OK, you’ve picked out your new boat… now a crucial decision looms: the engine.

There are two choices to power your craft: outboard or stern (inboard) drive. Outboards provide more room in the boat because they are installed on the transom, outside the boat. A sterndrive combines inboard power with outboard drive. The engine sits just forward of the transom while the drive unit (outdrive or drive leg) lies outside the hull.

“Ten years ago,  if you wanted more than 200 HP, stern drives were your only option,” says Joe Lewis, General Manager at Mt. Dora  Boating Center & Marina. “That’s not the case today. Outboards in the 200, 250 and even 300 HP range are common place.”

Mt. Dora sells Yamaha outboards and Volvo Penta stern drives.

Both engines have advantages, depending on the kind of boat you have and the activities you’re planning, be it fishing, cruising or watersports. Outboards are the best choice to power pontoons and tritoons simply because of the boat configuration. “There isn’t a good place for an inboard engine on a pontoon/tritoon to be installed,” Lewis notes.

On the other hand, bowriders and deck boats have the space for inboard engines.  Most of these types of boats are used for watersport activities, tubing, skiing, wakeboarding and other tow activities.  “All take place off the rear of the boat which makes this space very important,” Lewis explains. “An outboard motor mounted in the middle of the transom is often just in the way.”

Maintenance wise, both stern drives and the new higher horse power engines are similar. Both require engine oil, oil filter, spark plug, water pump impeller and gear case lube changes.  Outboards don’t have distributor caps and rotors so parts costs are usually about $100 less for an annual service.

While outboards are easier to access, it doesn’t mean that working on them is necessarily easier for owners. “Yes, draining the engine oil on an outboard is easier than pumping the oil out of a stern drive engine,” Lewis says, “but with the sophistication of all these engines (outboards and stern drives) without the training and software there isn’t much more that maintenance type service they could do.”

Consult the experts at Mt. Dora when you’re ready to buy an engine. Their experience can guide you in choosing the best engine for your budget and needs.