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Part IV: (Not All) Snowmobiles Are Too Expensive


I’ll wrap up the “Snowmobiles Are Too Expensive” series now with a few admissions, a few conclusions, a couple summaries. Think of it as a mash-up of what I learned, what I think and what really...REALLY matters.

Snowmobiles are too expensive? Arctic Cat comparison by

What I Learned

I started down this whole trail because, for a long time (maybe 10 years?), I’ve heard untold number of people say that snowmobiles are way more expensive now than they used to be. Part I attempted to answer the question of whether or not such proclamations are accurate. This is what I learned:

1. At MSRP, today bread-and-butter high performance trail sleds are in fact $1,500 more than in 1994, a 13% increase.

2. At least right now, new carryover models are available for thousands LESS than our 1994 model.


Price comparison of trucks compared to snowmobiles.

Part II of this series looked for context in the price increase of snowmobiles by comparing a 2018 pickup truck to its 1994 variant. What we learned is:

1. The price increased by nearly 18 percent.


Snowmobiles are too expensive? Arctic Cat comparison by

Perhaps the biggest eye-opener for me personally unfolded in Part III of the series, where I added up the cost of my family’s monthly electronic expenses and compared them to what I could otherwise spend on a financed new snowmobile. I also did my best to compare relative wages across the past 26 years. My conclusions:

1. For what I spend on cell phones, Internet and on-demand movies, my family could instead be riding two brand-new 2017 ZR 6000s.

2. I spend a shit-ton of money on crap that isn’t adding quarter-ton of real and meaningful value to my life.


What I Think

I think that how each of us spends our money is very personal choice, and no part of me suggests or believes that you should necessarily buy a new snowmobile, drive a new truck or have a turbo-charged cell phone.

For reasons that have everything to do with the improvement and progression of snowmobiles and pickup trucks over the past quarter-century, it’s tough to compare vehicles over such a long timeframe. I think today’s ZR 6000 is night-and-day better than a ’94 ZR 580. I think that today’s trucks are WAY better too. It would be interesting to spend a couple days comparing sleds and trucks from both years and see if one (sled or truck) has evolved/improve more. 

Whether wages are more, the same or less now than they were 25 years ago is open to debate and statistics that I can’t find on the ol’ Google. However, I think that we have so many more (and more expensive) options about where we spend our money now than we did in the mid-1990s. And I don’t just mean cell phones, Internet and cable. I’m referring to entertainment (professional sports, concerts); restaurants; point-of-purchase temptations at gas stations; gaming systems; coffee shops; and such.

As someone mentioned in the comments section, the whole portable ice fishing house phenomenon didn’t exist in 1994. Same goes for the boom in ATVs (and side-by-sides hadn’t yet been invented).

Think just about the technical gear that people, myself included, buy for a sport that wasn’t available 25 years ago. For example, hunting gear, including scent-free layers, boots, gloves, trail cameras and such.

We have WAY, WAY more pressure on our recreational dollars than we had back in the day. Yet that’s not even the biggest pressure...

I think that we have less spare time today compared to 1994. For families whose kids are involved with things like hockey, dance, basketball and the like, the time commitment required leaves precious little extra time for snowmobiling.

Plus there’s the juggernaut of dependable winter weather. Suffer through three crap winters in a row and it’s completely understandable to be gun-shy about buying a $10,000 toy that might sit in the garage all but a couple weekends a winter.

All of these things are hurdles to riding new snowmobiles.


Riding on the North Shore with my wife and son.

What Really, REALLY Matters

Many of the most enjoyable, memorable experiences of my life occurred while snowmobiling. Some of my most powerful memories are rooted in the experience of snowmobiling. Simply watching a snowmobile has left an imprint on my soul. Friends of mine have embarked on snowmobile adventures that are truly incredible. Others understand the profound power of making tracks.

I can think of no equivalent experience involving most of the things I spend my money on. Snowmobiles and snowmobiling with people I love to be with is soul food in a way that cell phones and fancy restaurants will never be.

But here’s the biggest point I want to make about this WHOLE series: What really, REALLY matters is that we do the things we deeply love to do.

If snowmobiling is something that you love as deeply as I do, then do it! New sled... old sled... rental sled...a friend’s sled, it does not matter. If riding a new snowmobile is too expensive, then ride a sled that isn't. All that really matters is that you ride.

Happy trails (happy life).

Thanks for reading.

Comments (10):

Serge says:
12/19/2017 7:09:00 PM

Arctic Insider will never be too expensive to read. Thanks for all your articles John.
Mike F says:
12/19/2017 7:40:00 PM

Well done John...
Ken says:
12/20/2017 6:42:00 AM

Thanks John for all of your great articles. That picture above is what it's all about and what matters. That is awesome! Man I wish I was riding.
Bobby Flame says:
12/20/2017 9:11:00 AM

Does anyone know how I can get on the Black Cats? They get free sleds right? I saw they had to take a helicopter to get them though, I'm Ok with that.
Brandon Michaelis says:
12/20/2017 9:33:00 AM

John, at the end of the day I believe you hit the nail on the head with the comment regarding time. My wife and I have a 4 and 5 year old that will no doubt be involved in sports. It terrifies the be-jesus out of me. In other words, I am terrified of these said sports consuming our lives. Run here, run there, practice, practice, practice. As a contrast, we (me included at 40!)started racing BMX last summer (VERY, VERY FUN!!!). ONE night of optional practice and racing Friday if you choose. So yes, I am also afraid that sports will also take time away from riding. Looking back, I have FAR more fond memories of snowmobile trips then those on the court and ball diamond.
Andy N. says:
12/20/2017 1:24:00 PM

Great Great articles!! You said it exactly..Those who haven't actually went north and actually snowmobiled (I live in Indiana) do not understand the excitement it brings (all the guys at work who think I'm crazy for driving 10 hours to ride). Just like Arctic Cat's motto says, share our passion. For me snowmobiling really is a passion!
Tom says:
12/20/2017 5:58:00 PM

I am 63-- I stay in shape to go ridding, my cardiologist told me she can reduce the drugs if I stay in shape. I was at Tug Hill last weekend -4 degrees and 2' of groomed snow, insane sunny day on the magic white carpet. I still feel energized "priceless".
Paul Hein says:
12/23/2017 1:46:00 PM

I'm 66 years young and worked construction my whole life. My wife and I went through some very difficult economic times in our early years. Our budget was based on what the weekly unemployment rate was, not the money I made in the good times. I'd started riding my Dad's sleds in the 60's and had a burning love for snowmobiling that I managed to fulfill by working every side job I could find. I started the young family out on discarded early 70's sleds that I'd wrench on and get running. Some of those early rides will always be remembered fondly, mostly, because we were just glad to make it home. I bought, traded and wrenched to where I am today. My wife and I have run new or almost new sleds since the mid 90's and I've done it without ever making a snowmobile payment. We currently have a 2103 and 2105. We'll "maybe" sticking with these awhile not that I can't find newer sleds at a good price but we like what we're are riding and I don't see the need. I guess it's all about your priorities in the end.
Flintstone says:
1/6/2018 12:45:00 AM

I don't believe in borrowing money, I believe in making money, saving money and if you have some left over buy toys. But borrowing money is evil. Be very careful if you choose to borrow. It can come back to haunt you to live beyond your means. I think it is disgusting that these multi billion dollar company's littersllybchase down little people and try and convince them that they will somehow be GREAT if they just sign some note and take home this TOY they are pedaling.
Joe Rainville says:
1/22/2018 5:48:00 PM

Considering that I live in freaking Texas, and get to ride about a week per year in St. Germain, WI, buying a new sled would be ridiculous, crazy and a waste of money...right?

Then I walked into the Thomas's SnoSports booth at Hay Days this past summer and saw that Tom had a demo 2017 ZR6000 Roger Skime Edition. I assumed that they were all sold out since it was a limited build. But Mr. Rowland even had one in the crate. I fell in love with them when the HoF raffled one off last year, so I sent a check north and now all I can think about is taking my son on his first ride on that limited build, electric start, fuel injected baby.

It about getting outside and making memories. Sharing time with my boy and enjoying winter. And ya, it's a sweet ride.

Thanks Artic Cat for building a something I didn't know I couldn't live without, and a worthy tribute to Roger's amazing career.

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