Jet Boat Pros And Cons

I see a lot of misinformation when it comes to jet boats online. It seems like a lot of the advice is from people who have never been on a jet boat; with some, I’m questioning if they ever have seen a boat.

It’s time to set something straight. I’m going to list off all the pros and cons of owning a jet boat. This information I’ve gained through years of owning, selling, and teaching others about jet boats.

Jet Boat Pros

Let’s talk about all the good things when it comes to owning a jet boat first.

1. No Exposed propeller!

The first pro is probably the biggest one of them all – no exposed propeller.

The propeller is the spinning blade that pushes your boat forward. This blade is sharp even when it’s not spinning. Other boats have this blade fully exposed with nothing around it.

A jet boat has a propeller too, or as it’s called an impeller, located inside the jet boat.

No matter what boat you have, it’s still essential to have the engine off when boarding and unboarding a boat from the rear. At least with a jet boat, you don’t have the exposed sharp blades of the propeller to worry about when the engine is off. This is a big deal for families and anyone who does pull-sports.

2. You Have Better Control With A Jet Boat

I’ve got to make control the second most important factor because of all the lies going around about jet boats.

The biggest one I get is that a jet boat is hard to control, or even it’s hard to reverse compared to other boats. This is true, driving a jet boat is different than other boats.

But this is not a bad thing!

Driving a boat is very different than driving your car. With a boat, you have to move the steering wheel a lot more to move the boat just a little. You also have to shift into and out of the gears quicker and with a lot more confidence than your car.

When driving a jet boat, it’s more like driving your car than driving other boats. With a jet boat, you don’t move the steering much, and when shifting, you do it as gracefully as you would your car.

You have more control when driving a jet boat. Other boats you look like the wizard from the wizard of oz flipping switches and spinning doo-dads to keep the boat under control. While in a jet boat, you’re going slower and more gracefully like you would drive your car.

This video gives a good demonstration of the control you have with a jet boat, you can even steer it when in neutral!

Other boats don’t allow you to steer the boat in neutral. Being able to control the boat in neutral means you have more control over the jet boat than you would with any other boat.

3. REVERSING A Jet Boat Is Easy

There is some slight truth to the reversing on a jet boat myth. It was more of an issue for older jet boats, and it affected Yamaha jet boats more.

Yamaha has since fixed this issue with the fin under the nozzles, as seen below.

As for Sea-Doo, Scarab, and Chaparral Jet Boats, this was never an issue. They all use Sea-Doo tech, and the reverse bucket used by them gives you more control, especially when backing up.

Where Yamaha and other jet boats went wrong was redirecting the thrust down for reverse. What Sea-Doo did differently is redirect the thrust to the sides.

When directing the thrust to the sides, you have more control over the boat than you would with other boats. Other boats you have to confidently put the boat in reverse, which is an all or nothing due to the transmission. Since jet boats don’t have transmissions, you can more gracefully ease them into reverse and have more control.

4. Steering A Jet Boat Is Easy

Since many jet boats use jet ski engines, people not familiar with them think you need to give it throttle if you want to steer at low speeds.

There is some truth to this, especially on older jet boats and jet skis but not anymore. Many jet boats now will bump up the throttle if it needs it at the correct time, but it’s not something you need all the time.

Just to show you that you can control a jet boat, here is a great video showing you one coming to the trailer and moving with ease.

This video also shows us how easy it is to load a jet boat on the trailer. Some of the modern jet boats even have a “Dock Mode” which forces you to go slow and makes docking almost too easy.

A lot of the Yamaha jet boats even have that fin I talked about earlier that also helps with low speeds.

5. You Can Beach A Jet Boat In Reverse

The easiest spot to get on a boat is at the rear. The problem is that this is where the outdrive lives for other boats. So reverse beaching those boats is not possible without breaking something.

Since a jet boat drive system is inside and nothing is hanging below it, you can park it in reverse on the beach.

I do have to be clear on this one, though.

You don’t want to run the engine in anything lower than 3 feet, or you run the risk of sucking something up. So before you get to the shallow area, turn the engine off and glide the boat in. Then when it’s time to leave, push the boat off and turn the engine on.

6. Jet Boats Don’t Have Trim

I talked about jet boats not having trim in this post here.

I covered that not having trim is a good thing. Trim is a bandaid solution to the problem other boats have.

Other boats when you take off due to where the propeller is position will lift the nose of the boat high, blocking your view. The trim helps to lower this so you can see where you’re going.

A jet boat impeller is located a lot more forward, so it’s bow rise is almost nothing at all. If you don’t have much of a bow rise, you don’t need anything to lower it.

Since you need to adjust the trim on other boats all the time, it makes you feel like you’re driving a manual transmission car. You also start to wonder if you’re in the right trim as going the wrong way could make it harder to see, or you burn too much gas. A jet boat is like driving an automatic car, you just put in forward and go.

7. Jet Boats Engines Are Better

In the post about jet boats being reliable, I talk about how jet boat engines are jet ski engines and other boats often use a like SUV engine.

A common engine that other boats use is a big block chevy engine. The same kind of engine you would see in an SUV. You also get the things to worry about that an SUV would worry about too.

Things like belts need to be changed or replaced. More exposed parts like the alternator and pullies. Things are harder to replace because the engine was made for cars that have access from the top or bottom while on a boat, you only have access from the top.

While it’s true a jet boat will use a jet ski engine, especially if it’s a Yamaha or Scarab, this is not a bad thing.

The engines that Scarab uses are Rotax, which make the Sea-Doo PWC engine. This engine is built from the ground up for the water. All components are sealed in the engine, so you don’t see any spinning pullies or belts. Nothing exposed means less to replace as you’ll use stronger and better components that are being cool and lubed by the engine.

Also, you use boats in wet and sandy areas. So anything exposed also runs the risk of getting wet or sand in it. In the marine world, it’s better to have everything self-contained like they are for jet boats.

Yamaha also uses purpose-built marine engines. Some of their engines do take a lot of clues from their motorcycle division, but that is not a bad thing. Motorcycle engines are contained too, so it makes perfect sense to build off of that. Some could argue that Yamaha’s engines are the most reliable in the industry when it comes to jet ski and jet boats.

8. Jet Boats Have Fewer Moving Parts

I covered this in my post on jet boats being reliable.

The simple truth is that jet boats have fewer moving parts. The less moving parts, the less likely something will break.

Jet boats don’t have a transmission, it’s only a bucket that controls which direction the jet boat moves. It’s very simple, just hinges and cables. Other boats use a transmission that needs gears, oil, and more maintenance.

Not only that, but jet boats only need to move a nozzle in the rear for steering. Other boats need to move the whole engine or outdrive for steering. Since these things are heavy, you need hydraulic pumps, which also means something else to break.

As mentioned before, jet boat engines are sealed up. Other boats you need to replace belts, pullies and very similar things like you do for a car. A jet boat doesn’t have any exposed belts and instead use chains sealed in the engine. While these chains should be replaced after many hours, they’re not exposed to the open environment like other boats and are cooled and lubed by the engine oil to help give them long run times.

When it comes down to it, a jet boat is simpler by design and has fewer things that can go wrong. Combine that with how a jet boat is like driving a car, an automatic car, it makes you wonder why people purposely choose other boats? The boat is meant to be the tool for unlocking the fun on the water, not the thing that makes you work while having “fun.”

9. Many Jet Boats Have Closed-Loop Cooling

Usually, closed-loop cooling is more for higher-end boats that go in the ocean.

Usually, a boat is an open loop, which means it takes in lake or ocean water to cool the engine and exhaust. A closed-loop system does not take in water but instead uses a radiator like your car would.

The problem with taking in outside water is that the water could be saltwater. Saltwater is very corrosive and can eat away at the engine and parts over time.

But saltwater is not the only problem; it’s what’s in the water.

Taking in outside water is not the cleanest. You get sticks, leaves, wildlife, gunk, and everything else in the water. This “gunk” just like your veins can get clogged. If clogged, the engine is not being cooled, which means you burn more gas and slowly destroy the engine.

If you use a closed system, you don’t have to worry about the saltwater or, more importantly, the gunk, so your engine stays at the more even temperature that is needed.

It’s mostly Sea-Doo, Scarab, and Chaparral jet boats that use the closed-loop cooling system. Yamaha uses the open-loop system.

Usually, getting a closed-loop system is an extra charge from other boat manufacturers, but you get it with some jet boats standard. It’s a nice perk and something a lot of people overlook.

10. Jet Boats Are Quick And Nimble!

It’s no secret; jet boats are quick and agile.

That is if you choose it to be.

A jet boat can be just as tamed as any other boat, but when you get bored, you can unleash the beast inside.

Since there is not expose prop, you’ll find you can take corners sharper than other boats. You’ll find it’s a big jet ski at heart, but only if you put it in that position.

These are not your farther’s boat; this thing is meant to have fun. You’ll get more of a rush from a jet boat than any other boat.

11. Wakeboarding

I’m not going to say a jet boat is better than a wakeboarding boat – it’s not.

But have you seen the prices of wakeboard boats? Those things cost more than a lot of people’s homes!

While a jet boat won’t make a wake as lovely as a wakeboard boat, they also don’t cost as much. You can also get Wake Edition jet boats that have the ballast tanks to help make wakes.

They even have the SKI mode that ramps the wakeboarder to their preferred level and keeps the speed the like. So you get the same pull every time.

The Wake Jet Boats also have towers on them that get the rope to the perfect position. The towers can also fold down when going under a bridge or storing in your garage.

Not only that, no exposed propeller!

If you want to wakeboard with the family, this fact alone should make you strongly consider a Wake Jet Boat over the more costly Wakeboard Boats.

12. More Room

Since jet boats use smaller jet ski engines, it allows them to have more space in the cabin.

You’ll also notice the rear of many jet boats is more open and easier to lounge on.

13. Large Swim Platform

Since there is no outboard or outdrive in the rear of a jet boat, you have more room.

The swim platform is often larger on jet boats and offers more storage options.

Storage for a wakeboard, ropes, and more at the rear of the jet boat

Not only that, but this is a massive plus for the fishing jet boats. You have a massive fishing platform in the rear, which is something you don’t get anywhere else.

14. Shallow Drive

I’ve got to tread lightly with this one because it can also be a negative.

A jet boat doesn’t have anything hanging lower than the boat itself as other boats do with the prop. Nothing hanging low means nothing to get caught or hit.

So a jet boat can go in more shallow areas than other boats… but there is a catch. I’ll explain that in the cons section.

15. Lower Maintenance Cost

I was debating on putting this one in as every boat maintenance is different.

But the simple truth that a jet boat has fewer moving parts and how the engine is self contain means fewer things to maintain.

There is no outdrive or hydraulics to maintain. There is no trim to worry about, either.

The only thing you need to do on a jet boat is service it at least once a year or every 100 hours (some can go higher than that!).

Nothing more than an oil change, oil filter, and spark plugs every year.

You even have fewer spark plugs to change on many jet boats as they either use a 3 or 4 cylinder engine. And since the engine is built for boats, the parts you need to change are easy to get to and could be done by the average person.

No seriously, many jet boat dealerships sell the oil change kits with instructions. It’s not hard at all.

While you’ll still need to have certain parts checked every so many x years like a timing chain, it’s still less to do in comparison to other boats.

With jet boats, there is less to fiddle with. The steering on a jet boat is short, like a car, shifting is smooth like a car, no trim to worry about, so it’s like driving an automatic car, and fewer parts to break and less maintenance – it makes you wonder why anyone would want to mess with anything else?

Jet Boat Cons

Now it’s time we talk about all the negatives that jet boats have.

1. Fuel Consumption

The truth is that a jet drive system is less efficient than an outdrive.

But the way the internet talks, it makes you think a jet boat just guzzles gas like there is no tomorrow. Yes, it will use more gas, but it’s not as bad as everyone makes it out to be.

If we’re going to be frank about this, all boats suck when it comes to gas.

Moving any object through water requires a lot of energy, so any boat will consume a lot of gas in comparison to a car moving through air. Think about your hands when you wave them through water and notice how much harder it is in comparison to moving them in the air.

If fuel consumption is your biggest fear, then owning any boat is not for you.

While a jet boat may cost you more in gas we can’t forget where it saves you in other places. Since a jet boat is simpler, you have less maintenance and things to fix. Let’s not forget the things that don’t cost us money like safety when it comes to an exposed propeller.

2. Sucking Stuff Up

Earlier in this post, I talked about how jet boats can go in more shallow areas, but I also said I’d need to come back to this point.

Yes, a jet boat can indeed go in more shallow areas, but it doesn’t always mean you should.

One downside of a jet boat is that it’s basically a super powerful vacuum. Anything in front of the intake will get sucked up.

This could be sand, rocks, sticks, or whatever. I’ve even seen a map of the lake get chewed up one time.

The good news is that the jet boat manufacturer plan for this. Yamaha has a cleanout port, so if you get seaweed or a rope around the driveshaft, you can get access to it.

Scarab uses a sleeve over the driveshaft to stop it from happening in the first place.

They also use what is called a wear ring. Unlike the name, it’s not something you replace until you destroy it. The wear ring is made to protect the jet pump. Instead of damaging the pump, it destroys the plastic or metal wear ring. It’s easier to replace a wear ring than it is to replace an outdrive on the other boats.

Either way, this is a con, and I must be honest with you.

The good news is that this con is easy to solve. Don’t have the jet boat engine running in less than 3 feet of water. Also, avoid shallow areas that are marked off.

3. Noisy?

I was debating to have this one at all as jet boats nowadays are not any louder than other boats.

There do exist older jet boats that were loud, but this is not much of a problem these days with 4-Strokes that have taken over.

The loudest thing you’ll hear on a jet boat is the wind noise, even on the older ones. So I’m not sure everyone’s tolerance, but I have talked about this issue in the post here.

4. A Jet Boat Drives Different Than Other Boats

As talked about a few times in this post, jet boats don’t drive like other boats. If anything, they drive more like a car.

There are other nuances like how the wind affects you, but this is with any boat.

Just like with anything in life, it will take some time to get used to driving a jet boat.

I find it easier to teach someone to drive a jet boat especially when they’re entirely new to boats. Learning to drive other boats requires a lot of confident movements that new people are not ready for. A jet boat requires slow and easy movements that people get since it mimics many cars.

Just because you know how to drive a car, it won’t be 100% like driving a jet boat. It’s similar, not the same.

So it will require practice, but this can be said with any boat or anything in life.

I will say driving a jet boat is easier to learn than driving a wake boat; those suckers have the most confusing reverse to learn.

Misconceptions Of Jet Boats

Now that I got the pros and cons of owning a jet boat out of the way, we need to talk about the misconceptions people have about jet boats.

Jet Boats Need To Be Winterized

For some reason, some people think jet boats don’t need to be winterized.

This is not true even for the jet boats that have closed-loop cooling systems.

While a jet boat will use coolant to cool the engine, they all still take in water to cool the exhaust. If it has a supercharger, it also takes in water for the intercooler too, and that for sure needs to be winterized.

Winterizing a jet boat is simple. With the engine on, you run your RV pink anti-freeze through the proper ports. When done with the coolant, you turn the engine off. Then fog the engine and put some stabil in the gas. That’s about it.

Jet Boats Are Hard To Steer

This is false.

I’ve already covered this, but I want to state it again here.

Jet boats are not like other boats, but this is not a bad thing. I talk more about this in the post found here.

Jet Boats Don’t Have Radial Engines

Jet boats don’t use radial engines. I need to make a note of this as I’ve seen this talked about before, and it’s not true. Like I said at the start of this post, I see a lot of people who don’t know what they’re talking about.

This confusion comes from Rotax engines that Sea-Doo, Scarab, and Chaparell uses in their boats. Rotax does make radial plane engines, as that is what works best for planes. Radial does not work for boats, and instead, they use an inline 3 or 4 cylinder engine.

Rotax also makes go-cart engines and many other types of engines too. Don’t let the name confuse you; these guys make many types of engines.

Jet Boats Don’t Have Less Torgue

I need to make this one very clear; jet boats are very powerful!

They will get anyone up on a wakeboard or tube just fine.

This no torque came from back in the day when there were 85HP 2-Stroke Jet Boats on the market. Those were underpowered for sure, but the 4-Stroke Jet Boats you get today have enough power to hurt someone, so this misinformation needs to stop. It’s not 1998 anymore, jet boats are very powerful.

Jet boats are so powerful that they have features to slow them down. Things like SKI or Cruise mode forces the boat to be tamed. Some jet boats even have a Docking mode to keep people from overdoing things as they have plenty of power and torque.

Jet Boats Are Expensive = Not Really

All boats are expensive.

But in comparison to wakeboard boats, a jet boat is a bargain!

Compared to a pontoon, a jet boat cost more.

But then again, it’s not fair to compare those boats to each other.

Even comparing a jet boat to a sterndrive is not fair either as they’re not the same.

When you compare a jet boat on its simplicity, ease of use, care, and fun factor, you’ll find it’s not that bad.

What I like the most about jet boats is that its the best all-around boat. You can get the wakeboard features without paying the high price of a wakeboard boat. You can get the space a pontoon has without giving up speed and performance. You can have the everyday ability of a stern drive without the trouble of the extra maintenance and care those boats need.

A jet boat is the goldilocks of boats, it’s just right!

5 thoughts on “Jet Boat Pros And Cons”

  1. One CON you did not mention was life expectancy of the engine. A mechanic friend (certified marine mechanic) advised me that a traditional well maintained marine engine should go 1200 to 1500 hour before any major rebuild would be necessary. Jet engines because they rev so much higher have approximately 35% the life. Please advise if my mechanic is correct or just biased against jet boat engines. Thank you.

    Reply
    • This used to be an issue for the old 2-stroke engine Jet Boats but not with 4-strokes. 2-strokes are hard to find these days as they stop making them over a decade ago but the market is full of 4-strokes because they keep going. I’ve seen 4-strokes go over 1000 hours without issue. I see rental companies put over 800 hours on jet ski engines (jet boat engines) all the time and the people driving rental units don’t take care of them and they keep going no problem.

      Reply
      • thanks for the reply. I’m not a mechanic. My only real time frame of reference is My 23 ft Cobalt has a 454 engine and I cruise at 2200 RPM. I have a Yamaha Jet Ski and and SX210 in the family. Both are cruising at 6000RPM. Isn’t it reasonable to think the 4 stroke jet engine is just working twice as hard..or twice as fast to get the same result. Are you saying the jet will last as long as the 454?? I’m not looking for an argument I’m looking to get better informed. Thanks again.

        Reply
        • It’s very reasonable to think that and you’re right. Most boats use a Chevy engine block and car engines are built to idle lower because they spend most of their time in traffic while jet ski engines and jet boat engines are built from the ground up for watersport performance. Much like racing bikes and racing quads Rev higher, jet ski engines rev higher as people are more “all or nothing” with them. Formula one race cars hover at 15,000 RPMs but they’re built for that just like jet ski engines are built for performance. Also got to keep in mind that boats often have 6 or 8 cylinder engines while a jet ski engine is 3 or 4 so it will work harder to pick up the difference – but it’s built that way on purpose. How hard the engine works won’t always determine its life. I’ve seen guys with 50 hours on a boat and the boat engine needs to be rebuilt because they never took care of it. I’ve also seen guys with over 1,000 hours on a jet boat and it keeps on ticking. I wouldn’t say one engine is better than the other as it would be like comparing the family SUV engine to a Corvette engine – both are built for different needs.

          Reply
    • Your mechanic is just biased. The engine may spin at higher rpm, but it’s also not working to spin all the extra components that are found in an outdrive. One could theorize that an I/O setup has more strain on the engine than a jet.

      Reply

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