Hovercraft For Sale - buyer's guide

Hovercraft For Sale - This Hovercraft Buyer's Guide has been designed to help you select the best small or medium duty hovercraft to suit either your commercial or recreational requirements. There are a number of points to consider when buying a hovercraft. This guide, "11 questions you should ask when buying a hovercraft" has been created to enable future owners to make informed decisions based upon meaningful comparisons and a better understanding of what's possible when it comes to owning hovercraft.

Small hovercraft in the past were classified into one of three categories, race craft, kit-build, general use, however is now there is a fourth category, commercial use.

1. Race craft focus on speed, so need to be lightweight.
2. Self-build focus on low cost and prone to compromised safety.
3. General use craft a focus on safety and reliability, may work in salt-water use.
4. Commercial grade, extreme focus on quality, safety, durability, buoyancy, size/payload and the ability to work in any environment.

Now you must Consider:
Cost versus Performance, Safety, Reliability, Durability, Productivity and Return on Investment.

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Hovercraft For Sale – Why Do you want a hovercraft?

Hovercraft For Sale - Buyer's Guide Question #1 - Why do you want a hovercraft? First you must want to be able to travel amphibiously and over different terrain. You want a craft that can operate over flooded land, mud, riverbed, shallow water/tidal region, rapids, shingle beach, open water, grass, sand, desert, swamps, marshland, prairie, wetland, meadow, bogs, bayou, shore, weeds, submerged plants, snow, ice, shallow lake, dried up salt marsh, sandbank, road, without effecting wild life or the ecology.

Small hovercraft are becoming popular for many reasons, and you need to ask yourself why you want one. There are hovercraft for racing, off-road, adventure, exploring, transport, island hopping or as 12-month recreational craft. Or for commercial use, golf courses can use them all year without damaging the ground. Resorts use them for ride income, excursions, utility work, tours, rentals, and promotions. They are also used by land surveyors, environmentalist, search and rescue association, fire fighters. explorers, government agencies, airports and oil field companies.

Okay once you know what you want to do, you must decide which craft fits your needs manufactured models vs. plans or kits you can build. We'll classify hovercraft into four groups - racing, home-built, recreational and commercial craft. Racers are built to go fast, are very loud, very small, have thin hulls, and lack many safety features. Home-build kits can save you money but are often disappointing; a quick check on the internet turns up many half-finished projects for sale. Recreational hovercraft are designed for standard safety, ease of use, performance and to be fun to operate like other ATVs.

Commercial hovercraft more then capable of performing like recreational models, but are designed for work duty, focused on quality, safety, durability, buoyancy, productivity, payload and able to work in any environment, and come in larger sizes. Prices vary widely, as do options and overall quality. As you read through the rest of questions, keep in mind what you will be using your hovercraft for.

Hovercraft For Sale – Do you need one engine or two?

Hovercraft For Sale - Question #2 – Do You need one engine or two?

Some manufacturers give you the option of one or two engines, while other companies have only one design.

Many hovercraft use two engines, one for thrust, one for lift. Lift engines are often placed in front of the driver - yuck, all those fumes and noise coming at you, and the first wave that hits you may swamp the engine, causing lift failure. Two engines are also louder, require a little more focus when driving, use more gas, and mean extra maintenance.

The lift engine is often in the front of the craft. Front-sited engines can make the hovercraft nose heavy, and more prone to ploughing-in (sudden stopping on water, causing rapid passenger disembarkation). Imagine you see a cute girl/guy and lose focus for a split second; you slow down... except OMG, you cut lift instead of thrust and nosedive into the water at 50 km/h. If you accidentally nosedive, that engine in the front can flood with water, leaving you without your air cushion. And if you nosedive on land - ouch!

Two separate engines however, let you hover in place and turn on the spot without always moving forward. So, do you want separate control of lift and thrust, or do you want something a bit simpler to operate?

Hovercraft require just one engine to both lift the craft and move it forward (thrust). Most hovercraft have only one engine for lift and thrust; it is easier and far safer to use one set of controls, easier to service one engine, plus you get less noise from one engine. Racers are built like this to give more control to the driver, and have one engine purely for maximum thrust.

Engine type commercial craft use are highly reliable new engines that are supplied with full manufacturer’s warranties, proven by many years use in the snowmobile and microlight industries. Highly reliable 2-stroke and 4-stroke engines available to suit all applications, recreational or commercial. A commercial designed engine cover system offers excellent protection from the elements yet is very quick and easy to remove. Fitted air intake silencers and exhaust mufflers to keep noise to a minimum. Consider your use of the craft.

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Hovercraft For Sale – Do You want a fiberglass Hull?

Hovercraft For Sale - Buyer's Guide Question #3 – Do you want a fiberglass hull? Cheap fiberglass (GRP) means expensive repairs from cracking, chipping, discoloration, and a host of other issues. Your hovercraft should last many years and if you decide to sell it one day you want the resale value to be as high as possible. Some companies have no particular skill in the art of GRP production, and make their craft as fast and cheap as possible. Other companies have a history of manufacturing and employ skilled craftsmen with lots of experience. When fiberglass is new it's hard to tell if it will last 20 years or 2 months before chipping, peeling, or fading. Since cracks in the hull and tears on the bottoms of hovercraft are common problems, you must realize that all fiberglass is NOT created equal.

Internet chat rooms around the are filled with complaints of waterlogged foam in the bottoms of hovercraft due to water soaking up through cracks. Many owners are perplexed and angered when this occurs. Single-skin fiberglass, especially built by non-specialists, can crack easily. Accidentally park on some little rock and you've got a crack you may not notice until much later. Some companies have addressed these issues by adopting more stringent manufacturing techniques, using reinforced fiberglass layers, and/or adding impact plates, wear patches, and landing skids.

Ask if the fiberglass will still look good 10 years from now, and how much effort was put into properly constructing and curing it in a controlled environment in the first place. A whack with a mallet shouldn’t offend. GRP when new nearly always looks great but if not made by experts in a controlled environment it will soon suffer from many hidden problems. GRP craft are only light if made thin, this is cheap but means that the hull is not strong, it can easily break up with quite low impacts or even sitting in the wrong place! Ask to see an older model to check the quality of the GRP, which can crack and delaminate after 6 months. An immaculate looking craft on day one can, after 6 months, can look very forlorn. GRP repairs are costly. Does the craft have a really solid bumper protection system? Can you give the impact areas on the side and bottom of the craft good hard whacks with a mallet or hammer? Can you sit or stand on the side quite happily without breaking it?

A Commercial grade all terrain vehicles need to be strong to be safe hulls should be made from materials like HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) and Carbon Fiber, Kevlar. Few craft if any are made from any other material besides fiberglass, however commercial craft need to be crack resistant and durable. Look up the durability characteristics of HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) and Carbon Fiber, Kevlar is used in bullet proof vest. Request samples.

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Hovercraft For Sale – What about buoyancy?

Hovercraft For Sale - Hovercraft Buyer's Guide Question #4 – What about buoyancy? Racing hovercraft aren't intended to be very buoyant. Most are, but some manufacturers actually advise against stopping on water. Recreational models should be fully buoyant and stable when parked on water, allowing you to enjoy some fishing, a good book, or mooring at a dock. Some are fully buoyant even when flooded or swamped with water. With home-build kits buoyancy isn't known until you stop on water the first time.

Hovercraft also have something called "hump speed", the time it takes to "get over the hump". This means once you've stopped on water, how long does it take to get back up onto the cushion of air and resume flight? This can vary greatly, and all craft have a maximum weight that will be able to get over the hump at all. So, are marine-grade buoyant foams and materials used? What types of flooding and stability tests has it passed? What's the hump speed and maximum weight?

Many hovercraft have poor buoyancy characteristics and can actually sink if swamped, some craft claim good buoyancy but in fact take a look, ask to work out the buoyancy volume for the weight of the craft and the payload it will carry. Most craft simply do not have enough area volume to float the craft let alone the passengers also.

Commercial craft should have full buoyancy, as payload and balance are part of the job, should be able to stop quite easily on water, carry the listed weight without water ingression into the cockpit. Commercial craft should also be independently tested for flooded buoyancy approval. Buying a professional designed and manufactured craft helps to overcome regulatory restrictions, where they apply.

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Hovercraft For Sale – Are all Skirts the Equal?

Hovercraft For Sale - Buyer's Guide Question #5 - Are all Skirts the Equal?  There are three types of skirts to be concerned with: Bag Skirts, Wall Skirts, and Finger Skirts. Type I hovercraft generally use Bag Skirts, Type II Wall Skirts, and Type III large-scale professional hovercraft for racing or recreation usually use finger skirts. 

Wall skirts and bag skirts are found on many kit craft. Finger skirts are used on most recreational hovercraft. A finger skirt has tons of little segments that each individually inflate that conform to the ground so the hovercraft can go over all terrain. Recreational finger skirts are generally made out of very strong rubber material. The fingers are actually a bunch of separated "little skirts" that inflate independently. Commercial craft have finger or segmented segments, (for damage limitation) so rather than having to replace the whole skirt if damaged, at great cost, you just replace the damaged segment.

Occasionally, hovercraft skirts may get slight rips on sharp stones etc and will slowly wear down, so you need to know how to replace a skirt, and how difficult the job will be. Naturally you will go off road and wish to go exploring with your hovercraft, but need to get home safely, so having a few spare skirt segments handy is a good idea, only takes a minute to change each segment; far easier than trying to recover a hovercraft with a damaged one-piece skirt.

Commercial craft use rip resistant materials like Polyurethane /Nylon material for excellent wear, UV and salt-water protection.  Commercial craft are tested in operation with up to 25% of the skirts missing. Careful design of the skirts also means that in normal level trim use, generates virtually no spray and the driver and passenger can stay virtually dry. 

Commercial craft also have a IAPSS System (Integrated Anti Plough In Skirt System) means that a potentially lethal situation is avoided by attention to safety and good design, we take our customer’s safety seriously.  No not all skirts are equal,

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Hovercraft For Sale – ARE ALL HOVERCRAFT ARE LOUD?

Hovercraft For Sale - Buyer's Guide Question #6 – Are all hovercraft are loud? Some manufacturers may tell you all hovercraft are loud. Not true. What this means is THEIR models are loud, and they don't want you looking around at quieter ones. Yes, some hovercraft (like racers) are very loud, but be aware there are some pretty quiet hovercraft on the market in recent years. Models with engines at head level will be extremely loud compared to models where they are enclosed within the hull. Also be aware that the size and shape of the fan duct affects noise levels, with large ducts generally quieter than small ducts. Find out if loud snowmobile engines are still being used vs. newer quieter engines. Ask what mufflers, other devices, and design features are used to reduce sound.

In commercial craft the engines are covered to reduce noise and protect against salt water. If possible the engine is placed low down to ensure no airflow disturbance to the fan; clear airflow results in greater efficiency, this affects fuel consumption, and noise levels.

Some craft fit air intake silencers and exhaust mufflers to keep noise to a minimum. One engine or two? Many hovercraft use two engines, one for thrust, one for lift. Craft that have only one engine for lift and thrust; it is easier and far safer to use one set of controls, easier to service one engine, plus you get less noise from one engine.
Some Commercial craft are designed without a gearbox assembly, this allows them to site the engine much lower in the craft, providing lower center of gravity. The low C of G greatly reduces the tendency to roll providing much greater ease of control. It also means the engines are covered to reduce noise and protect against salt water. Commercial designers also place the engine low down to ensure no airflow disturbance to the fan; clear airflow results in greater efficiency, this affects fuel consumption, and noise levels.

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Hovercraft For Sale – WHAT SAFETY FEATURES DO YOU NEED?

Hovercraft For Sale - Buyer's Guide Question #7 - What safety features do I need? Racing hovercraft are intended for use at large organized events with rescue crews, and safety is not a concern. They need to go as fast as possible and can't spare extra weight for things like safety features. But home-build kits and recreational versions, which will be away from crowds and rescue crews, must have basic elements of safety.

Hovercraft should be protected against "plowing-in" a very common and frustrating tendency of hovercraft to nose-dive into water or land (which can cause driver and craft to get separated); they should definitely float in case of engine failure; and they may require the passing of fire and safety tests to operate in some districts. Common-sense safety options include engine-kill wrist straps, non-slip coatings, fan guards, and passenger grab handles. Be sure to choose a craft that will be safe whenever, wherever, and however you plan on using it.

Commercial craft appeal to people who require a hovercraft for more than general use and demand more than basic safety. Commercial craft may not be the fastest craft, but here it is about completing missions, finishing tasks, putting in service free hours, ease of operation, durability and performing all tasks safely.

Good safety design is no accident; extensive development has gone into designing the commercial craft. Safety has to be very important aspect of design, and designers have to consider many factors not found on other craft. For example, a front and rear guard to the fan assembly - who in their right mind wouldn’t? (Actually, the majority of hovercraft don’t). Consider heavy duty sealed batteries for starting even on the coldest morning and ventilated fuel tank spaces for example. Some craft put the electrical and fuel in same compartment! Some use simple open electrical connections. Some have even fitted their own fuel tank without any official safety approval! Look for those craft that have gone through full independent governmental engineering, safety and operation certification

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Hovercraft For Sale – HOW DO YOU AVOID BUYING A CRAFT THAT’S HARD TO CONTROL?

Hovercraft For Sale - Buyer's Guide Question #8 How do you avoid buying a craft that's hard to control? Hovercraft steering is a bit like flying a plane. With no wheels or other parts touching the ground, turning left and right is accomplished by directing airflow with rudders. Stopping is often done by spinning the entire craft around 180 degrees and giving a small blast of thrust, which is great fun and makes them very unique. But different models have different steering characteristics. Large rudders direct more airflow, giving more response than small rudders. Some hovercraft will tip when turning, which is usually due to the engine being mounted high in the craft rather than at floor level. You will find some designs using bicycle handlebars, with dangling wires and levers. Others use twist-grip controls like those found on motorcycles and jet-skis. Racing craft require you to lean into turns, while some models are specifically designed to eliminate this issue. Ask what makes their craft easier to control than other models. Take several for a test drive if possible.

Commercial Ease of use. On Water - can the craft be used in the conditions you intend to use? On water, sit on the side, climb in, climb out, will it topple over? Does it plough in? Will it float? What weight can it lift in on water-starts? Has any government provided safety certification? Do an emergency stop; can you keep control? Does the craft travel in a straight line? The craft should only require fingertip control; do you have to throw your weight when cornering? Many craft will not turn unless you move your weight to the side of the craft? Is driving instinctive to use, with handlebars and throttle? Many craft incorporate complex joysticks and elevator controls and/or reversing mechanisms that takes away the fun element and makes safe operation far more confusing.

The design should be as simple as possible for operators to use the craft. By paying particular attention to the design, operation, feel and responsiveness of the manufacturer, these extra controls are not needed. In terms of maneuvering the commercial craft can be used to undertake long graceful turns or make tight turns in confined waterways or marinas. The balance and set up of the craft means that you can turn it on the spot on both land and water. In a demonstration you can usually tell if you like the feel and the control within 15 minutes.

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Hovercraft For Sale – ARE ALL HOVERCRAFT MADE WITH NEW PARTS?

Hovercraft For Sale - Buyer's Guide Question #9 Are all hovercraft made with new parts?  I'm not sure if this happens in other industries or not, but some hovercraft manufacturers actually put refurbished engines in their "new" hovercraft.  This isn't talked about much, but the truth should be known.  I'd hate to buy a brand new snowmobile or quad and find out the manufacturer secretly sold me left-over or refurbished bargain parts instead.  I've heard of hovercraft being returned, repainted, and resold as new.  Like cars, the odometers can be replaced or reset by clever mechanics.

Some manufacturers sell new hovercraft with second-hand engines, purchased from a local salvage yard. Or craft that dig the nose into water and stop suddenly, throwing passengers over the handlebars. Craft that do not contain enough buoyancy and sink! Craft that don’t restart on water or will not go up slopes, one-piece bag skirts that cost megabucks to repair. Hulls that crack and let in water, craft you can’t steer without throwing your weight violently into the corners! Craft missing essential safety equipment such as a rear guard. We’ve found manufacturer that fit homemade fuel and electrical equipment in the same compartment, amateur builders often ignore basic safety common sense.  

Fortunately this is not a widespread problem, and there is no need to name any specific companies here.  I don't know if there is any way to be 100% sure of what you are getting, but you may want to ask outright if everything is exactly what it seems, including brand new components.  And be sure common spare parts are readily available and easy to change.

Commercial craft must use highly reliable new engines with full manufacturer’s warranties, proven by many years use in the snowmobile and microlight industries. These engines have been put through their paces for thousands of hours in very harsh marine conditions & in climates such as Africa, and the Middle East. Commercial do not use modified engines made to run at higher powers or RPM above the manufacturers recommended speed or power. The reason for this is simple, the engine manufacturer has fully tested the engine at the maximum safe power and RPM and running it in excess of these parameters will place excessive stresses on parts leading to failure or non-warrantable much reduced service life.

Hovercraft For Sale – WHAT SIZE HOVERCRAFT SHOULD I GET?

Hovercraft For Sale - Buyer's Guide Question #10 – What size hovercraft should I get? Be careful when selecting the size of your recreational hovercraft. You can easily figure out how large it should be by what you will be using it for. A race craft only needs to seat one person, but for cruising or fishing you might want one that will seat 3 or 4 people. And use your own common sense to determine how many people will fit comfortably on any model. Some craft said to seat 4 people can obviously only seat 2 or 3 in any sort of comfort.

There is now a commercial duty craft that can seat up to 9 people or has a payload of up to 1500lbs (680kgs). However make sure you find out the tested and proven safe weight capacities on both land and water, which will vary. Like boats, all models should have an allowable passenger capacity plate or label. Do you want to take friends and gear camping or touring? Or is this a racing toy just for you? Do you need a truck size craft that increases productivity or has a high capacity? There are models of all sizes, so choose the one that's right for you.

Make sure the larger craft which is both amphibious and all terrain is more powerful as it lends itself to more commercial opportunities, larger tasks and moving more people and products from one place to another. This means larger crew on site, or more people working together while on board and the ability to take equipment or instruments, making it useful as a mobile work site, laboratory, rescue vehicle, transport vehicle, tour boat or ferry.

Note: Some suppliers are a little economic with the truth about payload ratings, if you intend to go near water, all hovercraft create a pressure wave known as The Hump, and generally carry 50% less weight when starting on water (compared to on-land). Never ask hovercraft supplier – how many seats? Always check the on-water payload capability, to ensure you can get home. Check the weight of passengers and driver, additional equipment.

Some conditions make starting on water more difficult, such as loading, wind strength, wind direction, and depth of water – deeper water is easier to start from.

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Hovercraft For Sale – ARE ALL HOVERCRAFT THE SAME!

Hovercraft For Sale - Buyer's Guide Question #11 – Are all hovercraft are the same? This is still the single biggest mistake people make when buying a hovercraft. People often get excited when they discover the world of hovercraft and buy the first or cheapest (and frequently used) model they ever see, not realizing there are many companies, many models, many issues, and many questions to ask. There is a serious lack of regulations in hovercraft manufacture, so you must do your own research.

Good safety design is no accident; extensive development must go into designing when safety is a very important aspect of design, Because hovercraft are weight dependent vehicles, designers generally have to balance between durability and performance.

Hovercraft are weight dependent, and most suppliers use thin glass fiber hovercraft. Thin glass fiber hulls simply aren’t durable enough for all terrain use. Some craft use inflatable hulls which are very prone to ripping if you plan to use the craft anywhere near rough ground, ice, debris, underwater coral or obstructions, rocks, rough ground. However using proven materials like Carbon Fiber/Kevlar or HDPE manufacturers can produce a craft without compromising engineering component quality or hull strength.

Hopefully you now understand some of the issues, and know what options to consider and what questions to ask when purchasing your own hovercraft. Don't listen to anyone who tells you all hovercraft are loud or they all "plow-in", because it's simply not true. Especially be cautious of used hovercraft unless you are a mechanic and/or fiberglass repair expert. Don't fall for something cheap that will end up costing you a fortune, or cause you to curse them all! Ask the right questions and insist on intelligent answers. All hovercraft are definitely not the same, far from it.

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