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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 $5,499 in 2021? 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 2021 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.

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

  1. First off, Thank you so much for this amazing resource. I was thinking of getting our first jet ski soon for this summer. I have 2 little kids and so not looking for anything to break speed records…just good family fun. I have an older fellow who has a 2004 Seadoo GTI 717cc for $2900….. oil and fuel injected with a Karavan trailer (new tires,new bearings, new lights)……he had it to take his grand kids out at the lake…….It has 143 hours on it. He says it works perfectly and has nothing wrong with it other than a little wear on the main seat section.

    I know it’s a 2 stroke and you advise against that, but I have a bombadier/seadoo dealer down the street from me and If i like the sport (if we actually use it enough), I would sell it and get a newer 4 stroke for next summer (2021)…..I’m wondering what do you think of that model? that price? My plan ?

    Reply
    • Of all the 2-stroke Sea-Doos to avoid it would be the fuel-injected ones (LE, RFI, DI). Those are a nightmare, they often get the oddest of electrical problems and can drive a sane man crazy. If you can find a non-fuel injected 04 or 05 GTI then those were not that bad. They were not that fast, about the same speed as a 90HP spark these days. To test this call up your local dealer and ask them if they can still get engine parts for the exact model you’re looking for, even ask how they fell about fuel-injected Sea-Doo 2-strokes.

      If it was me I would look for a used 4-stroke. Here in the US it’s winter and you find some of the best gems this time of year. Even dealerships can have used units that they don’t advertise and you have to call – it’s odd but it does happen. If you’re thinking of maybe getting a new one next year I would strongly consider talking to your local dealer about any leftover models. The leftover models will have the best rebates and if you’re willing to spend $2900 that should cover a year’s worth of payments depending on how long you finance for and promotions. After the year you find you love the sport you already have a ski and don’t need to shop anymore. If you don’t like the sport I’ve found it easier to sell a used current year model then to sell any 2-stroke jet ski. During April and May, they sell quickly if you want to sell next year. Every 2-stroke I come across today I always end up selling to scrappers because the parts are worth more than the machine. That model you’re looking at might be great and run perfectly for years but the odds are not in your favor especially if it’s a fuel-injected 2-stroke. To me, a 2-stroke is not worth it anymore.

      Reply
  2. Hi Steve, thanks for the eBook it is a great resource. I’m looking at my first ski and want to be able to tow my adult mates on knee boards or donut. What size jetski do you think I need as a minimum, will I get away with a GTI 130 without them thinking its too slow?

    Reply
  3. Hi, Looking at a 2017 Spark with 25 hours vs a 2011 GTI with 146 hrs. The former has no service receipts, but only 25hrs!. The latter has a full service receipt from August 2019. Which should I buy??

    Reply
    • Go for the Spark if you want something playful. Go for the GTI if you want something comfortable, if you want to ride for more than an hour the GTI is a must.

      Reply
    • 300 hours is low for a jet ski from a rental company. The only time I see this happen is if they get rid of the PWC after a year and if that is the case 300 hours is too high to start off at for a year old jet ski.

      Reply
  4. H Steven,

    I see a lot of the 2008 2009 yamaha fx sho supercharged and high output for sale around 5k – 8k. If they are in good condition, is it worth it to buy? Also, should I stay away from supercharged? I not new to the jet ski game but never owned one. Just want to start off with something cheap. Please let me know your thoughts regarding what to buy. Thanks

    Steve L

    Reply
    • For your first one, I say to stay away from supercharged models if you can. Sea-Doo was the worse of the 3 but Yamaha and Kawasaki both had their issue with superchargers around that time too. When it comes to that time frame too it was superchargers that needed more maintenance and care than the ones you can get today. It’s going to cost more not only in maintenance but also those old supercharged models guzzled gas like crazy. But if you want to go as fast as possible (over 60mph) a supercharged jet ski is your only option.

      Reply
      • I have a 2001 Gti Seadoo and it will run ok then will lag and lose some power then pick up. Got the carburetor rebuilt and still have problem. However when run from reserve tank it runs fine. Do you have any idea what the problem may be? Thanks so much.

        Reply
  5. Hi Steven. I’m new to jet skiiing and am looking for a solid, comfortable ski that I can also use with my teen daughter. I’m choosing between a 2017 Sea Doo GTI SE 90 with 70 hours @ $6,500 and a 2016 Yamaha VX Cruiser HO with 105 hours. Both appear to be in nice shape. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • I would go with the VX Cruiser HO for the more power it offers. To be honest, both are great options but that 90HP could have you wanting more power over time especially if you plan on pulling anyone.

      Reply
  6. Would you purchase a 2018 Seadoo GTI with about 200 hour on it (from a rental fleet)? They say all warranty work it done before they sell them, and they usually sell for about $7500. Thought on this?

    Reply
    • This is a tough one. The rental company is being smart and buying new units every year but it also has 5X the number of hours I would be comfortable with. It’s probably under the commercial warranty which is probably up or about to expire too so that is a big downside. But 200 hours on a GTI is not a lot and sure to have many more. That price is a little high for my liking. KBB watercraft says $7,200 and that assumes a jet ski with a lot fewer hours on it. If it was closer to $5.5k or $6k I would consider it but there are a lot better options on the market.

      Reply
  7. I’m looking at 2 2012 Yamaha VX cruisers with a trailer. Winterized, services, and garaged every, has a few minor dock dings and worn seats from use. However, 530 and 486hrs. What are your thoughts?

    Reply
    • The hours are a little too high for my liking. I expect 30 hours a year and a 7-year-old jet ski should have about 210 total hours. They have double that and I would not feel comfortable with that.

      Reply
  8. This page just saved me $5000. Going to purchase 2 well cared for perfect 2004 waverunners with low hours (75-130 hrs) bought a good compression tester, first machine checked out perfect, all cylinders within 5%. 2nd 130 hr machine cylinders 80, 80, off scale?, 60. Foamy water in my tester and cylinders. No oil on dipstick (can be normal on cold engine??) and lots of oil in front bottom of the hull. Thanks you Thank you thank you!

    Reply
    • Yea, that second machine sounds blown up. Under 100 psi for each cylinder and one that was way off is a bad sign. Foamy water in the cylinder is also not a good sign either, could have been sunk. There should be oil on a dipstick even if the engine is cold. And lots of oil in the bottom of the hull is a very bad sign too. Sounds like a blown up jet ski, would not buy.

      Reply
  9. i am looking into a 1999 seadoo gti? looks very clean on pictures, the owner has the receipt from last week tuned up from the dealer & he want me to test drive it. What you recommendations are they usually good jetski

    Reply
    • I usually don’t recommend any 2-strokes but that model GTI has a special place in my heart. I always like that GTI because it was easy to work on and rode nice. But it still is a 2-stroke and 2-strokes are phased out. If you can get it cheap and it test rides fine and don’t mind something that will only last maybe a season or two then go for it. Me personally I would rather put my money towards an 07 or later GTI as they still make that engine and will for years to come.

      Reply
  10. Hi again and thank you for your comments re our prior questions. Looking for some advice when purchasing a machine that is older but seems to address many of your suggestions! The machine is rebuilt. Looking at an a 2000 SEAdoo gtx owner just had engine and carb rebuilt- new wear ring and jet pump, fuel lines and solars performance intake grate and reupholstered seat. Hull buffed and waxed. Ad states compression even in both cylinders. How do you assess ? What should we look for? Owner offering water test. It sounds like it’s on gray shape- but is all the new hiding something?

    Reply
    • A 2000 GTX would be a 2-stroke. While he got the engine rebuilt and everything cleaned up I honestly would not buy it. It’s going to be a tough call on this one because it’s like new now but down the road, it could be an issue due to 2-stroke being phased out. If you’re only looking for a PWC for a summer or two it might be worth it. If it’s a GTX DI then I would for sure not buy it, those DI’s will always have phantom issues.

      Reply
  11. Hey there. Im looking to buy a 2003 Sea Doo GTX 4 tec. I’m a rookie, but looking to get something cheap to get started with. It has 143 hours on it. He bought it in 2011 with about 50 hours on it. Said he’s selling it cause the kids have moved out. The guy said he did all of his own maintenance. Stored it outside during the winter under a small weporch. He started it up and the inserted the hose and everything sounded good. I couldn’t get it to start right away, but he was able to. I noticed some very long scratches on the bottom, but they did not appear deep. They were on the back part of the hull, not near the front. He stated he would sell the ski and the trailer, with tow ropes and life jackets for $2700. Any thoughts or advice? I have pics of the ski if that would help you answer. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Not deep scratches on the bottom of the hull are normal, people will beach their watercraft and scratches will happen. 2002 was when Sea-Doo released their first 4-stroke engine and it had issues but today that 155HP engine I consider to be “bulletproof”. I would see if you could do a lake test on it to make sure it’s not taking on water and it takes off fine. If he had service records that would have been awesome so you could check the compression on the engine. Other then that nothing is jumping out at me for that model. I would check the oil to make sure it looks good (amber to slightly darker is fine); if it looks like a melted chocolate milkshake I would worry.

      Reply
  12. Hi your site is very informative! We are new PWC – looking to buy something for our boys to use at our cottage. They would tour occasionally with a passenger and it would be great if the machine would pull a tube or kneeboarder. We have found two waver runner vex sports 2010 with 300 hours on each. The boys are 6 foot plus 200 it’s plus. Asking price with trailer 9950 Canadian.
    Machines are freshwater only. The seller says the run fine , no compression
    Test available, The machines look very clean.
    Love your advise on these thx

    Reply
    • If they’re your first jet skis they will be fine. If you plan on doing a lot of tubing I would honestly look for something with more HP, closer to 155hp as the VX models were around 110. More HP will give you more pull power for tubing and such. 300 hours is getting up there for how old they are, but the thing that worries me is that he doesn’t have a compression test done on them. If he had them serviced they would have tested that and wrote it on a work order, that would put my mind at ease. See if he has any service records on them.

      Reply
  13. I am currently looking at purchasing two used seadoos from a guy. One is a 2012 GTI SE 155 and the other is a 2012 Wake 155. Both have around 59 hours. The owner says they have always been garage kept (the pictures seem to support this), he says they have only been used in freshwater, and that they have been continually serviced throughout the years. I still have a few reservations about buying used skis however, and was wondering if you had any insight into these particular models. Are the low hours a red flag?

    Reply
    • Nothing odd with those models, the 155HP engine is pretty much “bulletproof” if you ask me. Those hours are not low enough for me to worry about either especially if he kept it in his garage. If it was kept on the water more I would expect more hours.

      Reply
  14. I just came across a 2007 SeaDoo 215 with only 97 hours on it. Would you run away screaming? Looks great on pictures and seems to be garaged.

    I live in a country that doesn’t see a whole lot of sun, so PWC riding days are scarce and because of that, they probably don’t get too many hours.

    Reply
  15. Steven! Thank you for the resource!

    Looking at 3 machines. Understand I’ll be rebuilding superchargers on them shortly;unfortunately I have no further maintenance records, other than hrs.
    Curious your thoughts on which machine you’d go with. I weigh 200# and am going 3 seater. Ill be both riding (fast) and being pulled (knee-board?). Thank you, sir –

    2011 Sea-Doo/BRP GTX Limited IS 260 – 58 hrs – $7100
    2013 Sea-Doo/BRP RXP-X 260 – 98 hrs – $7730
    2014 Yamaha FX Cruiser SVHO – 48 hrs $9420
    Really looking to stay around the $7-$8k range unless you suggest otherwise.

    Reply
    • Since you’re going 3-seater the RXP is out of the question because its a 2-seater. You also say you’ll want to do knee-boarding so I would take the GTX Limited iS out of the mix because its tow point is not the strongest because that’s where the suspension hinges at. That leaves you with the FX Cruiser SVHO. From what you say you want to do, if I were you I would be looking for a Wake Pro from around 2014 or so – that would be the perfect machine for your needs. Or maybe an older RXT or FX HO would be perfect too.

      Reply
  16. Hi Steven.
    I’m been looking at a couple of jet skis and was wondering which is the better choice.

    2007 Yamaha VX in VGC with 85hrs on clock?
    or
    2008 Sea-Doo GTX 215 Supercharged with 167hrs on clock?
    Has rebuilt Supercharger and new jet pump.

    Thanks for any advice,

    Reply
    • The VX would be fine if you’re new to jet skis but the GTX 215 will be a lot more power and more comfortable. Plus, the GTX having the supercharger already rebuilt is a plus in my book. It really boils down if you want to go fast or want something to start off on. You can’t go wrong with either.

      Reply
  17. Awesome. Thank you. If all checks out it seems to be a good price. Would you agree? My research thus far has alerted me to low hours can be a negative if the ski was not properly serviced and as of now I have no idea if it was or was not.

    Reply
    • It’s hard for me to give an exact price without being there but I do go off what KBB Watercraft says and the cost of the trailer on top of that. Low hours don’t always mean a negative. You will get some people who buy a jet ski and only use it twice a year. So long as they serviced it when it needed it you should be fine.

      Reply
  18. I am going to sea trial a 2016 Waverunner VX HO with 38 hours tomorrow. One owner traded it in with his boat to buy a bigger boat from a boat dealer. They stated it checked out during their inspection for trade but I have not seen any paperwork regarding service. It is in good shape cosmetically and appears to have been garage kept. The boat dealership has had it in their inventory since September of 2017 and are offering it to me for 8,000. This price includes a trailer. What should I be looking for when I ride it? Visual inspection?

    Reply
    • When you ride it you want it to launch without hesitation. Make sure no alarms are going off and try different speeds to make sure it’s running fine. Check the seats and under the hull if you can for any damage. Ask the dealership to give you a copy of the check out sheet, you want to see the compression. I go over what to look for in compression testing and more in my used buyers guide here… https://www.steveninsales.com/used-jet-ski-buyers-guide/

      Reply
  19. Also looking at a Sea-Doo RXT-X 260 that I REALLY like the look of a lot! How does it compare with the FX with regards to stability? Thanks again!

    Reply
    • If it’s a 2018 RXT then it’s going to be more stable. If its 2010 to 2017 you won’t be able to tell the difference compared to an FX of similar years.

      Reply

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