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I would really try and stay Yamaha or Kawasaki. If your going to do Seadoo, get a older carbed 951 engine ski.
Not sure where you are at, but craigs list is a pretty good place to start looking. You should be able to find a pretty nice ski for around 4k. Find someone that you trust, and that knows about PWC's to take with you.
Since your new to the sport, I would stay with Kawi's STX 1100 or 12f, or Yami's XLT 1200 or FX cruiser.
 

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Both should be good ski's. Both are oil injected, and both prob need the injection lines replaced, and both should have wave eater clips on the power valves installed, if they haven't already. Ask the owner of the 1200 if it was a top end, or a whole rebuild, and did they do the crank. A complete engine should be in the 12-1500 range. Ask about any hull repairs, do compression check, fire the ski's and listen for any engine noises, look at impeller condition, and bottom of hull for gouges and scrapes (all signs of beaching).
If the 800 is super clean, and they will guarantee any work they have done to it, and that the oil injection lines are good, that might be the better deal. And by all means, try and get it out for a test ride. That should make anything that might be bad show up.
 

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I'm not a fan of all the bells and whistles on some of the newer ski's, but some people like them. If you can get a warranty on the 15, that would be a good deal. You should be able to get a nice used trailer for about 800, or a new one for about 1200.
 

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Do some research on the ski before going to look at it. NADA or Kelly Blue Book for resale values (these are just base values, and I use the avg. resale as top end values). If after market parts have been added to the ski, you made need to expect to pay a little more, depending on what they are. Find reviews of that ski, and see what people are saying about it.
There's lots of stuff to look at. Hull condition (scratches and gouges are signs of beaching, and possibly running the ski in less than 2ft of water). Look for blistering of the paint. This is a sign of being left in the water for extended periods of time (days). The paint gets saturated and substraight gets contaminated. Sometimes this will be extremely visible in the jet tunnel. Not a deal breaker, just know it's there, and will have to be repainted soon so the substraight doesn't start delaminating and develop mildew. (at that point, the bad material will need to be shaved out, and filled with fine hair bondo glass (I have used this with excellent results) or the equivalent (needs to be SMC compatible)). Ask about, and look for repairs to the hull. Do a compression check, and look at the plugs. Remove the fuel cap and smell. It should smell like fresh gas, and not gas that has been setting for 6 or 8 months. Again, not a deal breaker, just might require a entire fuel system cleaning.Start the ski for a seconds, and listen for anything that doesn't sound right (10 sec running max), ski should start right up if a 4 stroke, and a 2 stroke might take a few short cranking cycles to get it fired (nothing longer than 5 or 10 seconds max per cranking cycle (4 or 2 stroke)). I usually give 1-2 second cycles until the fuel system primes on a 2 stroke. These starters are not built like a automotive starter. Take a good flash light and look at the leading edge of the impeller for damage (you will have to look through the intake grate). Check the condition of the oil injection lines if it is a 2 stroke. Ask if the engine has been rebuilt, and if so, what all was done, who did it, how long ago, and why it was done. Shake the trailer wheels. Looking for excess play. Should be just a slight amount of play. To much, and you will probably be doing wheel bearing, but not a deal breaker. Costs about 30.00 in parts. On avg., a nice single trailer is worth about 600.00, and a double 1000.00.(as of 6/11/2016)
Use common sense. If the ski is nice, and you can comfortably live with the price, why not. Don't be afraid to barter the price some. The seller knows what it is worth.
If it is near water, by all means, ask if you can take it for a test ride. Do you buy a car without driving it first ? Try and round up someone you absolutely trust that knows a thing or two about ski's, but don't let them tell you, you are being to anal about things. It is your money, not theirs.
 

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I would look for a Yamaha VXCruiser or a Kawasaki STX15f. Your just going to have to scour craigslist and your local ads to see what's out there. You need to be looking for a ski better than 10' in length, at least 3.5' wide, and better than 650-700 lbs. If you use NADA's website you can look at basic specs of PWC's.
No, they do not have anything that clears the intake grate as of yet.
 
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