A first-time buyers guide
The first things you will need to figure out when looking for a new jet ski, or any kind of watercraft, are your needs and your budget. There are a lot of options out there: from fast and exciting performance models, to comfortable cruisers with high-tech options, and anything in between.
With that being said, it’s time to decide on a budget. If you're like me and not ready to spend the money to buy a brand new machine, there are a lot of great pre-owned options for a fraction of the cost. The main thing I recommend that you focus on is value. The cheapest jet ski you find on Facebook Marketplace is probably not the best value. I say that because the cheapest machines usually are the least reliable and could cost you a lot in repairs over time. You get what you pay for, so you want to have a budget in mind at least high enough to get something that is mechanically sound and well taken care of.
The next thing you will need to consider is your needs. How will you be using the machine? This part is different for everyone, and you will need to consider things like where you will be riding, how many people you want to take, and what level of performance you need. Personally, I don't really care for the bigger cruisers with speakers and three person seating; I would prefer to just keep it simple and get something a little bit more sporty. For me, getting a ski with extra power makes for a more exciting ride, and I don't typically take passengers or need too much cargo space. That is just me though and you will have to look into each model and weigh out the options for yourself. I would also like to add that some brands offer completely different options. So when you're making a decision try not to get too hung up on one brand. Look into each one with an open mind and you might find something you didn't know you would like.
Now that you have narrowed down what you want and educated yourself on the different machines, the next step is buying one. Since we are talking about used machines, the condition is going to be a huge factor and you want to make sure you're not getting ripped off. When you're buying something from a private seller, sometimes the person who is selling it is as important as what they are selling. Look for any red flags when you are reading the ad or talking to the owner. Remember, not everyone is going to be honest so ask plenty of questions and use your best judgment. One thing I always do is ask them why they are selling it. if they are selling it to fund a different PWC, ask what made them want to upgrade. Another thing I like to ask is how long they have had it. This is a simple question but can tell you a lot. It's always better if they have had it for a long time or even since it was brand new. If they have only had it a few months, that's usually a red flag. A lot of times if someone is selling something they just bought they don't like it or it has caused them a lot of problems. Lastly, I like to ask what work has been done to it. A lot of times they will tell you everything they have done right away, and if it's a really long list then there’s a good chance that the machine was abused and has had a lot of issues.
The next step once you have found a good jet ski for the right price with no red flags is to look at it. This is the most important part, so take your time and look closely. You will want to inspect everything; there is a lot more to a jet ski than the engine. Make sure it starts good, runs smooth, and has no leaks. Sometimes it is hard to see down around the engine so make sure to bring a good flashlight and look closely. You want to check the fluid levels and look at the condition of your fluids. You need to check the oil for both the level and to make sure it doesn't look milky or have any type of metal shavings in it. The next thing you will want to check is the haul. The jet ski can get cracks from jumping or hard riding. You will want to check everything you can see inside and out for any cracks or spots that look repaired. After you have done a good visual inspection you need to take it for a ride. Don't buy a jet ski that you can't test drive! When you're riding it you want to listen to the engine closely. Make sure it reaches the speed it should and goes through the full RPM range. You will also want to make sure that it doesn't bog or act up under load and that no warning lights are on. After riding it, check everything one more time, re-check the fluid levels and look for any leaks or anything that you may not have noticed when it was cold. Then, if all is well, buy it and start having fun!