New snowmobiles are expensive, often over $10,000. If you’re getting into the sport on a limited budget, buying a used snowmobile may be the way to go. But like buying a used car, you need to be very careful or else you could end up with a major headache.
My last purchase of a used snowmobile was about 15 years ago, when I acquired a 1995 Ski Doo Formula S with 1500 miles from a guy who lived near Watertown. The “S” was a great sled that got me through the first five winters of ilsnow.com before I moved on to the Rev. Now it has over 12,000 miles on it (engine rebuilt once) and the kids use it. It has been a very dependable ride over the years and never left me stranded in the woods.
We don’t have SLEDFAX yet, so you need to ask tough, probing questions. Unless you buy a used snowmobile in the winter, you will not be able to test ride it.
Questions to ask:
- Why are you getting rid of this sled?
- Where do you store your sled? Inside, outside?
- How do you transport your sled? How well is it protected from salt and road grime in transit?
- Where and how often has the sled been serviced?
- What is your riding style? Hard or easy?
- Where and when do you ride? Let’s face it, some trail systems are rougher than others. Riding midweek is far less stressful on the suspension!
- How long have you had this sled? How many miles?
- Are you the original owner?
- Any current problems?
- Anything else that comes to mind. The only stupid question is the unasked one.
If the used snowmobile owner seems hesitant to answer your questions, he’s probably hiding something. Trust your intuition. If you have a bad feeling about the sled, it’s usually in your best interest to walk away and thank the used sled owner for his time. Once you fork over the money and take the sled off the owner’s hands, his problems become your problems!
What else to do:
Inspect the snowmobile thoroughly: inside and out, side to side, top to bottom. If one of your friends is a snowmobile mechanic or techie, bring him along! A extra set of knowledgeable eyes could save you from buying a dud.
- Signs of extreme abuse (bent, broken or cracked parts)
- For studded tracks, check for track and tunnel damage
- Fluid leaks (coolant, oil, brake)
- Excessive corrosion
Ask the owner to start the snowmobile for you. If he has a tough time starting it or he refuses, that could be a red flag!
One last thing:
Offer to buy the sled for somewhat less money than what the owner is asking for. Most of the time, the owner slightly over-inflates his asking price just so he can get what he thinks the sled is actually worth. Kelley Blue Book Snowmobile can be a great way to determine whether the owner is asking for a reasonable price for that used snowmobile.
If the owner really needs to get rid of the sled and needs money in a hurry, you can save hundreds of dollars. You may need that money to make unforeseen repairs down the road on your used sled purchase.
Good luck and happy hunting!
Darrin @ ilsnow.com
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