Lately we have been getting a lot of threads asking the same generic question of "what should I get for a first jet ski." I put together this guide and made it a sticky to help new buyers:
First off decide if you want a 2-stroke or a 4-stroke engine. The first 4 stroke watercraft hit the market in 2002 and were very reliable but rather slow. Each have certain advantages and disadvantages. Let's start with the older 2 strokes.
+Less expensive to rebuild if they blow
-Shorter service life than 4 stroke
-More vibration prone
-Use oil and pollute more
+Quieter and smoother
+More powerful (later models)
-More expensive to rebuild than 2 stroke
Next decide what seating capacity you want, a 2 or 3 seater. There were also 1 seater watercraft made in the 90's like the SeaDoo HX and Yamaha WaveBlaster. These models are very fun to ride but tricky to board in deep water. In the early- mid 2000's both SeaDoo and Yamaha made 4 seater models. If you ride 3 up or tour long distances one of these might be best for you.
Lastly take into account what kind of water conditions you will be riding in because certain models just handle the chop better than others.
If buying a 2 stroke, here is a good video on the most important thing to check, compression! Also shine a flashlight into the back of the jet pump and look at the impeller. The edges should be free of chips and other imperfections. Look underneath the hull and see what the bottom of the hull looks like. If it is severely scratched up it means the person beached the machine.