Choosing a snowmobile is unlike any other consumer decision you make. Yet, it is still a process, much like choosing a car, and there are things to consider to which only you know the answer. If you're new to snow machines, don't let the mystery stop you from a great and thrilling experience.
When choosing a snowmobile, consider where you will be riding. Are you going to ride on groomed trails afforded in many national parks and forests? Or are you determined to go off-trail, to see what others may not be willing to challenge? Or, possibly, you need a snowmobile that can be used as a work machine? Are you going to ride solo most of the time?
Engine size is the key component for what you decide is the purpose of your sled. Obviously, a four stroke engine delivers more power and can easily handle two riders and most work loads you might need. Still, you need to consider that a four stroke engine sled will cost more, use more gas, and require more persistent and constant maintenance. Think of a low-profile, two stroke engine sled as an economy car. It will perform well, be quick off the line and it will have enough power to hold your trail. But it won't climb steep grades as well as a high profile sled nor will it perform ideally with more than one rider.
Does the sled come with reverse? Certainly, a handy option for a beginner, but a more seasoned sledder may be able to live without it. How about electronic ignition? You probably should consider this feature since you certainly do not want to be wrestling with a pull-chain in the dead of winter, knee deep in snow. But perhaps that's part of your adventure.
The suspension on a snowmobile is perhaps the most overlooked feature when beginners purchase their sled. Often, they will purchase a sled because it sits majestically in the showroom and the kids are excited about how cool it looks. But the sled is designed for a purpose that you do not need nor want. Some beginners quickly tire of the greater effort required to drive a large, four stroke engine racing sled.
Much like cars, snow machines come with numerous extras to enhance your snowmobiling experience. How important these are only you can decide. You might consider having your snow machine equipped with heated seats, 12v outlets, adjustable handle bars, or electric gauges.