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Some experts recommend jet boats for beginners who want something that provides speed on the water. With this type of motor installed, are jet boats dangerous, or will they make boating relatively safe? According to WaveTech PowerSports, buying a jet boat will bring headaches, some of which are dealbreakers. What are the good and bad points of owning a vessel like this?

Jet boat on the water with a someone riding skis going up a ramp in front of a city skyline.
Jet boat | Getty Images

Are jet boats dangerous or are they safe?

Jet boat fans love them because of how fast you can go when operating one. This helps set up the right conditions for sports, like waterboarding or skiing. The vessel doesn’t run on your typical motor. It expels a jet stream of water out the back, propelling the boat forward. It also can handle shallower water depths better than outboard motors or sterndrives because it doesn’t have a propeller hanging down under the water. 

However, jet boats are much harder to steer than ones that have a rudder. When the thrust of the water stream decreases, the ability to maneuver the boat becomes much harder. Simple tasks like landing the boat at a dock can get very frustrating for someone who isn’t all that experienced driving a jet boat. In fact, it can be hazardous if you have to decrease the throttle to avoid an accident. 

According to Deep Creek Marina, jet boats are also unable to provide a comfortable ride on the water. On a calm weather day, when the waves are kept to a minimum, riding in a boat isn’t all that bad, but if the wind comes up and the water starts moving more, passengers could become miserable with the rough ride. Fuel efficiency isn’t possible with one of these types of vessels either. The boat will guzzle gas at high speeds at least twice as much as a stern-driven vessel would.

Safety precautions to consider when operating a jet boat

When you first take off in shallow water, consider having someone push you off so you can make your way into deeper water before you start the engine. You want any debris, like sand, to wash off the boat, so it doesn’t get sucked into the engine when you start it. If you go into shallower water to land the vessel, shut the motor off and let momentum push you in to avoid damaging internal parts. 

It would help if you also considered using ear protection while you’re in the water with your jet boat. These watercrafts are the loudest ones on the market, doubling in decibel range as soon as you hit 30 mph. Another tip is to take good care of your jet boat. Maintenance on these vessels is much more expensive than outboard boats or stern-driven ones. 

Since these kinds of boats are hard to maneuver, especially in reverse, plan as much as possible. It takes time for the jet engine to slow down or speed up, so keep that in mind when you maneuver on the lake. 

Why outboard or sterndrive boats might be a better option

Of course, which type of boat you choose will depend on what activities you’re planning to do with it. Jet boats work well with water sports because it can go at higher speeds, and they don’t have a propeller to injure someone while they’re performing on the water. There’s also plenty of room for a family or group of friends to enjoy the day together on the vessel. 

According to Hunts Marine, outboard boats are great for fishing trips or just cruising in the water. The motor allows you to direct the boat easily in the direction you want to go. It also frees up passenger space because an outboard engine sits off the back of the boat, leaving room for a few family members or friends to enjoy the scenery as you speed across the lake. They often come with some of the best motors in the business, like Mercury and Yamaha

A stern drive boat doesn’t offer as much room for passengers, but you can still take a couple of friends with you. It’s great for cruising in the water and for taking a pit stop for swimming. The back of the boat has a platform that you can slide off into the water or climb back into the vessel. The motor sits inside the watercraft, so the boat looks clean without the big powerhead motor attached to the back as the outboard vessels have. 

Jet boats are great for water skiing or other types of water sports, but you need to be cautious with them as they can get a bit dangerous to drive. If you don’t want to perform any type of water sport with it, consider an outboard or sterndrive boat instead. 


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