Buying a used jet ski can be tricky and confusing, so I created a guide. In this guide, I want to go over all the major points and things to look out for when buying a used jet ski.
I hope this guide, packed with decades of experience and lessons, helps you buy a used jet ski. It’s an updated version with new tips and similar information to my previous guides.
What To Look For When Buying A Used Jet Ski:
Here are all the major factors to look out for, and I’ll go over each one in its own section.
- Check The Price
- 2-stroke Vs. 4-stroke – Avoid 2-stroke
- Check The Battery
- Engine Hours
- Jet Pump Inspection
- Check Supercharger (If It Has One)
- Look For Corrosion
- Hull Damage
- Inspect The Trailer
- Get Service Records
- Inspect The Seats
- Test Ride
1. Check The Price
A lot has changed since I wrote my last few used jet ski guides, and one thing that seems to be getting worse is scammers.
Before you contact the seller of the used jet ski, you need to check the price against other models.
I’ve been getting a lot of comments on my site from people looking at deals that are just too good to be true. While there are some true good deals, a lot of them just scream scam. Much of the worst ones tend to have two jet skis and a trailer, and the price is often lower than just one of the jet skis by itself.
One example was two Sea-Doo’s on a double aluminum trailer for $12,000. The Sea-Doo’s were only a few years old, and they had two of them on a nice aluminum trailer. I would expect the price to be over $24,000 or close to it, not half. Unless one of them is blown, this deal would be too good to be true.
Use my used PWC Values tool before contacting the seller. Then check out what J.D. Power values it at. Lastly, see what the real-world prices are on eBay and PWC Trader. If the prices differ, the deal might be a scam or a problematic jet ski.
2. 2-stroke Vs. 4-stroke – Avoid 2-stroke
I’m still standing my ground and saying you should avoid buying a 2-stroke jet ski.
2-strokes are banned on many lakes and rivers, and the jet ski manufacturers haven’t made them in years. Parts are even harder to find and overall, they’re not worth it.
- Sea-Doo hasn’t made a 2-stroke since 2007, so any 2008 and newer will be a 4-stroke.
- Yamaha hasn’t made a 2-stroke since 2012 for sit-down jet skis (2020 for stand-up).
- Kawasaki hasn’t made a 2-stroke since 2016.
3. Check The Battery
The batteries in jet skis tend to be the most neglected thing by many jet ski owners.
Not a huge deal, as most jet ski batteries are easy to replace, but something to keep in mind.
A jet ski battery lasts 3 to 5 years and will often have a round sticker (size of a dime) on it telling you the year of the battery.
4. Engine Hours
Jet ski engine hours are similar to miles on a car, but does have some quirks to it.
What was considered high hours for a jet ski has changed quite a bit in the last 10 years, with 4-strokes taking over. It was common for a 2-stroke jet ski to only last 300 hours, but 4-stroke are hitting 500 or more with ease.
The average person puts 30 hours a year on their jet ski, but some put more on it and that is fine.
Jet ski engine hours can be a bit confusing. I wrote this post and have a calculator to help you get a better understanding.
5. Jet Pump Inspection
All jet skis use a jet pump to propel the jet ski forward.
The jet pump has many parts, such as:
- The wear ring
- Reverse bucket
- Steering nozzle
The biggest things to look out for is the wear ring and impeller, make sure they’re not damaged.
All this and more is covered in our jet pump and how it works post, use that post to help you understand if the jet pump is fine.
6. Check Supercharger (If It Has One)
The supercharger on a jet ski, if it has one, needs to be checked for sure.
The jet skis with superchargers tend to be 200HP or more, so not every jet ski has one. Yamaha usually does SVHO to let you know it has a supercharger, as they don’t list HP ratings.
The superchargers on all jet skis that have them can fail, no matter the brand. Sea-Doo did have a few rough years around 2007, but most of those should be fixed by now.
The easiest way to tell if a supercharged jet ski is working fine is the RPMs it reaches on the test ride. The jet ski should be getting close to 8k RPMs, if lower than 7,600 RPMs then you may have a supercharger problem.
7. Look For Corrosion
Talking about rust/corrosion, it’s something to keep in mind when buying a used jet ski.
Rust, and more importantly, corrosion, is something to watch out for.
Tip: Use silicone spray lubricant* on the pump and engine compartment to cut down on corrosion. Spray twice a year and let it dry, and you’ll be doing better than most.
Look inside the engine compartment and around the jet pump for parts that are corroding. Some corrosion is fine, it’s only natural with any boat. It’s the overly corroded parts that should worry you.
Corrosion and rust is a big problem for jet skis on the coast and salty water. Ideally, a jet ski should be flushed and rinsed off after every ride in saltwater. Sadly, many don’t do this, and it can destroy parts of the jet ski overtime.
The jet pump will often get eaten away first, so look it over when buying a used jet ski. Look for the sacrificial anode to make sure one is there as it corrodes first and when it’s gone the other parts go next. So replace it if you’re missing one.
8. Hull Damage
Some scrapes and bumps are to be expected on used jet skis, things happen.
Look under the jet ski and at its hull to see if there are any large scrapes or damage. You can tell the hull is badly damaged if the white under the fiberglass is showing through.
Fiberglass needs to be repaired or sealed if the white or fibers of the fiberglass are starting to show. The damaged fiberglass will start to absorb the water and make the crack or hole worse.
Cracks and holes on the top deck should also be fixed, as they can still split if you hit a wave just right.
Fiberglass repair shops are good at what they do, and many can fix it so well that you can’t tell there was ever damage. There are do it yourself kits that will work, but won’t look as good. The main goal is to keep the fiberglass from splitting or getting worse.
9. Inspect The Trailer
If you’re buying a jet ski or two, and it has a trailer, you need to check it out too.
The most neglected item for most jet ski owners is their trailers, as many of them don’t use them but once or twice a year.
The wheel bearings should be greased every year, but most don’t do it, so make sure you do it before you get on the road.
The winch straps wear out and fade due to the sun, and will need to be replaced if they’re over 5 years old.
Don’t forget to look at the bunks, as the carpets wear out and the bolts can come loose over time.
And the trailer lights, they can be a hit or miss. It’s very common for one or both brake lights to be broken or missing. The light connector to be damaged or missing. You also have the situations where it’s not the trailer but the tow vehicle.
10. Get Service Records
If the previous jet ski owner took it to a reputable shop, they will have service records.
These records can show you how often they changed the oil, got it winterized, and what problems they had.
You can quickly learn if the used jet ski is a problem by the service records or lack of them.
11. Inspect The Seats
The seats of a jet ski are a good way to determine how well the jet ski was taken care of.
The vinyl seats of a jet ski will crack and split over time if they’re not kept covered. Someone who is not willing to cover their jet ski is more likely to not take care of other things of the jet ski, too.
Jet ski seats are not cheap either, getting a jet ski seat re-skinned can cost hundreds of dollars. New seats can cost double or even triple re-skinning costs!
Mold, black spots, and fading are normal, so don’t hold that against anyone. You can often clean these spots, but sometimes they won’t go away, and is just normal for an old jet ski.
12. Test Ride It!
If you can, test ride the jet ski.
Starting a jet ski up on the trailer or hooking it up to the hose is NOT the same!
A jet ski may run fine on the trailer or while on the garden hose, but will act very different when put in the water.
The jet ski should take off quickly, it should not stutter or feel like it won’t catch.
After the test ride, take the seats off to see if the hull is taking on water. A little bit of water is fine, but gallons of water is not.
There are many factors to consider when looking to buy a used jet ski, which is why I wrote an ebook to cover them in more detail.
There are a total of 22 things to consider and bonus tips within this eBook.