Compare Specs Discover '24 PWCs Browse Reviews
Jet Ski vs. WaveRunner – What is the Difference? [Video]

Jet Ski vs. WaveRunner – What is the Difference? [Video]

What is the difference between Jet Ski and WaveRunner?  It’s a typical question asked by many beginners in the world of personal watercraft (PWC), and for good reason.

When you browse through the current brand names and manufacturers, you can see massive confusion.

One of the most common mistakes that media outlets make is that the term “Jet Ski” refers only to stand-up watercrafts, while they use “WaveRunner” for the sit-down type models.

Unfortunately, this is simply not true, as this question is much more complex! We, at JetDrift, have collected information about the current PWC manufacturers, as well as their current models, for you in one post!

What is the Difference Between Jet Ski and WaveRunner?

Jet Ski

First of all, we have to clarify the “jet ski” term itself. It’s a lesser-known fact that “Jet Ski” is the registered trademark of Kawasaki.

In the 1970s, this company was the only PWC manufacturer on the market, so their brand name become genericized. This means that nowadays “jet ski” is commonly used by the public for any personal watercraft model.

Surprisingly, the mainstream media, as well as law enforcement, use this term in many cases. These are the main reasons why many people call PWCs “jet skis” nowadays!

But it doesn’t matter how widely used this term is; it’s still the Kawasaki brand name. Because of this, you may face a lot of criticism if you talk about “Sea-Doo jet skis” or “Yamaha jet skis” among PWC enthusiasts.

Many owners have really strong brand loyalty, so it’s wise to keep this in mind in the world of motorsports. It’s like calling a “Harley” a “Honda”… it’s not recommended!

The other confusion stems from the fact that people tend to label any stand-up PWCs “jet skis”, but it’s good to know that Kawasaki offers both stand-up and sit-down PWCs under the “Jet Ski” brand name!

Yamaha WaveRunner

When it comes to WaveRunners, it’s good to know that this term is the brand name of personal watercrafts manufactued by Yamaha. Just like Kawasaki, this company offers stand up and sit down watercrafts too.

Yamaha is a well-known name in the world of motorsports, but surprisingly, it was established as an organ and piano manufacturer. They entered the motorcycle market in 1955 and they released the first WaveRunner in 1986.

Over the years, Yamaha introduced more WaveRunner models and now they have the second largest fleet on the PWC market. Beyond PWCs, Yamaha manufactures boats and outboard engines as well, which means it has great experience in the marine industry.

Returning to the brand names now, you know that WaverRunner refers to the PWCs manufactured by Yamaha, while “Jet Ski” is the brand name of Kawasaki.

But again, when you use the term “jet ski”, always assume that it’s about personal watercraft in general. If you have a clue that it’s come from a PWC enthusiast, then you can expect that he’s talking about Kawasaki’s watercrafts!

Other PWC Manufacturers

Beyond Yamaha and Kawasaki, there are 2 other PWC manufacturers on the market currently, namely BRP (Sea-Doo) and Krash Industries.

All of these companies have their own name for their personal watercraft line as well. For a better understanding, we’ve gathered all of them into one chart, with some other manufacturers who used to make PWCs in the past.

StartedEndedBrand nameManufacturer
1968-Sea-DooBombardier (BRP)
1972-Jet SkiKawasaki
19781992WetBikeArctic Cat
19851993Wet JetKoronis Part Inc. (Sold to MasterCraft)
1986-WaveRunnerYamaha
19922004SeaLionPolaris
19931999TigersharkArctic Cat
19941997Wet JetMasterCraft
20022009AquaTraxHonda
20042006HydrospaceHydrospace (sold to Benelli)
2006 -BurrascaBelassi
2008 -KrashKrash Industries
2018 -Narke ElectrojetNarke
2018 -OrcaTaiga
As you can see in the chart, Honda also offered PWCs from 2002-2009.The company surprised the whole market with its 4-stroke, turbocharged personal watercrafts. If you do some deep research, you can still find some Honda Aquatrax running in rental shops.

The other two main brands were the Polaris (SeaLion) and the Arctic Cat (Tigershark) on the market in the ’90s.

Arctic Cat was also the company that invented and manufactured the legendary Wet Bike, a motorcycle-like watercraft, which has still a considerably sized fan base!

It’s a lesser-known fact that MasterCraft also jumped into the PWC market in 1994, but after a couple of years, their watercraft line was canceled.

Jet Ski vs. WaveRunner vs. Sea-Doo vs. Krash Prices

Would you like to know more about the currently available Jet Ski, WaveRunner, Sea-Doo and Krash models and prices? For your convenience, we gathered all of the new PWC models from the 4 main manufacturers into one chart.

You can sort the rows by price, performance or manufacturer by clicking on the header. If you want to discover more about one of these models, don’t hesitate to click on the names. You can find specifications, pictures, videos, and comparisons in the links.

BrandModelMSRPHP
Sea-DooSPARK 2up 60HP$5 49960
Sea-DooSPARK 2up 90HP$6 09990
Sea-DooSPARK 3up 90HP$6 69990
YamahaEX$6 899100
Sea-DooSPARK 2up 90HP iBR$7 09990
Sea-DooSPARK TRIXX 2up$7 59990
Sea-DooSPARK 3up 90HP iBR$7 69990
YamahaEX Sport$7 899100
Sea-DooSPARK TRIXX 3up$8 19990
YamahaSuperjet$8 69973
YamahaEX Deluxe$8 899100
Sea-DooGTI 90$8 99990
YamahaVX-C$8 999125
YamahaEXR$9 399110
KawasakiSTX 160$9 599160
YamahaVX$9 899125
KawasakiSTX 160 X$9 999160
KawasakiSX-R 1500$9 999160
Sea-DooGTI 130$9 999130
Sea-DooGTI SE 130$10 799130
YamahaVX Deluxe$10 966125
YamahaVX Cruiser$10 999125
KawasakiULTRA LX$11 199160
Sea-DooGTI SE 170$11 399170
YamahaVX Limited$11 399125
KawasakiSTX 160LX$11 699160
YamahaVX Cruiser HO$11 799180
Sea-DooWake 170$12 199170
YamahaGP1800R HO$12 299180
Sea-DooGTR 230$12 399230
Krash50 CAL$12 599130
KrashReaper$12 599130
KrashPredator$12 599130
KrashFootrocket$12 599130
Sea-DooGTX 170$12 999170
YamahaFX HO$13 699180
Sea-DooGTX 230$13 999230
YamahaFX Cruiser HO$14 199180
YamahaGP1800R SVHO$14 399250
Sea-DooWake Pro 230$14 899230
Sea-DooFish Pro$14 999170
KawasakiULTRA 310X$15 299310
Sea-DooRXP-X 300$15 399300
YamahaFX SVHO$15 699250
KawasakiULTRA 310X SE$15 799310
Sea-DooRXT-X 300$16 199300
Sea-DooGTX Limited 230$16 199230
KawasakiULTRA 310R$16 299310
YamahaFX Cruiser SVHO$16 399250
KrashFootrocket Pro$16 799130
Sea-DooGTX Limited 300$17 199300
YamahaFX Limited SVHO$17 599250
KawasakiULTRA 310LX$17 999310

About Personal Watercraft (PWC) in General

As you can see, personal watercraft arrive in different sizes and shapes. So you may want to review which vessels belong to this group.

As you can also see, beyond “jet ski”, PWCs have several different names, like watercrafts, crafts, skis, or even water-scooters.

The main difference compared to boats is that on a PWC, the operator sits on a saddle and rides the vessel like a motorcycle (or sometimes operates in standing position). This position is much more dangerous for the rider as he is much more exposed to injuries in case of an accident.The sit-down type of watercraft are designed for two or three riders, while operating a stand-up watercraft is a solo activity. In the past, tall models were small water toys, but over the years, their size and performances increased greatly.Thus, now the U.S. Coast Guard considers PWCs Class A vessels, which means the same rules apply to them as for boats! Additionally, if you operate a PWC, you have to keep on safety accessories on board as required by the law.

Conclusion

What is the difference between Jet Ski and WaveRunner?As you’ve learned, WaveRunner is the brand name of Yamaha’s personal watercrafts, while Jet Ski is the registered trademark of Kawasaki. In spite of this fact, the term “jet ski” is commonly used by the public for any personal watercraft, which often leads to confusion and misunderstandings.

Beyond these manufacturers, you can find Sea-Doo PWCs on the market, as well as stand-up freestyle watercrafts from Krash Industries.

If you can’t decide which is for you, a Jet Ski or WaveRunner, you can get a good start by checking some out in a PWC rental shop. Some of them offer both brands for rent, so you can discover the differences for yourself.

This was our short Jet Ski vs. WaveRunner comparison. We hope you find it useful!