Used Snowmobile Buying Checklist

Winter is a special time of the year, especially for those inclined to snow and freezing temperatures. Perhaps after years of skiing and snowboarding down the slopes, you have finally decided to get yourself a snowmobile! With their ability to be packed on a trailer or truck bed, these all-terrain vehicles let you explore the mountains like never before. 

It will also allow you to meet new people with a shared enthusiasm for these winter vehicles. While new models can have an exorbitant price tag for a hobby vehicle, used snowmobiles can be a much more affordable option. To make the best purchase, we have created a checklist of items to inspect before making a deal.

The Skis 

Start your inspection with the skis. They should look good and have no signs of warping caused by an impact. Pull them up to look at the wear pads. If they are flat, you will need a replacement that costs around $100. 

The bushings connect the ski to the spindle. If they are split or cracked, it is easy and inexpensive to replace them. Hold the handlebar in place with one hand, and wiggle the ski. If there is too much movement, there is a problem with the upper spindle or rod ends. Repeat the same process for the lower spindle rods. 

The Shocks

Take a seat on the snowmobile, push down on the handlebars, or put your weight on the front to see how the shocks react. If they are too springy or oil comes out of the shock, they need to be changed. Repeat the process in the rear. Shocks are vital for proper handling and absorbing impact, thus preventing them it harming the rest of the snowmobile. 

The Nun

When a snowmobile takes a heavy frontal impact, most of the force is transferred into the spindle and the nun. The nun is a part of the undercarriage between the shocks, while the A-frame is the body that surrounds the shocks. 

The nun should be free of dents, with no signs of DIY welding or trimming. Bent A-frames are a serious problem as they cause asymmetry and severe wear on other parts. Measure the distance between the shock and the A-frame throughout and compare it to the other side. 

Take a look at the gap between the nose body panel and the ones underneath the handlebars. If the openings are not symmetrical, the snowmobile is bent to the side where the gap is smaller. 

The Engine

Snowmobile engines are located in the front of the vehicle, with the exhaust muffler placed in the nose. Remove the covers and inspect the muffler for dents and damage caused by frontal impact. The plastic is much cheaper to replace, so the owner may have made cosmetic improvements without addressing mechanical problems.

Examine the engine from as many angles as possible to spot any moisture or signs of rust. You can spot recent signs of repairs by looking for rivets and welding that are out of place. Remove the side cover to reveal the belt. OEM belts will set you back $200, while some aftermarket options go for around $100. 

When examining the engine, make sure it is cold and leave the start-up as the last test. Rock the clutch to check the bearing conditions. Try to lift it up and while moving it, check if the engine mounts are suitable and if there is movement inside the clutch. Testing the compression is recommended, and you should walk away if the seller refuses to let you do it.

The Track

Move the idle wheels and sprockets around and push them back and forth to check the bearings. Cracked or loose sprockets and wheels are not expensive individually, but it is good practice to exchange them all at once, which will amount to a large sum of money.

Because the new track costs upwards of $1,000, you want to be confident it is in excellent condition. Inspect every segment for tearing, wear, and missing chunks of the tread. Lift the rear and spin the track a few times. This will allow you to see the track in its entirety, how it moves, and how the wheels and sprockets behave. 

Seat & Bumper

Examine the seat for tears and overall signs of wear. A new seat cover costs $150, but as it is relatively easy to replace, it is one of the things worth compromising on. Check the storage compartments and look for signs of damage on the rear bumper and snow guard.

Handlebars & Dials

During the inspection, move the handlebar from side to side and check whether it snags or has too much resistance. These may be signs the vehicle has been in a crash. Also, test the cables, brakes, and the overall condition of the parts. 

You will test the dials once you start up the snowmobile. However, for now, look for signs of tampering with the odometer and work hour meter. Some owners will roll back the dials or purposefully make it illegible to hide the high mileage.

Test Start

Start the snowmobile, and listen to how the engine runs. Turn on the lights, and test the security key. There is not a lot you can check without the proper conditions for a test ride. However, you can determine how easily the snowmobile starts and if it begins leaking after a few minutes.


Aside from the items on the checklist, you should examine the overall condition and appearance of the snowmobile. Consider the conditions in which it is was used. And be realistic. A used snowmobile is bound to have a few flaws and some wear. 

The best way not to break your budget is to set aside $1,000 and buy a near-flawless model. Through a few weeks or even days of use, you might end up using most of your repair fund to get the snowmobile in the best shape possible.