PWC Alternatives: Jet Ski vs Waverunner vs Sea-Doo

“Jet ski” has become a widely accepted term people use to generically describe all personal watercrafts, but did you know it’s actually a brand name and not an improper proper noun?

Jet Ski WaveRunner Sea-Doo

We’ve been guilty here at the blog of using “jet ski” and “waverunner” interchangeably as SEO keywords to describe all PWCs, but these are actually brand names. PWC stands for personal watercraft, and that’s actually the correct overall term to describe these machines. With that confession in mind, here are some things you should know about the PWC brands Jet Ski, WaveRunner and Sea-Doo. 


The Sea-Doo is the “OG” of the PWC, the first of its kind. It was developed by Canadian manufacturer Bombardier Recreational Products in the 1960s. 

Sea-Doo personal watercraft

Sea-Doo’s popularity has a lot to do with affordability, as well as for being user-friendly for beginners. Compared to Jet Ski and WaveRunner, Sea-Doo generally offers the most affordable price range models. 

If you’re a beginner to the PWC game and just want a fun, easy-to-use affordable watercraft to get started with, Sea-Doo is your best bet. However, the lower price point often comes at the expense of speed and comfort. In other words, the more affordable Sea-Doo models don’t offer the higher speeds or luxuries of its competitors, but they’re a solid choice for a first-time buyer. 

Fun Fact: BRP, the manufacturer of Sea-Doo, also owns Can-Am and Ski-Doo.

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Buy OEM Kawasaki Jet Ski parts

Jet Ski

As already mentioned, Jet Ski is a brand name — not a generic term  introduced by Japanese manufacturer Kawasaki in the 1970s.

Kawasaki Jet Ski personal watercraft

One reason “Jet Ski” became synonymous with all PWCs is that it was the first commercially successful personal watercraft. Not long after BRP introduced Sea-Doo, Kawasaki got into the PWC game with the much more powerful Jet Ski. It was so successful that even the use of personal watercraft is now commonly referred to as “jet skiing”. 

Jet Skis were only available as stand-up model PWC until 1986, when Kawasaki began making sit-down versions as well. 

Stand-up Kawasaki Jet Ski PWC

These watercraft are renowned for their high-speed performance, much like Kawasaki motorcycles are in the powersports world. However, Jet Skis are not known for affordability, being much more high-end than Sea-Doos. If speed and luxury are your thing  and you can afford one   Jet Ski is a preferable choice.

Fun Fact: The movie Police Academy 3, which prominently features Kawasaki stand-up Jet Skis, came out in 1986: the same year Yamaha introduced the WaveRunner 500, the world’s first sit-down PWC.


Not to be left in competitor Kawasaki’s wake, Japanese manufacturer Yamaha got into the personal watercraft game by introducing the WaveRunner in 1986. 

Yamaha WaveRunner personal watercraft

Like Kawasaki, Yamaha is also renowned for its high-performance motorcycles, so naturally they developed their own PWC to compete with them in the watersports world. The 1980s was a decade of fierce competition in the PWC market, so much so that the competition between the Jet Ski and the Wave Runner brought Sea-Doo back into the game in 1988, after having been discontinued in the early 70s.

The WaveRunner is popular as a reliable, fun and fast PWC alternative to the Jet Ski. It’s a formidable opponent in both speed and luxury, offering plenty of storage space. Like Jet Ski, “WaveRunner” has also become a widely accepted synonym to refer to any PWC. And also like Jet Skis, WaveRunners aren’t cheap because they offer higher speed performance, comfort and extras. 

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Jet Ski, WaveRunner or Sea-Doo: Which to Choose?

If you’re in the market for a personal watercraft and need a little help deciding, here are some quick bullet points about “the big 3” of PWC. 

Sea-Doo WaveRunner Jet Ski PWC alternatives

  • WaveRunner has a broader range of model options to cater to beginners and pros alike than Jet Ski and Sea-Doo.
  • Sea-Doo is the favored PWC alternative for affordability and for beginners, but it’s been known to fall behind WaveRunner and Jet Ski in performance and features.
  • WaveRunner offers some lower-end affordable models to compete with Sea-Doo, and is widely regarded as the “happy medium” brand between Jet Ski and Sea-Doo for the casual rider seeking affordability and speed.
  • All three manufacturers have offered stand-up PWC models, which were especially popular in the 80s, but eventually fell out of favor. However, like many other things that were popular in the 80s, they’re starting to make a comeback.

Whether you choose a Sea-Doo, WaveRunner or Jet Ski, one thing they all have in common is they’re all quality PWCs with pros and cons. It all comes down to how much you’re willing to pay for extra features and performance, but all three are solid brands. 




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