Does the thought of racing across the still lake surface on a jet ski excite you? Maybe you’re thinking about getting a PWC out into the waves for some fun ramps? Jet skis are a versatile watercraft. From cruising to fishing and watersports, they offer you plenty of good times out on the water.
So, should you buy a new jet ski? Or is it a better idea to go with a pre-owned model? Let’s unpack the differences between buying new or pre-owned.
- Buying a Used Jet Ski vs. New Jet Ski – What’s the Difference?
- What to Look for When Buying a Used Jet Ski?
- In Closing – Consider a Professional Inspection
Buying a Used Jet Ski vs. New Jet Ski – What’s the Difference?
Let’s start with the reasons why it’s good to buy new. Sometimes, it’s better to take the hit to your wallet and get your jet ski from a dealer. Here are our top reasons why it’s better to buy new.
When you buy from a dealer, you don’t have to worry about someone on Craigslist scamming you. There’s also no chance you’re buying a stolen ski.
The dealer issues you with a warranty on your jet ski. If there are any manufacturing defects, you get a free replacement within a certain period.
No Need for Inspections
There’s no need to waste money on an inspection service for the ski. You get a brand new motor and electrical system with no damage.
Most jet skis come with servicing plans sold by the dealer. Just drop it off when it reaches the servicing window.
What to Look for When Buying a Used Jet Ski?
Buying a new ski is the way to go, but not everyone has the budget. Also, it would help if you considered the boat you’re getting for your money. For example, the Sea-Doo FishPro is an excellent choice for a dedicated fishing ski if you’re into fishing.
At retail, a new FishPro Model might set you back around $18,000. If you only have a budget of $15,000, that means you’ll have to settle for another model. However, you could find a FishPro in great condition in the secondary market for 20% to 30% less than the retail price, landing within your budget.
As long as it’s a clean deal and the motor is still 100%, you get a great deal on a leading model without buying new.
So, what do you look for in a pre-owned jet ski? How can you tell if you’ve got a great deal or a dud?
Check the Service History and the Hours
The first thing to do is check the running hours on the PWC motor. Jet skis use running hours like offroad motorcycles. They don’t have an odometer. Typically, an average user will run up to around ten to 20-hours per year in use. Enthusiastic owners will rack up 30+hours a year.
- If you find a jet ski with more than 200-hours on the clock, we recommend walking away. Even if the owner maintained it to the servicing guidelines, it’s still an old boat. Unless they recently replaced the engine or refurbished it, it’s better to look for something with 100-hours or less on the clock.
- It’s also important to note that finding a PWC with 20-hours on the clock might seem appealing. However, if the ski has been standing for years, then the chances are the battery is flat, there might be old fuel in the lines and the jets, and many other considerations that could cost hundreds of dollars to fix.
- Check the service history to see if you’re dealing with an owner that maintains the watercraft or leaves it to rot. Each ski comes with a unique service book from the dealer. Every time you service the jet ski, the dealer stamps the book to prove that you’re keeping up to the maintenance schedule for the watercraft.
- The service book should have a full-service history with no gaps. Gaps are a sign that the owner missed a service, which takes a toll on the engine. If the service book is up to date, and it’s less than 6-months since the last service, you’re dealing with a responsible owner.
Check the HIN Tag and Year Model, and Complete a Financing Check
After finding the deal of a lifetime, you need to remember that when something is too good to be true, it’s usually for a reason.
Stolen jet skis retailing on the secondary market is a huge problem. States like Florida have a huge problem with PWC. These skis end up back on the secondary market, with the thieves looking to make a quick buck from a sucker looking for a good deal.
They’ll sell you the boat at a really low price and send you on your way. However, if a cop stops you and you can’t prove ownership, or they discover it’s a stolen jet ski, you’re in trouble. Law enforcement will view you as the offender, and they will arrest you on the scene, charging you with theft. It will be up to you to prove that you didn’t steal the jet ski.
To avoid this nightmare scenario:
- Check the PWCs “HIN” tag.
- Ensure the HIN is the same as the number listed on the registration papers.
- Check that all the information, like the model and year, on the ID plate on the PWC matches the registration document.
Check the dealer service book and see if the warranty is still active for the jet ski and how much warranty period you have left before expiration. Finally, check with the credit bureau to see if any outstanding financing is owed on the watercraft.
Inspect the Motor
When you’re confident you have a good deal, and it’s legal, it’s time to start your inspection. The first thing to look at on the jet ski is the motor. The motor is the heart of the watercraft, and if it’s in bad condition, you’re facing huge refurbishment costs.
Buying a jet ski with a blown motor or damaged motor can cost you up to half of the price of the ski to replace. To check that the engine is in tip-top shape, you’ll need to get the owner to allow a compression check of the motor.
You need specialized equipment to conduct a compression test, and it’s likely going to drain the battery. Therefore, we recommend taking the ski to a mechanic that has the tools to carry out the test. The mechanic will run the compression test and inspect the motor for damage. If they give you the all-clear, you have a good machine and a great deal.
You might have to pay the mechanic to conduct the test. However, it’s better to spend a few hundred dollars than have to buy a new engine. Remember, hindsight is always 20/20.
Inspect the Hull
After you get approval from the mechanic that the engine is in sound shape, it’s time to check the hull. The hull is an important part of the watercraft. If there is damage to the hull, it compromises the ride quality of the watercraft and its ability to stay afloat.
Look for any cracks in the fiberglass or areas where there may have been previous damage fixed by the owner. If you find damage, ask the owner how it happened. In most cases, it’s not going to be anything to worry about. However, if there is severe structural damage to the hull, it will affect the performance and handling of the jet ski.
It’s normal to find scuff marks on the hull, and they aren’t going to cause you any problems in the future. As long as the hull’s structural integrity is sound, you won’t have any issues.
Check the Filters
The fuel and oil system on the jet ski is your next stop. If the motor is good and the compression test was a success, then you shouldn’t have to worry about this step. However, if you’re not taking it to the mechanic yet, check around the oil filter for signs of corrosion.
Corrosion can occur around the base of the oil and fuel filter. If you find the filters dirty and corroded, it’s a sign that the owner hasn’t serviced the PWC in a while. It’s also an indication of how they care for the boat and what you can expect to find in the engine and electrical test.
Check the Condition of the Seat and Deck
After you have the fuel system and engine wrapped up, move on to the exterior. The seats on jet skis eventually perish. That means the fabric cover weathers away and starts to tear. If you’re buying a jet ski older than ten years, the seat will be in pretty bad shape.
It’s normal for older models to have a few marks here and there, and that’s not an indication of the condition of the motor or the electronics. However, if the owner preserved their boat well, then the paint should be good because they kept it under a cover when not in use.
Look for light spots in the paintwork to show you repaired areas in the chassis. It’s a good idea to inspect the PWC in the sunlight to get the best view of the deck. If the ski has an aftermarket seat, it’s a sign that the owner takes pride in the craft. Look at the mirrors to ensure they are functional and not hanging on by a thread.
Check the Electrics
Check the battery and make sure it has a charge. Ask the owner if you can dry run the jet ski to test the motor. Most jet skis allow for this function. The motor should start on the first try, and you should hear a clean, even rumble as the engine settles into idle.
Inspect the Trailer
After you’re confident the ski is in good shape, take a look at the trailer. Dealers sell jet skis with trailers included, so the owner should have one on hand to sell with the ski. Check the ID plate and trailer registration to make sure everything is legit.
Look for signs of corrosion on the frame and check that the axles are undamaged. Look at the tire sidewalls for signs of cracking. Traveling with deflated tires or storing the trailer in the sun will cause the rubber to perish in the sidewalls. Replacing the tires can be costly.
In Closing – Consider a Professional Inspection
The most important step in purchasing a used jet ski vs. a new jet ski is checking on the condition of the motor and the electrical system. If you find problems with these components, it can lead to costly replacements.
- If you’re looking at a preowned model, you could be spending up to $15,000 on the ski. So, doesn’t it make sense to know what you’re buying? The last thing you need is a catastrophic engine failure on the first day you take it out onto the water.
- So, the best thing you can do to safeguard your purchase decision is to hire a professional to inspect the PWC. A pro will go through the jet ski from stem to stern and review every aspect of the boat, from the motor to the electrics, the hull, and more.
- They’ll issue you a report of their findings and recommendations for repairs, along with expected costs. Depending on the work involved, a pre-purchase inspection could cost you up to $300 or more.
- However, it’s well worth paying the money when you consider the protection it provides you in the deal and the peace of mind knowing that you’re not buying a dud.
- An inspection usually takes a day, and you can take your boat to the mechanic, or they can complete the test at the owner’s property. However, call-outs will cost you more than taking the ski to them for inspection.
- It’s important to note that some mechanics may not offer all the checks that others do. Contact your local mechanic and ask them for pricing and what they check during the inspection.