You probably came in looking for how to buy a jet ski, or ways to get the best deal on a jet ski, or maybe to learn the tricks that jet ski salesmen play to overcharge you on one?
If you did then you came to the right place. I will talk about all the mistakes you make when buying a jet ski to make you a more informed buyer.
The Number One Mistake
I want to start off with the number one mistake that most people make when buying a watercraft… it’s not like buying a car.
Forget about all the bad experiences and all the horrible things you’ve heard about how or what car salesman do.
Hey! I just release my 25 tips for buying a new jet ski. If you’re in the market for a new jet ski you’ve got to give this a read.
A car dealership can sell you a car at dealer invoice and still make money. If a jet ski dealership sold you a jet ski at dealer invoice, they will soon be out of business. One of the reasons for this is because cars are shipped ready to go, besides removing some cosmetic pieces. Jet ski’s on the other hand, are shipped in crates and do to them needing to be compressed will require the jet ski to be assembled.
A dealership will have to pay someone to get the units out of the crate, not easy work, especially since jet skis are sold during the hottest days of the year. Moreover, some jet ski manufacturers don’t even ship a battery with the units and if they do ship one it doesn’t have the fluid nor is it charged. A “good” battery will cost you anywhere from $100 to $300, so don’t be surprised if a dealer charges a prep or doc fee to help with this cost.
Also, don’t be surprised if a watercraft dealership charges you freight, especially on the lower price models. It costs money to get anything shipped these days. The manufacturer ships the units in crates to protect them in transit on semi-trucks. Just like when you buy anything on Amazon you get charged shipping, so does the dealership with jet skis. You might be wondering why can’t the dealership just absorb the cost of shipping? They can’t, which leads me to my next point.
In the world of 40% off to even some places with 80% in retail stores, people seem to think that jet ski dealers have great markup.
The fact is that people like to feel like they’re winning, and seeing signs that say 50% off makes people feel like they got a good deal. The problem is that this places a wrong mindset for people, and they think everything has at least a 40% markup, especially luxury items like watercraft.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good deal myself, but you must realize that everything doesn’t have a great markup. Don’t be off-put if a jet ski dealership charges you freight, since some jet skis may only have a $200 markup, while it costs the dealership $500 to get it shipped there.
Yes, you read that right, some jet skis only have a $200 markup, with 6% margins being about average on new jet skis. You can’t run a dealership on $200, especially if it costs $500 to get the unit to your store.
2020 And Newer
This article was written in 2015 and 5 years later a few things have changed.
The market went crazy in 2020, 2021 and 2022 with everyone stuck at home due to the events of the time. Jet skis were being sold like crazy and manufacturers struggled to keep up.
This caused prices to go up and many people were paying full price and then some. I talk more about the current pricing and what to do about buying a new jet ski in my 2024 Sea-Doo vs Yamaha vs Kawasaki post.
The Best Time to Buy
Finding the best time to buy can affect markup. Throughout the year, manufacturers will come out with various rebates to help lower the prices of the units. You can always find the rebates on the manufacturer’s website, and they’re usually dealership direct rebates, meaning the dealership will subtract the rebate from the machine when you buy.
The good news is that you can save more money by getting rebates. The bad news is that usually rebates are only given at the end of the season or on leftover models. In the summer, most dealerships have sold out of all the prior year models.
So, the best time to buy a jet ski is the worst time to ride one, but you still get some deals in the summer. For example, the manufacturer may give some extra warranty or promotional financing.
Tip: if a manufacturer gives you an option of either a rebate or extra warranty, always go with the extra warranty. The money you save with the rebate will never be as good as the dollar value of the warranty.
Financing a Jet Ski is Different From a Car
A little trick that car dealers have is to make some extra money off the financing. Jet ski dealerships usually get their financing from the manufacturer and make no extra money off the deal.
What happens is that a manufacturer will team up with a bank to buy down their rates on watercraft. These rates are different for different parts of the states, but they run lower for people that qualify.
So, the dealership doesn’t get to choose the rates or the terms, but merely acts like a middleman for the bank and the customer. The rates that are usually offered are sometimes better than going somewhere else to get the same loan because the manufacturer buys down the rates.
Also, keep in mind that getting approved for a jet ski is a lot harder than getting approved for a car. A car is seen as a must-have for your daily life, while a jet ski is more of a toy. As the bank sees it, if you lose your job, the first thing you’ll stop paying on is all your toys.
I created a financing calculator here, so you can play with the numbers to see if you can afford the monthly payments on a jet ski.
Do You Get A Discount For Paying With Cash?
Financing a watercraft and paying cash (check) is the same for the dealership.
The only difference is that the money from financing might take a day or two for the dealership to get. So getting the money today vs tomorrow is not a huge advantage to most dealerships.
Also, cash is messy. You got to count it, trust the people counting it don’t steal or miscount, and you have to take it to the bank, which may be the next day anyway. And with government regulations, you need to report actual cash you get over a certain amount and the extra paperwork is not always ideal for the dealership. Walking in with a wad of cash is not a great motivator, unless it was the dead of winter, and they haven’t seen a customer in 3 days.
Can You Pay With A Credit Card?
I do it too; I like getting those points from my credit card. I often get people asking if they can pay with a credit card so that they can get the points or the cashback offers that their credit card company gives them.
Most dealerships will have a cap or a certain amount they’ll allow for you to use a credit card for. Many dealerships might not even allow credit cards for a big purchase like a jet ski.
Why can’t you use a credit card?
Well, the margins are not great on watercraft as I showed early in this post and that cashback or points you get is paid by the dealership to the credit card companies. That is where the money comes from to pay for your points, and most dealerships can’t afford to eat that cost.
To give you an example, many credit card processors will charge the dealership a 2% fee to use them. So if you buy a jet ski that is $10,000 it will cost the dealership $200 just for that one purchase. With some watercraft only having a $200 markup, that eats away at all the profit. If using a credit card is preferred, then talk to the dealer about it and see what they can do, sometimes they’ll allow it if you pay the processing fee.
Don’t Compare Used Prices To New Prices
I’m surprised that I even have to add this, but it does happen. You find a prior year model watercraft (new 0 hours – never been registered) and your local dealer gives you a price. To make sure you’re getting a good deal, you go online to NADA (now J.D. Power) to see what price it should be and see that the dealership is thousands more than what J.D. Power says.
The reason why you don’t use J.D. Power to tell you what price you should be paying for your NEW jet ski is that J.D. Power is there to tell you what price you should pay for a USED jet ski. Just because the jet ski is a leftover model does not mean it’s USED. The leftover model is still NEW, since it has no hours on it and the warranty has not started.
If the unit was actually used than J.D. Power would be a great tool for getting a price on a unit, but if a dealership has a leftover model that’s never been registered than J.D. Power would not be a fair way to get a price. YOU WILL NEVER FIND A NEW UN-REGISTERED JET SKI WITH ZERO HOURS ON IT FOR J.D. Power PRICE. J.D. Power IS ONLY FOR USED.
This is another one that people compare jet ski dealers to car dealers – test drives. All the cars that a car dealership gets in are all ready to go, and you can easily take anyone you like out before you buy. You’ll be a fool not to.
This is not so easily done with watercraft. It’s nothing for you to hop in a car and take it down the road, but with a jet ski you need water and most dealerships are not on the water.
Also, watercraft dealers don’t have one of every unit ready to go. It’s better for the dealership to keep the units in the crates, since that is the best way to keep it clean and pristine for its new owner. Would you rather have a jet ski that’s fresh in the crate or one that many people have been on running around and crashing into docks since it’s their first time out? I’m sure you want the one in the crate, since it has not been in the water.
The good news is that some dealerships will have demo models they will let you ride. The bad news is that they may not have the exact machine you’re looking for in demo status. Most dealerships can’t afford to have one of each machine in demo status, so they may have one or maybe two that you can ride.
Some dealerships will do events that allow you to take a demo machine out during a “demo days”. Call up your local dealership and see when they do these events. If you can’t make it to a demo event, then call ahead and talk to a salesperson to set up a time to ride. Don’t get mad if you walk in, and they can’t do a test ride that day. Find a time and place that works for both of you.
This is also when you should trust your salesman, since they more than likely have ridden every model and can help you find the correct machine to fit your needs. You may not even need to test ride a jet ski after talking to your salesman and having them put you in the correct machine. Make sure you sit on the machine and tell the salesman all the features you’re looking for, and I’m sure they will find you the correct machine without either of you having to get wet.
They Get Busy
If you ever worked with the public, you’ll know that one minute you’ll be bored with no customers coming in and the next you’ll be super busy. Jet ski dealerships are the same, and it’s worse in the summer.
Sometimes you’ll go to the dealership and everyone is busy and helping another person. Don’t worry. These things happen and to be honest, in about an hour it will probably be slow again – unless it’s a Saturday or Friday in the afternoon, as those will be busy until it’s time to go home.
The best thing to do to beat the rush of people and to make sure you get helped and have your questions answered is to email the dealership first. The perks of emailing is that everything is in writing, so if you strike up a deal, then you’re good to go. Also, with email, they can answer your questions better by linking to things like video’s or attach a PDF of current promotions. I do still recommend going to the dealership and looking/sitting on the machines to get a feel for them.
Often enough, Mondays through Thursday’s are slow or just steady. Those are the best days to check out jet skis.
Not Buying the Correct Gear
You’ll be surprised by what dealers won’t tell you when it comes to the correct riding gear. I created the 23+ must have accessories for Jet Skis to help you get started on riding your new watercraft.
Don’t forget you’ll need to wear the proper riding gear, I go over why that’s important.
If you’re in the market to buy a new jet ski, I have 25 more tips to help you in the process.