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8 Types of Jet Skis: What Size Jet Ski Should I Buy? [Video]

8 Types of Jet Skis: What Size Jet Ski Should I Buy? [Video]

The two major types of jet skis are the stand-up and the far more popular sit-down skis, but the latter can be broken down into many other categories. This means we can distinguish among no less than eight different jet ski categories, which are as follows:

  1. Rec-Lite
  2. Recreation
  3. Performance
  4. Luxury/Touring
  5. Tow Sport
  6. Sport Fishing
  7. Freestyle Sit-Down (“Sport Class”)
  8. Stand-Up
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about each one in detail!

8 Major Jet Ski Categories

1. What is a Rec-Lite Jet Ski?

Simply put, the Rec-Lite jet ski category represents the smallest and most affordable machines. They are lightweight, nimble, fun to ride, and can even be towed by a small car. On the other hand, Rec-Lite jet skis have very limited capacities and are mainly recommended for rivers and small lakes.

In the past, each jet ski was very similar to Rec-Lites. But jet skis are getting bigger and bigger over time; many of them already look like small boats!

To bring back the feeling of the vintage 2-stroke skis, Sea-Doo created the Rec-Lite jet ski class in 2014.

Pros of Rec Lite jet skis:

Cons of Rec-Lite Jet Skis:

  • Limited storage and seating capacities
  • Brake and reverse are often optional
  • Mainly recommended for solo rides
  • Low-performance engines
  • Not recommended for off-shore rides
Rec-Lite jet skis by brand:

Besides the shiny new models, we also have to mention the lively vintage jet skis like the 2-stroke Sea-Doo XP or the iconic Yamaha WaveJammer!

2. What is a Recreation Jet Ski?

If you are looking for a great family jet ski with an affordable price tag, a Recreation jet ski is for you. This type of jet ski is commonly used by rental services and with good reason. Recreation jet skis are known for their durability, reliability and offer the best value for the money.

Compared to Rec-Lites, this category already offers reasonable storage capacities and a comfortable seat for three adult riders.

They are typically powered by naturally-aspirated (non-supercharged) engines rated at 90-180 HP, which is more than enough for the average rider.

Pros of Recreation jet skis:

Cons of Recreation jet skis:

  • “Jack of all trades, master of none” machines
  • Lack of advanced features and accessories
Available Recreation jet skis by brand:

3. What is a Performance Jet Ski?

Performance jet skis, as the name suggests, are designed for the highest top speed and fastest acceleration. They are typically powered by supercharged engines, which produce 230-310 HP depending on the model. Their hulls and features like pumps, ride plates, intake grates, or sponsons are also designed for the highest performance as well as aggressive handling.

Therefore, it is not surprising that these skis are the top picks of racers and speed junkies. If you want to be the fastest on the lake, a Performance jet ski is for you!

Pros of Performance jet skis:

Cons of Performance jet skis

  • Hefty price tags
  • High maintenance costs
  • High fuel consumption and low fuel range
  • Lower reliability and durability
  • Noisy engines
  • Not recommended for novice riders
Available Performance jet skis by brand:

4. What is a Luxury Jet Ski?

The luxury (and touring) jet skis are arguably the flagship models in each manufacturer’s fleet, designed for maximum comfort and convenience. They are typically built on the most stable platforms and offer a comfortable seat for three adult riders. Luxury jet skis are powered by high-performance 160-310 HP engines and feature all the bells and whistles you need on the water.

Standard features usually include a comfortable seat, audio system, retractable dock lines, large touchscreen dashboard with GPS, and customizable design.

Pros of Luxury jet skis:

  • High-end models
  • Wide range of advanced features
  • Highest quality materials
  • Very comfortable seats (even on long tours)
  • Large fuel tanks
  • Panoramic touchscreen LCD screens
  • Industry-leading stability and comfort
  • Great for long tours
Cons of Luxury jet skis

  • Highest prices and maintenance costs
  • Higher price depreciation
  • Lower reliability and durability
  • Less nimble “boat-like” hulls
Available Luxury/Touring jet skis by brand:

  • Yamaha FX Series
  • Sea-Doo GXT Series
  • Kawasaki Ultra 310 LX

5. What is a Tow Sport Jet Ski?

For tow sports lovers, Sea-Doo released two purpose-built jet skis specially designed for watersports. These machines, namely the Sea-Doo Wake and Wake Pro, can easily tow water skis, wakeboards, wakeskates, or tubes.

They are also equipped with the essential tow sport accessories like mirrors, tow pylon, wakeboard rack, or “ski mode.” The latter is a kind of special cruise control that helps maintain steady speeds and smooth deep-water starts.

These are all great points for wakeboarders and tubers!

Therefore, it’s safe to say that Tow-Sport jet skis are cheap alternatives to expensive wakeboard boats. On the other hand, keep in mind that these jet skis are lightweight, so they produce small wakes and can’t offer the same wakeboarding experience as a large boat.

Pros of Tow Sport jet skis:

  • Purpose-built models for tow sports
  • Come with tow-sport related accessories as standard
  • “Ski-Mode” (cruise control) for steady speed and smooth starts
  • Even available with supercharged engines
Cons of Tow Sport jet skis

  • Higher price tags
  • Limited supply
  • Small storage capacity
  • Limited deck space
  • Tiny wake
  • Too lightweight for aggressive wakeboard rides
Available Tow Sport jet skis by brand:

6. What is a Sport Fishing Jet Ski?

Sport Fishing jet skis are built with PWC anglers in mind. They cleverly combine the fun of a jet ski with the features of a small fishing boat. The key advantage of these versatile vessels is that they come with the most important jet ski fishing accessories like a cooler, rod holders, fishfinder, storage, etc.

What’s more, fishing jet skis also feature an extended rear platform which provides extra storage space. Since jet ski fishing is gaining in popularity, manufacturers have released more and more purpose-built fishing jet ski models!

Pros of Sport Fishing Jet Skis

  • Several models are available
  • Come with fishing accessories as standard
  • Customizable features
  • Versatile use: jet skiing, fishing, tow sports, touring, etc.
Cons of Sport Fishing jet skis (compared to boats):

  • Less stability and safety
  • Low fuel capacity and range
  • Low storage capacity
  • Very limited deck space
  • Trolling mode is not available on all models
  • Lack of sun protection
  • Less comfortable
Available Sport Fishing jet skis by brand:

7. What is a Freestyle Sit-Down Jet Ski? (Sport Class)

Although Sport Class or Freestyle jet skis belong to the sit-down category, they are actually a pure class. They are vastly different from today’s large sit-down jet skis that already deserve the “couch” nickname. Unlike their oversized brothers, Freestyle jet skis are extremely small, sporty, and are typically operated in a standing position.

Because of this, it’s safe to say that Freestyle jet skis are halfway between the sit-down and the stand-up categories. Riding these lively machines is fun but challenging as well!

Surprisingly, only a few Freestyle jet skis were made, including the legendary Yamaha JetBlaster, Kawasaki X2, or the Krash Reaper. Due to the limited availability of these models, many Freestyle jet skis out there are custom-built machines.

Yamaha also introduced its “new” JetBlaster as a Freestyle jet ski, but let’s face it, this ski doesn’t feature a freestyle hull. Instead, it’s nothing more than a rebranded EXR with some accessories for basic sit-down tricks.

If you are looking for a real Freestyle craft, you should stick to the vintage WaveBlaster, Kawasaki X2, or the Krash Reaper!

8. What is a Stand-Up Jet Ski?

The most unique jet skis on the market are arguably the stand-up models. They are the smallest and nimblest jet skis on the market that surprisingly don’t feature a seat. This is no surprise, as these machines are designed to be ridden exclusively in a standing position!

This means that riding them requires some athletic skills and practice. When it comes to riding a stand-up, deep-water starts can be especially challenging for novice riders.

Since a day on the water on these machines is like strenuous exercise, they are not for everyone!

Available Stand Up jet skis by brand:

FAQs About the Different Jet Ski Types

What are the Two Main Types of Jet Skis?

The two major types of jet skis are the stand-up and sit-down categories. The latter offer comfortable rides for 2-3 passengers, while riding a stand-up is always a solo activity.

How Many Types of Jet Skis Are There?

Since sit-down jet skis can be divided into seven further subcategories, we can distinguish no less than eight different jet ski categories.

What Are the Common Categories of Jet Skis?

The eight major jet ski categories are as follows:

  1. Rec-Lite
  2. Recreation
  3. Performance
  4. Luxury/Touring
  5. Tow Sport
  6. Sport Fishing
  7. Freestyle Sit-Down
  8. Stand-Up

What does Rec-Lite Mean for Jet Skis?

When it comes to jet skis, the “Rec-Lite” stands for Lite-Recreation, which is the smallest and simplest sit-down jet ski category.

Recreation refers to the lower-class models while the adverb “Lite” stands for: being less complex. Rec-Lite jet skis are known for their simplicity, outstanding fuel efficiency, and affordable price tags.

Thanks to their small lightweight hulls, they can even be towed by a small car.

What does PWC Stand for?

PWC is an abbreviation for Personal WaterCraft, which is commonly used as a synonym for jet skis. Other frequently used names for these tiny vessels include ski, craft, watercraft, WaveRunner, Sea-Doo. The latter two are actually brand names of Yamaha and BRP.

Conclusion – What Size Jet Ski Should You Buy?

As a takeaway, let’s see what size of jet ski you should buy based on your skills and experience:
  • Recreation: If you are a complete beginner
  • Rec-lite: If you have some experience and are looking for more challenges
  • Freestyle sit-down/Stand-up: If you have athletic skills and are looking for a “dirt-bike-like” jet ski experience
  • Performance: If you are an experienced rider and are looking for the highest performance available
  • Luxury/touring: If you prefer comfort and advanced features and are considering longer tours
  • Tow sport: If you are an avid tow sport lover
  • Sport fishing: If you want to combine thrilling jet ski rides and fishing trips
Would you like to compare the latest jet ski prices in one chart? Don’t miss our detailed post with the latest lineups of the major manufacturers!