No doubt, the most expensive sleds on the market have always been, and will always be … well, expensive. That fact just doesn’t give the full story when it comes to affordability and the actual buying process most consumers face with snowmobiles (or anything for that matter). The most expensive sled in any given season can eat up 20-30% of the median U.S. income, to be sure, but spending that much of your income on any purchase is ill advised.
We’re going to dive a bit deeper into a cost analysis of a few snowmobiles, comparing apples to apples as best we can. While we won’t go back 40-some years (before half of the snowmobiling-age consumers were even born), we will look at the technological advances and performance improvements that may justify price increases over the years. We’ll also consider inflation* and try to determine if current sled pricing is actually outpacing the general economy.
To cite an example from a recent article we read, a 2002 Arctic Cat Thundercat had an MSRP of $10,499. However, if you spring ordered that exact snowmobile in 2016, the MSRP jumps to $14,107 based on consumer purchasing power numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor and Statistics. If you spring ordered the 2017 ZR 9000 Thundercat, you know that the actual MSRP of that sled was $16,899. Did Arctic Cat make $2,792 worth of improvements to that ’02 T-Cat over the last 15 model years? Those are the questions we’ll examine. Our findings may surprise you, and if we’re being up front about it, we’ll tell you that the cost of a snowmobile isn’t necessarily going up.
*Inflation calculated using information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics