Outboard motors are still a prevalent choice for small boats because they free up valuable space and are endlessly customizable. However, not all outboards are that reliable and most will require frequent maintenance to keep them in good working order. Still, four cylinders four-stroke motors are generally more reliable, though often at the expense of power output. Nonetheless, there are several marine engines pushing out over 500 horsepower out there. Combine that with the fact that you can install more than one on the same boat, and you can easily have upwards of 2000 hp on a single boat if money isn’t a problem.
However, the primary factor should be reliability, especially if, like most people, you only have one motor. Since no one wants to be stranded in the middle of a lake, far away from the shore, there are ways to minimize this risk. For example, investing in a good Yamaha outboard manual or an Evinrude/Mercury/Seven Marine alternative will help you avoid breakdowns or allow you to fix the problem on the go.
That being said, the best thing you can do is get a reliable outboard engine in the first place. But what are the really reliable outboards on the market? Let’s discuss.[amazon bestseller=”boat motor” items=”10″]
Most Reliable Outboard Motors By Power Output
Entry-Level Outboard — Yamaha F2.5
The Yamaha 2.5 horsepower is the best engine in this power output range. Sure, it won’t be the cheapest, but that is for a good reason. Yamaha makes some of the best engines for almost anything you can think of, including cars.
With that in mind, a small overhead valve 4-stroke engine is a breeze to build for a brand such as Yamaha. As a result, it’s exceptionally well-engineered, quite lightweight at only 17kg, and surprisingly quiet, running at a maximum of 72db.
Moreover, to demonstrate how confident it is about the reliability of its engine, Yamaha provides a 5-year warranty. Combine that with a good Yamaha OEM service manual, and you will have an engine that will serve you for decades.
And if 2.5 hp seems a little low for you, Yamaha also offers a very similar 139cc engine producing either 4 or 6 horsepower that is equally reliable.
Mid-Power Outboard — Suzuki DF90
Suzuki marine engines are finally starting to be recognized for their build quality, and the DF90 is the perfect example. Owner testimonials show that this is one of the most reliable outboards they have owned despite being riddled with the latest technologies, including a zero maintenance timing chain and lean-burn control, setting the air/fuel mixture to 18:1 in certain conditions making it the cleanest and most fuel-efficient engine in its class.
Furthermore, at only 155kg, it’s a whopping 26 kg lighter than a Mercury equivalent. Also worth mentioning, Suzuki has a lot of experience with 16 valve DOHC engines, the most popular layout used for its motorcycles, another point in favor of the DF90.
High-Power/Small Displacement Outboard — Yamaha VF150 and VF175
In a category where you need the most power you can get out of a small engine, no outboard can compete with the Yamaha VF series. indeed, these engines still provide a similar efficiency as small four-cylinder engines, and their power-to-weight ratio is at the top of the range for outboards of this size, thanks to the use of a variable camshaft timing system.
While everyone would agree that Yamaha makes some of the most reliable marine engines, and this 2.8 liter DOHC is no different, it’s important to remember that this class’s engines are high-performance models. Thus, the stress it will have to endure will be significantly higher than the Suzuki DF90, for example. Consequently, it will be essential to service it on a regular basis. Luckily, these outboards are quite simple to repair and a good Yamaha outboard motor manual and a bunch of tools will be pretty much all you need here.
Not sure where to find one? Have a look at eManualOnline — their repair manuals are the same used by professionals and pay for themselves after the first repair you’ll tackle on your own!
High-Power Outboard — Mercury 450R
While 450 horsepower in an outboard engine rarely goes hand in hand with reliability, the power output is only the beginning of the story. Despite its superior power, the Mercury 450R is under-stressed since it’s a 4.6 liter V8. Suddenly 450hp doesn’t sound that much, and that’s before we mention that it gets a 2.4-liter supercharger.
Mercury further backs up the reliability with a three-year warranty and a limited three-year warranty on corrosion. Also, all this power is achieved on 89 octane gas, adding to its usability. So, if you are a speed addict, and are bothered about the fact that reliability and power don’t usually go together, look for a Mercury 450R — it won’t disappoint!
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For obvious reasons, outboard motors are the option of choice for most small boat owners and will probably continue to be so for years to come. Every year, they keep improving, becoming ever more powerful and reliable. However, as long as we have internal combustion engines, regular maintenance and quality replacement parts will always be the key to longevity and reliability.
Luckily, it’s fairly easy to save on maintenance when performing it on your own. I personally saved thousands by using a Yamaha service manual to maintain and fix my outboard. Of course, you’ll need to learn the basics but when you get the hang of it, it’s a much better alternative than going to the repair shop.