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What to Consider Before Buying a Personal Watercraft

Maybe you had a tremendous time cutting through the waves with the one you rented on vacation. Maybe you've always wanted one but couldn't afford it until now. Maybe you just think they're incredibly cool. Though there's plenty of good reasons for wanting to buy a jet ski or water scooter, it's important to not let your enthusiasm lead you into an unwise buying decision. As with any other major purchase, there's important information that you should have in hand before exploring the market. By keeping the following tips in mind, you'll be certain to pick the personal watercraft (PWC) that's as fun as it is affordable, as dependable as it is daring.

Buying Used

The market for secondhand PWC is gigantic, so much so that it can difficult to know where to start. In that sense, buying a used PWC is not unlike buying a used car - the transactions are also similar in that wear and reliability should be foremost in your mind when making your decision.

Check for Damages

Though this seems like a no-brainer, it's of even greater importance when purchasing a vehicle whose workings you might not be intimately familiar with. You might, for example, be willing to forgive damages to the interior of a car if you or your mechanic take a look under the hood and determine that all of its mechanical components are in good working order. That might not be an option when choosing a PWC, and as such you may have nothing to go on but the exterior appearance of the jet ski or water scooter you're interested in. Torn seats and battered fiberglass might not affect the ride or function of a PWC, but both can be indicative of an uncaring owner who hasn't been performing proper vehicular maintenance.

Engine Basics

PWC built with 2-stroke engines are becoming more and more rare these days as engines of that construction are notoriously environmentally unfriendly. Though you'll likely come across more PWC with 4-stroke engines in your search, there are still a good deal of used jet skis and water scooters on the market with 2-stroke engines. Even if you're not terribly concerned with the level of pollution they produce, we still recommend staying away from those models as the increasing rarity of 2-stroke engines has made finding parts for their repair extremely difficult.

There's also the matter of engine hours to consider. Though experts have said in the past that the typical PWC engine is only meant to function for 300 hours, that doesn't mean that PWC engines that have crossed that threshold are totally unusable. On the contrary - with proper care and maintenance, a PWC engine can easily last 400 hours or more. If you're purchasing a used PWC from a reputable dealer (or from an individual who you know takes care of their vehicles), don't let a few extra hours scare you away from a great bargain.

Versatility and Comfort

Whether you buy new or used, you're going to want to ensure that the PWC you choose is as comfortable as it is capable. You're buying it for fun, after all - and there's nothing fun about getting a backache from riding or discovering that the capabilities of your PWC are sorely lacking.

Seating and Ergonomics

As with a buying a car, you should never purchase a PWC without first taking a test drive. Don't ignore any discomfort you feel during that drive - though it might not be so bad at the time, consider that you may be spending hundreds of hours in the seat of your PWC. Minor discomfort can become major over time and sap all enjoyment from your riding.

Likewise, be sure that the handlebars and controls are easily accessible. This is not as pressing a concern for the handlebars, as most varieties can be adjusted to best suit your size and riding style. Controls, however, must be able to be freely accessed and manipulated. This is a matter not only of comfort but also of security - the last thing you want to be doing in an emergency is fumbling with switches. Be certain to test out your ability to reach the controls during your test drive, as there's a world of difference between being able to do it while your PWC is moving and while it's sitting stationary in a showroom.

PWC Uses

Are you buying a PWC for fun or for transportation? Will you be riding it alone or using it to tow tubers and wakeboarders? Different models excel at different tasks, and as such it's important to know beforehand what you'll be typically using your PWC for. If distance is what you need, look for models that boast high fuel capacity and onboard storage. Those interested in towing will benefit from PWC that feature horsepower to spare - you might also consider getting a model with an aft-facing spotter seat and an oversized mirror to keep an eye on those you're towing. The possibilities offered by PWC are endless, which is partly why they come in such a wide variety of features and capabilities. By keeping in mind exactly what you want from your PWC, you'll find it much easier to choose a vehicle that fulfills all or at least most of those needs.


Just because you want to have fun with your PWC doesn't mean you have to be flighty about its purchase. A little seriousness in making that decision will go a long way towards ensuring the fun you and your family have with your PWC for years to come. Likewise, simply picking the first model that looks good may lead to your PWC spending more time in the garage than out in the water. If you'd like further information on choosing the right model - or on how to best dock your PWC - please feel free to get in touch with one of our friendly customer service representatives.

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