Jet Ski vs Waverunner

Personal Watercrafts are one of the most popular recreational watersports in the world, so it’s no wonder so many people often want to purchase their own. When renting costs anywhere from $70-100.00 an hour, why not look in to purchasing your own? If you are someone who rents a jet ski for a whole week every summer of more, it may be worth it to dive into your own watercraft purchase.

Personal Watercrafts are usually around $8,000.00. You can get top model or basic with a few features that will make the price vary. There are tons of different features you can get on your Personal Watercrafts now, so you should have fun customizing your own.

So, now that you have decided to make a purchase, it can be a little confusing to decide what kind you’re going to buy. You may have heard Personal Watercrafts be called both but a Waverunner and a Jet Ski, but why? Is there a huge difference between them? What features and purposes does one have versus the other? Which one is better?

This article will talk about all of the things that make Jet Skis and Waverunners unique so you can better decide which piece of equipment is right for you.

What’s the difference?

When Personal Watercrafts first hit the market, the two types released were the Wave Runner and the Jet Ski. The main difference between the two were that the Wave Runners were built with a seated driving position and the Jet Ski was built for a standing driving position. The other key differences between them are storage capacity, speed, and acceleration.

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Jet Ski

The first company to introduce a commercially successful Personal Watercraft was Kawasaki. In 1972 the company reached a license agreement with another company called Sea Doo and created the Jet Ski. The Jet Ski was the only successful Personal Watercraft for about 16 years.

The very first Jet Ski was a strong 400cc with a 2-stroke twin cylinder engine.

The Jet Ski has become the general term to describe all Personal Watercraft’s like it no matter the brand.

In the beginning, Jet Ski’s were only available in a stand-up driving position and this is what differentiated them from the next released PWC on the market, Yamaha’s Waverunner.

1982- Jet Ski

1995- 900ZXi

1999- Ultra 150

2000- Jet Ski STX D.I


In 1986, Yamaha decided to add Personal Watercrafts to their lineup and introduced the Waverunner. This was the very first sit-down PWC that could accommodate for 2 riders instead of 1. When this model was released, Waverunner became the general name for any PWC that had a seat. Soon after, the Wavejammer was introduced which was a sit-down model made for only 1 person. In 1992, Yamaha made their first stand up model called the Super Jet, which became a popular name around the world.

1986- WaveRunner 500

1987- WaveJammer 500

1990- WaveRunner 3 650

1990- Super Jet 650 (Yamahas first stand up)

1992- Wave Runner VXR650

1993- WaveBlaster 700

1994- WaveRaider 700

1995- WaveVenture 700

1996- WaveBlaster 2

1997- WaveRunner GP 1200

1998- WaveRunner XL 1200

1999- SUV 1200 and WaveRunner XL 1200Ltd

2000- WaveRunner GP 1200R

The Modern Difference

Although the initial features that differentiated the Waverunner and the Jet Ski in the early stages was really just the sitting or standing drive ability, today they are pretty similar.

Below we will put the two historically ground breaking models head to head to see what differences they have today.

Kawasaki Jet Ski STX- 15 F

Kawasaki Jet Ski STX- 15 F

This Jet Ski has come a very long way from Kawasaki’s early beginnings. Evolving all the way since 1972’s successful Kawasaki WSAA Jet Ski, the STX- 15 is a sleek and fast model Jet Ski that is sure to enthrall even the biggest thrill seekers. In 1972’s WSAA had 400cc 2-stroke cylinder engines and eventually became 531cc in 1982. From this point forward, people only wanted more power. More thrill. More risk. Faster. Eventually, this led people to race and so racing events were created for Jet Ski’s.

Today, The STX-15 features a 1,498cc four-cylinder marine engine. That is three times as fast as its grandfather. This Jet Ski can easily reach speeds of over 60 miles per hour. And, with its 16.4-gallon fuel tank, the STX-15 was made to go the distance.

In all of Kawasaki’s modern models they feature a new piece of tech called the Kawasaki Smart Steering System. This system is a microprocessor on boar the craft that is linked electronically to the steering sensor. Basically, when you turn the craft fully in either direction, the engine RPM naturally drops. When this happens, the Kawasaki Smart Steering System kicks into gear and raises the engine RPM to provide more thrust for maneuvering when you would normally have less.

Another modern-day safety feature that shows how Kawasaki has evolved is the SLO mode. The SLO mode is the Smart Learning Operation mode. This feature allows you to set a limit to the amount of thrust you are able to get out of the ski so that you can become comfortable at each level of power output. This will prevent new riders from going to fast at first and injuring themselves.

Aside from all of the new features that you find on the STX-15, the look is obviously very different from the late models. That is because the Jet Ski has transformed from just a stand-up model to one that also has a seat. Plus, modern day technology makes for some pretty cool carbon fiber and plastic detailing.

Let’s take a look at all the specs that make the modern-day Jet Ski great:

    • 4-stroke DOHC, four valve per cylinder, 4-cylinder inline engine
    • 1,498cc
    • DFI with 60mm throttle body
    • 148mm jet pump
    • 957 pounds of thrust
    • 3 blade oval edge stainless steel impeller
    • 16.4-gallon fuel tank
    • 496-pound load capacity
    • Overall weight of 844.5 pounds
    • 3- seater capacity

MSRP: $9,699.00

Yamaha VX- Yamaha VX-

What started as a simple machine with a 25-horsepower engine has now become a powerhouse with a 1,049cc, 3 cylinder, 4-stroke TR1 High-Output Yamaha Marine Engine. Capable of going at speeds up to around 50 miles per hour or more with a horsepower around 180, this machine is 3-4 times more powerful than its ancient model.

Yamaha features one of their newest and finest pieces of tech on this Waverunner, the Remote Transmitter. This little device has the ability to control the Low RPM mode and the Security mode. By limiting the amount of power you are putting out, the Low RPM mode will increase your fuel efficiency. Plus, the Security Mode protects you buy allowing the engine to disable to prevent anyone from starting up your Jet Ski without your permission.

Another great feature Yamaha has added to their Waverunners is the Yamaha RiDE. The RiDE is a feature that allows drivers to switch from forward, to neutral, to reverse with one pull of the throttle. This makes for easier deceleration and allows you to put your ski into reverse more simply. This feature makes docking a breeze.

Yamaha has added a re-board step to almost all of their watercrafts. These bars located at the rear of the craft make it easier for you to climb back aboard your watercraft if you get tossed off around a quick turn. The re-board step is engineered to be super convenient, so it tucks away when you aren’t using it.

Another thing that early Jet Skis and Waverunners didn’t have that the modern-day ones do have is storage. The VX Deluxe features a water-tight storage area for your towels, phone, or anything else you would like to take with you on your ride.

Let’s take a look at some of the extra awesome specs the most advanced Waverunner features:

    • Cruise Assist/ No Wake Mode
    • 2- piece seat
    • Watertight storage
    • Dual mirrors
    • Glove box
    • Reboarding step
    • Deck mats
    • Tow hook
    • Cup holders
    • 1049cc engine
    • 3-cylinder, 4-stroke TR-1 High Output Yamaha Marine Engine
    • 155mm High-pressure pump
    • 3-rider capacity
    • 530-pound load weight
    • 664-pounds
    • 18.5-gallon fuel capacity
    • 24.6 gallons of total storage capacity

If you weren’t sold already, Yamaha also offers something a little extra to entice you. If you love music, Yamaha is the way to go. Yamaha makes an Exclusive EcoXGear Bluetooth Speaker just for the VX Series. This is a wireless waterproof Bluetooth Speaker set that you can mount to your waverunner so you can play your favorite tunes while you are out on the water.

You can also choose to add on an additional 40 Liters of storage with a Stern Mounted Storage Compartment that is weather resistant, or you can opt for a Cooler designed specifically to fit your VX! This cooler is capable of holding about 18 cans, plus the ice!

MSRP: $10,699.00 USD


As you can see, Waverunners and Jet Skis have come a very long way. While at first the initial difference was the option to have a seated or standing drive, both models have ventured into making each type of model and are equally as popular today.

The companies have been trying out and adding new tech every year to their Personal Watercrafts that give them the ability to really stand out against their competition. Yamaha and Kawasaki have been head -to-head for many years and in my opinion, they are both very successful and great companies. Each companies’ products give many options to suit every rider, they both have adequate modern safety features that are very helpful to every rider, and they keep up with their looks and performance just the same.

From a time when Waverunners and Jet Skis were nothing but modified snow mobiles in a big heavy hunk of plastic going a mere 25 horsepower or with a wimpy 550cc engine to speed demon powerhouses exceeding 180 horsepower and 1,500cc engines, Personal Watercrafts have evolved greatly and will still be evolving for many years to come.

From one model to over 10 models Kawasaki and Yamaha have created varieties of machines for racers, for cruising, for families, and more that will give you the ability to choose the right machine for you. With sport racing models featuring high rates of speed and power, and family machines featuring more weight baring capacity and storage, Kawasaki and Yamaha have options for everyone.

If you are trying to narrow out which one is better, good luck. They are both amazing pieces of equipment with top of the line features that will impress just about anyone. Don’t cut yourself short on safety features either, because they can literally be the line between life and death!

As always, have fun and be safe!