How To Buy a Used Jet Ski. Guide and Tips.

We’re here to talk about what happens when you, an everyday citizen of a terrestrial, decide to buy a jet ski. And it’s one of three things: 

  • You become a jet ski enthusiast; 
  • You turn into an occasional user; 
  • Or you sell it on Craigslist a month later and see if something else works.   

Regardless of which camp you fall into, the first steps of buying a jet ski is always the same. Which is to run through all PWC forums and community groups. 

While there are many jet ski buying guides on the Internet, many of them are created by biased authors, such as salespersons, distributors, and dealers of a certain brand. 

So, I know that most people who are going to buy a jet ski are pretty concerned about which one is the best to spend money on, so I want to make a guide to help you out. 

I am a jet ski mechanic and want to provide you with fair information from a mechanic perspective

I think there is a fair bit of misunderstanding around which jet ski is the best and most reliable for its price. 

And you might have heard that some types are better than the other. The truth is, they all break. 

The reason for the breakdowns has nothing to do with a brand, model, whether the jet ski is brand new or used, 2 or 4 stroke, direct injection or fuel injection, turbocharged or naturally aspirated.

The reason is the people and how they treat their boats. 

But before we jump into details, one of the first things you need to decide for yourself is whether you should buy a new jet ski or second hand.  

Should You Buy a Used Jet Ski?

The answer is Yes, if it meets a certain goal and budget. Let’s see if you qualify. 

Here is an overview of when to consider buying a used personal watercraft

  • Let’s start with your goal

First you need to ask yourself a question, are you buying it to zoom away with a fishing rod from your family every other weekend during summer? Or you need one to store it at your vacation house in case your spoiled children decide to occasionally spend time outdoors with their schoolmates? And of course when people think of jet skis, they think of parties.

In other words, if you want it for personal use and pleasure then it’s a check mark. In this case you will ride it about 60 hours a year on average with normal exploitation. 

  • Assuming your goal meets the described above situations, now it’s time to talk about your budget

You should definitely consider buying a pre-owned jet ski if you plan to spend around $3,000 – $8,000

Typically the Dealers of new watercrafts only sell newer models of current and previous year so their rates vary between $12,000 – $18,000. Dang, that’s expensive for something you are not even sure you’ll enjoy because you’ve never had one. 

Of course there are some low priced affordable PWCs which you could get for $5,500 brand new, such as Sea-doo Spark but it really isn’t worth buying because you can get a much better deal in terms of worth/value on a used market.

Some figures for comparison of Sea-Doo Spark with better options: 

Make/ModelOne New Sea-Doo SparkOne of Used Sea-doo RXT, GTI, GTX2 Used x Yamaha XL and XLTUsedYamaha FX HO
Total Price

≈$7, 000 ($5,500 + Tax + $1,000 trailer)

≈$7, 000 on a trailer

≈$7, 000 on a Double Trailer

≈$7, 000 on a trailer


60-90 HP

130-215 HP

120-155 HP



2 seater

3 seater

3 seater

3 seater






When To Consider Buying a New Personal Watercraft

Get a brand new PWC if you are acquiring it for a rental business, racing, or long distance deep sea trips (let’s say between Bahamas and Key West). In other words, if you plan to do anything that involves high intense exploitation, then it’s a good idea to consider a brand new vessel with insurance. 

Just remember, even 30 years old vintage jet ski will provide you with just as much fun as new one, if it matches your goal. 

What I mean to say is that it is more important to look for the right type of jet ski for YOU. You won’t feel any happier by riding a more expensive boat than everyone else.

How Much Does a Used Jet Ski Cost?

Now, you might be wondering how much a decent condition watercraft may cost. 

A used Jet ski between 18-12 years old in a working condition range in price from $4,000 to $8,000 give or take.

2021 Used PWC Market Rate Examples:

  • 2006 Yamaha GP1300R costs $5,000 
  • 2004 Sea-doo GTI costs $4,000
  • 2006 Yamaha FX HO costs $6,500 

You got the point. Check out some of my jet ski for sale listings for more examples.

Possible Watercraft Hidden Cost After Purchase

In addition to the actual purchase price there are some concealed costs you may face shortly after your purchase. 

To help you determine the price you will end up paying for a used jet ski I suggest you use the following rule of thumb: 

Determine your budget - 30% for preparation and inspection + 10% yearly maintenance

This formula takes into account all hidden costs you may want to be aware of before starting the search. 

Example: Let’s say you plan to spend $5,000 total for a pre-owned  vessel. 

It means  you can spend $3,500 for the vessel + leave $1,500 for preparation and inspection, and save up $500 for yearly maintenance. 

If it’s 4 stroke, they are more expensive to maintain. 

Jet Ski Value Guide Misconception

So along with that loophole, there is a common myth I wanted to clarify about the pre-owned jet ski prices.

Don’t refer to NADA Guide to estimate the current value of any vessel.

NADA Guide can be used to estimate trade in value and it has nothing to do with a real market value.

As a good example, NADA Guide suggests Polaris Octane to have average retail of $1,100 when in reality they cost over $5k. 


Pre-owned Jet Skis are usually sold on trailers and you can save a buck when buying both at once instead of separate.

In an attempt to find a better deal buyers often get ripped off by paying more at the end of the day. If you find an alluring  listing  with a price lower than the market rate, in most cases there is a reason for that. In 99% cases the seller just knows about the costly repairs and is trying to get rid of the problem.

Where to Buy a Used Jet Ski

Your buying choices for a pre-owned PWC are limited to: 

  • Individual 
  • Dealer
  • Online (eBay, Internet auctions) 

Unlike cars, jet skis don’t have service or ownership records. There is no such a thing as Carfax for PWCs. You will never be able to find out how many owners the jet ski had before you. 

Luckily, this is not important at all! 

What is really important is the actual condition of the watercraft to this particular moment.


Avoid asking sellers such trigger questions like “Are you the original owner?”, you would sound like a total dilettante.

Pros and Cons of Used Watercraft Market Sources

1. Individual / Private seller

Pros: There is room for a price negotiation but of course do it with a decency. Your claims should be reasonable and make sense to the jet ski owner. Don’t make up assumptions if you’re an amateur, this will only annoy the seller. Before sending an offer to a local Craigslist post, do your research. A pre-purchase inspection service can help you greatly reduce the price and reveal potential problems in future. 

Cons: No guarantees whatsoever. Test drive is also rarely available.    

2. Dealer

Pros: You can get a ready for water jet ski that is fully prepared and serviced. Most Dealers are also willing to provide a test drive to the buyer. Clean hassle-free paperwork on hand. 

Cons: Firm price. Dealers put their time, efforts, and resources  to get each vessel ready for the sale. The listing price consists of costs for the vessel, parts, repairs, and detailing. The profit on the used watercraft market is minor and dealers already operate with small margins which they can not reduce any further from the listing price, so don’t expect them to go any lower. 

3. Online (eBay, Internet auctions) 

Pure lottery.

Avoid emotional decision-making. If you know exactly what you are looking for, you can always find a good jet ski that fits your needs and budget.


While searching, you can come across what is called a Project jet ski which is listed for a price lower than the market rate. Such vessels are not in a fully working condition and require repairs which are estimated to be greater than the value of the watercraft and thus are not profitable. Sellers, whether private or dealers, list them for a trade in price in order to just get rid of them. If you are not a mechanic yourself, don’t buy project jet skis. They are not worth the cost. Parts are expensive and labor is even more expensive. If Dealer did not find it cost-effective with its resources, there is no way it’s a good deal for you.

What is The Best Jet Ski To Buy?

Once you made up your mind about the goal, price, and where to start your search, you can decide which jet ski to buy in terms of size, brand, and model. 

What Size Jet Ski Should I Buy?

There are 4 types of Jet Ski Sizes:

  • 4-seater
  • 3-seater
  • 2-seater
  • Stand up 

• 4 Seater Jet Ski

4 seater PWC are the largest, rare, and cheapest in maintenance. For example, a rebuilt motor with 1 year warranty cost around $1,000 

4 seater Makes and Models:

  1. Yamaha SUV1200 135HP – Top speed 45-50mph
  2. Sea-doo LVR 130HP – Top speed 55mph
  3. Polaris Genesis 135HP – Top speed 60mph 

4-seater watercraft common features:

Such vessels are heavy, bulky, and slow. However, they are super stable and perfect for a big family, fishing, and towing. Reverse, mirrors, and large storage boxes are other useful add-ons in all 4-seater skis. Basically it’s a small boat from 12 to 14 ft, therefore it requires a bigger trailer to handle the weight. 

• 3 Seater Jet Ski

3 seater jet ski

3 seater jet skis are more universal and that’s why they represent the majority of the market. All manufacturers make 3 seaters. They are great for all needs including cruising and sport. 

3-seater watercraft common features:

3-seaters have the advantages of both bigger and smaller skis. Variety of motors will provide a wide range to choose from. You can get a vessel with a small motor or big one. They also meet the requirements for towing something. Most of them have a hook to pull tubes, wake boards and other toys. Have large storage compartments. Relatively stable, won’t  flip like 2-seaters. Have manual mechanical or electronic reverse systems.

• 2 Seater Jet Ski

2 seater jet ski

2 seater jet skis are considered to be sport editions. Technically they are made for one person and great for racing and wild rides. Some older models have narrow hulls and are popular among  advanced riders. For example, Yamaha Wave Blaster, Sea-doo HX, Polaris Hurricane, Sea-doo XP, Kawasaki X2.

2-seater watercraft common features:

There is no reverse and no mirrors. Racers don’t look back. There is a trim system to adjust nose position. The most popular 2-seater PWC line is Yamaha GP (1998-2021) that represents the optimal combination and balance of all parameters. 

• Stand Up Jet Ski

Stand Up Jet Ski

Stand Up jet skis are an ignorant edition because they are meant for one rider. They are not for everyone and require skills and physical effort to ride. But if freestyle and tricks is your cup of tea, you will have the best time in life riding it! Sounds like you? Welcome to the custom aftermarket community then. Good thing there are still many cheap vintage Kawasaki Stand Up jet skis which nowadays gain their popularity again. Despite that, there are some collectable rare models that cost a fortune and new Models that cost up to $15,000.  

Rare Collectable Jet Skis #jetskiporn 

  • Kawasaki SC 650 (sport cruiser) or so-called “Super Chicken”  
  • Kawasaki Jet Mate 
  • Honda F15 AquaTrax
  • Polaris MSX Matrix 200 
  • Wetbike Arctic Cat from a 1977 James Bond movie

Stand Up watercraft common features:

Small, Not stable, have modifications.  

Which Brand of Jet Ski Is the Best?

Instead of quoting Wikipedia I will share my personal experience and viewpoint.

Kawasaki Jet Ski

Pros: I prefer 2 strokes by this manufacturer. I think they are reliable, easy, and have a lot of opportunity for modifications. 

Kawasaki motors are made with less Horsepower for the same amount cc but can be forced with proper changes. 

Cons: I am not a fan of 4 stroke Kawasaki because: 

  • It’s damn hard to work on them. Thus it’s hard to find a mechanic who is good with them. (This is my mechanic ego talking);  
  • They are not that reliable as 4-stroke supposed to be;
  • Impossible to find a motor for supercharged models.

So basically if you have Ultra LX250-260-300 and your engine fails, in many cases your jet ski is not repairable. Original motors cost insanely high and rebuilt motors are not available on market. Even though someone can assemble a motor and try to rebuild yours they will not give you any warranty on it. And newer  STX 160 models have recalls from a flying away hood. 

Sea-doo Jet Ski

Pros: 2 strokes have good horsepower/cc balance. 4 strokes are reliable but superchargers need to be rebuilt every 100h. Period. Good Parts availability – not cheap but always available. A lot of opportunities for modifications. 


  • A big issue with Sea-Doo is the jet pump. The wear ring is made out of plastic and you have to replace it more often than on other jet skis. 
  • Carbon seal is a horrible solution for water sealant purposes. Sea-Doos leak without fear of depths. There are more sunk Sea-Doo jet skis than submarines on a seabed. Leave it overnight on a dock and you risk to find it on the ocean floor in the morning. 
  • Electronic key is a contradictory system for theft protection. Service centers make money to program them.
  • Even brand new jet skis require additional service right after purchase. For example, engine alignment. Brand new jet skis come with misaligned motor. Another example is that they require installation of an oil catch can which prevents intercooler from getting greased. 

P.S…. to be continued… This article is under development, I will complete it shortly. Please check back soon for more information. Thanks!

1 thought on “How To Buy a Used Jet Ski. Guide and Tips.”

  1. The best part of your blog is when you said that a 2-seater jetski is great for wild rides and racing, and they are considered to be sports editions. My husband and I bought a waterfront property, and we want to purchase jet skis that we can use whenever we stay there. Since we both love extreme sports that could really give us chills, we want to purchase the right type of jet ski. Thanks for sharing this.

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