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Outboard vs. Sterndrive? What’s Best For You?

When it comes to recreational boats, the two most popular engines are sterndrives and outboards. If you're trying to choose between them, here are some things for you to consider.


When looking at performance, you’ll always want to consider engine power to weight. And outboards historically weren’t ones to provide the most performance. But with new contemporary outboards, you can get a lot of horsepower that can make them comparable to a sterndrive in the way of performance.


Here’s where the difference comes into play. If you get comparable horsepower, then you need to consider the weight of the engine. Although weight will vary by model, an outboard is often hundreds of pounds lighter than its sterndrive counterpart. From a performance and handling standpoint, lighter is better. But heavier gives you a sturdier ride enabling you to cut through waves easier. Driving a boat in quiet, calm waters is much different from driving on the open ocean. This is an important consideration.

Fuel Efficiency

Here’s where weight comes in again. The heavier the engine, the more fuel you’ll use. While RPMs at cruising speed will typically be higher with an outboard, they are still more fuel-efficient than a sterndrive engine.


Obviously, this only comes into play with an outboard because there is no tilt option with a sterndrive. This gives you the ability to shift the engine, prop and drive completely out of the water which is a major advantage while navigating shallow waters. And keeping an outboard tilted out of the water when not using it will let it drain saltwater, keeping down corrosion.


Either a sterndrive or outboard will demand a certain amount of space sacrifice. A sterndrive will allow for a full swim platform on the back which is a good feature if your primary boating activity will be requiring water access. Conversely, an outboard will not allow for a swim platform but will allow for more cockpit space and seating.


Maintenance costs should be a consideration between outboards and sterndrives. Neither engine will require more maintenance than the other, however when repairs are required, sterndrives tend to be more expensive. Because a sterndrive is more difficult to access, this can mean more in the way of labor costs. For that same reason, outboards can be much more DIY-friendly.


Because sterndrives are out of view, many boat owners prefer the look of them. But some boat owners like the look of an outboard. It is entirely a personal preference consideration.


Here’s where the sterndrive has an advantage. Because of its location, a sterndrive is going to make for a quieter ride. But newer four-stroke outboards have improved on noise level and some are almost as quiet as a sterndrive.

If you’re looking to customize a new boat purchase or thinking about buying a new boat engine to replace an old one, we’d be glad to help. Give us a call to ask any questions. At PowerHouse Marina, we have the answers to all your marine engine questions. Call us today at (305) 892-2628.

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