Trade-A-Boat Magazine Buying Tips

This article was published in the December 2011 issues of Trade-A-Boat magazine - giving an excellent overview for new jetski buyers...

Trade A Boat Magazine, Issue 210, December 2011.

Article written by Matthew Jones.

Before you buy:

The first thing to consider when buying a PWC is its intended purpose, and the environment you intend to use it in:  will it be used in freshwater or saltwater?  Will you be fishing, wakeboarding, towing the kids in a biscuit, cruising or going as fast as possible?

These days there is a model for every purpose.  By far the most popular are the three-seater models that offer greater versatility and also better resale value.  The two-seater models are sportier, but are less in demand and therefore harder to sell.  The stand-up models of old have enjoyed a recent resurgence, with a few models still available.  However, most have been superseded by the more comfortable sit-down models.

The second consideration is your budget.  There is no point buying the flashiest, fastest PWC with all the bells and whistles if you can't afford to run or maintain it properly.  This situation is never going to have a happy ending, so before you hand over any cash, establish a realistic budget (fuel and servicing costs included) and stick to it.

Ski MD, based in Auckland, specialises in PWC repair and modification of all brands.  Managing director Kevin Geard has been selling and servicing PWCs for 14 years, and offers the following guidelines on running costs:  "Servicing costs will vary, but, as a basic guideline, a pre-season service on a 2003 or later four-stroke will cost around $350, with a further $125 for a winterising service at the end of the season."

To put that in terms of an hourly running cost, Geard suggests that a naturally aspirated four-stroke PWC osts $9 per hour plus fuel to run, with a supercharged model costing around $19 per hour plus for fuel.

"Superchargers have more horsepower, and if you're making more horsepower, you're also using more fuel.  You can ride a supercharged model economically, but people tend to ride them fast because they go fast.  If you want simplicity and economy, stay away from superchargers.  Naturallyh aspirated skis are cheaper on all counts." Geard adds.

From Geard's experience, a new PWC owner will do 40 hours in their first year, and, will do less and less hours in consecutive years as the thrill of their new toy wears off.

Beware of lemons

If a new PWC is out of your reach, buying a well looked-after, second-hand PWC is your next best option.  Geard suggests sticking to the major brands like Yamaha, Sea-Doo, and Kawasaki.  Make sure your prospective purchase comes with a full service history and assess the general overall condition of the craft for clues on how the previous owners have treated it.

"Look underneath the hull for damage from running the hull up on the beach rather than being anchored.  Look for obvious signs of damage to the intake grate or ride plate.  Some machines use a closed-loop cooling system and the ride plate is the radiator, so any damage to this area and you could have a headache on your hands.  Generally, how it starts and sounds are other good indicators.  If all the right boxes have been ticked, then move on to the next step: an independent, pre-purchase inspection." Geard says.

However, bargain hunters beware, as there are some cheap Chinese imports featuring car engines ont eh market.  " Some people import them from China thinking they're on to the next best thing, but there is some absolute rubbish out there.  We wouldn't touch one in our workshop."  Geard adds.

The big brands aren't immune from producing the odd lemon either, and this is where on non-biased opinion before purchase can save a lot of money and frustration.  Geard comments: "The thing I can't stress enough is the value of a pre-purchase inspection from a non-biased workshop.  A full rebuild can cost anything from $3500 on an older two-stoke up to $14,000 on a modern four-stroke.  With that in mind, spending around $150 for a pre-purchase inspection before handling over any cash seems like a no-brainer..."