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7 of the Best Family Jet Skis Compared [Video]

7 of the Best Family Jet Skis Compared [Video]

The best jet skis for families are arguably large 3-seater runabouts with non-supercharged engines. You can find these models in the Recreation and Touring/Luxury categories. Our picks for the most family-friendly jet skis are as follows:

  1. Yamaha VX
  2. Yamaha FX HO
  3. Yamaha FX Cruiser HO
  4. Sea-Doo GTI SE 170
  5. Sea-Doo GTX 170
  6. Kawasaki STX 160
  7. Kawasaki Ultra 160LX

If you want to find out more about these popular jet skis, this post is for you.

We at JetDrift have compiled all you need to know under one roof!

Which Jet Skis Are the Best for Families?

If we don’t take into account the few purpose-built fishing and adventure models, sit-down jet skis are classed into four major categories, including:

  • Rec-Lite
  • Recreation
  • Luxury/Touring
  • Performance

In this article, we will discuss which one is suitable for families.

Rec-Lite

As a rule of thumb, Rec-Lite jet skis like the Yamaha EX and Sea-Doo Spark series are not at all recommended for families.

They are built on small and lightweight hulls that become very tippy with more people onboard. Certain models can only carry one or two riders, and even the 3-seaters can’t actually accommodate three people.

On top of that, they have very limited storage and fuel capacities and small engine options.

Recreation

Unlike Rec-Lites, Recreation jet skis are far more family-friendly since each of them features a 3-rider seat. The most well-known model lines in this class are the Yamaha VX, Sea-Doo GTI, and the Kawasaki STX 160 series.

These machines are considered “mid-size” models since they are noticeably larger than Rec-Lites but smaller and lighter than their full-size counterparts.

Recreation jet skis offer more stability and have greater capacities. They are also known for having affordable price tag, excellent durability, and low maintenance costs.

This is why PWC rental shops prefer these models, especially the extremely reliable Yamaha VX series.

Engine power in this breed varies between 125 and 200hp, which is more than enough to move a fully loaded ski up to 55-65 mph.

If you are looking for an entry-level family jet ski, you can’t go wrong with a Recreation model.

Luxury/Touring

Often classed together, full-size Luxury/Touring jet skis are the best choice for families who can afford them.

These full-size PWCs are built on the largest and most stable hulls available and have the greatest capacities in the industry.

They can easily carry three people and plenty of gear, which makes them suitable for touring and even tow sports.

They are also equipped with a lot of bells and whistles like a sound system, comfortable touring seat, cruise control, electric brake and reverse, and more.

Manufacturers offer Luxury/Touring jet skis with both naturally-aspirated and supercharged engine options.

General wisdom says that supercharged jet skis are not recommended for families, and with good reason.

These machines have very aggressive characteristics, which can scare children and even lead to dangerous situations.

They also consume significantly more fuel, which translates to poor fuel mileage.

Performance

Let’s face it, Performance models are not family-friendly jet skis at all.

Instead, they are factory racers that are specifically built for competition and performance-minded riders.

As their name suggests, they are tuned for performance rather than comfort and are powered by the most powerful supercharged engines.

7 Best Family Jet Skis Compared

Let’s drill into the details and talk about the best family jet skis in the marketplace!

1. Yamaha VX Line

Yamaha VX WaveRunners are ideal choices for families looking for family-friendly yet affordable jet skis.

These mid-size family PWCs are available with two naturally-aspirated engine options, the 1049cc, TR-1, and the 1898cc, HO marine engines. These powerhouses are rated at 125 and 200hp, respectively.

As far as equipment is concerned, you can choose from four different levels. The entry-level model in this breed is the base VX, which is often referred to as the cheapest family jet ski available.

It’s also available in more advanced configurations christened as Deluxe, Cruiser, and Limited.

2. Yamaha FX HO

Based on our research, the Yamaha FX HO is the most affordable full-size family WaveRunner available.

It’s built on a large, stable FX platform and houses a naturally-aspirated, 1898cc, HO engine option, which cranks out 200hp.

Under ideal conditions, this power mill can propel the FX HO up to 65 mph.

3. Yamaha FX Cruiser HO

The FX Cruiser HO is a more advanced configuration of the aforementioned FX HO.

These skis are completely identical except the Cruiser comes standard with a bolstered Cruiser seat and a custom color scheme.

Even though this saddle offers more comfort and traction under normal circumstances, it’s less convenient for the spotter who is facing backward during tow sports.

As a rule of thumb, each of the aforementioned WaveRunners comes with a RiDE electric brake and reverse.

4. Sea-Doo GTI SE 170

If you are looking for the most affordable family Sea-Doo, the GTI SE 170 is for you.

Built on the mid-sized GTI platform, the SE 170 houses a naturally-aspirated, 170hp version of the proven 1630cc Rotax ACE engine.

This powerhouse ensures a healthy top speed of 55 mph and offers an easy operation thanks to its iBR brake and reverse system.

The GTI is also available with a de-tuned 130hp engine option, which is not always sufficient when carrying passengers.

5. Sea-Doo GTX 170

Interestingly, the Sea-Doo GTX 170 is the only full-size Sea-Doo with a non-supercharged engine.

It shares its 1630cc, 170hp Rotax ACE engine with the GTI 170 but it’s built on the legendary ST3 hull.

This touring Sea-Doo hull offers industry-leading stability and is packed with many advanced technologies. Standard features include the easy-access front storage, iBR brake and reverse system, VTS trim system, and more.

Under ideal conditions, this full-size family Sea-Doo tops out at about 57-58 mph.

6. Kawasaki STX 160

The STX 160 is an entry-level family jet ski manufactured by the Japanese Kawasaki.

This model is a revamped version of the proven STX-15F, which was one of the longest-lived Kawasaki PWCs ever built.

Classed in the Recreation category, the STX 160 is built on a mid-size platform and has a 1498cc, inline-4 Kawasaki marine engine rated at 160hp.

This model is available in two higher-level versions, labeled 160X and 160LX.

The main drawback of the STX 160 series is its outdated manual reverse. Unlike the more advanced electric PWC reverse system, this unit can’t be used for decelerating.

7. Kawasaki Ultra 160LX

Many riders agree that the best Kawasaki jet ski for families is the innovative Ultra 160LX.

This ski shares its full-size Ultra platform with the supercharged 310s, but borrows its naturally- aspirated 160hp engine from the STX 160.

Featuring a deep, 22.5-degree deadrise, the Ultra 160LX ensures an industry-leading rough water performance.

It’s completed with an amazing top deck that packs many unique features like the dual glovebox with gullwing doors, and even a rearview camera.

Takeaways

It’s safe to say that the best family jet skis are Recreation and Touring/Luxury models with non-supercharged engines.

If you are looking for a budget family ski with excellent reliability and low maintenance costs, you can’t go wrong with a mid-size Recreation PWC.

The main competitor model lines in this class are the Yamaha VX, Sea-Doo GTI, and the Kawasaki Ultra 160 series.

When it comes to full-size family PWCs, best practice is to choose a non-supercharged Touring/Luxury model like a Yamaha FX HO, Yamaha Cruiser HO, Sea-Doo GTX 170, or a Kawasaki Ultra 160LX.

This is our short review of the most family-friendly jet skis, we hope you find it useful!