Buying Your First Jetski

A summary of the most frequently asked questions when looking to purchase your first jet ski.

During the summer, we answer many questions about buying jet ski's and as one of the only dedicated PWC service center for all brands in New Zealand, we are a good first port of call for some free advise.  Here are the most frequently asked questions and some basic advice to start your shopping process;

What brand should I be looking at?

In New Zealand there are only 3 brands which have good support and some level of service support available Nationwide:   Kawasaki, Yamaha, SeaDoo

There are so many on Trade Me - where do I begin?

That's easier than you think.  Start with these two questions which you can alter as you start looking;

1. What is your budget?  - This quickly determines the age of the craft you are looking at across all models.

2. What is your main use?  - Most people want either fishing or family use which requires a 3 seater.  This will eliminate a further section of what's available.

3. If you want to go fishing you will need a late model, very reliable ski, as often you are far from shore, unlike family use around a beach or riverside.  Also, go for late model 4 stroke to get the most stable platform; 2 stroke/older models are smaller and quite 'tippy'.

4. Ask yourself who will service and look after your ski?  Who is your local jetski agent.  You may be surprised how far you have to travel to get help - or a diagnostic plug in.  Ask first, and perhaps narrow down your brand selection.

I have seen an ad for a Sea Jet chinese jetski, are they okay?

There is a company in China producing PWC's and small sport boats with a Suzuki (car) engine in them.  They have come out with various names on them but they are all produced in China.  This is possibly one of the biggest mistakes a person could make to buy one of these.  These PWC's started to appear in NZ as private imports around 2007 and continue to arrive.  Landed price is around $8,000 - $10,000 which does seem appealing.  Close inspection of any examples will show;  extremely rough and pourus hull with little or no gel coat, loose seat fabric, non-accessable storage compartments, and a huge amount of incredibly bad engineering too big to list.

Polaris?  Honda?  HSR?

Polaris stopped production early last decade and parts/diagnostic support is almost non-exsistant (1 dealer left in Nelson only).   They don't have good resale value because of that and you might find it very hard to get anyone to service/repair it.

Honda is, by all accounts, a good brand.  Unfortunately in Austrailia and New Zealand the Honda PWC is sold through the Honda Motorcycle dealerships and often they don't want to know about them!  This has meant that sales have been poor and the brand would hardly recognised in NZ at all if it wasn't for the imported numbers.  Again, lack of correct diagnostic and parts support might mean your local service guy won't want to know.

HSR, refer to "who is your local agent with diagnostics?". Rare as rare.

How many hours do jetski's do before they are worn out or need a rebuild?

This answer needs to be split into two sections:  two stroke & four stroke.

Two Stroke

Most two stroke ski's are from the 1990's and it is very common for them to have had one rebuild in their life.  Some models had rebuilds before they had done 40 hours and other would have done 100+.  The reasons for rebuilds usually are either user error or mechanical error, very often not associated with hours.

Four Stroke

The first four stroke from early 2000's are capable of hundreds of hours which are normally only seen in rental situations.  For an average user (family and recreational use) they will turn over around 20 hours per year, and only in the last few years we are seeing jetski's which are used for fishing doing 100+ hours per year!  Don't be afraid by hours, it is more important that it has been serviced regularly and more often low hours are more troublesome than high hours.

Two Stroke or Four Stroke?

The era of the 2-stroke is mainly from the beginning (1970s) to early 2000's with the exception of the pole ski's.  So the 2-stroke ski's are now getting long-in-the-tooth and will require ongoing repairs as part naturally deteriorate.

The 4-stroke is generally preferred simply because of age and being fuss free starting and fueling (no fussing with 2 stroke oil).  Some of the early 4 strokes are just entering the 10 year mark at which we start to see more 'repairs'required than servicing.

Do I buy from a dealer or privately?

With the popularity of Trade Me in New Zealand, anyone who wants to sell a ski advertises on Trade Me.  This typically sets the market price and does make it harder for a dealer to compete and make enough to cover their 'warranty' period.  The advantage of dealing with a shop is an easy place to return to if you have an issue and you should get some basic operation guidence which can save a lot of heartache.

Buying privately is very common and there a 2 things to remember.  You are covered by the consumers guarantee act if you pay an agreed price (not an auction) but if you have an issue you may have to fight it in court.  It is your responsibility to have a pre-purchase inspection performed prior to buying to help avoid any major issues.  If you are un-sure of operation, download an owners hand book and make sure you know how to operate the craft correctly, especially for maintenance and flushing.

What are the maintenance costs?

This is a good question that some don't consider!   All service manuals differ slightly, especially in new models but the best general rule of thumb is;

2 Stroke:   Every 25 hours or annual.

4 Stroke:   First service at 10 hours (see very important notes below).  Then every 50 hours OR annually.

Variations:

Some SeaDoo supercharged craft require a supercharger service every 100 hours - which increases the maintenance costs to a huge $19 per hours (plus fuel).

Some Kawasaki and Yamaha craft have expensive irridium spark plugs and can increase the service costs by $100!

My budget is not very big, I want to get a 1995 ski and try fishing, will this be okay?

People who are new to jetski's are overwhelmed by the range of models and styles and it is now a common sight for people to be buying older ski's to give fishing a go.  The early ski's of the 90's were generally all small hulls and the shorter/narrower the hull the more unstable it will be.  Some models; Blasters, ZXi, XP's etc are not possible to sit and fish from!

We also have great reservations with older ski's as to their general reliability and would not recommend someone go further from shore than they can swim or always go with a friend.

My budget is $4000, what would you recommend?

We would (nicely) recommend you take a hard look at your total budget, including allowing for fuel costs, 2 stoke oil costs (typically $100 for 4 litres), maintenance/repair costs (allow min. of $500 per year), insurance costs, and pre-purchase inspection costs.  It is genuinely hard to find a good, reliable jetski for this budget and it may be expensive to keep an old ski running.  Another serious option is to investigate using some of your budget for deposit and financing a bit extra - it can mean the difference of getting into a later model 4 stroke for around $8,000.

When I find a jet ski I like do I book in for a pre-purchase?

We do encourage people to send us a copy of the Trade Me link before they get their heart set on the look of a jet ski.  Often we can tell a lot from the ad or advise what you should look for when you go the view the ski.   Then second step is the go and have a look, armed with a few things to look for if applicable, making sure it starts easy, runs/idles well and preferably has service history of some sort.   Step 3 is to get your pre-purchase inspection;  this can be done several ways to suit both parties;   ask the owner to drop it in for the inspection with the option for you to collect if all goes well, or, pay with a bank cheque with an agreement to bank it when the inspection is complete.

The ad says it has been "serviced regularly" - that's good right?

We have heard this one a lot.  Unfortunately not all 'services' are created equally and we have seen some shocking jobs which results in looking like a lack of maintenance.  Also, it is important that the owner cares for the ski after every ride in a particular manner, especially in salt water use - no amount of perfect annual servicing can save a ski from corrosion in the other 11 months of the year.

Service history is helpful to check for ongoing faults, supercharger services, filter changes etc.

I'm looking at buying a new jetski, I don't have anything to worry about buying new right?

Interestingly, no.  The 3 main brands have good 2 year warranties but that doesn't mean that there aren't bad models out there for sale.  There certainly are and you can risk having your new PWC at the workshop getting warranty repairs more often than it is on the water..  not cool!   These 'bad'models do change from year to year and it is best to enquire with us by phone if you have concerns.

I want to buy a new jet ski - what is the best one to buy?

There are roughly 30 different models to choose from between the top 3 brands and each one serves a slightly different purpose.  It is best to give us a call for the current top picks after considering these questions;

- What is your MAIN use, eg: fishing, family use, tow-in surfing, touring, racing?

- What is your budget?

- Who is your nearest PWC service agent?

- Are you content with good fuel consumption or usually have to have the fastest?

What's the deal with imported jetski's?

Imported jetski's (gray imports) are quite common in New Zealand and it is estimated that over 200 are imported each year.  They are commonly Yamaha, Kawasaki and Honda - SeaDoo is avoided because the diagnostic gear is critical and usually only available to authorised dealers.  The imported ski's come from the USA and we have seen some very tidy, late model craft come in largely due to the terrible economic climate in the States and a higher number of repossessions etc.

For imports, the same applies, get a pre-purchase done.   And if you are buying out of town make sure your local jetski service agent is happy to service an import.

Check out our other tips on Pre-Purchase Inspections, Tow Bars, Council registration.

We welcome questions from new buyers because we would rather hear happy stories than horror stories - and we'ver heard a few in our years!