Used snowmobile buying tips?
November 26, 2010 6:30 PM   Subscribe

What should I look for in a cheap, used snowmobile?

I'm looking for a cheap used snowmobile. It will only be used on my own property and mostly for making trails in winter for hiking and XC skiing. What's the minimum I should expect to pay and what should I look for?

(I'm in Ontario, a couple of hours north of Toronto)
posted by unSane to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What you pay will depend largely on your ability to repair and maintain (or willingness to pay someone to do so) the machine, and how fast you want to go (engine size)

There is a bustling trade in snowmachines in the $1000-2500 dollar range. For this price you would get something from the 90's in reasonable working order.

If you want to get into the 2000's you're looking at $2500-8000.

If you're not going to be going on long trail runs where your life depends on the machine getting you home safely, you can likely afford to go with a less expensive "beater" machine.
posted by davey_darling at 7:50 PM on November 26, 2010

Fan-cooled is simpler than liquid-cooled. If you have any experience with small motors and want to be able to maintain on your own, go with a fan-cooled machine. I'd look for a "guaranteed running" fan-cooled machine for your needs, and you should be able to easily find something in that range under $2000 that's 15 years old or less.
posted by liquado at 8:26 PM on November 26, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks. Are there any 90s models that are an obvious better buy than any others?
posted by unSane at 8:54 PM on November 26, 2010

Are you going to put these trails in on existing base and keep them groomed all winter? If so you can probably buy the bare minimum in performance in an older Polaris or something for under $1K. Those machines are pretty basic so if you find one that's been stored inside and has low original miles and regular maintenance you're probably going to be pretty happy with it.

I'm guessing this is not the case but if you're going to let the trails go for periods and you expect heavy snow (or you're laying trail over an area that is not regularly a trail so doesn't have a good base) I'd look for something light weight and a bit more performance oriented since you'll be alone. At that point your priority is a) not getting stuck and b) when you do get stuck being able to get the machine out by yourself. An older, say Yamaha, designed for off-trail riding and the right size for your weight will cost you 2-4x what the basic model will but it'll be 10x better for your needs. Longer more aggressive track, more clearance, lighter weight, better suspension, better handling. You'll just have to go over it with a fine tooth comb in case the guys kids have been out hot dogging it for the past 10 years. Arctic Cat might be another good brand, I see a lot of those still out and about but don't know much about them. I don't know much about performance snowmachines at all to be honest except that those crazy kids ride way too fast and should stay off my lawn.

There is Kelly Blue Book for snowmachines which would give you a basic idea of price on a given model for bargaining purposes.
posted by fshgrl at 11:55 PM on November 26, 2010

Response by poster: The trails are not going to be groomed and we can get a LOT of snow. However I have a tractor with a snowblower which I can use to rescue a stalled machine.
posted by unSane at 5:37 AM on November 27, 2010

In that case I'd look for a crossover utility/ performance machine with a long track that is designed for powder or backwoods use. As lightweight as possible. You'll be happier if you don't spend all your time on the weekends digging it out of tree holes and you're not going to be towing heavy loads with it. btw, a lot of older sleds don't have reverse which you want, so check on that.

I don't know enough to recommend models (it seems like there are four sub-models of every snow machine) but this forum is a good place to find specifics.
posted by fshgrl at 1:18 PM on November 27, 2010

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