Boaterpal is a community supported site. We may earn a commission if you buy from a link.

What Is A Jet Boat? (What You Need To Know)

A jet boat, simply put, is a boat that uses a jet stream of water to push the boat forward. This is different from most other boats that use a propeller that spins to propel boats. Generally, jet boats are smaller in size than propeller boats as jets are not efficient enough to power large vessels.

Learn more about the differences between jet and propeller boats by reading this article: “Jet vs. Propeller: Which Boat Is Best For You?“.

What’s the hype behind jet boats? Why do people love them so much? What are the pros and cons? How do you figure out which one to pick?

All of these are great questions. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about jet boats.

By the end, not only will you know all the ins and outs, you will also be able to make an informed decision about whether jet boats are the right fit for you.

Jet propulsion

Jet boats aren’t actually a type of boat but rather a type of drive. The reason they are referred to as jet boats and not something else is because they are a specialized form of boating. Plus, they account for a relatively small number of all boat sales.

When it comes to recreational boats, there are more outboard, sterndrive, and inboard systems than jets. Luckily though, jets are now overcoming the stigma of being just another propulsion option.

Why the sudden change? Why are jets becoming more popular and being utilized for different kinds of boating?

Let’s take a look.

History of jet boats

Sir William Hamiliton originally developed jet boats in 1950. He specifically designed them to overcome the problem of propellers striking rocks in fast and shallow waters in New Zealand.

He was able to design a system that managed to operate efficiently in shallow terrain. Although it was a huge accomplishment, jet boats didn’t gain popularity until the 1990s.

How does a jet boat work

A jet boat works off of a thrust where it forces water in a rearward direction, creating a reaction by generating a propulsive thrust. In fact, jets are a great example of Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion, which states that ‘for every action (force) in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction.’

Imagine the thrust you would feel if you held a high-power fire hose. That is exactly what happens with jet boats.

The jet pump draws water into a bowl, which is then pressurized to leave the pump at a high speed. That causes the jet to motion in a backward-moving thrust. Hence, getting the boat to move forward.

Jet boat pros

Security: Many people consider jet boats unsafe. That depends on how you look at it. In fact, jet boats are far safer than a prop-driven boat. Since there is no rotation prop, there is no bulky hardware that can potentially strike or injure a swimmer or skier.

One may argue because jet-propelled boats such as jet skis are so small and provide such a chaotic ride, they are considered more dangerous. So it depends from boat to boat.

Although boating, in general, is a fairly safe activity, most jet boats have a leg up because not having a propeller beneath the waterline provides an extra layer of safety. 

Draft: Draft on a boat means the minimum depth you can safely take without hitting the bottom of the hull on the surface below water. And jet boats have an exceptional draft edge.

A typical draft on a jet boat is only the depth of the hull itself. The best part about this is that it opens up more options of the bodies of water that it can explore.

Hence, they can go into shallow water with ease, and you do not need to stress about drive damage.

Acceleration: Jet boats are quick to plane with less effort. Whereas, if you use a propeller-driven boat, a motorist has a greater chance of losing control because they can lose forward vision for as long as a few seconds.

And it goes without saying that jet boats are fast. If you’re looking for the thrill, jet boats will definitely provide that. The instantaneous speed response cannot be beaten by other propulsion systems.

Handling: If you’re new to driving a boat or want to try something new, jet boats are the way to go. They offer a smooth ride experience.

Not only will you feel comfortable navigating it, you will also bring out your spontaneous side. Since jets are quick and agile, you will feel as if you’re gliding across the water.

On the other hand, if going fast isn’t your thing, that is perfectly fine—jet boats have a lot of control, giving you all the power. Since they do not charge as severely, you can go fast or slow.

Nevertheless, even with all the amazing features, jet boats aren’t for everyone. Like anything else, they have their disadvantages as well. So what are they? Let’s dive in.

Jet boat cons

Performance: Although they have amazing performance overall, they are slightly less effective than prop-driven electricity systems. That is because the engine’s power could be tapped with the jet drive.

If you analyzed jet outboards with propeller-driven outboards, they would rank lower in horsepower evaluation. That being said, if specifics aren’t important to you, it won’t make a huge difference.

Volume: Jet boats tend to be louder than other types of boats. That is definitely something jet boat makers are consistently working to improve upon.

Newer models have mitigated this problem to an extent, but even so, they still remain louder than propeller-driven boats. Hence, if you’re sensitive to loud noises, then jet boats may not be the right fit for you.

Shifting Gears: Do jet boats have neutral? Yes. Do jet boats have reverse? Yes. But it’s not that simple.

Both reverse and neutral are very different on a jet boat from other boats. A regular boat will have a transmission that slips in and out of gears. But when it comes to jet boats, they do not have a transmission, so it’s a little more complicated.

To shift gears, a jet boat uses what is essentially called a bucket. The bucket controls forward, neutral, and reverse. It’s simply a different operating system. Most people love it more, but since it is different, others do not like it. Therefore, taking the time to try it out and see what works for you is the best option.

Starting A Jet Boat: When starting a jet boat, there is a possibility that it may move an inch or two forward. Although that sounds scary, in reality, most people don’t even notice it.

In fact, the wind and waves will move you more than neutral, so it’s not actually a big deal. But if meticulous about things, it’s good to keep this in mind when shopping for boats.

How much do jet boats cost?

Jet boats cost around $30,000 to $150,000, depending on the length and design of the boat. This price is about what you would pay for similar propeller-powered boats.

What are the best jet boats on the market?

Yamaha 210 FSH Sport

If you love fishing, you will be in awe of this jet boat. It’s no surprise that fishing boats are rare, but the latest Yamaha 210 FSH Sport has proven that you can comfortably fish on flats and skinny waters.

If you have grown up with jet-powered watercraft, you will be extra impressed with this one. Not only will you love the boat’s casting platforms fore and aft along, but you will also love rod storage and rod holders almost anywhere on the boat.

Scarab HO 215 Impulse

The first thing that will catch your eye is the striking white and pearlescent orange that makes it that much more appealing. Of Course everyone loves a great looking jet boat, but there are many amazing practical features as well.

For example, the cockpit is deeper than you would expect, making it great for families or more people in general. It also comes with twin captain chairs and a lounge with great spacing.

The 10 people capacity makes this the perfect choice for get togethers and family excursions. Since it also comes with fitted premium speakers, you and your loved ones will have a blast.

Chaparral Vortex 243 VRX

If you’re looking for a high performance, sleek, and comfortable jet boat then you cannot go wrong with Chaparral Vortex 243 VRX. The medallion touchscreen with speed-control Rotax functions adds precision control.

Plus it comes with sportier colors and graphics. You can choose from yellow, aqua, green, lime, red, gray, and blue.

Yamaha AR240

If high-speed and family fun is the top priority, then this is the one for you. It comes with a twin engine with a large stern area perfect for water activities and a cockpit with seating and spacing big enough for two adults.

But that’s not all. It also has a feature called “Articulating Keel”, which has dramatically changed the way the boat maneuvers. The clever mechanism allows the driver to be in better control of the boat at all speeds.

Scarab Open 255 ID

The great thing about Scarab Open 255 ID is that you can upgrade and customize the onboard amenities and appearance from a long list of choices given to you. Truly an amazing option, so your boat will feel completely your own. Plus, this way the boat won’t be just another generic jet, but rather a personalized item.

Sam