8 Tips for Buying a Used Jet Ski The Smart Way [Video]

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Buying a used jet ski can be tricky, but don’t worry! Here are our 8 best tips on how to buy a used jet ski:

  1. Select the right category
  2. Avoid supercharged engines
  3. Condition is more important than engine hours
  4. Know the seller
  5. Check out the seat
  6. Inspect the hull and engine
  7. Get the ski inspected (compression test is essential)
  8. Never skip the test ride!

If you want to drill into the details, keep reading. We at JetDrift have compiled all you need to know into this used jet ski buying guide!

We’ve also collected some informative and helpful videos on how to buy a second-hand jet ski:

What Should You Look for When Buying a Used Jet Ski?

Select the Right Category

There are two main categories of jet skis: Sit down jet skis and stand-up jet skis.

Both these categories obviously come in different sizes. However, since you’re a beginner, we recommend you go for sit-down jet skis.

These models have seats and are a little bigger, which means you can not only sit on them but also control them easily. Most of these current models are designed as “family jet skis” which means you can carry your friends or family members on them.

More and more models are introduced every year (51 models were introduced this year alone), so it’s always wise to do your research online, read reviews on credible websites, or better yet watch review videos.

We have a head-to-head PWC comparison tool, don’t forget to check it out, too!

Depending on size and models, consider buying from these 5 categories of sit down jet skis:

  • Rec-Lite
  • Recreation
  • Luxury/Performance
  • Tow Sports
  • PWC fishing

When you gain complete expertise in riding a jet ski and you also develop some athletic skills, you can consider a stand-up PWC. They are smaller and offer tons of fun on the water.

4-stroke vs. 2-stroke used jet skis

Unlike the past when 2 stroke jet skis were common, today, most of the models arrive with 4 stroke engines. Let’s compare second-hand jet skis based on their engines and stroke levels.

Sit-down jet skis

If your choice is sit-down jet skis, then we recommend you buy a 4-stroke engine model. Here’s why.

  • 2 strokes sit-down jet skis are vintage. In 10 years, we have not seen any 2 strokes sit-down model.
  • The purchase price of the vintage models may attract you, but trust us, they will incur more overhead costs than any new model.
  • The old 2 stroke models are pretty heavy on gas consumption, which means your gas bills will shoot. Coupled with this, they also require oil, which again means an extra burden on your wallet.
  • Old sit-down models are worn out. Their engines, therefore, create more pollution as compared to a new model. So, you’ll be burning more oil and gas as well as creating a menace for the environment.
  • 2 stroke engine parts are almost rare in the markets. You may not find a vendor near you. Service shops are also reluctant to work with crafts older than 10 years old. This ultimately will result in lesser maintenance and a higher risk of breakdowns, accidents, or even explosions!

Based on these shortcomings, when it comes to buying a used jet ski, we highly recommend you buy from 4-stroke sit-down jet ski models.

Stand-up jet skis

Stand-up jet skis are unique as they still come with 2-stroke engines.

The reason for this is that the manufacturers want to increase the power to weight ratio so that you get a faster and more agile jet ski. This is easy to understand since the weight of these jet skis is lower and a 2-stroke engine, therefore, makes sense here. All of the vintage stand-ups, and the majority of the current stand-up models are all arrive with 2 stroke engines.

However, it’s good to know that 4 stoke stand-up jet skis are also available on the market since 2015. In fact, this model is the Kawasaki SX-R 1500, don’t hesitate to discover this model here!

Supercharged or not?

Supercharged jet ski is the answer if you’re looking for the highest speed and performance.

Countless used supercharged jet skis are available in the market. However, we don’t recommend you buy them because they double maintenance costs. Neglecting the maintenance of the supercharger can be deadly for your engine.

Also, their price plays a role in people’s choice of them. But as a beginner, you don’t need to buy these even if you’re willing to spend much. At the same price, you can go for a brand new naturally-aspirated (non-supercharged) model. This decision will not let you down or discourage you to continue your passion as it will provide you a smooth start.

Coming back to the used jet skis with supercharger, if you have decided to buy it at any cost, you probably have to rebuild the supercharger after the purchase. (But finally, it always depends on the model. Always seek advice from professionals before you purchase.)

You should do it because these jet skis are usually offered with cca. 100 engine hours, which means that their previous owners want to sell them without rebuilding the supercharger!

Used jet ski engine hours vs. conditions

Jet ski engine lifespan

Tackling with jet ski engine hours is always confusing. There is no standard on that. Everyone will give you their estimates, but no one will tell you exactly how much is too much?

Over the years, we’ve seen that condition of a used jet ski is more important than its engine hours.

We’ve seen dead jet skis with 100 or even 50 engine hours and top-notch models with 200-300 engine hours. The answer to this dilemma is in care and maintenance.

However, the typical rule of thumb is that you choose a used jet ski based by considering or estimating its engine hours based on 30 hours/year. According to this rule, if a watercraft is ridden 30 hours per year by an owner, in 5 years, it will have 150 engine hours and in 10 years, 300 engine hours.

Of course, this is not a hard and fast rule and it can vary from owner to owner, but you, as a beginner can work with it to stay on the safe side.

So, your limits as of this example are 10 years old jet ski with 300 engine hours max. Any jet ski beyond this 10 years and 300 engine hours
limit will give you probably pain. So, don’t buy it.

But why?

We recommend that because a jet ski engine wears out after that much use. If you go beyond it, you’re basically buying yourself a machine that will require you to maintain it more often. You’ll add more engine hours to the already worn out engine.

Based of the above, the best practice if you buy a used jet ski what is no more than 6-8 years old and has 200 engine hours on it. It means you can ride it for a few years before you reach the 300 hours.

What To Look For When Buying a Used Jet Ski


We recommend new buyers or beginners that they must carry out a thorough inspection of the second-hand jet ski they are about to buy.

It all starts with seeing the behavior of the seller. Is he open enough? Does he seem helpful? Is he spending time with you on transferring ownership and completing the sale or is he just getting with it? And most importantly, is he providing you all the yearly service records?

Even if the answers to all these questions is satisfying to you, keep your doubts in place. Never wholly trust what the seller is telling you, but only when he shows you all the records of his claims.

You should know that a crystal clean jet ski is not necessarily the best one (but it’s a good sign). All those yearly service records and winterization evidence matter a lot.

Apart from this, make sure all of your questions are answered thoroughly and always do this business in public, especially on a boat ramp where there is a chance for water test!


Consider seats as a sign of the shape of the used jet ski you’re buying. They tell you a lot about the owner and, therefore, about the state of the machine.

For example, if they show a great degree of wear and tear, then that would mean the owner has not paid heed to it. If he didn’t pay heed to the seats or even cover the whole craft, it is not hard to understand that he would have cared less about the engine or other important parts.

Of course, a few years old second-hand jet skis have at least some degree of tearing because of people jumping and riding on them, but a greater degree of it speaks volumes about its maintenance history.

Also, remove the seat while you’re checking it and hold it. If it’s heavier than its usual weight, then chances are it has sunk before in its lifetime. After scrutiny, if you think the jet ski is worth buying despite its torn seat, don’t forget to buy seat covers. You may even have to go for upholstery.

Hull and Engine

After seats, check the jet ski’s hull. Obviously, it will have some small dents and damage lines, but if you see deeper damage or even chunks of fiberglass removed, then we don’t recommend you should continue the deal. Even if you do, take good care of repairing them.

Also, look underneath the jet ski to see if the owner had been beaching it or not. Again, small damage is ok, but if chunks are missing, cancel the deal immediately.

When you’re done with the hull, look for other signs of damage or possible repair. Examine other parts, see if they require maintenance and whether you can carry them out once you buy the watercraft.

Next, delve into the engine compartment. Missing bolts or rust around any part of it will tell you about its age and maintenance history. If the bolts (or the paint on them) are damaged, it means those bolts were removed before. In this case, we’d like you to avoid the jet ski.

Apart from this, see if the engine compartment is emitting any smell of gas. Even a slight smell is not good and it means engine or fuel lines issues. With checking the gas smell, check whether there’s water or oil waste inside the hull or not. If there is, you know what to do.

Get the ski inspected

Before you purchase any used jet ski, remember to get it inspected by a service shop. Its local dealers will also come in handy.

That way, you’ll be able to understand if it has seen some greater damage or not.

For example, the experts will look into the functions of the pump, see if there is any leakage or not, and also check the compression of the cylinders (very important!).

They can check the compression with a special jet ski compression tester or gauge. If it shows low compression, then it means the engine is done for. In such cases, leave the deal immediately and look somewhere else. The dealership also can check the key if it is genuine or not.

Never Miss the Test Ride!

The most important rule when buying a used jet ski:

You should always do a test ride and see its performance before you buy!

Water testing should tell you if the ski takes off instantly or not. Even if it takes instantly, check the ski at different speeds such as full throttle, best cruise speeds, or no-wake speeds. Your goal should be to check if it hits top speed at the right RPM.

Also, you should take into account the overall ride. Is it nimble enough? Has it enough power to take you through the water for long?

Basically, even if it’s a used jet ski, its overall performance should make you happy. Or if you don’t understand it completely, you can always let an expert ride it or sit with him in the process.

If the model is equipped with features like a brakes or sound system, try that also. Other systems like the bilge pump should also be checked.

Repeat these steps even if you are buying a second-hand jet ski from a dealership because you never know what happens and you simply can’t trust what the dealer says.

Even after the test ride, don’t forget to look for signs of worry, for example, you may want to see for signs of water in the hull.

Used Jet Ski Prices

Used jet ski prices fluctuate and they depend on the engine hours of the jet ski, its performance, age, location, conditions, or what seasons it is.

For starters, you can check out two websites that are pioneers in estimating prices: KBB Jet Ski and NADA Jet Ski.

Once you see models on this website and have price estimation, you will get an idea of the market. Even if a seller is giving you a good selling price, you should take off some amount from it if you see the potential of further maintenance or service in the watercraft. You are basically entitled to do so and the seller would not resist in most times.

As opposed to the online estimation, if you wish to do business in an open second-hand jet ski market, you can find models of lesser-known brands such as Polaris, Arctic Cat (Tigershark and Wet Bike), or even the legendary Honda.

These models are not very expensive and you can have one for less than $1,000. However, refrain from buying these models if you think you cannot bear the brunt of maintenance ahead because these models need a lot of tweaks and that too, very often.

Compared to this, we highly recommend used jet skis of 6 to 8 years of age or younger. We also don’t recommend you buy any supercharged models and the reasons for it have been explained above – they need rebuilding after 100 hours.

Nevertheless, if you still wish to buy it, and as you read, you’ll have to go for the rebuild immediately in most of the cases. Please also don’t forget to mention this to the seller and try to reduce the price a little.

Sometimes, jet ski enthusiasts buy almost all the gear he needs with the machine. Check whether he has the trailer and accessories like a cover, life jackets, tubes, wakeboards, and many other types of equipment.

Also, don’t forget to check the jet ski’s warranty. That is the most important thing after all. Some of the websites to start searching for used jet skis online are eBay, Craigslist, PWC Trader, Facebook pages, and in dealer inventories.

FAQs About Buying a Used Jet Ski

Is it worth it to buy a jet ski?

If it fits your budget and you’re a watersport-enthusiast, you can consider buying a jet ski. As there are more than 1 million jet skis registered in the US, it seems worth it to buy a jet ski! If you’re on a tight budget, you can even rent one occasionally.

What is the average cost of a jet ski?

A new jet ski costs around $5,500-$18,000, while you can purchase a used one from $1,000. The prices depend on several factors like the brand, specifications, features, and extra accessories you need. The cheapest jet skis are the Rec-Lite watercraft, while the most expensive models are the performance and luxury jet skis.

How much is a used jet ski?

Used jet ski prices vary widely depending on the original selling price, brand, specifications, age, and condition. Old vintage jet skis are available from $1,000, while you can expect to pay several times more for a 1-2 year-old used jet ski in good condition.

Should you buy a used jet ski?

As long as your goals are not unrealistic, you can buy a used jet ski. Do your research and check the jet ski’s condition carefully. However, keep in mind that there’s always higher risk if you buy a used jet ski!

What is the best used jet ski to buy?

The best used jet skis to buy are the non-supercharged models, which are not older than 6-7 years. As a rule of thumb, the less the engine power, the longer it will last, so it’s recommended to choose from low-performance models.

Are jet skis 2-stroke?

In the past, all jet skis were powered exclusively with 2-stroke engines, but nowadays manufacturers use mostly four-stroke engines. However, you can still find some 2-stroke jet ski models in the stand-up category!

What do I need to know about buying a jet ski?

When it comes to buying a jet ski, first you need to know what you want. Do your research and choose the model that suits you best! Also, don’t forget to budget for the various ownership costs and never miss the water test.


  • As a beginner, you should always do your research extensively and not forget about look for even the tiniest bit of information available. This will come in handy while buying a used jet ski. (Also don’t forget that you will need a trailer as well!)
  • Model research is very important. Always know your preferences when it comes to that. Recommendations from friends may be heeded, but always look for what you want. If you’re undecided, you can take test rides of different models and see which one is for you. One way to do that is trying out jet ski rental services.
  • In case you’re into a stand-up model, you can choose from mainly 2 stroke models (or Kawasaki SX-R 1500!)
  • As you’ve read in this article, don’t base your decisions on engine hours but on maintenance.
  • Check or inspect the jet ski thoroughly. Better yet, take it to a dealership or a service shop to get an inspection of professionals.
  • The water test ride is the most important of all inspections. Never forget to take the ski on the water and see if it is worth it.
  • You also need to understand that a good deal may be what it is – a good deal even if it is expensive. In other words, you get what you pay for. An expensive jet ski may be expensive because it delivers value.
  • Paperwork is another important aspect. You don’t just hand over the money and think you’re done with it. There is always paperwork involved such as records, ownership transfer information etc.
  • Listen to your gut feelings, but never rely on them completely if you do not want to land in a pitfall.Look through the ads when you finally choose your jet ski. Try focusing on one simple rule:If you are looking for a used sit down jet ski, always choose the one which is only 6 to 8 years old, and what is powered with a 4 stroke non-supercharged engine with maximum 200 hours on it.

So, this was our short used jet ski buying guide that you need to consider before buying a second-hand PWC. We hope you found it useful!

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