Two of the most common modes of oscillation of single degree of freedom wave energy converters are heave and surge, which are, respectively, exploited by heaving point absorbers (HPAs), and oscillating wave surge converters (OWSCs). Given major hydrodynamic differences between HPAs and OWSC, different nonlinear forces may be more or less relevant. Likewise, the scaling properties of such nonlinear forces may be different, according to the type of device, introducing uncertainties. This paper studies different nonlinear effects, and the relevance of different hydrodynamic force components, in HPAs and OWSCs. Nonlinear Froude–Krylov forces, as well as viscous drag effects, are represented and both prototype and full-scale device sizing are considered. Results show that HPAs are predominantly affected by nonlinear Froude–Krylov forces, while the most important hydrodynamic forces in OWSCs are diffraction and radiation effects. In addition, viscous drag appears to have little relevance in HPAs, but a significant influence in OWSCs. Finally, nonlinearities are shown to significantly affect the phase of the different force components.