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New to Forum - Buying a 1998 Sportster LX - Thoughts? Test drive & ski tomorrow.


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hondaf17

Hi everyone, 

Glad I found this forum.  Wish I would've found it weeks (or years ago)!  Here's the quick summary.

I've been skiing since I was about 10.  When my brother bought a 2006 Response LXI that is the exclusive ski boat.  We're spoiled.  It's awesome.  Our cabins are on the same lake.  Now he's busy with his kids and I have two kids so our time to ski together is more limited.  I have a 1993 Ebbtide I/O that is a runabout/cruiser.  It can ski, but after skiing beyond a Response LXI it's like...why bother!  So, I've been looking for a ski boat that will allow me to slalom more while also being a better tool to teach my young children to ski.  Better equipment = better chance of success and that they'll enjoy it.

So I've been searching classifieds and put down a deposit on a 1998 Malibu Sportster LX (open bow).  $17,000.  Only 450 hours and from pictures looks to be in very good condition.  Trailer and two props included.  Mechanics I've talked to say the engine should last 1,500 to 2,000 hours easy.  I have not been able to find a Response LXI.  Almost every boat for sale in my area seems to be a wake/surf boat, which I have no interest in buying.  New prices are crazy (to me) and I just can't spend $80k on a boat.  I'd be willing to spend up to $50k if I could find a "perfect" boat that is lightyears better than the $17k sportster.

What do you guys think?  Is a 1998 Sportster LX with 450 hours for $17,000 fair?  Am I overpaying?  Would I be better suited in another boat/different model?  Anything specific I should look for/make sure works at tomorrow's test drive/ski?  This will be my first time in a Sportster.

Thank you in advance!

Edited by hondaf17
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Only downside with the sportster is that it’s a pretty small boat with not much storage. Friend of mine had one was awesome. I’d say that price is pretty typical in todays market, maybe a little high but I would rather pay more for something that didn’t need work. 
 

2014 TXI less than 200 hours. 53k usd. 

https://www.wizardlakemarine.com/inventory/2014-malibu-response-txi-white-black/

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Asking price might be a little high but I bet you could get them down some. I think demand for direct drive boats is much less than v-drive so I suspect you won't have as much competition.

Some things that you could use as bargaining chips/things to consider for your use: Does it have Perfect Pass? A Wakeboard Tower? Bimini top? Wedge? Is it fuel injected? Do all the gauges work?

Regardless if these things matter to you or not they can matter for the value of the boat and need to be considered. So if the answer is no to any of them then use it to your favor when talking price. 

I think there's a pre-purchase checklist somewhere on this site if you search for it. It goes over general things to look for when test driving. Specific to the Sportster I would add that if you ski behind it you will notice a difference in the wake coming from a Response. It's still small - specifically more narrow - but not quite as soft as a Response. Take note of fuel level when you ski and if it's over half full just know that if you run it less than half a tank the ski wake improves. As noted above there's very little storage on the boat....but I love mine....I think you will too. Great boat.

In case it doesn't work out have you checked Ski-it-again for boats in your area? https://www.ski-it-again.com/php/skiitagain.php?endless=summer&topic=Search&category=Boat_3Event&sorton=9

  • Like 1
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My buddy would not trade his 98 Sporty for anything on the planet! Great slalom tug,small hard wake; he loves it for bare footing.  Drives like a sports car, does ok in the slalom course.  I think it's almost 1000 lb lighter than the Response.  450 hrs is barely broken in.  Ours has carb and recent rebuild has it running like a champ at 1000 hrs. Hope it's in good shape - if your thing is slalom skiing you will be a happy camper IMO.

Red

BTW i don't like a tower on this screamer of a boat. Buddy bare foots with a boom off the side and also has a pole that goes on the pylon for wakeboarding, and he has the wedge as well - good wakeboard wake for recreational use.

Edited by Rednucleus
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It’s tiny, has a super low freeboard and the open bow (playpen) is prone to get swamped if not carefully operated. Wasn’t there a fatal accident that resulted in a lawsuit last year or the year before involving that exact model?
Upholstery is of lower quality and boat has no storage whatsoever (if not equipped with the optional (!) glove box).
Honestly - I would keep on searching (or expand the search radius).

Edited by Chaabo
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I have owned a 1996 Sportster (Flight craft) since new and absolutely love it. 90% of our skiing is barefooting and (IMHO) there is no better OB boat around. We put in approx 180 hrs per year and have never had any issues.

To fix the 'space' issue, take out the back seat - people step on it anyway.

With the right prop, speed is not an issue - I easily hit 47 mph, top out at 49 mph.

 

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hondaf17
Posted (edited)

Thanks guys for all the comments.

Is it really that small?  It's only 6 inches shorter than my brothers 2004 Response LXI and I don't view that as small at all.  Storage I guess will be annoying but I guess I'll plan to just take my ski out every time when done?  I do want to be able to fit four people comfortably (I'm a family of four).  It'll be used for family more often than it'll be used for my slalom runs.  Wife wants to learn how to ski too!

@drh - thanks for link to ski it again.  Amazing with how many times I've searched used boats that that website never popped up.  And wouldn't you know it...they have one listing in MN and it's a 2005 Response LXI with 797 hours for $35,500:

SKI-IT-AGAIN.COM - MN Malibu Response LXI

 

@Cole2001 - beautiful boat.  Wish you were in the states/closer as that would be very high on my list.

Maybe this one will hold me over until I can find a newer Response TXI in my area?!?

 

EDIT:  I'm still excited about looking at/buying this boat today.  I think it'll be a big upgrade over my 1993 Ebbtide I/O runabout for minimal cost.  It's the best I've been able to find in my area.  Anything particilar to the Sportster I should look at (common mechanical, etc?)?  He just replaced two switches and he says the carbs were rebuilt 2 years ago.  Talked to mechanic that's worked on it since it was born and he'd grade it a 7.5 or an 8.

Edited by hondaf17
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It will be fine for 4 people. If you've got one in tow that leaves three to sit in the drivers and passenger seats. The smaller size has mainly to do with freeboard rather than length. It sits really low in the water so if you're on big/rough water you have to be careful not to dip the bow on big rollers. Also it will ride rough in rough water but probably not all that different than a Response so I assume you're used to that.

As far as mechanical make sure all accessories and gauges work. Turn on everything - blower, bilge, stereo, horn, run/nav lights. Grab the prop on the trailer and give it a good tug back and forth to check cutlass bearing wear. It should be pretty tight up/down and side to side. Since it's a carb let the owner show you how he starts it from cold. It shouldn't take more than one or two pumps of the throttle and it should start and idle in neutral almost instantly. If it takes more than that the carb might need to be tuned. Take it for a top speed run - should hit approx. 4900 rpm and 49 MPH depending on the prop. It should drive very close to the Response you're familiar with - if something seems off take note.

Did I mention to check for Perfect Pass? Coming from a Response which I assume has some sort of speed control you will want this. 

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We use the open bow with tannau cover for storage - things like vests, towels (stuff not heavy) and ok storage in front of passenger seat. Not a big water boat especially with 3-4 people in it.

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Price is on the high side, but it's a great boat.  I absolutely love my tantrum (which is the same hull).  Yes it's small on the small side but really does it matter?  I've routinely had 6 adults on board or adults and kids it's never an issue.  No need for a tower, skyon and boom are good accessories.  If the boat has been properly maintained it'll go forever.  Check for any leaks while engine running.  Condition of serpentine belt, noise from the idler pulleys.  Ask if the impeller has been routinely changed.  It's likely carb'd, should fire up easily and shouldn't stutter at all under acceleration.  No weird noises etc... transmission shouldn't "clunk" in any way.  Steering should be 1 finger (super easy to turn).  Check for play in the rudder box assembly (if it's out of the water); check the strut to see if it's bent, check the condition of the propellers.

These are very simply basic boats that are easy to work on and super reliable.

  • Like 2
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The Sportster is shorter and narrower that a Response.  The Sportster has an 86” beam, Response 90” and LXI is 93”.  As noted, significantly smaller than the LXI.  Wake is narrow but hard.  Tracking won’t be as good if it is a 2 tracking fin version, 3 was an option.  They are cool, little boats and excellent for barefooting.

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fullthrottle
17 hours ago, Chaabo said:

It’s tiny, has a super low freeboard and the open bow (playpen) is prone to get swamped if not carefully operated. Wasn’t there a fatal accident that resulted in a lawsuit last year or the year before involving that exact model?
Upholstery is of lower quality and boat has no storage whatsoever (if not equipped with the optional (!) glove box).
Honestly - I would keep on searching (or expand the search radius).

I never let anyone sit in the bow of my Sportster unless the water is glass, it is very easy to dip the nose with the weight of one or 2 extra people sitting up there.

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hondaf17

Thanks guys.  This is excellent information that I'll have top of mind.  Leaving to look at it shortly.

I did go sit in another Sportster that's for sale in my area earlier today.  2002 with 580 hours and he had it listed at $25,000 but has since said he'd take $21,000.  I have a sense the 1998 I'm going to look at will be in better condition and it has 140 less hours.  I was pleased with the size of the Sportster...not really any concern for my family of 4 as of now.  There isn't much storage space and it'll be low to the water but so is the Response LXI.  I am well familiar about the potential of the bow being swamped.  That happens in my brothers Response LXI from time to time...just need to be aware.

Will see how it looks and drives.  Thanks for all the input!!

 

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I can ski behind pretty much any DD but I'd want to know how that boat tracks and how it feels in the seat.  That's where the rubber meets the road, IMO.  Sit in it and hopefully get a skier behind it so you can tell how it drives under load and whether you are comfortable at the helm.   

Edited by jjackkrash
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hondaf17
Posted (edited)

So I just skied behind it. Nice narrow and flat wake.  Good run.  I'm here now.  But it's stuttering out of the hole.  It revs up, slips, then when you back off the throttle and hit it again it catches and goes.  Like the transmission or a belt or something is slipping.  Seller said it started happening a couple days ago (of course).  Called his mechanic and he said transmission fluid, which we checked and indeed is low.  Seller going to gas station now to get some and test it again.  But my radar is up.  Not feeling the greatest honestly.  Also the interior is not in as good of shape as I hoped.   Prop has a ding.  Unsure.  Ugh.  It is 2 fine (not 3) and pulls to the right.   

Could it be as simple as transmission fluid or should I run away?

Any quick help much appreciated.  

Edited by hondaf17
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hondaf17

@solorex

 

See my above post.  Transmission does stutter.  Feeling uneasy.  Kind of clunky under acceleration and maybe fixing with transmission fluid??

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I would feel ok about the trans now. If pulling right means it requires the wheel to be turned left to stay straight then that's normal. It's due to the rotation of the prop. Otherwise if you like it, express your concerns and what you'll have to invest in improvements to the boat (reupholster interior, etc) and offer him $13k. 

  • Like 2
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2 hours ago, hondaf17 said:

 Still pulls right.  

It should; a neutral set up feels like it floats and the boat won't track as well.  

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hondaf17

Ok.  Glad to hear that the pull to the right is normal and that concerns with transmission aren't really there now that it purrs with transmission fluid.  Could no transmission fluid for a long time (I don't know how long it was low/out) cause permanent damage?  The guy said my $500 deposit is nonrefundable but since he could tell I was unsure he said he'd warranty it for the rest of the year and also he's letting me take it to my cabin and try it for a week and report back.  So I'll be using it Thur-Sunday and decide if I want it.  I may try and get $1k off for upholstery because I feel it's not as good as represented but that's not a deal breaker, IMO.  I don't think you can go wrong buying it for $17k.  I can use it for 1 weekend or a few years and likely sell it for a few grand less and see what else comes on market.

My plan is to clean the engine compartment well.  Get all fluids/dirt out.  Use it this weekend and make sure there are no oil or transmission leaks.  

Thanks for all the input guys.

  • Like 1
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Low trans fluid commonly causes the slip you describe, if ok with it topped off probably no concern.  Sounds like a keeper. Maybe a price reduction for the upholstry is a bargaining point.

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My concern would be - why was the tranny low on oil in the first place?
Unless there’s a leaking seal, no oil would ever disappear. It’s not like an engine where you need to keep an eye on the oil level.

As you already bought it, clean the bilge thoroughly and check for oil leaks when you use it. Tranny removal (or rebuild) is doable, but pretty painful.

Edited by Chaabo
  • Like 1
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13 hours ago, hondaf17 said:

Ok.  Glad to hear that the pull to the right is normal and that concerns with transmission aren't really there now that it purrs with transmission fluid.  Could no transmission fluid for a long time (I don't know how long it was low/out) cause permanent damage?  The guy said my $500 deposit is nonrefundable but since he could tell I was unsure he said he'd warranty it for the rest of the year and also he's letting me take it to my cabin and try it for a week and report back.  So I'll be using it Thur-Sunday and decide if I want it.  I may try and get $1k off for upholstery because I feel it's not as good as represented but that's not a deal breaker, IMO.  I don't think you can go wrong buying it for $17k.  I can use it for 1 weekend or a few years and likely sell it for a few grand less and see what else comes on market.

My plan is to clean the engine compartment well.  Get all fluids/dirt out.  Use it this weekend and make sure there are no oil or transmission leaks.  

Thanks for all the input guys.

I don't have any valuable input but Congratulations.  Go have fun and don't looks back!

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