When looking into buying a jet ski, there are usually three names that will come up consistently. Those names are Kawasaki, Yamaha, and Bombardier. (Sea-Doo) There are other brands as well, but these are the big three manufacturers.
So if you are looking to buy but do not know much about the machines, how will you know which one is right for you? This article will hopefully shed some light on the subject and help guide prospective buyers towards a decision.
As the title of the article implies, we will be looking at the Sea-Doo. We will take a look at what makes the Sea-Doo a potentially good choice, as well as how it has become one of the biggest players in the market.
History of the Sea-Doo
What is a Sea-Doo?
First, it is important to understand the name of the product. “Jet Ski” is actually the name of a product produced by Kawasaki. It has evolved over the years to become a sort of all-encompassing term when referring to vehicles like it.
These vehicles are called personal watercraft. Personal watercraft are a specific type of small boat. The United States Coast Guard has defined what exactly constitutes a personal watercraft.
A definition found on this website for personal watercraft is as follows: “The PWC is classified as a “Class A” Inboard Boat (a boat less than 16 feet
in length) by the U.S. Coast Guard. They are designed to carry from one to
three persons, and to be operated by a person sitting, standing, or kneeling
ON the watercraft.”
So, whereas operators and passengers are inside of a boat, operators and passengers of personal watercraft are on the vehicle. They are also smaller than most other boats.
Similar to boats or cars, there are various makes and models of personal watercraft. The most popular are the above-mentioned Jet Ski made by Kawasaki, the WaveRunner made by Yamaha Motor Company, and the Sea-Doo made by Bombardier Recreational Products.
It can be tempting to lump all personal watercraft together because of how similar they can seem, but they all have distinctions that set them apart from each other.
How Did The Sea-Doo Start?
Now that we have a better understanding of what the Sea-Doo is, we can look into its history.
Personal watercraft were being developed as early as the middle of the 1950s, but it was not until the early 1970s that they became popular among common consumers.
Clayton Jacobson II of Lake Havasu City, Arizona, developed a design for personal watercraft that became the basis of all modern personal watercraft. Jacobson worked with Bombardier and in 1968, the company released its first model of personal watercraft.
The original Sea-Doo was marketed as a jet-powered aqua scooter. The first model used an air cooling system in its engine, but it had problems with overheating so it was replaced by an engine with a water cooling system. However, even with this change, the Sea-Doo saw very little success.
In 1970, just two years after it was released, Bombardier stopped production of the Sea-Doo. Jacobson went on to work with Kawasaki to develop the Jet Ski which became the first commercially successful personal watercraft on the market and started the popularity of the vehicles.
Bombardier was out of the game for about 2 decades, but in 1988 the company re-introduced the Sea-Doo and went on to achieve great success. In 1995 Bombardier had captured over half of the personal watercraft market. Since then they have been one of the major players in the market.
Sea-Doos are good at a lot of things besides making strong come backs. Sea-Doos are known to be quality machines.
One of the most apparent plus sides to purchasing a Sea-Doo is the price. Out of the big three manufacturers of personal watercraft, Sea-Doos have the lowest starting prices and each model is usually cheaper than comparable models made by Kawasaki and Yamaha.
This difference often makes Sea-Doos attractive to first time purchasers or people who have a smaller budget. We’ll look more at the prices of Sea-Doos further down in the affordability section.
Another good thing that the Sea-Doo has going for it is the variety available. Bombardier currently manufactures 6 classes of personal watercraft. They are rec lite, recreation, touring, tow sports, performance, and sport fishing. Each type is good for different uses.
Rec Lite type Sea-Doos are light and fast. They are made to be fuel efficient, and affordable. This type of model is a good choice for people who are looking to spend as little money as possible and just want to get on the water and have fun.
Recreation type Sea-Doos are similar to rec lites, but they are larger. This is a good model type for people who want a little bit of variety with their machine. They are good for just getting on the water and riding around fast, but their larger size means that they are better for activities that involve traveling to a destination because they have more storage space.
Touring type models are the best choice for activities that involve traveling to a destination or just going on a long ride. They have a good amount of storage space, are fuel efficient, the seats are optimized for comfort, and they have great stability. You can take one out to an island for a picnic or just ride to see as much of the lake as possible.
Tow sports are a popular activity to do with personal watercraft. The benefits of using a personal watercraft instead of a larger boat include easier transportation and storage thanks to the smaller size and a smaller price tag than most larger boats.
Tow sport type models of Sea-Doos are made with a focus on providing the best ride possible to surfers, wakeboarders, and water skiers. They come with adjustable ski pylons and removable wakeboard racks. These are great options for people who are looking to use their time on the water to improve their skills on a board.
This class of Sea-Doo is the one some professional athletes use to win races. They are made to be fast and have great maneuverability. The fastest model in this series can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds.
If you are interested in speed and handling at the highest level in a Sea-Doo, this model may interest you.
Fishing is becoming an increasingly popular activity in the world of personal watercraft, and Bombardier has jumped on that popularity with this type of model.
The sport fishing model is the only personal watercraft designed and built specifically for fishing. Other WaveRunners or Yamahas can be equipped for fishing, but this Sea-Doo saves some time and effort if you want to use your personal watercraft as a place to reel in the big ones.
These models come with a fishing cooler on the back, a specially designed seat for a more comfortable angling experience, and a Garmin navigation and fish finder installed among other features to make fishing a breeze.
As mentioned above, Sea-Doos have a good reputation. They are known to be dependable and a great ride, so there is not a lot of bad to say about them.
One potential negative is the type of engine. Nearly all marine vehicles use engines with an open loop cooling system. Sea-Doos have engines that use closed-loop cooling systems instead. This may come down to a matter of personal opinion.
It is generally accepted that closed loop cooling systems are more complicated, so if you are not mechanically inclined you might have a harder time trying to fix small engine problems on your own. That could mean if there are issues, you will have to take it into a shop.
Another potential downside definitely comes down to a matter of opinion, but it could play a part in making the decision. Sea-Doos are manufactured outside of the United States and then imported. Not everybody cares about where a vehicle is manufactured, but I have met people who will not buy any vehicle made in another country.
When it comes down to it, Sea-Doos are not particularly easy to criticize. Like Jet Skis and WaveRunners, they are high-quality, performance machines.
If we want to understand how reliable Sea-Doos are, we can look a little more into the company that makes them.
Bombardier Recreational Products, Inc. is a Canadian company that makes various vehicles. Like the name says, they specialize in recreational type vehicles. Bombardier Recreational Products began as the recreational products division of Bombardier, Inc. but they were separated in 2003.
Bombardier, Inc. now makes regional airliners, business jets, and equipment used for public transportation, but got its start making snowmobiles back in the 1940s.
Bombardier Recreational Products continues the long legacy of producing recreational vehicles, including snowmobiles, personal watercraft, ATVs, motorcycles, and jet boats.
Over the decades that they have been in business, Bombardier Recreational Products has produced many great vehicles and has always worked hard to make advancements in their technology.
When you look at various forums online, the general consensus is that Sea-Doos are not the most reliable when it comes to personal watercraft. I have read some reviews that say out of all three major brands, they are the most likely to have problems and stop working.
That being said, there are plenty of people who defend the reliability of Sea-Doos. Pretty much all types watercraft are going to require a high level of care and regular maintenance to make sure that they keep running at their maximum potential.
Use In Competitions
One of the biggest and most important endorsements a product can receive is when it is used by a professional. Many athletes who compete at national and international levels trust their Sea-Doos to perform when it matters most.
Here are a few examples of professional jet skiers who use Sea-Doos to compete:
Erminio Iantosca uses the Sea-Doo RXT-X 300 in competitions. He is currently ranked as the number 4 rider in the world and is a 7 time USA National Champion and a 2 time World Champion in closed course racing.
Jay Edworthy of the professional team Jet-X Powersports uses the Sea-Doo RXPX in competitions and he is currently ranked as the number 14 rider in the world.
Anthony Radetic of the professional team Sea-Doo X-Team uses the Sea-Doo model RXP-X 300 in competitions. He is currently ranked as the number 20 rider in the world.
Fabioin Corvaia uses the Sea-Doo model XPL Limited in competitions and was the IJSBA( International Jet Sports Boating Association) world champion in 2008, 2010, 2013, and 2015.
These athletes are only a handful of professionals who use Sea-Doos to compete. The fact that such high-level competitors use these machines speaks to the impressive performance that they can offer.
Use By Rental Companies
Most companies that rent out personal watercraft for hourly or daily use tend to have a fleet of Yamaha WaveRunners. That is what I have found in my research, at least. However, there are some that have Sea-Doos to rent instead.
If a rental company is willing to bet their income on Sea-Doos then they are most likely fairly reliable. Something to keep in mind, though, is that a rental company is going to keep its fleet in top shape, so anyone who owns a personal watercraft of any make should be prepared to take good care of it.
Measuring the life of personal watercraft is a little different from how we measure the life of a car. The main way to measure a car’s life is the total amount of miles that it has traveled. When it comes to personal watercraft, the measurement is the total amount of hours it has been operated.
Personal watercraft are categorized as an either high or low hour. The process of determining this is similar to categorizing a car as a high or low mile. For example, between a 2015 car and a 1995 car, the 2015 model seems much newer. But if they both have 100,000 miles on them, you know that the 2015 gets used more.
For personal watercraft, the threshold to be considered low hour is about 30 hours a year. So a 2018 Sea-Doo with 45 hours on it would be considered high hour despite being only a year old, whereas a 2014 Sea-Doo with 100 hours on it would be considered low hour even though it has over two times as many hours as the 2018.
Sea-Doos are not known to be the longest lasting personal watercraft, but how long they last largely depends on how the owner treats it. If you constantly run it hard for long periods of time then it may not last as long as it could. Just like with any vehicle, Sea-Doos will need regular small maintenance like oil changes and other fluid changes.
If treated properly, a Sea-Doo can last a few hundred hours without too much trouble. From what I have seen, a Sea-Doo should not be expected to reliably last much longer than that. At that point, they may start to need major repairs or part replacements.
Something that is a little unique about the shopping experience when it comes to Sea-Doos is what you can do online. On Sea-Doo’s website, you can choose a model to start with and then customize the various features you want it to have. When you are done, it is sent to a dealer near you and you just have to pick it up.
Along with the many different features that we looked a little into earlier in the article, the website has many accessories that you can choose from and order at the same time for extra convenience. We can take a look at some here.
- LinQ Accessories– These accessories are available for every model of Sea-Doo. By installing a base on the back of the Sea-Doo, you open up a world of possibilities. With this base, you can attach a cooler, a ski pylon, a sports bag for extra storage, and a fuel caddy to allow for extra travel time on the water. Some of these attachments can even be stacked on one another so you get even more use out of your space.
- Docking Accessories– Docking accessories are a good buy if you are looking to prevent damage and keep your Sea-Doo secure, whether at a dock or marina or out in the open water. You can buy dock ties, fenders, and a few different kinds of anchors.
- Covers– Covers are a good idea for when you store or transport your Sea-Doo. A cover will protect it from the elements like strong wind and sunlight.
- Watersport Accessories– Watersport accessories help you outfit your Sea-Doo so that it is better equipped for things like water skiing and wakeboarding. While they do make a tow sports model, these accessories allow you to use other models if you did not purchase that specific model. You can buy a wakeboard rack, retractable ski pylons, and a ski tow eye among other things.
- Trailer Accessories– Unless you plan to leave your Sea-Doo at a marina all year long, these accessories will no doubt come in handy. MOVE trailers fit Sea-Doos perfectly, and you can find spare wheels, marine jacks, and other pieces you might need.
- Tech Accessories– These accessories are great for enhancing the riding experience in different ways. You can buy waterproof speakers, an action camera, and a navigation system/fish finder.
- Graphics Kits– Some people could not care less about what their ride looks like. But others like to be able to customize their ride so that it is a little more unique. There are lots of different designs and extra coverage levels to choose from, so standing out is not hard to do if you decide to customize.
- Control and Grip Accessories– These accessories are designed to help a rider command a more precise control of their Sea-Doo. You can have knee pads attached, floorboard wedges, different handle grips, and wind deflectors for the handlebars of any model.
- Protection and Reinforcement Accessories– Available only for the Sea-Doo Spark, you can purchase rubber side protectors which help to protect the hull of the vehicle from damage from small impacts.
- Steps and Ladders- Some Sea-Doo models come with boarding ladders attached, but not all do. A boarding step or ladder makes getting onto the Sea-Doo much easier from the water.
- Bags and Storage Accessories– There are other storage options available besides the LinQ mentioned above. You can choose from a few different sizes of dry bags that will help keep your personal belongings extra safe from water damage.
- Panel Kits– These kits are another aesthetic enhancing option. They come in a variety of bright colors and really make the Sea-Doos pop visually.
- Engine and Pump Accessories– A bilge pump is a very good investment when it comes to protecting a Sea-Doo. Bilge pumps move water out of the engine compartment if it starts to flood. Obviously, Sea-Doos are made to keep water out of the engine compartment, but things can happen to make them leak. In cases like that, you would want a pump, because if the engine floods it can mean you will not get as many hours out of it as you had hoped.
- Body Accessories– This category of accessories includes some already mentioned like the knee pads, as well as others like extra comfort seats and mirrors for the Spark, which does not come with mirrors.
- Performance Accessories– These accessories are meant to increase the durability and performance of the Sea-Soos that they are added to.
With all of these different options, it is easy to custom make a Sea-Doo to be exactly what you want it to be. But of course, these accessories are not free, and the more you want, the more the price will increase.
Price is a category in which Sea-Doos tend to shine. Like it was mentioned near the beginning of the article, they are cheaper than Kawasaki and Yamaha personal watercraft.
We can take a look at some of these prices to see just what the difference is.
Starting with rec lite type models, the Sea-Doo Spark starts at an MSRP of $5,399. Yamaha’s comparable model, the WaveRunner EX, has a starting MSRP of $6,799. That’s a difference of over a thousand dollars! The Sea-Doos are off to a good start.
In the next category, the recreation type models, the gap does close nearly all the way. The Sea-Doo GTI 90 has a starting MSRP of $8,799, and the comparable WaveRunner VX-C has a starting MSRP of $8,999. While the difference is much smaller, $200 is still $200 so the Sea-Doo is a slightly better deal.
Next up, the luxury line of WaveRunners is probably most comparable to the touring series of Sea-Doo. The WaveRunner FX HO has a starting MSRP of $13,499. The Sea-Doo GTX 155 has an MSRP that starts at $12,799. The gap starts to widen again here, with the Sea-Doo being $700 cheaper.
Finally, we can compare the performance series from both brands. The Sea-Doo GTR 230 has a starting MSRP of $12,199. The closest model that Yamaha has is the WaveRunner VXR, with an MSRP that starts at $12,299. The difference is small again, but the Sea-Doo is still less.
There are more expensive models of Sea-Doo, such as the fishing model and higher end performance and touring models, but they offer the cheapest option by far for a new personal watercraft in the Spark, which can be a great choice for someone who is just starting out in this field.
Are They Worth It?
So, with all this information, has the question been answered? Is a Sea-Doo a good buy? In my opinion, it depends on who is buying. Like I said above, I think that the Spark is a great option for a first personal watercraft. They are cheap compared to other models and are pretty straightforward.
If you want a specialized model like tow sports or sport fishing Sea-Doos, those can be a good buy because they are designed and made specifically for those activities.
But, if you are looking at a model that is priced similarly to models by a different manufacturer such as the WaveRunner recreation and performance series, it might be a better choice to go with the non Sea-Doo option because Yamaha has a better reputation for reliability and longevity.
Overall, a Sea-Doo would not be a bad buy, and can potentially be a good buy, but there could be better choices depending on what you are after.