Buying a Used Snowmobile

Can't afford a new snowmobile and you're not sure what to look for in a used one?

Nov. 01, 2005 By ORC STAFF

With the winter season rolling in, people are thinking less of their summer activities and more of what to do all winter. Some will hibernate in front of the fire while the rest of us are thinking of buying a snowmobile and spending the winter on the trails. The only problem is you're short on funds because of that shiny new motorcycle, ATV, Jet Sk or living room furniture. So you?re thinking of picking up a used sled to save a little money, but you really don?t know what to look for. We'll try to give you a few pointers on what to look for when buying a used snomobile. Hopefully, it'll to make your season a little more pleasurable.

Depending on how much you want to spend is the key on how good of a used sled you are going to find. If you only have a few hundred to spend, don't expect much. Even a thousand wont buy much these days. Expect to spend between three to four thousand dollars to get a good used sled and expect it to be three to four years old in this price range. In this range you'll see some with very low mileage and some with high mileage. High mileage is not bad, but don't assume a low mileage one is a cream puff either. Check your local newspapers and most areas have some type of classified or for sale magazines that you can purchase from. Most of these magazines are also online now too. The Want Ad Digest in NY state is one of my favorites. If your not sure of the prices, you can look at the NADA web site under snowmobiles for prices.

Personally I like to go the for sale magazine route. Circle the snowmobiles that interest you and start making your calls. Talk to the owner and ask him as much information as you can such as mileage, condition, is he the first owner, and has it be wrecked. Ask if the owner has ever hit anything at all and what it was. Ask about any extras that the sled has.

Personally, I myself prefer to buy a sled that is basically stock, be very careful when considering to buy a sled that has had a lot of modifications done to it. Excessive modifications can impact the reliability of any snowmobile. Their not bad, but they can be a tuning nightmare if the original owner didn't choose his modifications wisely. It's a judgment call, but the overall condition of the snowmobile will indicate more on its relative reliability down the road. Be sure to ask if the owner if he installed the modifications or if it was done by a reputable dealer. Reality is that most dealers do a better job than the snowmobile owner.

Studded tracks are OK, but check the track to see if it has any holes from the studs being pulled through or if the track looks like it?s in rough shape. If the sled only has a few hundred miles and the studs are already destroyed, that's a red flag. The sled was abused or ridden in conditions so poor that the rest of the sled has most likely been exposed to excessive ware. Look for frayed edges on side of the track. This would be cords or pieces of nylon or rubber coming off the track. Check to see if any lugs are missing off the track. If the track looks bad, negotiate the price down to cover the purchase of a new track, which you can expect to pay $400 USD to $500 USD for.

Look at the skis, if they're steel, check to see if they're bent. If they're bent you may want to replace them which could set you back a few bucks depending if you go to plastic skis or stay with the steel OEM skis. I would recommend plastic replacement skis over the steel. The lighter weight of the plastic ski and the performance benefits make them a good investment. Lift the ski and look underneath the ski to see if the runners a excessively worn. If the carbides are worn out, there's another $50 USD to $80 USD for new ones. If the skis are plastic, you really only need to look at their overall condition. Plastic skis can't be bent up like steel, but they can be cut up.

Look at the trailing arms to see if they look bent. A four foot level can act as a straight edge in this case. Most sleds that are four to five years old will have trailing arms. If they're bent, the sled has hit something pretty hard. An old stump or tree is the most likely culprit. If the arms are bent, your steering is going to be out of alignment and they will need to be replaced. Here again, this can be negotiated with the deal price if you are interested in the sled. Check the radius rods also, since they are lighter weight than a trailing arm and bend much easier. It's not uncommon to see bent radius rods, but as long as nothing else is damaged, they're easily replaced.

Look at the over all condition of the sled look at the cowl for any cracks or paint that has been scratched off. If the cowl does have cracks in it or brushed off paint, the sled has most likely hit something hard. This is another red flag that means everything needs to be scrutinized in detail. Look at the finish again, if everything looks faded chances are it sat outside all summer in the rain and sun which kills the finish.

If the finish looks good lift the cowl and look at the engine compartment. If the engine area is all rusted, the sled sat outside and the owner just spent time waxing the cowl to make it look good. Just because a snowmobile is in the snow, is not a sentence to have rust all over it. His effort was spent a couple of years too late. He should have maintained the snowmobile while he was riding it, not just when he wanted to sell it. With the hood open, inspect the engine compartment to
see if everything looks OK. Look for dents on the pipes. The cowl could be new, but the old one could have bent the pipes that were never repaired. Check the drive belt to see if it still looks good or is it starting to fray apart with missing teeth. Anything that doesn't look right, ask the owner about it or have a friend look at it. Sometimes a good dealer will check it out for you for a small fee as long as the owner doesn't object. This way you know everything is in good order before you buy. The dealer will be able to give you the best idea of the engines condition. Just listening to the engine run sometimes just isn't enough.

I can't stress enough, look at the over condition of the sled. It's very important and cosmetics can reveal more serious damage that is not easily seen. If the snowmobile is kept the way you would keep it fine, then that?s the snowmobile for you. Just remember theirs a lot of not so good deals out there and a lot of good deals if you look hard enough. It?s always a good idea to take a friend with you that has experience and some knowledge about snowmobile mechanics to help you. Consider your local snowmobile dealer too, they always have used snowmobiles and most dealers check the snowmobiles out before reselling them. They may also come with some sort of warranty. Be careful of the snowmobiles that are marked AS IS, you can guarantee that these need work and the dealer doesn't what to deal with it.

Just remember buy something you like and to check it out from the ski tips to grab rail, there is nothing wrong with being picky, after all its your money

We will be doing a feature article on a low mileage 1998 XTC 700 Yamaha that needs some TLC and a few damaged parts replaced. We'll bring this great sled back to better than original for the same money or less than if we found one in A-1 condition.

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