What is a snowmobile?

A snowmobile is a motorized vehicle designed to travel over snow and ice, featuring two skis in front and either a single or dual set of tracks in back. The rider steers the front skis using a handlebar, where the brake and throttle controls are also located. Depending on where you live, you may call a snowmobile something else, such as a snowmachine, sled, sledge, or one of many other nicknames.

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How do snowmobiles work?

Snowmobiles are similar to other motorized vehicles designed for rugged terrain, such as ATVs, only instead of wheels they have skis and tracks. Like an ATV, steering is controlled through a handlebar, where the levers for braking and accelerating are also located. They're typically powered by a two- or four-stroke engine that moves the track drive, propelling the vehicle over snow and ice.

What are the pros and cons of buying a snowmobile?

Pros of snowmobiles

Snowmobiles are commonly used for winter recreation, though they're also used for transportation in many outdoor occupations, including foresters and rescue workers. Here are just a few of the benefits of owning a snowmobile:

  • Easy exploration: Snowmobiles are a fun (and fast) way to explore nature in winter.
  • They're fun: Powering through heavy snow and up steep hills can be exhilarating.
  • Practical transportation: If you live in a remote area that experiences heavy snowfall, then a snowmobile may be more practical than a car after a big storm.

Cons of snowmobiles

There are a few downsides to owning a snowmobile that you should consider:

  • Maintenance & repair costs: Like other recreational vehicles, the cost of maintaining a snowmobile can add up over time. Consider the cost of fuel and regular tune-ups, as well as the occasional repair.
  • They can be dangerous: Since you aren't enclosed inside a snowmobile, and the terrain is usually full of hazards, colliding with another rider or object can result in severe injury or even death.

How much does a snowmobile cost?

Snowmobiles can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to well over $20,000, depending on the make and model and whether it's used or new. Snowmobiles with smaller engines tend to be the cheapest, while more expensive models sport larger engines and offer better performance. It's a good idea to set a budget for yourself before you go shopping for a snowmobile, so you know what capabilities you can expect from the sleds in your price range.

You should also consider buying snowmobile insurance to protect yourself and your sled while on the trails. Learn more about how snowmobile insurance works.

How many years will a snowmobile last?

According to Weller Recreation, a properly cared for two-stroke engine snowmobile can last anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 miles, while a four-stroke engine model may last 10,000 to 20,000 miles. Whether you have a small or large engine, practicing proper maintenance can get you years of enjoyment out of your snowmobile.

Snowmobile tips for beginners

  • Borrow a friend's first: If you're considering getting into snowmobiling as a hobby or buying a snowmobile, take a friend's snowmachine for a spin first to get a feel for the ride experience. Snowmobiling isn't for everyone, and you don't want to invest your time and money into a vehicle you may only use once.
  • Practice on a flat, open field: If you're new to snowmobiling, you should practice accelerating, braking, and steering your ride on large open field first. This way you can learn how to properly steer, including how to shift your body during turns, without the risk of running into anything.
  • Take a safety course: Many states with active snowmobiling communities offer safety courses, teaching you the fundamentals of riding a snowmobile. Maine, for example, offers both online and in-person courses for first-time snowmobilers.
  • Learn how to store it: Once winter is over, you should make sure you have a place to store your snowmobile over the warmer months. Learn a few key tips for storing your snowmobile.

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