How to Buy a Used Jet Ski and Not Get a Lemon

Buying a used watercraft or Jet Ski for sale is not the worst idea in the world. It’s still cheaper than renting, and if you find one that’s been well taken care of, you could enjoy many hours of fun in the water before you will need to consider investing in a new one. There are a few things you should look for when shopping for a personal watercraft. We tell you all the factors that should determine price and whether or not the vehicle is even worth your time. Take these tips into consideration when shopping and you should find yourself a great machine in no time!

How Many Hours Old Is It?

Get used to qualifying the worth of a Jet Ski or Watercraft according to hours. Generally speaking, Jet Skis that have been used for 150 hours or more (say maybe 30 vacations or so) tend to show wear and tear that may require expensive maintenance and repairs. In fact, you could say that at that much usage, it’s middle-aged. The average Jet Ski lasts only about 300 hours.

The hours a Jet Ski has been used shouldn’t be the only determining factor in whether or not you should buy a particular watercraft. An older machine may actually outlast a newer one that has been poorly maintained (not winterized, not de-winterized properly). The best seller will be one who has all the maintenance records that prove it’s been well cared for.

Ask how many hours the Jet Ski has been operated. Certainly, no one logs in each time they go for a cruise but they should be able to approximate how many times a year they’ve vacationed and used this machine.

What’s the History?

Does the Jet Ski have more than one owner? Just as with a car, you want the vehicle you’re buying to have been in the surest hands. Usually, the fewer owners, the better (at least if that owner was a responsible one). The problem when you buy a vehicle that has passed several hands is that maintenance records may be missing. If they are all there, however, and the machine seems to be running well, a multiple-owner history may be just fine.

Where Was it Stored?

Ask (and possibly see) where the watercraft was stored by the owner. Was it in the shade or outdoors? Did it have a cover? Direct sunlight over a long period of time can be damaging to a Jet Ski. In fact, all the elements are damaging so it’s best if it was stored in a garage, away from any exposure to sun and moisture.

Get an Expert Opinion

If everything we’ve covered here seems to check out with the Jet Ski you just checked out, you still have one more hoop to jump through: call a mechanic. Even with a simple look-over, a mechanic will be able to determine some very important things a layman simply will not see. You’ll definitely need to do a test ride even if it seems to check out okay. Ask your mechanic to also check for leaks and other internal problems it may have. If the owner gives you a hard time about having a mechanic check it out, move on to your next option. Another option is take the Jet Ski to a nearby dealership. There, you can check the compression and any flaws that you may not be able to notice.

What to Look for:

  • Look for Rust and Corrosion. These are the worst enemies of most vehicles, and watercraft are not immune to their damage either. When you see rust or corrosion, it means the watercraft was not cared for very well. Was it not hosed off after being saltwater? Did it have loose nuts or bolts that caused the decay? The battery should not be rusted. If it is, you know the vehicle may very likely have problems from its neglectful owner.
  • Check the Impeller. This is really what you’d probably call a propeller. It’s what sends the watercraft forward and can be expensive to repair. Check the blades for damage and make sure it’s not rigged to stay in place.
  • Is the Hull Sound? Look for cracks and dents that indicate a collision has taken place. Sometimes too much pressure on the watercraft will also make dents and cracks worsen and become very visible. Also check for holes or frayed areas. Look closely to see if damage has been patched up. If it hasn’t been fixed properly and only polished up to look good, it may break down in the water after you buy it. Look very closely.

The Title

You don’t always require a title. Some states allow that you the previous owner simply sign the registration card and transfer it to you online.

If there is a title being transferred over to you, look to see if the vin number has been scratched out or altered (huge red flags!). However, if the owner doesn’t have the title, it’s possible that he/she lost it. You can get the owner to sign a notarized lost title statement with the bill of sale. All you need is the vessel numbers to get a new title issued to you.


Make sure to do your research well before deciding whether or not to buy a Jet Ski. Not only should you be familiar with how much the model you are considering should be listed for, you should be familiar with what it’s actually selling for (big difference sometimes!). If you’re looking to save a few dollars, buy when it’s not peak season, but don’t compromise on a taking a test ride.


Even if you’re buying a used watercraft, it’s still an asset you should protect with RV Insurance. You don’t have to spend much money on coverage either. Speak with an Insurance Specialist about the model and year(s) you are considering buying to see what your premiums will look like. If you have a motorhome and trailer, you may be able to bundle for optimal savings too. Call for multiple free quotes at (866) 501-7335.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources. This content is offered for educational purposes only and does not represent contractual agreements, nor is it intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. The definitions, terms, and coverage in a given policy may be different than those suggested here and such policy will be governed by the language contained therein. No warranty or appropriateness for a specific purpose is expressed or implied.

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