The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Snowmobile
Written by Carolyn Jackson
Table of Contents
Snowmobiling is one of the most iconic and exciting activities to do in the winter. Snowmobiles are fun, but they are also useful. With a snowmobile, you can easily and quickly access places in winter towns that would take hours via foot, or are entirely unreachable otherwise. If you are considering purchasing a new or used snowmobile, there are some questions you probably have about the process. In this buying guide, we answer as many of those questions as we can, such as what are the top snowmobile manufacturers and models, how much does a snowmobile cost, do you need insurance for a snowmobile and more. So let’s dig in and get you one step closer to enjoying the mountainside and trails in style.
What is a Snowmobile?
Simply put, a snowmobile is a one or two-passenger vehicle designed for travel and utility on ice, snow, and steep inclines. Modern snowmobiles have two skis in front, which steer the vehicle and are propelled by a continuous track with a significant tread in the back. Snowmobiles are powered by a four or two-stroke internal combustion engine. According to ISMA (International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association), 80% of snowmobile use is recreational (cruising trails, sightseeing, thrill-seeking, etc.) and 20% is for work (ice fishing, traveling long distances, hauling).
What are the Different Types of Snowmobiles?
There are 7 types of snowmobiles you can currently purchase:
As the name suggests, these models are geared for simplicity. They are built to be relatively inexpensive and easy to ride. The entry-level models are often referred to as trail models and are usually easy to handle and uncomplicated to learn. They are a great entry-point vehicle for those who want to learn to snowmobile or are leisurely using a snowmobile.
Touring snowmobiles are two-seater vehicles with a backrest for added comfort. These models amp up all the features, adding side mirrors, larger windshields, and longer track length. This model of snowmobile is designed for long-distance riding. They are known for comfort and stability.
Trail snowmobiles are a hybrid of the performance and touring snowmobile styles. They are typically lighter and more nimble than the touring snowmobiles and are able to get up to speed quickly. Trail snowmobiles have a sport-centric suspension allowing them to cover the rough terrain, on or off trail, but are not built for the comfort of a long-haul trip like a touring vehicle.
Mountain snowmobiles are specifically made for the tough, rugged, deep snow and powder, uphill mountain riding you might need to do if you are ski patrol, or trying to reach a peak. They are narrower and longer than other types of snowmobiles, which helps the vehicle navigate through deep snow and steep inclines. They have high horsepower engines and handle better in a mountainous environment than in a trail environment.
Utility snowmobiles will be the heaviest and most powerful models. They are designed to haul equipment through snow, steep inclines and speed through trails. They are versatile and designed for heavy-duty commercial use such as search and rescue, fixing power lines, and long hauls. They are built tough and meant to withstand heavy loads and long hauls.
These adaptable snowmobiles are known for expertly tackling any terrain. They focus on suspension and a longer track, for improved handling in multiple riding conditions. These snowmobiles are ideal for riders who want stability in both a trail and a powder setting.
Performance snowmobiles are a trim level for touring, trail, mountain, and crossover snowmobiles. They are more responsive and more expensive trims of touring, trail, and crossover snowmobiles. You can expect performance snowmobiles to be heavier and have higher HP engines than other models. This category is also known for including additional upgrades and features.
Coming Soon: Electric Snowmobiles
Coming in Winter 2021, you can expect to see the first-ever electric snowmobiles to hit the market. Taiga Motors is unveiling its three models (crossover, utility, and mountain), starting at $15K and up to 180HP this spring. Find out more about these groundbreaking machines and what to expect from Taiga Motors in the future.
What are the Top Snowmobile Manufacturers?
Arctic Cat → currently has a lineup of 18 different snowmobile vehicles From $2,849 (ZR 120) to $17,695 (ZR 9000 Thundercat 137 ARS II)
Ski-Doo → From $7,649 (Tundra Sport 550F) to $16,649 (Expedition SE 900 ACE Turbo)
Yamaha → From $2,899 (SRX 120 R) to $18,299 (Sidewinder S TX GT)
Polaris → From $2,999 (Indy 120) to $15,500 (TITAN Adventure 155)
What are the Top Snowmobile Models?
- Type: Performance/Entry-Level
- MSRP: $5,499
- Dry Weight: 409 lb
- Fuel Tank: 10 gal
- Length: 114 in
Ski-Doo Freeride 850 E-Tec 165
- Type: Mountain
- MSRP: $14,799
- Dry Weight: 458 lb
- Fuel Tank: 9.5 gal
- Length: 165 in
- Type: Performance
- MSRP: $17,999
- Dry Weight: N/A
- Fuel Tank: 8.9 gal
- Length: 137 in
- Type: Crossover
- MSRP: $12,199
- Dry Weight: 456 lb
- Fuel Tank: 12 gal
- Length: 125 in
Arctic Cat ZR900 Thundercat iACT
- Type: Trail
- MSRP: $17,599
- Dry Weight: 603 lb
- Fuel Tank: 9.9 gal
- Length: 137 in
Pro Tip: On average, you can expect a snowmobile to weigh anywhere from 400-700lbs. When fully loaded with gas and other fluids, you can expect to add anywhere from 60-100lbs. This information is important to know so that you purchase a trailer that can easily haul the weight of your snowmobile, and so that you know the tow vehicle can handle the weight of both the snowmobile and the trailer.
How Much Does a Snowmobile Cost?
A used snowmobile will cost an average of $4,500 and a new snowmobile will cost an average of $10,000. You can also expect to pay for the necessary clothing and gear needed to safely ride a snowmobile, such as a winter jacket ($100), boots ($100), gloves ($40), and a helmet ($150). Consider finding used items of clothing, boots, or accessories to help keep the cost to a minimum.
Pro Tip: Although the proper snowmobile clothing is expensive, trust us when we say it is well worth the cost. Going out on a snowmobile without the proper gear will make it a cold, miserable and short experience. Having the proper attire will ensure you feel like you are just driving a convertible in the summer.
Although the average price of a new snowmobile is $10,000, there are some new models available that are significantly lower in price. For example, the 2020 Indy Evo is a beginner snowmobile and has an MSRP of $5,499. On the flip side, the 2020 Yamaha Sidewinder S TX GT has an MSRP of $18,299. (Note: Yamaha and Arctic Cat make a youth snowmobile that retails for about $2K)
The range in prices for snowmobiles is fairly broad. The price is determined by the specs and features that are available on the snowmobile. The entry-level snowmobiles will also be less expensive than the mountain or performance models (when looking at the base models). So an important question to ask if you are considering purchasing a new snowmobile is what you need from your new vehicle. Could a less expensive entry-level model fulfill your needs, or do you need to consider a more specifically designed snowmobile like a utility or crossover model to meet your needs?
New vs Used Snowmobiles
There are pros and cons to purchasing new and used snowmobiles:
- Trail ready
- Promotional financing available
- Inventory readily available
- Higher cost
- Instant depreciation
- Accessory and parts upgrades
- Possible maintenance requirements
- Age of vehicle
- Lacking newest features
Where Do I Buy a Snowmobile?
You can search for used snowmobiles in a variety of places online:
- Newspaper Ads
- Snowmobile Dealerships
- GoRollick Buying Experience
Just like cars, motorcycles and RVs, new snowmobiles are sold through franchised snowmobile dealers. Simply head to google and search snowmobile dealers in your area. Remember, most dealers will only sell one brand, so consider deciding which brand you want to purchase before visiting a dealership.
Sean Gatesy, a long-time powersports sales and business development manager, gives some great advice about buying a snowmobile: “Make sure you purchase a snowmobile that suits your needs. Just because your friend bought a particular model, does not mean that you need the same snowmobile. Ask yourself a few simple questions so you can match a snowmobile that most closely fits your needs and budget. Where will I ride? Where is the closest dealership and service center? What is your budget? Stick to these parameters and you will end up with a sled that fits your needs and will enhance your personal riding experience.”
Now that you have a better idea of all the types of snowmobiles that are out there and the benefits of owning one, you probably have a better idea of what brands and models you might want to look into. If you are feeling ready to search inventory, we recommend you start with GoRollick’s nationwide network of new and used inventory.
GoRollick works with the best dealers in the country who are dedicated to price transparency and a great buying experience. With GoRollick you can get an upfront price and a special offer on your next snowmobile, plus savings on after-purchase products. Then when you’re ready, you can shop at one of our Certified Dealers. GoRollick also ensures that you get access to all available manufacturer incentives. If you’re curious about what’s currently available, you can check out our incentives page here.
Can I Finance a Snowmobile?
Yes, you can finance a snowmobile. As mentioned earlier, the prices can range from the mid $2k range all the way up to the $18k range, depending on what you are looking for. Not everyone has this money readily available, but that does not mean you cannot afford a snowmobile! Financing is definitely something you have access to and should consider utilizing. The dealerships usually offer competitive loan rates, and if your credit is good, this might be the best option. You can always shop around for the best loan rates and OEM promotional rates.
If you do take out a loan, you want to make sure you get the best possible loan rate, so that you owe as little interest as possible. Searching for good loan rates and negotiating pricing can be daunting. Luckily, we have a Definitive Guide to Snowmobile Loans that goes over everything you need to know about how to finance an outdoor recreation vehicle.
Concerned about your credit and how your score might affect your ability to finance or purchase a snowmobile? Educate yourself on how to use the tools in your shed to still get the best rate possible with our Guide to Bad Credit Loans.
Do I Need a License to Drive a Snowmobile?
All states and provinces have rules and regulations for riding and operating snowmobiles. Each state and province has the ability to make their own rules and regulations, so it is important to look at your state or the state you ride in, to make sure you adhere to and comply with their specific requirements.
We recommend that all first-time riders attend a safety class and review the safety guidelines online. There are some risks involved with snowmobiling, just like any other recreation sport, so being prepared to deal with the worst-case scenario is essential. Check out the information available from the American Council of Snowmobiles Association on http://www.snowmobilers.org/snowmobiling-laws-and-rules.aspx to learn more about safety classes, recommendations and the laws and rules for riding in each state.
Pro Tip: If you register your snowmobile in one state, but want to ride in another state or province, you will have to register in the secondary location. This registration is often called a Trail Pass and each state has different fees and regulations, so make sure you do your research before you haul your vehicle to a new location to ride.
Do I Need Insurance for My Snowmobile?
Snowmobile insurance requirements vary state by state, some states require more robust coverage, some only require liability insurance and some do not require any insurance, but we still highly recommend you have insurance. Check out this page on smomobilers.org to see the unique requirements by state. Another consideration is that if you are leasing or financing a snowmobile, the lender will often require a certain amount of insurance coverage. So check the requirements in your purchase agreement, and in your state before hitting the slopes!
Snowmobile insurance is a smart investment because, well, accidents happen. These vehicles are fun, but there are risks involved with any motorized vehicle. Crashes, accidents and the like can happen, and you want to be prepared. The cost of snowmobile insurance varies depending on size, price, location, and many other factors, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $100-500 per year. One of the best ways to lower your snowmobile insurance cost is to invest in taking safety and training courses. If you have more questions about snowmobile insurance, check out this informative snowmobile insurance article that goes into more detail on Trusted Choice.
Looking for an insurance quote? Get a quote with Progressive, a leader in snowmobile insurance.
*This is a sponsored placement by Progressive Insurance.
If you travel to and from the slopes to use your snowmobile, you will likely need a trailer to haul the snowmobile. Considering the wet conditions that usually accompany snowmobile terrain, most people prefer a closed trailer for hauling. This way, you can also store the vehicle in the trailer when not in use. An open trailer will cost you anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 and an enclosed trailer, depending on the size and material, can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $17,000. Most dealers will not carry a large selection of snowmobile trailers, but they should be able to point you in the direction of a trusted vendor. Some dealerships might have used trailers that you can purchase.
A snowmobile is a multi-purpose vehicle that can also act as an exciting and fun recreational activity. There is a lot of important information to consider before purchasing a snowmobile, and this guide serves to answer as many questions as possible so you can walk into a dealership feeling informed and confident. If you’re looking to haul a snowmobile in a toy hauler, check out our guide to buying toy haulers for more information. Happy hunting!
GoRollick Buying Experience
When you’re ready to find your next snowmobile, be sure to check us out at gorollick.com. You can:
- See nationwide inventory, specs, and incentive information
- Get an upfront, transparent price on your desired vehicle
- Receive special offers on both the vehicle, as well as additional accessories
- Shop at one of our Certified Dealers who are committed to providing an exceptional buying experience