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Tips for Buying a Used Jet Ski – Part I

The allure of riding a jet ski in the summer is powerful. Especially in the middle of July when temperatures are in the nineties and the water is a refreshing 85°. Renting them regularly gets expensive. Plus it’s not always clear exactly where you can ride them and how fast you can go. Many people who have rented jet skis on a regular basis find themselves at a cross road every season, weighing whether or not to buy their own jet ski. A new stand-up can cost $7,500 while you’ll pay $16,000 for a super-charged model with lots of bells and whistles that’s a 3-seater and 4-stroke watercraft. Faced with such pricing it’s easy to see why many people entertain the idea of buying one used. But buying a used jet ski requires some research on your part. You’ll need to be observant and ask the right questions. Here are some tips for buying a used jet ski.

wet-bike-1-874390-mBefore you begin looking for a used jet ski, consider where you intend to use it. You want to make sure the jet skis you are interested in are legal to ride in the water where you plan to ride it, whether it’s the ocean, river or a lake. If you plan to ride it in the ocean in Hawaii, you should be aware of the restrictions on where you can ride and how far from the shore you must go before you can ride it around the islands. Since the end of the summer in 2012, 2-stroke watercraft have been banned from Lake Mead in Las Vegas. So before you buy a used jet ski, call the park service or harbor master where you intend to use your jet ski.

Buying a used jet ski is a lot like buying a used car. Don’t buy one without a title. Without a title, you won’t be able to use the jet ski. When the seller presents you with the title to the jet ski be sure to verify that the VIN or HIN number on the hull matches the one on the title. This number is on a sticker, plastic tab or embossed on the back of the jet ski near the drain plugs or exhaust. In some cases there’s a second ID tag connected to the hull under the battery, below the battery box or under the fuel tank

Be observant and look for any signs of rust and corrosion. Inspect the bolts and fittings for any rust or corrosion as well. When jet skis are used in salt water and not hosed off afterward, the result is corrosion and rust. The same result can happen if the motor wasn’t allowed to dry out between uses. If you see signs of corrosion on the outside, chances are pretty good there’s corrosion on the inside which can cause major engine damage. Buyer beware.

Don’t take any excuses. Before you make an offer make sure the jet ski starts. Don’t believe the seller’s sad story that the jet ski runs great except it needs a new battery. It’s up to you to either take a battery with you and make sure the jet ski runs or walk away. It won’t hurt the jet ski to run it out of the water for one minute to make sure it starts. If you’re concerned about the jet ski overheating, connect a water hose to the cooling system (with a flush kit) and turn it on after you’ve started the jet ski. Be careful not to flood the engine with water and turn the water off before you turn the engine off. Also, you should bring a compression gauge and measure to see if there’s any compression variance between the cylinders.

Another area of concern is water leaks. When you have the hose hooked to the jet ski’s cooling system, look for any leaks inside the hull coming from the head, the exhaust or any hoses inside the hull. Water leaks may indicate bad seals or gaskets, cracked or old hoses, loose fittings or prior damage. You’ll also want to check for any leaks in the motor. You shouldn’t see any oil dripping or any leaks from the motor or fittings. Exhaust smoke inside the hull is a red flag as well. This is an indication that the exhaust system is leaking into the hull. When this happens the jet ski will only run for around five minutes when the hood or cover is on.

In ” Tips for Buying a Used Jet Ski Part II ” we’ll discuss 5 more important tips to use.