Website Exclusive: An expanded list of 20 expert tips you need before you shop for a snowmobile!

By Mark Boncher

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Take a big plunge or a little plunge? Payments or no payments? What happens if something goes wrong? I have heard all the questions and have seen hundreds of scenarios play out when people shop for snowmobiles. Whether you are a novice, experienced rider or even expert snowmobiler, here are several tips you need when shopping for a used or new sled.

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10 Tips for Buying Used

  1. Do your research. Know approximate price ranges, and types of sleds before blindly going into a dealership or going out to look and random snowmobiles.
  2. Set a budget and then negotiate. This will both help keep your spouse happy, but will also cut down on impulse buying. The art of the deal if alive and well in the used sled market and you can often get sleds for much less than they are offered for … especially after low snow years.
  3. Trust your gut/first impression. If the sled looks like it was abused, it probably was.
  4. Start it up. Even if it is summer, ask to start the sled up and at least run the track around, at the very least.
  5. Check the vitals. Inspect the skis, track, wheels, grease zerks, engine, belt, clutches, body panels, suspension, etc. If anything looks excessively worn, at least ask about it.
  6. Ask who drove it and where. You can tell a lot about a sled by knowing whether it was ridden by an 18-year-old racer, a 65-year-old retiree or by someone in between. The typical snow conditions and areas ridden can also give you insight.
  7. Check the odometer. Make sure it matches the advertisement, but also know that miles are a big predictor of price and value.
  8. Do a compression test. Get a compression test done on the cylinders. It is quick, cheap and a good indicator of engine wear and life left in it.
  9. Get at least a 1-season warranty. It is tough when not dealing with a dealership to get any warranty on a used sled, but if something is going to happen, it will most likely happen in the first season (1000 miles) after you buy the sled.
  10. Get a recommendation. If someone recommends you go their friend or business, tell the seller they were recommended. The seller is less likely to sell you a lemon as they know it will damage a relationship, future business opportunities or their ego.

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10 Tips for Buying New

  1. Do your research on the dealer. Buying from a good, respectable, honest dealer is almost worth as much as the sled itself. They will most be your go-to source for your sled for years to come.
  2. Know the market. In years after a low snow year there may be many new holdover sleds just like in the car business. These are new sleds that did not sell the year before and could be had at lower costs, but still with warranties and all the goodies.
  3. Set a budget. Your wife or husband will thank you, and your buying experience will be less stressful. (Note: Dealers often offer financing, which is a big plus to buying new.)
  4. Read American Snowmobiler magazine. I know, it’s a shameless plug since I am the editor, but our reports and buyer’s guides are a great source of information that isn’t biased towards one particular brand. (See amsnow.com for more info.)
  5. Start small, but not too small. If you are just getting into snowmobiling, avoid buying the biggest horsepower sled in the dealership. Start small and learn while you keep your budget at a minimum. There are some great options among the 600cc class of sleds, as well as among the numerous smaller cc 4-stroke models.
  6. Shop the spring specials. There are always specials run in the springtime for snowmobilers to order a new sled for the next season. These specials include things like lower pricing, special financing, accessories, limited model options, rebate and more. The spring deals are worth looking at when buying new.
  7. Go to snow shows. There are several snow shows around the country that give you the rare opportunity to see all the new models from all the OEMs usually in one place.
  8. Buy the extended warranty. The extra $500 is worth the peace of mind, and since the snowmobiling season is often short, you do not want to be stuck without a sled or parts.
  9. Remember that you have a choice. There are literally hundreds of new models out there, and a great benefit to buying new is that each of them comes with a clean slate. You will write the history for that sled, and you will not have to deal with the history others have put on a used sled.
  10. Tailor your sled. Ask the salesperson why this sled would be best for you, and then ask him/her to throw in the accessories that would fit you best! Seriously, there are lots of options on all the new sleds and lots of accessories, and if you are going to buy new, you need to be totally satisfied. Don’t go halfway, because you will end up paying more later.

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Good luck to you. And remember that this is a fun purchase, so enjoy the shopping experience. Sure, money is money, but you’re buying a snowmobile, not a washing machine. Nobody is excited to go do laundry, but just about everyone has a smile on his/her face when they get to go snowmobiling!

Mark Boncher is the editor of American Snowmobiler magazine.