5 tips for buying a used snowmobile

Here is a checklist of what to consider and what to look for when you’re buying a used sled

by Dave Norona

A man rides a snowmobile in the woods.
Rule #1 for buying a used snowmobile: Be realistic as to what you need Joel Watson photo

The brisk days and darker evenings mean one thing: sledding season is just around the corner! Whether this is your first year sledding or you are upgrading to another newer machine, finding a great used sled can be easier knowing a few insider tips. Testing out the sled on snow may not be an option in most cases so I have reflected that below.

1. Be realistic as to what you need

Your budget, ability and where you want to ride are all important when deciding what size snowmobile you need. Figure out how much you have to spend, and don’t forget you’re going to need some cash for gas, oil and spare parts as well. So coming up with a realistic budget is probably the most important thing you need to do first. Personally, I recommend getting the newest sled possible while staying within your budget; each year, sleds improve so getting a new design will always help you improve and enjoy the sport more.

2. Choose a brand

Every brand out there has some great sleds. Ask your friends what they ride and check out what dealer or dealers are in your neighbourhood and then visit them and ask questions. By doing this you will get tons of fantastic information and make a great contact with a dealer or dealers who will be helping you with service or parts down the road. They may even have some great used sleds available.

3. General look

If a sled looks beat on then it probably is! Check the tunnel and body for any weird bends or warps—this will tell you if it has been hit hard. Check the skis to see that they are not worn or missing the carbides; also check the spindles to see that there is no unusual play in them. Check the suspension and A-arms to make sure everything lines up.

Raising the skid will allow you to rotate the track and check that there are no worn lugs or worn clips and that the sliders are in good shape. Everything can be fixed but only with money, so keeping your budget in mind will allow you to make the call whether or not to look further or to walk.

4. Under the hood

If the engine and clutches are dirty and there are oil patches, then I would say the person did not clean the sled much, and a clean sled is a healthy sled. A compression test will let you know if the engine is good. Check the spark plugs as well to make sure they are a nice tan colour, not loaded and black or, worse, have a milky substance on them. The clutch sheaves should be clean and smooth, and check the belt for any weird wear.

Start the sled up and let it run for five to 10 minutes. It should rev consistently and now you can check the lights and other electrical functions. Having it on a lift is also a good way to watch the clutch engage.

Again, all engine parts are serviceable but add to your cost. If you find something wrong, you may be able to deduct the cost of the repair from the price of the sled. 

5. Ask questions

Good owners will know their sled and be able to answer all your questions as well as let you know how to look after things in the future. If they are not able to help you then chances are they did not know what to do, so this might tell you how well the sled was taken care of.

In my experience, the sled community is filled with awesome people who are willing to help you have a great riding experience. The more people you meet in person or on forums and the more questions you are able to ask them, the better off you will be when deciding which sled will best suit you—and the ideal sled will suddenly appear. For me, it happened just that way!

Happy riding.

A man rides a snowmobile in the woods.
Rule #1 for buying a used snowmobile: Be realistic as to what you need Joel Watson photo

Also see 6 Tips for Selling a Used Snowmobile.

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