This past week, Arctic Cat unveiled an added Black Friday sales bonus on top of what was already some of the most incredible snowmobile sale prices that I’ve seen during the decades I’ve been in this sport. New non-current snowmobiles might be priced lower than at any other time in history. But before I talk about that, I’d like to share with you a couple quotes.
“Snowmobiles are way too expensive these days.”
“I haven’t bought a snowmobile for (fill in the blank) years because they’re so much more expensive than they used to be.”
I’ve heard these two statements enough times over the past decade that they’ve become cliche. People utter them, post them on Facebag and believe them without actually thinking about them. When I ask HOW much more today’s sleds cost compared to 20 years ago, the answer is always “Thousands.”
Which is complete bullshit. I know this because I just did the math.
To illustrate, I chose a 1994 ZR 580 (above), which was the second most ass-kickingest Arctic Cat trail sled that season (behind the ZR 700). It’s what most of the hardcore riders bought that season, and it was an awesome machine: FOX shocks, Wilwood hydraulic brake, a suspension package honed in competition that delivered legendary cornering and handling. Its 580cc Suzuki twin engine was carbureted; the 15 x 121 track boasted 0.75-in. lugs.
It’s MSRP was $5,999 U.S.
I input that $5,999 to the Consumer Price Index calculator on the U.S. Bureau of Labor website, and it spit out what that price is in today’s dollars: $10,121
Now let’s look at a 2018 ZR 6000 ES (above), a machine that is today’s second most ass-kickingest Arctic Cat trail sled (behind big-brother ZR 8000 models). It too is an awesome, well-equipped machine: IFP gas shocks that are equivalent to FOX; a sweet hydraulic brake built by Hayes; 10-/13.5-inches of front/rear suspension. An Arctic Cat-produced 599cc engine, plus a 15-in. wide track is available in either 129- or 137-in. lengths, both with 1.25-in. lugs.
It’s MSRP is $11,649 (it’s actually listed for $11,249 plus a $400 “destination charge”).
So yes, comparing these two sleds, snowmobile prices have increased by $1,528 compared to 1994. But that’s not the end of the story. It’s the beginning.
That extra $1,500 bucks does actually buy you some features on the 2018 model that the 1994 ZR didn’t have. For instance:
* EFI, electronic exhaust valves, pipe sensor and electronic oil pump, which together deliver a level of refinement that far surpasses its 1994 predecessor
* About 15-20 more horsepower
* Electric start
* Push-button Reverse
* Plastic skis
* 12v outlet
* An electronic gauge with far more information and usefulness
* The auto-adjusting TEAM Rapid Response II and Rapid Reaction drive system
* A track (and its resultant traction for both acceleration, cornering and braking) that is remarkably better
* Plus a rider position, seat and suspension package that makes the ’94 feel positively vintage. Seriously, the difference in how your body would feel after 150 Saturday afternoon miles on a ’18 (compared to a ’94) is easily worth $1500.
* Plus three hard years on a ’94 anything would leave you with a very loose chassis (pop rivets then, self-piercing rivets now) and a similarly loose front suspension/spindle/steering. Not so with today’s machines.
I put a ton of miles on 1993-2002 ZRs, including a ’94 ZR 580. Really, it’s completely unfair to compare that machine to a 2018 ZR 6000 because the ’18 is so utterly and completely better in every way.
Personally, I think all these things add up to far more than $1,500 in added value, but I respect that YMMV. You would still be correct if you said today’s snowmobiles are more expensive than 24 years ago.
(I wish I knew what the actual “street” price was for new ZR 580s in 1994, because I’m pretty certain that the spread between that and the street price of a 2018 ZR 6000 is far less than $1,500.)
Now is the time for me to circle back to the Arctic Cat sales bonanza I mentioned at the start of this story. Right this very moment Arctic Cat is offering rebates from $300 to $4000 on a whole bunch of 2015-2017 models, with most models getting rebates around $2000 (including the ZR 6000)!
Wondering what the actual street price is on new non-current models, the 5 minutes I spent Googling Arctic Cat dealers in my area indicated deals that are nothing short of amazing. Just a few of the highlights:
2016 ZR 4000 LXR for $5,999
2017 ZR 8000 LXR ES for $8,799
2017 M 8000 Sno Pro 162-in. for $8,999
2017 ZR 6000 LXR ES for $7,999
These machines are brand new and come with a 2-year warranty. If you’re financing, you enjoy 0% interest for 60 months.
Now let’s consider the ’17 6000 for a moment. It’s priced $2,122 BELOW the inflation-adjusted price of our 1994 ZR 580! Heck, eliminate the inflation adjustment altogether and the 2016 ZR 4000 LXR is exactly the same price as the ’94 ZR.
Plus right now there’s the just-announced Black Friday Sales Bonus from Arctic Cat, which includes a FREE cover, belt and oil on top of the already incredible prices. The bonus itself is worth $500. And it also applies to 2018 models (which also feature a 3-year warranty).
I have a lot more to say about this whole matter, and I’ll get to that in Part II of this short series. For now, I’m leaving you with my two conclusions:
1. Prices on new 2018 snowmobiles are not “thousands” of dollars more than machines from 20-plus years ago. Using the one example I researched, it’s actually $1,500 more.
2. Prices on new non-current snowmobiles ARE thousands of dollars less than those fond machines from yesteryear.
Thanks for reading.
Note: I’m neither a statistician nor an economics-type guy. Far from it. If you see a fundamental flaw with either my math or my reasoning, please indicate in the comments and I’ll address it.
Likewise, I should note that I chose to focus on the ’94 ZR 580 purely out of chance. I don’t know what kind of numbers we’d see if I chose a ’97 ZR 580 or a ’95 ZL 440 or any other year/model. With Google it’s pretty easy to figure this stuff out, so go for it if you’re curious about different examples.