How many times have you been out at the lake or ocean and seen numerous people whizzing about on jet skis having the time of their life, wishing you were out there with them? They are very fast and maneuverable, and there is always plenty of splash action to keep you cool on a hot day! They are probably the number one serious rental toy at the beach at most resorts around the world, and for a good reason. They're fun to drive!
There are many different types and models of jet skis (also called waverunners), and I'm going to run through a few of them. I've personally had a Sea-Doo GTX for several years and I may be somewhat biased, but I consider them to be the best and most popular selling brand. The company definitely knows how to market, and they have a lion's share of the sales today. Sea-Doo has been around for quite a while and they've got a great reputation in the industry for ease of use and that they are also extremely easy to take care of and maintain. Any problems associated with Sea-Doo's are often relatively minor, and can be usually inexpensive to fix. Of course, with any big piece of machinery there are always exceptions, and you'll want to treat it as nicely as you can in order for you to keep enjoying the benefits of being out on the water for years to come. Seriously, I've seen people go out and tear apart a brand new waverunner just because they want to take it to the limit each and every time in their quest for fun. These are the people who will probably end up selling off that same waverunner within a year or two because they've abused it so bad it does not run as well as it used to, so when purchasing a used jet ski it's best to really learn everything about its history that you can.
Speed and maneuverability are not the only reasons to purchase a jet ski; the larger models are also great for extended touring trips or all day excursions. They are incredibly stable and some will have huge amounts of dry storage space for picnics, clothes, or other items that you may need when you stop. That has become one of my favorite reasons for having the GTX now, is just being able to take off and see where the day leads you, knowing that you've got everything stored away for any eventuality! The first few years that I've had the jet ski I used extensively in the Gulf of Mexico and salt water, and I can not begin to tell you the things I've seen and experiences I've enjoyed with that jet ski! Imagine yourself about an hour or so from sunset just laying around on your jet ski with the motor off just enjoying life and suddenly a pod of 30 dolphins come right up and nose about chasing after fish! I've had that happen a few times, and it's just one of the memorable times I can say that I've had with my salt water jet skiing. More recently, I've used my Sea-Doo mainly in fresh water lakes around the Atlanta area, and I can tell you that even though some of the lakes tend to get very crowded on weekends that it is also a very enjoyable experience! On a hot day in the summertime, there's nothing better than hitting the lake with your jet ski to cool off and swim. I've found that one main difference with busy lakes as opposed to the open ocean is that you will need to keep your head on a swivel much more to avoid any collisions with other boats or people. On a busy day, there are also many waves caused by the wakes of other boats and water-skiers and you will need to keep an eye on them as well.
The difference between salt water and fresh water jet skiing can also be found in the maintenance of the vessel, and the salt really does play havoc with any exposed metals parts, especially on your trailer! As you can expect, you are totally dunking your trailer in salt water each and every time that you put your jet ski into the water, so after every use you will need to give both your waverunner and trailer a good washing to try and get as much salt off as possible. Even with that, you will still get a fair amount of rusting on the trailer, but that's nothing to worry about. Just do your part after every use, and it should take care of you for years to come. Remember to also grease the ball bearings in the wheels every year or two (any certified shop can do this for you), because repeated dunking in salt water can wash the grease away over time. If you are using your jet ski mainly in fresh water, there is much less maintenance involved. The maintenance shop that I use suggests giving it a good wash once or twice a year, and not to worry about hosing it down after every trip out unless it's just really dirty. Fresh water will not cause it to rust any more, but of course greasing the ball bearings at least twice a year is still recommended. If you live in an area where they actually have winter and you will not be able to use your jet ski year round (anywhere not in Florida!), Then you will also probably also need to have your battery charged back up in the springtime because it tends to lose its charge over a couple of months on non-use unless kept plugged into an outlet continuously.
Other brands of jet skis that are also very popular are Kawasaki, Yamaha, Honda, and Polaris. Polaris is probably the smallest company of the bunch, and you will only see these machines rarely out there. Yamaha is a very popular rental jet ski, and you will see these quite frequently on the lakes and bays. Many people will get their first experience with a waverunner from a rental company, whether it's a nearby lake or a weeklong trip to some exotic locale. This is a great way to "get your feet wet" so to speak, but understand these rental companies will always have a governed down version of the jet ski in order to slow the speeds so that nobody will hurt themselves or hurt others. Top speed in the rental industry will rarely exceed 35 or 40 mph, and Sea-Doo even has two owners' keys specifically for that reason. They have a "learning key" which has a top speed of about 35 mph for beginners and rental companies to use. Once the owner has mastered this speed, then they can progress up to the regular key which can have a top speed up to 70 mph or in some cases even higher! However, anything above 60 mph can be a really crazy ride, and you do not want to fall off or be thrown off the Jet Ski at that speed! Imagine hitting concrete at those speeds, that's kind of like the water when you're going very fast! So be warned!
As long as you take care of you brand new Jet Ski and properly maintain it, there is no reason that it will not provide you with many, many years of fun and enjoyment for yourself and your family. With purchasing a new jet ski, you at least know what you're getting as far as a good machine. There will be a factory warranty and sometimes you can also purchase a nice extended warranty, and you will probably not have any initial problems with it at all. However, with a used model you really do not know what you're getting and you'll want to do your homework to make sure that it was not abused by the owner or damaged in some way. There is a lot of opportunity for damaging the machine on the waterways, including grounding out on shoals, operating in very shallow water, hitting rocks just under the surface, running into other boats or people, or even traffic accidents on the road. It might be best to have a certified marine mechanic take a look at it before purchasing, just to make sure. There is a huge price difference between used and new however, so if you can find a used machine in great shape you will save a large amount of money between the purchase of a new machine.
I hope I covered some useful information for those of you interested in purchasing your first jet ski, and maybe gave you some things to think about to make sure you are choosing the right one. Also, to give you a good idea of the general maintenance involved and to steer you clear of the many urban legends about how having a jet ski is a bad idea and you will grow to regret it. I've loved every minute of my Sea-Doo, and I look back at the purchase as an impulsive buy, but a thoroughly great idea I had for years of enjoyment, both past and future! So have fun everyone, and I'll see you on the lakes and byways of the world!