One of the most thrilling ways to enjoy your time on top of the water is to ride a jet ski. A jet ski promises lots of fun for riders and passengers alike and can make your time at the beach super-memorable. Thankfully, you do not need to own one to enjoy this activity.
With jet ski rental services pretty common nowadays, you can light up your day by renting a watercraft for your enjoyment. However, while you will find many jet ski rentals that are straightforward, polite, and fair in their dealings, some have found unethical ways to increase their profit margins.
These companies assume that you might be a bit out of your element while vacationing, so they try to get the better of you with “little” tricks. False advertising, hidden fees and surcharges and improper charges for damages are some fairly common unethical tricks that you just have to watch out for.
Based on several real reviews and complaints, we have collected some of the most common unethical tricks that some jet ski rental services may pull out. We have also included some helpful tips that can keep you from falling victim to them.
Jet ski rental trick #1: Hidden fees
The most unethical trick you will find a few jet ski rentals play is to trick you with their bag of hidden fees. And this comes in different forms!
A common example involves the use of misleading advertising and coupons. These coupons or advertisements contain unstated restrictions that are included in your package, requiring extra payment to lift them.
Some companies also use irresistible hourly rates to attract customers. These rates may be paid in advance, upon booking. Later on, when you arrive at your rental location, you will be asked to pay extra for some hidden charges. Some of these unexpected hidden charges may include:
Car parking fees
Extra charges for gas
Maintenance or service fees
Pickup/drop off fee
Life jacket rental charges
Temporary safety boating card fee
Late arrival charges
How to avoid it:
Always make sure to read through the rental policy and FAQ pages before you book (even when renting via coupons). If you find any questionable fees or unclear charges, feel free to clarify by calling the rental.
Find out what these fees are and how they add up to the advertised rates. Depending on the final fees and your budget, make a decision on whether or not you should proceed with the rental.
Jet ski rental trick #2: Different location
The advent of satellite location services today allows you to locate your destination easily through e-maps. However, some rentals include addresses on their websites that do not match their physical location. This can be pretty frustrating and time-consuming as you spend more time and money finding their location.
How to avoid it:
Check and confirm the rental’s address on their website. Follow that up with a call to, or a chat with, the rental to verify their location. If Google Streetview covers the area, check with it for certainty. Also, confirm if you need to pick up your jet ski from that same location or somewhere else.
Jet ski rental trick #3: Poor communication
Poor communication creates misunderstanding, thus making it easy for you to be misled. Perhaps you have found their website and are trying to reach them through the listed contact numbers, but your call goes unanswered. Maybe you get in contact with them but the agent fails to clarify your needs. If things seem so suspicious, avoid this rental.
Still, you might find some jet ski rentals that are responsive, polite and communicative up to the time you place your order. Later on, it so happens that you arrive at your destination and are hit with news of delay or cancellation due to a number of reasons, including:
Rental staff forgot your booking
Staff on duty is yet to arrive
Jet ski got damaged
Bad weather, etc.
Some of the above-mentioned problems are caused by sheer negligence, while others may be the result of unforeseen events. Either way, the rental is obligated to keep you in the loop regarding events that may affect your tour after you book.
How to avoid it:
If you wish to ‘test the waters’ with any professional service, always give them a call. Swift response typically hints at dedicated staff members. Another way to make sure everything is going to be fine is by checking online reviews about their customer service.
You will have to make another call before you head over to pick your jet ski. Call them and make sure everything is as per the schedule and there are no delays.
Jet ski rental trick #4: Old and worn out jet skis
Some jet ski rentals may only have old and crappy jet skis in their possession but they fail to disclose this information to you. Of course, these crafts must have been fairly new at some point but may have wilted constant and heavy usage by customers. Some rentals may also possess older models that are prone to malfunction.
This is meant to be a fun event, so you certainly do not need a poorly maintained and unreliable jet ski ruining your time. There is nothing as frustrating as having your jet ski breakdown mid-ride. This would simply mean the end of your ride, likely without refund or compensation.
How to avoid it:
Many jet ski rentals advertise only the best photos of their crafts (or even stock photos). Be sure to call them and inquire about the age of their watercrafts. Best rentals that have more than one jet skis, and frequently renew their fleet offer the best and most reliable services.
Also, make sure to check the craft you are given before you begin your ride. Check the fuel gauge and look out for any malfunctions or potential problems. Do not hesitate to request another ride if your first one seems off.
Jet ski rental trick #5: Charge for non-existent damage
This is a really serious issue and, unfortunately, it is one of the most common when it comes to jet ski rentals.
This issue comes in the shape of charges for non-existent damages, or damages not caused by you. This may be designed as a ploy to prevent you from retrieving your refundable deposit (typically around $300 – $500), which you are obligated to make for possible damages.
Some renters play this unethical trick to keep hold of your deposits. The hope is that you do not put up so much of a fight to get back your funds. If you are to retrieve your deposit, you will be forced to do this through several unrelenting phone calls on a daily basis. Otherwise, the fee is simply held back – sometimes even without any official notice.
Sometimes, the jet ski could be damaged after your usage, and there would be no fault of yours in it. There are a number of scenarios that could lead to the rental keeping your deposit, or even charging more than your initial deposit.
Let’s have a look at some of these scenarios:
You rode the jet ski correctly, without any accidents or damages resulting from your usage, but the engine malfunctions or breaks down during your ride.
The craft already has some damages, perhaps from prior usage by a different customer, which is falsely attributed to you. This may be an honest mistake or a simple unethical ploy to keep your initial deposit.
In the course of driving the jet ski, you unwillingly damaged it. It might be difficult to determine the actual cost of your damages. This could easily result in the rental charging you much more than what is fair to cover for the damages you caused.
How to avoid it:
Do your due diligence with the rental’s feedback and reviews to be sure you are not walking into a trap. Always request a copy of your agreement with the rental and your receipt.
Before you begin your ride, check for any initial damages that could result in breakdowns while you are riding. If you find any issues, put it on record with the staff and request a new craft. If you are stuck with that same craft, take some photos of it before you begin your ride.
Never forget to ask about their insurance before booking with any rental. You surely do not want a multi-million-dollar charge on your plate after running into a yacht. If they do not provide any form of insurance cover, check with your auto, homeowner, or credit card cover to see if you are protected by either of these.
This should be a major part of your preparation so you can put together whatever prior information you need. The most important way to avoid any complications would be to manage your ride carefully, control your speed, and pay attention while riding.
Jet ski rental trick #6: Shifted timetables and delays
As with everything else, jet ski rentals do have peak periods. This could mean a jam-packed schedule for their services.
During a crowded season, some rentals accept customers who have made no reservations – and who would be willing to pay extra. This means that the rental would be substituting your space with theirs, which may result in a shift in your original timetable, or even cancellation, without any prior notice.
Sure, life happens. Some customers may extend their usage of the rented jet ski beyond their originally reserved time or the craft could malfunction. However, professional services should be capable of handling such situations to provide you with a smooth service. We certainly want to be reasonable but delays can be both disappointing and frustrating.
How to avoid it:
To be sure your timetable is still on track and that you can pick up your jet ski as scheduled, give your rental a call before leaving. You must also check with the rental’s reviews and note how frequently a particular issue arises, and how it is handled.
Jet ski rental trick #7: Unskilled or rude staff
Your entire experience is not just about the ride; it is about everything involved in the build-up to the ride. Terrible experience with the customer care agent could ruin your vacation. Perhaps you find a care agent mocking your questions, answering you with clear disinterest, or simply lacking manners. Some may even go so far as being hostile with customers.
Unprofessional, untrained, or rude customer service agents could create a lot of uneasiness. Some agents, for instance, may not understand how coupons work although their company does offer coupons.
Others might not be willing to educate you on simple safety tips. Some supposed trainers might even provide you with a temporary boater’s license without first training you to ride safely, or administering any tests.
How to avoid it:
Because you never really get to meet any staff member before your arrival at the rental, it is difficult to notice this in advance. Your best bet would be to check their online ratings and reviews before you book.
Jet ski rental trick #8: Unexpected restrictions
If you haven’t rented a jet ski before, you would be surprised by the kind (and number) of restrictions placed upon your usage of their craft. These restrictions could be placed on a wide variety of things.
A jet ski rental could, for instance, place a limit on your riding area. You might be of the opinion that you could ride your jet ski just about anywhere, but that would not be the case every time. There could be fixed riding areas for your use, and these areas might be smaller than what you initially imagined. Crossing these restricted areas could result in tickets from the Coastal Guard – especially in states where this restriction is enforced by the state.
Beyond riding restrictions, though, there are other possible restrictions you could find. These restrictions could vary from one rental to the next. Some of these may include:
Should be at least 18 years old (or 22-25 in some rentals) to rent a jet ski
Must be at least 14 (or 16) to ride a jet ski
Your passenger should be at least 6 years old
No pets allowed on the jet ski
You must always keep a safe distance away from the shore at all times.
Cannot carry more than one passenger along for the ride (or just for extra fee)
Do not exceed a 350-400 lbs weight capacity per ski for safety reasons
No form of watersport, not even tubing or wakeboarding, allowed with their craft
Prohibited wave jumping
How to avoid it:
Rental restrictions vary wildly from one rental to the next. Your safest bet to avoid getting stuck with unfavorable restrictions will be to check their FAQs and policy pages for details. If you can’t find any detailed guide on restrictions, give them a call before you confirm your booking.
A bad experience with a jet ski rental could spoil your fun ride time, or even cut it short. So, you need to be extremely picky when selecting a rental service while on vacation.
Before you book with a rental, make sure to check their ratings and feedback from other customers. Carefully look through their rental policy and FAQs so you are not blindsided.
Give them a call to judge the professionalism of their staff, and to clarify any questions you might have. Make sure you ask about any hidden charges and possible restrictions before you confirm your booking.
Choose your service wisely. While you do not want to go overboard with pricing, it doesn’t have to be so far down. Good location, constantly refreshed jet ski fleet, and professional customer service will always cost you more. So, be realistic!
Take your time and choose a jet ski rental that would please you. If you are interested in getting valuable jet ski riding tips and tricks to help you ride like a pro, download our free guide here:
How to Ride like a Pro
25 tips to become a pro rider