The most reliable ski for the money, hands down is a 4-stroke none supercharged, none Turbo, none modified Watercraft. For around 4000-6000$ used. They are ALL fuel injected and should range from 100 -160 horsepower, 45-58mph. This type of ski will have the least amount of issues and last the longest Period. The Yamaha vx110 is one of the leading watercraft for rental and emergency services for a reason. The engine design and lack of bells and whistles ensuring fewer components to fail.
#1: how much can I spend?
For $1500-$3500 you can typically find one well cared for 2 Stroke watercraft. Ideally 1994-2005.
For $4000+ you can typically purchase a nice Four Stroke. Made from 2002-current.
For $9000-$15k+ you can buy a brand new machine.
#2: What size of ski do you need?
If stability is an important issue then a 3 seater is ideal.
If maneuverability is more desired then a smaller 2 seater will perform better and be more nimble.
#3 The most important aspect of a used Watercraft is the motor’s condition. To many time throughout the year, we receive watercraft that were purchased from craigslist, facebook, and ads. More times than not there are catastrophic issues that could have been caught when the ski was checked out before purchase. Never trust someone’s word! most time’s the previous owner had no knowledge of the condition or unaware of a problem. Then you have the crowd of let’s get rid of this thing when there is a problem. Never buy a used ski without riding the Watercraft for at least 15-20 minutes and having a mechanic check compression and overall condition.
What ski not to buy.
#1 Try to stay clear of Salt or Brackish skis even if the ski was flushed every single time, salt is tough on electrical, cables, pumps, or anything metal! You can tell it has been in salt if the paint is peeling on the engine, or you notice a chalky white powder on the engine and components.
#2 Age is tough on everything. If the ski is 20 Years old it has been through hell every summer! No ski has a transmission and most get ridden at wide open throttle. Remember the old saying “rode hard and put away wet”!
#3 Specifically we are not fans of any 2-stroke watercraft that is fuel injected. This would include Sea-Doo Di and RFI skis, Polaris di and Kawasaki Di. The Di 2-stroke was an attempt to control emissions on a 2stroke watercraft by leaning out the fuel system. All had major issue’s and are an absolute pain to work on = trouble.
#4 With 4 Strokes the 2002- 2006 Kawasaki 12F and 15F’s had valve train and thrust washer issues on the crank.