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?

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 it’s got to be the most important one. Some manufacturers still to this day make 2-Stroke 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 dipstick.

The first 4-stroke Sea-Doo came out in 2002 and the last Sea-Doo 2-stroke was made in 2007. If it’s a Sea-Doo and made on or after 2008 then it’s 100% a 4-Stroke.

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 (Amazon Link Ad) 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.

used jet ski compression check

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 (Amazon Link Ad) 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 mentioned above as I’ve seen low hour jet skis break too.

jet ski hours chart graph

How many hours can you get out of a jet ski? – I’ve seen Jet Skis go over 300 hours before and that wouldn’t stop me from buying like I mention so far. But when you get a watercraft that is over 10 years old with over 400 hours on it then I consider that a good lifespan for that jet ski for the market’s sake. Sure, it’s possible to find jet skis with over 400 hours on it and they could be fine but the market has a bad stigma with such a high number.

Jet Ski Engine Lifespan? – If it’s a 2-stroke engine I would happy to see 300 hours out of that engine. If it’s a 4-stroke that has been taken care of you could possibly see 1,000 hours. I get that 1,000 hours from rental companies as they often overachieve that number quickly.

Average Hours Per Year for a Jet Ski? – The average jet ski gets anywhere from 30 to 40 hours a year put on it. I’ve created a jet ski hour calculator here so you can see if the jet ski you’re looking at has a low, normal, or bad amount of hours.

How To Check Hours on Jet Ski? – If the jet ski has a gauge for speed then it has an hour meter. Luckily the hour meter on watercraft made in the last 10 years has been easy to see with it often right on the gauge sometimes at the bottom. Some models do have a smaller screen that you might have to scroll through by pressing a “menu” button either on the gauge or handlebars. If you can’t find it you can always take it the local dealer to have them read it or have the seller supply service records with the hours on it to give you an idea.

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 (Amazon Link Ad) 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 many comments lately about how much one should pay for a used Jet Ski.

So I’ve created a guide on how much you should pay for a used jet ski here.

In this guide, I show you how much to expect to pay along with other helpful tips that point out problems of particular jet ski models.

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 $5,699 in 2022? 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 some new Jet Skis.

If you’re interested in new, then check out my guide on all 2022 watercraft here.

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.

One More Thing!

If you’re planning on getting a Jet Ski then make sure you get all the correct safety gear and accessories. There are many other little things and tips you should also be aware of too! I’ve compiled a HUGE list of accessories and tips into one helpful guide here that can help you with this.

If you liked this post make sure to share it on Facebook and Twitter!

201 thoughts on “5 Factors to Consider Before Buying a Used Jet Ski”

  1. So if I have a 2003 Honda Aquatrax that’s got low hours, garage kept, has cover and trailer , does this mean it’s not worth anything ? It has been winterized and summarized. Had a battery recall done. Tires on trailer look brand new. Engine looks brand new no rust or paint peeling. Is it not worth anything ? It’s a F- 12x Turbo 4 stroke.

    • It’s worth something, but not as much as another jet ski from a manufacturer that still makes them. Honda hasn’t made a jet ski since 2009 so parts are hard to find when it breaks down, often having to buy used parts from eBay. If you don’t mind working on it yourself or have a good shop that is willing to work on it, then it’s not worth it for the average person. Though, if you can get it for a really good deal, it’s worth it as it’ll be better than renting jet skis.

  2. Hi steve and everyone passionate about water sports, 1st agreed great article 2nd special thanks for answering everyone’s questions. I did however notice no one asked about the Honda aquatrax so I’d like to offer my opinion and if any info can be added I’d love to hear it. I found out years back Honda was making pwc after doing some research and owning a civic for commute to work I discovered the Aquatrax is a bullet proof amazing machine they made a turbo version fx12 hits 60mph no problem electric start reverse very fun I’ve had mine a 06 in shop 1 time for bad stator that’s it besides normal seasonal wear and tear and after 7 years I’ve spent peanuts in upkeep, honda used gold wing engine I’m told so 90% parts are available thru any honda dealer or auto center, i have been looking for another for my better half, I paid $6000 with trailer when I purchased it had 63 hours, the guy told me the marina he dealt with a quick call assured me it was never in for major repairs, now honda has since been out of the market building pwc a while, but these machines are going for $10000+ more with trailer here in Canada where I am, just wondering if this is a covid related chip processor shortage because products are slow to be produced or did I wander across the golden goose?

  3. I appreciate your article! I’m looking at a 97 yamaha 700 and the guy sent me videos of it fired up and running on the water. Wants $2k for it and trailer. Unsure of the hours & he said carbs were cleaned last season. Thoughts?

    • That would be a 2-stroke and not something I would suggest getting unless you only want to ride it for a season or two and get rid of it. Parts are hard to find for something that old, and it’s not worth the effort unless you’re mechanically inclined. Though, that body was a blast to ride, it’s a wet ride and a good workout too.

  4. Great article. I found an 02 Seadoo gtx 4-tec with just 65 hours, looks like it was well taken care of. Since this was the first year with the 4 stroke, any reason to stay away?
    3200 with trailer

    • The first year did have a few engines that needed to be rebuilt, but shouldn’t be a problem now, as many of them should have been fixed a long time ago. It is on the older side of jet skis, but if it was taken care of, you should get more life out of it.

  5. Hi Steven, this article has been extremely useful. I am speaking to a guy who is selling a SeaDoo 155 GTI 2007 Wake Edition with less than 100 hours (price yet to be agreed but assume c.$6k). It looks good on photos and they guy seems genuine, he has receipts for all work carried out, happy for me to speak to the marine service people he’s used and tells me it’s been used on fresh water. I note you think this is a great model which is comforting. I’m keen on a ski that can pull skiers/toys for my kids but my budget won’t stretch to new unfortunately. Will an older jet ski still be good for towing? Any added thoughts, comments or concerns I should watch out for? Thanks in advance.

    • Great engine, great model, and WAKEs always sold very well, especially the 155HP models. The tow bar in the rear for pull-sports is plastic and people tend to break them on that one so make sure it’s good before you use it. The tow bar should move up and down with a tug up or down, it has sticky spots so that is normal. The OPAS system (the fins in the rear on both sides) tend to wear out on these older models, just let it float on the trailer while in the water to make sure it’s not taking in water. It’s more than enough power for pulling tubes and skiers. That model doesn’t have sport or touring mode so you’ll have full power all the time. It did come with a learning key that would limit the engine to 35MPH, but most people lose that key, but you can still get it programmed by any dealership if you want a slow key. A 2006 to 2010 Sea-Doo GTI tend to be golden, especially on the used market.

  6. Great Article!!!!! I was looking to possibly but a pair of used Jet Skis and had little knowledge on what to look for. You gave me the info I needed.

    Oh BTW. I’m probably going to look heavily at the Seadoo Spark you mentioned.. Looks like you are going to save me thousands…

    Again Thanks

  7. Hi Steven! You covered the bases on 2-stroke and 4-stroke engine types but I have a broad question on 3 Cylinder verses 4 Cylinder. Is there any differences in performance or engine longevity?

    • There is not a huge difference. The 4 cylinder engines have more displacement and can achieve more power without a supercharger but you do have the extra weight and more moving parts. The 3 cylinder is what most manufacturers are going with these days, even Yamaha is moving towards it with the TR-1. You save weight and fewer moving parts on a 3 cylinder. As for longevity, there won’t be much of a difference.

  8. Hi Steven, loving this thread. Looking at buying a 2008 Vx cruiser with 100 hrs for 4500 australian dollars.
    Freshly serviced with no problems.
    My first JetSki, but would it be powerful enough to tow a knee order or 2?

    • Towing more than one won’t be ideal but one person will be fine. That is not that many hours for a 2008, that is a nice find!

  9. Thanks for the guide and found it very useful and good practical advice. I’m looking at a 2017 Yamaha FX SVHO with 50 hours. My only problem is that it’s below freezing temps up here and I don’t think I could test the vehicle on the lake in this weather and probably wouldn’t happen until February or March. I would like to buy now before I have to compete with a bunch of other buyers and I found one that I’m looking for. Any suggestions? Maybe purchase a one year warranty from a third party? The owner said it has been well taken care of and winterized. I will ask for records.

    • The best thing to do is see if it starts fine and get the service records. Look to see if it’s been winterized every year and check for any damage like to the seat as that can tell you how well they took care of it. Double-check to see if it by chance still has a warranty from the manufacturer, it’s still fairly new and you never know what promotions were run that year for that location.

  10. Hi I was looking to purchase two 2015 Seadoo GTI 130 on have 45 hours and the other one have 59 hours. Also include a 2016 double trailer and covers for 15k do you think is a good deal? Any advise thanks.

    • It’s a little high If they’re non-SE models but since 2020 has been a crazy year for used this is about as good as it’s going to get. Nothing crazy sticks out about that year model, it was a good engine and PWC. That is low hours but not too low which is good.

  11. What does it mean when FT starts blinking on the screen of a 2008 GTI-SE Blue/Yellow Addition?
    I live on the lake and bought doubles and we came back home cause I told my husband “ It started missing like then when we switched and he turned it on the FT started blinking on the screen

    We’ve got a 2018 GTX w/ Radio but I had a old one just like the 2008 (still got it) but when we flipped it, it didn’t turn back over so we drained all the water out of it and changed spark plugs and changed the oil and 2 days later it blew up w/ 16 hours on it and it was 8 years old because the lake house was just a vacation home and we kept it in the Sea-Doo garage and changed the oil and winterized it like always so idk why that did that for?

    But I wished I knew about the Spark cause for the doubles I paid for I could if got a Spark!



    • “FT”, that’s an odd one? The 2008 GTI would have the same universal display that all Sea-Doo’s had then and the only thing I can think of that would flash FT would be the depth finder. But the GTI did not come with a depth finder, only the GTX Limited did. Though I have had a few Sea-Doos around that time have the depth finder setting get turned on for no reason. Just one day it starts flashing depth or errors. The only way to remove it is at the dealership as they need to flip a switch in the BUDS software when they connect your machine.

  12. Hey man. I have been looking to buy a used 4 Stroke. They have been hard to come by but a buddy of mine from back in high school has a 2006 FX Cruiser with 110 hours and trailer included for $4,500. Would you consider that a good deal? From what I have read it’s usually safest to go for a used ski that’s no more than 10 years old, so I am a little skeptical. What do you think?

    • A 2006 FX cruiser with 110 hours is quite good. It’s not too little and not too much. The used market for 2020 has been crazy so I personally would jump all over that. I would still lake test it and get a shop to go through it just to be safe. After 10 years cosmetic parts are hard to find, it’s when you get over 15 years that engine parts become hard to find but I feel this motto is changing as 2-strokes disappear and 4-strokes stay around. These 4-strokes are lasting much longer than the old 2-strokes so some old sayings will need to be updated.

  13. Hi Steven,
    I have a ski im looking to purchase right now (2018 Yamaha VX limited) has 120 hours on it and looks really clean. has yamaha Bluetooth speakers and a stern storage accessory bag. comes with the trailer and im just wanting to know if you think 8,000 is a good deal and any advice you might have?


    • That’s a lot of hours for a 2018 model but a VX is pretty reliable so I would not worry too much. I think $8k for that is a really good deal! It’s almost too good of a deal as KBB has it for $9k and jet skis are selling like crazy this time of year.

  14. Hi Steve, I am new to PWC and I am looking to get 2 new sparks. I have a 7 year old and a 5 year old. We don’t need anything powerful because me and my wife are both new. Is the 2-up enough room for one adult and one little kid or should I just go with the three up? I was thinking that the smaller engine and smaller seat would be fine for a few years and we could upgrade later when the kids get bigger and we are more comfortable. Thoughts?

    • One adult and 1 little child is enough room on a 2up spark. But if you want to do pull sports in most stats you legally need a 3up. Because of this many people buy 1 3up and 1 2up and it’s a great combo. If you do get a Spark with the bigger engine it does have a touring mode which is a slow take off to help new riders. Some models Sparks had the option for a learning key where it would limit it to 35mph on the bigger engines.

  15. Hi! Your content is really helpful! Quick question. Looking at a 2015 Spark 3up 39 hours. Claims all is in good working order. Owner not wanting to let us test drive without boaters license however our state we do not have to have them if born before a certain date- therefore my husband and I do not. (Our kid does but of course they wouldn’t agree to that). Wondering if you think we should go ahead with the purchase without it.

    • If he can show service records and you don’t see any rust around the engine and it starts it should be fine. That is low hours but not too crazy. If the Spark has been sunk before I would not buy it, the service records would show this and the seat would feel heavy due to it taking forever for water in the foam seat to leave. Ask for the VIN so you can ask the local dealer if it has any warranty items on it before buying.

  16. Thanks for your advice….I’ve continued to look and found this: a 2010 Sea-Doo RXT iS 260… has 91 hours and is from a dealer…….Engine Type: 260 hp Supercharged Intercooled Rotax 4-TEC engine Displacement: 1,494 cc Bore and Stroke: 100 mm x 63.4 mm Cooling: Closed-loop cooling system Compression Ratio: 8.4:1 Fuel System: Multi-port fuel injection Ignition: Digital induction Starting: Electric Dry Weight: 970 lbs. (441 kg) Fuel Capacity: 18.6 gal (70 l) Height: 43.9 in. (111.4 cm) Length: 139 in. (354 cm) Width: 48 in. (122 cm) Rider Capacity: 3 Storage Capacity: 16.4 gal (62 l) Impeller: Stainless steel Pump: Dual automatic vacuum siphon pumps Transmission: iBR™ Speedometer: Digital Tachometer: Digital Mirrors: Adjustable mirrors Hull Type: S3™ Hull Color: Bright Yellow

    Would this be a good deal, or is it too much ski for my purpose?

    • That’s a fast jet ski, if you’re new to them it might be overkill but it does have slow mode settings to get you used to it. The suspension is super nice on that model but a pain to work on it. If you’re going to do a lot of pull sports you want to avoid the iS models as the tow point is not as strong as the others as it’s the hinge of the suspension. Other than that its a nice ski and it’s from a dealer so they should have done all the warranty items and updates for it. I would still test drive it to make sure you like it.


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