Most people don’t ride the same jet ski for their whole lives. Maybe you’ve outgrown your current model and are ready for an upgrade to more power or more space.
Maybe you’re ready to trade in for this year’s new release because of an exciting new feature you can’t live without. Or maybe you’ve simply decided that PWCs aren’t for you and are moving on.
Whatever the case, selling your jet ski is a big step that requires proper planning and research. You want to make sure you’re getting the best price, especially if you’ve put in the time and effort to maintain your baby or make upgrades.
For first-time sellers, navigating the market can be daunting. That’s why we put together this guide on selling your jet ski for both new and experienced sellers.
You probably have a lot of questions about what to expect when you sell your PWC. Before you can dive into the nitty gritty of prepping your ride for sale and gathering paperwork, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the nuances of selling. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you jump in.
- 1 Selling Through a Dealer vs Selling Privately
- 2 What Is the Resale Value of a Typical Jet Ski?
- 3 When Is the Best Time to Sell?
- 4 How to Market a Jet Ski for Sale?
- 5 The Process of Selling Your Jet Ski
- 6 FAQ
Selling Through a Dealer vs Selling Privately
The first question most people have when selling their jet ski is whether to go through a dealer or whether to sell directly to a new owner. This decision is usually a matter of preference, as one way is not necessarily better than the other. Each method has pros and cons, which we’ll discuss here.
Selling Through a Dealer
Selling your ski through a dealer is certainly easier than selling it yourself. Most dealerships offer cash for used jet skis. If you are planning to upgrade to a new model anyway, trading in can often make things easier, as they’ll simply deduct the price of the trade-in from the new ski. Usually, all you need to do is call the dealer to see if they accept your particular ski in the condition it’s in, then show up with your ski and get the cash or new ski.
The main problem with going this route is that dealers are notorious low-ballers. They are in the business of making money, so they are not in the habit of offering high prices for used PWCs. You will always find someone willing to pay more on Craigslist.
That being said, there are ways to get a better price for your used ski from a dealership. First, make sure your ski is in tip-top shape. That means cleaned, waxed, engine maintenance up to date, paperwork in order, etc. Then, do your research ahead of time to determine what you think would be a reasonable price, and stick to it. If they lowball you, be prepared to walk away.
The good news is, if you’re looking to upgrade, the dealership is often more motivated to give you a better price for your trade-in. They would rather not risk losing a potential sale of a new ski because they lowballed you on your used one.
Selling privately to a new owner takes a lot more work and can be a big hassle. You need to do all the prep on your ski—cleaning, maintenance, paperwork, waxing, etc.—that you would do for the dealer, but you also need to do a whole list of other things yourself.
You’ll need to list your ski, attract potential buyers, weed out tire-kickers, low-ballers, and people who just aren’t a good fit, schedule meetups and test rides, figure out delivery or pick up, and you may potentially be on the hook for follow-up questions or phone calls once the buyer gets the ski home and has a problem.
The upside to selling direct is that you’ll usually get more money for the ski than you would through a dealer. If you have the time and are savvy enough to know how to market to potential buyers and weed out the riff-raff, then selling direct may be the right route.
What Is the Resale Value of a Typical Jet Ski?
Regardless of whether you sell through a dealer or handle the sale yourself, it’s a good idea to have an idea of the resale value of your ski going into the deal. Lots of things affect the value of a used jet ski. We’ve outlined them below.
How Age Affects Resale Value
Jet skis are a depreciating asset, just like cars. And like cars, they begin to depreciate as soon as you “drive them off the lot.” Most experts estimate that a new jet ski will depreciate as much as 22% during its first year after purchase, then 8% every year after that.
Retention Rates of Different Brands and Models
When it comes to different brands or models, the value retention rate of a jet ski won’t change much across the board. For example, a Yamaha jet ski won’t depreciate more than a Kawasaki or a Sea-Doo. A secondhand Kawasaki might sell for more than a secondhand Sea-Doo, but only because it cost more in the first place.
How Usage Time Affects Resale Value
The number of hours you have on your engine is a big factor in resale value. A two-year-old jet ski that’s been ridden hard and has a lot of wear and tears on the engine, hull, and other parts might sell for less than a five-year-old model that’s mostly been sitting in dry storage and is in near-perfect condition.
The balance of age vs. usage time can be tricky to figure out. Typically, you can expect your used ski to sell from anywhere between 20-40% less than the newest model. The best way to get an estimate of what your jet ski might be worth is to go online to a resource like JD Power and get an evaluation.
When Is the Best Time to Sell?
There are two times when it makes the most sense to sell a jet ski: in the spring before the season starts, and in the fall, just before you put away your ski for the winter.
If you’re hoping to get the best price for your ski, you should sell it in the spring. This is when most buyers are shopping around, hoping to get set up before the season starts in the summer. People who are shopping at this time are often very motivated to buy so they don’t miss the season, so they are willing to pay more.
If you’d rather get one last season out of your ski and don’t want to pay for winter storage if you know you won’t be using it again, sell it in the fall when the season ends.
How to Market a Jet Ski for Sale?
In the spring, when there are lots of hungry buyers shopping, it may be enough to simply list your ski on Craigslist and wait. At other times of the year, however, you may need to do some marketing.
What Are Buyers Most Interested In?
The best way to market your ski is to make it very attractive to buyers. This means getting the ski into the best shape possible before the sale. It also means detailing specifically what work has been done on the ski, when maintenance was performed, and what upgrades have been made.
Buyers of secondhand products are most interested in reliability. Primarily, they want to know that they can trust you. They aren’t necessarily interested in fancy features, add-ons, or upgrades. Make sure you have thorough documentation of all work performed. This lets the buyer know that they can trust that they are getting a quality product.
The Process of Selling Your Jet Ski
Once you’ve decided to go the route of selling your ski on your own, you’ll need to understand the selling process step by step. We’ve outlined the steps of selling your jet ski below.
Step One: Research
Before you even think about cleaning up your ski or putting it on the market, you need to understand what the market is like. Use the NADA guide, your local dealer, and other online resources to get an idea of how much jet skis in your area are selling for
Websites like Craigslist, eBay, PWC Trader, and dealership websites are the best place to start when figuring out what you should be asking for your craft.
Step Two: Clean Up Your Ski
As mentioned, your jet ski needs to be in good shape before you can sell it. This means more than just a wash and a wax. Make sure the jet ski runs well, that there is no cosmetic damage, and that all the lights, radio, etc. work. If anything is broken, you’ll either need to fix it before you list it for sale, or be very clear about what issues the ski has in the listing.
Don’t try to sell a broken ski or a ski with issues without disclosing them.
Step Three: List Your Jet Ski
There are many places online where you can list your used ski for sale. If you want to sell quickly, we recommend listing it in several places at once to get the ad in front of more potential buyers.
The most popular sites to list your ski are:
- PWC Trader
It’s important to remember to use excellent images in your listing and write clear, accurate descriptions. Buyers will be extremely put out if you try to hide damage or issues, and unclear listings will create headaches as buyers try to figure out if the ski is what they’re looking for.
Step Four: Weed Out Tire-Kickers
This is the trickiest step in the process, but one that will save you a lot of hassle if you do it right. Most people who are shopping for a jet ski are serious about buying, so you don’t need to worry about people wasting your time on purpose.
The problem is that people who are shopping for a used jet ski are usually first-time buyers who don’t always know what they need or want. This is where your experience can come in handy. A buyer who hopes to tow their kids behind their ski, for example, would be better off buying a Yamaha SVHO or a Sea-Doo Wake Pro than a Kawasaki 310 LX. A buyer who hopes to take their ski on multi-day ocean tours will need a fishing or touring model rather than a high-performance racer.
Step Five: Organize Test Rides
Organizing a jet ski test drive is much harder than organizing a test drive for a car. You can’t simply have someone come to your house and take it around the block. You’ll need to trailer your ski to an agreed-upon location, launch it, make sure the buyer doesn’t damage it while they’re riding, hose it off and clean it up afterward, get it out of the water, and trailer it again….
A test drive is a lot of work. Make sure that the people you agree to let test drive your vehicle are serious buyers before you waste time letting someone ride your ski for free!
Step Six: Paperwork
Your registration, title, and bill of sale will need to be in order before you make the sale. Some states may also require you to have proof of loan payoff before they will allow you to sell. If you also plan to sell your trailer, you’ll need all the proper documentation for that, too. In most states, the following documentation is required to sell a jet ski:
Bill of Sale
Trailer documents (if applicable)
Step Seven: Profit!
That’s it! Once you’ve gotten through the hassle of finding and attracting buyers, finding the right buyer, test driving, and getting paperwork in order, all that’s left to do is collect your cash. Make sure you remember to declare the sale on your IRS paperwork.
Can you sell a jet ski before you finish paying off your loan?
It is possible to sell a jet ski before the loan is fully paid, but the process is more complicated. First, you will need to find a buyer who accepts the terms of the sale (i.e. understands that the vehicle still has a loan on it.)
Next, you will need to find out if the loan is transferable. If it is, the new buyer may simply be able to take over the loan. However, whoever issued the loan will want to run a credit check on the potential buyer. If they don’t pass, they will not be allowed to take over payments.
You may also be able to sell the ski by having the buyer write a check for the PWC directly to your lender. Contact your lender directly to find out what their policies are regarding selling a vehicle that is still under loan.
Is there a difference in selling in different states?
Yes. While the process for selling a PWC is similar across the US, many states have nuances in their laws that make the process slightly different. When you begin your research, make sure you understand the laws about selling PWCs in your state, especially the tax implications.
Is it better to sell online or offline?
The choice of whether to sell online or offline mostly comes down to personal preference. Depending on where you live, you may be able to get a better price by advertising locally, especially if there are not many PWCs for sale in your area. However, if you live somewhere without a lot of interested buyers, advertising online may be a way to attract buyers from farther afield.
Should you go through a dealer?
Whether or not you sell your ski through a dealer is up to you. There are benefits of selling via a dealer—mostly, the hassle of dealing with buyers, test drives, advertising, etc. is taken out of your hands and handled by the dealer. The downside of selling through a dealer is that you will rarely get as good a price as if you sold it on your own.
If you intend to trade in your ski for a newer model, going through a dealer might be the way to go, as dealers are often willing to offer better prices on trade-ins if they know they are going to make a sale on a new model as well.