It’s time to spill the beans on buying a new jet ski from a dealership in this new guide.
After selling many, I have compiled a list of the mistakes customers make. I’ll also list off the things you can do to get a better deal on your next watercraft.
1. It’s Not Like Buying A Car
Forget all the bad experiences you had when buying a car.
Jet ski salesman tend to be more laid back and less pushy. They’re selling a lifestyle and not something boring like a car.
Easier Paper Work
One of the more common things customers would tell me when filling out paperwork would be… “that’s it?“.
Car dealers take forever with paperwork, and jet ski dealerships want to get you out the door. There are only so many warm days, so the more customers they get out the door, the better.
Jet Ski Salesmen and Dealerships Strive to Be Not Like Car Dealerships
They dislike the negatives and try to be less pushy and easier to deal with. They know jet skis are toys and not something you need like a car.
I go more into this in my post about the common mistakes jet ski buyers make.
If you take anything away from this guide, this would be it.
2. Don’t Ask For The Sales Manager
Never ask for the sales manager.
If you do, you’ll more than likely end up with a regular sales guy pretending to be the sales manager. The real sales manager is okay with this.
It Doesn’t Work
I don’t know where this tactic came from, but it doesn’t work. The job of the sales manager is to make sure their sales guys are selling.
It’s in the best interest of the sales manager to not compete with their team. The Sales manager gets a cut from what the salespeople sell; if salespeople are not selling, they’re not making money.
The only way to buy from the sales manager is to go through a sales guy. Even then, these deals are rare and often on something they’ve had for a long time and want to move.
3. Email Is Your Friend
Email is the most powerful tool you have.
People are forgetful, and things happen, but email has a log of it all.
Salespeople will talk to hundreds of people in a week. It’s important to have something for you both to look back on when closing a deal. It keeps both parties honest and takes away the stress of face to face.
4. Get Everything In Writing
Email is your friend because you get everything in writing. It’s critical to get your deal in writing with all details listed.
Not In Writing = No Deal
I would have people price shop me all the time, and the other dealership would never put the deal in writing.
The other dealership never put it to writing because they knew they couldn’t hold up the deal.
The real brave ones would put it in writing, but it would be on a napkin or notepad. When customers come back to buy, they back out if the deal doesn’t have the dealership’s letterhead.
I’ve seen all the tricks, but this one is the dirtiest of them all.
This was more of an issue for boat shows or where dealerships tend to be close to each other. You’ll find the best deals at boat shows, but many dealerships will play games. You’ll have one say a price, but change it when you come to take delivery.
Don’t consider a deal done unless you have it in writing with the dealership’s letterhead on it, signed.
5. You’ll Pay More During The Busy Season
I have an entire post on when is the best time to buy a jet ski here.
Since watercraft are used in warmer months, more people want to buy them then.
With More Demand, the More Prices Go Up
You will get the best deal possible when it’s the colder months.
Most dealerships don’t even require you to take delivery until it is warmer and will keep the jet ski in the crate. Just call them up before you want to ride, and you’ll start the season off right.
6. Best Time Of The Month To Buy
The best time to buy during the month is either the last week of the month or the end of the first week.
End Of The Month
At the end of the month, the dealership will want to meet specific numbers that the manufacturer imposes on them.
These dealerships are independently run but still use the manufacturer’s name and products, so they must stay in good grace with them. One of the things the manufacturer’s want is to sell more watercraft, and the dealerships that do that get better benefits from the manufacturer. (Keep in mind, better benefits don’t mean a better deal on PWCs)
First Week Of The Month
The other good time to buy is the first week of the month but closer to the end of that week.
This is more to do with the psychology of the salesman.
If the sales guy has a rough start to the month, they could be more willing to sell a jet ski for cheaper than they usually do. This could also backfire if they’re having a great first week. Try to test them out and see how many have they sold so far this week.
Try asking for the sales guy who hasn’t sold anything this week to get a price from.
I know this last one sounds odd, but from my experiences, I found luck to be a big part of sales. Sometimes getting that one sale creates a domino effect for that sales guy. Selling the first one for cheap is worth it for some.
7. You Can Get Better Deals On Overstocked Inventory
Every year there were a few models that everyone loved.
Sometimes it was because of the color, or it simply was the best value.
No One Wants
Then there were a few other models that no one wanted. It was often because of the color of the PWC. Some years they have some terrible color schemes.
If you’re willing to buy overstocked models, you can often get better deals on them.
8. You Can’t Escape Some Fees
There will be some fees you can’t escape.
Sometimes these fees are included in the price; other times, dealerships are more transparent.
The Most Common Fees:
- And so on…
The markup on jet skis is not that great, around 6%, so don’t expect many to cut out fees.
Fee’s and calculating the out the door price can get confusing, so I built a pricing calculator that helps you get a better understanding.
9. Always Check Promotions Before Buying
Not all salespeople will do this, but if you don’t know the promotion, they might not give it to you.
It’s also important to read the fine print of the promotions, too.
There are usually many clauses in the fine print.
The advertising may say $1k* off, but that “*” sign means for a select few PWCs and the one you want is not usually that machine.
10. Don’t Just Buy On Price
I know a sales guy saying not to buy on price is absurd, but I can explain.
It’s easy to boil things down to numbers because that is what we all know. But, only focusing on numbers can leave out many other factors you need to consider.
Things like a cover don’t come with many models, and if you’re only after price, this is something you could miss out on.
The best deal is not how low you can go, but how much you can get
Don’t expect a dealership to give you a bunch of stuff for free because you’re buying a PWC.
The money for accessories needs to come from somewhere. But they are more willing to give discounts when you’re buying one.
To give you an example, it’s better to pay $300 more for the jet ski and get the cover for “free” then buy a cover at the full $400 price a week later.
Most dealerships only have the basics like life jackets and covers. To see the full list of accessories I recommend, click here.
11. Many Dealerships Are Understaffed
If a dealership mainly sells jet skis, they don’t sell much of their main product in the cold months.
A dealership will either lay people off during the cold months or keep a smaller staff. Most will go with the smaller team as laying people off is not something people want in a job.
Weekends Are Busy
This could mean you end up not getting help right away. This is truer on Saturdays, but if you come in on a Wednesday, this is not an issue for most.
If you come in on Saturdays, I’ve always found the morning the best time. It was always around, or after lunch, that was when everyone liked to show up.
12. Price Shop
You should only buy from a dealership that is near you.
If something goes wrong, you want a dealership by your side. If you purchased somewhere that was 6 hours away, they won’t care about your issues.
The good news is that some of the dealerships that border each other often don’t like each other. This is not always the case, some are excellent friends, but friends still will go behind your back if they need to.
3 Closest Dealers
To get the best price possible, you’ll need to price shop the 3 closest dealers. Keep in mind my point before, don’t just buy on price, but also factor in getting the accessories you need too. Let’s not forget how much it costs to get it serviced and their hourly rate for service.
It’s better to get the whole picture when it comes to price.
I often see price shoppers don't share quotes from other dealerships. It's interesting because all dealerships pay the same for each model. Sharing your quote helps ensure the dealership isn't misleading you. They could make you think you're getting a better model, but deliver something worse. This highlights the importance of getting everything in writing. To be clear, not every dealership is evil. I just want to make sure I cover all the bases.
To be clear, not every dealership is evil. I just want to make sure I cover all the bases.
13. Dealer Invoice Is Less Than You Think
Some models will only have a 6% mark up.
Keep this in mind when negotiating the price.
The real magic is rebates from the factory, that is how you get the most money off.
Leftover models will have the highest discounts. Current year models may have none. This is why it’s great to buy a jet ski after the new models have come out or before the season starts.
14. Most Dealerships Don’t Control Financing Rates Or Terms
The most common financing is from the manufacturer itself.
The manufacturer teams up with a lender and lowers rates to make deals more attractive.
The bad thing about this is that the dealership won’t have a say in the rates or even how long you can go.
This is another way jet ski dealers differ from car dealers. A car dealership is more likely to use a local bank and will have more control over the financing options.
Just like rebates and promotions, financing deals change too. Though it’s often less dramatic.
Manufacturer rates and terms are usually better than what customers find alone. The bad news is that the manufacturer’s financing options were stricter.
A jet ski is more of a toy, where your car is a need to get you to work so you can pay off the car.
15. Don’t Forget Your First Service
The most important service your jet ski will need is its first.
The first service gets rid of the metal micro shards that a new engine generates. The engine is literally “breaking” in, but that is normal. But you need to get that first service and get it done when the owners manual recommends.
Not only that, but the techs check everything over to make sure it broke in properly.
Far too many people forget to do their first service or don’t realize it’s —NOT— included. Dealerships often charge more for the first service to ensure everything is okay.
I know this sounds “salesy” and a cash grab, but it really is crucial. This first service is super important to perform especially since all jet ski engines are high performance and highly tuned.
16. You Can Only Use Your Credit Card Up To A Certain Amount… Maybe.
I do it too; I use my credit card for everything to get the points. I’ve had many people who would want to put their new watercraft on a credit card to get the points.
The problem is that those points don’t come from nowhere, it’s the dealership paying for them.
17. Don’t Forget To Ask About Delivery!
Jet Skis don’t come with trailers, so you mustn’t forget how you’re getting the thing home.
If you live on the water, don’t forget about asking what it costs to drop in.
Many dealerships are not near water and may charge a delivery fee.
18. Test Drives Are Tricky
As talked about in the section above, many dealerships are not located near water. This makes test drives very hard and often something a dealership can’t do on the spot.
When buying a car, it’s apart of the process to test drive the vehicle before buying. This is easy with cars because they’re all ready to go on the lot and the road is next to the dealership.
They come in crates and are stacked up to maximize space. With space being key, the units don’t come out of the crate unless they’re sold. This keeps the jet skis pristine, which most customers want.
Exact Model For Test Drive
Another tidbit about test drives is that the dealership might not have the exact model you want to drive. What dealerships usually have are demo models. The smart dealerships have a demo for each category to give you an idea of the ride.
If you want to do a test drive, the best thing to do is call or email ahead of time.
I honestly wouldn't worry too much about test driving. It's better to sit on a jet ski in the showroom for 15 minutes to see how your body takes to it. The only thing you're missing is the bouncing of the waves at that point. Since you're not on the water, you don't have to worry about your surroundings, so you can focus more on the PWC. As for power, they're all fast, especially if you never ridden one before. Doing 30mph on a jet ski feels like 80mph in your car because you don't have a metal cage around you.
19. Buy Demo Models
What manufacturers do is allow a dealership to have a few demo models.
The manufacturer discounts demo models, which come from the dealer’s inventory.
The dealership can’t sell these models for a set period of time, to stop them from abusing the system.
While some demo models will have dings in them, they’re going to be the best deal you can get.
The engine is often all ready broke in, and hopefully, the dealership did the first service and if they haven’t made sure it’s a part of the deal. It’s a current year model, and you can get them for a better deal then something fresh out the crate.
The only downside is you miss out on other promotions and the warranty has started. The good news is that the hours on them are usually not too high.
People who test ride them only do so for 5 to 15 minutes; many people are new to jet skis and don’t spend a lot of time on them on a test ride. And if the dealership is not right on the water, the hours on a demo model can be super low.
Buying demo models is one of those hidden gems of my new jet ski buyers guide. They can be a great deal if you can time it just right.
20. When You Do Buy, Allow Them To Get It Ready
The jet skis come in crates and often sideways.
Most dealerships like to keep them in the crates for as long as possible, as this keeps them clean, and they’re already in storage mode.
You’ll need to allow the dealership to get them ready. They need to not only assemble the parts that are not on but go over all the systems to make sure everything is safe.
Takes Hours To Build
This process can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours.
The best thing to do is pick a day for delivery so that everyone is on the same page.
This is something where dealers and car dealers defer from. With a car, it’s all ready to go on the lot, and you can take it home the same day. With a jet ski, some assembly is required, and final safety checks are needed before taking it home.
21. Cash Is Not King
Cash is great, but to a dealership, it’s no different from a finance company wiring money over the very next day.
If anything, a dealership hates cash because it requires more work. You have to count the money, take it to the bank, and worry about some of it being fake.
When it comes to a check, this solves the cash problem, but even that has its issues.
Overall, don’t expect a dealership to give you a better deal because you use cash.
To them, it’s all the same.
22. Don’t Forget Insurance!
While insurance is not required in many places, you’ll be a fool to not get it.
If you let others ride your jet ski, you need to have Insurance. It’s also nice to have it to protect you from the crazy people on the water.
Plus, it’s not that expensive to get jet ski insurance.
23. Check It Over
Don’t let your excitement keep you from learning the machine.
Make sure you have your salesperson show you how to start and drive the watercraft.
You can easily learn this while on the trailer.
I also have a video that goes over some of the general stuff here.
Also, make sure they show you how to launch and board a trailer with your jet ski. I have a guide on this here if they don’t show you.
24. Bill Of Sale
Just like your car has a license plate, boats have the same thing, but they’re hull numbers.
Your local state may be behind issuing out new numbers, so it’s advised you keep a copy of your bill of sale in your PWC. It’s also very important the date of purchase is visible on the bill of sale.
Tip: Get a dry box like this one here* to keep the copy of your bill of sale in so water doesn't ruin it. Plus, you can keep your phone in it too.
Since your new watercraft doesn’t have numbers, yet, it’s more likely to get pulled over. This goes way up if you look young, too.
If you get pulled over, show them a copy of the bill of sale and tell them you just bought the watercraft. The water police will check the date to make sure you’re within the allowed time frame and have you on your way.
Note: Most dealerships don't put the numbers on for you or physically supply them; the state will only tell you what the numbers are. This is mostly because it's the state you're dealing with, and all the dealership does is submit the info. You'll need to buy numbers, avoid mailbox numbers as they're not big or thick enough.
25. Check Trailer Bunks
I used to be the guy in the back of the shop that would put jet skis and trailers together.
Trailers don’t come assembled; sometimes they can be more complicated than the watercraft.
Trailers are like giant erector sets, and since they go on the road, they need to be built to standards.
- Since every jet ski is different, this means bunks (the thing the jet ski sits on) need to be set up for them. Every jet ski has chines, which are grooves on the underside of the craft that help with control. It’s best not to allow the craft to sit on these chines. There should be a place for the bunks to sit comfortably without resting on them. Some trailers can be difficult to work with. My personal opinion is to avoid having the jet ski chines rest on the bunks. You can often tell it’s not resting right if the jet ski sits crooked on the trailer.
- The other important point of the trailer is the front, where it hooks to the watercraft. This area has a ratchet for pulling the PWC onto the trailer. You’ll want to make sure the strap is in good shape and not frayed. The bumper that stops you needs to be above where you hook to the bow hook but below the nose.
- That whole system where the front ratchet sits should be moveable, I say should because the older trailers are not. This is how you adjust the weight of the nose of the trailer. The more forward the jet ski sits, the heavier the tongue. You want to have about 10 pounds on the nose of the trailer with the jet ski sitting on it.
You must get this right while taking delivery because the dealership will have all the tools on the ready to make it easy.
It’s better to have a little more weight than you feel comfortable on the nose, than to have the nose too light. I’ve had many jet ski trailers smack me in the face because it was too tongue light. Not only that, but the less weight on the tongue means the trailer is bouncing more on the ball of your vehicle, and just the right hit could knock it loose.
It’s a careful balance to find the best weight. Have have the dealership adjust the trailer for safe travel before leaving.