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Thread: Inboard/Outboard vs. Outboard - Need advice

  1. #1
    Member jmg's Avatar
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    Default Inboard/Outboard vs. Outboard - Need advice

    Ok, so I am looking for some advice on getting a boat. I have wanted an ocean boat for years, many many years. A few years ago I broke down and bought one. I did very little research and really jumped right in - and honestly, was way over my head quick. I bought a 1988 Bayliner 2556 with fly bridge, it had a Chevy 350 and an OMC Cobra outdrive. I did a driveway test, everything checked out, and I drove it away. Got it docked in Homer. First trip out, it overheated. Turns out the rubber impeller in the outdrive was seized. Cheap, easy fix, but a pain in the butt to haul out and fix. Second trip out, reverse was very, very touchy, and not working well. After that, reverse quit working. Turns out the shift cables were stretched and out of adjustment. Hauled home to Anchorage, from Homer, and eventually swapped it out. Pain in the butt. Did I mention I didn't really do much research before buying this thing? It was one thing after another, it was way bigger than I really wanted, and I sold it off for about what I paid, minus slip fees I didn't really use, insurance, and frustration. Basically, I seriously blew my first boat experience, and want to get things right this time.

    Fast forward a few years and I'd like to think I'm a little older, maybe a little wiser. When we are out on the water, we have a great time as a family, we fish, we explore, and do all the things we should be doing. But, I want to be very cautious getting into things this time. And frankly, I don't want to be fixing the dang thing every time I turn around.

    So after reading a lot online - mostly on forums like this - I had decided I wanted to settle on a boat in the 22-24' range, with an outboard motor. I figured they are easier to work on because they are all really housed in one unit, they can be lifted out of the water, and frankly, if one goes bad, you can go down and buy another, bolt it on, and be back in business.

    After further research, I'm tending to see a lot of pro's and con's to both, and would love to hear your opinions. I am looking at 22-4' Sea Sports, Olympics, and Arimas for the most part, and would like to keep things under $30k, preferably way less if possible. The problem I am seeing is that most of these are offered as inboard/outboards. There are some great deals out there on I/O boats, not a lot on outboard only. I have even thought about getting an I/O and converting to an outboard.

    The pro's I see for outboard, as mentioned above, are the ease of swapping out when one goes bad, getting it out of the salt when docked (I'd like to leave it in a slip), and possibly more maintenance free on newer models. The cons though - money. These things are crazy expensive. It seems like most I/O setups could be completely replaced 2-3 times for the cost of some of these outboards. Also, I don't know anything about working on them, so when they go bad, I likely might have to send them in for repair, which will cost more money. Does the higher initial cost of these outweigh the lower maintenance? What I don't want to happen is to shell out higher money for an outboard boat, only to have it go bad soon after that, and have to drop another $10, 15, 20k on a new outboard just to get to that reliable/maintenance free motor that may be just a fantasy that exists only in outboard motor brochures.

    As for I/O, I've worked on car motors all my life. When my Bayliner had issues, I was able to fix them, just took some figuring out for the outdrive. They are relatively inexpensive to fix. But that's just it - it seemed like I was always fixing the dang thing, not fishing and running it. I don't mind spending the money to get super solid and reliable, as long as it stays that way. Research post-boat led me to believe that the OMC cobras are not really the best on the block by any stretch, and maintenance upkeep is high. I would like to avoid that. Are other brands - I see a ton of Volvo I/O - more reliable, more maintenance free? I don't expect true "maintenance free" by any stretch, but would really like if I could do full winter maintenance, get through half a summer, pull it out to check things over, and dump it back in and go until winter maintenance comes around again. Basically, I'd like a boat that I can fish and run, not spend fixing all the time. I've read the Volvos are nearly bulletproof, but more expensive than say Mercruiser when they do break. The Mercruisers tend to be more maintenance, but cheaper to repair/replace stuff on? I really just don't want constant maintenance, and I am wondering if the OMC made me believe, incorrectly, that I/O's are constant maintenance issues? They are certainly more readily available - my boat choices would expand greatly if I opened to the idea of I/O, and my initial costs would certainly be lower.

    I may not get any new answers that I haven't already read somewhere, but I sure would love to hear opinions. My plan for the boat would be to permanently store/dock it in Homer, with the occasional pullout to run to Seward and Whittier. Over the winter, I'd likely have it in Anchorage at my house at least part of the time to maintenance and upkeep. I would likely run the thing most weekends in the summers, some in the winter for kings and/or island deer hunts maybe. At the end of the day, I'm really looking for something that will give me relatively good reliability.

    Thanks so much in advance. Hoping to get some assistance in making the right decision here.
    Never count your days, but rather, make all of your days count.

  2. #2
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    I recently went through this process and decided on an aluminum boat with an ETEC outboard. My ultimate priority was reliability and limited maintenance. Very happy with my decision so far and would highly recommend. A hassle free day on the water is nearly priceless in my book...


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  3. #3
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    A small aluminum pilothouse with outboard and kicker would be my first choice for low maintenance and family fun and safety.

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    With all sea boats, the more you use it the fewer problems arise. Seems like it should be the opposite, but it's not.

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    I have had a sea sport with a volvo I/O for four years. I have done all the maintance myself and is not to hard if you know how to work on 80's - 90's gm motors. I have had to do more repairs to my boa trailer than my boat motor and outdrive. The only thing I have replace on my motor was a fuel pump change the oil and filters every yr O and a couple relays on the trim tilt. my motor has a 1100hrs on it now is running strong.
    However I am looking at someopoint at putting an outboard on my boat so its easier to work on and dont have to winterize it from freezing.
    one thing I did when I bought my boat is had a mechanical inspection done before buying it and they check motor compression and outdrive for working order and I think it was money well spent.
    if you have any question let me know

  6. #6
    Member smtdvm's Avatar
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    I long for the simplicity and reliability that the modern outboards afford. I've been trying to think of a positive regarding my outdrive experience. Ok, the only positive I can come up with is it transmits power from my diesel and I get much better fuel mileage which is erased completely by increased maintenance cost and time working on it. Some of it is luck of the draw, with some guys getting good and long service from their outdrives but there is a reason why you see so many boats, including some very expensive new and larger builds powered by outboards. You see a fair number of good hulls converted to outboards as well, because the owner is done with outdrives. Reliability and simplicity is all the more important when you have a long commute from home to harbor. Good luck.

  7. #7

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    Based on the issues I've seen with I/O's around here as they age, it's outboards all the way for me. As I/O's age, the issues mount dramatically, long before outboards the same age. Replacement down the road is sure easier with outboards than I/O's too. You see a lot of boats around here that are FORMER I/O's, extensive hull work done in one way or another to allow outboard installation.

  8. #8
    Member Sobie2's Avatar
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    I am about to embark on this journey for a second time... This just arrived in my driveway today at lunch time. The plan is to hang either a Mercury 150 four stroke on it or a Yamaha 150 on it (or if some great deal comes along on a used motor)



    Sobie2

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by palasz View Post
    A small aluminum pilothouse with outboard and kicker would be my first choice for low maintenance and family fun and safety.
    Agree........completely.
    Bk

  10. #10
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    Well your original experience is interesting in this context, buying a 1988 I/O with no mechanical inspection was really not a good example of I/O reliability. Had you done the same thing with a 1988 outboard I'd expect a similar experience. For instance your shift cable issue, both versions use shift cables that need to be adjusted. Old outboards and old I/Os both have carbs that get plugged up eventually if your not carefull with your gas, etc.

    I truly believe ANY engine/transmission combinations reliability is directly reflective of its maintenance I/O, outboard, automobile, etc.

    As for future replacement, swapping an I/O and engine is a bit more time consuming but not terribly so, its not rocket science. Likewise I'd expect a NEW mercruiser motor drive combo to easily be as reliable as a NEW outboard of your choosing.

    I don't trust mechanics in general so prefer to work on my own gear, thus my search is generally for inboards, ironically I only own an outboard right now (kenai river boat) and I love it.

    I'm not a big fan of fishing over the top of outboards in a salt boat either, but that doesn't seem to bother most people.

    I'm also skeptical of SOME of the conversions I've seen. It seems to me the transoms were never designed to take the forces imparted by hanging weight the way the add on brackets hang, though I've literally never heard of one failing, still bothers me in some cases.

    Long story short I'm more concerned in the condition and maintenance history of a boat engine than how it hangs on the back,

  11. #11
    Member Frostbitten's Avatar
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    jmg, been there, done that, felt all the same pains. I sold that boat, and went aluminum with twin outboards...best move ever!!!!!!!

  12. #12
    Member jmg's Avatar
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    Thanks to everyone for the suggestions. Although I haven't completely made my mind up quite yet, I'm not in a huge rush either. When the right boat comes along, I'll be sure to have it checked thoroughly. While I would certainly love to have a nice aluminum with twin outboards, and likely could afford one if I really wanted it, I just cannot possibly justify spending upwards of $50-90k on an item that I will use a couple to few dozen times a year, for my family's sake. So many things we could do with that kind of money. Thanks a bunch.
    Never count your days, but rather, make all of your days count.

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