What is the Difference Between a Boat and a Personal Watercraft (PWC)?

By Jessica King

Aug 30, 2023

In short, Personal Watercraft (PWC) are boats, but there are some unique characteristics of PWCs.

A Personal Watercraft (PWC), often known as a jet ski, is a compact recreational watercraft propelled by an inboard jet drive system. Unlike traditional boats, where the operator is within the vessel, a PWC is designed for riders to sit, stand, or kneel on. Also referred to as Jet Ski, WaveRunner, or Sea-Doo, this design enables dynamic maneuvers and high-speed waterborne adventures. 

Unique Characteristics of PWCs:

1. Size and Design: PWCs are smaller and more compact than standard boats, typically designed for one to three riders. 

2. Speed and Maneuverability: PWCs are known for their impressive speed and agility.

3. Control: PWCs are typically operated by handlebars similar to a motorcycle, which gives riders precise control over steering and acceleration.

4. Versatility: While PWCs are designed for speed and excitement, some models offer additional features like storage compartments, making them suitable for short trips and water-based adventures.

Furthermore, a Personal Watercraft (PWC) require owners to have a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC). In addition, the minimum age to operate a personal watercraft is 16 years old. Unlike regulations for motorboats, minors cannot operate a personal watercraft (PWC) even with adult supervision if they are under 16.