New sleds can be expensive, which made me wonder if buying a cheap used snowmobile is a solid alternative. Could an older snowmobile really deliver trail riding bliss on the cheap? The only way to figure it out was to play to my strength and look for a newer vintage sled to refurbish. Heck, I love to bring things back to life, so why not?
As many of you know, I’m into restoring vintage sleds back to their glory days so this was really a no brainer. Take a piece of junk and make it new again. I began to scour Craigslist, the go-to platform for all things on sale.
Low and behold, on the hottest day of summer, I stumbled onto a local garage sale where the seller advertised vintage sleds for sale, among many other gems. Not holding much hope, I still decided to give it a try anyway.
Buying a Cheap Used Snowmobile
Once there I saw several used snowmobiles but a particular one caught my eye. There she was, sitting uncovered on a trailer – a blue 1997 Yamaha Venture long track, two-up sled. The hood was in okay shape, it rode on a 137-inch-long track, and best of all, it had only 2,500 miles on the clock. Electric start and reverse just sweetened the pot.
Instantly my mind turned into a human calculator, crunch numbers. Let’s see, it needed a seat, clutch, skis, handlebars, windshield, starter, and God only knows what else. Would it run? What would it be worth once completed?
The engine was locked up, a big gamble for sure. It had a brand-new track and slides, so that alone may be worth the price of admission. How much I said? He answered “100 bucks takes it home.” Thinking I just hit the small change lottery I said “load it up” and the rest was history.
Cost of Used Snowmobile Parts
Once home the excitement was somewhat short lived as I came back down to earth and assessed the damage. I knew I could fix anything thrown my way but what would the parts cost? Reality kicked in as I reassessed the cost for a new seat, handlebar controls, carbs, skis, windshield, and complete clutch assembly.
Wow, things were adding up quickly. What did you expect, you dunce? Did I really believe $100 and some sweat equity gets me a daily rider? Would my cheap used snowmobile actually be cheap? I’m such a sucker for vintage sleds so please don’t judge me. I’ve got a disease!
I did some research and found out the value might be about $1,000 once complete and spit-shined. I searched salvage yards throughout our great country and found a few places that had the items I needed. But even used, they were expensive, and once shipping was added, the price began to mount. A used clutch alone, with a starter ring gear, was $300.
Parts particular to these sleds, like hoods, cowls and such, are simply not reproduced, so vintage swap meets are the way to go. The math said I would be around $1,000, including the cost of the sled and parts. My confidence started to come back somewhat as I ordered a few bits and pieces.
What should the finished product look like? Would it be a Rat Sled that I would beat on mercilessly or a vintage rider that would have parts flying off it while heading down the trail? Knowing full well that I’m a perfectionist and couldn’t leave well enough alone, I settled on a nicely detailed old sled.
Power-washing removed all the mouse nests and a dead squirrel found under the right foot well. Welcome to restoration 101. I removed the seat, exhaust and the air box. Next was to start the locked-up engine. After soaking overnight in Marvel Mystery Oil, it freely pulled-over with 100-lbs compression at each hole. Bonus! However, the carb inspection revealed that even those were locked up. Those darn mice.
Buying a Cheap Used Snowmobile Part II
Funny how these things work, but while doing all the clean-up and detailing on the sled, wouldn’t you know that I found an exact twin on Craigslist. It was is a blue 1997 Venture, exactly like the one I have. Only this one took a light hit in the front left which buckled the trailing arm. It also came with a ripped-up track. The owner and I struck a deal and voila!
Amazingly, all the parts I needed to complete the original were there and in good shape. The first sled I found at the garage sale had the better track suspension and slides, so that would be the rider. The second sled became the donor.
Sweat Equity Made It Affordable
Back to work, I reinstalled the hood, buffing it to the original shine. Cleaned and painted the trailing arms and front suspension components. Cleaned and painted the pipes. Detailed all wiring and replaced the starter. Battery box missing? Oh wait, there’s a good one on the donor sled.
I then installed a new battery, swapped handlebars and the controls, drained and filled the crankcase with new antifreeze. Made sure the oil injection worked and installed carbs from the dinged donor.
I had a set of Simmons skis left over from a previous build, so I ordered the saddles and installed those puppies. The seat, clutch and starter were all swapped. Finally, I prepped and painted all areas needing attention…you get the picture.
It took me weeks to get all this together but it was the satisfaction of seeing this sled run and look good. The electric start and reverse make it easy to live with. A longer track of the 137 variety gives the old girl a better ride. The Simmons skis deliver turning precision. Looks to be a winner. Next up is to register the sled and pray for snow.
What did I learn from this cheap sled build that I can share with you? Once you set your will to do a project, things start to fall in place. With a little work and short money, it is possible to buy a cheap used snowmobile, an affordable ride. I’m proud that I actually brought another sled back to life, a weekend warrior. It can also be used as a guest sled so that someone new to the sport can ride along in comfort.
With both the original and donor sled, the total cost came out to around $1,000, and I still have plenty of spare parts. The only things I ordered were a windshield and a rear taillight lens from the scrap yard. If I wanted, I easily could turn the sled around and sell it for several dollars over my expenditures. That’s a win-win in my book. Ride on!