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25 Tips; What You Need to Know Before Buying a New Jet Ski

Can we all agree that buying something like a car or watercraft is just a crazy experience? What if we haggled for our groceries or the gasoline we put in our cars, like we do when buying a car?

It’s so bad that there are tactics that people think that work, but in reality they don’t. There are guys out there still asking to speak to the manager, thinking they’ll get a better deal from them.

If anything, buying a PWC is a lot easier than a car, yet it gets shoved into the same bad experience of buying a car.

I don’t think the industry is going to change anytime soon, but what I can do is give you some advice and things to avoid! I can at least make it less annoying and hopefully get you the best deal possible at the time.

Why Should You Listen To Me?

You may be wondering why would you take advice from me about buying off the showroom watercraft?

Simple, I worked at a dealership and know the secrets they, and customers, pull. I’ve seen it all, and I want to share what I know.

Even to this day, I find people and dealers still playing many of these tricks, so in a way I’m hoping some of them stop. For example, asking for the sales manager is pointless and won’t get you a better deal.

I also notice people tend to compare buying a watercraft to other things, and I want to put that to rest too. I’m hoping this post puts you at ease and gives you better haggling tactics for your next purchase.

1. It’s Not Like Getting A Car

Buying a car sucks, and for some reason, you spend all day at the dealership.

Buying a jet ski is different.

Dealerships want you in and out quickly because there are only so many warm days to sell these things. They tend to have less paper work to do, and they’re selling a lifestyle and not a boring car.

No dealership will be perfect, but I can say it will be less annoying than going to a car dealership.

2. Don’t Ask For The Sales Manager

Don’t ask for the sales manager because you’ll likely get a regular salesperson pretending to be the manager. The real manager is fine with this.

The sales manager’s job is to ensure their team is selling, not to compete with them.

Sales managers earn a cut from what their salespeople sell, so if the team isn’t selling, they’re not making money.

To buy from the manager, you must go through a salesperson, and such deals are rare and typically involve older inventory they 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

Use email to your advantage; it’s crucial to have your deal in writing with all the details.

Sometimes, dealerships won’t do this because they can’t commit to the offer. The brave ones might jot it down on a napkin or notepad, but when you return, they won’t honor it without official letterhead. This is a common tactic, especially at boat shows or near competing dealerships.

To be safe, get a bill of sale that both parties have signed.

5. You’ll Pay More During The Busy Season

I have an entire post on when is the best time to buy here.

Since watercraft are used in warmer months, more people want to buy them then.

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 them 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 times to buy during the month are either the last week or the end of the first week.

At month-end, dealerships aim to meet manufacturer-imposed quotas and gain better benefits. However, these benefits may not necessarily translate to better deals.

Another good time is the first week, closer to its end, due to salespeople’s psychology. If they’ve had a slow start, they may be more willing to offer lower prices.

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.

Then there were a few other models that no one wanted. It was often because of the color. Some years they have some terrible color schemes.

If you’re willing to buy overstocked models, you can often get better deals on them. (It might be an “ugly” model, but still, it’s a PWC!)

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:

  • Freight
  • PDI
  • Doc
  • Tax
  • Title
  • Registration
  • And so on…

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. Give Promotions A Glance 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 and the one you want is not usually that machine.

Promotions:

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.

The money for accessories needs to come from somewhere. But they are more willing to give discounts when you’re buying new.

To give you an example, it’s better to pay $300 more for the unit 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 Dealers Are Understaffed

Dealerships that mainly sell watercraft slow down in cold months. They either reduce staff or keep a smaller team to avoid layoffs.

This might mean slower assistance at the dealership, especially on Saturdays.

Try going on Wednesday, as that tends to be a slow day for many dealerships.

12. OTD Comparison Shop?

When buying, choose a nearby dealership for convenience and support. If issues arise, a local dealer can assist you. Dealerships farther away may not care about you after the sale.

Interestingly, neighboring dealerships sometimes compete or have rivalries. To find the best deal, compare prices from the three closest dealerships. Remember, it’s not just about the price; consider accessories and service costs too. Get a complete view of the price before deciding.

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.

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 after the latest models have come out or before the season starts.

14. the Majority Of Dealerships Don’t Control Financing Rates Or Terms

The most common financing comes directly from the manufacturer. They partner with a lender to offer attractive rates.

However, the dealership can’t influence these rates or loan terms, unlike car dealers who often work with local banks and have more control.

Manufacturer financing is typically better than independent options, but it can be stricter. Unlike cars, watercraft are more like toys than necessities for daily life.

15. Remember Your First Service!

The most crucial service for your engine is its first one.

During this initial service, they remove the break-in oil, which has metal micro shards generated by the engine.

Keep in mind, the first service is typically not included, and dealerships may charge more for it to ensure everything is functioning correctly. Despite seeming like a sales tactic, it’s genuinely crucial. This service is vital because these engines are high-performance and finely 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 PWC 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.

A 3% or more merchant processing fee is normal for credit cards. PWCs don’t have that large of profit margins, so many don’t let you use credit cards due to merchant fees.

17. Make Sure To Factor In Delivery!

PWCs 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

Many dealerships are not located near water, making test drives challenging.

However, don’t worry too much about test-driving. Sitting on one in the showroom for 15 minutes can give you a feel for it.

When not distracted by the craziness of the water, you can focus solely on the watercraft and how it feels to your body.

All of them feel fast, especially if you’ve never ridden one before, as you’re not enclosed in like in a car.

19. Buy Demo Models

Manufacturers allow dealerships to have a few “demo models,” which the dealership discounts from their inventory.

However, there’s a set period during which the dealership can’t sell these demo models to prevent misuse.

While some may have minor dings, they’re often the best deal available. The engine is usually already broken in, and it’s a current year model.

Ensure the first service is included in the deal. The downside is missing out on other promotions, and the warranty has started. But demo models typically have low hours as test rides are usually short, especially for newcomers.

Buying demo models can be a hidden gem if timed right in your purchase.

20. When You Do Buy, Allow Them To Get It Ready

Watercraft arrive in crates, and they stay in crates to remain clean for their future owner.

Before you can take one home, the dealership needs time to prepare it. They have to assemble the remaining parts and thoroughly check all systems for safety.

This process typically takes 2 to 4 hours. It’s essential to schedule a delivery day to ensure everyone is on the same page.

21. Cash Is Not King

Cash is not king, as covered here.

22. Don’t Forget Insurance!

While insurance is not required in many places, you’ll be a fool to not get it.

See if your state requires insurance here.

If you let others ride, 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 insurance.

23. Inspect it All 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.

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. I have more on this here if they don’t show you.

24. Bill Of Sale

Just like cars have license plates, boats have hull numbers. If your state is slow in issuing numbers, keep a copy of your bill of sale in your glove box, making sure the purchase date is visible in case you get pulled over. Use a dry box to protect it from water damage and store your phone too.

Most dealerships don’t physically provide numbers; the state informs you of them when the paperwork has been filled out and paid. Purchase numbers separately and avoid mailbox-style ones. You can buy numbers online and place them on both sides of the hull.

25. Check Trailer Bunks

I used to be the guy in the back of the shop that would put PWCs and trailers together.

Trailers don’t come assembled; sometimes they can be complicated.

Trailers are like giant erector sets, and since they go on the road, they need to be built to standards.

  • Since every watercraft is different, this means bunks (the thing the unit sits on) need to be set up for them. Every model 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 chines rest on the bunks. You can often tell it’s not resting right if the machine sits crooked on the trailer.
  • The other important point of the trailer is the front, where it hooks to the bow hook. This area has a ratchet for pulling the craft 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 machine sits, the heavier the tongue. You want to have about 10 pounds on the nose of the trailer with the PWC 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.

Tongue Weight

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 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 the dealership adjust the trailer for safe travel before leaving.

Author

Steven

I started working at a power sports dealership in 2007, I worked in parts, service counter, and as a technician before moving to sales in 2013. I created StevenInSales.com in 2014 to answer common watercraft questions I would get from people. Now managing the site full-time, I continue to provide advice and web tools for my readers about watercraft. I've owned several watercraft, with a Sea-Doo Spark as my current main PWC.

Comments

  1. If your a beginner and you bought a high performance super charged model can’t you slow it down in another mode for beginners? I could buy a much smaller jet ski but you can’t get more power out of that, that would mean spending thousands more trading it in. With a high performance jet ski you can just change the mode for more power whenever you feel more comfortable.

    Reply
    • Yes, you can run in ECO mode or use the learning key options on supercharged models to slow you down as you learn the ropes. The reason I tell people to start off small is that many of them have never ridden anything like a jet ski before, they have never been on a motorcycle, dirt bike, ATV, or anything similar. Most only know about the speed you feel in a car, doing 35MPH in a car is a very different feeling when doing 35MPH on a jet ski. I have many new riders that never go past 35MPH as they think it’s too fast, it takes time to warm up to the speed and the take-off power a jet ski gives even in the lower-end models.

      Also, starting off on something like a GTI or VX is great to get your feet wet in the sport and it’s also easier to sell if you don’t like the sport or want to upgrade to more power. There are far more buyers looking for entry-level used jet skis than they are supercharged models. And for most riders, the GTI or VX are fast enough even if they top out at 55MPH as that “feels like” 80MPH to them. But if you can handle the power for the supercharged models then go for it.

      Reply
  2. Understand there’s a shortage of machines this season but find it very frustrating dealers won’t give pricing unless you are in the showroom especially when the dealership website shows units in stock. Traveling several hours only to find huge markups is not fun.

    Reply
  3. Hi Steve
    I know you have mentioned the Sea do spark not great for beginners, is the sea doo wave any more suitable please ?

    Reply
    • Are you talking about the WAKE? If so it’s a great option as it’s built on the GTI body which makes for a great beginner jet ski. When it comes to beginners you want a jet ski with brakes and not every Spark comes with them but every GTI does. Brakes and starting in neutral are super helpful especially if you’re a beginner.

      Reply
  4. I would love if you can offer me some advice. We live near the ocean and I am in the process of looking for our first jetski. I have been looking at the Kawasakis. I really like the STX160LX but likely cannot get stock until October. It also costs $20k (AUD). I also found a 2013 Kawasaki 300x with 90hrs. With the 100hr service, fish sounder, eski, rod holders, trailer and rego it is $11,500. The plus side is I could get it sooner and save money on purchase. The downside is the cost of servicing and maintaining a supercharged model and not getting the 5 year warranty. The 3rd option is a standard STX160 which is brand new, in stock and $16750 including trailer and rego. I feel that if I am buying new, I would really like the LX version with speakers. I know this isn’t important to a lot of people, but I would really like to have this.

    What’s the best option here?

    Reply
    • The 300X would be the better machine for sure. It will consume more gas and needs more maintenance but it’s not as bad as you think. I will say if you go with the 300X it will spoil you and getting something in the future that is smaller or slower will suck.

      Reply
      • So if I start with that I’m not going to be able to go back from supercharged am I? Hmm. Or is there something else in that category I should consider? I’m wanting good deck space and storage as the use will be cruising to various reefs and beaches for snorkelling, diving and day trips

        Reply
        • The 300 will be fine. The speed and power are good for what you need but riding anything else will feel sluggish. The hull is a good size for what you want to do too.

          Reply
  5. Thanks for all of info as it is very helpful!
    I have several questions for you.
    1. Supply is limited this year and my local dealer said they are taking only $75 off of the MSRP for the GTX. In reading all of the comments from 2020, this sounds like it’s not a great deal and perhaps I should be shopping around?
    2. I am a first time buyer and am looking at the GTI SE 130, GTI SE 170 and the GTX 170 for use on a 9 mile lake. A friend talked me into the GTX 170 for the comfort and stability but my family is telling me that this is more than I need and that 170 HP is too much power. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Most dealers are not taking anything off MSRP due to supply being low so seeing one do it is rare this year so far. But it never hurts to email 2 more dealers near you and get a quote. Most dealers ran out of 2020 models before the season was over so I would not wait to put your name on a jet ski. The GTX will for sure be a better ride but I would not consider the 170HP too much power, it’s more middle of the road. It’s when you get models with a supercharger that you get in the range of too much power if you ask me. All Sea-Doos start off in touring mode which is a slow take-off and very easy going for new riders. You can even put it in ECO mode for a slower ride. If you can go for the 170HP then for sure get it; the 130 is not lacking but the 170 has the bottom end power for pull sports and is just a good all-around engine.

      Reply
  6. I am considering a 2017 Yamaha fx cruiser with only 17 hours. The seller has no records of maintenance of the 10 hour service and says he changed the oil and lubed. It is still under extended warranty. Should I have it checked out by a dealer for any problems even though it is still under warranty? Should I get the 10 hour service done now if I buy it?

    Reply
    • It’s better to be safe than sorry, I would get the oil change done anyway if he can’t supply proof of it and get it checked out by a dealer too.

      Reply
  7. Will a dealership charge a freight charge for a VX Cruiser HO? I just put a deposit down on one (they are all out) for when one comes in (whenever that will be). We didn’t talk prices or fees yet.

    Also, the dealership I put the deposit down on sells Triton trailers which I like. Will ta dealership typically supply transom tie downs for the back of the trailer? Or is that something they would typically sell a customer? (If not, I can buy my own ahead of time). Thanks.

    Reply
    • Yes, freight will be in the cost of the jet ski. Some dealers will hide it in the cost and some will be more forthcoming about the freight charge. Triton is one of the best trailers you can get, good choice! Unless you get a triton trailer with the tie-downs then you’ll have to get your own. Many jet ski dealerships will have those kinds of accessories in stock, don’t forget the light adaptor for the trailer too.

      Reply
  8. I went to look at a couple LX SHVO Cruisers and the ADM(dealer markup) was well over 2k for each.. Seems pretty steep eh?

    Reply
    • That does seem high but 2020 has been an odd year. With current events many jet ski dealers have sold out in May which is not normal, July or August is when this happens. People have been inside and wanting to get out so many of them got in early to get a jet ski. The dealers around me are almost sold out and the manufacturers are not making any more 2020 models due to be shutting down.

      Reply
      • Hey, Steven,

        Do you know of any dealers that have at least 2 2020 Sea-Doo Spark Trixx in stock presently that would be willing to ship them to Virginia?

        Reply
    • It varies from manufacturer to manufacturer but anytime between 10 to 25 hours. If it’s a supercharged model I would for sure do it at 10 hours. If it’s been a year and you still haven’t gotten to 10 to 25 hours yet I would change it then too.

      Reply
  9. Your information is very helpful. We are looking to buy our first sea doo. The local dealer quoted us $9,000 for 2019 GTI 130. Would you consider that to be a good deal? I was also looking at Sparks because they are cheaper (not looking to spend a whole lot). The dealer claims that the Spark sea doos are tippy….I wonder if his claim is true. I couldn’t find anything on the website that claims Sparks tip over easily. The safety is a concern since my 15 and 13 year olds will be using it. Thank!

    Reply
    • That seems to be a fair deal on the 2019 GTI. The Spark is less stable than the GTI for sure but that is on purpose as it’s more playful. You’re more likely to get wet on the Spark than the GTI. I can stand on the side of my Spark just fine and won’t roll over, but get two people on it and you can feel it be unstable. This is why I push people to the GTI series for their first jet ski over a Spark as it does better for them… https://www.steveninsales.com/best-jet-ski-beginners-not-think/

      Reply
  10. Your information is very helpful and I’ll be buying you a coffee for sure. My biggest question is about pricing. I’m very familiar with how car buying goes and I know you say “it’s not like buying a car”, but you don’t really go in to pricing. How do you know if you’re getting a fair price? No one in their right might pays MSRP, so what’s to be expected for a dealer discount when looking for a new $10,000 PWC? Not including any manufactures rebates or promotions. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Pricing can be tough due to the way some jet skis are priced. For example, the Sea-Doo Spark is priced low to drive customers into the market but that also means it only has a $200 margin. That doesn’t include what it cost to get the Spark crated and shipped to the store which is often a flat fee of $400. On the other hand, something like a Sea-Doo GTX Limited 300 will have nice margins but it is also the most expensive. At $10k I would expect 4 to 5% off MSRP without the help of rebates or promotions. I am thinking of making an ebook that better explains this and maybe even showing you an example price sheet so people are better prepared. Would this be something that would interest you?

      Reply
      • I would be interested in that as well. Looking at buying two Gti see 130 with sound.with a trailer. My out the door price came to 26k is that good or bad

        Reply
        • Doing rough math on 2 SE 130 with sound and trailer $26k is good. I would buy it because dealers are really starting to pick up, I know a few are selling out of units because the demand has gone through the roof. People are ready to get out of the home and a Jetski is a great way to do it.

          Reply
  11. I must say your post are very informative and helpful.
    i am looking to purchase two new PWC’s for my family. i was quoted for a new Sea doo GTI se 130 or 170, is it worth the upgrade to the 170?
    The other models i was looking at was the Yamaha VX deluxe, and i got quote for a used pair of 2019 Kawasaki Ultra Lx units with less than 50hrs each for 20K with a trailer, ( was loaned to Game wardens for the year) not sure about Kawasaki because of no Brake just manual reverse, and my wife will be driving one so have some concerns.
    we have two kids 13 and 10 so looking to have something fun and that will last a long time for us.
    what would you recommend?

    Reply
    • Those Kawasakis sound like a good deal especially if they did they did the first service on them. But the lack of brakes is a valid concern, it’s a shame Kawasaki doesn’t have them. If you plan on doing pull sports all the time I would go with the GTI SE 170, if not the GTI 130 or VX Deluxe will be fine. I like the GTI bodies this year as they’re more comfortable than the Yamaha VX’s especially if you’re tall. If you ride a lot in the ocean the Kawasaki Ultra LX is for sure what you want, that body is big and can take the chop but it’s heavy and slow. The Yamaha VX Deluxe is the most playful of the bunch and the GTI’s are middle of the road.

      Reply

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