Buying a Used Sled — Do's and Don'ts
Patrick Garbutt | On 18, Aug 2016
Most guys don’t go out and buy a brand new F-350 Super Duty for their first set of wheels. It’s usually more like a rusty Madza 323 with a leaky gas tank, or some other P.O.S. with hardly any brakes and even less chick magnetism.
The same holds true for first time sled buyers. Sure it’d be great if we could all roll up to the dealership and slap down a fat wad for that shiny Limited Edition with all the aftermarket goodies sitting there gleaming on the showroom floor. Although there are probably a few silver spoon-fed, oil tycoon trust fund Daddy’s boys out there who have done just that.
But that’s not you. In all likelihood—like most other sledders out there—you probably sport a blue-collared shirt Monday to Friday and harbour a little dirt under your nails, even on the weekends. You’re shopping for your first sled on Kijiji, Craigslist, or Snowandmud.com. You should know that getting into sledding is a major commitment. A commitment to wrecking your shit and blowing tons of cash along the way that is. Welcome to the club!
Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts to help you get through your first sled buying experience.
Do – Have a good cruise around the Internet to see what’s available where and what people are asking. You might find a killer deal up in Fort Mac because some skid derrick-hand just got fired for smoking crack on his lunch break, but do you really want to drive 12 hours each way for it? No you don’t but you go anyways.
Don’t – Settle for something with trailing arms. There’s a big learning curve to sledding and as a new rider, you’ll have a hard enough time keeping up to the pack without your equipment holding you back. There really has been incredible improvements in the last 5 years, and you’ll want to take advantage of the technology. Start saving. $3,500 should be your minimum. $6,000 gets you in the game. $10,000 welcomes you to the modern era.
Do – Look for something with a warranty, if you can afford it. Today’s snowmobiles are designed for the utmost in performance, with durability a distant consideration. And they’re expensive as hell to fix. Let the manufacturer deal with problems if you can. The extra money that you invest in a newer machine with warranty will pay for itself when the manufacturer has to soak up the repair bill, not you.
ON THE PHONE
Do – Make sure the mileage listed is in kilometres, not miles. This is a common ploy to sucker the gullible into purchasing a machine that has considerably more use.
Don’t – Agree on a price on the phone. After viewing the sled you might find issues that weren’t stated, but ones that you’re willing to live with or take care of yourself. This can be a tool to knock down the price, just don’t get carried away.
BUY THE GUY NOT THE SLED
Do – Buy a year-old, low km sled from a guy with a nice, expensive looking truck. Chances are that he’s the guy that buys a new one every year and works so much that he barely has the chance to ride it. And it’s probably still got a warranty on it.
Don’t – Buy from a friend. Ever. It might seem like an easy deal, and at least you’ll know the history of the machine. But when something breaks down (and this is sledding mind you, something always breaks down), you might feel like somehow it’s your friend’s fault. It’s not. And it’s just not worth having that between you. This goes for selling too.
Do – Buy from an old-timer. This is not a blanket rule, as some old-timers are sleepers… aka super hardcore guys that look too old to shred. But in most cases, an older fella doesn’t ride his gear too hard, and can’t be bothered to mess with it himself—he’ll take it to the dealership for all its service.
Don’t – Buy from a ski bum. They probably bought the sled from someone else just last year, ran that blue-coloured, garbage mineral oil in it and are now trying to flip it for $1000 more than they paid for it 1200km ago. And there was never less than 2 people on it at any one time. And it was probably regularly used to haul a skiff with half the beer supply in Western Canada into huts all winter.
VIEWING THE SLED
Do – Play a little bit hard to get even if you are excited about the great deal you just found. Maybe bring a friend who knows how to turn a wrench with you to check out the machine. A great technique is to have the “expert” friend play the pessimist and question whether it’s a good deal.
Don’t – Let the seller know that you don’t know much about snowmobiles. It might be best to just let them do the talking.
Do – Inspect the overall cleanliness of the sled, including the engine compartment. This will give you a clue as to how well it’s been maintained. Fluid levels are another good indication. If it’s completely out of gas when you show up to look at it, that means the buyer siphoned it out because they are super cheap. Run away!