Hello Rookie (we were all rookies at one point or the other),
Don't buy a Tigershark, Polaris, or Honda PWC unless it is really, really cheap, beacuse they don't make them anymore. It's hard to find mechanics that will touch them if they are older and especially if they are fuel injected. It gets harder and harder to find anything but used parts. Buying those brands can make the PWC hobby more frustrating than fun.
If you are handy with a wrench, and have access to the Internet and used parts, you may want to invest a few hundred dollars in one of the brands mentioned above, but do not do so if you are a novice at PWC repair.
As to what's left, we have Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Sea Doo, which are listed in my order of preference. When talking with PWC mechanics I have been told that Yamahas and Kawasakis mainly come into the garage for routine maintenance, while Sea Doos mainly come in for repairs. I do not doubt it.
I have owned a 1996 Tigershark, which bogged down after it warmed up; a 2002 Polaris, which quit running after the fuel pressure regulator and computer chip went out; and a 2006 Sea Doo four-stroke whose engine totally puked when the timing chain broke and all the valves and rods were bent after only 47 hours of use. Now I have 2 Yamaha XLT 1200 Waverunners. I prefer two-stroke, because they are easier to work on (and easier to find someone to work on them) and the engine usually does not cost as much to repair if something goes wrong, and Yamaha because of the reliability. The XLTs are the most comfortable and stable PWCs that I have owned. If your lower back hurts after riding on the PWC for half an hour it takes a lot of the fun out of riding.
Outlaw is correct though, environmental laws are cracking down on two-stroke engines in many places. It seems that there is a push to require all two-strokes to meet the 2006 emissions levels, which I suppose many do not. Of course, you could pick up a couple of cheap two-storkes for your money, use them until you can't any more, and then upgrade to a more expensive four stroke. Me, I follow the KISS principle, and believe that four strokes are more complicated (and expensive) than they are worth. Zero tolerance engines in a waverunner, ugggghhh!
One other belief that I have, which others may argue with, is that it is better to purchase a PWC with higher hours, that has been used (not abused) regularly, than a PWC with lower hours which has sat in the barn and not been used for a long time. Nothing hurts a PWC more than just sitting and not being used, outright abuse excepted, of course.
You need to think of your particular requirements when deciding on a specific brand and model, but at least try to stick with a brand that is still being made. You have to decide about new with warranty over used without warranty, and if you go with a used PWC you need to decide two-stroke or four-stroke, then what size of PWC/how many passengers. I have found typical three seaters to be good, all-around PWCs that will haul people and tubes with ease.
The ultimate in PWC ownership is to purchase a brand-new PWC, with the extended warranty, and then sell it the day before the extended warranty expires and buy a new PWC, with extended warranty, and then sell it the day before.... I think you get what I mean. But I don't have as much invested in the two XLTs that I have as a new PWC would cost, and I have heard of people buying used PWCs that perform flawlessly.
Hope my .02 has helped. I wish I had looked at a thread like this before I purchased the first two PWC, the Tigershark and Polaris (which I purchased together used). I would not have purchased them.
Also, by the way, I have found Flo's insurance to be the most reasonably priced. It was a lot less than adding the PWCs to my homeowner's policy or getting insurance through the other national boat insurance co.
former sea doo owner, will never own one again
Last edited by ZARDOZ; 02-19-2013 at 04:59 PM.