Jetboat vs. Prop: (What’s The Difference?)

This is our comparison between Jetboat vs. Propeller driven boat.

Over the years, I’ve been the proud owner of Jet and Prop driven boats and have decades of boating experience in fresh and saltwater. 

Both boats are great weekend excursion vessels; the Jetboat with its impeller propulsion system and the Prop that uses a propeller are both worthy rivals.

Let’s take a closer look at their many strengths and weaknesses!

Jetboat vs. Prop Which Is Better?

The similarities are very close when comparing a jet boat to a prop-driven boat.  Each propulsion method has its strengths and weaknesses.  The easiest boats to use for comparison will be a 21foot I/O (inboard/outboard) prop stern drive and a 21-foot jet drive, with slightly over 200hp each.

A jetboat uses an engine to turn an impeller that sucks water from the middle of the boat and forces the water out through a nozzle at the stern.  An I/O stern drive has an automotive engine that turns a gearbox connected to an outdrive with a propeller.

Both boat types are used for recreational purposes, and both are a whole lot of fun.  But there is a reason why most boats have a propeller; a prop is just so much more versatile.  The winner is the Prop boat.

What Are The Common Uses For Jet And Prop Boats?

Boating is a fun activity, and having the correct type of boat will boost your boating experience with friends and family.  Here are a few everyday boating activities that can be done with these boats.

Common Jetboat Activities

  • Towing inflatables and skiing
  • Casual day cruising on the lake or river
  • Swimming from the swim platform
  • Having fun at a sandbar

Common Prop Boat Activities

  • Towable water sports such as wakeboarding or skiing
  • Fishing
  • Shoreline cruising with friends on the lake
  • Docking at the many waterfront eateries

The Pros And Cons Of Prop Boats

The list of the pros and cons of a prop boat


  • Easy access to the water
  • Full beam swim platform
  • Many sun pad options
  • No exposed motor
  • More torque
  • Good handling boat


  • More Expensive cost of ownership
  • The prop can not trim out of the water
  • Tougher to maintain in saltwater

The Pros And Cons Of Jetboats

The list of the pros and cons of a jetboat


  • Excellent access to water
  • Full beam swim platform
  • Low profile motor
  • More interior cockpit space
  • Very shallow draught
  • Quick acceleration
  • No prop danger
  • Saltwater maintenance is easy
  • The owner can do winterizing


  • Runs at a higher RPM
  • Higher noise levels
  • More vibration
  • The impeller can suck up debris and seaweed
  • Low-speed maneuverability
  • Tricky reverse maneuverability

This article will compare the differences between a Jetboat and a Propeller boat by comparing their fuel economy, tow ability, safety, and more.  Read on to learn about these differences.

Interior Space Of A Jet And Prop Boat

It is no secret that sterndrive prop boats have a much larger automotive engine that must be stowed on board; this will take up more space at the stern.  Boat manufacturers will disguise this by adding a large sun pad to cover the bulky engine bay.

Jetboats have much smaller engines that are more easily tucked away in the boat.  Jetboats will often have a larger cockpit area with easier access from the stern of the boat.  The large open stern area creates a more sleek-looking boat design.

Winner: Jetboat – More spacious and easier access from the stern

How Much Fuel Does A Jetboat Use vs. A Prop Boat?

The fuel economy on a boat will always be high as it takes a lot of force to move a boat in the water.  The more power you want, the more fuel you will burn.  Prop boats have more drag with a deeper draught and a propeller, thus needing more power to push through.  Jetboats have a shallower draught with no other drag, allowing a smaller engine displacement to be used.

The table below shows the two boats’ gallons per hour fuel usage.

Fuel burnJet Boat (GPH)Prop Boat (GPH)
Cruising speed (23mph)8.24.7
High speed (50 mph)19.611.1

Jetboats run at a much higher RPM with their smaller engine; some jetboats might even be supercharged, resulting in a higher fuel economy.  Prop boats don’t fare much better as they get thirsty at higher speeds.

Winner: Prop Boat – A lower GPH means more time on the water

Which Boat Is Safer A Jetboat Or Prop Boat

Propeller-driven boats will always have a spinning prop that will pose a danger to swimmers at the back of the boat.  Even when not spinning, the prop can have sharp edges that can injure; thus, extra care should be taken when swimming at the stern. 

Prop boat manufacturers have attempted to lessen the danger by placing extended swim platforms on the boats to distance swimmers from the danger.

A jetboat poses no real danger at the jet nozzle of the boat unless you intently place your fingers in the bucket at the nozzle.  The water forced out the nozzle has a high velocity and can injure swimmers if the boat is running.  Both boat types are safe when in the hands of a responsible captain. 

Winner: Jetboat – No imminent danger from Jet Nozzle

Are Jetboats Faster Than Prop Boats

Jetboats have a slight upper hand in acceleration due to their direct thrust, low drag, and less weight aft.  A jetboat will also have significantly less bow rise, allowing all power to push in the opposing direction.

A prop boat will have more drag as they have a high draught and a propeller.  This drag is quickly overcome when the boat gets up on plane and will often have a higher top-end speed than a jet boat.

Winner: Prop Boat – slightly slower on acceleration but high top-end speed

Can A Jetboat Tow Better Than A Prop Boat?

One of the fun functions of a boat is water tow sports.  Jetboats with their nozzle steering are a little less stable on the water when towing over wakes.  A skier will easily pull the rear of the boat, causing it to go in the opposite direction; this will require constant steering corrections to be made by the captain.  A jetboat’s quick acceleration and maneuverability make it ideal for tubing or water skiing.

Prop boats sit deeper in the water and have a rudder to stabilize the vessel.  Skiers will be able to tug and pull without manipulating the stern of the boat.  Prop boats give a sharper wake for wakeboarding but require a larger tuning diameter than Jet boats.

Winner: Prop Boat – The Rudder stabilizes the boat for accurate turning and to create wakes.

Which Boat Is Easier To Dock A Jetboat Or Prop

Jetboats might not be as nimble at low speed, but they are still reasonably easy to dock.  Jetboats handle a little differently than prop boats, but it gets easier after a few practices.  The one thing to remember with a jetboat is to use the throttle for sharper turns.

Prop boats are definitely easier to control at low speeds.  They have a rudder that will respond instantly when the steering wheel moves.  Using the throttle to reverse, turn, and slow down is easy and intuitive, so docking is easier with a prop.

Manufacturers have started installing small rudders underneath jetboat nozzles to assist in the low-speed maneuverability.  This addition has increased the low-speed maneuverability considerably.  Unfortunately, it is not always possible for older jetboats to install a rudder. 

Winner: Prop Boat – Good maneuverability and control at low speeds.

Will A Jetboat Or Prop Boat Handle Better in Rough Water

Jetboats tend to take more of a pounding than props in rough conditions.  Jetboats are not trimmable, and with their low draught, the waves can make for an uncomfortable ride.  The bow of the boat will dip and dive into the water in rough conditions or high swells.  Jetboats are more suited to calm conditions.

Prop boats simply lift the bow and power through the waves.  The deeper draught makes the boat more stable, and the rudder steers the boat when you want it to go.  There is an advantage to having a trimmable boat as you will be able to spend more time on the water and stay drier.

Winner: Prop Boat: The prop is trimmable, and the deeper draught makes the vessel more stable.

Are Jetboats louder Than Prop Boats?

A jetboat is much louder than most boats, especially when cruising above 30mph.  The smaller engine jetboats have to run at a much higher RPM to have sufficient power.  Although the sound of a jetboat is appealing to some, it does hinder conversation while underway.

Prop boats are definitely not silent, but you can still have a conversation in the cockpit while boating.  Some larger V8 engines can sound like race cars, and they are still less noisy than a jetboat at high speed.

  • Winner: Prop Boat – Can have a conversation while cruising.

Are Prop Boats More Expensive Than Jetboats?

Jetboats are less expensive than prop boats when comparing horsepower and size.  Jetboats have fewer moving parts and are more straightforward in design.  Prop boats have a gearbox, hydraulic systems, and a propeller that must be added to the cost.

The engine on a prop boat is a big price factor on the boat and can be half of the cost.  Jetboats can have three or four-cylinder engines that assist in bringing the cost down.

Winner: Jetboat – Smaller engine and less complicated, brings down the price.

Are Jetboats Easier To Maintain Than Prop Boats?

The maintenance costs for Jet and prop boats are very similar.  Both will require oil and filter changes every 50 to 100 run hours.  Prop boats will require the gearbox oil to be changed out at least once a season.

Boat manufacturers have gone through great lengths to minimize the amount of maintenance on boats, allowing more time on the water.  The fact remains that older boats are more expensive to maintain than newer boats.

On average, a Jetboat will cost 15% less to maintain per season than a prop boat.  The other factor is jetboats are easier to work on and can often be worked on by the owners themselves.  Prop boats have hydraulic systems that will require technicians to repair and service. 

Winner: Jetboat – Easy to work on.

Do Jetboats Need To Be Winterized Like Prop Boats?

Winterization is a must for Jet and Prop boats if you reside in the colder areas.  Water left in the boat or engine can freeze and crack the engine block and cooling systems.  Winterizing is much simpler and easier to do on a jetboat; there are even DIY kits available to lower costs.

This process will require more work for prop boats with inboard engines, and it is often better to leave it to the professionals.  Water will always be left in the bilge and cooling system if you are not thorough, and this could be a costly repair that can be avoided.

Winner: Jetboat – DIY kits are available.

Are Prop Boats As Good In Shallow Water As Jetboats?

Boating on a shallow lake is best done with a jetboat with its low draught, but care must be taken not to suck up any debris, ropes, rocks, or weeds as this will clog the intake system.  In water, less than three feet is recommended to switch off the engine and float in to prevent this from occurring.  Some jetboats will have a self-cleaning grate to rid the intake of debris, but this is not always successful.

Prop boats are not ideal for shallow water as a prop strike could be very costly.  Props do not have problems with weeds, and the prop will slice through them cleanly.  Ropes and fishing lines can constrict the prop, but this can be cut off.  I/O and outboards can trim up the propeller to allow the boat to get closer to the shore without damaging the prop. 

Winner: Jetboat – Lower draught and no protruding propeller.

Prop vs. Jetboat: The Winner

The prop boat narrowly takes the top spot with its more powerful engine, quieter overall, lower GPH, and excellent low-speed maneuverability.

Overall Winner: Prop Boat

Which Boat Is Best For You

A jetboat is ideal if you live near a shallow lake, enjoy speed, and do not want to spend many hours doing maintenance.  But if you prefer an easy-to-control boat suited to cruising and watersports, the prop boat is better.

For the top personalized service when choosing the best boat for you, contact MarineMax.  They have over 100 locations worldwide, including 77 retail dealership locations, including 31 marinas, and storage operations.

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Project Boating Editorial Staff

My name is Brad Visser the chief editor and owner of We have an amazing team of writers that contribute to our website. This team is passionate about boating and have years of experience not only in boats, but in writing helpful, informative articles to answer questions you may have.

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