How to Choose the Right Snowmobile?

How to Choose the Right Snowmobile

Snowmobiling is arguably one of the most intriguing winter sports. Nevertheless, how much you enjoy this sport depends on how right your choice of snowmobile will be. Given that these snow vehicles can be such a dear investment, it is good to give this decision much consideration.

You are probably asking yourself which is the best snowmobile for your needs and what you should consider when you finally decide to make a purchase, whether for a new or old machine. Don’t forget the fact that there are dozens of snowmobile brands out there, and many more make their way into the market each year.  

This makes owning your machine a process beyond merely purchasing and riding it. This article is packed with valuable information about snowmobiles and purchasing them. We hope that it will empower you to make the right decision when you decide to own one.


Down history lane

As early as the 19th century, the first snowmobiles were already being witnessed on the snow trails of Quebec thanks to one Joseph-Armand Bombardier who dedicated his time to discovering means through which people could be transported on snow. He was a young 15-year old lad by then who couldn’t have guessed how far his invention would go since winter sports were unheard of.

The very first snow vehicles were actually bicycles that had been modified by attaching rails, sleighs, and paddles to enable them to move on snow. By the 20th century, these simplistic units have evolved so much thanks to the many bright minds that had developed an interest in them in various parts of the globe. From improved steam-powered bicycles to the gas-powered machines, it’s hard pointing out one specific inventor for these handy machines. This is because it has taken a concerted effort for the snowmobile to become what it is today. Of importance to note, however, is that the first-ever snowmobile patent was received by Carl Eliason in 1927 for his Motor Toboggan. Later in 1937, Joseph-Armand Bombardier received his patent for the first tracked snow vehicle and by 1942 had established his roots in Valcourt Quebec.

Quite interestingly, the popular Ski-Doo brand was a typing error that was supposed to be ‘Ski-Dog’. Apparently, this worked for its good because as Ski-Doo is now a household brand. Polaris also came along in 1956 and has stuck to its vision to date, producing machines with unmatched features and excellent performance.

1961 saw the birth of the Arctic Cat brand of snowmobiles in Minnesota after Edgar Heteen, Polaris co-founder left the company to start his own. With his vast experience in the industry, it took him just one year after launching his new career to produce the rear engine snowmobile model 500 and by 1964, he had produced the first two-stroke engine snowmobile. Years later, renowned brands like Yamaha and Timbersled came on board with more technologically advanced inventions


Types of snowmobiles

Types of snowmobiles

As history would remind us, the first snowmobiles were the utility types. With time, however, people discovered the better use of their time in the snow. There are 7 types of snowmobiles. These include:


Entry-level snowmobiles

These snowmobiles, also known as trail or trail and luxury models, are generally simplistic in design. They are easy to ride and feature lower engine power, up to 70 HP. Some come with an electric start to make them easy to operate. They are also quite lightweight.


Performance snowmobiles

These machines are built for power, literally. They have the highest engine power of more than 85 HP, are heavier, bulkier, and are outfitted with advanced heavy-duty suspension systems. Most if not all will have an electric start and an electric reverse gear plus it is easy to maneuver them to a quick turn. They make the best option for experienced riders in need of power, response, and performance.


Sport trail snowmobiles

These snowmobiles fall somewhere in between the touring and performance types of snowmobiles. While they are built to deliver slightly lesser comfort compared to the touring snowmobiles, they can handle more aggressive riding quite well. Owing to this, they are also lightweight and are designed with suspensions meant for rough terrains and are most suited for beginner or intermediate enthusiasts intending to work on their speed on the trail.


Touring snowmobiles

This type of snowmobile is built exclusively for touring as its name suggests. It features a long frame enough to carry several passengers and typically goes in a straight line to cover a long distance. They are not the best at making quick aggressive turns because they are large in size, heavy, and come with a large track length compared with the others. They are pretty comfortable too, featuring seats with a backrest and the best option if you intend to take your family for a tour out in the snow.


Mountain snowmobiles

Though lightweight, these snowmobiles are designed with a long narrow track to maneuver the mountain trail and thick powder well enough, hence they are not the best choice for normal even snow trails. Like their performance counterparts, these snow trail machines are outfitted with higher power engines for the sole reason that higher altitudes lead to loss of horsepower.


Utility snowmobiles

These machines are built for the work environment. They come with a wide track and greater engine power to carry or tow heavier loads. If, for instance, your snowmobile breaks down while on snow or you need to tow your work sled, the utility snowmobile would be your best bet. Their downside is that they are not the best performance-wise.


Crossover snowmobiles

Some riders love uneven ground perhaps for adventure’s sake. The crossover type of snowmobile is designed for them. They are the jack-of-all-trades kind of machines and will tackle just any kind of terrain without trouble. They feature a long track and enhanced suspension systems making them suitable for the unpredictable off-trail riding.


What factors should you consider when choosing a snowmobile?

Knowing the different types of snowmobiles is not enough. You need to consider the following important factors in order to select the right snowmobile for your needs.

Riding style

One’s riding style can be defined based on the following aspects:

  • The trails they intend to ride on whether on or off the trail
  • How often you intend to ride
  • Their riding ability whether a beginner, intermediate or professional rider
  • Whether they prefer slow recreational or fast adrenaline-packed-riding

Knowing your style well will help you choose a sled that matches it. Beginners usually have a hard time defining their style but with the right guidance to answering the above questions, they will be in a good position to select a befitting machine. Some beginners prefer working with rentals until they have crafted their style. This gives them the opportunity to test different machines until they land one that they are most comfortable riding.


Engine Power

Snowmobile engines can either be two-stroke or four-stroke.

Typically, the two-strokes will deliver a greater power-to-weight ratio to offer a faster response. They are light in weight and quite compact.

The four-stroke engines, up until recently, were a little heavier and produced power in a wide range. Due to the enactment of EPA law on emissions, these engines have evolved. They are still heavier than the two-strokes but require less frequent maintenance. They are the most ideal for ‘difficult’ trails including the steep backcountry slopes thanks to their power.


Track length

The dimensions of your snowmobile track matter a great deal.

A long track, with a length ranging between 120 inches and 160 inches, with a deep track lug, typically more than 2 inches, is a good option for those who intend to ride both on and off-trail. This is because they will tackle bumps pretty well, float better on powder and provide excellent grip on deep powder. On the other hand, long tracks come with a little extra weight. These tracks are popular with mountain, utility, and touring snowmobiles. Again, snowmobiles that carry more than one passenger significantly benefit from long tracks.

Short tracks with a shallow lug maneuver quick turns quite well and attain higher speeds, compared to their counterparts, much faster because they will have a minimal drag on powder. Deep lugs are known to cause drag which ultimately slows down the speed of a snowmobile. These tracks are popular on high-performance snowmobiles.


Dealership support

Buying a new snowmobile?

It is important that you make your purchase from a reliable dealer who will offer you the help you need with your snowmobile as you get acquainted with it. Some machines, for instance, get recalled for one reason or another while others face warranty issues. You need a dealer who is not only near you but also co-operative enough to help you through this process. Check out that they stock original parts of your snowmobile in case you will need replacement and confirm that they offer quality repair and maintenance services. This way, you will not be stranded with your machine when you should be having the time of your life out in the snow.


Some accessories worth your consideration



Turbos are valuable accessories if you need additional power in your sled. If you decide to get one, make sure you have access to the right fuel for it so that your engine is well taken care of and not damaged. For it to be worth your bucks and worth your snowmobile, you also need to know how to tune it right and accord it the regular professional maintenance that it needs.    

    • Cans. Cans are an excellent addition if you want to enhance your sled’s response. They are also a great way to reduce the overall weight of your snowmobile, that is if you choose the lightweights. On the con, however, be prepared for some loud noise. If your area laws permit, by all means, modify your can.
    • Powder coats and wraps. A good way for your snowmobile to shed off the snow and remain lightweight. Snow weight can get ugly at some level, enough to affect the performance of your snowmobile.



When not in use, your machine should be well covered to protect it from moisture, water, salt, and other things. A good sled cover should be resistant to mold and weather elements such as heat, rain, and snow.


New versus used snowmobile

used snowmobiles

Part of deciding to own a snowmobile is deciding whether you should buy a new or a pre-owned machine. Well, it wouldn’t be wrong to conclude that most first time buyers go for used sleds. The opposite cannot really be justified though. But exactly why do people go for used sleds?

  • They are new to the sport and are not sure whether years down the line they will still be in it.
  • Old machines are obviously cheaper than used ones.
  • Old snowmobiles do not require any breaking in as this has already been done by the previous user.
  • They do not want to invest so much without being sure if what they have chosen is right for them.
  • They intend to ride occasionally.


However, there are cons to buying an old sled

  • Not knowing the history of a snowmobile means that there could be underlying problems that will take time for you to discover. Secondly, when diagnosed, these could cost you dearly.
  • Some sellers do not give genuine information about their used sleds hence the buyer may be running a high risk in buying them.
  • It is possible to land a stolen sled.


9 tips for buying an old snowmobile

  • Ask as many questions as you can. Questions like:
    • Has it been wrecked and how many times?
    • How often was it being maintained and tuned up and which maintenance was being performed?
    • How many miles has it covered?
    • Has the engine been rebuilt?
    • Is the canning factory or a replacement?
    • Which type of oil was being used in the engine?
  • Test-drive the snowmobile to get a feel of how it runs
  • Check out its motor and outward body appearance as this will give you a clue to whether the user was careful or reckless.
  • Countercheck the age of the used sled. You may also need information about how frequently it was used and dig in a little to know why the owner is disposing of.
  • Check the features of the old snow machine. Some features in very old machines have been overtaken by technology.
  • Check the engine, shocks, suspension, tunnel, and other parts for excessive wear-outs and leaks.
  • Take it for an inspection by an authorized dealer.
  • Check the ‘vehicle identification number’ to verify that the seller of the used snowmobile is its actual owner.
  • If possible, work with a recommendation.

On the other hand, while buying a new snowmobile is advantageous, this also comes with a few downturns.


Drawbacks to buying a new sled

Buy new sled

  • They are pretty expensive.
  • It will take you some time and patience to finally break in and get used to a new snowmobile.
  • There is some uncertainty that goes with how well it will tackle the trail you intend to use it on, its compatibility with your style, and if it will still be holding up years down the line.


7 Tips for buying a new snowmobile

  • Check out and research about different models. Check those that are popular and find out why.
  • Engage with other snowmobilers online and offline and find out about their experiences with specific snowmobile models.
  • Research about dealers. A good dealer will set you up for the right choice because they will offer the information you need and guidance to help you make an informed choice.
  • Work within your budget. You are bound to do more thorough research with a preset budget.
  • If you are just starting out on snowmobiling start small. Never go for a sled whose power is beyond your ability.
  • An extended warranty is certainly worth your consideration. Being new to your snowmobile is just enough, you don’t want to hassle trying to get parts you may not even be familiar with.
  • Check out the accessories available for your sled and customize it to fit your specific needs.  



One fact is for sure, getting it right when purchasing a snowmobile is akin to getting the most enjoyment on the snow trails. This is why the process of purchasing your snowmobile is critical and should not be rushed. Better to take your time and end up with the right snowmobile knowing that you will be making a lifetime investment.


  1. My little brother and my father want to get snowmobiles this November. Thanks for explaining that it would be smart for them to research different types and dealerships. It might be smart for them to consider testing a few of them out as well.

    1. Hey Penelope,

      If this is your father’s and brother’s first snowmobiles – they will be happy as kids, believe me 🙂

      Glad the article helped on this journey

      Best wishes!

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