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Hello my friend. I just went through the same ordeal when I bought my first used PWC. This really could get extensive, and someone should make a checklist of items. Here goes:

First, think about what you want to use it for: salt or fresh water; two or three people; tow skiers or not; etc. I'd then research models for features that are in tune with what I want to use it for. Visit some dealerships and talk to the people there for advice. Sure, they'll show you what they have, but ask them what to look for in a used ski. My Yamaha dealer told me to look inside the hull for water lines (indicating it may have sunk). Check for rust on the bolt heads. Does it look well cared for (paint not faded, seats not ripped). Does everything work on it (steering, trim, and reverse move freely)? Does it start right up and idle smoothly? If the cables don't move freely, you can figure about $100 each to replace them, plus labor (at least on a Yamaha).

Sounds like you have a couple skis in mind, but consider that if you buy a turbo or even supercharged model, it's more that can go wrong, and those parts are very expensive. Also, the benefit of a four stroke over the two stroke is that you only need to change your oil every so often and will experience better gas mileage. Two strokes used to be faster engines, but I'm not sure that matters much today. Plus you have to buy Yamaha's special two stroke oil or you will risk damage to your engine. I can't tell you how many places I've read this and had people tell me face-to-face. At thirty bucks a gallon, it's not cheap!

Take some time to look around. Don't buy the first one you see. Prices are all over the board. I looked up used values (both retail and trade in) using Kelly Blue Book. I figured a price somewhere inbetween was good. I ended up buying a 2002 Yamaha XLT1200 with 73 hours, trailer with spare tire, a Yamaha cover, three life jackets, flush kit, 1/2 container of oil, and salt away for $4,500. It was in pristine shape and runs awesome. I've had it up to 60 mph so far, and that's plenty fast.

If I were to do it again, the only thing I probably would want to have checked before buying is the compression. The worst thing that can happen to a ski is to not use it. Then moisture builds up, gets in the engine, and damages it. I'm sure there's probably more I forgot, and others may have their own experience to add.
 

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A compression test measures the PSI (pounds per square inch) in a cylinder. Seems to be a common test for skis because if moisture gets into the cylinder, the rings go, and so does the compression and power. Now you're talking about an expensive engine rebuild. To measure the compression, you screw in a hose that is attached to a guage into the spark plug hole. You then turn over the engine to get a reading. Two stroke engines can have a PSI reading of anywhere from 80-140 PSI (verify with your manufacturer) and all cylinders should be about the same, give or take a few PSI. I've got a '70 Mustang Mach 1 that I do all the engine work on, so having some engine knowledge helps with skis.
 
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