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1986-1993 Yamaha WaveRunner 500 Review and Specs [Video]

1986-1993 Yamaha WaveRunner 500 Review and Specs [Video]

The iconic WaveRunner 500 was introduced in 1986 as the world’s first Yamaha PWC. It was built on a tiny 109-inch-long platform and utilized a 32 HP power source.

Unlike its smaller brother, the weird-looking WaveJammer, the WaveRunner 500 instantly became popular in the marketplace.

If you want to learn all about this legendary watercraft, you’ve come to the right place.

We at JetDrift have compiled all you need to know into this Yamaha WaveRunner 500 review!

1986-1993 Yamaha WaveRunner 500 Review

The History of the WaveRunner 500

One of the most well-known Yamaha jet skis is the WaveRunner 500, and with good reason. This model was introduced in late 1986 as the world’s first Yamaha WaveRunner.

The history of this machine started in 1983 when Yamaha decided to create new products lines. At that time, the company’s development manager was Neil Kobayashi, who is now known as the “WaveRunner Papa.”After several trials and failures, the first functional Yamaha personal watercraft prototype, the “Power-Ski” hit the water. This tiny vessel inherited its 15 HP engine directly from Yamaha outboards and weighed only 143 pounds.

In late 1984, Yamaha decided to bring this machine to the U.S. for testing. Although the test machines arrived with an upgraded, more powerful 25 HP engine option, the results fell short of expectations.

Unfortunately, this WaveRunner predecessor proved to be too small and way underpowered for American riders. Therefore, the U.S. division of Yamama (YMUS) suggested increasing the machine’s weight and dimensions. What’s more, they wanted to see different types of PWCs for solo and tandem riding!

Based on the requests of the YMUS, in February 1985, the manufacturer launched the Mini Marine Vehicle (MMV) project to design and build single and tandem types of Yamaha PWCs.

Although the team dreamed about a 50 HP engine, they only had a 30 HP power source borrowed from the outboard division.

To get the most out of this limited power, Mr. Kobayashi and his team developed a unique hull with a shallow V design. Thanks to this design, the new prototype could get on plane and cut through the water.

Finally in 1986, after a few finishing touches, the first Yamaha personal watercraft was born.

Production of the tandem model began in October 1986. This machine was named WaveRunner 500, also known as Yamaha Marine Jet 500T or WR500. The latter caused a lot of misunderstandings as Yamaha also released a dirt bike under the same name (WR 500) in the early ‘90s.

The one-seater model, the WaveJammer 500 (os Marine Jet 500S), was put into production in February 1987.

The sit-down type WaveRunner instantly became popular in the marketplace and was followed by many new WaveRunners.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about the WR500 in detail!

1986-1993 Yamaha WaveRunner 500 Review

Compared to today’s boat-like jet skis, the Yamaha WaveRunner 500 was surprisingly small. The entire machine was 109.1 inches long, 40.2 inches wide, 34.3 inches high, and weighed 348 pounds.

In contrast, the latest flagship Yamaha FX WaveRunners are 141 inches long and weigh about 800-840 pounds.

If they are compared visually, the difference is staggering:Yamaha WaveRunner 500 vs. FX SVHOThe hull of the WaveRunner 500 featured the aforementioned shallow-V design with incorporated double chines.

Since this hull didn’t sit too deep in the water, it could get on plane much easier. The double chines were designed to cut through the water to reduce resistance.

What’s more, they also improved the stability and handling in the fast corners when the hull was tipped on its side.

The engine of the Yamaha WaveRunner 500 was a 2-stroke, 496cc twin featuring a single 38 mm carburetor, CDI ignition, electric start, and an open-loop water cooling system. This power source provided 32 HP at 5,500 RPM while the mixed flow, single-stage jet pump delivered a thrust of 308.6 pounds.

Surprisingly, this unit was actually a Yamaha outboard engine with a new intake and carburetor, laid on its side.

Just like many other jet skis at that time, this WaveRunner also ran on premix (ratio: 50:1), while the 12V battery was charged by a flywheel magneto charging system.The maximum fuel consumption of the ski was 3.1 GPH, so its 5.8-gallon fuel tank offered about 1.6 hours of play at full throttle.

Top speed of the WaveRunner 500 was about 35-37 mph with one rider under ideal conditions.

Although this vintage Yamaha PWC was rated for two riders, operating it with an adult passenger was hard to impossible.

With two adults on board, it became very tipsy and offered a significantly lower top speed. Therefore, it was primarily recommended for an adult operator and a child passenger.

This was no surprise as the load limit of the WR500 was only 353 pounds, which breaks down to 177 pounds per rider.

Unlike modern jet skis, which typically require a 3-foot water depth to run smoothly, this WaveRunner could safely run in 2-feet of water. Sure, its pump scooped much less water than today’s high-performance power mills.

Standard features included a safety lanyard, electric start, choke knob, fuel cock, 12V battery, and a 5.8-gallon fuel tank with a 0.9-gallon reserve.

The fire extinguisher wasn’t standard equipment, so buyers had to purchase it separately from a local Yamaha dealer or another source.

Since the ski lacked a storage compartment, the fire extinguisher could be stored in a tiny rear storage bin called “fire extinguisher compartment.”In stock form the WaveRunner 500 was prone to cavitation and it was pretty slow as well. This is why many of these vintage machines now run with upgraded engines, pumps, and intake grates.

Yamaha WaveRunner 500 Specs Chart

For your convenience, we’ve compiled the Yamaha WaveRunner 500 specifications into these charts!

Yamaha WaveRunner 500 Dimensions

Length109.1 in (2 770mm)
Width40.2 in (1 020 mm)
Height34.3 in (870 mm)
Dry Weight348 lb (158 kg)
Fuel Tank Capacity5.8 US gal (22 L) including 1.06 US gal (4 L) reserve

Yamaha WaveRunner 500 Engine Specs

WR500GEngine Specs
Engine type2-stroke
Number of Cylinder2
Displacement496 cm³ (30.27 cu in.)
Bore and Stroke72 × 61 mm (2.83 × 2.40 in)
Compression ratio7.0
Lubrication SystemPre-mixed
Cooling SystemWater-cooled
Starting SystemElectric Starter
Ignition SystemC.D.I.
Spark Plugs TypeNGK BR-7HS10
Spark Plug Gap0.9 - 1.0 mm (0.036 - 0.04 in.)
Battery Capacity12 V 19 Ah
Charging SystemFlywheel magneto

Yamaha WaveRunner 500 Propulsion

WR500GDrive Unit
Propulsion SystemJet pump
Jet Pump TypeMixed flow, single stage
Impeller RotationCounter clockwise (Rear view)
TransmissionDirect drive from engine
Steering (nozzle) Angle29° +/- 1°
FuelUnleaded regular gasoline
Recommended Engine Oil TypeYamalube 1 Outboard Oil
Gasoline and Oil Mixing Ratio50 : 1

Yamaha WaveRunner 500 Performance

Static Thrust308.6 lb (140 kg)
Maximum Output32 HP (24 kW) / 5500 rpm
Maximum Fuel Consumption3.7 US gal/h (14 L/h)
Cruising Range / at Full Throttle1.2 hours
These charts are for informational purposes only! For exact specifications, please refer to the factory manual.

Vintage Yamaha WaveRunner 500 For Sale

If you are considering purchasing one, you probably want to know where to find a Yamaha WaveRunner 500 for sale.

As this model vanished from the market in 1993, it’s already a collectible item, so finding one is not an easy task!

We recommend that you start your research on dedicated WaveRunner forums and Facebook fan groups. Aside from some good deals, you may find some valuable info there about this ski.

When buying a used jet ski, it’s always wise to be informed about the selected machine in advance before making your purchase! Each model has its pros and cons and typical failures, which you should be aware of.

Besides these sources, you may also find some used Yamaha WaveRunner 500s for sale on Craigslist, PWC Trader, and other dedicated jet ski swap sites.

Restoring one can be a great side project for the long winter months! But before you jump into this rebuild, you should check for the availability of parts. Unfortunately, Yamaha WaveRunner 500 parts are becoming less and less available today.


As a takeaway, we’ve answered the most common questions about the Yamaha WaveRunner 500!

When was the Yamaha WaveRunner 500 Introduced?

The Yamaha WaveRunner 500 was revealed in 1986 and was marketed through 1993.

What Size was the Yamaha WaveRunner 500?

The Yamaha WaveRunner 500 was 109.1 inches long, 40.2 inches wide, and 34.3 inches high.

How Much Did a Yamaha WaveRunner 500 Weigh?

The dry weight of the Yamaha WaveRunner 500 was only 348 pounds, meaning that it weighed only half as much as today’s top-of-the-line skis.

What Kind of Engine Did the Yamaha WaveRunner 500 Have?

The engine of the Yamaha WaveRunner 500 was a 2-stroke, 496cc, 2-cylinder power source. This tiny carbureted power source was provided by Yamaha’s outboard division. It ran on premix and was cooled by an open-loop water cooling system.

How Much Horsepower Did a Yamaha WaveRunner 500 Have?

The engine of the Yamaha WaveRunner 500 produced 32 HP at 5,500 RPM while its pump delivered a thrust of 308.6 pounds.

How Fast Did a Yamaha WaveRunner 500 Go?

Top speed of the Yamaha WaveRunner 500 was about 35-37 mph under ideal conditions.

How Much is a 1986-1993 Yamaha WaveRunner 500 Worth?

It’s hard to tell the exact price of a Yamaha WaveRunner 500, as it strongly depends on its year, condition, and location. If you are lucky, you may find a neglected one for a couple of hundreds of dollars. On the other end of the spectrum, there are restored WaveRunner 500s with hefty price tags of $1,000+.