Quicksilver Blog

Three Tips for Buying a Used ATV, UTV or Snowmobile

Whether you are dreaming of an ATV, UTV or snowmobile, owning a powersports vehicle can be a big thrill but often not a cheap one. One way to cut the cost is by purchasing a used machine. These three tips can help save you time, money and hassle when searching for a new-to-you unit.

1. Evaluate Your Needs

Before starting your search, determine a realistic budget. Your total budget should include the initial cost of the machine, but also factor in the expense of registration and insurance and any maintenance items or mechanical parts that may need replacing. Other budget items to consider can lie outside of the unit itself, like riding gear. Do you have the proper helmet, jacket, pants, gloves and boots? If unable to ride from home, do you have the appropriate tow vehicle and a trailer? What about storage? Are you able to house it at home, or will you need off-site storage? These items all add to the bottom line when setting your budget.

2. Decide Where to Buy

When it’s time to purchase, you’ll most likely be shopping with either a dealer or a private party seller. There are pros and cons to working with each and ultimately the choice comes down to your personal preference and comfort zone. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Dealer – An easy way to buy a used vehicle is through a reputable local dealer. The initial purchase price of a used unit may be slightly higher, but that often comes with the peace of mind knowing their trained technicians have completed a pre-sale inspection or performed any required service or maintenance. Dealers may also offer financing, warranties, or a satisfaction guarantee.

  • Private Party – When purchasing from a private party, you may get a lower price and save some dealer fees, but it comes with the potential higher cost of uncertainty. It’s buyer beware, as there are minimal guarantees about the history of the product or how it was treated or maintained, beyond the seller’s word. Arming yourself with thorough knowledge of the machine you’re looking at, conducting a thorough inspection and having the patience to find the right deal is the best way to purchase from a private party.

  • When reviewing online classified listings, study the entire description including the photos. Look beyond the unit itself. If photos of the garage or yard and its contents look well kept, chances are better the owner has cared for the unit properly. The opposite can be said of the owner who shares a brief description, blurry photos, depicts the unit being used inappropriately, or has backgrounds filled with garbage. Those are all signs to steer clear.

3. Knowledge is Power

Arming yourself with a good understanding of the model you are looking at can help you ask the seller all the right questions. Is there a record the unit has been serviced at regular intervals? Have recalls or service bulletins been handled? Evaluating the general appearance of the vehicle is an indicator of how its been treated. If it is clean, and chassis components aren’t rusted, cracked or worn, then chances are good the unit has been treated well. Take a test ride to ensure the engine starts, idles and performs at speed and the drive system works smoothly. It’s also a good idea to bring a friend along who can provide a dispassionate set of extra eyes to help identify things you might miss in the excitement of the moment.

Lastly, once you decide to seal the deal with a purchase, make sure you leave with the required paperwork to transfer ownership into your name. Check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles to verify the requirements, as each state varies depending on age and type of vehicle. Some require a title, registration or bill of sale. If the seller can’t prove they own the unit, this is a major red flag and you should walk away from the purchase.

Following these three tips can help you be an informed buyer when purchasing a used machine, ensuring your new powersports vehicle provides you with the maximum value in return for your investment in time and money.