Buying a used Jet Ski is a lot different from buying a used car or really anything used. There are somethings that you should be aware of when buying a used watercraft that could help with the decision of buying used.
2-Stroke- The number one thing you want to do is avoid 2-stroke jet skis. I know there is a lot of people who would say otherwise but the fact is that 2-Strokes are dying breed. Parts are getting harder to find and many shops refuse to work on them because of the parts issue. The main reason why 2-Strokes are dying off is that they were very polluting to the water and air and these watercraft can’t meet the regulations on most lakes and bodies of water so manufacturers had stop making them. The idea of 2-strokes were great, the engines were smaller and lighter so they could make the ski cheaper and more playful. The best way to spot a 2-stroke if you can’t tell by looking at the engine is by taking a look at the back of the boat where the VIN is located. The VIN on every boat has the year as the last 2 digits, so a 1998 model will be 98 or a 2001 will be 01. 4-Strokes started coming out in 2002 so you would be best finding a ski not older than that but keep in mind that they still had 2-strokes made up to 2007 and even some manufacturers like Yamaha still have a stand jet ski that uses a 2 stroke to this very day. So after checking the VIN for the year the next and probably the next-best way to determine if its a 2-stroke or a 4-stroke is to look for a dip-stick, only 4-strokes will have a dip-stick.
Hours- When buying a jet ski you may see that someone has listed the hours and you might be wondering what is a good amount of hours? Most people will say that a ski with over a 100 is too much but really its not. Hours really don’t matter to be honest with you, when I say this I don’t mean that a ski with 1000 hours doesn’t matter because at that point the ski is really worn out. It really doesn’t matter how many hours you have on the machine, I’ve seen ski’s with 500 hours that still run great and I’ve also seen skis with 30 hours that are blown up and need a new engine.
So long as the ski was taken care of then the hours don’t really matter but could help gauge if the ski is worth the investment. If the Jet Ski has over 100 hours and has no dings in the fiberglass then thats a good sign that they loved riding the machine but when they did ride they made sure to take care of it. Its all about how people took care of the machine that really matters and the way you can tell will be listed in the next part.
Appearance- Appearance is everything when it comes to buying a used Jet Ski but it might be surprising what you should look out for. You want to look for the obvious things like dings in the fiberglass and holes in the hull but just because the ski is oxidized does not mean its not a good ski. A oxidized ski does mean that the previous owner never really covered it and this does not determine that they never took care of the engine which is the most important part. The biggest give away is how the seats look, if the seats are cracking than the ski has some wear to it and could help with negotiations because a new seat skin can cost a few hundred dollars. I really won’t focus too much on appearance, I know I’ll get a lot of beef for saying this but its really whats on the inside that counts here. You can always wax the ski to new condition but its hard to wax the engine to new condition if its in bad shape.
Engine- The engine is really what matters along with the pump too. To tell if a engine is good or not you really need to do a compression test and some other advance testing but there is some test you can do to see if its good or not without whipping out the tools. The biggest thing I check for is corrosion or flaking of the paint on the engine. If you see a heavy amount of rust, to where the whole engine is covered, and paint peeling then that means its spent a lot of time in salt water. Simply put salt water is bad, it corrodes everything and boats from salt water that were never protected sometimes end up with electrical issues. I would avoid heavy corrosion but please keep in mind that some corrosion is normal and to be expected. To really get to know if the engine and pump is good its best to put it in the water and ride it. The jet ski should get you on plane really fast when you go full throttle and if you experience some hesitation like its trying to grab then it might have pump problems. If anything major is wrong with the engine or pump you’ll know as it just won’t feel right and if you don’t have the warm fuzzy feelings than its best to walk away from it.
Even after checking a jet ski out and you still can’t decide to buy or not then its best to get your local dealer involved and have them check it out. Your local dealer can tell you things that can’t see like the last few minutes of run time and how hard it was run for. A dealer can even spot things that they know can cause problems, so always consult your local dealer for inspecting a jet ski out before buying.