2014 Sea-Doo Spark
Credit: Sea-Doo

2014 Sea-Doo Spark

When it comes to jet skis, many of the latest, larger models can hit speeds close to 70 mph, but they can be costly. The 2014 Sea-Doo Spark is a different breed. At just under $5,000, it’s a lightweight, entry-level model that's a blast out on the water.

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We spent a week careening around two different lakes in Minnesota with the Spark. Its design is ultra-simple: Push the right throttle to go; press the left brake to stop or go in reverse. There’s a simple dashboard that shows your speed, hours of usage, and fuel level, plus a small storage compartment near the seat and one under the hood.
 
At a little over 400 pounds, the Spark’s polypropylene-material build is about half the weight of a high-end model, which meant we could make quick maneuvers in the water but still felt fully in control and never flipped. (Only once did we turn too suddenly and fall to the side. And if you do, it's easy to get back on.) We topped 45 mph - even with an adult passenger. The 6-gallon tank lasted us about three days of zipping around for an hour or so per excursion. When you do run low on fuel, a light shines and an alarm alerts you (we had about 5-10 miles left to find a shoreline).
 
Our biggest gripe? There’s no obvious handle on the bow for loading it on a trailer. Luckily, you can still reach under the bow to get a good grip, and it's easy to transport. There are more expensive versions of the Spark with extra features, including one for three people. But for the base model, the Spark comfortably fits two for a great ride. [from $4,999; sea-doo.com]