Do Jet Skis Have Lights? All about Navigating at Night

Jet skis are small watercraft that are vulnerable even in the best of conditions. There are are many different state laws concerning operating a jet ski after dark. For example, in California, you can’t run a jet ski after sunset or before sunrise. Other states, like Arkansas, give you a full 30 minutes after sunset and before dawn. Every state at least requires lights on a jet ski if operating at night. Check out the USCG boating website to check on your state’s restrictions.

Jet skis can be operated 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset, according to the United States Coast Guard Auxillary.

Do jet skis have lights? No, Jet skis typically do not come with lights from the factory. Lights can be added aftermarket and used at night in some states. Jet skis will need a bow and stern light to be legal, so yes, jet skis can have lights and can be ridden at night in some states.

Are Jet Skis Legal At Night?

Most states do not allow personal watercraft(PWC) or jet skis to be ridden at night. According to the USCG, the United Staes government body that the low profile of the craft makes it extremely vulnerable and hard to see. Check your state’s laws.

Almost all states that allow riding at night require specific lighting and navigation features if you are going to ride your jet ski at night. The size of the jet ski can also make it a legal “boat,” which is a loophole used to right jet skis at night. It is better to be safe than sorry and receive a fine for using your jet ski illegally at night. Do your homework before getting out on the water and know the laws and restrictions for your state’s waterways!

Are Lights Illegal On A Jet Ski?

The quick answer to this question is that lights are sometimes illegal in some states, but riding at night is usually unlawful. The local law enforcement doesn’t hesitate to issue tickets. It is better to be sure of the laws before getting your jet ski outfitted lights and riding at night. Since lights are not usually illegal, let’s look at a few reasons why people might want lights on their jet skis.

Why Put Lights On A Jet Ski?

Lights are put on jet skis for all sorts of reasons. Keep in mind that lights on a jet ski can help with safety and visibility on the water. This is important to some jet ski owners who know the vulnerability of being on a PWC. Consider the reasons for having lights on your jet ski from the following list.

Emergency Lights For A Jet Ski

Most jet ski owners would put lights on their jet ski for times of emergency. Having emergency lights on your jet ski can give you peace of mind to ride closer to sunset. If your jet ski runs out of gas on the water or the engine breaks down, emergency lights allow you to remain safe as you wait for rescue even if it begins to get dark. Use the emergency lights to be visible to other watercraft or to flag a rescuer down.

Jet Ski Lights Can Be Used On Foggy Days

If you jet ski in an area that can get very foggy, you may want to consider getting lights for your jet ski. Fog can limit visibility to less than a few hundred feet. Many jet ski owners wouldn’t want to go out on a foggy day. However, if you have to, having lights will significantly help your chances of being seen by other watercraft in fog.

Jet Ski Lights For Riding Through Dark Waterways

A less common way to use lights on your jet ski is on a waterway that doesn’t get enough light. If you are continually riding your jet ski through waterways that are choked with thick trees and brush canopy, you may want lights to help you see better. If sunlight is not getting to the water, lights on the jet ski can help you to know where you are going. Lights in their situations can help with safety to view sticks or rocks in shallow water.

How To Navigate A Jet Ski At Night

If you are going to ride a jet ski at night, it is best to be as cautious as possible. Stay away from other boats if possible, and keep your lights on. Following the boating basics for sailing at night will help you to set up your lights correctly and how to interact with other boaters in the dark.

The Lights Needed For Boating At Night on your Jet Ski

There are two main navigation lights that you need on a boating vessel if you are going to operate it at night. Nighttime navigation boat lights are sidelights and stern lights/all-around white light.

Sidelights: There are red and green lights on your jetski called sidelights. Sidelights can let other boaters know how you are oriented in the water(If you are coming towards them or going away). The red and green sidelights are also known as combination lights and can be seen from the front of the side. The red light indicates the boat’s port(left) side; the greed side light suggests the boat’s starboard(right) side.

All Around White Light/Sternlight: This may be the most crucial light for safety on a jet ski. All-around white light is usually posted on a mast or a pole above the rider’s head to the rear of the vessel. The all-around white light acts as a steady beacon to other boats on the water, even when the other lights of the jet ski are extinguished or under choppier water.

What To Do If You Encounter Another Vessel At Night

If you encounter another vessel with jet skiing or boating at night, there are proper procedures to follow for safety. Make sure to follow these guidelines very carefully, especially if using a jet ski at night since your visibility to other boaters may be limited. Safe boating encounters depend on several things stating with proper lights on your vessel. The next few steps are generally good practice for encountering another ship at night.

Give Way

The first thing to do when encountering another vessel at night is to “give way,” which means to give the other vessel plenty of space.

Seeing A White LIght Only

If you see the white light only, you are overtaking the vessel and can pass on either side. You will be coming up behind the other boat.

When You See A Green And White Light

You are the stand-on vessel and must hold the course you were initially heading. Always observe to make sure that the other vessel has seen you.

When You See A Red And White Light

You must give way and slow down. The other vessel is the stand-on vessel and should continue on course. You can also turn right and pass around the vessel.

Other Things to Consider For Boating At Night

Most vessels you encounter at night will fit the description above. However, sailboats have different lighting and will be moving at a slower rate. A sailboat will only show red or green lights, they are not required to have masthead lights. Always give way to the sailboat and pass at a careful distance.

Some boats may lose power at night. These vessels will not have lights on, or only have smaller emergency lights going. Make sure to remain on high alert while operating your jet ski on the water at night, especially on vast waterways with other traffic.

Will Insurance Cover My Jet Ski If I Put Lights On It?

Insurance companies may not cover jet ski use at night if it is illegal in your state. Putting lights on the jet ski should not change your coverage during the day. However, if you have a more massive 3-person jet ski that is technically classified as a “boat” by law. Your insurance should cover night use for boats unless expressly stated in your coverage plan.

Make sure to read the details of the night use of your PWC from your insurance company. Boating at night requires the navigation and other safety lighting listed above and to follow safe boating practices at night. Also, a license and boating safety courses are probably necessary for your state as laws regarding jet skis and boat use are different.

What Are The Dangers of Riding A Jet Ski At Night?

There are many dangers to consider when riding a jet ski at night. You always want to remain aware of your surroundings, other vessels on the water, and of possibly changing weather conditions. When you are riding on a jet ski, you are very exposed. Being vulnerable on a jet ski increases when it gets dark as visibility of water conditions and your PWC becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, to see. Here are some of the dangers of using your jet ski at night.

#1 Poor Visibility Can Cause Accidents And Injuries

The risk of crashing or getting injured on a jet ski increases when you operate it at night. The most common reasons for injuries and accidents due to poor visibility is unforeseen water conditions. Waves and even debris in the water are very hard to see from a jet ski at night. Other boats will not be able to see you very well either due to the low profile of your jet ski, increasing the chances of an accident.

#2 Changing Water Conditions

A possible challenge for riding a jet ski at night is that you will not be able to notice changing weather conditions until it is too late. Storms, rain, or choppy swells are harder to recognize early enough to get away from in the dark. It is always a good idea to check the weather before going out at night on your jet ski.

#3 You Might Have To Pay A Fine

Nobody wants to pay the extra money, and fines for improper watercraft use can be pretty hefty. The laws for your state about jet skiing at night are very clear. Almost all states do not allow jet skiing after dark. Keep in mind that if you are caught after dark on your jet ski, you will almost certainly be fined by law enforcement.


Although using your jet ski at night is usually illegal, there are times and places when using a jet ski at night can be safe and fun! Make sure to look at the PWC laws of your state before deciding to put lights on your jet ski or jet ski after sunset. Also, review boating regulations for safe boating at night.

If you install the navigation lights to your jet ski, you will need to know the basics of how to interact with the lights of other vessels on the water that you may encounter. Finally, consider the vulnerability of being on a jet ski and then multiply it if you decide to jet ski at night.

Even if you can legally ride your jet ski at night with the proper lighting, it is still a low profile vessel and hard to see for other boaters on the water. Take care to be aware of your surroundings, other ships on the water, and possibly changing weather conditions and never operate any watercraft under the influence of drugs or alcohol!