Jet Ski Hire vs Buy: Which is Better in 2022?

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Jet Ski Hire Vs Buy One Outright

So you’re very excited about the notion of riding a jet ski, but that begs the question: Should you hire one or simply buy one outright?

Many people have this conundrum, including me. I’ve done both.

I’ve hired a jet ski and I’ve also bought a jet ski.

Each has its pros and cons. And because of COVID-19, there are shortages globally in new personal watercraft and parts, so it’s something to keep in mind.

Today I’ll drill down on which one you should do.

Jet Ski Hiring vs Buying

There is really no clear-cut answer initially. There are some things you might want to think about:

  1. Your current starting budget including all gear, maintenance and registration
  2. How often you’ll ride a jet ski, both annual average and peak season
  3. The availability of where you can ride (jet ski hire shops aren’t everywhere)
  4. Your current skills and experience in riding personal watercraft
  5. Your current weight (since most hire shops just use rec-lite jet skis)
  6. If you want to take passengers and do tow-sports such as wakeboarding
  7. The storage capacity in your home for your trailer
  8. How devoted you are towards cleaning/servicing a jet ski
  9. Whether you’re OK in being restricted in your chosen routes

That really gives you something to think about. The person who buys a jet ski has a different thought pattern to someone who simply hires.

Jet Ski Ownership vs Rental Comparison Table

To make things easier, I’ve created these two helpful comparison tables where you can compare pricing information.

Jet Ski PurchaseCost Divided by Month
Initial $17,000 upfront including trailerLease at $400/month
Accessories (life jackets, spares, flares, GPS) – $1,200$100
Registration and Insurance – $1,200/year$100
Service and Maintenance – $600/year$50
Fuel Per Ride – $50 (assuming 1 ride per month)$50
Total$700/Month

Next, we have the side-by-side comparison:

Compare Side-By-SideRentingOwnership*
1x 2hr Rides/Month$200$700
2x 2hr Rides/Month$400$750
3x 2hr Rides/Month$600$800
4x 2hr Rides/Month$800$850
5x 2hr Rides/Month$1,000$900
6x 2hr Rides/Month$1,200$950
7x 2hr Rides/Month$1,400$1,000
*Add extra $50 of fuel for each ownership ride

This is based on my data in my jet ski rental pricing article where I found that hiring a jet ski for 2 hours, on average, will cost $200.

As you can see, there isn’t much of a clear-cut answer apart from the financial benefits. Neither optional is good or bad, despite renters often being frowned upon. Some people like to ride and drop it off at the shop, whilst others want the feeling of full ownership. The tables also don’t account for re-sale value after the end of your jet ski loan is repaid.

Let’s drill down on each one.

Hiring a Jet Ski

There are dozens of jet ski hire shops across the world. In the United States, there are certainly plenty, as well as here in Australia.

Jet Ski Tour And Hire
Typically jet ski hire shops use the same models for tours.

Most of these will simply offer the opportunity of a jet ski tour, as opposed to giving you the opportunity to ride and explore yourself. Most people would prefer the solo adventure instead of being restricted to a bunch of new riders and a normal route.

Advantages

  • You don’t need to outlay a lot of money for a jet ski, trailer and accessories, plus registration and insurance
  • No need to worry about it being stolen. You ride it for 2 to 3 hours then return it.
  • Avoid the hassles, time, embarrassment and ques at boat ramps. The shop will launch it for you so it’s ready to go when you arrive.
  • You also don’t need to worry about cleaning, servicing or storage. It’s all taken care of for you.
  • If you break-down when riding, that’s not your problem. The jet ski shop will sort that out.
  • Gives you a chance to gain some experience riding a jet ski before buying your own
  • You have that ‘safe’ feeling of knowing that someone else takes care of everything.
  • You’re given some guidance on where to ride and where to avoid before departing.
  • Depending on the jet ski shop, they might also include a GPS so you can find your way home.

Disadvantages

  • Most jet ski shops only have a basic fleet of rec-lite jet skis for their public riders. These are lightweight and not very powerful.
  • You might have to pay a PWC rental bond. Depending on your country, this could be $1,000+
  • Once you’re done riding, you have to return back to base by a certain time.
  • Other riders will fly past you because you’re on a donkey of a jet ski.
  • Quite restrictive on where you can go. Often you’re only allowed in canals, lakes and rivers and not the open ocean.
  • No wave jumping! Very few of any jet ski hire shops allow their riders to jump waves, otherwise, you risk your entire rental bond.
  • Also restricted on when you can ride. I like to ride at sunrise and most jet ski shops open from 9am onwards when it starts to get busy on the waterways.
  • No refunds if the weather gets bad. Often you just have to suck it up.

As you can see, fairly balanced. Hiring a jet ski is better suited towards the occasional user (i.e. 1 ride per month) who also don’t want to do anything crazy, mainly just cruise around for a while.

Buying a Jet Ski

When I go into a jet ski dealership, I feel like a kid in a candy shop. There are just so many great jet skis, both at Yamaha and SeaDoo dealers.

Jet Ski Buy Vs Hire
It’s often much more fun to buy your own jet ski – think of the fun you’ll have!

Buying your first jet ski will be one of the best decisions you ever make. That said, they are expensive so it’s always best to start with hiring unless you can afford one outright.

Advantages

  • It’s your own jet ski, so you can add decals and ride anytime you want.
  • Fully unrestricted on where you can ride too. Maybe even try some jet ski camping and enjoy some overnight trips in the wilderness.
  • Unless you buy a rec-lite jet ski (like the SeaDoo Spark) then you’ve got more power on hand. More power = much more fun!
  • You can go wave jumping anytime you want, but that takes practice too.
  • Keeping up with other PWC riders should be no problem at all.
  • Children can join you out on the waterways with tube sports and wakeboarding.
  • You don’t have a feeling of being watched or tracked, so you can ride anywhere.
  • No fear of damage. If you hit a submerged rock, then that’s on you to sort out.
  • Zero requirements to tag along on a jet ski tour. In fact, you’ll often overtake others out there on tours.
  • Can join in with group rides. Join your local jet ski clubs for details.
  • Instead of buying a boat, you can go jet ski fishing!
Fishing With A Jet Ski
Jet ski fishing is one activity that you just can’t do when you hire one of these machines.

Disadvantages

  • You’ll need to outlay thousands of dollars for the ski, safety equipment, trailer, registration and insurance.
  • Will require a place to store your PWC at home or another safe place.
  • To maintain its condition, you’ll have to properly clean your jet ski after each ride.
  • Good risk of theft. Thieves love jet skis so you become a target, but there are ways to stop them (Read more: Security devices for PWCs)
  • You’ll also need a tow vehicle capable of handling your jet ski at highway speeds without swaying.
  • If you ride on weekends, then expect a queue of people at the local boat ramp. You’ll also need to learn how to launch and retrieve.
  • Depreciation: your jet ski is losing value each and every week (plus clocking on additional riding hours too)
  • You might not feel confident enough yet on the first few riders to join with other riders.
  • Lots of time spent researching on where to ride and potential hazards.
  • If you live in an apartment like me, you’ll need to spend money to rent an additional car space.
  • The additional cost to have a towbar fitted to your vehicle.

Again, a pretty fair outlay. I’ve done both hiring and renting and certainly jet ski ownership makes better sense if you’re riding often (more than 2 times per month).

Summary

There is nothing wrong with hiring instead of buying. As I’ve detailed, each has its pros and cons.

Hiring gives you the chance to learn as you go, either with an organized tour or self-hire option. It’s much less hassle for a few fun hours on the water.

On the flip side, owning your own jet ski is one of the best feelings in the world. The chance to ride when and where you want cannot be replicated with jet ski hire shops.

If you’re unsure, I would recommend hiring first. This way you can discover whether the sport of jet skiing is an enjoyable activity for you and the family, without spending a large chunk of capital.

Joshua Smith - Editor

Joshua Smith

I became obsessed with the marine industry when I was just 7-years old. Today I’m thrilled to share my knowledge online. When I’m not out there riding, I’m engaging with industry trends and eagerly helping people get more time-freedom online so they can spend more time out there riding their jet skis around.