Yamaha Jet Ski Brand Review: Are They a Good Buy?


If you are new to the world of jet skis and interested in buying one, you may be surprised when you discover how many different types there are. I remember that I used to think that they were all the same. A jet ski is a jet ski, right? They are just those little, sort of boat looking machines that zoom by on the lake.

In reality, there are many different types made by various companies. There may not be quite as much variety as when it comes to cars, but buying a jet ski is more complicated than just going to your nearest dealer and saying “One jet ski, please.”

One of the largest producers of these machines is Yamaha. In this article, we will take a look at the brand and see if they are a good choice for purchasing.

History of the WaveRunner

Before we go any further it is important to clear up a couple of things. The term “jet ski” is actually the name of a product made by Kawasaki, but it has become a sort of general term when referring to any personal watercraft. To understand what a personal watercraft is, we can look to the United States Coast Guard.

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, what sets personal watercraft aside from other boats is that they are smaller than most boats, and they are ridden on instead of ridden in.

Now that we have that definition, we can start looking into the WaveRunner, which is the name of the personal watercraft produced by Yamaha.

Yamaha was not the first company to make personal watercraft, but they have been in the market for a few decades now. The year 2016 marked the 30th anniversary of the WaveRunner. They have set many milestones in the world of personal watercraft and helped the market become what it is today.

In 1986, Yamaha began production of the first WaveRunner, called the Marine Jet 500T. According to Yamaha, this was the first sit-down style open stern personal watercraft in production, and it created the personal watercraft market that we have today. (source)

Since 1986, Yamaha has put out many different models and had many industry firsts, including the first 4-passenger personal watercraft as well as the first personal watercraft featuring a 4-stroke engine.

Although many personal watercraft look similar, especially from a distance, WaveRunners have a unique feature that sets them apart visually. They have a visibility spout, often referred to as a rooster tail. This is a spout of water that shoots up from the back of the WaveRunner in an arc shape.

This feature is unique to WaveRunners as it is trademarked by Yamaha, so if you ever see a spout of water coming up from behind a personal watercraft, you will know that it is a Yamaha.

Another thing that sets Yamaha apart from other manufacturers of personal watercraft is that they are one of only two companies that currently produce stand-up type personal watercraft. Their model is called the Super Jet, and while they were not the first to produce stand-up type models, their first came out in 1990 so they have been at it for a while.

Whether or not the personal watercraft market would be as big as it is today without the Yamaha WaveRunner is a matter of opinion, but you can say without a doubt that they have had a big impact on the development of personal watercraft and are one of the key players in the market today.

Strengths

For the most part, it is hard to find a personal watercraft that is just no good. The Bombardier Sea-Doo, the Kawasaki Jet Ski, and the Yamaha WaveRunner are all solid machines with great reputations. So, what sets the WaveRunners apart from the competition?

Yamaha has a reputation of building long-lasting and reliable machines. Their long run in the personal watercraft world has helped to solidify this reputation with WaveRunners.

One thing that helps the engines to last a long time is that they use an open loop cooling system. Basically, an open loop cooling system means that the WaveRunner takes up water from the water it is in and runs it around the engine to keep it cool.

Generally speaking, open loop cooling systems are much simpler than closed loop systems. They require very little maintenance and no extra fluids, so the vast majority of marine manufacturers use them.

The engines are also relatively simple when compared to those of other personal watercraft. This means that you could learn how to fix small engine issues on your own without much difficulty. This could save a good amount of money in the long run.

Another strength of the Yamaha WaveRunner has to be the variety available. There are currently 4 series being produced: The EX series, the VX series, the FX series, and the performance race series. Within each of these series, there are various models to choose from, so there is a base model for anyone.

To add to the variety of base models available, Waverunners are also very customizable. For example, you can buy any of a number of models and outfit them all for fishing, or you can add accessories like speakers. We will look a little more into this further down when we look at extra features.

Something that might appeal to potential buyers is that all WaveRunners are assembled right here in the United States. The Yamaha Motors plant is located in Newnan, Georgia.

The WaveRunners themselves perform well on the water. They have great stability and handling, and while they are not the fastest personal watercraft on the market they leave little to be desired in the speed department.

WaveRunners are also known for their fuel efficiency. Personal watercraft, in general, are pretty friendly when it comes to fuel usage, so if the Yamahas are known for that even more so then you can trust them to take you further than the rest on a tank of gas.

Weaknesses

When talking about machines of such high quality, it can be difficult to identify their true weaknesses.

WaveRunners are not necessarily bad at anything, but there are some things for which they are not the best. As mentioned above, if speed and power are all you are interested in Yamaha might not be the best brand. Kawasaki Jet skis are more known for their speed.

Price is another category in which Yamaha is not the leader. They are not the most expensive available on the market, but they are not the cheapest either. That distinction goes to Sea-Doo.

Overall, there is really nothing bad about WaveRunners. When you are comparing between the big manufacturers of personal watercraft, personal preference will often play a bigger part in the decision over anything else.

Reliability

To understand what makes WaveRunners so reliable, we can look to the company that manufactures them: Yamaha Motor Company.

Yamaha Motor Company was founded on July 1 of 1955 and is headquartered in Iwata, Shizuoka Japan. While the company shares a name with and began as a branch of the largest producer of musical instruments in the world, Yamaha Corporation, they are actually separate companies now.

Yamaha Motor Company is one of the largest sellers of motorcycles in the world. They produce and sell a wide range of products such as boats, scooters, swimming pools, snowmobiles, helicopters, and ATVs, just to name a few.

Over their soon-to-be 64 year run, they have gained a reputation for producing machines that are dependable and of high quality. It is no wonder that when they started producing personal watercraft in 1986, they took that quality and applied it to WaveRunners.

The instant and continued success of the machines give testament to their reliability. The bottom line is that when you put the key into a WaveRunner and turn it, it is going to start up and take you where you want to go.

Use in Competitions

One of the best ways to know how dependable a product is is by seeing who uses it. Many professional jet skiers choose Yamaha WaveRunners as the vehicles that they compete on. Here are a few examples:

Chris MacClugage uses the Yamaha GP 1800 to compete. In 2016, he was the Pro Runabout Stock World Champion as well as the Pro AquaX Champion.

Chris Saxson uses the Yamaha GP 1800 in competitions as well. In 2016 he was the Am Enduro 300 Champion.

Aero Aswar uses the Yamaha FZR SVHO to compete. He is a 2x gold medalist at the Asian Beach Games, a 2x Pro Runabout US National Champion, and from November of 2016 until June of 2017, he was ranked as the number 1 personal watercraft rider in the world.

These are only a few athletes who use Yamaha-built personal watercraft to compete. There are many more talented riders who trust that the brand will perform the way they expect and need it to. 

Awards Won

Not only do riders of WaveRunners win awards, but the machines themselves do as well.

In 2017 and 2018, the Yamaha GP 1800R was awarded the title of “Watercraft of the Year” by The Watercraft Journal. The Watercraft Journal, launched in 2013, is the largest and most popular publisher of personal watercraft content so they know a thing or two about the subject.

Rental Companies

In areas where water sports are popular, you can often find companies that will let you rent personal watercraft. I have researched many of these companies, and I have found that many prefer to have WaveRunners for their fleets.

In Waikiki, Hawaii, H2O Sports Hawaii has the Yamaha VX 110 available to rent.

Jet Boat Miami, a rental company in, you guessed it, Miami, has a fleet made up of WaveRunners

Luxury Jet Ski Rentals, located in San Diego, claims that they offer only the newest Yamaha models for renting.

These rental companies make their money from people using the watercraft that they own, so they need to know that those watercraft are going to perform every time without fail. This is a huge testament to the reliability of WaveRunners, in my opinion.

Longevity

This is an area in which WaveRunners definitely shine. WaveRunners are known to last a long time without any issues. Of course, this largely depends on the owners and how the vehicles are treated, but as long as you don’t put it through excessive abuse, a WaveRunner will last many years.

The life of a personal watercraft is measured in engine hours. This means that it is measured on how often and how much it is operated as opposed to how far it travels like how cars’ lives are measured.

As a general rule, a personal watercraft with over 30 hours per year is considered to be high hour use. For example, if at the beginning of 2019, a WaveRunner from 2016 has 150 engine hours, then it has about 50 hours per year. It would be a high hour WaveRunner because it is used more than 30 hours a year.

Another example is if a WaveRunner has 150 engine hours on it but is from 2013, it only has 25 hours per year. Although the total hours are the same, this 2013 model is considered to be low hour instead of high hour.

This is not to say that you can only use a WaveRunner for a few hours each year, but if you want it to last then you need to be aware of how much you use it and how hard you run it.

WaveRunners are known to last hundreds of hours, and some people even say that they have WaveRunners which have lasted well over 1000 hours. If you decide to purchase a Yamaha WaveRunner, you can rest assured that it is going to last for many years as long as you treat it right. =

Extra Features

Yamaha WaveRunners offer a number of appealing extra features. Not all models from all of the different series have the exact same features available, but they all have something that can be added to improve the riding experience.

Let’s take a look at some of these great features offered.

Tow Hook

Every model of every series of WaveRunner with the exception of the stand-up Super Jet has a tow hook on the back. This means that with any of the sit-down models, you can attach a rope and pull either a tube, a water skier, or wakeboarder.

This can make for hours and days of fun with multiple people. Lots of people prefer personal watercraft over larger boats for towing because it is simpler, easier, and faster to get going. Towing is a popular water activity, and WaveRunners are great for it.

Reboarding Step

All WaveRunner models except 3, the Super Jet, the EX, and the VX-C come equipped with a reboarding step in the back. This step makes it easy to remount the WaveRunner if you get off of it for any reason. After you step off of it, it conveniently folds up and out of the way.

Automatic Bilge

Every model in every series comes with an automatic bilge installed. It may not be something that is thought about intuitively when it comes to personal watercraft, but it is important to keep water out of where it is not supposed to go.

The bilges in the WaveRunners help with this so that you can have some extra peace of mind. After all, we all have accidents and while WaveRunners are very stable, it is possible to flip one.

Dual Mirrors

All models, with the exception of the EX and the Super Jet, come with rearview mirrors installed. This is a great safety feature that helps riders be more aware of their surroundings and conditions.

Watertight Storage

All of the models of WaveRunners have some storage space except for, again, the Super Jet. The storage is watertight for all of the models except for those models of the EX series. Every model in the EX series has 7.7 gallons of storage capacity, which is the least out of all of the series.

The models of the EX series are the smallest, so it makes sense that they would have the least amount of storage space. The fact that it is not watertight might be a deterrent for some potential buyers, but it should not automatically be a deal breaker.

The EX series models are made for fast fun, not necessarily for having all of the bells and whistles. They are actually built as what is called “rec-lite” type models. This would be a good type to consider if all you want to do is get on the water and zip around. If you do what more storage space, the good news is that you can find a lot more.

The next series is the VX series. These models come with 24.6 gallons of watertight storage. At about 3 times as much as the EX series, that is a major upgrade. You could fit just about anything you think you would need on the water in there.

Finally, we have the FX series. The models of this series come with 40.6 gallons of watertight storage. Just think of all the things you could fit in there! It’s a safe bet that that would be enough for just about anyone.

Rider Capacity

Every single model of the WaveRunner, except the Super Jet, is made to seat 1 to 3 persons. This makes them a great choice for families or people who are looking to take friends out on the water with them.

Multi-Mount System

All models of WaveRunner have the option available to mount speakers on the dash. They are waterproof and Bluetooth connectable, so this is a great option to add some fun to an already great experience.

NanoXcel 2 Hull

This technology is the result of Yamaha’s commitment to always discover and create more. Many of the new models of WaveRunner come with hulls made of this material. Yamaha says this about it:

“NanoXcel is a material for making the hulls of personal watercraft, and is born from Yamaha Motor’s unique materials technologies. After further improvements to the material, NanoXcel2 is 18% lighter than its predecessor.” (source)

Basically, the WaveRunners with hulls of this material are able to provide faster acceleration and more agile handling.

Garmin Striker GPS Fish Finder

Many WaveRunners can be equipped with this GPS and fish finder. It comes in handy when fishing, obviously, and is also great for making sure that you do not lose your way in a large body of water.

RiDE by Yamaha

Most WaveRunner models come equipped with RiDE by Yamaha. RiDE is a dual throttle system that allows for optimal control of the machine. The lever on the right handle is to accelerate and go forward, while the leer on the left handle is fro reverse.

The left lever also acts as a decelerator when the WaveRunner is moving forward. Thanks to the technology of RiDE, the deceleration process is smooth instead of sudden and jerky.

Connext Touch Screen

The models of the FX series come equipped with the Connext touch screen. This screen has many functions such as drive control and security mode, which prevents unauthorized use of the WaveRunner. It also displays diagnostics of the WaveRunner and has customizable settings.

The features looked at here are only a few of many more available. To see what else you get when you purchase a Yamaha, check their website or talk to a salesman at a dealer near you.

Affordability

With such a good reputation and so many features available, you might think that the prices for WaveRunners would be ridiculous. That actually is not the case. The range of prices is pretty wide, but it starts out pretty affordable.

The cheapest new model of WaveRunner available is the EX. This rec-lite class personal watercraft has an MSRP of $6,799. A model from another maker that the EX can be compared to is the Sea-Doo Spark. The Spark has an MSRP starting at $5,399.

It might seem like there is a big difference between the prices, but when you consider the fact that the least expensive new model that Kawasaki offers starts at just under $10,000, both of these prices seem like a steal.

It should be noted that the Kawasaki mentioned above is not the same rec-lite class as the EX and the Spark as Kawasaki does not offer new rec-lite models. But still, the Kawasaki price range starts there.

The most affordable WaveRunner in the VX series is the VX-C. This watercraft has an MSRP of $8,999. It offers many more features than the EX for only $2,000 more.

The Sea-Doo GTI 90 of the same class has similar capabilities and an MSRP of $8,700. Now the gap that was present between the rec-lite class watercraft has closed almost entirely, and when making the choice between these two, price is almost not even a factor.

The Kawasaki equivalent to these models is the one that was mentioned above. So with a price that starts at about $10,000, going with the Yamaha or Sea-Doo will save you at least a grand.

Finally, the highest class of WaveRunner available, the FX series, starts with the FX HO which has an MSRP of $13,499. The most expensive model in this series and the most expensive Yamaha is the FX Cruiser SVHO with an MSRP of $16,199.

Comparable models of Sea-Doo, the GTR 230 and the RXT-X 300 have MSRPs of $12,199 and $15,799 respectively, making them a bit cheaper.

So, for new WaveRunners, the prices range from a little under $7,000 to just over $16,000.

However, there are ways to find them cheaper. Since they are such a popular brand, there are often specials run on them. You can get new models from a few hundred dollars off to almost a thousand off, depending on the sale.

If you do not have to have the newest model, you can always buy used. Again, since WaveRunners are popular many dealerships will have a used inventory that you can check out. You can also find many private sellers offering pretty good deals.

Pricing information for WaveRunners found here, and pricing information for Sea-Doos found here.

Are They Worth It?

So the big question is, is the WaveRunner the right personal watercraft for you? The WaveRunner has a lot going for it for sure. It is one of the best selling personal watercraft and has a great reputation.

In terms of price, it tends to fall in the middle of the big three manufacturers of personal watercraft. From what I have seen and heard, it has the best reputation for being reliable and lasting a long time.

The ultimate decision may come down to a matter of personal preference, but if you do go with a Yamaha WaveRunner it is safe to say that you will not regret it as they are quality machines that last many years!

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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