a Jet Ski Vs. Owning a Boat – Do I Buy a Jet Ski or a Boat?
- Ownership Costs
- Drive Systems
- Storage and Accommodation
- Trailering and Towing
- What are the Upsides of Jet Ski Ownership?
- What are the Downsides of Jet Ski Ownership?
- Wrapping Up – Why Not Go with Both?
Owning a Jet Ski Vs. Owning a Boat – Do I Buy a Jet Ski or a Boat?
Buying a boat or a jet ski is a significant investment. A new top-tier jet ski could cost you around $20,000, and a new fishing boat could be upwards of $250,000. Sure, a boat means more carry capacity to take people out with you on the water.
But you’ll find it surprising how roomy a jet ski can feel. If you’re going out with a crew, you can easily take a passenger to an offshore fishing spot. You have to decide what budget you can afford to apply to the exercise.
If money isn’t an issue, a boat will always be a great start. However, if you’re on a budget, a jet ski gives you an affordable way to access offshore fishing and moto-watersports.
The learning curve is one of the biggest pros to purchasing a jet ski over a boat for your first watercraft. Jet skis are much more user-friendly for beginners. They operate on a handlebar system, similar to a motorbike. Boats have more complex controls, with steering wheels and throttles.
Jet skis are also much easier to maneuver in tight spaces. So, when you’re docking and moving around the marina, the jet ski makes it easier to see what is around you, helping you avoid collisions with other boats and the dock.
With the jet ski, you have a way to build awareness of how to handle a watercraft on the lake or in the ocean. When you master the craft, you can move on to getting a boat as you become more comfortable handling the ski.
Entry-level jet skis retail for around the $6,000 mark. The premium, top-of-the-line models from leading manufacturing brands won’t go for more than $25,000 to $30,000, with all the extras you can think of.
For example, the FishPro Trophy from Sea-Doo retails for $18,000, and with all the extras, you could end up paying close to $20,000. However, the FishPro Trophy is a dedicated fishing ski, and it’s suitable for offshore use. You even get a convertible fish fighting chair integrated into the ski seat.
Contrast that to an entry-level boat. You could get a skiff suitable for use in waterways and sheltered coves for around the $20,000 mark. However, it’s likely going to be unsuitable and underpowered to take offshore.
If you want a top-of-the-line bass boat in the same league as the FishPro, you could end up paying well over $200,000 or ten times the cost of the ski.
The primary difference between boats and jet skis is the propulsion system, and engines used to power the watercraft. You’re relying on outboard or stern drive powerplants with a boat that delivers impressive speed and power.
The fastest bass boats can reach plane in seconds and top speeds of up to 60-mph or more. However, a jet ski isn’t far behind. Most of them get on plane faster, and they have top-end speeds approaching the 55-mph mark.
The jet ski uses a jet propulsion motor to achieve fast, responsive handling from the engine. It also means that there’s no propellor hanging outside of the craft. As a result, you can access very shallow waters where boats can’t go.
Some jets ski’s come with reversible motors that let you toggle the engine if you experience entanglement with debris like kelp that would normally clog the motor.
Boats come with powerful motors that drink plenty of fuel. With the jet ski, you get a fuel-efficient ride that sips standard gasoline you can fill directly to the tank from the pump at your local gas station. As gasoline gets more expensive, it makes sense why buying a jet ski is the more affordable option for managing your running costs.
When it comes to maintenance, owning a jet ski is the more affordable option. Most jet skis use rotary motor technology, and they are easy to service and maintain. However, oats have larger capacity motors, up to large, powerful V8s.
Most jet ski rotary motors are around a 1,800cc capacity and require way less maintenance than a V8 monster powerplant. The result is a much more affordable servicing schedule. You can expect a jet ski service to be up to 60% cheaper than servicing a 350-HP outboard motor for a boat.
Outboards also have gearboxes to service, and they require more manhours on the motor to ensure it meets proper standards of efficiency and performance. If you’re “unlucky” enough to have a fishing boat or larger model with two outboards, you double your servicing costs.
Overall, the servicing costs on the PWC are far less than on a boat. So are the marina and slip fees and the running costs.
Cleaning a boat requires a lot more effort than keeping a PWC in good condition. Defouling the hull of a boat is a mission and a pain for boat owners. It’s such a hassle that most owners just end up paying the marina to defoul the hull, adding to your ownership costs.
In contrast, a PWC offers you easy cleaning. Just spray it down with a pressure washer after use, and you’re done in minutes. Boats require cleaning of live wells and storage containers, but you don’t have to worry about any of that after your trip with a PWC.
Most boat owners will pay someone to clean their boat for them. It’s a large task and can take over an hour if you have to do it yourself. Washing and detailing your boat ten times a year can add a few hundred dollars to the ownership expenses.
With a PWC, you can pay someone to clean it for you. However, it will probably cost you half of what the service would charge for cleaning a boat.
Storage and Accommodation
Storage and carry capacity is the weakness in PWCs vs. boats. When it comes to onboard storage, no PWC can compare with the storage capacity of even the smallest vessels. Some models, like the FishPro Trophy, come close. You get onboard coolers and live wells and dedicated casting platforms.
However, even the largest 4-seater luxury jet skis from leading brands can’t compete with the capacity of the smallest boats. You can carry up to 18 passengers and loads of gear on average fishing or wakesports boat.
You can also store your jet ski in the driveway or the garage at home. With a boat, it’s a bigger hassle to launch and trailer the boat, and driving with it in two is much more challenging than it is with a jet ski.
Some larger boats require you to park them in a slip, adding to ownership costs. You may also have to pay someone to remove it from the water for servicing and repairs or storage. Dry storage for boats is much more expensive than jet skis.
Trailering and Towing
When it comes to storing the boat or the jet ski, then the jet ski wins hands down. You can launch and trailer the jet ski in no time, and it’s easier to drive than towing a full-size boat.
Some states also require you to get an additional license for towing boats over a specific width and length, which adds to your ownership costs.
Towing a jet ski around gives you an opportunity to learn the dynamics of driving with a trailer. Plus, you don’t have to buy extra-wide mirror extensions for your car to see what’s behind the trailer.
Pulling a jet ski is also kinder on your car than towing a boat. Towing a boat with a family saloon like a Toyota Camry will put extra wear and tear on the clutch and motor. However, towing a jet ski won’t be a problem.
What are the Upsides of Jet Ski Ownership?
So, what are the benefits of owning a jet ski over a boat? Apart from the costs, what are jet skis’ lifestyle and performance advantages over boats?
Jet Skis Are Great For Quick Rides
A jet ski is easy to trailer, move around, launch and maneuver. It weighs significantly less than a boat, and it’s easy to hook it up to the car and take it to the local launch for a spin.
Jet skis are easier to launch when you’re by yourself, and they only need one person to run. Trailering the jet ski solo is way less difficult than doing the same with a boat. The jet ski feels more convenient than the boat, using less fuel.
So, if you’re going out for an hour for a quick spin around the lake, taking the jet ski will be easier than prepping the boat. Open the garage, attach the trailer, and take it to the lake for a fun afternoon.
Jet Skis Have Brakes
With jet skis, you get something boats don’t have – brakes. Certain brands like Sea-Doo and Yamaha introduced intelligent reverse braking in their new models. As a result, you get better control over the craft when docking or in tight spaces.
With boats, you have to drift and turn or use the side jets to move out of the way of objects when docking. However, thrusters and other control options on boats usually come as upgrades. As a result, you could pay as much as you would for a new jet ski by adding this single accessory to your boat.
What are the Downsides of Jet Ski Ownership?
Jet skis have plenty of benefits over boats, but they also have a few downsides. As mentioned, the storage capacity onboard, and the seating, are the biggest issues. However, PWC owners also have less carry capacity for their jet skis than boat owners.
Jet skis also come with one seating plan configuration, and there are no options for adding navigation lights. You also have limited options for sound systems. Most boats have large entertainment systems with integration for USB and Bluetooth connections.
Wrapping Up – Why Not Go with Both?
So, which one of the two sounds more appealing to you? Are you keen on the boat or the jet ski? If you have the budget, why not go with both? You could get the best of both worlds, enjoy the boat with your friends, and use the jet ski for short trips.
Having a boat and a jet ski makes sense if you live on the water at the coast or by a lake, like the Ozarks. Most dealerships will approve financing for both deals, and they can arrange all your servicing and maintenance requirements. Enjoy the best of both worlds and get yourself a boat and a jet ski.