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Ft. Mohave, AZ 86426

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How to Buy a Used PWC


Like any purchase, the objective to get the best possible deal for the least possible money. This article is will not attempt to put price tags on various machines, but rather give you guidance on what qualities are worth paying a bit more for…and what qualities you can use to negotiate pricing down.

Before going to look at a used pwc, it’s worth getting a bit prepared. Call the owner and ask:

  • Are they in possession of the title?
  • If there are aftermarket parts on it, do they have the stock parts?
  • When was the last time the boat was ridden or started?
  • How old is the gas in it?
  • Will it start when you visit?

If the owner claims a dead battery or no fuel, we recommend to bring the following:

  • A charged battery (from your other boat or car ) and a pair of jumper cables: Invariably the owner may claim that the boat starts and runs perfectly…but he can’t start it for the bad battery. If you have your own battery & jumpers, you can call his/her bluff.

  • A gallon of 50:1 premixed fuel : The same sheepish owner may say that they might love to start the boat …but it’s out of gas. Boats with (or without) oil injection can start and idle happily on 50:1 mix.

  • A Bright Flashlight : Needed to examine the prop and engine compartment areas.

  • A Spark Plug Wrench and Compression Gauge – To assure equal compression.

The ideal used PWC will possess these qualities in this order:

Low Hours – Like any other kind of vehicle, there is absolutely no quality that makes a used pwc more desirable than low hours…. and easy usage. Anything under 50 hours is considered low hours. While most 99 and later pwcs have hour meters, not all older pwc’s are equipped with them. Given this, you may need to do a bit of technical detective work to assess the approximate usage of the older machine you are interested in.

Under Hull – The next biggest indicator of low use or gentle use is the condition of the lower part of the hull, and the impeller. Note that any pwc that is ridden at all will not have an “absolutely smooth and perfect” underneath. Common trailer loading/unloading, and occasional beach parking are bound to leave minor markings. However machines that have been abused with have numerous deep gouges on the hull. Scratches that are deep enough to get into the hull base material are the ones that give the greatest concern. When extremely deep scratches or “chunks” exist to ward the rear of the hull underneath, they can cause serious variations in speed, handling, and watertight-ness. If a machine with this kind of damage still appeals to your buying intention, be sure to accent the $300-$500 that will need to be spent to assure good hull integrity.

Water Inlet and Prop – With a flashlight, you can crawl underneath the boat and take a quick look at a few important items. Check to see if the bars of the scoop grate are bent or fractured… and that all the scoop grate & ride plate bolts are present. With your flashlight, look at the leading edges of the impeller to look for damage caused by rocks etc. Damaged leading edges are a sign abuse …and a lever to negotiate price downward.

Starting – Any boat worth a hoot will cold start with less than 15 seconds of start button. Longer than that merits negotiation. Invariably you will encounter the owner who claims it ran perfectly last time it was run, etc. If so it will start easily. If not, check the compression. Variation between cylinders should be under 15 psi.

Controls – The throttle should open smoothly, and return quickly. The handlebars should turn very smoothly to full left and right with no stiff spots.

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