As a watersport lover, you are certainly psyched up with the possibility of purchasing your very own vessel. You can only imagine the time ahead and picture yourself having fun with one.

But, right now, you find yourself caught in a quandary. The question that remains unanswered is, ‘Which one should I buy – a jet ski or a boat?’

While some might consider these vessels fairly different, and unworthy of any comparisons, they aren’t. Obvious differences can be found in their sizes and price tags. However, your choice of a boat or jet ski goes beyond the obvious.

It is also about the kind of fun you wish to have with your watercraft and the activities you want to use it for. It is about personal choice.

The first step is to decide which activity you wish to use your craft for. Let’s go through a list of some of the most important factors (pros and cons) to consider before taking a decision.

If you would like to discover the different watercraft models from the main manufacturers, don’t miss our Comparison Tool!

Jet ski vs. boat infographic comparison

Jet ski vs. boat infographic comparison

Factor #1: Budget

One of the very first factors worthy of your consideration as you mull over a purchase of this nature is your budget. The initial purchase prices of boats or jet skis are not small amounts, neither are the running and maintenance costs.

The most affordable rec-lite watercraft prices start from $5,300. It also has a very low fuel consumption level, burning jus a few gallons of fuel per hour at full speed. This all adds up to a rather low maintenance cost.

On the opposing end of the spectrum are the most expensive jet skis that cost as high as $18,000.

If you are looking to get a boat instead, you’d definitely find nothing in the lower jet ski price range. The Bayliner Element E16 with 60HP Mercury outboard engine, a cheap entry level boat boasts a starting price of $15,000.

If you decide to swing the other way towards more expensive boat brands, you can expect to spend between $100k and even $200k for special watersport boats.

This is without considering the prices of bigger boat cruises and yachts whose prices can really skyrocket.

Bigger boats arrive with quite high price tags and maintenance costs

Bigger boats arrive with quite high price tags and maintenance costs

Clearly, there are significant differences in the prices of boats and jet skis. On average, $12,000 is spent on buying a new jet ski. This is certainly some distance away from the numbers associated with boat buying. A typical bowrider boat with a capacity of 6-10 persons will cost anywhere between $30,000 and $60,000 on average.

Likewise, maintenance costs may vary wildly between boats and jet skis, depending on the model, storage fees, and a number of other factors.

For instance, a jet ski with 300 HP supercharged engine (especially when stored in a marina) may accrue much higher maintenance costs than an entry-level Bayliner Element that is stored at home.

Evidently, while the jet ski is on the higher price spectrum in its category, the boat is on the opposing end. Still, it does give you a rough idea of maintenance costs.

If there is no hard and fast rule to maintenance costs, there is one when it comes to depreciation. If you are not fond of depreciating costs and wish to spend on something that would hold on to its value for some time, you would be better served to own a boat.

A jet ski quickly loses its value over time, depending on its age and engine hours. Boats usually hold better value over time than jet skis.

Factor #2: Maintenance Costs

One of the least fun parts of owning a boat or jet ski is dealing with maintenance and running costs. Jet skis generally win the race in this category due to their smaller sizes, easier and cheaper storage, and lightweight nature.

Their small size makes it possible to store them even in your garage, eliminating the need to pay storage fees in marinas and the risk of storing it outside.

Cleaning your jet ski is much easier and cheaper as well since there is much less surface to cover.

Marina is the only option for bigger boats and yachts

Marina is the only option for bigger boats and yachts

Jet skis are also small and lightweight. Again, this is important when parking them in your garage.

A typical jet ski can be towed with your car, without any problems. It is also much easier to trailer, launch and move. Of course, you want to check the curb weight before purchase to be sure your car can manage it.

However, there is a wide difference between the standard weights of a jet ski and a boat.

While an average jet ski on a trailer would weigh about 1,000 lbs, the lightest models with trailer weigh around 6-700 lbs. The weight of a small boat on a trailer could be around 2,000 lbs. In case of a bigger bowrider, you can expect 3,000 – 5,000 lbs with trailer, depending on the model.

This makes boats more difficult to trailer. But boat weights vary wildly with size, model, engine type, etc. At times, bigger models are even impossible to trailer with cars.

One way to notice the difference in weights between jet skis and boats is to try moving them by hand.

Jet ski on a trailer can be pulled by hand much easier, but this becomes harder with boats. Bigger boats, especially those on dual or triple axle trailers, will probably require a trailer dolly for easier movement.

Factor #3: Reliability

One factor that could easily skew up your maintenance cost, and potentially tire you of your investment, is reliability. How reliable is your investment and how often does it malfunction?

Let’s face it, jet skis and boats are used in vastly different ways. Boating is mostly enjoyed at an optimal cruise speed over long distances. Jet skis, on the other hand, are enjoyed at top speed with lots of hard acceleration and maneuvers.

To have fun to the max, a jet ski is operated as though you are racing against time.

Thus, it is designed for much higher performance levels than boats of the same size and stature. For instance, an outboard boat engine of around 1500 cm displacement would run on about 100 HP.

For a supercharged jet ski engine of the same size, this would be between 250-300 HP.

This difference in performance style tells quickly on jet skis which are more prone to wear outs and malfunctions. This means that you can expect to spend more time at the repair shop with a jet ski than you would with a boat.

Boat engines are usually more reliable than jet ski engines

Boat engines are usually more reliable than jet ski engines

Factor #4: Purpose of Use

Unlike jet skis, boats are more multi-purpose in design. Depending on the boat you buy, you could use it for scuba diving, overnight sailing, fishing, watersports, parties, and pleasure cruising. Not only that, you could live on a houseboat too, if you want to!

Indeed, there are many different activities that could nudge you over the line to get a boat – and there is a boat for every kind of adventure.

There are simple bass boats, just as there are sailboats, yachts, competition speedboats or pontoon boats.

People and storage capacity

If your primary interest in a water vessel is its ability to carry a large number of people around, you obviously need a boat. This is one of the clearest differences between jet skis and boats. You can’t take people along with you to hang out on a jet ski.

This means you might have to consider leaving some family members – especially your granny and younger kids – out of the fun. Of course, you can split up the group for separate rides, but your jet ski still wouldn’t accommodate your pet.

Either way, a split is not nearly as enjoyable as a group activity, and only a boat lets you carry all your family and friends at once.

Larger space on boats also ensures that there is more storage room. Take along your food, drinks, water toys, and complete camping accessories.

You can enjoy a full-blown picnic on your boat, which is certainly not possible on a jet ski.

Watersports and other activities

Jet skis can definitely be used for watersports, but they hardly come close to offering you the kind of options and versatility you get from a boat.

Boats have more storage space, which means you can easily stow away a number of different towable equipment or even equipment needed for scuba diving.

If you are considering riding a wakeboard behind a boat, you can be prepared for even more fun. The extra space allows for easy installation of wakeboard towers. Their larger weights and hull produce bigger wakes, both of which gives you more room to practice your wakeboard tricks.

You also have better access to the water, and an ability to switch riders swiftly and quickly.

While there are jet ski models specially designed for watersports, they are not the strongest of crafts. Jet skis also produce “jet spray” which makes riding behind more difficult.

Boats are also better for fishing (although you could also fish on a jet ski), offering more space and convenience for comfortable fishing.

By design, boats allow you to go further and withstand longer, rougher travels – making them better for camping related activities.

Boats offer more space and opportunities for fishing and watersports

Boats offer more space and opportunities for fishing and watersports

Fun factor

A boat is a highly versatile vessel that offers multiple fun activities for different personal interests of yours. On the other hand, a jet ski offers you another level of thrill and adventure.

Designed to hit top speeds of 65 MPH and beyond, jet skis are built for fast-paced fun. They come equipped with extreme acceleration and are nimble enough for sharp turns. Driving a jet ski is sure to give you an extreme rush that defies anything you may get from a boat.

The adrenalin rush they provide also makes them great stress relievers.

Interestingly, as noted earlier, jet skis can also be used for tow sports. While a jet ski may not accommodate as many tow riders or make switching places as easy as boats, it is still fun.

And when you are able to mix the thrill of flying on a jet ski with the pleasure of riding behind one, the adrenalin is boundless.

Safety, noise, bans, and restrictions:

Given their much larger width and better balance, boats are safer for you and your passengers. Jet skis are fast and nimble, increasing the possibility of an accident. They are like the motorbikes plying the road, just less dangerous.

Jet skis also make a fair bit of noise, particularly at top speed.

This could be disturbing for boaters and others who camp by the beach and simply want to relax. Thus, you’d likely find restriction bans placed on jet skis in potentially crowded areas.

We know that safety and noise may lead to restrictions on the usage of jet skis in some areas.

On the contrary, there are also places where jet skis are allowed but powerboats are not. To be sure of available restrictions, make sure you check with the local ramps before.

Boats offer much more space for your family and pets

Boats offer much more space for your family and pets

Final Takeaways

The decision on whether to buy a boat or a jet ski is purely a personal choice. Firstly, you need to figure out what you need a vessel for?

A 21-year-old adrenaline junkie will likely choose a jet ski over a boat, while a fish-loving family man will be desperate for a boat. It’s all about preferences.

Your pockets will also likely play a role in this decision. Sure, you could always get one of both, but that is not always a financial possibility. If you still find yourself torn between both choices, you can check out a collection of special boat-jet ski combos.

On the other hand, you could try renting and using both before making a purchase. We’ve put together a collection of jet ski rental services to make your search much easier.

Making a Choice

Why choose a boat?

If you intend to carry along plenty of family members and friends often for a cruise getaway, a boat offers more room and better safety. Boats are also great for experienced watersport lovers. Likewise, they make it possible for you to enjoy other activities such as scuba diving, fishing, and more.

They produce less noise and face fewer restrictions.

If you are up for an overnight sleep on the waters, or if you wish to camp on an island, a boat should always be your top choice. If you are planning to go far off and visit remote destinations, don’t think of anything other than a boat!

Ultimately, if you provide them with adequate care and regular maintenance, boats will last longer, go further and offer you better versatility.

Why choose a jet ski?

One of the best reasons to get a jet ski is its cost. Jet skis are much more affordable and can be bought and managed within a significantly lower budget.

But there’s more to them than just their price. Their small weight and size make them easier to store, move, trailer, launch, and maneuver in open waters. While a higher risk of malfunction does exist, they are much easier and cheaper to handle and maintain.

If you are searching for a ride that gives you huge adrenalin rushes and wild fun, a jet ski is, without a doubt, the best option for you. After all, as they say:

” You can’t buy happiness. But you can buy a jet ski – and have you ever seen anyone sad on a jet ski?”

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