5 Factors to Consider Before Buying a Used Jet Ski

What to know when buying a used jet ski

Before writing this, I went around and looked at the websites that supposedly gave you pointers on what you should do before the purchase of a Used Jetski. All the sites I ran into pretty much gave junk advice. Some of these sites were just News sites. Taking advice from a News site is like taking advice from me on how to fly a plane, I never been on a plane so why would you listen to me?

Don’t forget to get the accessories you’ll need with your Jet Ski!

Some of these sites did offer some good advice, but from all the years of selling and working on Jet Skis I have compiled my own list of things I look out for when selling or buying a Jet Ski that will be very useful to you. I’m not going to say I know everything about selling and buying a Used Jet Ski but I’ve sold and bought a few hundred so I do have some pointers and tips that you might find useful.


1. Don’t Buy 2-Stroke Jet Ski

I made this the first one because its got to be the most important one. Some manufacturers still to this day make 2-sroke Jet Ski’s, but that does not mean you should consider one.

2-Stroke Engines are being phased out since they pollute so much more than 4-Stroke Engines. Also, parts are getting harder to find which means shops are less likely to work on them.

About the only thing a 2-Stroke Jet Ski is good for these days is parts. Just about every 2-Stroke I run into nowadays has low compression or something else majorly wrong with it.

If you’re wondering what a 2-Stroke Jet Ski looks like then you need to see if it has a dip-stick. A 2-Stroke Jet Ski will not have a Dip Stick since it burns the oil instead while a 4-Stroke will have a dip stick. If it’s a Sea-Doo and made on or after 2008 then it’s a 4-Stroke, these are good models and I have a link below going into more detail about each year and what model to buy.

Check out the Checklist for buying a used watercraft here

2. Engine Hours Don’t Really Matter

When reading the News article, they said a Jet Ski is made to last for only 300 hours. I burst out laughing when I saw this. Yes, 300 hours is quite a lot of hours, but I’ve seen Jet Skis with over 300 hours last longer than some with under 50 hours.

Would I buy a Jet Ski with 300 hours on it? Probably. It all depends on the shape of the craft, the compression, the pump, the hull, and many other factors.

Tip: Buy a Compression Gauge to check compression of each cylinder. You want the compression to be above 100PSI and each cylinder to be close to each other in compression.

When a watercraft has 300 hours on it, that tells me that they had 300 enjoyable hours. Someone with that many hours has taken care of the Jet Ski to be able to achieve that many hours.

I’ve seen a couple of low hour Jet Skis blow up because it was never taken care of. You would be surprised by how many people never did their yearly service. If you want to keep a watercraft in tip top shape just do your yearly service and get it winterized every year and you’ll be fine. You can even buy oil change kits and do your own oil changes if you wanted to. Just make sure when you do your own oil changes that you have an oil extractor like this one to remove the oil.

So what I’m trying to say is that don’t base your buying decision on engine hours as there are many more important factors to consider such as maintenance, hull condition, and water testing it.

To help you better understand hours, we have a chart below that shows you the scale of what is good hours compared to how old the machine is. So, a jet ski that is 10 years old you would expect 300 hours on it. Anything that is over 13 years old or over 400 hours might not be worth it to buy in my opinion.  Always get it checked out like I’ve mention above as I’ve seen low hour jet ski’s break too.

If you want even more helpful advice when buying a Used Jet Ski then check out my checklist here.

3. Water Test It!

This should be common sense, never buy a used Jet Ski unless they let you water test it. When Water Testing it make sure the watercraft takes off instantly. It doesn’t usually matter the power of the Jet Ski as they all take off like a rocket. Also, check the RPM’s, you want something over 7000 RPMs at full throttle, but this can be different for every ski.

Basically, when you go full throttle with the Jet Ski, it should put a smile on your face!

Important! Even when buying from a dealership you always want to water test it before buying it! The dealer may say the watercraft is fine, but only a test drive will confirm that.

4. Check For Damages

The first thing I check is the seats on a Jet Ski. If the Seats are tearing it means that the person never really kept a cover on the watercraft. If you’re too lazy to put a cover on a Jet Ski, then that also means you’re too lazy to do regular maintenance.

Slight tears on the seat is not that bad. There’s going to be some tears on seats of jet ski’s 8 years or older. This is due to people riding it and bouncing up and down when they ride. It’s when you have chunks of a seat missing is when you need to worry, not tears where people sit. You can always get a seat cover to replace the old seat. Seat covers may need a upholstery person to install it.

Fiberglass damage is to be expected on used Jet Skis. No one is perfect, and docking can be hard to do on a watercraft so do expect some damage. I don’t usually sweat the small stuff like fiberglass damage smaller than a quarter, but I do concern myself with fiberglass damage on the bottom of the ski.

You will get some marks on the underside of the watercraft from people beaching a jet ski but if you have chunks missing from the lower part of the watercraft then run very far from that deal.

Check for Rust around the engine and pump. If the paint on the engine is flaking off, I would avoid the craft as it is just a matter of time before you have some issue. Rust or Corrosion is notorious for giving electrical problems in the future due to the grounds getting eaten away and giving you crazy errors on your gauge.

Make sure you get your local dealer to check it out before you write the check. Your dealer will know about all the quirks about that particular model and can tell you things that you might have overlooked. Your dealer can also check the compression and pump for any damage.

Low compression means the engine is blown and you should avoid any watercraft with a blown engine.

Has it been sunk? To check to see if the watercraft was sunk is simple. Take the seats off and see how heavy they feel. A watercraft that has been sunk will have very heavy seats, like to the point where you can’t lift them. It doesn’t matter if it was sunk last year, the water stays in the seat’s foam for a long time. Waterlogged seats can tell you if you might have problems in the future from a sunken watercraft.

Bonus: How Much Should You Pay?

I’ve been getting a lot of comments here lately about how much should one pay for a used Jet Ski.

A good starting point is to check out what KBB Watercraft says retail should be. You can even check out NADA Watercraft too.

Using those 2 sites you can have a good idea of what you should pay. If the jet ski needs service or repairs then take those cost off of retail and explain to the seller why.

If you’re buying a used watercraft from a dealership then you can also look up wholesale for the watercraft on KBB here. Wholesale will also be your trade-in value and sometimes go by the same name. Sometimes a dealership will have more in the unit then what wholesale says, but if they’ve been sitting on it for awhile they might want to move it.

More Factors

It is not possible for me to squeeze 10 years of my knowledge of buying used jet skis into one post. Instead, I created a book that goes over the 17+ factors that I look at when buying a used jet ski. If you ever wonder if the used jet ski you’re looking at is worth it or you don’t know where to start then this book is a must have.

Don’t Be Fooled! Learn Things Like…

  • The truth about supercharged jet skis.
  • What to pay for a jet ski and trailer.
  • What are good or bad hours for a jet ski?
  • What Jet Skis to avoid and what ones to buy.
  • When the best time to buy and from who.
  • What good engine oil and a good battery look like.
  • Why a jet pump can tell us a lot about a used jet ski.
  • The SCAMS that sellers try to play when selling a used jet ski.

Click Here For ” Used Jet Ski Buyers Guide “


5. Consider New!?

Why are you buying a used watercraft? Price? Did you know Seadoo makes a new Jet Ski that starts at $5,299 in 2017? It’s called the Spark, and it really has hurt the used market. You get a new Jet Ski with a warranty for the price of a used jet ski. The Spark is half the cost, half the weight, uses a third of the gas of a regular Jet Ski.

sea doo spark features



If you’re not sure what used Seadoo watercraft you should buy, I’ve created this list of the units I recommend. This will help you get a general idea of what I consider good machines and have given the least amount of problems.



  • hi there what is the most reliable jet ski to buy?
    i know if you l
    you look af8them they will last a long time..
    im looking at getting a Yamaha new
    or seadoo..
    What would you recommend??

  • Anything that is a 4-stroke and made after 2010 will be the most reliable. The most reliable watercraft I would say is a 2006 and up 155hp Sea-Doo GTX, or any Sea-Doo with a 155hp or 130hp engine. Here is a post I wrote on which Sea-Doo’s are good for each year.

  • Hi I know you strongly recommend a 4 stroke but you also say a 155 hp or better. What are your thoughts on a 99 and 01 Yamaha 1200. Thanks

  • My idea on 2-Strokes is that you don’t buy them, you just rent them. By this I mean a 2-stroke is not going to last. A 2-stroke is fine if all you want is a cheap machine for the season to blast around on. 2-strokes like the Yamaha 1200 are nimble and easy to spin out. A 2-stroke can be fine if you just want a cheap machine to see if you like the sport, but don’t expect it to last especially since 2-stroke parts are getting harder to find.

  • Is it 2007 Kawasaki a good price at 3300 I don’t know how many hours but I’m getting ready look at it now he wanted 3900 please text me back for any details to look at

  • The best thing to do when looking to see how much a jet ski should cost used is to go and see what KBB Watercrafts says here.

  • mckinley S Lewis

    Considering buying two 1996 wave runner jet skies if everything checks out with your 5 tip process will I be going wrong thanks

  • Yes, you would be going wrong. Tip #1 is not to buy a 2 stroke jet ski and if they’re 1996 models then they’re 2-strokes. Unless you only want to ride them for a season then it might be worth it, but overall they will be a headache to deal with. Parts are hard to find for 2-stroke, especially for 1996 models. It’s 2017 so that means those ski’s are 21 years old, that’s like 40 in jet ski years. Jet Ski’s are rode hard and put up wet, literally, and the manufacturers build them to last for 10 years (4-strokes can easily go 15 to 20 years if taken care of). I would avoid them. Look for a 2004 to 2007 4-stroke jet ski non-supercharged, they’re out there and would be a way better value.

  • Garrett seartz

    I’m looking at a 2015 Yamaha vx 1100 with 500 hrs on it. The guy said that a diving instructor had it and that is the reason for the high hrs. The current owner said it runs great and selling it for $4800. Not a good choice?

  • I would personally pass on it, too many hours for a 2015.

  • I am looking into a 2010-2012 sea challenger of some sort. Is 100-150 hours normal/high for these type machines? And what should I watch out for? Thanks!

  • It’s going to be common to see higher hours on Sea-Doo Jet Boats since people spend more time on them. 100 to 150 is low if you ask me for 2010 to 2012 models. Here is an interesting fact, the Sea-Doo Jet Boats have the same engine that their watercraft use. Another interesting fact is that the engines on the jet boats were a year behind, so a 2012 Sea-Doo jet boat would have a 2011 engine tech in it. Not an issue since not much change year to year but it is interesting. Pretty much the same guidelines for checking out a jet ski is the same for a jet boat, make sure to water test it if you can to see how strong the take off is. Boats will be slightly laggy compared to jet skis but still feel fast – except for the 180 challenger with a 155hp engine those things felt slow.

  • great help and info for us newbys thanks. found 2 skis, 2001 seadoo gtx 951 cc, 97 hrs. and 1998 seadoo gsx ltd 951 cc 40 hrs, with trailer. 3 ft scrape on bottom of hull of the 01. pics of engines show no signs of rust or corrosion, no tears or rips in seat. both skis come with covers, owner says maintenance is up to date and serviced regularly. clear titles for 2 skis and trailer in hand. owner wants $5800 or best offer.

    NADA guide says average of $3900 for skis and $300 for trailer. may I please have your opinion? thanks.
    I have read your other responses, and cant afford newer items. so hoping to find a deal on 2. I know GOOD LUCK!!!!!

  • I would personally avoid them. They’re 2-strokes and those are a losing battle and parts are hard to find for them. They started making 4-strokes in 2002, look for a 2002 or a 2004 “4-tec”. KBB says retail for a 2004 4-tec is around $3,600 and that would be a way better machine if you ask me. Or even a 2002 or 2003 would be fine too.

  • Hi Steven, looking for advise. just retired at 68 & very fit.
    Now have time to enjoy a pass time on the sea.
    At my age, should I get a jet ski & some lessons or should I look at a jet boat such as the Sea-Doo Sportster instead. What would you recommend.

  • Get whatever you feel comfortable with. I have met a couple in their 80’s who ride Sea-Doo’s and put more hours on one in a year than most people would in a lifetime of there jet ski. They do ride the top of the line with suspension and take them anywhere there is a riding event.

  • I’ve had reliable two strokes for years. Can still find parts of course. Check compression and test drive before buying and go have fun!

  • was in the process of buying a 2005 Yamaha FX1100A Cruiser HO with only 31 hours until the seller told me, when I asked about service records, that he was second owner, he got it with 23 hours on it, and it still has the break in oil since it hasn’t reached 40 hours. That’s 12 years with the same original oil! Should I run away from this?

  • I’m sure a 2005 Yamaha should have had the first service done at 10 hours. Would I buy it if it hasn’t had the oil changed in 12 years? Probably not. Oil does go bad and for someone to be that out of it in terms of services makes me wonder what else have they neglected?

  • hey man!! If you can email me back thatd be easier, if not its cool! Im purchasing a 2007 yamaha vx1100 tmw 46 hours for 5k (is this a good deal), the guy lives far from the water and doesn’t want to drop it in, he says he will run water thru it and its the same as dropping it in the water.. whats your input on that??! please get back to me asap im going tmw! thanks for much i love this website!

  • I’ve updated the post with a “bonus” section where anyone can check out what KBB and NADA says a jet ski should go for ($). Running the jet ski on the hose is not the same as running it in the water. You need to be on the water to be able to feel if it has a strong takeoff and running it on the hose can not tell you that. There have been many times when a jet ski runs fine on the hose but runs like crap on the lake.

  • Looking at a 2010 yamaha wave runner vs deluxe wirh 200 miles but I’m thinking hours for 4250.00, a dealer has it. What would you do to test it and would you buy or pass? First time jet skiers so not wanting new.

  • Try to see if they let you test drive it, it should take off quickly and put a smile on your face. The great thing about buying from a dealership is that some can give you a warranty of some kind. Ask them if they have any warranty, even a 30-day warranty would be fine and give you piece of mind. Some dealers don’t give warranty on used but if they don’t do test rides then ask them to supply you a check list of them checking it out to make sure it’s good to go. If they can’t supply a checklist paper from a tech who checked it out then I would walk away from it.

  • wondering if i should by a spark or go for used i am using it on a bay with some waves and beach herd about some issues with the hull of the spark! what do you think? thanks again

  • I would go with used but not because of the spark hull. The Spark’s hull has been reinforced in 2015 and up but if you do a lot of riding in rough water that hull is too small and it is not comfortable.

  • thanks!! anything after 2008 with seadoo but does polaris or yamaha do a 4 stroke earlier than 08?

  • Any Sea-Doo 2002 and up that is a 4-stroke is great, just watch out for some that have superchargers and see if the owners did what they’re were supposed to do with it. I go into great detail about superchargers and other factors to watch out for in my ebook here…http://www.steveninsales.com/used-jet-ski-buyers-guide/

    As for the Polaris don’t buy those, they never really got into the jet ski market and only made 2-strokes. Yamaha has some nice 4-strokes too and made many before 2008 too.

  • Steven – what are your thoughts on the following. Which do you prefer? There is a large selection of used skis at our local dealer. Many models are the same year with varying hours and therefore varying price. What range of hours should I look for?

    2008 Yamaha WaveRunner VX110 Deluxe

    2005 – 2007 Yamaha WaveRunner® FX High Output

    2005 Sea-Doo GTX 4-TEC

    2008 Sea-Doo GTI 130

    2006 Sea-Doo RXT

    2010 Sea-Doo GTI SE 130

    Thanks. Just bought your buyers guide as well.

  • The VX or GTI are the most reliable of the options you have listed and I personally would look into those. Unless you want to go fast maybe consider the rxt and others but understand the rules on superchargers that I cover in my used jet ski buyers guide. Make sure to ask for a check out sheet from the dealer like I go over in the book. Thank you for buying the book!

  • Steven – thanks for the help. I’ve made a long list using your buyers guide book to take to the dealer this weekend.

    Looking at prices, I’ve also considered the Spark. I saw 2 comments above. Would you reocmmend the Spark (lake only)? How is the stability on the Spark?

    Spark vs 2010 Seadoo GTI SE 130

    Thanks again.

  • The Spark is great, I own a 2014 model. The Spark is very playful and better on gas compared to a GTI but each has its purpose. The Spark is great on the lake or anywhere that the water is not too rough (unless you like that). The Spark is stable for what it does, but a 3-seater is really a 2 seater and a 2-seater is really a 1 seater. The only thing I wish the spark had was a better seat, the GTI seats are really nice compared to the Spark seat. If you’re looking for an affordable watercraft that gets on you on the water then the Spark is the ticket.

  • What do you think of buying a seadoo xp limited 2000? just for occasional use and fun.
    The owner asks 1500 for the ski and a trailer and he is a friend of the family. I know it’s a two stroke but I want to know if I like the hobby or not. the jetski has a cover and the hull looks clean. I didn’t check the engine yet. I would like to know your opinion.

  • What is some of the common factors i need to look at when i buy a seadoo that has been sitting for 2 yrs ??

  • An engine that is locked up from rust in the cylinder walls and piston. Bad gas, Bad battery, bad fuel lines, corrosion are things to watch out for. It would be best to let a dealership or repair show do a check list on it to see what all is wrong with it.

  • I would check compression above all else and if that is fine then it will be a fun ski.

  • thank you for all the info. the ebook was really helpful too!

  • Comparing two used jet skis…..the first is a 2008 Sea Doo GTX 215 and the other is a 2008 Kawasaki Ultra LX. Both have low hours. Comparisons online seem to make the two very similar. Any insight?

  • The Kawasaki will run better in rougher water but other than that they’re very similar machines. I would see about letting a repair shop look at them to make sure the compression, pump, and super chargers are fine before buying.

  • Considering this 1997 seadoo explorer.
    What are your thoughts? It looks like it’s in good shape and well taken care of.

    Price: $ 2,300

  • It’s not every day someone mentions a Sea-Doo Explorer. It’s a rare machine much like how the HX is becoming rare. It’s a 2-stroke and I normally would not buy it unless I wanted to get it as a collector’s item or if I’m a diver that REALLY needs one. The worse part about that craft is also the best part, the tubes often don’t last and wear out too quickly that it becomes a headache to deal with. All the Explorers I see have the tube deflated because you can only patch up so much.

  • Thanks so much for all the info! Can a Spark tow a skiier or tuber? Total newbie to the PWC market – just looking for an inexpensive but reliable unit to get 2 teen boys and dad on the lake. Any info appreciated!

  • A Spark can tow a Tube or a Skier, but you must be aware of your local laws on tow sports. The Spark doesn’t have mirrors so in many states you will need a spotter sitting backwards when you pull. Since many watercraft have a limit of 3 people that means on a Spark you can only pull one person on a tube at a time. Here is info and videos showing Sparks and other watercraft pulling people to give you an idea of power…http://www.steveninsales.com/look-can-jet-ski-pull-skier-tube-wakeboard/

    For a little bit more I would recommend looking at a GTI or VX since they’re a little bigger and will better support your needs.

  • Steven,
    Thanks in advance, I’ve been reading your article, ebook and replies to post and I’ve been learning alot…TY!

    My request is for your feedback on a 2015 Yamaha V1 Sport (2 seater) with 60 hrs in the low 5K. What things should I look for before I hand over the check, it sure looks like a great deal still under warranty and well serviced from the dealership.


  • Hey, Thanks your reading! I would see about getting the service records and see that they serviced it every year. Also, if it gets cold where you live ask if they got it winterized too. You’ll start to see some great deals this time of year as the season is ending. As for the V1 Sport, it’s a simple and fun jet ski. Check the compression and the pump like how I recommend in the ebook and if it all looks good then ski should be good. It wouldn’t hurt to look at new ones right now as the end of August and the start of September is when the best deals for new jet skis come. The dealership is about to order 2018 models and the manufacturer wants the dealers to have as few leftover so they order more new ones, to help the give good rebates and warranties this time of year.

  • Hi Steven,

    You are very knowledgable. I have learned a lot reading your blog here. I am looking for a standup jetski and much of the research has led me to the superset. I know you said no 2 strokes, so curious your thoughts on the Yamaha Superjet? Thoughts?


  • I think the Superjet is probably the best stand up on the market. They use 2-strokes in stand up’s to save on weight so you don’t really have much of an option to that unless you want the new Kawasaki one.

  • hi a am looking at 17 vx crusiser ho or fx ho with one would be stable for two bigger people and better ride

  • The FX HO would be way better of a ride.

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