Jet Ski Vs. Waverunner – What’s The Major Difference?

If you have been near PWCs (Personal Watercraft) for a while, you surely know the names Jet Ski and Waverunner. They are the names of two behemoths of the PWC industry. Many beginners choose to buy their first PWC from either of these two brands, but they both have many identical products. You probably came here to know their differences for an accurate analysis of which to choose.

Jet skis and Waverunners are PWCs manufactured by Kawasaki and Yamaha respectively. Both brands are highly reputed for their products, and they offer similar quality goods. However, Jet skis are slightly better for races, while Waverunners are better for cruising.

You will need to learn a bit more about the two brands before getting into the whole Jet Ski Vs. Waverunner rivalry. I will talk about the major differences between the Jet Ski and Waverunner models in the following section. That way you can compare them yourself.



Difference Between Jet Ski And Waverunner

If you ask someone about the difference between a Jet Ski and a Waverunner, they’ll often mention the riding position. Such an explanation will potentially leave you confused because it’s mostly false.

Many people believe Jet skis are the stand-up PWCs while the Waverunners are the sitting variant. This information is wholly false unless you invent a new riding position for Sea-Doo. The First jet skis made by Kawasaki were of the stand-up variant. And the Waverunner by Yamaha was the world’s first Sitting PWC.

However, that does not mean every Jet Ski is a stand-up PWC. Ironically, a large portion of Jet skis in Kawasaki’s catalog is sitting skis. Yamaha also has a few Stand-up PWCs in their catalog. These brands pioneered with different riding styles, but they did not stick to that particular design. So, trying to differentiate them based on riding style is inappropriate.

That doesn’t mean they don’t have any other defining features though. Here is a review article comparing them.

Kawasaki focuses mostly on speed, tricks, performance, and sportiness. That is why jet skis are commonly seen in races and competitive events. Many jet skis are off the stand-up type, and it’s easier to use those for tricks.

Kawasaki tries its utmost to increase the speed and performance of its jet skis. The weight generally is a crucial factor, as heavier PWCs have less speed. That’s why most of the Jet skis have a lighter dry-weight compared to other brands. Jet skis also tend to have fewer seats compared to comfort PWC brands.

The design of most Jet skis is balanced, and they offer maximum hydrodynamic properties. They tend to be a lot more compact compared to other brands. Kawasaki trades comfort for practicality and uses the best possible material to make their PWCs perform better. Most Jet skis are not fuel-efficient because they need to burn more fuel to reach higher speeds.

Waverunners are the first commercial PWCs that had a seated mounting style. Before its introduction, the market only had stand-up jet skis. Yamaha was smart, as it did not try to compete with Kawasaki by making racing/performance PWCs. They choose to carve out a new niche by introducing the Comfortable Waverunners for casual touring.

Waverunners are bulkier than jet skis. They are larger and have more dry-weight compared to jet skis too. Their whole purpose is to have better stability and enough buoyancy to carry more people.

Waverunners tend to be a lot more fuel-efficient compared to Jet skis. Their fuel storage is much larger too. That allows extended cruising time, but the overall speed and stunt potential of the Waverunners are a notch below Jet skis.



4 Best Yamaha Waverunner

This is a list of some of Yamaha’s Top Waverunners. These are in the competitive Range of Kawasaki’s Jet Skis in terms of price and performance.


1. GP1800R HO Yamaha

The GP series of Yamaha’s Waverunner is one of the most famous ones to date. It’s a rerun of a prior model that was a big hit in the past. The new GP1800R HO is a performance-type PWC with a lot of upgrades over the original VXR.

The new Yamaha GP1800R HO’s engine has the largest stock displacement among the available PWCs on the market. The supercharged high-output marine engine delivers 180 horsepower. It is one of the most reliable engines from Yamaha.

GP1800R HO has the stability and resilience to match its powerful engine. It comes with a top-loader intake grate and an upgraded jet pump. The intake grate reduces the cavitation to ensure smoother movement. The upgraded jet pump acts as a better stabilizer than its predecessor.

The Design of the inner hull adds more stability to the craft by offering a better center of gravity. They moved the 18-gallon fuel tank a bit further back and lowered its position to make the craft more stable. It is a large PWC, but It can do almost every trick because of all the added control and stability enhancements.


  • Manufacturer: Yamaha
  • Engine: 4-stroke 1812CC (Supercharged)
  • Fuel Capacity: 18.5 gallons
  • Storage: 28.4 gallons


RiDE System: GP1800 uses the RiDE system for the throttle. It is a mixture of the right throttle for the front and left throttle for the back. But the PWC goes into a neutral mode when you release both at the same time. It remains one of the most advanced throttle systems to this day.

GP Ergonomic Hull: The GP hull design has always been top-tier in terms of ergonomic compatibility. The narrow saddle gives an aggressive sitting position,


  • Comfortable Yet Sporty
  • Intuitive throttle System
  • Low Fuel Consumption
  • High Stability


  • A bit Expensive
  • Not The Best Raw Speed

2. Waverunner SuperJet

Who said Jet skis are the only ones that can have a stand-up riding style? Yamaha presents one of the best stand-up PWCs on the market in the form of Yamaha Superjet. It is an affordable tricks/racing PWC. It can carry one person and a few baby ducks. The SuperJet does not have much storage space, nor does it have a bulky fuel tank.

The SuperJet prides itself on its Four-stroke 1049cc engine. It took Yamaha countless trials and errors to reach this point. The original engine of the first SuperJet was a two-stroke one that failed to meet environmental regulation standards. Its waste emission was too high, so the iconic superjet stayed as a “race-only” model for years.

The latest engine upgrade makes it available for public use. The four-stroke is a tad heavier compared to its predecessor, but it still manages to dish out enough power to keep the SuperJet in a competitive form. The extra weight did rob it of some of its agility. But it still stays as a top choice for stuns and tricks.

The goal of their 2021 release of this product was to keep the SuperJet legacy alive. The most commonly associated terms with SuperJet were Fun, lively, and Agile. Yamaha did everything it could to stay true to the original Scheme of the SuperJet.

The added weight from the engine initially was a downside, but they changed the material composition of some other parts to maintain a balanced ratio.


  • Manufacturer: Yamaha
  • Engine: 3-cylinder 1049CC
  • Fuel Capacity: 5 gallons
  • Storage: None


Learner Mode: The SuperJet also has an L-mode, which reduces the engine output by 85%. The goal of this mode is to limit top speed, which makes it easier to perform tricks. The Learner mode is more suitable for beginners to practice their control skills. It is one of the few PWCs that has a dedicated L-Mode.

Aluminum Handle Pole: The new aluminum handle pole is one of the more prominent upgrades of the SuperJet. The aluminum pole can switch between a wide ranges of riding positions while also being durable. The poles can be shortened or extended based on the rider’s size. The aluminum build is also light enough to keep the PWC in a reasonable weight category.


  • Good For Tricks
  • Fast Acceleration
  • Agile


  • High skill-requirement

3. Waverunner EX Limited

The EX series is one of the most affordable series released by Yamaha. It is a slightly upgraded version of EX Deluxe with several helpful add-ons. The thing runs on a 1049cc Yamaha triple-cylinder TR-1 engine, which delivers a modest 100 horsepower.

The EX Limited is a Rec-Lite watercraft. The low price range makes it one of the best choices for first-time buyers. The EX Limited offers multiple beginner-friendly add-ons that most people would end up buying within a year of getting into watersports.

Waverunner EX Limited might be a bit under-geared in terms of raw power, but it is by no means a pushover. It isn’t suitable for advanced tricks, but you could still have some fun trying basic stuff. Be careful though, even with a modest engine, it still has a top speed of 51mph.

One of the best features of EX Limited is the Tow function. I know, most watercraft can tow inflatables or surfers, but few are dedicatedly built for the task. The EX is a perfect example of a tow board. It has extended sponsons as well as design adjustments to allow better towing.


  • Manufacturer: Yamaha
  • Engine: 4-stroke 1049CC
  • Fuel Capacity: 13.2 gallons
  • Storage: 7.7 gallons


Lightweight Hull: The PWCs hull is a fiberglass hybrid with a rigid finish. The overall performance is more than decent, and it has a very little dry-weight.

The watercraft can handle choppy waters with ease, but the overall speed won’t be too high.

Accessories: The limited version comes with an inflatable floaty, a carrier strap, a tow rope, and a storage bag for these add-ons. They also offer all the necessary tools for inflation. The watercraft also has a pair of branded fenders to help with docking.


  • Affordable
  • Beginner-friendly
  • Good for Tow Sport
  • Balanced Performance


  • Not good for advanced tricks
  • Too slow for Competitive Race

4. Waverunner VX Limited Ho

VX Limited is one of the most popular Waverunners in the current market. It’s a brand new addition to Yahama’s watercraft tally and has all the latest technology at Yamaha’s disposal. It is a pure recreation-type watercraft, it has a ton of different features and a comfortable family-friendly design.

This baby runs on a four-cylinder 1812cc high-output engine. The maximum speed it can reach is 62 mph, which is moderately high for a recreation watercraft.

The engine weight is more than 25 pounds, which makes it a bit heavier than similar PWCs. However, the hull design and center-of-gravity help it maintain a decent edge over others. The fuel tank holds up to 18-gallons, and the storage unit has space for 28-gallons.

The body of VX received many upgrades. The handlebar was improved, and they added a hood cover for the front storage. This version uses a smaller and slimmer saddle, it fits better than the previous ones and has a sporty feel to it. They lowered the footwells and widened them to include a self-draining platform.


  • Manufacturer: Yamaha
  • Engine: 1812CC High Output Marine Engine.
  • Fuel Capacity: 18.5 gallons
  • Storage: 28.5 gallons


Advanced Throttle System: The VS model makes use of both Tilt steering and the RiDE throttle system. The combination of the two systems allows it to achieve phenomenal agility. This recreational watercraft can turn corners like a Rec-Lite.

Helpful Add-ons: It comes with a footwell drain to keep the perching area dry. The upgraded reboarding step makes getting back up easier in the water.


  • Family-friendly
  • High Acceleration
  • Moderate fuel consumption
  • Good maneuverability


  • A bit heavy



4 Best Kawasaki Jet Ski

Some of the Kawasaki models are old, while some are brand new. Kawasaki hadn’t introduced anything new for quite a while. They recently broke the hiatus with some iconic new releases.

1. Ultra 310LX Jet Ski

Let’s start with one of Kawasaki’s most recent Jet skis, the Ultra 310LX. A behemoth of a watercraft, 310LX boasts a powerful four-cylinder 1498cc engine. It’s a supercharged engine with an inter-cooling system for maximum performance. It is one of the more expensive choices from Kawasaki’s catalog.

The Ultra 310LX is a Touring PWC, and it is among the most powerful ones in the market. The only downside is the price tag. You can get touring PWCs from Sea-doo and Waverunner at a cheaper price. Although the performance won’t be as good as the 310LX, the difference won’t be too much.

However, nothing comes close to the 310LX when it comes to rough water travel. The hull material and design are perfect for choppy water, and the anti-debris Intake-grates offer a debris-free riding experience. Despite its bulk, it still manages to top at 67mph, which is among the fast available speeds for a cruiser.

The 310LX almost always comes ahead in terms of performance because that is what Kawasaki is famed for. The additional features are not that abundant, but there’s enough to make it decent. The fuel-saving engine mode, in particular, is a great boon for touring PWC.


  • Manufacturer: Kawasaki
  • Engine: 4-stroke 1,498cc (supercharged)
  • Fuel Capacity: 20.6 gallons
  • Storage: 56 gallons


Cruise Control: Cruise control is a stress-free control system that lets you choose a personalized speed setting. This mode is a rarity in performance PWCs but it is undoubtedly a welcoming addition. It also has a no-wake mode for traveling through long water zones. It helps with fuel-saving too just like the ECO setting.

Deep-V Durable Hull: The Ultra 310 series has a knack for using large, durable hulls for maximum oceanic adventures. The hull of Ultra 310LX is the same. It has a large storage space and an ergonomic design for maximum performance and stability. The added weight is distributed equally to ensure a perfect center of gravity.


  • Durable
  • Can handle Rough Water
  • High Speed and acceleration
  • Lots of Storage


  • Expensive

2. STX 160 Jet Ski

STX 160 is one of the more affordable choices from Kawasaki’s catalog. It is a top-notch entry-level choice for many beginners because of the performance-to-price ratio. It is not using a supercharged engine, so It is fuel-efficient to some extent.

This baby runs on a four-cylinder 1498cc engine and has a fuel capacity of 20.6 gallons. It has enough seating capacity for family fun, but still enough power and features to make it a fun ride for solo flyers.

STX 160 is a fresh recreational model from Kawasaki. The company did not introduce anything new for quite some time. So It feels nice to see it stepping into the recreational scene again. This new model has amazing ergonomics and it stands at the top in terms of performance among its peers.

It has enough cargo space to impress many people yet the PWC itself does not look too cumbersome. The fuel-efficient engine offers a decent max speed of around 59 miles per hour. Both Yamaha and Sea-Doo have corresponding Recreational PWC in a similar price range, but the new STX is superior to both of them in my opinion.


  • Manufacturer: Kawasaki
  • Engine: 4-cylinder 1498cc
  • Fuel Capacity: 20.6 gallons
  • Storage: 35 gallons


Ergonomic Saddle: The New STX 160 comes with a fine-tuned ergonomic saddle. This two-piece saddle is a scalloped version that helps make a cradle perch for the rider.

The back portion of the saddle is raised higher than the rider’s seat. This helps give the passengers a better view of the front.

Cruise control: Cruise control is a rarity in Kawasaki racing jet skis, but you can find one on the STX 160. It is ultimately a recreational model. So, they added all the bells and whistles for an easy, stress-free ride.


  • Economic choice
  • Great Overall Performance
  • Practical Design
  • Fast acceleration


  • Lacks additional Features

3. Jet Ski Ultra 310R

The Ultra 310 series is Kawasaki’s pride. The Jet Skis on this series are all geared towards race and performance. Naturally, the 310R is no exception. It is currently one of the best performing PWCs on the market.

It has an Eaton twin-vortices supercharger and a suitably powerful intercooler. This little beast also runs on a 1498cc four-cylinder Kawasaki engine. This combination allows it to generate a whopping 310 horsepower.

This is a supercharged beast with a ravenous appetite. It does not care about fuel efficiency, so you need to control the throttle and manage your riding time. You’ll burn through a lot of fuel every ride if you like going full throttle all the time.

The ultra 310R is not a beginner-friendly PWC. It accelerates fast and generates tremendous momentum in a short time. Beginners will find it exceedingly hard to control such momentum without practice. It also lacks an automated deceleration system like RiDE or iBR, so everything depends on the rider.


  • Manufacturer: Kawasaki
  • Engine: Supercharged 4-stroke 1,498cc
  • Fuel Capacity: 20.6 gallons
  • Storage: 56 gallons


Ergonomic Racing Saddle: Most Ultra 310 models have a rough water hull with a sturdy disposition. The 310R has a similar hull, but with more ergonomic adjustments for the rider. A slimmer saddle helps riders adjust better. The combination of the 310 hulls and the new ergonomic saddle gives the PWC a sporty feel.

R-model handlebar: R-model handlebars are an upgrade over the original molded cover handles. It is an aftermarket-style handlebar that gives the rider a better grip.


  • Top-Tier Speed
  • Fast Acceleration
  • Powerful Engine
  • Decent Storage Space


  • Not Fuel-Efficient
  • Not Beginner-Friendly

Check Price

4. SX-R Jet Ski

SX-R is one of the most powerful Stand-up Jet Skis in Kawasaki’s catalog. Kawasaki does not make too many Stand-up models these days because of the decreasing interest in the variant. But they have not forgotten their former pride. The SX-R Jet ski stands at the very top among the Stand-up Variants due to Kawasaki’s iconic technology.

SX-R is also one of the most affordable Stand-up Jet Skis on the market. It is much bigger than its Iconic predecessor in physical size as well as performance. It’s a lot more stable due to the longer and wider hull design.


The rider tray is larger than before, which allows for a more intuitive riding position. The added buoyancy and the hull design make it feel more aggressive than the previous stand-up Jet Skis. You could also ride in leaning inside or flat because of the higher response time.

The STX-R runs on a four-stroke 1498cc engine while generating 160 horsepower. It also has a 148-millimeter pump to keep up with the larger hull and engine. The top speed of this stand-up Jet Ski is 62 miles per hour, which is more than enough to beat its counterparts in the market.


  • Manufacturer: Kawasaki
  • Engine: 4-stroke 1498cc
  • Fuel Capacity: 6 gallons
  • Storage: None


Rider Tray: The rider tray of the SX-R is a lot harder than an average stand-up jet ski. High-quality Hydro-Turf padding covers the entire tray. The tray height is a bit low, which allows a more aggressive standing position.

Larger Handle Pole: the handle pole looks like a bloated femur at first glance, and quite awkward to be honest. But the larger handle pole also has its merits. It makes balancing easier and gives better control to the rider.


  • Fast Acceleration
  • Good Speed
  • Precise Controls
  • Affordable


  • A bit Heavy

History Behind the Jet Ski and The Waverunner

Waverunner and Jet Ski are the flagship watercraft models of the two manufacturing behemoths Yamaha and Kawasaki. If we are going to talk about the differences between the two types of watercrafts, we need to dig into their history first.

Jet Skis

It is the PWC flagship trademark of Kawasaki. It is a Japanese company that produces almost all types of engines and heavy components. It’s well-known for making top-quality bikes, and aerospace equipment.

I’ve seen a lot of people calling every personal watercraft jet ski. It’s a common misconception among the general public because jet skis were the first commercially available PWCs. It had a very successful run, to say the least. That success and the fact that it came first are the reasons why the name stuck.

Jet Ski is the patented trademark of Kawasaki, so It’s better to avoid using it as a general term for all PWC. The first Jet Ski came out in 1972. They had a few other prototypes before, but none of them made it to the market. The Jet Ski was not even the first name they chose, they used to call it “Water jet” or “Power ski”.


Yamaha motor used to be a part of Yamaha Corporation that was better known for its musical instrument production. The Yamaha Motor is best known for its motorcycles and boats these days.

Yamaha was late into the personal watercraft market. It had no relevance in the scene until 1986 when the first Waverunner was released. The term Waverunner has been their brand name for the PWC market since then.

Ironically, that was the era of Stand-up jet skis from Kawasaki. Any other lesser-known brands also followed the stand-up design. Waverunner was the first successful sit-down PWCs on the market, which is kind of ironic since it had “runner” in its name.


I hope that clears up your confusion about the Jet Ski Vs. Waverunner conflict. Both are premium brands with a rich history. However, Yamaha has been getting ahead of Kawasaki in recent years in terms of new releases. But which even you choose is solely upon you.

Browse through their products and pick the one that best suits your requirements and style and you should be all right.


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