Jet Ski Vs. Waverunner Vs. Sea-Doo? What’s the difference?

When you think of Personal WaterCraft (PWC), you probably think of a “Jet Ski.” But did you know Jet Ski is the name of a brand of PWC and that brand is just one of three of the most popular? The big three titles in the industry of PWC are Sea-Doo, Kawasaki Jet Ski, and Yamaha Waverunner.

However, if you are new to the market of PWCs, it can be overwhelming with the amount of material, advertising, and other information put out there by each of these companies to convince you to buy their PWC. This guide will lay out the details of each of these manufacturers of PWC and explain the pros and cons of each so that you can be secure in knowing which type of PWC is going to be the best for you.

What’s the difference between Jet Ski, Waverunner, and Sea-Doo? There are several differences between the big three manufacturers of PWC. These differences include price point, category of use, and overall performance. It is most important to consider how you will be using your PWC before you decide on which one will suit your needs the best.

Company Overview: Kawasaki Jet Ski, Yamaha Waverunner, Sea-Doo

Each of the leading PWC brands has been in the industry of making adrenaline powered water machines for decades. These companies load up on advertisements that give the consumer a tough decision. Let’s look at some of the details of each company and how long they have been manufacturing PWCs.

Kawasaki Jet Ski

Kawasaki is an American Motor Corporation and has an excellent reputation as the first commercially introduced and successful PWC known as the Jet Ski. The Kawasaki Jet Ski became colloquially known as the name used for all PWC. Jet Skis are, in fact, a type of PWC from the company Kawasaki. The Kawasaki Jet Ski is also known for its power. They are generally used by experienced riders and those looking for speed that can include racing.


The Kawasaki Jet Ski was initially a stand-up jet ski when Kawasaki made them famous during the 1960s. They now make sit down jet ski’s that compete with the other big brands nicely. Stand up, PWCs were the only type of PWC that was available until the next big thing came along with our second company.

Yamaha Waverunner

In the mid-1980s, Yamaha busted on the scene with a new design of PWC that you could now sit down on. It was called the Waverunner and has been a challenger to all other PWC ever since. Since Yamaha was a market game-changer in motorcycles, it is only fitting that they would follow up with the power and luxury of Waverunner on the water. The Waverunner name is still tied to the one-person or two-three person sit-down PWC.


The brand of Sea-Doo is from the company called Bombardier Recreational Products, and they introduced one of the first sit-down PWC in the 1960s. However, the Yamaha Waverunner was much more successful and caused the Sea-Doo to disappear for nearly 20 years from the PWC industry. But, back in 1989, the Seadoo-XP model was released and had a stellar rubbing until 2003. The model was so successful that it launched Sea-Doo back into the top 3 best PWC available.

1996 Sea-Doo XP

What Are The Different Categories of PWC?

The major brands of PWC, such as Sea-Doo, Yamaha, and Kawasaki, all offer different categories of PWC that can fit your needs and the style of recreation you will be doing. Overall, there are five categories of PWCs. Kawasaki, Yamaha, and Sea-Doo do not make PWCs in all of these categories, but there is overlap.  The six different types of PWC are recreational-light, recreational, tow-sports, luxury, stand up, and performance. You must consider what category the PWC is in and what they are designed to make sure that the PWC will fit your purposes on the water. The following is a list of descriptions for each of the six PWC categories available across these top-three brands.


Recreational-light is a new category with a powerful enough engine to give beginners plenty to have fun with. The Rec-Light was first established by Seadoo in 2014 when the company created the Spark. Most of these PWC’s can reach speeds of 40mph to 50mph and are available in two or three seat designs. This is a great starter ride for someone purchasing their first PWC because it is economical with fuel use, price point, and still has enough power for a great trip.  Yamaha has entered the Recreational Light market with a three-seat EX that is economical, just like the Spark. However, Kawasaki does not currently have a PWC in this category.

Pros: Recreational-Light PWC

  • Economic price
  • Lighter feel for more comfortable driving and handling

Cons: Recreational-Light PWC

  • Seats do not have enough cushioning
  • Not very stable
  • Smaller size, can’t fit as many people on them

Verdict: The best PWC in this category is the Spark by Seadoo for its maneuverability and power relative to lightweight hull. The aftermarket parts are unparalleled and are fun to mod your ski to your personal taste.


The recreation category is the most popular class of PWC on the market today. The agility of this category is great, and it is more stable and less likely to tip over than the rec-light division of PWC. This category is available at multiple levels within each of the top three. The high speeds of recreation category PWC can reach up to 60+ mph and have more storage and better seats than the recreational-light class making recreation PWC an excellent choice for families.

Sea-Doo offers the GTI, GTS, GTI SE 130, GTI SE 155, and GTI Limited 155. Kawasaki has the STX-15F and the Ultra LX. Yamaha provides the models of the VX, VX Deluxe, VX Cruiser, VX Cruiser HO, and the VX Limited. Each of these options is popular for rentals as they are very reliable and have various pros and cons listed below.

Pros: Recreation PWC

  • More Storage Space
  • Better Seating
  • More Stable
  • Great Agility

Cons: Recreation PWC

  • Bad handling on chappy water for the more abundant and Limited models
  • Not fast enough for some sport riding

Verdict: With the best Limited models that offer stability, agility, power, and plenty of space for storage and additional riders, the Yamaha line of recreation PWCs are the best.


Tow-sport PWCs are made to deliver speed and towing power so that tubes, wakeboards, and water skis can be pulled behind the PWC. Anyone who likes to do water sports with towing should consider the tow-sport category of PWCs as the agility of a PWC is sometimes preferred to being towed by a boat. The speeds of this class are fast enough to reach 60 mph, and the power of torque is designed for towing people doing sport riding behind the PWC.

Pros: Tow-Sports PWC

  • The best option for tow-sports like wakeboarding and tubing
  • Easy to attach a rope safely
  • Wakeboard storage
  • Best Resale Value Of Any PWC

Cons: Tow-Sports PWC

  • Fairly expensive

Verdict: Seadoo is the best brand in this category because it offers two different models of tow-sport PWCs, which are both powerful;l and agile. Their Wake 155 and Wake Pro 230 are built to create a wake for jumping with tow sports like wakeboards and are incredibly stable and powerful enough to reach speeds of 60+ mph.


Luxury category PWCs are for those looking for comfort and power. This category can reach speeds of the upper limits allowed by the Coast Guard at nearly 65mph! The most significant engines are offered on Luxury models. The luxury models of PWC are for experienced drivers who have tried less powerful categories and are ready to step up to the more powerful group. Each brand offers Luxury models, and the price point is much higher than the recreational and sport models.

Pros: Luxury PWC

  • Very comfortable to drive and ride on
  • Extremely stable and easy to ride on through choppy water
  • Most powerful engines of any PWC

Cons: Luxury PWC

  • Cost-these are the most expensive PWCs, but you certainly get what you are paying for!
  • These may depreciate faster than any other category

Verdict: The Yamaha FX SVHO is a perfect balance of power and stable comfort for a reasonable price point. Some of the luxury PWCs are ridiculously priced. Yamaha makes them approachable for most consumers.


A performance PWC is not for everyone. Only people looking to race their PWC should consider buying in the performance category. Racing requires people to override the speed controls on the PWC, which will void the warranty but allows riders to reach speeds over 80mph in as little as 3 seconds! Only a highly experienced rider of PWCs with a lot of time on their hands to devote to racing should consider buying a performance category PWC.

Pros: Performance PWC

  • Fast acceleration and top speed
  • May only be a 2 seater

Cons: Performance PWC

  • Less features to save weight
  • Least reliable due to superchargers and performance parts

Stand Up PWC

2010 Yamaha Superjet on dock

Stand up PWC’s have been around the longest and are very fun to ride. These will give you a huge workout, so be prepared to have your arms sore. Two manufacturers still manufacture a stand up and they are Kawasaki with their SX-R and Yamaha with their Superjet.

The new Kawasaki has a 4 stroke engine and has a huge hull as compared to a Superjet. Kawasakis will go faster and be better for top speed and rough water riding whereas Superjets will be better for tricks and acceleration. I personally own a Superjet and it is one of the most fun things to ride.

Stand up jet skis take skill to ride so they are very popular on the used market.

Pros: Stand Up

  • Fun to ride
  • Great resale
  • Gives you a workout

Cons: Stand Up

  • Single rider only
  • Can be tiring if riding to destinations

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Yamaha, Jetski, and Seadoo?

Each of these brands of PWC has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on what it is that you are looking for. The following comparison is all about the differences between Yamaha, Seadoo, and Jetski brands of PWC.


Seadoo has a great selection of watercraft in each category. Sea-Doo also is priced very well and is extremely popular because of its price-point compared to other PWC brands. This is an excellent PWC for beginners looking to enjoy the sun and water! The Seadoo brand is also the best for trick PWCs like the Spark Trixx and Tow-Sport specialties.

Seadoo has low prices for a reason. The products that they sell are manufactured with fewer upgrades than other brands. For instance, if you want more storage, a better seat, or other updates, it may cost less to just go with a Yamaha or Jetski instead of upgrading your Sea-Doo.


The Yamaha brand of PWC is a reliable machine with strong engines that outperform other brands and have a lifetime of use in them. Yamaha engines are also the best for those who are handy and want to work on their PWC themselves.

Since you can do maintenance on the Yamaha brand PWCs yourself, you will save money, which may make the difference when compared to the cheaper brand of Seadoo. Yamaha should also be the choice for families with children because of their safety features. Yamaha PWC can turn without acceleration and have a braking system that is better than other brands making them maneuverable and more comfortable to control.


If you are looking to race, Kawasaki is the brand of PWC that you should be considering. The most powerful engines in PWCs are in Kawasakis, and this also makes them the most expensive of the PWCs in this list. You also get more luxury features standard with Kawasaki, like speakers and protective seat covers. Ultimately, Kawasaki PWC are generally for more experienced riders and offer the power for racing and adrenaline junkies looking for more speed on the waterways!


The top three PWC brands are all great for different styles of riding on the water. If you have a purpose in mind, it can help you to narrow your choice of PWC brand and find the category of riding that you will enjoy the most. Remember, Seadoo is excellent for beginners, and they have the most rec-light options.

Yamaha is exceptional for all-around use and control of the PWC, which adds safety and should be considered for family uses. Yamaha engines are also most natural to work on for those looking to do the maintenance on their PWC themselves to save some money.

Finally, the Kawasaki PWCs are the most powerful in each category. They do not even have a Rec-light option because Kawasaki riders are looking for speed. Remember to consider your PWC use and style of riding before deciding on a brand and a category within that brand. Hopefully, this information will help you to stay safe and enjoy your PWC to the best of your ability!