How to Choose an Outboard Brand

Picking an outboard brand might seem complicated, but certain circumstances can make your decision easier.
Suzuki outboard on pilothouse boat
Whether you are powering a center console, cat, or a pilothouse such as this, you need to consider several factors before deciding on outboard brand. Courtesy Suzuki Marine

Whenever someone asks me about what outboard engine they should buy, I respond with questions of my own. How do you use your motor? What’s the size of your boat? What’s your budget? And do you plan to get the motor serviced?

I’m sure they’d prefer a straight answer, but there are several factors to consider. Just figuring out what brand to buy can be confusing. On the plus side right now, there are no outboard brands to avoid, which wasn’t always so.

A case in point: A fishing buddy of mine repowered his center console with a pair of Evinrude 150 Ficht direct-injected, two-strokes back in 1997—the first year they came out with that technology. It was a disaster. Fichts were legendary for their failure rate, and it didn’t help that his mom-and-pop dealer was in over its head with this new-fangled engine. Fortunately, disaster stories like this have faded. Yet, I think you should still wait a year or two before investing in any radically new outboard technology.

Local Service

Honda BF250 outboard
Honda offers outboards from 2.5 to 250 horsepower, so they probably have one that will work for your boat. Courtesy Honda Marine

A huge part of consumer satisfaction is dependent on the quality of service a boat owner receives. Repairs, on average, are taking longer because qualified workers are in high demand thanks to labor and parts shortages. Some dealerships are going short-handed and might wait months for parts. As a result, many dealers have become selective when booking service and repair visits. The criteria for getting your motor includes key questions such as: Did you buy the boat and/or motor from us? If so, we’ll fit you in. If you didn’t buy it here, it might be a while before we can get to it.

Spend as much time finding a good dealer as you do researching what engine to buy. In some more remote areas, your choices may be limited, but talk to as many local boaters as possible at places like boat ramps and they will be more than happy to share what they’ve learned.


Yamaha outboards on center console boat
Yamaha’s higher horsepower offerings are an excellent choice for larger center console vessels. Courtesy Yamaha Marine

Strong demand for boats along with supply chain issues have made certain outboards hard to come by. Although the situation is improving, engines like the popular Yamaha F300 are still scarce. Your choice of outboards may be dictated by this factor more than anything. Avoid buying an engine that’s not right for your needs (e.g. not enough horsepower) simply because it’s the model that is available at the time.

Boat Brand

Mercury 400 horsepower V10 outboard
Mercury outboards, such as this 400 horsepower V10, come standard on Boston Whalers but can had also be fitted on other boat brands, like this Caymas. Courtesy Mercury Marine

Oftentimes, if you choose a boat brand, you’ve already chosen your outboard. Many boat companies have strong partnerships with certain engine companies. If you want a Boston Whaler, you’re getting a Mercury since they are both Brunswick companies. Sportsman Boats come with Yamahas. All Tracker Marine boats come with Mercury outboards. TwinVee catamarans are rigged with Suzuki outboards, though they are one of the few companies that will sell a boat without engines. But make sure you can get the engines you want before going this route.

If there is a choice of outboard brands on a new boat or your thinking about re-powering, do your due diligence and look for online tests to see which motors are getting the best fuel economy and performance on boats similar to yours. Lurk on internet forums to see if the engine is an outlier with a specific mechanical issue. And once you own it, maintain your outboard rigorously to keep it in top condition and avoid having your warranty voided.

I told you it would be easy.