Tigershark Jet Skis: A Brand Guide with Reviews and Reliability


If you lived through the 90s you probably remember seeing Tigershark jet skis out on the water. Today, it is very rare to see one, and you may be wondering why. Here is everything you need to know about Tigershark jet skis.

Who Created Tigershark Jet Skis?

The company Arctic Cat created the Tigershark jet ski. This company is known most for its snowmobiles. Like the company Polaris, Arctic Cat became major manufacturers of snowmobiles, winter clothing, watercraft, and ATV’s.

Throughout Arctic Cats’s lifetime, they have experimented selling jet skis, snow blowers, mini bikes, generators, two-wheel drive vehicles, etc. They have experimented with almost anything you can think of, but today they sell snowmobiles, ATV’s, and side-by-sides.

In 2017, Arctic Cat was acquired by Textron for 247 million dollars. The side-by-side models and all-terrain vehicles were re-branded by Textron, and the snowmobile models are still under Arctic Cat.

When Were They Made?

To try to save the business from becoming bankrupt, Arctic Cat came up with their own jet ski model: Tigershark in 1993. Although they had tough competition with Kawasaki, Yamaha, and Sea-Doo they still took a shot. They continued to experiment with their jet ski throughout the 90s and in 1997 they took some big strides in the right direction.

They were in business with Tigershark for 6 years, and their sales were very unpredictable. Sometimes they were up in sales, other years they were down. Sadly, they had to close their jet ski business in 1999 when they were outperformed by their competitors and were close to bankruptcy. Overall, there was little success in their Tigershark creation.

What are They Made Out of?

There is not a record of the exact materials Arctic Cat used to make their jet ski models, but all we know is that their jet skis were really lightweight and small. They used as little material as they could so they could make it cheap. They do not have any special accessories and are as simple as it gets.

The Tigershark jet skis are kind of like Sea-Doo’s jet ski’s younger, weaker, and uglier cousin. They do not have anything special about them and break down really easily. Just like a needy little cousin, they need lots of attention and cost a lot of money to keep happy and functioning normally.

How Much are They?

Although these jet skis were known for being cheap compared to other jet skis, you have to take into consideration the costs for the constant repairs. It is known from Tigershark jet skis to have problems with their pump bearings, starter, oil pump, loose nuts and bolts, etc.

So, you are looking for a PWC to have fun on this summer. You go on Craigslist and see a used Tigershark jet ski for $1,000. Is this amazing price worth it to buy the Tigershark?

My answer is no. If you actually want to be able to ride your jet ski without worrying about things breaking left and right, DO NOT buy a Tigershark. One of the only people I know who loves their Tigershark is a mechanic who enjoys fixing and tinker with old vintage things when they break down.

If you do not want a big headache of a never-ending project, then I would recommend investing in a Sea-Doo or Yamaha. Cheaper does not always mean better or reliable and in this case, you would be smart to go with a more reliable brand of PWCs than Arctic Cat’s Tigershark models.

Reviews & Reliability

The same things that attracted people to Tigershark jet skis back then are what continues to attract people today. Tigershark’s are known for being agile, small, and most known CHEAP.

Tigershark jet skis come with more maintenance needs than other brands of jet skis. The reputation that they had throughout the 90s was unreliable.

In 1997 the company tried to start fresh and made a lot of changes on their jet ski. They changed the build of the jet ski and changed the names of the model as well.

Unfortunately, it was too late to give themselves a new name because even with the improvements they made, they did not compare with the other jet ski brands and were blown out of the competition.

The main reason Tigershark went out of business was because of lack of sales, but there are some rumors of other reasons on top of the sales. The rumor is that there was a lawsuit between Tigershark and Yamaha because Tigershark used Yamaha’s patents.

This tipped the scales over the top and they had to shut down in 1999. It is unfortunate what happened because Arctic Cat was just getting the gist of what a jet ski should have.

The Tigershark jet skis that were made in the years 1997, 1998, and 1999 were there best and most bought models. If you see someone today riding a Tigershark, it is probably a late 90s model since they were more reliable than the early ones.

After researching people’s opinions who have owned or do own Tigershark jet skis, I have come to the conclusion that they are not stable, reliable, or smooth riding personal watercraft.

Unless you are best friend’s with your PWC repairman or are one yourself, I would stay away from Tigershark jet skis.

I know repairmen who have said that Tigershark jet skis should have been scrapped the second they were on the drawing board. No one wants a jet ski that does not function correctly 80% of the time.

The Tigershark model of the jet ski is not made for easy riding. The watercraft tips over very easily because of its hull design. Most of the time, you have to stand up while holding onto the handlebars to balance it. This is more of a workout and you have to rely on your balance to stay afloat.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the “dry box” does not keep your valuables dry. If, and when your Tigershark flips over into the water, everything is going to get soaked, including the inside of your watercraft.

It is a BIG pain to get all of the water out of your jet ski every time it goes under. Who wants to spend their summer caring for a damaged jet ski? I sure as hell don’t.

All in all, I do not recommend buying or even riding a Tigershark jet ski. What is most important is your safety, and Tigershark jet skis are no where near safe.

So many things can go wrong and if you are out on the water, you will have to put a lot of work into getting back on land and taking it to the shop. Nobody wants to pay thousands of dollars for a PWC that does not even work. Be smart with your money and invest in a jet ski that is going to give you many hours of fun, not stress.

There is always that 1% of people who claim that they have never had problems with their Tigershark, but looking at the statistics, I would not put any faith let alone money into Arctic Cat’s Tigershark jet ski models.

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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