Repowering a boat will save you money and extend the lifespan of your fishing vessel. Simply rebuilding the engine or purchasing a different engine are great ways to avoid investing in a new boat.
Boats last for decades, even the ones built today. You can extend the lifespan of your boat by repowering it. It can save you money, time, hassle, and the chore of reselling your boat which has an engine issue.
The boat itself can have its life prolonged for years without anything too major, at least if you buy new or close to new. A boat's engine is good for a good many years too but eventually, it's going to need some costly repairs. An overhaul. Even a replacement, in some cases.
When you do finally have an extreme engine issue that is either costing you money in continuous maintenance or has quit altogether, sit and think about it for a while and see if repowering your boat makes more sense. It almost always does!
You know it's probably the right thing to do. But how much does it cost to repower a boat? Is it worth it? This detailed boat repowering guide will help you make the right choices on this difficult issue.
Is It Worth Repowering a Boat?
Many boat owners like yourself are starting to consider repowering their boats because of the recent boom in outboard motor availability and options. There has never been a better selection of new and used boat motors in the marketplace, so this is a great time to think about swapping your old engine out for a new one.
Repowering your outboard-powered boat is a much better option if you can’t afford to buy a new one, don't want to buy a new one, or if you love the boat you have and just want to add some more power to it to give you more security and adventurous options.
A brand-new motor with more power can be worth it in a number of ways. If your current motor can't get you on plane, and a new one could, you'll save gas. Fuel efficiency is a great reason to exchange your old motor for a stronger and more fuel-efficient one.
Or maybe your old motor is just not reliable anymore and you can't take those longer trips that you used to because you don't want to be stuck somewhere needing a major engine overhaul, or worse, be towed back to a port before needing a major overhaul!
If you're really considering more power for your boat, you might consider more than one engine to replace the faulty one you have. Now you're talking real power and money, but you're also going to open up options you never had before with your present boat.
There are lots of things to consider. It could be a simple swap out, or it could be a more complicated project involving adding more engines and horsepower than you ever had before.
You have to decide yourself whether your situation warrants another used engine, a new one, or multiple engines. You may decide that it is worth it and go for it. You'll probably be a lot happier after you finally make the decision.
Here is a quick look at each of the repowering options you have available.
1. Going Digital
New engines mean new features such as screens for monitoring engine performance, digital controls, and plugins with a single electrical connection. Evinrude E-TEC G2 outboards are now available with hydraulic power steering, all digital controls, and i-Trim automatic trim.
Evinrude offers the E-TEC G2 150 with conventional steering for those who want to do repowering projects. Their Evinrude E-TEC G2 emissions are rated better than any engine in its class and provide another benefit, up to 15% better gas mileage as well.
Evinrude offers rigging harnesses that convert older systems to digital ones. The Universal Repower Rigging System mounts on your boat to change the push and pull mechanical cable movement of your motor's accelerator to a digital throttle. Use them for low-cost repowering.
If you haven't looked at boat motors recently, take a trip over to your favorite Evinrude or Mercury motor dealer and ask them to give you an overview of all that has happened in the last few years. You'll walk out of there with a new understanding of what you can do to upgrade your boat with a new engine that will put a smile on your face.
2. The Boat’s Current Condition
When considering whether or not to repower your boat, one of the first things you need to do is to objectively assess whether the vessel is still in good enough shape to handle a new engine.
You may decide that spending a few hundred dollars to hire a good surveyor to inspect your boat from top to bottom is a good idea before spending a lot of cash on a new motor. Boats can stay together for a long time and look great from the outside, even with serious issues. It's a good idea to survey if you have any doubts about the condition of your boat.
Remember, hull-to-deck joint separation can occur during a hard bump, or even just over time as your boat ages. The stringers are like the spine of the boat and if they separate from the hull or worse, break, you're in for some real problems.
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3. Top Speed
If the top speed of the boat is a consideration when you repower, you can get close to what you once had with your original motor if you just buy a motor with the same horsepower. That's not the end of the story though. The gearing ratio matters and can mean the difference between having powerful torque from a dead stop, and the extent of your top-end speed at maximum throttle.
If you are considering increasing the top speed of your boat, a survey can find out whether or not your boat can handle going any faster. You may know the manufacturer's specs and what their stated top speed is, but your old boat may not be able to do that anymore. Get the survey, and a clean bill of health before you upgrade motors that will take you faster on the water.
Going faster is not usually a matter of just changing your prop or some gears in your old motor. The motor was built for a certain performance range. When you extend that and go beyond what it was intended for, you can run into serious motor damage – even blown engines.
Survey first, then go visit a boat motor specialist who can advise you on what you can do to go faster and still remain safe.
4. Power Surge
Many owners want to go a little crazy on the horsepower and really take it to the next level when they repower a boat.
The manufacturer of your boat will know the maximum speed the boat was intended to go. It will also know the maximum rated horsepower the boat can handle safely. Don't go beyond these specifications or it can end in tragedy. The United States Coast Guard also has recommendations posted for boats with particular measurements, and weight, and it's best not to go beyond that.
5. Weighty Questions
After making the sometimes gut-wrenching decision about whether to repower your boat or replace it, let's say you're going to repower it.
There are so many things you must know before you choose the new engine unless you are going to get a new one just like the one you had previously.
For instance, four-stroke outboard engines are considerably heavier than two-stroke versions. Some boat manufacturers advise against replacing two-stroke outboard engines with heavier four-stroke engines because in many cases, the transoms were not built to handle them. You'll need to know how much weight your transom can hold in addition to knowing the maximum power you can apply to the boat without it falling apart.
Your manufacturer can help you with nearly any question about repowering your boat. They've already handled the same questions from other buyers and they are probably eager to share the information with you because it might mean they get the opportunity to sell you something else.
Today, most outboard engines can be similar in weight and size to each other but how they're built may differ and require you to know more about the differences. The Evinrude G2 engines mentioned above feature internal steering gear and oil tanks. Your old engine almost certainly doesn't. This means the weight is redistributed and you have to know the implications of this if you decide to install one or more of these motors on your fishing boat.
6. Two-Stroke or Four-Stroke?
In the 1980s, 4-stroke engines were first introduced and offered the carrot of better fuel economy but came with the dreaded 'less low-end torque' curse. Thankfully, technology has changed since then!
Today, 2-stroke outboard engines still provide lots of power in the low and mid-range, something that tournament anglers and a lot of bass anglers care about. You might think you need a 2-stroke to power your Jon boat, skiff, or bay boat to realize that addictive torque you love so much. but 4-strokes are changing the game.
Evinrude G2 outboards (2-stroke) are more fuel efficient because they are built around fuel injectors that inject the fuel directly into cylinders. The 4-stroke engines, on the other hand, are getting lighter and are making gains in mid-range torque through various means.
For instance, Mercury's Verado 350-hp motor uses a supercharger to give it more low-end torque than even 2-stroke engines. So, it has the power, fuel efficiency, the reliability, and is a huge step up from old carburetor-powered motors. Most outboard engines are now fuel injected and have done away with inefficient carburetors.
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7. One Engine or Two?
Sometimes going with one bigger outboard motor rather than two smaller ones or having a pair of motors instead of three is the smartest choice. Saving weight can be a dramatic factor to consider when swapping out engines, especially if you're considering multiple engines to replace a smaller number of them.
Boat makers recommend that with two motors on a boat of the same horsepower, one of them should be strong enough to plane the boat with a couple of passengers, or whatever is the normal amount of people you carry.
If the weight and horsepower are the same, a twin-engine setup will have a lower top speed, and a lower cruising speed, and consume more gas than one motor would.
How Much Does It Cost to Put a New Motor On a Boat?
A typical gasoline boat engine can go for about 1,500 hours before it will need some significant repair to keep going strong. Diesel engines are much hardier and can go about three times that before needing an overhaul.
Engines that are well taken care of can go for many years, but most people don't prioritize taking care of their motors, thinking they will run indefinitely. Owning a boat is a real test of responsibility and not that many people are up for the challenge, and so they pay for it later in repairs!
How much it costs to repower a boat will depend on too many factors to give you a dollar amount you can count on. You should definitely shop around. There isn't much difference between Evinrude, Mercury, and Yamaha engines, especially when comparing their smaller engines.
The cost of new engines ranges from around $8,300 for a Mercury 50 hp outboard motor all the way up to $35,000 for a 300 hp V-8 Mercury.
Removing your old engine and installing the new one will add more costs which increase with the weight. If installing the new engine is a tricky fit, that also can increase costs. Where you are in the world can also dramatically affect engine installation costs.
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How Long Do Boat Engines Last?
The boat engine is one of the most important features of any boat, even a catamaran or sailing yacht, as you will rely on it for crucial movements in the water around a dock or when the wind is low.
If you run your boat engine for four hours a day doing commercial charters you're going to need to overhaul the engine in just about a year's time and put some more money into it to keep it running.
An engine running close to max output over that year is going to need more maintenance than one that runs at only 50% power. So, it's possible that your boat motor lasts for two years if you're not abusing it by running it into the redline often.
The average outboard motor use is around 200 hours per year. Your engine can last 7-8 years at that easy load. If you replace the oil after every 50-100 hours of operation and regularly flush the engine, you can see even better engine life.
Gasoline engines don't last as long as diesel engines which can go for 5,000 hours before needing a major cleaning, lube, seals, replacing rubber tubes, and other essential maintenance.
A typical Mercury outboard engine can last 3,000-4,000 hours with proper care and regular maintenance.
Motors are made for long, continuous rides. They perform better with this type of operation. Just like a car or motorcycle does. If you only take your boat out for short trips and constantly start and restart the engine every time you use it, your engine will probably fail sooner than if it was used on longer trips without all the starting and stopping.
Engines can fail in any of a number of spectacular ways, but one way you can see it coming is to always pay attention to the color of the smoke. A change in the color is certainly due to something, so figure it out quickly!
Repowering your old boat is an affordable option when compared to buying a new boat or continuously pouring money into repairing the engine for it to function. Typically, good engines last for 3-4,000 hours if well taken care of, so the new engine you buy for your boat can probably last more than 10 years if you use your boat about as much as most people do.
Your decision about whether to repower your boat engine requires that you take into account many factors like the cost for the engine, the cost for the installation and removal of your other engine, horsepower needs and maximums to adhere to for safety, fuel efficiency, and just how good you'll look in a boat with a new engine.
Take a good hard look at what you'll be using your boat for over the next couple of years and see if it makes sense for you to repower the boat you have instead of selling it and buying a new boat at extreme cost. It may be worth it to buy a new boat if your current boat has seen the end of its life. Boats last 40-50 years though and your best bet economically is to repower your boat and keep it longer.
What will you do? Let us know if our guide helped you come to any conclusions or inspired creative thinking about whether or not you need a new boat or just to repower what you have. We'd love to hear from you!