It’s time to spill the beans on buying a new jet ski from a dealership.
After selling a lot of jet skis, I have compiled a list of the mistakes customers make. I’ll also list off the things you can do to get a better deal on your next jet ski.
1.It’s Not Like Buying A Car
Forget all the bad experiences you had when buying a car. Jet Ski salesman tend to be more laid back and less pushy. They’re selling a lifestyle and not something boring like a car.
One of the more common things customers would tell me when filling out paperwork would be… “that’s it?“. Car dealers take forever with paperwork, but with a jet ski, there are fewer papers to sign, and they tend to want you out the door and riding as quick as possible. There are only so many warm days, and the more people they can get out the door quickly, the more they make in that short time frame.
Jet ski salesman and dealerships strive to be not like car dealerships. They don’t like the negatives that come along with it, and many of them go out of their ways to be less pushy and easier to deal with. They know jet skis are toys and not something you need like a car.
I go more into this in my post about the common mistakes jet ski buyers make.
2.Don’t Ask For The Sales Manager
Never ask for the sales manager.
If you do, you’ll more then likely end up with a regular sales guy pretending to be the sales manager, and the real sales manager is okay with this.
I don’t know where this tactic came from, but it doesn’t work. The job of the sales manager is to make sure their sales guys are selling.
It’s in the best interest for the sales manager to not compete with their team. The Sales manager gets a cut from what the salespeople sell; if salespeople are not selling, they’re not making money.
The only way to buy from the sales manager is to go through a sales guy. Even then, these deals are rare and often on something they’ve had for a long time and want to move.
3.Email Is Your Friend
Email is the most powerful tool you have.
People are forgetful, and things happen, but email has a log of it all.
Salespeople will talk to hundreds of people in a week and having something for you both to look back on is super important when closing a deal. It keeps both parties honest and takes away the stress of face to face.
4.Get Everything In Writing
Email is your friend because you get everything in writing. It’s super important that you get your deal in writing and everything you’re getting listed out.
I would have people price shop me all the time, and the other dealership would never put the deal in writing. The other dealership never put it to writing because they knew they couldn’t hold up the deal.
The real brave ones would put it in writing, but it would be on a napkin or notepad. Then when the customer comes in to buy they back out of the deal because it does not have the dealerships letterhead on it.
I’ve seen all the tricks, but this one is the dirtiest of them all. This was more of an issue for boat shows or where dealerships tend to be close to each other. You can often find the best deals during boat shows, but you also run the risk of a dealership saying one thing and changing the next time you come to pay.
Don’t consider a deal done unless you have it in writing with the dealerships letterhead on it. Better yet, the deal is not done unless you have a bill of sale filled out and both you and the dealerships representative signed it, and you both have a copy. Of all my tips, this is the most important one.
5.You’ll Pay More During The Busy Season
I have an entire post on when is the best time to buy a jet ski here.
Since jet skis are only ridden in the warmer months, this means you’ll have more people wanting to buy them then too. With more demand, the more prices go up.
You will get the best deal possible when it’s the colder months. Most dealerships don’t even require you to take delivery until it is warmer and will keep the jet ski in the crate. Just call them up before you want to ride and you’ll start the season off right.
6.Best Time Of The Month To Buy
The best time to buy during the month is either the last week of the month or the end of the first week.
At the end of the month, the dealership will want to meet specific numbers that the manufacturer imposes on them. These dealerships are independently run but still use the manufacturer name and products so they must stay in good grace with them. One of the things the manufacturers want is to sell more watercraft, and the dealerships that do that get better benefits from the manufacturer. (Keep in mind, better benefits don’t mean a better deal on PWCs)
The other good time to buy is the first week of the month but closer to the end of that week. This is more to do with the psychology of the salesman. If the sales guy has a rough start to the month they could be more willing to sell a jet ski for cheaper then they usually do. This could also backfire if they’re having a great first week. Try to test them out and see how many have they sold so far this week. Maybe even ask for the sales guy who hasn’t sold anything this week to get a price from.
I know this last one sounds odd, but from my experiences, I found luck to be a big part of sales. Sometimes getting that one sale creates a domino effect for that sales guy so selling the first one for cheap is worth it.
7.You Can Get Better Deals On Overstocked Inventory
Every year there were a few models that everyone loved. Sometimes it was because of the color, or it simply was the best value.
Then there were a few other models that no one wanted. It was often because of the color of the PWC. Some years they have some terrible color schemes.
If you’re willing to buy overstocked models, you can often get better deals on them.
8.You Can’t Escape Some Fees
There are going to be some fees you can’t escape. Sometimes these fees are built into the price; sometimes, you get a dealership that is more transparent.
One of these fees is freight. It cost money to get a jet ski delivered to the dealership. This fee is often hidden in the price, but with the Spark and EX, this is not possible anymore. With freight costing $400 per jet ski and the markup on these models only having $200 this is not possible to hide anymore.
Another fee you can expect to pay is prep or PDI or whatever the dealership calls it when they put the PWC together. I know some will say “all they’re doing is putting the handlebars on” – it’s not that simple. It’s also not the safest job. I’ve almost lost a leg and a finger doing this job. Yes, before I sold PWCs, I also was the guy who put them together.
It can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours to assemble a jet ski correctly. Not only that but these things are only sold during the hottest days of the year; I still have the farmers tan to prove it. Of all the fees I don’t mind paying is the one to the guy who’s putting my jet ski together and is double-checking for screw-ups from the factory.
That prep fee often includes the cost of gas, fire extinguisher, programming, battery, and other little things your jet ski will need to make it water ready.
Then there is the doc fee.
That doc fee can be tricky depending on your state. This documentation fee can vary state to state depending on that’s states laws. Not only that, but those laws only count for DMV related purchases. A jet ski in most states is not under the DMV, but the trailer is. In other words, this doc fee can be anything a dealership wants it to be, or the state requires it to be. The water gets even muddier depending on the state allowing you to remove that fee or change it. Even if you don’t pay that fee, the dealership will often have to show you are paying that in some way or another. It’s crazy, but it’s also the law for some. The two people you don’t piss off is the taxman and the DMV.
The last fees that you for sure can’t get away from are the title or registration fees. These are fees imposed by the state and not the dealership. Just like your car, your jet ski needs to have a “license plate” to keep track of it in the water. (When I say license plate I mean numbers you will have to stick onto the front of the watercraft when you’re told the numbers. I have more on this in a tip further down).
9.Always Check Promotions Before Buying
Not all salespeople will do this, but if you don’t know the promotion, they might not give it to you.
It’s also important to read the fine print of the promotions too. There is usually a lot of clauses in the fine print. The advertising may say $1k* off but that “*” sign means for a select few PWCs and the one you want is not usually that machine.
10.Don’t Just Buy On Price
I know a sales guy saying not to buy on price is absurd, but I can explain.
It’s easy to boil things down to numbers because that is what we all know, but numbers can leave out many other factors you need to consider.
Things like a cover don’t come with many models, and if you’re only after price, this is something you could miss out on.
—The best deal is not how low you can go but how much you can get.—
Don’t expect a dealership to give you a bunch of stuff for free because you’re buying a jet ski. The money for accessories needs to come from somewhere. But they are more willing to give discounts when you’re buying a jet ski.
To give you an example, it’s better to pay $200 more for the jet ski and get the cover for “free” then buy a cover at the full $300 price a week later.
Most dealerships only have the basics like life jackets and covers. To see the full list of jet ski accessories I recommend click here.
11.Many Jet Ski Dealerships Are Understaffed
If a dealership mostly sells jet skis, that means no one is buying the main product they sell during the cold months.
So a dealership will either lay people off during the cold months or keep a smaller staff. Most will go with the smaller team as laying people off is not something people want in a job.
This could mean you end up not getting help right away. This is truer on Saturdays, but if you come in on a Wednesday, this is not an issue for most.
If you come in on Saturdays, I’ve always found the morning the best time. It was always around, or after lunch, that was when everyone liked to show up.
12.Only Price Shop The 3 Closest Dealers To You
You should only buy from a dealership that is near you. If something goes wrong, you want a dealership by your side, and if you purchased somewhere that was 6 hours away they won’t care about your issues.
The good news is that some of the dealerships that border each other often don’t like each other. This is not always the case, some are excellent friends, but friends still will go behind your back if they need to.
To get the best price possible you’ll need to price shop the 3 closest dealers. Keep in mind my point before, don’t just buy on price but also factor in getting the accessories you need too. Let’s not forget how much it cost to get it serviced and there hourly rate for service. It’s better to get the whole picture when it comes to price.
Something I noticed about price shoppers was there lack of sharing the quotes from other dealerships. It’s kind of funny because every dealership pays the same price for each model. The reason why you would want to share as much as you can about the quote is to make sure the other dealership is not doing something funny.
They could be confusing you into thinking you’re getting one model, but in fact, you’re getting something of lesser value, and that is why the price is cheaper. Or you could get a dealership that hasn’t put anything in writing and is just spitting off numbers which just so happen to be not the real number you’ll pay when taking delivery. This brings us back to the point of getting everything in writing.
To be clear, not every dealership is evil. I just want to make sure I cover all the bases.
13.Dealer Invoice Is Less Then You Think
Some models will only have a $200 mark up. The most expensive models will have a lot more than that.
Keep this in mind when negotiating the price for a jet ski.
The real magic is rebates from the factory, that is how you get the most money off. Leftover models will have the highest discounts while current year models may have none. This is why it’s great to buy a jet ski after the new models have come out or before the season starts.
14.Most Dealerships Don’t Control Financing Rates Or Terms
The most common financing is from the manufacturer itself. The manufacturer will partner with a lender and to make deals attractive they’ll buy the rates down.
The bad thing about this is that the dealership won’t have a say in the rates or even how long you can go.
This is another way jet ski dealers differ from car dealers. A car dealership is more likely to use a local bank and will have more control over the financing options.
Just like rebates and promotions, financing deals change too. Though it’s often less dramatic.
One interesting thing I’ve noticed was that the rates and terms that the manufacturer offered were usually better then a customer could get on their own. The bad news is that the manufacturers financing options were more strict.
A jet ski is considered more of a toy where your car is considered is a need to get you to work so you can pay off the car.
15.Don’t Forget Your First Service
The most important service your jet ski will need is it’s first.
The first service gets rid of the metal micro shards that a new engine generates. The engine is literally “breaking” in, but that is normal. But you need to get that first service and get it done when the owners manual recommends.
Not only that but the techs check everything over to make sure it broke in properly.
Far too many people forget to do their first service or don’t realize it’s —not— included. Many dealerships often charge more for the first service because of the extra steps they need to take to make sure everything is okay.
I know this sounds “salesy” and a cash grab, but it really is crucial. This first service is super important to perform especially since all jet ski engines are high performance and highly tuned.
16.You Can Only Use Your Credit Card Up To A Certain Amount… Maybe.
I do it too; I use my credit card for everything to get the points. I’ve had many people who would want to put their new jet ski on a credit card to get the points.
The problem is that those points don’t come from nowhere, its the dealership paying for them.
With many credit card processors taking 3% or more for the transactions, this can eat away at the profit margins of most jet skis. This is no big deal for gas stations and other small price items as they have more margins, but jet skis don’t share the same attractive margins.
17.Don’t Forget To Ask About Delivery!
Jet Skis don’t come with trailers, so you mustn’t forget how you’re getting the thing home.
If you live on the water, don’t forget about asking what it cost to drop in. Some dealerships are not near water and will often charge if you have not worked something out or live further away from there usual drop-in point.
18.Test Drives Are Tricky
As talked about in the section above, many dealerships are not located near water. This makes test drives very hard and often something a dealership can’t do on the spot.
When buying a car, it’s apart of the process to test drive the vehicle before buying. This is easy with cars because they’re all ready to go on the lot and the road is next to the dealership.
For a jet ski, they come in crates and are stacked up to maximize space. With space being key, the units don’t come out of the crate unless they’re sold. This keeps the jet skis pristine, which most customers want.
Another tidbit about test drives is that the dealership might not have the exact model you want to drive. What dealerships usually have are demo models. The smart dealerships have a demo for each category to give you an idea of the ride.
If you want to do a test drive, the best thing to do is call or email ahead of time.
Make sure to follow your local dealership on Facebook or their website as many of them do special test driving events. This is the best way to see what watercraft suits your needs as they usually have one of each category.
I honestly wouldn’t worry too much about test driving. It’s better to sit on a jet ski in the showroom for 15 minutes to see how your body takes to it. The only thing you’re missing is the bouncing of the waves at that point. Since you’re not on the water, you don’t have to worry about your surroundings so you can focus more on the PWC. As for power, they’re all fast, especially if you never rode one before. Doing 30mph on a jet ski feels like 80mph in your car because you don’t have a metal cage around you.
19.Buy Demo Models
What manufacturers do is allow a dealership to have a few demo models. The manufacturer will discount these models, which are any model from the dealer’s inventory they want to use.
The dealership is not allowed to sell these models for a set period of time to keep them from demoing all their inventory. This period often lasts for several months.
While some demo models will have dings in them, they’re going to be the best deal you can get. The engine is often all ready broke in, and hopefully, the dealership did the first service and if they haven’t make sure it’s apart of the deal. It’s a current year model, and you can get them for a better deal then something fresh out the crate.
The only drawback is that you don’t get any other promotions with it and the warranty on it has already started but the hours on them are not always that crazy. People who test ride them only do so for 5 to 15 minutes; many people are new to jet skis and don’t spend a lot of time on them on a test ride. And if the dealership is not right on the water the hours on a demo model can be super low.
20.When You Do Buy Allow Them To Get The Jet Ski Ready
The jet skis come in crates and often sideways.
Most dealerships like to keep the jet skis in the crates for as long as possible as this keeps them clean and they’re already in storage mode.
You’ll need to allow the dealership to get the jet ski ready. They need to not only assemble the parts that are not on but go over all the systems to make sure everything is safe.
This process can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. The best thing to do is pick a day for delivery so that everyone is on the same page.
This is something where jet ski dealers and car dealers defer from. With a car, it’s all ready to go on the lot, and you can take it home the same day. With a jet ski, some assembly is required, and final safety checks are needed before taking it home.
21.Cash Is Not King
Cash is great, but to a dealership, it’s no different than a finance company wiring money over the very next day.
If anything, a dealership might hate cash because it requires more work. You have to count the money, take it to the bank, and worry about some of it being fake.
When it comes to a check, this solves the cash problem, but even that has its issues.
Overall, don’t expect a dealership to give you a better deal because you use cash.
To them, it’s all the same.
22.Don’t Forget Jet Ski Insurance!
There are quite a few states or countries that don’t require insurance on your jet ski but you would be a fool for not getting it.
If you plan on letting others ride your jet ski, you need to have Insurance, and you also need to have it to protect you from the crazy people on the water.
Plus, it’s not that expensive to get jet ski insurance.
23.Start and Check Over The Jet Ski Before Taking Delivery
This one may seem obvious, but in the moment you’ll be so excited to drive your new jet ski you may forget to have someone show you how to drive it.
Make sure you have your salesperson show you how to start and drive the watercraft. You can easily learn this while on the trailer. I also have a video that goes over some of the general stuff here.
Also, make sure they show you how to launch and board a trailer with your jet ski. I have a guide on this here if they don’t show you.
24.Keep The Bill Of Sale When You Ride
Just like your car has a license plate, boats have the same thing, but they’re hull numbers.
Your local state may be behind issuing out new numbers, so it’s advised you keep a copy of your bill of sale in your PWC. It’s also very important the date of purchase is visible on the bill of sale.
Tip: Get a dry box like this one here to keep the copy of your bill of sale in so water doesn’t ruin it. Plus, you can keep your phone in it too.
Since your new watercraft doesn’t have numbers yet it’s more likely to get pulled over. This goes way up if you look young too.
If you get pulled over show them a copy of the bill of sale and tell them you just bought the watercraft. The water police will check the date to make sure you’re within the allowed time frame and have you on your way.
Note: Most dealerships don’t put the numbers on for you or physically supply them; the state will only tell you what the numbers are. This is mostly because its the state you’re dealing with, and all the dealership does is submit the info. You’ll need to buy numbers, avoid mailbox numbers as they’re not big or thick enough.
25.Check Trailer Bunks
I used to be the guy in the back of the shop that would put jet skis and trailers together.
Trailers don’t come assembled; sometimes they can be more complicated than the jet skis.
Trailers are like giant erectors sets, and since they go on the road, they need to be built to standards.
Since every jet ski is different, this means bunks (the thing the jet ski sits on) need to be set up for them. Every jet ski has chines which are grooves on the underside of the craft that help with control. It’s best not to allow the craft to sit on these chines; there should be a place for the bunks to sit comfortably without resting on them. Some trailers can be difficult to work with, but my personal opinion is to avoid having the jet ski chines rest on the bunks. You can often tell it’s not resting right if the jet ski sits crooked on the trailer.
The other important point of the trailer is the front where it hooks to the jet ski. This area has a ratchet for pulling the PWC onto the trailer. You’ll want to make sure the strap is in good shape and not frayed. The bumper on the trailer that stops the jet ski from moving forward needs to be above where you hook to the bow hook but below the nose. Any lower and the jet ski could go over, too high and you damage the nose bumper of the jet ski.
That whole system where the front ratchet sits should be moveable, I say should because the older trailers are not. This is how you adjust the weight of the nose of the trailer. The more forward the jet ski sits, the heavier the tongue. You want to have about 10 pounds on the nose of the trailer with the jet ski sitting on it.
You must get this right while taking delivery because the dealership will have all the tools on the ready to make it easy.
It’s better to have a little more weight then you feel comfortable on the nose then to have the nose too light. I’ve had many jet ski trailers smack me in the face because it was too tongue light. Not only that, but the less weight on the tongue means the trailer is bouncing more on the ball of your vehicle and just the right hit could knock it loose.
It’s almost a balancing act to find the best weight, so that is why before you leave the dealership, you should have them adjusting the trailer for safe travels.
Please feel free to ask me any question about buying a new jet ski in the comments below.
If you’re considering buying a used jet ski I have a guide for you here.