What to Look for When Buying a Used Snowmobile

Mileage and mechanical condition are two of the most significant factors to consider when buying a used snowmobile. These can have a critical impact on how the machine runs and how well it has been cared for. 

I’m Chaz, a long-time snowmobiler who has spent nearly 30 winters riding trails throughout the US and Canada. I’ve purchased several used snowmobiles over the years and want to share some of my experiences here. 

This article will highlight some of the most important things to look for when buying a used snowmobile, alongside a few buying tips to help you get a good deal. 

Before you buy anything, read this post. 

Why Buy a Used Snowmobile?

Buying a used snowmobile has some advantages, as well as a few disadvantages. 

Pros

The main advantage of buying a used snowmobile is that it will be cheaper than buying one brand new. If you find a sled that is in really good shape for a reasonable price, you can take advantage of this value as a rider or when you sell it again down the road. 

Just like buying a car, a new snowmobile will begin to depreciate as soon as it is ridden. This means you can often get your hands on a nearly new machine for thousands less than what it would cost from the manufacturer. 

Used snowmobiles are also a good option for anyone who is just starting to ride. You can find an older sled for pretty cheap, and that way, you don’t have to make as much initial investment to start riding. You can usually find a decent used snowmobile for $1-$2,000

Cons

If you follow the next section’s steps on what to look for when buying a used snowmobile, you can limit some risks. Unfortunately, there is no way to fully guarantee a used machine’s condition, and you won’t have a warranty or any other type of backup plan available. 

Longevity is one downside to buying used. You might pay a low price, but the machine might not last that long. This relates to general wear and tear on a snowmobile. They aren’t designed to last forever, and the more miles they have, the closer they are to the end of that lifespan. 

Not knowing the maintenance history is another con to purchasing a used sled. Without knowing what has been worked on or how the snowmobile has been treated, it can be a crapshoot as to what type of condition it is actually in. 

What to Look for When Buying a Used Snowmobile

When you are considering buying a used sled, go over each one of the considerations listed below to help you decide as to whether it’s a good decision or not. 

1. Do a Little Homework

Before you look at the sled you might purchase, do a little research on the make and model first. Get an idea of common issues that type of sled might have and what a good resale value is. This will help with the negotiation process. 

2. Ask for a maintenance history 

I always ask the previous owner of a snowmobile if they have a maintenance history on the machine, and you should too. 

This is helpful for a few reasons. It can show you all of the work that has been performed and give you an idea of what might need to be fixed down the road. It can also provide you with insight into how well the sled has been treated. 

If you have an owner with meticulous records who knows their machine inside and out, chances are the snowmobile will be in good condition, even with higher miles. If they don’t know anything about the sled, I wouldn’t buy it unless you can get it for really cheap.

3. Look it over, inside and out

The next step is giving the used snowmobile a thorough look. You want to inspect as much as you can visually to see if you notice any signs of wear or damage that might cause an issue or allow you to negotiate a lower price. 

Look for any major dents or cracks in the body, as this can be an indicator that the machine has been wrecked. Rust is another thing that is easy to spot and can lead to a range of problems when it gets bad. 

Take a good look at the sled and make sure everything seems straight. Cracks in the bulkhead or near the suspension mounting points can indicate the need for immediate repair. You’ll also want to check for any leaks coming from the engine. 

4. Start the engine and test drive if possible

After the visual inspection, it’s time to fire up the engine. One good tip to keep in mind here is to ask the owner not to start up the sled before you show up to look at it. This will allow you to cold start the machine and see how it does. 

Put your hand near the engine and see if it is warm. If it is, the owner has started it and might be trying to hide an issue. Start up the engine and let it run for at least 5-10 minutes. You can tell a lot about the condition on startup and as the engine comes up to operating temperature. 

If the engine coughs, sputters, or struggles to start, there might be an issue with the carbs or the motor. If you hear any knocking or rattling sounds, that’s a bad sign. With the engine on, you should also check all of the lights and electrical to make sure things work. 

If you can take it on a test drive, continue to listen to the engine and for any whines or thudding noises. These can indicate a bad bearing or worn-out parts in the suspension or drive train. 

5. Negotiate a Price

One of my favorite things about buying a used snowmobile is that you can haggle. Once you have looked the machine over, started up the engine, and taken it out for a test drive, you can begin negotiating a price. 

Ask the owner again how much they want for the sled. Based on the maintenance history, visual inspection, and how it operates, you can make a counteroffer. If everything is in good shape, you might not have that much room for a lowball offer. 

If the sled is in lousy condition, offer a price that you think reflects that and tell the owner why. If it’s in terrible shape, don’t be afraid to walk away from the deal. Don’t feel pressured into buying. 

The worst an owner can say is ‘no’ to an offer, so I always haggle a little regardless of what condition the sled is in. You never know when you might get a deal. Plus, bargaining is fun. 

FAQs

Here are a few questions relating to buying a used snowmobile. 

What is the most reliable used snowmobile?

I think that Yamaha snowmobiles are some of the best in general, making them a good choice for a used option. Any 4-stroke Yamaha snowmobile has a reputation for quality and longevity. 

What is good mileage for a used snowmobile?

Try to stick with a snowmobile somewhere in the 3,000-6,000 mile range for the best value and condition. You can always buy an option outside of this range, but it will cost you considerably more or might not last as long with high mileage. 

Should I buy a used snowmobile?

First-time snowmobilers should consider buying used. If you end up not enjoying the sport as much as anticipated, you won’t invest as much money. As long as you can get a well-maintained machine, buying used is always a good option. 

The Final Price

Take the tips mentioned above to heart when you are considering purchasing a used snowmobile. I’ve had a lot of luck with used options by walking through each one of those steps. I’ve also made some bad decisions that have resulted in bad machines and a loss of money.

If you buy a used snowmobile and it needs maintenance, make sure you make the necessary repairs or improvements before taking it to the trails. 

Do you have any advice on buying a used snowmobile? Let us know in the comments below.

About Chaz Wyland
I’m a snowmobile fanatic. I live for riding and am out on the trails or backcountry as often as possible during the winter months. I was born and raised in the Rocky Mountains and have snowmobiled in dozens of North American locations. When the snow is falling, you’ll find me on a sled.

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