snowmobiles on a snowy trail at night

Snowmobile Buying Guide: What to Look for

Updated December 3, 2021 . AmFam Team

Thinking of buying a snowmobile? Check out some factors to consider when buying a new or used snowmobile.

As the leaves fall and the temperature follows suit, our minds drift towards wintry outdoor activities. A snowmobile can be your ticket to a flurry of fun this winter.

But before you run out and buy a snowmobile, there are a few factors you should consider first. For example, if this is your first time shredding the snow, then you’ll want to purchase a beginner’s snowmobile.

Here are some tips to help ensure the snowmobile you purchase is the right one for you and your family.

What to Consider Before Buying a Snowmobile

Before we get into the nitty and the gritty of snowmobile purchasing, there’s some important things you’ll need to keep in mind. Check out the following before you decide to pick up a snowmobile.

Do you have your license and permit?

You’ll need to check with your state’s laws as they pertain to licenses and permits to operate a snowmobile. To ensure proper registration, check your state’s snowmobile association (Opens in a new tab) to understand what it takes to reach compliance.

What type of riding are you doing?

Just as there are many different types of snowmobiles, there are just as many different purposes for using each type.  For example, entry-level snowmobiles are ideal for beginners. To help you better understand what sled will work best for you, here is a quick breakdown of the different kinds of snowmobiles and what they are best suited for.

Beginner snowmobiles. If you’re a snowmobile rookie this is the best bet for kids or adults that have little to no experience on the snow.

Trail. They’re not too difficult to operate and they tend to be quite affordable. Ideal for an intermediate user that is looking to traverse more than just powder.

Sport trail. Upgraded features and a bit more horsepower are what separate the sport trail sleds from the regular trail series.

Performance. Performance snowmobiles come packed with a formidable stock engine, one that can be upgraded if deemed necessary. One key to the performance series is that they are much better balanced than trail series. This means they’re less likely to flip over, and the driver can stand up to operate if they’d prefer.

Touring. Touring models don’t boast enhanced suspension or balance, but they are designed for long haulers that are looking to travel great distances on their snowmobiles.

Mountain. Mountain sleds are for the true adventure-seekers. They are designed to scale slopes and ascend peaks. They’re built to be both powerful and agile. For these reasons an advanced user may want to consider purchasing a mountain or performance-style snowmobile.

What to Look for When Buying a Used Snowmobile

Now that you know the different types of snowmobiles, you can make an informed decision while browsing for the right one for you. Here are some quick considerations so that you can save time when searching for your snowmobile.

Consider the cost

What are you willing to spend on a snowmobile? This will likely indicate whether you should buy it new or used. If you go with a used model, make sure you do your research and check out all the vitals before completing your purchase.

If you decide to go with a new snowmobile, you still want to mind your budget. And much like when shopping for a new or used automobile, you want to be aware of market trends. And don’t overlook the operating expenses either; factors like gas mileage need to be considered too.

Used snowmobiles: Mileage considerations

Unlike a car, snowmobiles are not designed to last more than a maximum of 50,000 miles. And truth be told, depending on the type of snowmobile you purchase, 10,000 miles might be the upper limit. Any used snowmobile with upwards of 8,000 miles is considered high mileage, and you should proceed with the purchase cautiously. After all, you don’t want to be stuck with a snowmobile that needs a new engine!

Take a long look at the sled

It’s recommended that you do a quick walkaround the snowmobile to look for signs of wear, tear and/or misuse. It’s a good rule of thumb to also consider if the sled has any signs that it has been stored in inclement weather or hasn’t been properly taken care of.

If the snowmobile is in obvious disrepair, then it’s likely that the engine and other internal systems are in poor condition too.

Looking under the hood

Never buy a used snowmobile sight unseen. You want to be able to pop the hood and look at the condition of the engine. If you are not knowledgeable about engines, bring a friend along with you who is.

This may sound obvious, but the first thing you’ll want to do is to ensure the engine fires up and is in good working order. Once started, let it run 5-to-10 minutes, while revving it consistently. Also, it’s a good idea to bring along a compression gauge so you can spot any leaks in the engine, such as a leak in the crank seal, coolant reservoir or cracks within the carb boot.

Ask to take the snowmobile for a quick ride. If possible, check to see if there’s something you can pull behind. The reason for this is to ensure the compression is in good shape. Now’s the time to grab that compression gauge. Screw it into the spark plug hole and turn the engine over (with the throttle open and key off) about 4-to-5 times or until the gauge has stabilized. If your reading is anywhere lower than 120 pounds per square inch (psi) this is indicative of low compression. Not great. If it registers at lower than 100 psi, it’s likely you’ll need a rebuild.

What to Look for When Buying a New Snowmobile

Buying a snowmobile is a significant purchase and you need to be especially careful as the prices can be very cost prohibitive. All those new bells and whistles really can add up. Consider the following before you buy a brand-new ride.

Be realistic about what you need

The decision to purchase a new snowmobile as opposed to a used one is rooted in your budget. But even if your budget allows a new sled, do you really need one? Or will a well maintained used one be just fine for you and your family?

It’s always a good idea to remember that a new snowmobile, like a new car, may come with hidden costs that are far higher than what you’d pay for the same services in a used one. Always consider the cost of gas, oil changes and spare parts.

Research different snowmobile brands

For some, the research leg of the snowmobile journey is the fun part.  Regardless, it’s important you commit your due diligence in getting the right brand, make and model that suits you and your family’s needs.

Also check with any of your friends or extended family to see what type of snowmobile they have and to gauge if that might be the right brand for you too!

Is the extended warranty right for you?

An extended warranty option gives many buyers pause. What they see is the few hundred dollars that they’d have to pay upfront. Think of the snowmobile in terms of several years down the road.  Find out if a particular brand is known to have certain parts give out. And, if your budget allows for it, it’s a great idea to get an extended warranty to protect your out-of-pocket expenditures in the future.

Get Snowmobile Protection from American Family Insurance

Like a car, a snowmobile — whether you buy one new or used — is an important investment and one that needs to be protected. That’s why American Family Insurance offers coverage so you can have peace of mind while you’re out on the trail.

Learn more about snowmobile insurance or contact an agent today (Opens in a new tab) to get all the information you need to protect your snowmobile against any unforeseen accidents in the future. And don’t forget to read up on snowmobile safety and trail tips so you’ll be prepared for a winter full of fun.

This article is for informational purposes only and includes information widely available through different sources.

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