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Jet Ski Tow Vehicle: Is your hatchback worth it?

Buying a jet ski is one of life’s best events, but what about the car towing your trailer? You have to make sure that is up to the job.

Some people think they can get away with using a hatchback as their jet ski tow vehicle. Some people even use convertibles! Is it worth the risk?

Today let’s have that discussion.

The ideal jet ski tow vehicle

Let’s start off with the best tow vehicle to haul a jet ski.

It’s very popular to tow a jet ski with a 4×4, sedan, people mover or pickup truck. This is because you have greater control and stability when towing especially at highway speeds. When you go downhill, small vehicles feel like they are pushing the trailer down uncontrollably due to their lack of brakes.

Jet Ski Tow Vehicle Ferrari

Most jet ski trailers aren’t required to have built-in brakes due to their small size and size-axle nature. This rule does vary state-to-state and country-to-country so it’s wise to check with your local jurisdiction or simply phone your local dealership.

What do jet skis weight

The reason why most people decide to get a bigger tow vehicle is the weight of their jet ski once it’s on the trailer.

On average, jet skis weigh between 1,000 pounds and 1,300 pounds. Add in the additional trailer weight of 300 pounds and you’ve got a rig that weighs in at almost 1,600 pounds or 725kgs. In Australia the maximum weight of a jet ski trailer without brakes is 750kgs, so the average weight of a personal watercraft sits just under.

Towing a jet ski with a sports car

But even if you’re under the limits, it’s not wise to get a small tow vehicle. You’re really limited on various aspects.

Why I say no to small tow vehicles

While I’ve shown you why the weight ratio between the tow vehicle and the trailer is too close, let’s look at other reasons:

  1. You’re fully reliant on the minimum braking capacity of your hatchback when descending downhills.
  2. Most hatchbacks have basic road tyres and aren’t designed to hold 1,600 pounds aka 725kgs on a slippery boat ramp.
  3. It’s embarrassing to have such powerful jet ski being towed by such an ordinary vehicle. It just feels…cheap.
  4. It’s also harder to find a compatible tow bar for such a small car, and most fitment centres won’t stock it so it will need to be ordered in.

What you should get

I’ve already hinted at the ideal tow vehicle for your jet ski.

Trust me – you need to get yourself something designed for towing. Something where the manufacturer has put the car up to the task, so you don’t slip back on the boat ramp.

Towing a jet ski with a Porsche
This is a popular but steep ramp in my home country where this Porsche SUV slipped.

The ideal vehicle happens to be most cars on the market today, so you won’t have to search too far. If your budget is limited, look at a used vehicle that is reliable and with a high towing capacity.

You don’t need a 4×4 to tow a jet ski at all. A sedan or station wagon will do the job just fine. The main issue is at the boat ramps, as some of them lack the maintenance and are overgrown with moss and algae causing some traction issues. This is why people like 4x4s to tow any type of marine vessel.

Personally I find it harder to launch and retrieve a jet ski with a 4×4. This is because of the reduced visibility behind you. Opening the tailgate is one good idea if you own a pickup truck.

If you don’t want to fork out the money, I would recommend contacting friends or family and borrow a tow rig for the day. You could even take the owner out on the ski which I’m sure they will enjoy!

The dangers of jet ski trailers

The real issue is in the design of lightweight aluminium trailers. They just sway a lot, even if it isn’t windy on the highway.

PWC fallen off trailer
You should never tow a jet ski with such a lightweight car like this.

Not only that, they are easy to bounce. You’ve probably seen an unloaded trailer jump up and down when it’s travelling along, even at 35 miles per hour. Imagine that happening at 70 miles per hour with a brand new jet ski on it.

At least with a solid tow vehicle, you are able to maintain some form of control. You can also weigh down your trailer with some accessories such as additional gas cans.

Summary on jet ski tow vehicles

It’s not worth the risk to get such a small tow vehicle. Remember that once jet skis are fully fueled up, they actually weight quite a bit. A little car is going to struggle to control a trailer that is weighing almost as much as it does.

Also consider using pontoon storage shed. This way you can just keep your jet ski by the water’s edge for a nominal amount each month.

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Joshua Smith - Editor of

As the editor, I started this resource to share my knowledge of jet ski ownership globally. When I’m not out there riding, I’m engaging with industry trends and eagerly awaiting the development of electric jet skis.