Inboard vs. Outboard: Why Outboard Motors Have Become the Standard for Boats

Let’s talk boat motors. Water enthusiasts, whether they prefer quiet fishing holes on the local lake or smooth sailing in the ocean’s waves, will typically fall into one of two categories. Some are loyal to inboard motors while others are dedicated to the outboard motor power.

But over the last several years, there is a growing trend of new model boats coming equipped with the outboard variations. Is this an indication that one is better than the other? Why would outboard motors become the new standard for boat power?

What’s the difference between inboard and outboard motors?

As the names imply, an inboard motor is mounted inside the boat and usually at the hull. Gas versions feature combustible engines with cylinders. The outboard motor design means the engine is placed outside the boat, typically in the back or stern of the craft.

Boating enthusiasts have varying opinions about which may be better, too. Drifting on the high seas with an inboard, for example, to many is better because of the centered weight reducing the boat motion. Outboard loyalists will suggest an engine mounted at the back of the boat is best for control and speed.

Comparing the benefits of both motors

Inboard motors are often housed in a large box in the middle of the vessel. This center of gravity is a huge benefit to a drifting experience. These also tend to run much quieter, ideal for entertaining guests on a boat according to Nautical Adventures. The inboard designs for many also prove to be a fuel-efficient alternative.

On the flip side, the outboard motor design maximizes the benefits of a directional thrust at the back of the boat, according to Outdoor Troop. This translates to increased power control, making loading and docking the boat much easier. And considering some suggest the reduced risks of fire hazards, along with the reduced pricing structure for outboard motors, they end up being more popular with boating enthusiasts.

Costs to buy and maintain will vary significantly

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Of course, the larger the engine, the more expensive it will be to buy. But you may want to also consider maintenance and replacement costs, along with life expectancy of the motor design.

Inboard motors, for example, tend to last longer than outboard motors. And maintenance requirements, based on hours of use, often favor the inboards. Inboards on average can run 1,500 hours before tune-ups, while the outboard counterparts typically run 750 hours before service is needed.

But buying the inboard motor will cost you more upfront and can require more expensive insurance coverage.

What you will find on most new boats today

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While there are a host of pros and cons for both types of motors, today’s new boats will more often feature the outboard variety. Even those high-performance boats are rolling off the production line with outboard power.

NADA shared some of the data according to Statistical Surveys Inc. (SSI), indicating the boat industry has sold more outboard motor-powered crafts over the last few years. More specifically, there were 127,981 outboard boats sold in 2012 and 165,435 in 2016. Many suggest it’s one part consumer demand and two parts more cost-effective to install and maintain the outboard versions.

As with any boating decision, what kind of motor design you decide is best for you will be determined by your frequency and use of the boat, along with your budget. You may just start to notice the newer model boats will come with outboard motors as a standard.

In the end, you may find a better value in the outboard motor like many others have. It makes buying a boat and enjoying your best boat life, a little easier on the wallet all around.