US correspondent Elliott Maurice picks out the best jet skis on the market and explains what sets them apart from the hundreds of other options…
A post-Covid frenzy of people wanting to get on the water has exploded the market for personal watercraft. This burgeoning sector now includes electric foiling surfboards, Sea Bob-style water scooters and even self-propelled foiling bicycles, as well as the best jet skis.
The term ‘jet ski’ originates in the stand-up style watercraft originally pioneered by Kawasaki and launched in 1972, indeed the name is still owned and trademarked by Kawasaki.
The sit down PWC (Personal Water Craft), the main focus of the jet skis featured in this article, came much later in 1988 when Bombardier launched the first one under the Sea Doo brand name.
Both Kawasaki and Sea Doo are still the leaders in this sector with Yamaha making up the last member of the big three jet ski brands. The versatility of these PWCs has now brought them into the worlds of search and rescue, law enforcement and safety vessels.
All this means that the once humble watersports toy has grown into a very fast, capable and seaworthy platform. From $5,999 to over $42,000, here are some of the best jet skis on the market right now.
7 of the best jet skis available right now
Kawasaki Jet Ski SX-R 160
The original stand-up jet ski
A larger and significantly more powerful version of the original standup jet ski, the SX-R is now a high-octane watersports vehicle.
This one-person PWC requires significantly more skill to ride than a sit-down jet ski, however tricks like backflips and submarines are possible, and with out of the box speeds in excess of 60 mph, the SX-R is ready to race and certainly not for the faint hearted.
Once the basics are mastered, this standup jet ski is a fun platform to blast around on. At $11,600 plus trailer, the Jet Ski SX-R 160 is powered by an electric-start 1,498cc 4-cylinder performance engine with proven reliability.
Sea Doo Spark
Best entry-level sit down jet ski
Starting at $5,999 plus trailer, the Spark is the entry point into the sit down jet ski sector. The Spark is the most common model you’ll find for rent at beach clubs and resorts, primarily because it is easy to ride, simple to maintain and offers unbeatable pound for pound fun.
The 2-seat Spark is available in 60hp and 90hp versions and is without doubt the ideal starting point for beginners. The Spark can be optioned with a removable stereo, brake and reverse system and storage bin for extended trips.
As an easy-to-ride PWC to keep in your yard or as a toy on board a larger boat, the Spark is an excellent choice and a great value machine.
Sea Doo RXP-X Apex 300
Best performance jet ski
With a searing 300hp, the RXP-X is electronically limited to 67mph for safety reasons – without it, it would be capable of well over 80mph. What distinguishes this beast of a jet ski is its supercar-like 0-60 mph time of under 3 seconds.
Breathtaking performance aside, the RXP-X includes premium features like an intelligent pump that clears debris from the intake at the touch of a button.
A premium sound system, launch control, footwell and swim platform carpets, boarding ladder and a variable trim system are all among the other options.
At 3.38m / 11ft long the RXP-X is a big jet ski, however with its supportive high back rider’s seat and comfortable passenger’s seat it is also well suited to touring up to 100 miles.
Sea Doo GTX Ltd
Best touring jet ski
A blend of sporting performance and comfort are the recipe for this grand tourer jet ski. Built on the same hull platform as the RXP-X and using the same 300hp Rotax powerplant, the GTX has a larger and more comfortable seat, along with the ability to accommodate up to three passengers.
The performance is slightly toned down from the RXP with 0-60mph achieved around 4 seconds and a top speed that’s limited to 62mph.
The main feature is the 18.5 (US) gallon fuel tank offering up to 130nm of cruising range. Equipped with a 7.8” color display, the system includes Bluetooth, navigation, a full suite of vessel information, weather and even a depth finder.
Starting at $18,899, the GTX Ltd may not be cheap, but at this level it is likely the best all around jet ski on the market.
The world’s fastest production jet ski
Fancy spending more than $42,000 for a jet ski? If Ferrari made a jet ski then the Belassi Burrasca would be it. Quad titanium exhausts protrude from the racelike stern of this jet ski, giving it the looks of a Ducati race bike.
Each jet ski is hand built using exotic materials like carbon fiber and titanium. Combine those lightweight elements with 320hp on tap, and you can hit 60 mph in well under 3 seconds and continue to over 80mph, making the Burrasca the undisputed fastest production jet ski in the world.
Its engine is hand-built in Austria and its resin infused hull features 20 sq ft of reinforcing carbon fiber – so it’s no surprise to learn that each Burrasca takes 100-man hours to build.
This two-seat jet ski can be ordered in a slew of color combinations, but there’s no stereo or cruise control. It’s no touring jet ski, instead the Burrasca is a razor-sharp piece of exotica, designed and built to offer performance like nothing else on the market. But before you reach for your wallet, there’s a catch – it’s not yet available in the US.
Yamaha GP1800R SVHO
Best handling jet ski
The Yamaha GP1800R SVHO is the highest performance jet ski available off the shelf in the US. With a top speed of 72mph, the GP1800R has a narrower and shorter hull than the Sea Doo RXP, and so offers less stability but more race-like handling.
Power can be restricted electronically for less experienced riders but even in its non-supercharged 180hp form, the GP1800R can hit 60mph in under 2 seconds. Upgrade to the 250hp supercharged version and you can hit 80mph.
In terms of fuel efficiency, you can expect a highly respectable 8mpg at a 25mph cruising speed with a five-hour cruising range. Open the taps and run the Yamaha as intended, and you can expect less than half of those numbers.
With a starting price in excess of $16,500, the GP1800R SVHO is not a cheap jet ski by any means. However, if you’re looking for race-level performance, it’s certainly great value for money.
Sea Doo FishPro Trophy 170
Best fishing jet ski
A jet ski might seem like an unusual choice for a fishing boat but Sea Doo have used their experience creating utilitarian PWCs to produce the impressive Fish Pro models.
The wide and stable RXP hull has been re-tasked using the 170hp Rotax engine to extend range and offer a comprehensive fishing platform, while the extended rear deck houses a cooler with a live baitwell.
The 7” touch screen is equipped with a CHIRP fish finder and upgraded chart and sonar maps, and the rear portion of the seat transforms into a pedestal swivel seat with a backrest for day-long sight fishing.
Five rod holders, a trolling system and anchoring package complete the specifications for the FishPro. At just over $19,500 plus trailer, the FishPro Trophy 170 is not cheap. However, it offers an excellent compact alternative to a bass boat.