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Used Jet Ski Buyers' Guide

Dec 13, 2021 12:31:31 PM

Summer is here again, which means it’s almost time for peak jet ski season. That’s great news for people hoping to buy a jet ski of their own.

With new models released annually, there are always plenty of options available. However, if you love getting out on the water but can’t afford anything new, you can buy a used jet ski instead. It’s the next best thing for water sports lovers on a budget. Still, finding the perfect second-hand jet ski isn’t always plain sailing.

There’s a lot you’ll need to know if you want to get a good product for the right price. Thankfully, this guide has all the details, tips, and tricks you could need. Here’s everything we’ll cover: To jump to a section simply click on the link below.


Jet Ski or Personal Watercraft: The Terminology

When you shop for a jet ski, you’ll probably spot the term personal watercraft or PWC floating about. Often, the two names are used interchangeably. However, "personal watercraft" may also refer to other types of watercraft that are used for recreation and leisure.

To help clear things up for you, this is what the terminology means:

PWCs:

A PWC is a small watercraft that you stand on rather than sit in. So, they’re not like standard boats. The term itself covers a wide variety of different brands and crafts and are often known by several different names.


Jet Skis:

Originally, “Jet Ski” was the term used specifically to refer to Kawasaki’s branded PWCs. Now, though, it is the term most people use to discuss PWCs generally.

Sea-Doos:

Sea-Doos are a much-loved brand of PWC in Australia and abroad. They often win awards for their models, including a “Watercraft of the Year” award for the 2021 Sea-Doo GTI.


WaveRunners:

These are Yamaha’s brand of PWC. And, just like Sea-Doos, they are internationally renowned and frequent recipients of “Watercraft of the Year” awards.

This article will be all about helping you find the right PWC. But, we will use the term “used jet ski” throughout to align with what people most commonly call them.

Finding the Right Jet Ski for You

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So, now to think about finding your ideal used jet ski (or PWC). Before you begin shopping, you need to decide what type of used jet ski you want. Below you’ll find information on the many different types and specifications available.

Sit Down Jet Skis Vs. Stand Up Jet Skis

Sit down jet skis and stand up jet skis are the two main categories you need to know about. Kawasaki’s stand-up Jet Skis were the first to hit the market back in 1976, and sit-down models followed suit in the next decade. Aside from necessitating a different driving technique, the key difference between them is how easy they are to handle.

A stand up model will usually be more difficult to handle than its sit down counterparts. But, they also tend to be faster and more agile. And, riders of stand up jet skis can perform tricks that sit downs simply cannot. So, they’re great for experienced solo skiers.

For those who have little previous jet ski experience, sit downs are ideal. They are typically much easier to handle and smoother on the water. They’re also ideal for taking family or friends out, while stand up skis can only take one passenger at a time. However, they are bigger and more difficult to maintain, so keep that in mind come decision time.

Two-Stroke Vs. Four-Stroke Jet Skis

When you find a used jet ski for sale, it will have one of two types of engine: a two-stroke or a four-stroke. Two-strokes were the standard for many years until four-stroke models entered the market in the early 2000s.

Nowadays, the only consumer models still in production are 4-stroke jet skis. Still, older two-strokes continue to circulate amongst second-hand buyers and sellers.

The reason why two-stroke jet skis have faded into near-obscurity is that they are far less fuel-efficient. They consume fuel twice as fast as two-stroke engines and, as such, are a major polluter. July 1, 2020, was the last day Aussies could purchase one brand new following changes to the country’s emissions laws.

Four-strokes have other advantages. As well as being more environmentally friendly, they are also quieter, more durable, and more modern. So, if you wanted a newer model, a four-stroke is the way to go.

The easiest way to tell whether a jet ski has a four-stroke or a two-stroke engine is by looking under the hood. If there’s a dipstick on the top of the engine, then it’s a four-stroke. To make certain, look to see whether it says “4-Tec” on the dipstick or elsewhere on the ski.

Should I Buy a Used Two-Stroke or Four-Stroke Used Jet Ski?

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It is, of course, entirely up to you which engine you opt for. But, just keep in mind that it will be easier to find used jet ski parts for four-stroke engines. Finding shops to service a four-stroke will also be more straightforward as the two-strokes are phased out. In other words, four-strokes are the future, which means a more modern driving experience and easier post-purchase maintenance.

To Supercharge or Not to Supercharge?

If you want a fast ride, you might want to consider a supercharged jet ski. All of the major manufacturers produce supercharged models. While their top speeds aren’t much higher than non-supercharged skis, they are more powerful and much quicker off the mark. So, going full throttle with some models is exhilarating.

Unfortunately, though, used supercharged jet skis are a lot more expensive than non supercharged models. They also have a much higher chance of breaking down, especially if they aren’t properly looked after. So, you have to be particularly savvy when buying a supercharged ski that is used.

Two-Seater or Three-Seater?

The standard capacity of a sit-down jet ski is three people. Two-person skis are less common, although they are lighter and less expensive. However, they aren’t very spacious, so squeezing two people onto the seat is likely to be uncomfortable.

Three-person capacity used jet skis are much easier both to shop for and to ride in groups. As such, they’re far more convenient for parents who want to take the kids out, not to mention comfy. So-called “one-seater” jet skis are also an option, but that’s just another name for a used stand up jet ski.

What Hull?

A jet ski’s hull is its body without the seat, engine, and other machinery. The type you’ll need will largely depend on the conditions you plan to use your used jet ski in. For example, if you want to use it in rough, choppy water, you’ll require a long and heavy hull. Both light and heavy hulls are fine to use on smooth waters.

Different manufacturers offer different hull designs with different names. So, it’s worth asking each seller you talk to about the hull. They’ll have a better insight into their used jet ski’s hull and how it performs in different environments.

What Jet Ski Brand should you buy?

It is recommended that you shop for models from the three primary PWC brands: Kawasaki, Sea-Doo, and Yamaha. Even if you’re buying a used jet ski, purchasing a popular model from a reputed brand will make life easier. Parts, repairs, and information will all be more accessible.

Kawasaki Jet Skis

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While Kawasaki skis are the originals, the brand doesn’t offer the widest range. Their models are, however, consistently some of the most powerful on the market. This includes their most recent ULTRA 310LX Supercharged Jet Ski, released earlier in 2021. Many also come complete with built-in speakers, a marine GPS unit, and a spacious storage unit for life jackets.

Kawasaki Jet Skis are some of the most expensive on the market. Current prices start from $14,999 for new models. Of course, what you need to know is how much a Kawasaki jet ski costs. The answer here is less clear-cut because it depends on the seller and the condition of the ski.           Typically, though, they will still be more expensive than similar models from different brands.

Sea-Doo Jey Skis

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Sea-Doo, on the other hand, is well-known for its reasonably priced water skis. The Spark, which is its cheapest new model, was priced at just $7999 in 2021. While costs are set to rise in the new year, Sea-Doo skis are still the cheapest of the big three brands.

In addition, you can find Sea-Doo jet skis for specific purposes. So, if you’re planning on taking your used jet ski out for pull sports, Sea-Doo caters to your needs. As such, they’re highly sought after, especially with new riders. While this speaks to their quality, it also makes it harder to buy used Sea-Doo jet skis on the second-hand market.

Yamaha Jet Skis

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Speaking of reliability, Yamaha’s jet skis are renowned for their longevity and hardiness. So, when you buy a used Yamaha jet ski, you can feel confident in the quality. Still, always remember to make allowances for the previous owners. Even the toughest used jet skis won’t survive reckless, inattentive owners.

The cheapest Yamaha jet ski model was priced at $8499 in 2021, while the most expensive was $26,199. They will, of course, cost less used, meaning there are Yamaha used jet skis to suit every budget.

8 Top Tips to Buy Used Jet Ski

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Now that you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to think about the buying process. To help you find the best used jet ski for the money, we’ve rounded up eight indispensable tips. From buying a good model from a reputable seller to carrying out essential checks, this is everything you need to know about the process.

1. Find the Right Seller

Used jet skis aren’t cheap, so ensure you buy from someone trustworthy. You can do so by checking out the seller’s reputation online. If they have poor reviews or no reviews at all, it’s probably best to look elsewhere.

A good private seller should be open to answering the buyer’s questions and accommodating reasonable requests. If, for example, a seller refuses to let you do a thorough inspection, that could suggest there’s something wrong. Or, if they don’t let you see the service records and other appropriate documentation, that’s a clear red flag.

2. Ask About Servicing

Speaking of service records, it is essential that you know all there is to know about your used jet ski’s service history. So, as well as checking the maintenance records, ask the owner whether they’ve carried out any of their own repairs. You should be wary if they tell you they’ve completed any big fixes themselves unless they’re a professional jet ski mechanic.

When you assess a used jet ski’s service history, you also need to consider whether it’s received adequate upkeep. Ask how often the ski has been serviced, what sorts of repairs were required, and whether any parts have been replaced. The answers you get should tell you how well the owner took care of their watercraft.

3. Ask About the Trailer

Many used jet skis are sold with trailers. But, the price of a used jet ski for sale often won’t include the cost of the jet ski trailer. As a result, a lot of second-hand jet ski buyers are caught out when confronted with the additional cost. Given that a jet ski trailer will typically add between $1,500 to $2,000 to the price, that can be a big shock.

So, make sure you ask each private seller you approach whether the jet ski comes with a trailer. If it does, inquire about the cost before making any promises. And, if possible, test the trailer out during the viewing. Ideally, you should be able to easily manoeuvre the jet ski onto and off the trailer. See also whether you can lift the trailer from the neck or drawbar with one hand.

4. Jet Ski Hours

It’s important to think about the engine hours of a used jet ski before you put any money down. If you don’t, you could end up with a ski that has been overused and, resultantly, underperforms for you.

It is widely accepted that the average owner will use their jet ski for around 30 hours a year. So, if you buy a three-year-old used jet ski, aim to find one that's done around 90 engine hours. If you buy one that’s done too many hours it will reach the end of its jet ski engine lifespan faster. Generally speaking, a four-stroke jet ski will do between 300 and 500 engine hours.

If you want a jet ski that’s sure to last a long time, aim to find one that’s done less than 50 engine hours. Up to 100 hours is still good, while up to 200 is less desirable but still okay. Any more than that and you’re unlikely to get your money’s worth. That is unless the used jet ski in question has been maintained impeccably.

5. Checks to Carry Out

The main attraction of a used jet ski is how much value you get for the relatively low price. Unfortunately, though, not all used jet skis are what they seem. To avoid wasting your money, there are a few checks you should carry out when you view the vehicle.

Engine Oil

To check the oil in the used jet ski’s engine, remove the dipstick. If there is no oil at all, that probably means it’s ended up in the hull, which is a bad sign. Or, if the oil comes out a dark chocolate colour, there is probably water in the engine. Either of these outcomes should be a dealbreaker.

Amber is the ideal colour because it shows that the oil has been changed recently. It may also come out completely black. This just means you need to get the oil changed yourself as soon as possible. However, if the seller promised you they’d already done it, black engine oil might suggest they’re untrustworthy.

Battery

Jet ski batteries generally don’t last much longer than a few years. So, ask each seller when they last had the battery replaced. If it hasn’t been replaced in over four years, negotiate to try and get the cost taken off the price. They start at around $100 a pop but cost you more than $400, depending on the type you need.

It’s always worth checking the battery yourself to make sure the seller isn’t lying to you. Have a look at the sticker to find out how old the battery really is. You should also look to see if there are any screw-on red, yellow, or green caps. Batteries with caps will be of lower quality and are unlikely to last more than a couple of years.

Rust

Rust can be a killer. So, carry out a thorough inspection to make sure there are no signs of it on the used jet ski you buy. Rust in the engine bay can be a particularly bad sign. So is a lot of paint flaking off the engine. While it may not have caused any technical issues yet, rust means corrosion. As such, it can cause electrical problems further down the line.

Also, check to see if there’s any rust on the screws or excessive rusting on the hull. This is a sign that the jet ski hasn’t been taken care of properly. It tells you that the previous owner has probably used it in saltwater and not washed it off. Over time, saltwater can begin to eat away at the metal.

Compression

Compression testing is the best way to find out what condition the jet ski engine is in. However, unless you have the right tools and prior experience, this is a job for the experts. Ask to have the jet ski inspected at a local dealership or service shop. They will carry out a compression test for you using a compression gauge. If they find that one or more of the pistons has 15% less compression than the others, do not go through with the deal. The same applies when any of the pistons are below 100 PSI. This is a sign of low compression.

6. Ask for a Dealer Demonstration

By “dealer demonstration”, we don’t mean watching the previous owner head out for a ride while you watch. Rather, you should ask them to walk you through all you need to know about their used jet ski. They will likely demonstrate locking and unlocking, starting, flushing, and latching the jet ski from the trailer.

Make sure you take a notepad and pen to viewings or make notes on your phone. Even though the instructions might seem self-explanatory, it’s easy to forget those all-important small details.

7. Go for a Test Ride

Water testing a used jetski is essential. There’s no better way to assess its performance from start to finish. Test rides are also a good way to find out how you feel when you ride the ski. After all, a used jet ski is an investment, so it’s important that you’re happy when you water test it. As such, if a seller refuses to let you water test the jet ski before purchase, walk away.

Take note of how responsive the jet ski is, how fast it takes off, and whether it can maintain RPMs north of 7,000 at full throttle. You should also keep an eye out for warning lights and be mindful of anything that doesn’t feel quite right. You must ask the seller about these before progressing with negotiations.

8. Think About Financing a Used Jet Ski

Before buying a jet ski, whether it's an expensive jet ski, new or used, you need to think about financing. Used jet ski prices vary considerably, so there is no average cost to aim for. Just as with a new jet ski, the make and model will factor in, but, unlike a new jet ski, so will the age and condition.

Keep in mind that used jet skis are still expensive. So, the ideal solution is to take out a loan. You'll have to do this through a third-party agency when buying a used jet ski from a private seller. Thankfully, there are some great options out there.

Ausloans can help you find the perfect finance solution for your circumstances from a panel of over 40 lenders. Its Gold Coast Marine service is quick, convenient, and packed full of the best deals available for used jet skis and other PWCs. All you have to do is complete a two-minute application form and let Ausloans work its magic.

Used Jet Ski Insurance

Don't forget about jet ski insurance. This should cover personal injuries, accidents, and theft, as well as any optional extras you might need. You can also get jet ski insurance to cover "lay-up" months when the ski isn't in use. Whatever type of cover you opt for in the end, just make sure you factor the cost into your budget.

Frequently Asked Questions

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There's a lot to know about buying a used jet ski and people often have questions. Here's the answer to some of the most commonly asked.

How Much Is a Used Jet Ski?

You will pay less for a used jet ski than a brand new model. Prices start at a few thousand dollars but can be much higher depending on the make, model, and condition. Make sure to factor in the price of jet ski accessories when you buy.

Where to Buy a Used Jet Ski?

The best place to buy a used jet ski is from a private seller. Do some research online to find the model you want from someone reputable. Good places to look for used jet skis include boatsales.com.au and Gumtree.

Are Used Jet Skis Reliable?

The only way to test whether used jet skis are reliable is to carry out a more thorough inspection. So, look in the engine compartment, assess the service records, and ask to take it for a test drive.


The Complete Used Jet Ski Buying Guide

Buying a used personal watercraft or jet ski is a big deal, so the process can be nerve-wracking. It is crucial that you make an informed decision and, to do so, there’s a lot of information to know. If you want to find a good deal and get an almost good-as-new jet ski, you'll have to put the hours in.

Research, viewings, and inspections are all essential when buying a used jet ski. It may sound overwhelming on the face of it. But, the good news is you don't have to do it on your own. With our helpful advice, buying a jet ski used

 

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