Having grown up in the country, snowmobiles were a common form of transportation. When I was little my dad would tow the toboggan behind our late ’80s (don’t even try to guess my age from that!) machine to the local bar for burgers or through the woods to our skating pond.
After the great Halloween storm of 1991 that dumped three feet of snow on Duluth, Minn., the snowmobile was the only way my dad could get us to the end of the driveway to catch the bus. And, of course, when we were old enough to ride ourselves, my siblings and I took the liberty of doing donuts on my mother’s perfectly manicured (yet snow-covered) lawn.
So, how do you choose a snowmobile? We polled our resident experts (AMSOIL Dealers, employees, sponsored race teams) to see what they recommend when choosing the right sled.
Tips for how to choose a snowmobile
What type of riding will you be doing?
Identify how you’ll use the sled most of the time.
- Will you be pulling your fish house out to the middle of the lake?
- Cruising through powder on your way up the mountain?
- Is your dream to become the next AMSOIL Championship Snocross star?
- Will you just be putzing around your yard (doing donuts!), pulling your kids on the sled?
Look for a snowmobile that will cater best to the type of riding you will be doing. Be sure to do your research. Snow Goer magazine annually selects sleds they think will stand out for the way they serve their intended buyers. Use lists like these to determine what will suit your riding needs and help you choose a snowmobile.
How much are you willing to spend?
This will determine if you buy new or used.
Buying a new sled will ensure you have a warranty in case you run into any issues. Keep in mind that you will also need to budget for other expenses in addition to the sled itself (sled accessories, riding gear, permit, insurance, fuel, etc.).
Speaking of warranties, check out the AMSOIL Runs on Freedom™ Limited Snowmobile Warranty
Research the manufacturer’s websites (Arctic Cat, Polaris, Ski-Doo) for models that fit your intended riding style.
If purchasing a new sled, Judnick Motorsports owner Scott Judnick suggests buying in the springtime when the new models come out. You will save a lot of money and sometimes dealers throw in extra perks along with the purchase of your sled. Work with your dealer to get extras such as a stud track and hand warmers added to your purchase.
Newer isn’t always better
If a new sled isn’t in your budget, be informed on what to look for when purchasing used. Make sure the track, skis and other parts aren’t excessively worn. Check the shocks and engine for signs of fluid leaks or rust. If you are able, run the sled for five to 10 minutes with the track lifted off the ground to look for any issues.
We checked in with some of our enthusiasts here at AMSOIL for questions to ask when looking at a used sled. Here they are.
- What year is it?
- How many miles are on it?
- How big is the motor?
- Is there any track wear or body damage?
- Is the tunnel or bulkhead damaged?
- Is there any rust or corrosion?
- Has the motor been rebuilt?
- Is the exhaust factory or aftermarket?
- In what shape is the suspension?
- What maintenance did the previous owner perform?
- Under what conditions did they ride the sled?
- What kind of oil did they use?
Look through forums and consumer reviews in magazines to see how your top choices stack up. If you’ve narrowed your list to a few models but can’t decide which to buy, attend a snowmobile expo or demo ride to see how a sled actually feels going through the snow. You can also rent sleds from outfitters for an extended test ride.
In the words of Scheuring Speed Sports team owner Steve Scheuring, “If only they still made a 1972 Ski-Doo Elan.”
Updated. Originally published Dec. 12, 2017.